By Alex Lopes published May 25, 2016

5 Not-So-Obvious Ways Sales Can Leverage Content Marketing to Close Deals

sales-leverage-content-marketing

You put a lot of time into showing the amount of visits and leads that your content produces, but the content marketing team is still relegated to the child’s table.

But sales? Sales always gets a seat at the grown-up table. How do they do it?

After all, you’re just as responsible for driving revenue as the sales department. They wouldn’t have great sales-ready leads to close if it weren’t for your content marketing efforts.

As professionals, we want our work to be viewed as critical to growing the companies where we work. But here is the brutal truth: Executives measure the success by revenue, not by effort.

Traffic and leads are great. However, if your content marketing efforts don’t directly move the financial needle, you probably aren’t going to be invited to the grown-up table.

If this resonates with you, there is hope.

Content marketing can be leveraged to not just create the potential for deals, but to actually help the sales team close deals.

#Contentmarketing can be leveraged to create the potential & help sales close deals via @SharebirdInc Click To Tweet

Here are five challenges that keep deals from closing that your content marketing can fix. And what’s even greater is that none of these fixes requires you to create new content.

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:
Content is Bigger Than Marketing

1. Sales reps need to be seen as thought leaders

What percentage of your leads don’t convert to appointments for your sales reps? I’m guessing it’s somewhere in the ballpark of 90%.

How many leads do your sales reps generate on their own? I’m guessing that number is lower than you would like as well.

Many times, potential customers don’t engage with your company because they think it is a waste of their time. They aren’t interested in talking with a sales rep about your product.

Instead, they are interested in talking with a thought leader about a solution.

Many studies show that your prospects are craving guidance from your sales reps. According to LinkedIn research, 92% percent of buyers engage if the professional is a known industry thought leader.

92% of buyers engage if the professional is a known industry thought leader via @LinkedIn research Click To Tweet

92%! That would seriously flip your sales reps’ number of appointments on its head.

What makes someone a thought leader? Great content!

If your sales reps can share valuable content on their social media channels and in communicating with prospects, then buyers would see them as valuable resources and be more willing to engage.

Try this: Provide your sales team with a helpful infographic and ask them to write their own 200-word introduction. Have them publish it through their LinkedIn account. (To publish a post, click on “Publish a post” on your dashboard, write your post, and publish.)

LinkedIn-Publish-A-Post

2. Sales reps need to build a relationship digitally

Gone are the days when your sales reps could walk into the offices of their prospects. If your company is like most, your inside sales team is growing and your field sales team is shrinking.

A USC study found that twice as many companies were moving to an inside sales model as those that were moving to a field sales model. Here are two reasons why:

  • It is more cost-effective to have an inside sales team rather than an in-the-field sales team – up to 90 percent less expensive according to venture capitalist David Skok.
  • Nearly half of buyers more readily accept the remote-selling process.

But as face-to-face opportunities decline so do opportunities to build personal relationships. Would your closest friends even be friends if you didn’t spend quality time with them? You can imagine the uphill climb that your sales reps are facing.

To scale the relationship mountain, your sales reps need content marketing – not sales collateral but thought-leadership content. Why? Sharing thought-leadership content helps your sales reps become trusted advisers because the content may help the potential customer solve a pain point. It also enables your prospects to humanize the relationship and see the sales rep as someone who knows them and cares about them as individuals.

Try this: When you write a new article, share it with your sales reps with a bullet-point list of reasons why a prospect would find the article beneficial.

3. Sales reps need to stay top of mind between long touchpoints

If your prospect has to budget for your solution (meaning it’s not cheap enough to put on their company credit card without approval), then your sales reps likely don’t have enough touchpoints to stay top of mind.

As a result, they look for any excuse to reach out to their contacts. The last thing they want is for the prospect to put your product on the back burner.

And there is a good chance that your product does go on the back burner without meaningful touchpoints. As a result, your sales reps are craving ways to keep the momentum going.

Instead of the usual, “I would love to connect to hear how things are,” that your sales reps shovel out to prospects, your content marketing can give them a value-added reason to reach out.

Try this: When you publish a report, study, or any other carrot content, share it with your sales reps so they can share it immediately with their prospects.

You also should provide easy access to older reports and studies so that sales reps can conveniently find and share them during the sales cycle.

4. Sales reps need to help their prospects sell internally

The average company has seven execs involved in a B2B tech-buying decision. When your sales reps are selling to their prospect organizations, they are no longer selling to one person. They are selling to a committee.

The average company has 7 execs involved in a B2B tech-buying decision via @marketingcharts Click To Tweet

And what makes this situation even more challenging for your sales reps is that in many cases, they don’t even know who those committee members are.

To sell your product, the sales rep relies heavily on one of those committee members or influencers to champion your product. This prospect champion has been drinking your Kool-Aid. They understand the problem that you solve, and how important the problem is. Your sales reps can provide the prospect champions with tools (i.e., content) to educate their fellow decision-makers about how your product can solve their problem.

I’m not talking about content focused on your product. I’m talking about content focused on the problem. Why? Because even though you’ve built demand with the prospect, their colleagues are starting from ground zero. And if this is done well, there is a good chance that you’ve not only increased the odds that your sales reps close that prospect, but it could even lead to multi-year deals.

Try this: Provide helpful content that tells the story of how your company solves prospects’ problems. I’ve found infographics to be really helpful at this stage. Infographics are highly digestible. Busy executives usually find them much easier to understand than a long white paper or case study. As a result, it’s more likely to be shared, and more likely to be viewed.

5. Sales reps need to understand their prospect’s world

It’s a frustrating feeling to hand over really qualified, sales-ready leads, just to see them squandered. Or at least that’s what it feels like. It’s hard not to point fingers at sales. They are clamoring for better leads. So you gave them to them. And now your one shot with that prospect is gone.

But why did the lead get botched? It may be because your sales reps couldn’t speak their prospect’s language. According to Forrester, 76% of prospects don’t want to meet with sales because they think sales reps “can’t relate to my role and responsibilities in the organization.”

Luckily for your sales team, your content marketing could solve this problem because you have done the research to craft well-developed personas for your company’s target audiences. That’s the type of training that your sales reps need in order to speak the prospects’ language. Not just once, but all the time. That will help them turn your leads into revenue.

Try this: Join the weekly sales meeting in your company, and do two things. First, share your most recent and relevant content. Second, ask your sales reps to share how they used your previously shared content. That’s a quick way to ensure that they are reading your content and learn how they find it useful in closing deals.

Conclusion

Sales needs to distribute valuable, relevant, and consistent content to drive profitable customer action. Thus, sales needs content marketing.

By helping your sales reps distribute your content marketing, you’ll continue to build the business case for how content marketing drives revenue. And the best part of this approach is that it doesn’t require new content creation to get you a seat at the grown-up table.

Want to amp up your content marketing to be even more valuable to your sales team, download CMI’s 2016 Content Marketing Playbook.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Alex Lopes

Alex Lopes is the CEO of Sharebird, a sales enablement software. They provide a centralized place for all marketing content with trackable links so that marketing can measure which content gets shared by sales, viewed by prospects, and helps close deals. Download a free copy of their guide, The Beginner's Guide to Sales Enablement for Busy Marketing Teams.

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  • PerVersePoet

    You know, when I read the title of this piece I hadn’t a clue about what it was going to be. I had an idea so thought I’d take a look, and I was right, it is pretty much the same old business growth principles but dressed up to suit the content marketing field. Some of it makes good sense, especially the part about where the sales people should express their expertise by writing good content. But overall what has put me off a lot of this article is it’s length and the fact it is rehashing the same old stuff I’ve heard many times before.

    • Alex Lopes

      Hi PerVersePoet, I’m not entirely sure how to respond. I’m glad that you found value in certain points of the article like how sales can position themselves as thought leaders by writing content.

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  • Kathryn Poloczek

    In a traditionally outside sales company turning inside, how can content be used to encourage the outside sales to show value through content marketing? How can outside sales be shown to be thought leaders too?

    • Alex Lopes

      Hi Kathryn, the tactics listed above can and should be applied to outside sales reps as well. Outside sales reps communicate almost as much by email with their prospects as do inside sales reps. The only difference is, they also have face-to-face interaction.

      It’s very common for outside sales reps to send a follow up email to a prospect after a face-to-face meeting with content that addresses topics shared in the meeting.

      Also, regardless of whether your sales reps are in the field or selling remotely, your prospects are still going to turn to content to educate themselves on your space.

  • Alex Lopes

    Jefferson, you bring up a good point. Many marketers I’ve spoken with recently are looking at how to leverage their sales reps in the content and nurture journey, because they want to introduce their leads to a real person who can provide a better engagement experience than an automated email provides.