“Why pound a nail into a board with a hammer when you’ve got a perfectly good fist?”
The scenario sounds ludicrous, I know, but it happens –at least in spirit—everyday in the realm of sales. Salespeople, stuck with traditional approaches and habits, often turn a blind eye toward the content marketing tools at their fingertips, and it’s costing them and, you untold profit.
Content marketing has been slow to be adopted by the general salesforce, despite the unprecedented acknowledgment of its effectiveness. Why? Primarily because of inertia. The sales function and the marketing function have been out of alignment for so long, far too many salespeople just assume that whatever marketing is doing isn’t helpful (and to be fair, far too many marketing programs prove those assumptions true).
The best sales forces today actively utilize content to leverage their efforts, shorten the sales and drive more revenue and profit. Here are three simple approaches to begin integrating content into your sales process immediately:
Approach #1 – Countering Prospects’ Objections
At your next sales meeting, ask your team to share the most common objections they’ve been receiving (at all phases of the sales cycle) from the prospects with whom they’ve been communicating. Ultimately, you can address them all, of course, but for the purpose of this exercise, try and focus on just a few of the issues—preferably ones that multiple members of your team have in common.
Now have your marketing team create some blog posts, articles or white papers that addresses these issues. Now, you’re sales reps will be armed with the tools to effectively overcome these objections and keep the sales process moving forward.
Approach #2 – Keeping in Touch via Content Sharing
In the realm of B2B sales, where the scale of decisions are typically significant for the purchasing enterprise, and the decision process tends to be more complex with more people involved, it’s critical that you maintain contact through what can often be protracted cycles.
While salespeople have been utilizing stay-in-touch tactics for as long as there have been salespeople, how often is the content being shared both purposeful and yours. Your content should be positioned directly to support the business case that your salespeople are trying to make. A key measurement of the effectiveness of your content is how frequently salespeople use it.
While sharing blog posts may certainly remain relevant, they should also be sharing more extensive, authoritative resources such as white papers, case studies and primary research.
Approach #3 – Use Content to Accelerate The Sales Cycle
A big payoff of an effective content marketing program is the ability to leverage your salespeople and drive more sales, faster. The biggest challenge in making this happen is overcoming the inertia your salespeople have. Once they’ve used content a couple of times to make a sale, they’ll become your biggest fans.
The next time you or a manager is sitting with a salesperson discussing strategies to move the sales process further along, make sure to ask the question, “What content do we have in our inventory that we could use to make the point we’re trying to make here?”
If you’ve engaged your sales team in the previous two steps over a credible amount of time, they will have witnessed some results –perhaps small, perhaps significant—but by this juncture, there should be some general acknowledgment that strategic content has expanded their ability to communicate with prospects.
If there’s nothing pertinent in your content arsenal, have your marketing team follow through on these requests and begin generating material that will specifically address these needs and issues. Keep in mind that occasionally generating a client-specific document or other initiative is a small price to pay for a significant new account. Once this process becomes standard operating procedure, you will not only start witnessing increased sales, you will have executed one of those rare business Holy Grail-level achievements—true Sales & Marketing alignment.
One last thought. Sometimes the biggest challenge in getting salespeople to use content is simply getting them to know what you have. I’m consistently surprised how often salespeople aren’t subscribed to a company’s blog feed, or email drips. Make sure they’re getting all of the content in their mailbox.
After a few big “wins,” we suspect that they’ll end up being big fans of the concept. Especially on payday.