Content Is The Next Frontier In Aligning Sales And Marketing

Published: February 26, 2014

The sales and marketing relationship once focused on the quality of the leads being generated by marketing. Now,  attention is shifting to the quality and availability of content.

Aligning sales processes, content and resources specifically to buyer needs is critical to improving win rates. However, more than half (53%) say their selling processes and content are only somewhat or not aligned to the buyer stages, according to the recently released annual Sales Execution Trends survey from Qvidian.

{loadposition SPIAA}Finding the necessary resources and creating personalized selling documents remains an ongoing challenge for sales teams. More than 39% of respondents reported having a difficult time locating and tailoring personalized selling documents, and 16% said it is overly difficult.

“Today’s buyers are much more informed, so the sales team can’t just keep plugging away with content that the buyer has already seen,” said Christopher Faust, CMO of Qvidian. “Our research shows that 58% of buyers disengage with the sales team and stay the status quo. The overwhelming majority say that the reason is that the sales person did not present the value of the product or company effectively.” He added that to ensure sales teams can effectively connect with buyers, content must be aligned to personas and specific stages in the buying process.

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A recent study conducted by Brainshark drew similar conclusions about the need to focus on content in sales enablement efforts. One out of three sales representatives reported that it is a daily struggle to obtain the right collateral to close deals.

The survey, titled: State Of The Sales Rep, collected responses from more than 400 sales professionals from various industries about how they prepare, present and follow up after meetings.

Additional findings from the survey included:

  • 41% of sales reps said their company has outdated content;
  • 42% stated that their marketing department “rarely” or “never” includes them in the content development process; and
  • 51% devoted time to modifying existing content.

To reinforce the power of content in the sales process, sales enablement technology vendor SAVO Group, recently acquired StoryQuest, Inc., a provider of digital postcard technology. This addition to SAVO’s sales enablement portfolio incorporates industry thought leadership and corporate content within a recorded digital message. According to company executives, this transforms customer communications into personalized conversations, content marketing collateral, and lead generation solutions that arm sales reps with the right tools.

“This adds a personal and creative touch to prospect and customer conversations,” noted Mark O’Connell, President and CEO of SAVO. “As buyers become increasingly more informed about both companies and their competitors, being able to help reps sell smarter and differentiate with this type of unique offering is what will separate the winners from the losers in the year ahead.”

Just as marketers are becoming more involved in the later stages of the buying process, sales people are taking on more of a marketing role, observers noted.

“You can craft the perfect message, sales collateral and material, and define a sales process, but at the end of the day it is about the sales person telling the buyer the story of how they can solve their problems,” said Chuck Dulde, VP of Sales Enablement for SAVO. “The processes of generating leads and engaging prospects is a continuous story.”

The next wave of sales enablement entails putting a structure in place for creating and presenting the appropriate assets to sales people as they interact with prospects throughout the buying cycle. “The challenge is how to operationalize it. How do you, as a marketer, ensure that the sales rep is telling the story in a way that engages the buyer and addresses their concerns. It is not just making content available, but having the tools to help the sales rep adapt what the buyer needs, and then execute.”

From Content To Conversation

The role of the sales person is changing from that of explaining product features to acting in more of a consulting role. “Buyers are really looking for consultants by the time they reach out to a sales person,” said Andy Zimmerman, CMO of Brainshark. “From a marketing and sales alignment perspective, that means more and more of what I refer to as just-in-time learning. We’re seeing marketing play more of a role in developing content for specific sales situations, for example, content to help the sales person engage with a prospect in a specific industry or role.”

Tim Riesterer, Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer for Corporate Visions, added: “Many companies are starting to blend the conversation and messaging training with sales skills training. Marketing is moving from the idea that they are responsible for campaign content to conversation content.

SAVO’s Dulde called this trend “opportunity enablement. I refer to it as making those audible calls during the course of an engagement. It is not just about arming the rep with knowledge. It is about effectively helping the rep apply that knowledge, and presenting the appropriate content, resources, knowledge experts and whatever the rep would need to move the opportunity forward.”

Dulde emphasized that while classroom-style sales training is important, technology-driven reinforcement of that training and sales methodology is critical. If a sales person has to search for the right piece of content or resource for a specific sales situation, some will make the effort, but others will not.

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