You might be thinking that the last thing you want for your sales team is to add yet another task to their workload.
Why invest in content when it’s traditionally more in line with marketing? It’s simple. A sales team that knows how to leverage content can reap numerous rewards, including:
- Increased lead generation
- Increased brand awareness
- Higher authority and credibility
- Higher conversion rates
Yes, creating content is right up the marketing team’s alley. But no company operates successfully with one department alone. Sales and marketing are so closely linked by nature that it’s impossible to assign all content duties to a single team.
Research shows that the higher alignment there is between sales and content marketing, the better-equipped teams are to utilize content to their advantage. These highly aligned teams are at least twice as likely to know how and when to use the content, understand buyer personas, and target accounts:
The better your sales team understands content, the more weapons it has to work with. A content-focused sales team will have an easier time not only generating prospects but also throughout the rest of the buyer’s journey.
Once your content becomes a source of authority and thought leadership in the crowded marketplace, it’ll be easier to establish a connection with customers already familiar with your product. Ongoing content efforts will keep existing customers coming back for more resources.
With that said, here are some strategies to turn your sales team into a content machine.
Document your most engaging stories.
Salespeople are natural storytellers. Even if your team has never created content before, you’re still interacting with people every day to exchange stories and relate to them on a personal level.
Since you’re always on the frontlines, you’ll have plenty of experiences that can form the basis of great content ideas.
Translating those experiences into relatable content means that your stories will be accessible to more people in the long run rather than remaining in strictly one-off interactions.
Here are just some of the types of content you can easily produce using your own experience:
- Customer success stories
- Personal tips on how to use a product
- Thought leadership pieces on industry trends
- Interviews with customers or colleagues
You can even pick the medium that feels the most interesting for you. Not all salespeople are writers; some might be more comfortable doing a podcast interview, and others are great in front of a camera.
Having said that, a company blog or page where you can centralize all this content is essential so that customers and leads and find it easily.
What’s more, once you document a specific experience or point of view in a blog post, podcast, or video, you can point future customers to that content instead of repeating the same story each time.
According to groundbreaking research by Paul Zak on the science of storytelling, our brain produces more oxytocin when we’re engaged in a good story. This makes us more likely to establish trust between strangers—even without face-to-face interaction—and even give money to these strangers.
In one of Zak’s experiments, two groups of participants were given oxytocin and a placebo; after viewing engaging PSAs that told stories about social issues, the first group donated 56% more money to charities than the latter. Oxytocin was associated with more empathy and concern for the characters in a story, resulting in direct action.
In today’s saturated marketplace, the effect of a good story becomes even more important in the context of relationship selling.
The features and merits of a product alone may not be enough to convince customers to use your product. But when you couple them with a relatable story that engages customers and produces trust, you have a winning sales strategy.
Learn more about the art (and science) of relationship selling in this chat with G2's SVP of Sales:
Make your customers the hero of the content.
There’s a well-known struggle between Marketing and Sales, where Marketing will create content that’s useless for Sales. That’s because marketers might know how to tell a story, but salespeople know which stories to tell.
Think about it. As a salesperson, you’re the ultimate authority on what your customers want. You’re the one that spends the most time listening to your customers’ needs and concerns. So when you create content, you’ll know what information will be the most useful for customers.
A typical customer journey map involves an early research/awareness stage, where the customer first becomes familiar with a product. They’ll come into contact with different options before choosing the best solution.
Sales teams that invest in customer-focused content already have an edge at this stage for a couple of reasons:
- Having an authority website on relevant topics will lead to increased awareness of the product/brand and let the customer know you’re a reliable source for helpful content.
- When customers can see that you understand their specific problems through your content, they’re more likely to consider your product as a possible solution.
When your prospects are already familiar with your product as an authority website or thought leader, it’s easier for you to connect with them and facilitate their customer journey. They’re turning to you because they know you’re an expert and want your help.
The process of creating customer-focused content is great for connecting with your existing customers as well.
Think of them as collaborators—are there any customers you can interview that have interesting stories? Would they appreciate your interest and promotion of their company on social media?
For prospective customers, are they more likely to engage with a company that clearly cares about its customers by making them visible on sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter? Becoming an ally for your customers makes you an attractive choice because you’re not just a solution via your products, but also a powerful marketing partner.
According to a study by CSO Insights, half of B2B buyers reach out only when they’ve already decided on a solution. That means B2B customers are already highly knowledgeable about the product before even speaking to a salesperson.
Products that don’t have relevant content to help with the buyer’s research process will suffer and lose out during the early stage of the customer journey so that they’re not even in the competition.
So use your first-hand knowledge of your customers’ concerns and create consistent content that addresses those problems front and center. Your customers will appreciate both your expertise and understanding, and you’ll make yourself a solid contender.
Focus on nurturing a community, not a list of leads.
Salespeople have many, many contacts. However, a lot of them get dropped during the prospecting stage when they’re determined to be incompatible.
This is a missed opportunity if you think long-term.
Just because a lead might not be the right fit for the moment doesn’t mean they won’t convert further on in their journey. And even the most unlikely prospects can still be a great source of referrals.
Of course, it’s hard to nurture incompatible leads through traditional sales methods like emails and calls. It doesn’t make sense to keep hassling them if they don’t view you as their immediate solution. That’s where content enters the picture.
Dell realized this and created their lead nurturing program precisely to address this gap. Their goal was to keep those leads engaged until they were ready to make a purchase.
Through this program, they focused on content rather than emails to track buyer behaviors like pages visited and whitepapers downloaded. This allowed them to pinpoint the buyers’ needs and interests so that they could send more relevant, helpful information their way instead of trying to push their product and turning off prospects with irrelevant or sales-y communication.
What happened after they launched the program?
Dell ended up with 35% higher average order value for contacts in their nurturing program compared to those not in the program. Even their personalized email engagement rate was 300% higher than the traditional, non-personalized model.
Sales teams that have relevant content at the ready can speed up the customer conversion process compared to those that only rely on cold emails.
In this context, content becomes both a source of lead generation as well as a middle-of-the-funnel sales tool.
Think about the most useful content you could provide for customers who aren’t yet ready to commit. What information do they need at this stage of their customer journey so they can move onto the next stage?
Compared to shorter sales pieces, content for long-term conversion is typically more in-depth, such as:
- Whitepapers and ebooks
- Podcasts and videos that talk about a specific topic at length
- Long-form blog articles including case studies
- Surveys or research conducted in-house or with a partner
The idea is to become the go-to source for any information customers crave. This way, when they’ve gathered all the information they need and are ready to move onto the purchasing stage, you’ll be at the top of their list.
In addition to nurturing existing leads, sending relevant, useful, and shareable content can lead to more behind-the-scenes referrals. Ultimately, these factors will lead to higher conversion rates in the long run.
Make content creation a core part of your sales strategy.
In the past, creating content was a task mainly for Marketing. These days, sales teams need a better understanding of the role content plays in the sales funnel because customers are no longer engaging with Sales in the same way.
Once upon a time, salespeople were the go-to source for information. Now, buyers can do research on their own and make up their minds before even talking to a salesperson. This makes content an integral part of the sales process.
Sales teams that know how to leverage content will have an advantage in a competitive market filled with knowledgeable buyers. Focusing on understanding the customer’s journey and crafting relevant content will make your sales process that much more effective.