Convert more qualified leads by integrating content marketing with your normal sales efforts.
The Marketing department is typically the early adopter of new processes and technology to stay ahead of the curve, but Sales needs to continually upgrade its approach as well.
Modern buyers are more empowered and informed than ever before, requiring Sales to adapt to their needs.
Today a buyer is 57 percent through the purchase process before someone in Sales even speaks to them, illustrating how Sales must alter its tactics and collaborate with Marketing to reach a business’s customers.
Not every aspect of the traditional approach to sales is obsolete, but many techniques are not as effective as they once were.
This is where content marketing comes into play to support Sales on social media. Defined as social selling, it’s the use of a salesperson’s social network to find qualified leads, foster these relationships, and reach your sales goals.
Content can help your B2B organization fuel your Sales team’s social channels with the right information that spurs action from prospects.
Learn how to combine content marketing with your sales efforts to convert more qualified leads.
Outline Your Sales and Marketing Objectives
Start by understanding what your organization’s goals are for sales on a monthly and quarterly basis, as well as the quotas each salesperson is expected to reach.
The number of SQLs or sales qualified leads driven from marketing, new opportunities, closed deals, time spent selling, and total revenue generated are some of the leading sales goals worth monitoring.
These goals will inform the approximate number of marketing leads needed to assist sales, which is a key consideration in integrating content marketing with your Sales team.
“From fledgling startups to software giants, I’ve never met a salesperson who doesn’t measure the success of marketing based on the number of leads,” says Sima Dahl, international speaker and social selling and LinkedIn trainer.
“Leads generated, qualified, moved forward, or closed are what’s important,” Dahl adds. “When you earn your living by hitting quota, marketers are only as good as the leads they deliver.
“Whether you have a sophisticated marketing automation system or rely on basic web analytics to measure results, it can be difficult to quantify the true impact of marketing on sales, especially when you consider the integrated nature of most campaigns,” says Sima.
The complexity of measuring the impact of marketing on sales isn’t made easier with the use of content, which is why it is highly recommended that your organization use a CRM tool to automate aspects of the lead measurement and reporting process.
It is essential that you’re aligned with your objectives and processes from the start to ensure Sales and Marketing are effective at integrating and supporting one another.
Educate Your Sales Team
Marketing should understand the role content plays in driving a sale and this knowledge needs to be shared with the Sales department to better inform how they interact with customers.
Brief them on what content marketing is, the application of content within the sales process, how content differs when targeting existing customers versus new prospects and how content builds authority for salespeople to close more deals.
Create an internal training course or workshop to inform Sales of these points or set up mentoring sessions with Marketing to teach Sales on a one-on-one basis.
If your Marketing department isn’t up-to-date on content marketing (even though they should be), hire an outside vendor to not only train Sales on content marketing and social selling, but bring your Marketing team up to speed as well.
One of the most important lessons to stress is that content cultivates a relationship between a salesperson and a prospect as it is the conduit for establishing trust and rapport with them.
“When research shows that over 60 percent of buyers went with the vendor who had the best content the need for salespeople to understand content marketing and how it supports the active sales cycle is one of the most important things for them to wrap their heads around.”
During your training, highlight how Marketing and Sales can consistently collaborate to achieve your company’s goals like sharing data, unifying buyer personas, providing regular feedback on the process of passing of marketing leads to Sales, and recycling previously used content.
“When I train Sales teams on social selling, I show them how to repurpose marketing-generated content via their own digital footprint — by adapting content to their needs,” says Sima Dahl. “It’s simple enough to do, but a habit few sales professionals have developed.”
According to Dahl, most Sales professionals fail to make use of this advice and neglect the opportunity to repurpose content created by marketing for their own needs.
Consider this a competitive advantage for your Sales team as you’ll be able to continue to reach prospects with engaging content, while limiting the impact on your budget, resources, and time.
Create a Library of Approved Content
Once Sales is educated on the merits of content marketing, the content they are serving to prospects must reflect your organization’s goals.
A problem with allowing Sales professionals to openly share content on behalf of your company is that each piece of content reflects your brand.
If a salesperson shares the wrong type of content, low-quality information, or something irrelevant to a prospect, then this may harm your organization’s reputation.
Your Sales staff is highly effective at closing sales, but that doesn’t make them experts in curating content or proficient content creators.
Instead of relying on your Sales team to find or create content worth sharing with prospects, create a library of approved content for them to use in a variety of circumstances.
This way all content shared by your Sales department is created, curated, and approved by Marketing, and the Sales team can select the content best catered to the stage of the buying cycle for each particular prospect.
For example, if you’re a Sales professional at an insurance company and you noticed that one of your existing clients purchased a boat and shared the news on social media. It might be a prime opportunity to comment and tell them congrats on their new purchase.
Then privately send them a message and share an article related to the process of properly insuring a boat. This isn’t an opportunity to be overly promotional, but instead a chance to offer value to your customer, even if they don’t decide to reach out again and discuss purchasing boat insurance.
The more comprehensive your training is on how to use content, the better-equipped Sales will be to serve relevant content to each prospect at the right time.
Distributing Content Builds Trusted Advisors
In addition to serving content privately to specific prospects, your Sales team should be consistently sharing content from their LinkedIn profiles and elsewhere on social media.
By regularly sharing useful content about your industry expertise, your Sales team can build a stronger rapport with their prospects and buyers.
“Content marketing allows a Sales professional to be seen as an authority on their topic,” says Melonie Dodaro, author, speaker, trainer, and social selling evangelist at Top Dog Social Media. “Buyers are doing their research online and it’s imperative that you come up when they are doing so.”
Dodaro is right, content builds authority for Sales professionals and the data supports this:
- 76 percent of B2B buyers prefer to receive content unique to their buying stage.
- 95 percent of buyers prefer brands that provide content throughout the buying process.
- 84 percent of B2B executives state that social media is a component of their purchase decisions.
- 72 percent of the B2B salespeople who use social media report that they outperformed their sales peers.
- 84 percent of marketing execs say they plan on developing a process to map rich media content assets to buyer’s journey stages.
“The goal of every Sales professional should be to be seen as a ‘trusted advisor’ and remain top of mind with their ideal prospects and clients,” Dodaro says. “You can do this easier than ever before by combining content marketing and social media.”
It’s essential to note that your Sales team shouldn’t all share the same content with everyone, but instead customize the content they share to the context of the conversation with a prospect and what stage they are at in the buying process.
“Salespeople should use the tofu/mofu/bofu approach (top of funnel, middle of funnel, and bottom of funnel) to distribute educational content to their networks,” says Koka Sexton.
“When you get to the middle or bottom of the funnel, customized content and targeted emails definitely help move the buying process forward.”
Empower Prospects to Sell Internally
Most purchasing decisions are made at an organization with the input of a few stakeholders.
When a potential buyer is communicating with your Sales department, there are likely other staff members the buyer is consulting with behind the scenes before making a choice to buy or not.
In order to motivate these individuals to support your point of contact, consider creating content resources that you can provide your prospect with that they can distribute internally to convince others.
This resource could be a white paper explaining the pros and cons of your organization’s services compared to a competitor or even video to address common concerns and questions related to your offerings.
Another type of content that can help encourage buy-in from multiple internal stakeholders is a case study.
“My top advice for Sales teams for quick content marketing wins is to compile client success stories and focused on a positive sales experience,” says Jed Record, consultant, speaker, and Lenovo solutions evangelist. “Keep them short but impactful and written from the customer’s perspective.
“Once you have a few of these great little bite-sized story nuggets, start sharing them wherever you come into contact with prospects,” says Record.
“Sprinkle them throughout the website. Add them below your email signatures. Memorize them so you can share them over the phone or in conversation. These little gems will win more business than any strong close will.”
Idea Generation for Content
Partner with Sales to document their communication with prospects and existing customers to identify additional ideas worth covering with content.
Take note of trends in the questions typically asked by prospects and customers to identify pain points they experience in their roles and what exactly they’re looking to learn.
Also, work with Sales to regularly analyze their buyers’ most common paths to purchase to understand what additional content resources are needed to move a prospect forward.
How has your organization integrated content into your sales process? What results has your Sales team seen experimenting with content marketing? Let us know over on Twitter @DigitalCurrent.