It’s one thing to give sales reps access to content. It’s another to ensure they can use it effectively to support conversations with buyers as a core tenet of sales enablement.
In Part 1, our illustrious experts answered:
What type of content best supports buyer conversations?
In Part 2, below, they shared excellent insights to:
What do sales reps need to know to use content effectively in buyer conversations?
One of the first things is to involve sales in your content development process to ensure you’re creating content that is relevant and useful for buyers. Then it’s important to help sales reps understand the context and value add that content can bring to conversations. Make sure that content addresses buyers’ problems and show reps how to use content to simplify the buying process, as well as how stories play a role.
Stay tuned for Part 3, where I put them to the test with this question:
How can marketers best support sales reps once they’re engaging buyers?
Without further ado, here’s what they had to say…
Make Sales Part of the Content Process
1. Andy Crestodina
The best reps have a circuit implanted in their brains that triggers when prospects ask a question more than once. They capture these questions and then pass them along to the marketing team.
“People keep asking me about X. Do we have any articles or research on this topic?”
The marketers can then create content on that topic, share it with all of the reps.
Part of the magic is that content is portable. If the rep answers a question for one decision maker, often that person has to try to repeat the answer to other decision makers within that business.
But when the rep also sends a link to a supportive article, they can forward it along to others within the prospects company. It’s a more perfect, less leaky vehicle for the message.
The best reps expect this kind of support from their marketing teams.
2. Tom Pick
Tom Pick is a top B2B marketing influencer, blogger, and senior digital marketing consultant who helps clients improve their online visibility, increase brand awareness, and generate leads.
LinkedIn | Twitter | Website
They need to know what content is available, when to use it, and how to find it. Although it's the job of marketing to create useful content, sales needs to be part of the specification / creative brief process, as well as the tagging process (so sales reps can find content based on the words they actually use).
3. Achinta Mitra
Achinta is the founder and President of Tiecas, Inc. He is a Mechanical Engineer with an MBA in Marketing who provides actionable marketing advice to manufacturers and engineering companies. That’s why he calls himself a Marketing Engineer. LinkedIn | Twitter | Website
Sales must provide their input in developing content. Marketing needs to work with Sales for them to understand the purpose of each piece of content and when to use it for better engagement. This truly needs to be a collaborative effort for content to be effective.
4. Joe Pulizzi
The sales team needs to know what marketing is creating, why they are creating it, and exactly how to use it.
Xerox has done this well with a simple email sent to the sales reps every week highlighting three to five pieces of content. The most important thing for marketing right now is to be on the same page internally.
Use Content to Add Value to the Conversation
5. Mathew Sweezey
They need to bring their buyers into those conversations, not just send them content. Rather than simply sending content sales can propose questions, add commentary, or help frame it up in the context of the buyer's situation.
This helps build the trusted advisor role and builds trust between the seller and the buyer. Content is a commodity, real insights are rare. Take time to add value and become a truly trusted advisor.
6. Bernie Borges
Bernie Borges is CMO of Vengreso, a B2B marketer and podcaster with decades of experience producing content that salespeople love because they can use it to start sales conversations.
LinkedIn | Twitter | Website
Sales reps must first understand the value of content in creating buyer conversations. Reps must have this mindset along with an attitude of being a resource to the buyer.
Sales reps need to understand the buyer’s needs in order to share relevant content and avoid throwing content against the wall to see what sticks, aka random acts of content. Each time a salesperson shares content they should include a call to action. However, often the most effective CTA is not “let’s set up a call,” rather it can be a question such as “which point in this case study resonates most with you?” The latter is more likely to start a conversation, which is the ultimate goal of content sharing by sales reps.
Content doesn’t close deals. But, it can be a bridge to a sales conversation when it’s relevant and from a trusted source - the salesperson.
7. Jay Baer
Sales reps need to know that buyers will get educated before they spend money, period.
Sales has the opportunity to DO that education via content, or they can take a laissez-faire approach, and let the buyer go spelunking for whatever informational and proof content they need. The former is a much better approach.
Know Your Buyer’s Problem...
8. Doug Kessler
Reps should constantly be adding to their understanding of each prospect. So knowing, for instance, what content a prospect is consuming can tell you a lot about them.
That means the rep can recommend more relevant things--whether that's content, products or offers.
9. Carla Johnson
They first need to know what problem their customer is trying to solve, which always goes beyond the product itself. Then they need to understand that the conversation needs to have started before the prospect became a qualified sales lead.
When marketers know what stalls the process and can proactively answer those questions, it makes the conversations that sales reps have more valuable. But to do that, you have to plan your strategy across a longer storyline, rather than a succession of campaigns.
10. Carlos Hidalgo
Reps need to know the problems the buyers are trying to solve for and then be able to connect that to the core needs.
Many of the problems that buyers face are symptoms of greater issues. If sales reps are able to understand how the problems connect to the core needs, they will then be the most effective in using content to continue conversations with their buyers.
11. Samantha Stone
If you follow up the same way with every content "lead" no matter what they consumed, you are missing many opportunities to connect with buyers.
Never think of content as a way to generate a lead. Instead, think of it as a way to initiate a conversation.
Ask about the content the buyer has consumed. Really ask. What did they find interesting, what resonated, where did it feel disconnected. Probe about what questions they have lingering that we can help address either in the moment, or as follow up. Content can spark and grow a relationship, but only if we use it to learn from each other.
12. Mark Schaefer
This is highly dependent on the industry. For example, highly technical content should be written. How-to content lends itself to video. Highly visual content might belong on Instagram. You have to have a clear sense of purpose and needs of the audience before committing to a content form.
13. Pam Didner
Sales reps need to understand buyers' pain points and challenges well, then, determine which content to use to drive the conversations with them.
Simplify the Buying Process
14. Katie Martell
Today, buyers are more stressed than ever before, although they were pretty stressed even BEFORE the pandemic hit. That stress has a remarkable impact on the human brain - it prohibits reflection, contemplation + thoughtful decisions -- all of which are required for complex B2B purchases.
Sales teams need to deliver content to buyers, yes, but they cannot afford to DUMP loads of whitepapers, eBooks, infographics, webinars and more onto stressed out, information-overloaded buyers. When we dump more information on buyers through our sales team, or directly, we are actually compounding the problem.
More is not better. Relevance is better. Simplicity is better.
CEB found that “B2B buyers may be better informed than ever but they’re deeply uncertain and stressed.”
Ask: How can we simplify their decision? We can give them prescriptive advice, and practical support to make the buying process easier.
Consider interactive content such as:
If your insight is locked away in long blocks of texts in PDFs, you’re missing the chance to experiment with experiential content, and help the buyer get to the personalized information they need, faster.
- Benchmarking tools
15. David Meerman Scott
Video can be a great way to share a small bit of information in a very personal way. In particular, video can help move people along the sales process and has potential to increase the percentage of people who want to do business with your company.
The power of video is rooted in neuroscience. Our unconscious brain can respond to what we see as if it is our own experience, even if it is in video through something called mirror neurons. It even explains why we feel we personally know a movie star even though intellectually we know we have never met that star.
Salespeople can build very powerful emotional connections with buyers using video.
16. Nancy Harhut
Nancy Harhut is the Chief Creative Officer of HBT Marketing, where she blends behavioral science insights with marketing best practices to create online and offline campaigns that beat benchmarks and controls. LinkedIn | Twitter | Website
People are distracted. Under normal conditions it can be difficult to attract and hold attention. Now it’s decidedly harder. So to be effective make your content clear, concise, and compelling.
Remember, it’s not about what a sales rep wants to say. It’s about what a buyer wants to hear. And that’s not usually a sales pitch.
These three tips can help:
- Tell a story. Stories are engaging, involving, and scientifically proven to get your ideas into your listener’s head. Princeton neuroscientist Uri Hasson says, “ A story is the only way to activate parts in the brain so a listener turns that story into their own idea and experience.” A story will let buyers form their own conclusions. And people rarely argue with their own conclusions.
- Choose images extra carefully. Right now, we have negative visceral reactions to pictures of people touching their faces, shaking each other’s hands, and crowding together. Be careful your visuals don’t turn people off to the message of your content.
- Consider video, virtual tours, and virtual reality or augmented reality to replace in-person exchanges. Show rather than tell. Buyers will feel more reassured if you offer a way for them to accomplish what they would have ordinarily done in a visit.
17. Lee Odden
Content needs to be relevant to the buyer so it's clear what the context, problem and solution are, how the solution is specifically relevant to the buyer's situation and what they should do next.
Use Stories for Buyers...and for Sales
18. Brian Carroll
They need coaching on how to tell peer stories organized by role. Also, they need to know how to understand the different problem scenarios that customers in each segment or audience you sell to tell the peer story that will matter most.
19. Robert Rose
In a word, how to listen.
Buyers don't speak in templates, but they tell you stories, and they will phrase those stories in a way that states not only their desire (or need), but the real reason they "need" something.
In the Jobs-To-Be-Done framework this is sometimes called the "so I can". A buyer will say something like "I need this <thing>, so I can <make some progress toward a goal>. The key for sales reps is to listen for the "so I can's" instead of just the "needs".
20. Andrea Fryrear
Andrea is the co-founder of AgileSherpas, where she helps marketing leaders improve productivity, innovation, and speed to market by adapting agile practices to marketing work.
LinkedIn | Twitter | Website
Three simple things: who the content is for, what it contains, and the problem it's meant to solve.
I love a good user story format for this: As a BLANK, I would like BLANK, so I can BLANK. When content creators write -- and share! -- a user story for everything they create, it's easy for sales reps to quickly identify what pieces work for who they're talking to.
In part 3 of our series, the experts answer the question, "What do sales reps need to know to use content effectively in buyer conversations?"
Selling in volatile times requires fresh strategies. Download this eBook to learn how to develop those strategies to be productive now and into the future.