You’ve likely heard it: the silence in the forest of your content. That’s probably because the majority of marketing content is never used—especially not by salespeople.
A variety of research has pointed to the inability of salespeople to find the right content. The CMO Council found that, on average, salespeople spend 40% of their time looking for content created by marketing or creating their own to fit a need that doesn’t appear to be met by the content they do find.
In my work with clients, I’ve also found that even when salespeople do read your content, they often have no idea how to use it to transfer relevant value to the buyer.
This needs to change, and fast.
B2B Marketers Have More Responsibilities than Ever
In the new book The Challenger Customer, research conducted by CEB finds that buyers are 57% of the way through their buying process before they reach out to vendors. Other research reports this number as being even higher.
Buyers are 57% of the way through their buying process before they reach out to vendors
This has put the onus on B2B marketers to take responsibility for even more of the buying process than ever before.
But the sticky point is that CEB also found that buyers reach the height of conflict 37% of the way through the buying process—meaning they may never make it to the point of vendor outreach.
Join this with CEB’s finding that an average buying committee consists of 5.4 people and you can begin to understand the necessity for marketers to help salespeople use content effectively to either:
- Gain access to earlier conversations with buyers, or
- Influence those internal conversations in an effort to reduce conflict that could derail progress.
Making It Easy for Sales to Find and Use Your Content
Marketers can create a sales enablement process to help salespeople find, understand, and use content more effectively by tagging content assets for persona, buying stage, topic, problem, and more.
But even better, marketers can make the creation of “cheat sheets” part of the content development process to help salespeople quickly use the right content in support of a buying conversation or prospect’s need.
I explain the concept of creating cheat sheets I call “CliffsNotes for sales” in this excerpt from my book, Digital Relevance:
“CliffsNotes for sales” are summaries of marketing-produced content that include the details salespeople need in order to follow up with a prospect based on an interaction with a specific content asset or to create a new conversation based on ideas that the prospect will find represented in the content if they visit the website.
Components of a CliffsNote for sales include:
- Content Details: This is the basic identifying information for the content, including format, title, a link to where it can be found, date created, author, and, if appropriate, what it was originally created for—such as an event, nurture program or product launch.
- Target Audience: This information helps the salesperson understand quickly who the content was created for and the stage in the continuum it was designed to address. If the content is specific to a vertical, that should also be included.
- Key Points: Include several bullets that distill the key points made in the content.
- Issue/Problem: This is one sentence or phrase that describes what the persona may be thinking, the problem they’re trying to solve, or the objective they’re trying to achieve. This information helps the salesperson understand more about the context of a prospect who has engaged with this content, or content that can be provided if the prospect mentions the issue in conversation.
- Content Goal: A sentence or two about what the content is trying to help the prospect learn or understand that’s relevant to the issue or problem.
- Persona Questions During this Stage: Include a few questions the prospect might have during this stage of the continuum, to help the salesperson understand how to evolve the conversation. While this may not be necessary for experienced field salespeople, these questions have proven very helpful to inside sales teams or newly hired salespeople who are still ramping up their knowledge of target markets.
- Answers Provided: Include brief answers to the questions raised above that are included in the content as talking points for salespeople.
- Conversational Prompts: Given the content premise, key points, and questions answered in the content, provide several prompts that will help salespeople initiate conversations perceived as relevant by the prospect. These conversational prompts should also lead the conversation toward the collateral and follow-on offer to create a transition point as the call wraps up.
- Collateral and Follow-On Offer: Title and link to a related content asset with a sentence about it that the salesperson can use to ask permission to send it to the prospect to extend engagement.
The above may look like a lot of work, but if done at the same time the content is created, it only takes a few minutes.
Much of what’s needed may be in the content assignment document, simplifying the creation of the cheat sheets even further. Providing salespeople with insights about how to use marketing content is a worthy goal—especially when the marketing department is using 30% of their budget to create it.
Additionally, by tracking the use of the content and enabling a closed-loop feedback process for salespeople to share insights about what works, what doesn’t, and how they’re using the content, marketers can continuously improve it.
Creating content that no one uses is a waste of time, effort and resources. By making it easy for sales to use your content, you’ll gain a higher return and value from your investment in marketing content.
If that’s not convincing enough, look at it this way—you’ll also gain another targeted distribution channel.