It sounds outrageous – but it resonates at gut level: 90% of marketing-produced content is not used by sales. If you’re lucky, your company’s sales teams have better content usage habits...but let’s be honest. Even if sales uses 50% of your sales enablement material, it’s nothing to shout about. Quite frankly, it’s pretty pathetic, given the time, thought and sweat that goes into producing the stuff.
So your sales content gets less views than The Adventures of Pluto Nash. What do you do?
- Shake it off and hum to yourself: “ The haters gonna hate, hate, hate...” (Sales wouldn’t know Cannes-winning content if they saw it.)
- Swallow your caustic disappointment, chomp down a half-roll of Tums and crank out even more sales content.
- Scout around for your next installment of Sales & Content: Missing Intent. (Canvass the sales floor for clues; question potential witnesses to actual content usage.)
- Send out a chirpy email, alerting reps to what’s new in the sales enablement library. (Note to self: attach a treasure map with directions on where to find the booty. Thar she blows!)
These courses of action may get you through the day, but they won’t help you avoid a #SalesContentFail. Actually, the best way to do that is pretty simple: Sell the sellers on the content they actually need.
What I’m talking about is not exactly content selling, but it’s related. Yes, I’m a strong believer in partnering with sales all the way through the customer lifecycle – and creating and distributing content to support that relationship. And marketers absolutely should be focused on using content to generate leads, nurture relationships and close deals. But we must do some groundwork first.
If you want your sales enablement efforts to really take off, you must first persuade sales your content is...
- Easy to find
- Relevant to prospects and customers now
- Truly engaging (it really works for a specific persona and buyer stage)
- Easily incorporated into the sales process
The key word here is persuading. And it will take more than charisma to convince them.
It’s not just that sales is skeptical of the content you’re producing. To be honest, it’s probably worse than that. (Remember that 90% stat?) Over the years, they’ve grown complacent and indifferent.
Chances are, their minds have wandered into well-worn grooves. Sales reps – just like their marketing counterparts – have been conditioned to expect handoffs. Just as we’ve occasionally slipped into reactionary mode (“Hey – I need a white paper on CRM benefits for next week’s trade show” and we hop to it), so have sales teams become accustomed to – though likely not pleased with – marketing’s lead generation (and content) toss-over rituals.
How do you change this? Disrupt the status quo. Cease all random acts of content creation and delivery. Ignite a mind shift within sales by selling them on the content they really need. You can accomplish this in five key steps:
- Snap out of order-taker mode. For every content request, ask questions about its intended use, audience and the ideal behavior you’d like it to inspire.
- Organize your content chaos. Pair a smart taxonomy with new sales enablement technology to boost your material’s findability factor.
- Power up your content pitch with data. Highlight the “ hot” pieces that have performed well for other reps as well as through other marketing channels.
- Package it right. Do sales teams know how to use your content? Do they know which pieces map to specific buyer’s stages? A CliffsNotes one-pager might be just the thing to cut through ambiguity and confusion.
- Adapt or decelerate. Gauge sales teams’ interest in customizing your content. Adaptability will become an even more critical capability/skill for B2B sales reps in the future. Supporting their efforts with content that can be adapted on the fly for a specific selling context can shorten the sales cycle considerably. How can you make your content more flexible and modular?
Get more detail on these steps by downloading my whitepaper “Epic Sales Enablement in a Content Marketing World.” In the meantime, don’t just busy yourself making sales content you can toss over to sales. Make sure it’s something you can sell.
Image credit: "Dusty Glasses" by AndreasS, Flickr http://ow.ly/LSnIp