“Is your sales content drowning your sales force?”
That’s the question (and it’s an important one) posed in a recent blog post by Scott Santucci of The Alexander Group. The article takes a good hard look at the critical role content plays in complex B2B sales. It’s an interesting read, and you can check out the full post here, but I’m warning you – It’s LONG. Like, closing in on 5,000 words long.
Now, if I were to break it down to under 140 characters, it might look something like this:
A solid sales messaging and content strategy is critical to effective sales enablement.
Most organizations are LOUSY at it.
“The overwhelming majority of the investments you make in content to help salespeople sell is wasted,” Scott writes. It’s a painfully blunt statement, but he’s not wrong.
If you’re unfamiliar with Scott, he was previously a principal analyst with Forrester Research, and spent several years running his own sales and marketing consultancy before that. He’s written and spoken quite a bit about sales enablement topics, and he’s a prominent voice in the field.
But perhaps even more importantly, he’s a former salesperson himself. The article draws heavily from his experience as an account manager earlier in his career. He’s not just evangelizing about the “power of great sales content”; he’s actually seen it work, and he’s also seen it fail. And when it comes to sales content and messaging, a LOT of organizations fail.
“You have a broken selling system,” he writes. The question is, how do you fix it?
It may require real change, and a different way of thinking about sales content and messaging. Scott shares some “how to get started” tips toward the end of the post, but he also zeros in on a few key areas that we at Brainshark think are especially relevant, starting with…
Selling skills only get you so far if you don’t know the right story to tell
Scott begins his post by sharing three different sales opportunities from his past – each of which he lost. Technique had something to do with this (he had recently embraced a new solution selling methodology, and was very much learning through trial and error). But it soon became clear that even when he did everything right, it ultimately didn’t matter if he didn't know the right things to say to this new segment of buyers when it came time to close the deal.
“To be effective,” he writes, “salespeople need to be able to engage in a value-added way with the people who own the wallets you are after.”
Putting reps in position to have more successful sales conversations with the real decision makers is basically what sales enablement is all about. This requires effective training, continuous learning post-onboarding, coaching throughout the sales process, and relevant assets for reps to share with prospects and customers.
Naturally, you need content to support these endeavors and help reps win more deals. Unfortunately…
Many companies have a BIG sales content problem
The good news: everyone wants to help sales. The bad news? EVERYONE WANTS TO HELP SALES.
For many organizations, the problem isn’t a lack of sales content; it’s the opposite. The rampant desire to support sales teams leads to uncoordinated “random acts” across the organization where everyone is pitching in – marketers, trainers, product managers, execs. Content is delivered from all angles. Messages lack consistency and context. Reps become overwhelmed and confused. Instead of increasing sales productivity, you hinder it.
As the chief content creators at most companies, marketers are often among the biggest culprits. The intentions are good, of course – they want to support the sales team! – but the execution is lacking. Think of all the content marketing teams create that sits on the shelf, barely used by sales. What was that content for? What questions did it answer? Who was the target audience? How was it meant to advance the conversation?
If you can’t answer all those questions, then you might be lacking the “strategic” part of your strategy. When that happens, reps are left to wonder what content to use and when. Even worse, it leaves them unprepared to deliver the value needed to capture buyers’ attention and the kinds of stories that shake them from the status quo.
So what do you do?
Sales enablement doesn’t have to be rocket science – it just has to be strategic
There are no silver bullets to solving the sales content problem, but that that doesn’t mean it can’t be simple. It may just require a different approach to sales messaging, content and the way it’s delivered.
Consider these tips and ideas, some of which are referenced by Scott in his post:
Put someone in charge. Somebody has to steer this sales enablement ship. To mitigate the issues caused by “random acts of sales support”, make someone (or someones) responsible for ensuring the right content is being created by (and for) the right people.
Focus on the message. Remember: selling skills will only get your reps so far. Do the work to make sure the stories being crafted truly resonate with the “people who own the wallets.” As Scott writes, “What you say is more important than what you sell.”
Put it in context. Sales messages are not “one size fits all.” Content needs to be created to speak to different personas at each stage of the buyer’s journey. Just as important, reps need to know what the right content is for each situation.
Make it engaging. Whether it’s content to prepare or to share, it should be delivered in a way that makes an impact. For example, video content is a proven (and increasingly simple) vehicle for delivering powerful, interactive messages quickly. Reps can review short learning presentations to prepare for meetings, or share personalized video content to engage buyers and build relationships.
Make it accessible. Reps should be able to find the content they need quickly – anytime, anywhere – even from mobile devices (they spend a lot of time out of the office, after all). You can filter and organize resources to be easily accessed from a central location, like a content portal or, even better, within the CRM they already use.
Make it EASY. Perhaps most importantly, always ask yourself this question: “Is this making things easier for our reps to sell better?” Sales enablement shouldn’t be a burden on the sales team. Always evaluate what you’re doing and identify areas to improve.
Technology can help a lot in this regard. If you’re interested in a sales enablement solution, take a look at how Brainshark helps companies increase sales productivity with content right within Salesforce.com. And again, check out Scott’s full post for an even more detailed look at the sales content problem and how to fix it.
You put a lot of work into the sales content you create; you don’t want it to go to waste. If you find that reps are drowning in a sea of content, it might be time to change your approach to sales enablement. Or at the very least, throw them a lifeline.