Members of a good sales team wear many different hats.
One day, your sales reps are building relationships and rubbing elbows with clients. The next they’re acting as expert teachers and educating prospects about what your company offers. Other days, they’ll need to be a savvy negotiator, a brand evangelist, fill the role of customer service, or crunch numbers like an accountant.
It takes a certain type of person to excel at sales because it’s a lot of pressure and hard work. So, it’s no surprise that some members of your sales team don’t want to be bothered with content marketing.
Maybe they’re skeptical. Maybe they’re busy. Maybe they couldn’t care less. Or, maybe they don’t get it … yet.
The right content marketing strategy, however, can make the job of a sales rep much easier. Content marketing can even shorten the sales cycle, reducing the resistance your team faces in trying to close the deal and generate new business.
CONTENT: DOING THE DIRTY WORK FOR SALES
The way people make both B2B and B2C purchasing decisions has changed. We’re pretty sure you’ve heard this before, so we’ll spare you the details.
Long story short – the internet allows people to do a lot of their own research before they ever talk to someone in sales. Some say this puts more power in the hands of the buyer because sales reps have less control of the conversation early in the decision-making process.
But … it can also mean sales reps don’t have to spend time explaining things to those who aren’t yet ready to buy. Thanks to the prospect’s self-guided research, when they do contact someone in sales, they’ll already have a basic understanding of how your company’s solution solves their problem. They’ll have specific questions that focus on “Why is this the right choice for me?” rather than “What is it that you do and why do I really need it?”
That’s because the buyer is further along in their journey thanks to the content they already consumed. When content marketing does its job, buyers progress past the Needs Awareness and Research phases of a path-to-purchase and they arrive at Consideration and Comparison … just one step away from taking the leap and becoming a customer.
As Element’s Content Marketing Director, it’s a little bit tough for me to admit, but content is very rarely responsible for closing the deal. Your sales team does that. Content marketing assists by nudging people in their direction.
Content marketing sets it up. Sales takes it home.
REAL-WORLD EXAMPLES OF SALES AND CONTENT MARKETING SUCCESS
If all of this sounds good in theory, but you want to some legit examples of how content and sales work together, these three stories will have you convinced.
SELLING POOLS DURING THE RECESSION
One of the first content marketers I ever learned from is a fiberglass swimming pool salesman named Marcus Sheridan. He’s now the force behind The Sales Lion in addition to continuing to operate the swimming pool business, River Pools and Spas.
During the recession, the business was struggling like many others, because who wants to buy pools when the economy hits rock bottom? Turns out, enough people to keep the business afloat actually do.
Marcus started exploring inbound marketing tactics, including creating his own content. Basically, he wrote blog posts that answered all the questions homeowners might have about buying a swimming pool and working with a company like his.
As a result, traffic to the company’s website skyrocketed (it’s the most highly trafficked pool site in the world) and brand awareness grew. But, something else happened, too.
The sales reps from River Pools and Spas started noticing that homeowners had far fewer questions during in-home consultations. Sales was spending less time explaining and educating and more time nailing down the details of the deal. That’s all because the customers were prepared to dive in thanks to the content they’d already consumed.
PRIMING THE PUMP FOR A DEALER NETWORK
One of Element’s first content marketing clients was Water-Right, a company that makes water softeners and other water filtration equipment for home and commercial use. A big chunk of Water-Right’s business goes through a network of dealers who sell to the end users.
Even though they aren’t on the payroll, these dealers are essentially Water-Right’s sales force. The company’s regional sales managers train the dealers on how to sell water treatment equipment to homeowners, providing them with the knowledge and resources they need.
So, Water-Right understands the importance of educating its B2B customers as well as their customers’ B2C customers. This made content marketing a perfect fit.
The dealers selling Water-Right’s systems are using the parent company’s content to help build brand awareness through efforts such as social media shareables. They’re also educating homeowners using Water-Right blog content that simultaneously shows the benefits of water treatment while explaining its complexities. Some dealerships even reuse infographics as showroom signage!
Keep in mind, many of these dealers are more tradesmen than salesmen. Giving them content that makes the process of persuasive communication and consumer education easier is very valuable. Content marketing provides the tools the dealers need to prove they can fix problem water.
Now, imagine what the right content could accomplish in the hands of your best sales reps.
EXPLAINING AN INNOVATIVE SOLUTION TO AN INVISIBLE PROBLEM
Steve Jobs is often quoted as saying, “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” His point was that sometimes customers don’t understand how an innovation can solve a problem, especially when they don’t even realize the problem exists.
Element’s client, Breakthrough®Fuel, was dealing with a similar challenge. They’d developed a better way for shippers to reimburse carriers for diesel fuel. It’s more accurate, more transparent, and fair for all parties involved, but it’s also a little complicated.
Shippers had grown accustomed to the status quo and needed Breakthrough®Fuel’s sales team to help them understand how the program works and why it’s better than outdated methods. Once the sales reps got a foot in the door, they had no problem convincing prospects to sign on with Breakthrough®Fuel, but it took some work to get to that point.
Through a collaborative partnership, Element and Breakthrough®Fuel’s in-house marketing team strategically developed content that moved prospects down a path-to-purchase with specific pieces designed for certain points of the sales funnel.
An infographic, for example, provides high-level details. Short videos for social media outline essential concepts to the audience on LinkedIn. A blog post applies the benefits of the company’s approach to current events. Case studies deliver real-world proof, and Earned media opportunities in trade publications show subject matter expertise.
It’s not just one piece of content that does the job, it’s the way everything works together.
At a recent meeting with Breakthrough®Fuel, marking the first year of a comprehensive content marketing program, Vice President of New Client Experience Heather Mueller told us that the sales team had observed a change …
The sales cycle was noticeably shorter. Instead of answering question after question about how things work, prospective clients were telling them, “We get it. We like it. What are the next steps?”
That’s because when prospects visited Breakthrought®Fuel’s website to learn more about the company, they found helpful content that clearly illustrated the problem, the solution, and how everything worked.
WHAT ARE YOUR NEXT STEPS?
When sales and marketing departments work in silos, nobody wins. Your sales team needs to view content as a secret weapon that helps them do their job. Content is like the warm-up act for a headlining standup comedian. It’s like having a wingman at the singles bar. It’s the cocktails and appetizers before the main course. It’s the Googling and social media stalking before agreeing to a first date.
Your sales representatives are the stars, content should be designed to back them up.
Element strives to involve our clients’ sales teams in the content marketing strategy, execution, and amplification. Discover ways to do that in our blog post, 5 Ways to Integrate the Sales Team in Your Content Marketing Strategy.
While it’s absolutely true that content marketing benefits sales, the insights and contribution of sales and customer service can be a priceless part of your content strategy. Element understands that no matter what our clients’ marketing goals might be, what everyone really wants in the end is to grow their business with better leads and more sales.