If your content marketing and sales processes each exist in a hermetically-sealed bubble, then you are not getting the most out of your investment in content production.
Many leaders are happy to let the marketing team produce content, hand over qualified leads to sales and never the twain shall meet.
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But storytelling has an important role to play throughout the sales journey, from introduction and establishing credentials at the top of the funnel, to actually assisting the sales team with collateral to nurture leads in the middle and developing engaging proposals that aid in closing a deal at the bottom of the sales funnel.
1. Use content to turn your customers into advocates
B2B sales professionals are almost never selling to just one person any longer. Multiple stakeholders are commonplace even for companies that mainly service smaller organizations, which makes it more important than ever for salespeople to recruit advocates to assist them with their goal. High-quality content provides an easy way for customers to share important information with their colleagues that may sway the firm’s overall purchasing decision.
2. Collaborate with marketing to find better qualified leads
Shouldn’t the people who have the most intimate contact with the customers share their knowledge during the creation of content? The sales team knows more about the kinds of issues your customers are trying to solve, as well as how buyers think about solving those problems.
In fact, a 2011 survey by the Custom Content Council indicated that both marketing professionals and buyers are increasingly recognizing the value of custom content. Effective sales reps are well-versed in attending to the unique needs of their customers and providing personalized service. So, use their insights and data from sales calls to create customer-specific stories that truly speak to your prospect.
Additionally, this can facilitate marketing and sales alignment which can have a major impact on your bottom line. In 2013, MarketingSherpa published a case study in which Blue Coat, a provider of security and networking solutions, used marketing and sales alignment to achieve the following results:
- 11 percent increase in contacts in 10 months
- 20 percent reduction in lead rejection rate
- 25 percent boost in marketing-qualified leads
Your sales reps should collaborate with marketing to produce content that is aimed at attracting a sales-qualified audience.
3. Content builds trust before the formal sales process even begins
If the first part of the client’s journey with their sales rep involves the sharing of relevant and interesting content instead of a plain catalog of products, your branded content and other educational materials will instil a sense of trust among buyers and show that your sales team is interested in more than just pushing its wares.
4. Sales reps can be thought leaders too
It certainly makes sense for C-level executives to position themselves as thought leaders due to their visibility, but sales reps are incredibly visible players in the organization as well. According to a 2014 poll by LinkedIn, 92 percent of buyers indicate they will engage with a known thought leader. To remain competitive, your sales professionals should be given an opportunity to establish positive reputations too.
5. Content can be a placeholder between in-depth conversations
You cannot be deeply engaged with any particular client all the time. Between movement through different stages of the sales funnel, servicing your other clients and the general desire to not be overbearing, there are going to be times where you are less visible in their mind. Use engaging content during this time to stay on their radar and keep providing value.
6. Get your foot in the digital door first
When you have a lead who is reluctant to entertain a meeting, perhaps you can use the power of content and social media to break the ice. By sharing value-added content socially with your prospect, you can introduce yourself in a positive manner and give them a reason why they should sit down with you.
7. Keep abreast of what your competitors are doing
If you are noticing repeatedly that sales calls are ending with the customer indicating they have chosen to go with a competitor, maybe the competitor’s content marketing holds a key to what is causing the disconnect between you and the prospect. Use any publicly published content from competitors to inform your own ideas, but always refrain from plagiarizing or stealing. Above all else, always act ethically.
8. Give the client a head start on product education
Once the buyer has reached a certain point in the sales funnel they will be ready to receive details about your product. You can use creative content to give them a high-level understanding of your offerings so that they have a base of knowledge for the actual sales call.
9. Show the customer you are well-versed in their industry
Customers are much more receptive to sales professionals who have demonstrated that they have a sophisticated understanding of the customer’s industry. Content marketing is an easy way to prove to them that your company has done the due diligence and can provide insightful commentary about their business.
This post is part of our contributor series. The views expressed are the author's own and not necessarily shared by TNW.