Batman and Superman, Ironman and Captain America, they all want the same thing … to protect the world from evil. They’re the good guys, they have similar missions, but they still end up clashing with one another.
The same type of thing happens with sales and marketing departments. Even though both teams pursue the goal of convincing prospects to convert into customers, there is misalignment, miscommunication, and even division among the ranks. This is often referred to as having sales and marketing silos.
The challenge of implementing content marketing tactics may cause even more conflict between teams. Sometimes sales reps don’t understand the value of content marketing or how to use it. Marketers may assume their content can do all the work on its own. Both sides might lack appreciation for what the other is doing while being quite willing to accept credit when things go well and pass blame when results fall short of expectations.
If your organization wants to keep growing, you need to bring your sales team together with your in-house marketing department and marketing agency.
HEROES ASSEMBLE: 5 WAYS TO UNITE SALES AND CONTENT
While you may be met with some skepticism and resistance at first, following these five suggestions knocks down sales and marketing silos. Doing so encourages mutual respect and appreciation as well as a better return on your investments in marketing.
1. AUDIENCE RESEARCH AND INSIGHTS
Before Element kicks off a content marketing program, we spend plenty of time learning about our clients’ target audiences. During persona development, we often turn to sales representatives to find out about pain points, common questions, and what ultimately persuades people to buy.
How do they win new business and how do they lose it? What’s going on inside the heads of people who are about to make a purchasing decision? These are all things marketing can learn from talking with sales.
Of course, it can work both ways, too. We’ve found that sales reps often say, “All buyers really want to know about is cost.” But, there’s a reason it seems like that …
In many cases, when a potential customer initially contacts sales they’ve already gone through the first two or three steps in their path-to-purchase. They’ve become aware of a need, researched solutions, and started comparing their options. It’s likely they went to Google and their social networks to find those initial answers, consuming content like articles, case studies, videos, infographics, and reading reviews along the way.
The marketing team should provide sales with insights into customer behavior early on the buyer’s journey, especially through the data and reports that come from analytics. Both departments need to share intelligence to maximize your company’s understanding of the target audience.
2. EDITORIAL IDEAS
Your sales team (and customer service for that matter) has direct contact with prospects and customers on a daily basis. That knowledge and experience is certainly valuable as you develop a broad marketing strategy, but it’s also important for specific marketing concepts.
What should you blog about this month? Who should you be targeting with Paid media efforts? What is the audience talking about, worried about, or frustrated with, and how can your company solve their problems? Sales is bound to have strong opinions and good ideas.
As you plan marketing initiatives, involve sales in the process of ideation to make sure your strategy aligns with what they’re seeing out in the field and in the market. If you’re creating a lot of content, this could mean inviting a liaison from sales to your editorial meetings.
At the very least, include people from sales during annual or quarterly planning meetings to get buy-in, consider their input, and provide them with an understanding of your content marketing efforts and the business objectives they’re designed to achieve.
3. SALES AS SUBJECT MATTER EXPERTS
Element is able to write like an expert for our content marketing programs because our clients agree to give us access to their subject matter experts (SMEs) who we interview to gain an in-depth understanding of the topic and how the company approaches it.
Sales representatives make excellent SMEs for a few reasons:
- They have a solid grasp of how your company’s products and services work
- They understand how to explain things in layman’s terms if needed
- Most importantly, they know how to sell what your company offers
An engineer, architect, doctor, or computer programmer might be able to explain the technical details, but sales can go beyond the what and the how to provide the why. The sales team knows the difference between a feature and a benefit – and that’s what makes them ideal SMEs for content marketing.
In his breakout session at Content Marketing World 2017, marketing author and speaker Marcus Sheridan spoke a lot about breaking down those sales and marketing silos by making sales reps an integral part of content creation.
Sheridan says you need to consider the strengths and personalities of individual members of your sales team. For example, there will be some who can be company spokespeople and will love to get in front of the camera or microphone, helping you make videos and podcasts.
Some sales reps have deep product knowledge and can make your marketing team sound smart. You may even have sales team members who enjoy writing and can create content for your blog or contribute articles to trade publications.
Then there are the salespeople who are “the life of the party.” They love networking both at in-person events and online using social media sites. These people are excellent brand evangelists who will be eager to engage with the target audience. They can also help identify the kinds of impressive stories that make the perfect case studies and testimonials.
4. CONTENT AMPLIFICATION
While there will be super-sharers who you won’t have to ask to help amplify your content on social media, others may need a nudge.
It’s worth the extra effort because the easiest and fastest way to expand the reach of your content marketing is to begin with the employees’ social networks – especially the sales team. They’re already connecting with prospects on sites like LinkedIn and Facebook. They may also be participating in online industry forums or groups where the marketing team’s relevant content fits perfectly with discussions potential customers are having.
Take things a step further than just recommending your sales team share content and help them out a little. Try sending out a regular email listing the latest content along with how and why to share it. Include existing seasonal content or pieces related to current events to keep things timely. Give them eye-catching headshots and banners for social media profile pages, too.
Make sure you’re clear that you’re not only asking the sales team to help spread the word, the marketing team is also creating content intended to make sales look smart and helpful. It’s not only helpful to the company it’s also good for them professionally (Did someone say more commission?).
5. NURTURING LEADS WITH CUSTOMER TOUCHPOINTS
Content marketing can serve a variety of goals, from brand awareness to educating prospects and forming customer loyalty. What every organization ultimately wants, however, is more leads and increased sales.
Gated premium content is an effective way of gathering contact information, which sales can use to close the deal. The tricky part is determining the proper timing and method for reaching out to those who’ve filled out forms on your company’s website. Reach out too soon and you get shut down. Wait too long and you miss an opportunity.
If you’ve ever downloaded an e-book and regretted the decision, because you got badgered with phone calls and emails from sales reps before you even had a chance to open the PDF, then you know the feeling your prospects might get when being contacted cold.
Sometimes sales can be overly eager to contact new leads when what’s really needed is a little nurturing. Marketing automation is one way to set up nurture tracks, but the sales team can also use content as an authentic means of touching base.
Let’s face it. Nobody likes cold-calling, and that includes the sales reps who do it. When your sales associates have helpful material that can be passed along to prospects, it gives them a reason to touch base. It also helps start conversations and establishes expertise while keeping your company top of mind as the buyer journey moves toward completion.
They aren’t just asking for a meeting, trying to set up a demo, or inquiring about needs. They’re saying “Check this out, I thought it might help you. Let me know if you have questions.”
GIVE YOUR SALES TEAM TOOLS TO HIT THE TARGET
A sales team full of superheroes is a fantastic thing. But every good hero gets plenty of support, backup, and maybe a sidekick or two. The men and women behind the scenes who build the gadgets, develop special formulas, and sit behind walls of computer monitors provide the secret weapons, enhanced superpowers, and intelligent insights that save the day.
Your marketing department, a trustworthy agency, and a rock star sales teams can unite to form a force that’s not unlike Marvel’s Avengers or The Justice League. Unite them around a common goal, give credit where credit is due, work together, and celebrate wins together.
It’s possible, and a content strategy could be the missing ingredient that brings focus and purpose to your sales and marketing. If you missed, it be sure to check out our previous article How Content Marketing Helps Sales Close the Deal. It has three true stories of effective collaboration between content creators and sales.