Business Development

Keep Some Powder Dry – Using the Right Content at the Right Time for Sales Enablement

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"experiential marketing", "experience marketing", "event marketing", "brand experience", "engagement marketing", relationship, "business development", growth, sales, marketing, "content marketing", measurement, awareness, consideration, preference, conversion, loyalty, advocacy, planningIt’s like a bad office movie. Sales doesn’t like marketing because the leads they provide are garbage. Marketing doesn’t like sales because they never do anything with the leads they provide on a regular basis. Sure, there are many other reasons for this rivalry, but beyond events, one area where the two can come together and create real value, is Sales Enablement. Sales Enablement is basically deploying the right content at the right time to the right prospect in order to accelerate the sales cycle and close the deal at the highest value possible.

So, what’s the problem? I’ve observed that too often, too much content is deployed too soon in the process, leaving little to no support materials available in the final stages of the deal. Or, the wrong content is deployed at the wrong time, leaving prospects confused, or actually extending the length of the sales cycle. Or, every single piece of collateral is custom designed, over and over again, driving up costs and inefficiency. This of course, leads to even more animosity between sales and marketing, and in either case, hinders growth.

Think of it this way, you wouldn’t disclose your deepest, darkest secrets on a first date, nor would you introduce yourself as someone new after you got engaged. It’s about the right message at the right time in the relationship.

In order for any Sales Enablement program to be successful, there needs to be an open dialogue between sales and marketing. As part of this dialogue, roles of both marketing and sales need to be understood and expectations set. Co-education is critical. In general, marketing prescribes the types of content, and where it can be best deployed across the sales cycle. Additionally, Marketing is generally responsible for developing the content so it adheres to brand guidelines and is designed to meet business objectives. Sales, on the other hand is responsible for following guidelines on asset deployment, ensuring accuracy of content, providing feedback on client / prospect reaction to these tools, and identifying needs that can be addressed by new types of content. In some cases, content will need to be built with an eye toward customization by sales based on prospect or client.

Here’s a handy guide to help you organize and deploy content throughout the sales cycle. While this isn’t an exhaustive list or completely prescriptive, consider it a set of guidelines, you’ll get the idea ;).

Awareness – The earliest stage of the sales cycle. Prospects are exposed to your brand or your offerings. While above the line tactics are mostly at play here, from a Sales Enablement perspective, there are many assets that can be used.

  • Articles – These can be authored internally, or by a content marketing partner who will also work to get these published in media properties that are read by your target audience. An excellent way to not only showcase your brand, but your thinking in an organic way. The intent is to drive thought leadership, and early lead generation.
  • Infographics – Easily digested data visualization that is informative, interesting and designed to be quickly shared and consumed by many. It’s important Infographics truly at insight and value, and are not perceived as an advertisement for your particular brand.
  • Blog Posts – Content authored and published on the company blog, employee blogs, or co-authored / guest posted on other industry blogs. A great way to drive deeper thought leadership, and give target audiences something of value early in the relationship or drive traffic to company-owned digital properties.

Consideration – Now the prospect knows who you are. Here are some tools to pique their interest.

  • White Papers – Tremendous value-add that showcases your brand and allows prospects to go deep. These are great to driving competitive differentiation, and helping prospects understand how you might approach their problem or exploit their opportunity. Also a great tool for lead generation.
  • Case Studies – I’ve noticed that there has been some confusion on case studies in our industry.  The purpose of a case study is to tell a story about a client situation (context), describe what your company did to resolve the situation showcasing capabilities (action), and articulating results. The results seems to be the weak link in many of the cases I’ve come across recently. Case Studies help prospects visualize working with your company by seeing similar (and different) approaches.
  • Webinars – Typically educational content designed to teach prospects about your company’s solutions and why they work. However different kinds of Webinars with other types of content can be deployed earlier, or later in the process (e.g., gated content as part of a lead generation program (like a Whitepaper) or instructional format for existing clients to get the most out of your solutions.

Preference – The need is identified. Time to differentiate and teach the prospect how your company can help them.

  • Email Templates – It takes 7-13 touches to condition a lead. Campaign templates should be created for both marketing and sales to use at different points in the sales cycle.
  • Product Sell Sheets – Detailed specifications, features and benefits of your company’s products or solutions
  • Competitive Comparisons – Tables, charts, comparisons of your solutions vs. competitors and why yours is different or better. It’s important these comparisons are honest and authentic in order to reinforce credibility.

Conversion – This content is customized and engineered to help close the deal.

  • Sales Scripts – An exploration of what to say, when. These can be highly prescriptive, or looser guidelines on how to conduct outreach, undergo client discovery, pursue follow up, overcome objections, and drive to close.
  • Sales Presentations – More than just a branded background, the framework of the story should be laid out, from exploring the prospects situation, to capabilities (both general and specific) to approach, talent, timeline, budget, results and more.
  • ROI Studies – Here is where the rubber meets the road. These are very specific discussions on what solutions are being proposed along with detailed outcomes.

Beyond the Sale

Don’t forget to manage your company’s overall brand experience by generating content for Loyalty and Advocacy stages of the relationship. After all, 70-80% of your company’s growth probably comes from people you already know. This can include: Social Engagement Content, FAQs, “How-to” videos, Training Portals, Peer Networks, New Product / Capabilities Announcements, Referral Packages and more.

Measurement

No matter what types of content you develop, or when in the sales cycle you deploy it, it’s important to measure the performance of each piece, and how it meets the needs of any specific stage in the sales cycle. Testing over time is the key to optimizing any Sales Enablement program. Refresh old content, try new formats, see what works best for each stage. Keep the dialogue going, and don’t be afraid to ask prospects and customers what’s most helpful to them at what points in the conversation.

What Sales Enablement content have you found most effective? At what point in the sales cycle?

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