Content marketing has changed the ways that businesses sell to a B2B audience. In the process, marketing has learned how content builds awareness and accelerates customers though the sales funnel. Now, we are seeing a rapid increase in the trend of sales teams also relying on content as a powerful tool, based on the lessons learned from content marketing. This is content selling.
Content marketing has helped generate awareness and interest through thoughtful, entertaining, and engaging content. But sales teams need to similarly deliver great content. After all, buyers are increasingly disconnected from the sales team throughout the selling process. That means that each engagement must be high value. And it means that buyers need to have useful content to build their business case internally.
The traditional sales funnel has been superseded by instant access to analysis, opinions and other data. Now, business teams can make smart buying decisions by researching via online channels and social media. In fact, analyst firm Sirius Decisions reports that the majority of the B2B buying process is executed via these channels prior to engaging with a salesperson.
The importance of content to the sales process led us to define what content selling means. Content selling helps sales discover, deliver, and track the effectiveness of messages that advance sales engagements.
New content selling practices for both sales and marketing can help leverage content to win deals. The first step is to recognize the importance of content. For sales, it builds excitement and awareness, while marketers employ content to fortify a business case. Next, it’s important to target the content. This helps sales identify influencers and speak to them directly. Marketers can use content to target champions within the customer’s organization.
Key next steps involve choosing and locating the best content. Different audiences need different collateral. The #1 marketing spend at most organizations is content creation, but it becomes a waste of money if salespeople cannot locate the resources they need. It is also important that sales uses the right content when reaching out to a prospect. The sales presentation sitting on their desktop may be the quickest to find, but it very likely may not be effective in closing the deal.
Marketing automation tools deliver timely messages to prospects. Salespeople must do the same. A content selling approach allows sales teams to target relevant content to prospects. The key to success for salespeople comes in automating the delivery of content via all channels -- including social, email, and online. Marketing can directly assist in the process by automating the discovery of relevant content that is best suited for prospects.
The next step is critical: Measure results. All too often, we hear about the vast disconnect between sales and marketing. Much of this disparity comes from marketing creating content that is not helpful to sales. This is easily resolved when sales teams learn which collateral is working -- based on experience in the field -- and then report this feedback to their comrades in marketing. Then it’s the responsibility of the marketing team to assess how well their materials are working to close deals, and then modify the materials as needed to improve results.
The shift in how buyers assess purchases has not stripped marketing of its power to influence. Marketing increasingly generates awareness and affects the buying process with the development and distribution of compelling business content. Sales has not lost its relevance -- only its traditional model of selling. Sales organizations need to place their focus on content selling, as they leverage the valuable lessons of content marketing.