What is sales content?

When it comes to understanding sales content management best practices, it’s helpful to have a clear understanding of what sales content includes. Sales content includes case studies, eBooks, one pagers, pitch decks, and videos that help buyers make a purchase decision. No matter the format, sales content needs to engage, inform, and persuade a buyer to make the decision to move forward in the buyer journey.

What is content management for sales teams?

Sales content plays an extremely important role in organizations, which means that the way it’s created, organized, shared, and accessed by sellers is just as important. Effective content management ensures that sellers can easily find, personalize, and share relevant content with prospects at the right time. Without an organized and efficient management process, an organization’s sales enablement strategy will not be successful.

Why does content management matter?

Centralizing all of your assets is valuable in and of itself – that’s why ‘single source of truth’ is an industry term. The statistics speak for themselves in terms of the efficiency, scalability, and visibility content management brings to your business. Consider these stats:

  • 95% of buying decisions are directly influenced by content
  • 82% of buyers view at least 5 pieces of content before making a purchase
  • 95% of sales reps say they don’t have enough valuable content, but 65% of content that’s created by marketing goes unused
  • Sales reps spend 40% of their time searching for, or creating, content to share with buyers 

Bottom line: Organizations and sellers need a single, well-organized content library, to be successful in their roles. Companies that have a great content management process in places also experience a number of benefits including:

  • Enhanced productivity: When sellers know where sales collateral is located, they won’t spend as much time searching for or creating content. Instead, they can focus on their top priority—selling. 
  • Accelerated deal cycles: By giving sellers access to relevant content that can be personalized, they can better provide prospects with content that’s actually engaging and useful. This can accelerate deal cycles and move prospects through the buying process much more quickly. 
  • Improved content usage: As we shared earlier, a large portion of content that’s created by marketing goes unused. Sales content management increases the likelihood that content will actually be seen and used by sellers which results in more effective content marketing campaigns.

Now that we know exactly what sales content management is and why it’s so important, let’s take a closer look at sales content management best practices that any organization can implement.

How to generate content ideas and needs

When sales enablement and marketing teams decide to build content, they shouldn’t be doing it in isolation. Simply dreaming up which content to produce serves little purpose. So, how do you discover your team’s actual content needs? 

Interview reps: Your sales team is likely filled with ideas about how they can close and win more deals. And they will take a serious look at any tool and tactic that they can throw into the mix that helps them to sell more. These same reps spend all day with their prospects and customers, so they have a very strong sense of what does and doesn’t work to advance deals. Interview your reps. Ask them questions about what works so you can create valuable content ideas.

Interview prospects and new customers: Similarly, your prospects and new customers are filled with information about their likes and dislikes. So why not survey them? You can do this through direct interviews or NPS-like surveys of content users (e.g. “How useful was this content to you?)

Look to marketing automation data: Your marketing team has a wealth of data about the performance of content in the real-world. They send large quantities of emails to their prospects everyday – these emails either engage or turn-off prospects. And you have an incredible amount of data that can tell you which messages work best and where there are gaps.

Look at sales content data: If your organization uses a sales content management solution, you’ll be able to see which content is shared most frequently, with whom, and in what context. That detailed sales data lets you quickly spot where the holes in your sales content portal are. (We’ll talk more about this in-depth a little later, too). 

Trace the customer journey: Lastly, in every instance, you should understand how your buyers flow from being prospects to happy, engaged, and referring customers. That means looking at each step and friction they face in the sales process. The more you understand the flow and reasons why they stall, the more you learn what content should be built to support the customer journey.

Auditing your sales content assets

You likely already have a large backlog of sales content assets. They might be stored in a file share, marketing automation platform, content management system, or shared drive. It’s terrific that you already have a leg-up on producing content for your sales team, but how much of that content is useful and should be retained?

The first step here is to understand the library of content you already have. Then, identify the purpose and type of each content asset. This will allow you to map content back to the sales needs that you identified in the previous step. Then, you can quickly see which content you can preserve or may need to build.

If you have a sales content management system in place, you can also see which content is used and consumed by sales people and prospects. That gives you an incredible head-start in auditing the real results of your content — and eliminating non-performers.

Choosing the right type of sales content

Once you’ve identified where there are gaps in your sales content portfolio you should consider what types of sales content your team should build. The type of content can often be as important as the content itself is. Why? Because certain types of content are easier to consume at certain times by certain people than others. Here’s an example.

You might have a terrific product datasheet that summarizes the value of your solution and why it matters. But a document may be unappealing for an executive buyer who has limited time to engage with your material. Instead, an easy-to-consume video may be a better bet.

Or you may be trying to send business case material to your prospect so they can build a justification for purchasing your solution. But sending a presentation may not be effective because the prospect might be trying to drop your material into a document they’re writing. Understanding how content is consumed is critical.

Building new sales content

Once you’ve identified where there are gaps in your sales content portfolio, you should consider what types of sales content your team should build. The type of content can often be as important as the content itself is. Why? Because certain types of content are easier to consume than others. This will also help you take the most useful approach to build content. For example:

Create a calendar: Part of the challenge of any commitment is setting yourself up to win. One of the best ways to do that is through a shared content calendar. This will help you allocate resources and time in order to produce the materials you need. 

Understand your producers: Content doesn’t build itself. You need resources — either internal or contracted — to produce your content. Some may be skilled in writing, some in graphic design, and some in interviewing subject matter experts. Understand who you have on your team so you can divide content production in a smart way.

Get a review and approval process: Content production isn’t a free-for-all. You need to ensure that the material is on-message and well produced. Set up an approval process that ensures the right members of your team can OK content before it is finalized and sent to the sales team.

Distributing sales content

You’ve built some terrific material. But if it just sits idly on a virtual shelf, it doesn’t do anyone much good. So, what are the most efficient ways to get content into your sales team’s hands? Here are a few key approaches:

Push content to reps: Your salespeople don’t have a lot of time and they might struggle to use  yet another tool to find critical content. But if you can push content to where they work, you’re much more likely to get great adoption of sales content. Look for an approach that pushes content into their browser, email, CRM, or other essential sales enablement tools that they use on a daily basis.

Centralize your content: None of the above should diminish the value of a content portal. In many cases, a salesperson does just want to access content from a single browser-based access point. Sales enablement and marketing need to make the portal as intuitive and helpful as possible so sales people can quickly get the information they need — fast!

Recommend winning content: Salespeople are looking for content for a specific business reason. Generally, it’s because they are trying to help advance and support a prospect in a certain sales context. That means that knowing the context that the recipient is in will be a great help in identifying which content will help them. Tools like Seismic look at the sales context before suggesting sales content. That means that winning materials get pushed to the team.

Measuring sales content success

Closing the loop on sales content requires an understanding of which content is performing best. That means more than simply tracking which content is downloaded by the sales team. You need to know which content is being shared with prospects, how frequently, under what sales situations, how engaging it is for prospects, and whether it contributes to more sales.

That requires an understanding and tracking of the sales context in which content is used with prospects — and the degree of success of that content. You can do that using technology like Seismic that encourages sales people to share recommended assets with their prospects. And then, through deep integration into Salesforce.com, track the context in which that content is shared so content managers can learn when content is most successful.

That same set of data also enables managers to discover where there are gaps in the content portfolio. For instance, they may learn that a “financial services” case study is shared extensively with manufacturers. Maybe a new manufacturer case study would be a good item to build next.

When sales teams have great, useful content, they are more effective. Sales enablement and marketing groups can produce more and better content by following this simple content lifecycle.

Sales content management systems

If you think these best practices sound daunting and unfeasible, there’s good news. A sales content management system (CMS) helps teams create, organize, update, track, and access sales content at scale. This ensures reps have quick access to the right content when they need it and leaders can make informed decisions on how content is being used across the organization.

We make sales enablement content management easy

When it comes to creating and managing your team’s sales content, is your organization following these best practices? Seismic’s leading sales content management software allows marketing teams to create, store, update, and manage personalized content. This provides sellers with the right content that they need for every interaction which dramatically improves the time spent selling and overall win rates. Ready to learn more about Seismic’s end-to-end sales enablement platform? See it in action here!