Right now, 95% of sales people want more content. They want content to help them sell more. They want content to position better. They want it to advance business cases and convince more people. But are marketing and sales enablement producing enough of the right sales content to support revenue goals? Let’s look at best practices and winning processes for sales content management.
Identifying Sales Content Needs
90% of buyers want to purchase from the company that shares the most relevant information.
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 the actual needs?
Interview Reps: Your sales team is likely filled with ideas about how they can make more money. And any tool and tactic that they can throw into the mix that helps them to sell more, they will seriously look at. 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 and doesn’t so you can learn what kinds of content to produce.
Interview Prospects: Similarly, your prospects are filled with information about their likes and dislikes. And who would know better than the prospects themselves about what they would like to engage with. So why not survey them? You can do this through direct interviews, likely with a friendly customer. 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 are sending huge volumes of emails to their prospects each day. 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 to Sales Content Data: If you’ve implemented a sales content management solution like Seismic then you’re way ahead of the game. You’ll be able to see which content is shared most frequently and with whom and in what context. That detailed sales data lets you quickly spot where true holes in your sales content portal are.
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 have a large backlog of sales content assets already in place. They might be stored in a file share, marketing automation platform, content management system, or digital asset management platform. That’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 what is the library of content you already have. You could document in a spreadsheet a list of the assets you have. Then, identify the purpose and type of each content asset. That can allow you to then map this content back to the sales needs that you identified in the prior step. You can then quickly see which content you can preserve or may need to build.
If you have a sales content management system like Seismic in place then you can take advantage of another key action. You can 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.
In fact, Seismic scores content based on its performance in sales contexts. You can compare in a rational way which content should be invested in.
Choosing Types of Sales Content
Almost 70% of buyers have increased the amount of content used to research and evaluate their purchases.
Once you’ve identified where there are gaps in your sales content portfolio are 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 persona 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 Sales Content
Next up, you should investigate how you to efficiently build the right material for your sales organization. You now know which materials to build and what type they should be. But how do you build this sales content? Let’s look at some approaches:
Set 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 content calendar. With it you can budget your resources and time to be able to produce the materials you plan. You can prioritize certain content pieces that drive more sales, and keep everyone on task and focused.
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, some in interviewing subject matter experts. Understand who you have on your team so you can divide up 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 that the right members of your team can OK content before it is finalized and sent to the sales team.
Reusing Content: Don’t think of content as a one-and-done task. Instead, much of the sales content that you produce can be reused in other contexts. Consider the business case document you produced. That could be recast as a PowerPoint presentation or a podcast or a series of blog posts. It’s like a terrific meal you had that gets reshaped into new meals for days to come!
Distributing Sales Content
You’ve built some terrific material. But if it just sits idly on a shelf (virtual or otherwise) 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. They struggle to go to 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. So, where do sales people work? They’re in the browser, email, CRM, and on their mobile devices. So, look for an approach that pushes content to each of these locations.
Centralize Your Content: None of the above should diminish the value of a 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
Closing the loop on sales content requires an understanding of which content is performing best. That means more than just 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 radially more effective. Sales enablement and marketing groups can produce more and better content by following this simple content lifecycle.