Whenever there's talk about "content strategy," it's usually from a marketing angle. However, until the mega-breach between marketing and sales gets a bridge, salespeople mine for leads, develop sales collateral and initiate conversations on their own. Quite often without any input or assistance from marketing.
Oh, stop gasping, you know it's true. No matter how good marketing thinks their content and initiatives are, most of the time they don't provide to sales what sales needs to acquire, nurture or transition leads through the pipeline. At least from a sales' perspective.
Since we all know they do this, it's important to think about how sales is accomplishing their goals and what they're using to get things done. Gone are the days when each salesperson can get away with using whatever they want to come up with, without regard to the way it meshes with a company's story, expertise, brand, etc. They may still close sales, but if all experiences with the company aren't fluid, then the disconnect with your customers and potential customers will create a question in the customer's mind about the longevity of the relationship. And for good reason.
A sales content strategy can provide a myriad of benefits, such as:
- Your company's "persona" [brand, image] will be aligned.
- Construction will progress on the bridge between sales & marketing.
- The experiences you offer will be consistent for both customers & potential customers.
- Company expertise will shine and your trusted-vendor status will escalate.
- Consultative sales conversations, focused outward, will become the norm.
- Evidence of your commitment to customer needs will become obvious.
- Sales processes will be consistent, repeatable and increasingly productive.
- Intelligence gathered about your market will be quantifiable.
- CRM will actually become proactive instead of being reflective.
Those are all things that high-growth companies are striving to accomplish. And it's not as easy as throwing content at sales and telling them to use it. A sales content strategy needs to be developed with sales insights and collaboration. In fact, marketing should be developed with sales collaboration, but that's another conversation.
Sales knows stuff that other people in the company don't. Such as:
- What challenges your leads and customers face - everyday.
- What keeps them up at night.
- Problems that need to be addressed, peripherally from what your product does, to clear a path for what you sell.
- Challenges that are coming down the pike in the future that can't be ignored.
- What hot buttons set off the wrong responses.
- Which outcomes will sway perspective.
I could go on, but you get the drift. There's noise in the air that authenticity will be critical in the future, not just an option. Dennis Pombriant talks about it in his future prognostications. The CMO Council's work on Customer Affinity points to it. The volume of available attention is diminishing, and what's considered valuable is being scrutinized more intently.
All of these indicate the need to put thought and consideration into your sales content strategy. It's not a question of salespeople using content - because they will, even if they create it themselves. The opportunity is to develop a strategy around sales communications that accelerates customer acquisition while beneficially impacting the entire organization through broadening your "story."
In an ideal situation, sales would only be working with ready-to-close leads, but even if this was the reality, it would emphasize how critical sales content strategy is to future growth.
To begin thinking about a sales content strategy, ask yourself the following questions:
- How do salespeople share your company's expertise?
- What are the conversations they're having? How do they start, develop and evolve?
- What type of collateral are they creating on their own?
- Is there a consistent knowledge-to-lead transfer process across the sales force?
- How is engagement measured during the customer's buying stages?
- Do they build the right story? Is it one that creates longevity and loyalty in customer relationships?
- If you spoke with a lead after a sales conversation, what value add would they say your company provides?
Insight to these questions will help you acknowledge the importance of developing a sales content strategy, as well as define the components needed to provide salespeople with the content they need to drive growth.
And don't just think printed content, think conversational transitions, evidence stories and consultative expertise development. Think value as defined by the customer's perspective.