Content marketing caused a sea of change in how businesses find and engage prospects. The big waves of content inevitably reached the shores of sales—sometimes receiving a mixed reception.

Content as a form of sales enablement isn’t entirely new, but with many sales managers still invested in old school methods of sourcing, nurturing, and closing opportunities, throwing an unfamiliar element in the mix can threaten their flow. Many also see content as only a factor for the top of the funnel, which is fine, but not related to the number and size of deals they close—or their commission.

To help sales see content as a secret weapon rather than fad or distraction, marketers need to provide training in effective content use. Train your sales team to approach content like a journalist treats a story—by answering the five W questions and one H.

WHAT content is available for use and WHERE can sales find it?

Your website is probably a content hub, and you might have a single content repository or management tool where sales can find everything you produce. But you’ll still need to remind them when new items are published, and that older, forgotten assets are still relevant and suited for their needs. Getting sales to use content more often is all about removing friction and reducing effort. Make it easy for sales to find new and existing content before they have to come looking for it.

WHO should receive content for sales?

Educate your sales team on buyer personas and help them distinguish between the proposal intended for a project manager and the executive summary crafted for the C-suite. Sending the right content to the right person will signal to the buyer that the sales representative understands their needs.

WHEN should salespeople use content?

There’s no wrong time to bring content into the conversation, but you can offer guidance on which content is most applicable at various buying stages. If someone is doing preliminary industry research, sales can offer a trends and analysis blog post or infographic. Are they ready to make a selection? An informative white paper or relevant case study can turn the tide in your company’s favor. Selecting the right content will depend on the desired customer action.

HOW can sales leverage existing content?

Depending on their comfort level with the subject matter, salespeople can utilize your content in multiple ways. They can use it as a conversation starter, warming up a cold call. They can also use it as an excuse for follow up, to demonstrate their understanding of the prospect’s needs, and nurture the new relationship. They can also spend enough time with your content to develop their own expertise and bring their new knowledge and insight into interactions with future customers.

WHY should sales lead with content first?

The old school approach to sales left a psychological mark on buyers. They are leery of the cold caller or booth attendant who clearly wants something from them and will get it by any means necessary. Content is a great icebreaker, and gives your sales team something of value to offer their prospects, long before making any ask or trying to close. This changes the dynamic to something more conversational and cooperative—helping salespeople develop the trust they will need to win the sale.

Sales teams live and die by their numbers and can’t afford to be distracted by activities that won’t help them close. Let them know that marketing is equally accountable to the sales team for providing content that actually moves the needle. Collaborate to agree on sales-friendly KPIs for your content and encourage them to forward prospect feedback about what’s working to help with future content development. There’s a lot you can do to help sales use more of your marketing content. Spending extra time on training and defining success metrics will help them master the practice.

How does your marketing team help sales use content to sell?