When I saw the first bullet in the summary for this survey done in collaboration between Selling Power and Richardson I couldn't help but download the Content Marketing and Sales Effectiveness report. For, if nearly 50% of sales reps and 35% of sales managers don't understand the content strategy, there's a problem. No wonder there are statistics such as 80% of marketing content goes unused by salespeople and hear they spend some ungodly amount of time creating their own content and collateral. What a waste of time, resources and duplicated efforts.
But it's not just a matter of them understanding. It seems to go further than that. After all, approximately 80% of reps and managers say they do read the content that marketing publishes. Not sure what the other 20% are doing, but 80% is higher than I would have expected.
However, what I usually see in surveys — and this one is no exception — are gaps in meaning. It's hard to get around this, but it also goes to highlight additional issues that we should take a look at.
I am confident in using thought provoking content to:
First of all, the statement doesn't indicate that the thought-provoking content comes from the company, but we'll give it the benefit of the doubt. The interesting thing to me is that both reps and managers are pretty confident in using content for prospecting, generating opportunities and influencing opportunities in their favor. Seems that they've got a pretty good handle on the early stages.
Where it gets a bit shaky is when the salesperson needs to be involved, such as in motivating customers to buy and in cross and up sell. So, is this the content's fault? Or is it that the salespeople aren't carrying their end of the conversation?
In all fairness, if marketers aren't guiding salespeople in the best way to use the content or what arguments it can be used to support, then that could be a gap to fill.
It also strikes me that sales managers have much less faith than sales reps. Don't you find that interesting?
But, what bothers me with these responses the most is the last use in the list; disrupting a customer's mindset. This could be a sign that marketing content isn't being provocative enough to sway status quo - not making the case for change. Although, the way it's referenced in the chart (final stages) leads me back to the question of the reps ability to amplify the ideas in the content to provide enough recognition of value for a customer's mindset to shift.
Now take a look at this set of responses to:
How can your company better help you use thought-provoking content to support your selling efforts?
There are a lot of disconnects for me in these responses, but let's take a look at the two outlined in pink.
Salespeople and managers want marketers to increase the relevance of the content for customers AND they want a tighter focus on the solutions the company sells. In some cases those two can work together, but often, talking more about your solutions instead of solving the customers' problem is not a great choice.
But, that aside, it's interesting to me that the interest wanes in relation to sales reps' desire to understand why content is relevant to customers, how to use it for prospecting or for winning deals or to grow accounts.
I don't think the point here is that salespeople don't understand content strategy, it's that they don't want to understand how to use content, period. If it's easy, they'll do it. If it's not, then they'll say it doesn't work.
Okay - that wasn't a really fair statement and I've got a number of projects running where salespeople use every piece of content marketing can give them, but it just strikes me as odd that the content is taking the hit for poor sales performance without a corresponding interest in changing that outcome.
Thanks to Richardson and Selling Power for publishing the report. It's eye opening to get a look at what sales thinks of content. You can get your copy here.
My interpretations, of course, are subjective. Do you see something different?