Before you sign-off your sales and marketing budget for next year consider this recent research from global communications firm Edelman:
– 42% of B2B purchasers say good thought leadership can generate an RFP invitation
– Yet,74% of thought leaders have no way to link thought leadership to sales activity
Leaders will immediately see this for the massive missed opportunity that it is. Sales teams aren’t equipped to talk to potential customers about the very topic that drove them to engage with your brand in the first place. While any marketing leader that hasn’t already built a strong alliance with their content development and PR teams or, started tracking their content, will surely now scramble to do just that.
To take this insight and turn it into actionable outcomes to improve your own sales performance, look no further than our own Strategy to Revenue whitepaper, Countdown to Irrelevance: The marketeers guide to winning sales in the new buying world. A shorter version is available on Forbes.com.
From customer ambivalence about your brand or product, through to how content can help shape a future RFP, it looks at how content should be used to build preference and ultimately help future customers commit to your brand over a competitor’s.
Three Step Plan
If you’re re-assured to see leaders in their respective fields coming to the same conclusion about the power of content in influencing the customer journey, here are the three key points to tackle to make it a successful part of your sales marketing strategy:
To illustrate their suggested approach, Strategy to Revenue has its Customer Buying Clock and Edelman has its Thought Leadership Fly Wheel. The strikingly similar diagrams used by the two companies are an unintentional metaphor for the biggest hurdle in driving increased sales in most B2B organizations: lack of coordination. Starting with a joined-up approach, ideally with a steering committee representing both sales and marketing interests, a collaborative road map of effective campaigns and information sharing can be built that benefits everybody.
Most companies have tracking and analytics set up for external facing platforms like web and direct mail but how are you tracking and sharing your content internally? Consider:
– The number one request from today’s buyers is that sales people ‘understand my business. Understand me.’ This is followed by ‘demonstrating excellent communication skills’ and ‘giving me insights and perspective’.
Sales people know that today’s customers want more from them than product detail but they’re often just too stretched to be able to deliver it. In contrast, Marketing has the right resources, and skills to deliver the type of content that supports these customer demands.
The key to marrying the two together is automation. The Sales Content Management system I have most experience with is Accent Connect. It automatically indexes content including pdfs, PowerPoint and video by key words and themes. Content is easy to upload and manage for marketing and its amazon style search and recommendation functionality makes it fast and intuitive to use for sales.
Systems like Accent’s track who uses what content most internally i.e., who are your sales champions. It also keeps tracks your content when it’s shared with customers and prospects. It tells you which page of a document prospects spend most time viewing and tracks forwards and shares within a prospect’s organization. In short, it provides marketing with a tool to directly link content to the sales process and provides sales with a quick, easy way to build customized content.
In my experience, the result is that sales teams get more relevant customizable content to share with target personas, and more time selling, since the content they need is at their fingertips. Marketing gets a direct line of sight on what campaigns and content resonate with customers and solid KPIs to build a case for extra budget if required.
The final but critical step is training. Training sales teams to understand and communicate the ideas presented in your thought leadership gives them the power to continue the conversation where your content left-off and avoids the inconsistency of approach that often creates distrust in the mind of the customer. Giving sales teams the skills and knowledge to have the more consultative, higher-level conversation to which this type of content inevitably leads is also essential. Skills including business acumen and knowledge on competitor differentiation give sales people the confidence to use the content correctly in the sales motion and the right to advise the customer, as so much research tells us customers demand.
Collaboration, tools, and knowledge, the three elements for building a successfully, aligned sales and marketing strategy for the year ahead. For the results this type of approach delivers see some examples here.
Rachel Bibby is the CMO of Strategy to Revenue, the award-winning Sales Enablement consultancy.
To understand how you can improve your sales performance, speak to one of our team.