Buyers don't care about your product or service.
They care about the problems and opportunities they face and how your expertise can help them. Consequently, Marketing and Sales share a common goal: earning the right to connect with buyers.
As marketers, we're well aware that our priority has shifted from outbound to inbound marketing. For Sales, a similar dramatic shift has occurred—away from relationship selling to value selling. Now, salespeople must provide insights at each stage in the buying cycle to earn trust; that's an incredible challenge when buyers are doing homework on their own and engaging later on in the process—and only with a person and a company with expertise they respect.
Owning "awareness and lead generation," and then lobbing a lead over to Sales, is no longer sufficient for Marketing to do.
Generating qualified leads via inbound marketing and then helping Sales use content to address buyers' needs across the lifecycle has never been more important for creating opportunities and closing business. I'm referring to resources and insights that capture buyers' attention, spark conversation, offer problem framing and solving perspectives, demonstrate value, and trigger action.
The proverbial tough nut to crack: getting prospects to engage as early in the process as possible.
That's not an easy task when 70% of the buying process is complete before the buyer engages with a salesperson (SiriusDecisions). But it's all the more critical when 65% of the time executives go with the vendor that's been helping early on to set the buying vision (Forrester) and 39% of top producers offer buyers a novel perspective about how to win in the marketplace (The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation).
If those statistics don't grab you, then consider this: 66% of B2B buyers credit "consistent and relevant communication provided by both the sales and marketing organizations as a key influence in choosing the company they ultimately made a purchase from" (DemandGen Report and Genius.com).
Your content matters... but only if you get Sales to exploit it at every stage in the process.
Here are seven practical ideas for how to help Sales use the assets you provide to earn buyers' trust and win accounts.
1. Inventory content, and make it fast to find and obvious how to use
Provide Sales an easily accessible online inventory of every useful asset. That inventory should be lean, up to date, and full of utility, and Sales should be able to call upon it anytime, from anywhere.
Think beyond categorizing information and resources by type, and consider organizing assets by buyer segments, pain points, and stage in the sales cycle. In other words, categorize content however is most intuitive for your sales team to find. They can then spend their energy personalizing information to specific buyer needs rather than searching for it.
2. Provide multiple media and multiple voices
Beyond the obvious promotional content, include blog posts, whitepapers, articles, case stories, seminar videos, competitive comparisons, ROI calculators, and research reports—both from your company and from trusted third parties. Don't forget humorous content—often an effective way to break down barriers. The goal is to offer variety to help Sales ignite conversations and provide value-added insights that earn trust.
3. Identify the right social media forums
The idea is to help Sales get in the middle of the best conversations. Track and communicate the most influential and relevant ones for Sales to subscribe to and follow. Suggest the 3-2-1 approach: Identify for different sales teams three blogs to read, two LinkedIn groups to join, and one Twitter list to follow.
4. Provide nuggets for Sales to offer in social media channels to interact with potential customers
Encourage Sales to "deconstruct" pieces of marketing assets, as Ann Handley's and CC Chapman's Content Rules suggests. That's how Sales can quickly and effectively participate in social media exchanges. The best way to demonstrate value is not to just send the 20-page e-book, but to call out a point or two that's most relevant to a specific customer or discussion.
5. Trigger action
Ensure that any content you provide to Sales is easy for buyers to share, follow, or subscribe to. Doing so will encourage "referential marketing," whereby buyers "market" for Sales. When information comes through a buyer to an influencer or another buyer... such tacit endorsement is often the strongest kind.
6. Use content to create conversation to bring clarity to a buyer's needs
Conversation starters, high-gain questions, and challenges to conventional wisdom—all help Sales to engage buyers. Help Sales to do so, one on one, with specific buyers to advance to the next stage, as well as in social forums.
7. Build in feedback loops
Just as you regularly build feedback loops into marketing materials to capture opinions and leads, also build feedback loops with Sales to determine the effectiveness of the assets you provide them. Salespeople are on the front line. Customer input they receive should drive continuous improvement of materials, especially for digital materials that can be cost-effectively amended based on customer reactions, timely trends, new research, and more.
Please share you reactions to these ideas, and offer others if you have any to add.