The content marketing scene has evolved in the past decade, and so has the way sales teams operate. Whether it is the vast resources prospects have to do their own research, or the numerous industries saturated by endless competition – sales people are challenged with developing skills that allow them to have meaningful conversations with their prospects and differentiate themselves and their company.
At Brafton, our sales and marketing teams have never been more in love – and for good reason. Companies with strong sales and marketing alignment produce an annual growth rate of 20 percent, compared to the 4 percent growth rate that companies with poor alignment experience, according to a recent Kapost study.
Great marketing teams are generating more – and better quality – opportunities every month. In fact, as more businesses adopt inbound content marketing strategies, it’s not uncommon to expect a majority of new sales leads to come from content marketing related efforts.
A smart salesperson understands the power of content marketing, but still might be underutilizing content as a sales tool.
But does the value of that content your marketing team develops stop when the lead hits the sales team? For the best salespeople, content created by their internal or external marketing teams isn’t only a source of new leads, but also a crucial tool in today’s sales environment.
That said, many sales people miss opportunities to take advantage of their content resources, or may simply lack the knowledge to effectively leverage blogs, videos, case studies, infographics, or other materials their marketing teams publish.
Here are a few common scenarios that sales people run into and how content can be incorporated to move the sales process forward.
Content as the Conversation Starter
Let’s face it: prospecting is hard. More and more buyers, whether B2B or B2C, use the internet for a large portion of their product research before ever approaching a solutions provider.
- 94% of B2B buyers research online for purchase decisions
- In the tech industry, almost half (46%) of buyers read two to five assets before deciding whether to purchase. A full 25% said they read six to eight pieces of collateral before they’re ready to buy.
62% of Millennials research products on Facebook before buying
64% of in-store purchases will be influenced by digital in 2016
Gone are the days when cold calling someone at the right time and place guaranteed a new opportunity. If your prospects are prone to hang up the phone, no matter the value you feel you can bring them, how can you cut through the clutter?
By leading with content, sales people allow themselves to do the following while prospecting:
- Establish trust by providing information that is useful to the prospect’s buying process.
- Provide education to prospects that helps to answer questions they may have regarding your industry, products or services.
- Customize and differentiate your company’s values to your prospects.
In order to capitalize on the benefits of content while prospecting, sales people have to make sure that messages are customized. For instance, content that speaks to ecommerce clients’ FAQs isn’t going to resonate with B2B tech buyers.
This is especially important during the prospecting phase of the sales process, as an irrelevant piece of content could vanquish any opportunity to set up a more meaningful conversation.
Content as the Momentum Builder
Now, you’ve just had a great conversation with a new prospect. They’ve expressed a business problem your solution can help and an interest in continuing to explore. The only problem is they will be travelling on business for the next three weeks with no time for a follow up. How can you keep up with a prospect that can clearly benefit from your offering, without being a nuisance?
With the right content, sales people can continually provide value to their prospects, while still avoiding the dreaded “just checking in” email, that offers nothing to a potential customer but self interest. Some recommended content types that can maintain momentum with a prospect between scheduled follow up calls include:
- Articles/blogs that demonstrate best practices related to the prospect’s industry or organization.
- Infographics with engaging imagery and concise data that speaks to a topic previously discussed with the prospect.
- An interview with an SME on your team that demonstrates the type of talent and expertise within your organization.
In order to stay relevant in a prospect’s mind, especially when communication might be limited, every interaction or message you have needs to provide value. By demonstrating that you’ve taken the time to find content specifically related to their situation, a prospect is much more likely to be highly engaged.
Content as the Resurrector
Every salesperson knows the feeling; you’ve been working with a prospect for months, have repeatedly demonstrated how your product is a great fit to solve their business problems and agree that a new partnership is imminent. Then the unthinkable happens: your prospect vanishes without a trace. How can you restore once-golden opportunities to their former glory?
I will concede that there is no silver bullet for certain opportunities that go dark, because it is the harsh reality of sales. That said, here are some ideas on certain types of content that may help bring some non- responsive prospects back from the dead:
- A new case study on a client that is in the same industry as your prospect, or a client that had similar business challenges.
- New product or solution announcements that further improve your company’s ability to solve critical problems for your prospect’s business.
- Industry event coverage, or news that could directly affect your prospect‘s business (based on your knowledge from their conversations).
As content continues to be a leading mechanism for generating new business opportunities, it shouldn’t be ignored as a truly great sales tool. By using different types of pieces – ranging from blogs to videos and everything in between – sales professionals can reap great benefits from content their marketing team creates, long after it is first published on the website or downloaded by a client.