Not too long ago, we showed you what really (really, really) bad B2B content marketing looks like. We thought it would only be fair to put the spotlight on the really, really bad sales content that greets prospects when they’re further down the sales cycle.

Marketing content is often the first thing a prospect sees about your organization, but as Salesforce.com points out, research shows it’s not what’s associated with closing a deal—sales content is. Not only that, but sales content created by salespeople is what seems to be closing deals, with 61% of content created by reps associated with closed deals as opposed to only 26% of marketing-created content. There could be a couple takeaways from those statistics, but whether salespeople aren’t showing people the content that marketing puts out or prospects aren’t responding to it, marketers seem to be, on the whole, lousy at creating sales content. Start by knowing the commonalities behind the worst sales content and you’ll be on your way to avoiding them to start making the best.

1. Staying All By Yourself

7 Deadly B2B Sales Content Sins - 1. Staying all by yourself

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Sales rep-created content doing so well is another point in favor of sales and marketing alignment. Marketers may have legitimate qualms about salespeople creating their own content: lack of visibility into the content’s effectiveness, rogue content not meeting brand or style standards, and salespeople spending less time selling are just a few potential issues. The counterpoint? If marketers were giving them what they needed, they wouldn’t resort to spending time creating their own content.

To truly be aligned, marketing departments shouldn’t isolate themselves from the valuable feedback that sales reps, who know customers inside and out, provide. That includes:

  • What content prospects seem to want but salespeople never have
  • The types of content that prospects engage with the most
  • The content that never seems to work

And remember, salespeople can help marketers by spending almost no time on content creation.

2. Keeping It Generic

7 Deadly B2B Sales Content Sins - 2. Keeping it generic

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The days when a prospect would have to wait for a salesperson to share basic and generic information like pricing, features and customer testimonials are behind us. That’s not to say that salespeople shouldn’t be at the ready with the more general, early-stage stuff––especially if they’re reaching out to a passive buyer who might not have heard of your company. But for the most part, sales content needs to be more tailored, catering to the needs and concerns of different industries and types of buyers (e.g., their role in a company).

If it’s finally time for your salespeople to step in front of prospects, marketers cannot afford to give content to salespeople that makes them sound like they’re parroting your website, which prospects have already gone through. Going 1, 2, 3 levels deeper with your sales content won’t just show your prospects your company’s value—it’ll empower the salesperson, and help them prove that they’re more than an order taker—instead, they’ll show that they’re consultants suited to take on the modern buyer.

3. Trying to Be Everything to Everyone

7 Deadly B2B Sales Content Sins - 1. Trying to be everything to everyone

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On the other hand, creating content for all those industries and buyers might sound daunting. The idea, though, isn’t to quickly throw together a new presentation from scratch for every prospect (which is what some salespeople end up doing). And it’s definitely not to create some massive 80-slide presentation in the hope that 3 or 4 of those resonate.

The idea is to have the individual pieces that are too granular or proprietary to make it to your website available to salespeople. Allow them to remix those pieces so that the combination of slides, videos, PDFs, calculators, etc. feels like it was created from scratch. Presentations are set aside in favor of stories, and there’s not a single wasted or irrelevant moment that could leave any doubt as to whether your solution is for them.

4. Forgetting Stakeholders

7 Deadly B2B Sales Content Sins - 4. Forgetting stakeholders

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One key difference between selling to consumers versus selling to businesses is how many cooks in the kitchen there are. While you might find that there might be two decision-makers for a large consumer product purchase, B2B skews much higher, averaging 5.4 stakeholders in a cycle.

Stakeholders within a company are going to have commonalities including industry and other solutions they’re currently using (and the challenges that come along with those), but there will be major differences too, including:

  • Department. If you’re selling software, for example, your appeal is going to be much different to IT who has to implement the software into their broader tech stack who might be concerned about device compatibility and integration than a user or administrator who’s more concerned about how easy it is to use.
  • If salespeople can’t convince someone at the lower end of the totem pole, executives who have final say may never hear about the solution. There needs to be sales content that appeals to the day-to-day in the organization as well as the big picture, 10,000 mile view from above.

As mentioned above, this doesn’t mean making whole new presentations for everything. It could mean that after meeting someone in a particular role and salespeople look to connect with the next stakeholder, they offer a slightly different collection of sales content. They can then ask the stakeholder they just met with to share with the other stakeholders (or prepare for when they meet with them).

5. Not Measuring Everything

7 Deadly B2B Sales Content Sins - 5. Not measuring everything

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Yes, you saw this on the B2B content marketing sins list, but it really does bear repeating: measure everything. We talked there about how you can work backwards and use the numbers behind what content salespeople end up using and what shared collateral prospects engage with to help craft earlier content.

You can, of course, also use those sales content metrics to keep improving your (you guessed it) sales content! Create a feedback loop by paying attention to how sales and prospects are responding to marketing-provided content to constantly improve what you have, add what you don’t, and cut what you do have but shouldn’t. Once you start gathering usage by salespeople, you’ll be able to make better usage of the time that you spend with salespeople (see number 1).

6. What New Content?

7 Deadly B2B Sales Content Sins - 6. What new content?

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If you’ve avoided all the sins above, you should be getting to a pretty good point with your content. Your prospects and salespeople alike should be in love with your consistent output of quality collateral—if they know that it exists.

Take the following steps to make sure that your new sales content gets seen for as long as it’s relevant to your business.

  1. Distribute content only to people who it’s relevant to. If you’re selling a variety of products and only some salespeople are responsible for those products, only give those reps content about those products. Have different content for different territories? Don’t dump every territory’s content on every salesperson’s iPad.
  2. Tag sales content with keywords that make it easy for a salesperson to find. (So, you also need to have a search function that does something with those keywords.)
  3. Alert salespeople when new content has been released or existing content has been updated. You can do this with a combination of in-app alerts for your sales enablement solution, emails when content’s been added/updated, and announcements during a sales meeting.

7. Ignoring the Channel

7 Deadly B2B Sales Content Sins - 7. Ignoring the channel

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When we talk about B2B sales content, we’re talking about stepping away from the internet and going into the real world, where your salespeople are the connection between your company and prospects. It’s about avoiding repeating your website, but there’s something more.

Salespeople are…people, but they’re also a channel—like Twitter, like your website, like an ad on Google. Like any of those channels, the content that you put across all of those channels looks different. It’s all essentially your brand, but there are subtleties like character count, slightly different demographics as well as visual elements that mean you can’t flood every channel with the same content and expect it to stick.

Some sales content that they leave behind with prospects or send them as follow-up material can act like something you would put on your website (e.g., eBook about an issue they’re facing, extended case study about a similar company), while other content needs to be placed in the context of your salesperson as a channel: The content’s purpose is to support the connection between salesperson and prospect. It shouldn’t hurt that connection, but it also shouldn’t overpower it.

When your marketing-provided content underscores your salespeople’s strength as consultants and helps them carry the baton in that last mile of the sales cycle, that’s when sales reps stop spending time creating their own content and get to doing what they do best.

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