Salespeople spend a whopping 30 hours per month searching for and creating marketing collateral, according to the American Marketing Association. That's a lot of time to spend on something they really shouldn't have to do...

Where are all those materials that are constantly being created by the marketing department? Some 60-70% of content produced by B2B marketing departments is unused, Sirius Decisions has found.

Companies are wasting massive amounts of time and resources on materials that are not exactly what sales teams need, or Sales simply doesn't know that they're there.

So what can be done to provide Sales the effective tools it needs? Here's a look at the core of the problem and how to fix it.

The Problem of Being Reactionary

This scenario can play out in a variety of ways, and you've probably encountered it:

  • A salesperson is having a conversation with a prospect who is inches away from buying... if only there were a perfect one-pager he could show to send the prospect over the edge.
  • The salesperson comes knocking on Marketing's door, asking for that sales tool.
  • Or, worse, he tries to put one together himself. That's a problem, because he will likely miss key branding aspects and possibly present a shoddy image to his audience. It's not his fault; he's not a designer or a writer.
  • On the other hand, if Marketing is able to whip up the requested tool in a more appealing, branding-aligned way, doing so detracts from Marketing's current to-do list and the effort isn't given the time it deserves.

Such reaction-based tool creation happens every day, and it increases both Marketing's list of projects and Sales' frustration because sales teams inevitably feel they never get the tools they need.

Each department has real needs and urgent projects to contend with, so how can sales tools be properly put into the mix to get actual results?

Building Sales Tools That Empower Your Buyer

The truth is that no sales team needs hundreds of sales tools to do its job. Another truth is that Marketing needs to better understand the actual buying process.

The good news is that creating good sales tools is a great way to bridge Sales and Marketing by aligning both with the real needs of buyers.

Consult With Sales

Have a consulting session with your sales team. Dig deep into the most common processes that have produced winning outcomes. Be less interested in hearing from the salesperson who just closed one big deal to hit his quota. Rather, understand what the people who are getting repeat sales are doing to be successful:

  • Who is involved on the buyer's side of the process?
  • Who else in their companies do they need to influence or convince to make a final decision?
  • What documents did they share with the customer during initial conversations and then throughout the rest of the process?

Repeat that investigation for every relevant sale you've had in the past two years.

Consult With Buyers

The next step is to perform a litmus test of sorts on the people who were actually involved. Talk to those who converted into customers. Ask for just 10 minutes and don't be afraid to pose some hard questions: What'd they find useful to receive in documentation form? Was there anything that would've won them over sooner, or had them thinking about not signing?

Find the common objections or stalling points in the sales cycle that might have been overcome if your internal team were supported in their efforts by having the right message delivered at the right time.

After all this information is compiled, continue the test with people who didn't become customers. Your job is to uncover what kept them signing. Dig into the why: Did something specific turn them away? What was missing that they needed to make a decision?

Gather as much information as you can.

Informed Efficiency

Information-gathering is the most labor-intensive part of the process, but it's also what will net you great returns. Once the data is gathered directly from the proverbial horse's mouth, get ready to analyze it.

By combing through the answers to the questions you've asked, you can whittle down to the main issues that stall or stop the sales cycle.

Then, it's time to be creative and develop the tools that help empower your decision-maker to tackle them. Create tools that will overcome objections, facilitate discussion in your favor, and ease the job of the internal champion who is actually selling for you.

If the tools you build are in alignment with the buying cycle, you should see some jaw-dropping results:

  • Your sales team actually uses them and provides feedback.
  • Salespeople become more like trusted advisers to buyers, helping them sell internally.
  • Requests for additional tools are significantly reduced.

To keep the momentum going, Marketing should establish a regular schedule for checking in with the sales department in an effort to gauge ongoing effectiveness.

Sales and Marketing can meet—maybe quarterly—to review the sales tools. If the time comes when customers are clamoring for a different, highly specific one-pager, you can decide to create one. But the point is to have the right tools to use in rotation to meet a prospect needs.

* * *

The time spent up front to gather data, analysis, and creation of new sales tools can seem daunting. But you're a businessperson, you know that investment is required to see returns. Be willing to dig deep, and you may be surprised by what really wins your customers over.

If you let intelligent feedback and a clean system lead your sales tools process, you'll save time and achieve much greater congruence between Sales and Marketing. Which, of course, translates into higher conversions and a more attractive bottom line.

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How to Build Sales Tools (Content and Collateral) That Actually Work

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image of Mark Yeager

Mark Yeager is principal and chief strategy officer of technology marketing company Yeager.

LinkedIn: Mark Yeager