Sales and Marketing.
Marketing and Sales.
Though often confused by the uninitiated, these two areas of business are quite different entities, with quite disparate goals, strategies, and outcomes. They’re often thought to be so different, in fact, that the two departments often have a fractious relationship – especially in the B2B space.
In reality, though? They’re two sides of the same coin.
Not only that, but by really embracing this relationship and creating a content-powered sales enablement funnel, the two could become an unstoppable lead generation machine. With one informing the other, and vice-versa, Marketing and Sales can work together to nurture new enquiries, quash any objections, and close more deals than ever before.
Ready to kick your processes into high gear with the power of content?
Let’s get stuck in.
The new Sales, the old Sales, and how to bridge the gap
The goal of any Sales team has always been the same: to drive new business.
That remains true to this day, of course, but the way in which Sales teams land new clients couldn’t be more different — and you can chalk most of that up to the shift to digital over the last two decades.
Here’s a simple example from the pre-digital age:
- Salesperson calls a prospect or sends a brochure
- Salesperson visits the prospect and pitches
- After much deliberation, the prospect signs on the dotted line
And here’s an example from the post-digital age:
- Prospect searches Google and finds 5 different options
- Prospect spends time reading through website content
- Prospect fills in contact forms on 3 promising options, probably being signed up to a number of newsletters along the way
- Prospect receives an email or phone call with an invite to talk
- Salesperson shares additional content in the interim (blog posts, etc.) to stay front-of-mind as prospect is engaged with other vendors
- Prospect continues digesting all available content to make an informed decision
- Salesperson visits or calls to pitch the prospect
- Prospect signs on the dotted line
Okay, so these workflows are hugely simplified – but you get the idea.
The point is that the sales funnel is now far longer and more involved, with many more options for the prospect to choose from – and a lot more competitors ready to poach them before they reach the bottom and finally convert. Sales teams now have many more touch-points with potential prospects than ever before. The decision making process got a lot longer.
It’s for this reason that B2B businesses need to arm their Sales teams with relevant content at the precise point in the funnel that the prospect would be most responsive to it. The key difference between the old Sales and the new is that the modern sales process is all about education, encouragement and empowerment.
Or, put otherwise, the process is now all about engaging prospects with relevant content that shows how your product or service solves their problem, in a way that no other competitor can,
But, traditionally, Sales isn't a department geared towards production of content, so where does (and should) it come from?
Well, that’s something of a complicated question.
The pitfalls of a misaligned content strategy
It’s clear that today’s sales funnels are far more complex and content-rich than they’ve ever been before, but somebody’s got to produce that content.
For most companies leveraging content marketing strategies, (which, let’s face it, should be all companies), content production usually falls under the remit of the Marketing department.
This makes sense, as content marketing is often seen as a branding and exposure exercise rather than a direct sales activity. But, as we’ve just discussed, the Sales team is also relying on content to engage prospects all along their funnel. So, what’s going on?
Well, what we have here is a good old-fashioned disconnect. And it’s nothing new.
Remember that mention of Sales and Marketing team relationships sometimes being fractious?
It’s here that the cracks really start to show.
If we zoom out a little bit and look at the overall picture, here’s what we’re dealing with in this scenario:
- A Marketing team producing content which is likely tailored to clicks, views, shares, and other forms of brand engagement.
- A Sales team either producing (or leveraging as best they can) content to educate prospects in the funnel as part of their own sales enablement content strategy.
The problem is that neither of these strategies are wrong.
In fact, they’re both valid for different reasons. But for a Sales team to be truly empowered by a sales enablement content strategy, they can’t do all the work themselves. For one thing, it’s not really their area of expertise; and for another, it takes their time away from, well, selling.
The solution is as clear as day: to find a way to engage both Sales and Marketing to pull the same direction and help each other to achieve their shared goal: more clients, less churn, a bigger bottom line.
The reality is that, when fully aligned and working together, Sales and Marketing can be a force to be reckoned with. But that’s, of course, easier said than done. Creating the alchemy to make this partnership work is all part of the process of sales enablement content marketing.
So, what does the fully aligned sales enablement workflow really look like – and how can it help drive leads and close deals?
The unseen benefits of a sales enablement content strategy
Before we get into the practicalities of bringing Sales and Marketing together, let’s first look at the reasons why you’d want to do this.
As we’ve seen from the evolved sales process of today, content is more important than ever before – but why is sales enablement content any better than run-of-the-mill branded content?
The more content a prospect consumes pre-sale, the more qualified they’ll be
Qualifying leads can be a thankless task, but a well-managed content strategy can make it a breeze.
The reason is simple: the more content a prospect has available early in the funnel, the more qualified (and invested in the product) they’ll be when they finally meet with the Sales team.
If you’ve ever made a big investment, you’ll know the feeling you get in the early stages: you want to consume every iota of information in order to make the best decision. By leveraging Sales in creating sales enablement-focused content, your business will be able to create unique content assets which can be deployed at every step of the funnel, keeping leads interested and boosting the chances of conversion.
Messaging can remain consistent across both Sales and Marketing
Another part of the fractious Sales/Marketing relationship we mentioned is a lack of communication. This isn’t usually about animosity, but rather simply that each team is focused on their own tasks and finds it tough to make time to liaise and align.
But this lack of communication can manifest itself in different ways – some of which can actually have a negative impact on the sales process, and potentially even derail a near-closed deal.
What often happens when Sales and Marketing aren’t aligned is that Sales will simply generate their own content to send to their prospects. This may answer a query or deflect an objection in the short term, but it raises an issue of consistency in branding and tone of voice. The Marketing team will often have strict style guides covering how the company communicates, and if other forms of content are being created without abiding by them, yet another disconnect is created.
A sales enablement content strategy closes this gap, ensuring that all content is informed by Sales, but created by Marketing per brand guidelines.
Content creation becomes easier with insight into objections and questions direct from the funnel
If you’ve ever worked on a content marketing calendar, you’ll know that it’s not as easy as it may first appear.
Sure, you can do product showcases, a few top ten lists, and maybe some benefit-focused pieces to gently link into the offering – but it’s tough going. It’s even worse when you don’t get the results you want because you’re missing client pain points.
It’s here that a sales enablement content strategy really shines.
With Sales involved, your team can tap into a near-infinite source of content ideas. The Sales team will have an intimate knowledge of exactly which questions and objections prospects throw at them – all of which can be addressed and explored in in-depth pillar content.
Beyond that, your content team can leverage common questions to create FAQs which may deflect potential objections before they even reach the salesperson.
Put simply? It’s a win-win.
A shared content repository creates a common link between Sales and Marketing
We all know that sales is a fast-paced role, and that means that team members need access to content – and fast.
In fact, if someone can’t find the piece of content they’re looking for within 60 seconds, chances are they’ll just skip it and try something else.
To avoid this issue, and to ensure Sales has all the content they need to fuel the funnel at their fingertips, it’s a smart idea to create a shared content repository. This could be something as simple as a list of links on a spreadsheet, but – if you want handy features like access logs, in-depth analytics, and quick sharing options – HubSpot’s documents tool is an excellent choice.
With a shared repository, and a sense of shared responsibility, you’ll be able to iron out any kinks in your own content pipeline, and ensure Sales always have the content they need to power your sales enablement content strategy.
Great content can breathe new life into stalled sales prospects
The sales funnel can be a long road, indeed.
And, as any seasoned salesperson will tell you, there are plenty of opportunities for a prospect to go quiet. In the past, this was tough to recover from, but thanks to the ease of digital distribution, content can make all the difference. Not only can content be strategically delivered to address objections before they arise, but it can also serve as an “ambient” sales exercise, giving the prospect a chance to absorb content in their own time.
Once your content marketing is aligned, and the teams share a repository of content, it’ll be a snap for any salesperson to find the perfectly targeted piece of content to rescue this lead from the jaws of defeat.
How to really engage Sales with your content strategy – 5 top tips
At this point, you’re probably thinking, Okay, I’ll just get Sales and Marketing together for a meeting of minds resulting in literary works of content marketing genius.
If you’re really lucky, this might just be the case.
In reality, though? This scenario is probably a bit of a stretch, because a little bit of legwork will almost always be required. Nobody likes change – especially not when it impacts their day-to-day workflow, so it can be an uphill battle.
But don’t worry, because leveraging your Sales team and effortlessly blending it with your content marketing strategy isn’t quite as tough as it sounds… (honest).
If you’re struggling with the best way to bring these two teams together in perfect harmony, here are 5 great ways to solve this conundrum.
1. Sell the idea to your Sales team (the right way)
Just as positioning your product or service correctly is essential in business, so too is positioning the idea of a sales enable content strategy vital to its success.
You should always expect pushback (because content isn’t traditionally a responsibility handled by Sales), so framing the idea properly is important. One highly effective way to do that is to position the content as a tool to help the Sales team reach their targets. Properly incentivised, they should genuinely want to help, because it’s a mutually beneficial arrangement.
2. Have your Marketing team record (or attend) sales calls
Some of the most essential insights into the sales process come through osmosis, so it’s not always prudent to simply ask a Sales team which content should be created.
Instead, have the team members responsible for actioning the content strategy attend sales calls and listen in. If there’s pushback to that idea (and, in many cases, there will be), you might instead choose to record these calls and use them as reference when creating sales enablement content.
TOP TIP: if using Hubspot - you can enable call recording which attach neatly to the contact records.
3. Build a thought leadership committee
It goes without saying that a sales enablement content strategy relies on the Sales team, but what about other cross-departmental input?
The too many cooks phenomenon is always a concern, but there’s a lot to be said for having content input from across a business. Sales, Marketing, Production, Customer Success – even the C-Suite. All of these people will bring a different point-of-view which will help inform the content, tailor it to different audiences, and ensure that all potential objections or questions from prospects are addressed.
To make the role seem even more enticing, this expert panel can be referred to as your brand’s “thought leadership committee”. And who’s going to say no to that?
4. Create detailed briefs or questionnaires in a time-saving Q&A format
If you’ve ever worked in sales, you’ll know that every second counts.
It’s for this reason that you may encounter some pushback based on how much time and (perceived) effort is required of Sales to create briefs for content production. While it’s true that Marketing and content teams can lean on resources like email chains and customer service tickets, a better way to ensure content is properly briefed is with – surprise! – a proper brief.
To make the process as smooth as possible for the Sales team, you should try to make this brief as easy as possible to complete. For example, sharing a list of guided questions for them to answer, or just requesting core bullet points with no bells and whistles – whatever gets results. I've often used a simple Google Form to capture input from the sales team on a specific piece of content - easy peasy.
5. Engage salespeople directly and give them the keys to the content
It’s often tough for someone to get really invested in something unless they have a true sense of ownership over it.
In the context of salespeople helping your Marketing team create content, you might find their briefs or questionnaire responses lacking. If so, one solution is to actually ask the Sales team to pen content of their very own. Assure them that the Marketing team will take care of the copy-editing, but that the authority of the content coming from a member of Sales will increase its effectiveness.
Posting content in the name of the sales person is also helpful. This will ensure they will share on social to boost their profile and that of the business.
Ready to supercharge your sales enablement content strategy?
With any luck, this article has armed you with some key insights into how content marketing drives sales – but there’s always more to explore.
Whether you want to learn more about bringing other areas of your business into your sales enablement content strategy, become a HubSpot aficionado, or – quite simply – get more B2B leads, get in touch with Growth London today and we’ll get you on the fast track.