By Brian Giese, CEO of True Influence.
B2B sales reps long ago lost control over the early stages of the buying journey. Marketing content like blogs, ebooks, white papers, sponsored research and special reports now have more influence over the buyer’s early search choices. Because of this, good content is one of the most valuable ways Marketing can empower Sales. But sadly, most B2B content (60-70%) goes unused. What can Marketing do with intent signals, monitoring and activation to empower sales through content and maybe earn their respect? The answer: Plenty! Start with some of these nine best practices:
1. Stock a Content Library Optimized for Sales Use
A library of thoughtful content assets helps sales teams engage prospects. For example, if your company routinely sells to particular industries, Marketing can help reps close more deals by creating content aligned to that vertical. Organize content into specific, targeted categories (perhaps around your intent data topics?) such as:
• Pain points
• Journey stage
• Search questions
The key is to make the content easy to find and use. The faster Sales discovers your content, the sooner they can put it into action. Strive for a “content-forward culture.” Help Sales get familiar with your content and understand how each piece solves specific challenges. Regularly update them about new content. Designate an intranet channel to push out any fresh pieces that Marketing publishes.
2. Provide Contextual Content Suggestions
As you build a content library, help sales reps understand and navigate to the best content to help close deals. A simple spreadsheet can list the content appropriate for various deal stages or verticals. For deeper content like webinars and ebooks, save your team time by including a summary or highlights deck about those pieces. Include both the target persona and why a prospect would care.
3. Ask Why
Sales enablement must be a collaborative effort. Without insight from Sales, you risk creating content nobody needs. If Sales isn’t putting your content to good use, ask them why. Ask about common customer objections, so you can create content to address those issues. Use discovery meetings to answer questions like:
• Is your content accessible?
• Is it tagged by persona, topic, industry or funnel stage?
• Do reps know how and when to use content in the sales process?
4. Make Sales the Experts
Helpful content reinforces salespeople into thought leaders who add value during the buying process. As trusted experts, they build relationships faster and close more deals. Social platforms like LinkedIn help reps build their personal brands, often by sharing content — hopefully yours. Through training, Marketers can help Sales answer questions and spark conversations on social media. We’ve been working on this in our employee advocacy program with prewritten social posts aligned with different messaging groups. We’re also emphasizing training through LinkedIn Learning.
5. Marketing: Gain Sales’ Trust through Better Contacts
Research finds many B2B marketers don’t score the leads they send to Sales, and most MQLs never convert, with poor nurturing often to blame. The chronic conflict over lead quality can be resolved when contact-level data is based on actual intent behavior. Intent contacts that are triple-verified and quality-checked have clearer value to Sales. Marketing can use intent to prioritize contacts whose behavior indicates someone who’s closer to a decision, not a top-of-funnel, early stage browser.
6. Content for the Road (map): Lead Nurturing the Right Way
Marketers, accompany your Sales colleagues on the buyer journey; don’t abandon them. Develop an understanding of your sales process as a roadmap for sales enablement content. Just focusing on top-of-funnel content doesn’t help Sales. You’ll need ebooks, webinars, case studies and other bottom-of-funnel content where Sales activity will be kicking in. A nurturing strategy based on customized, relevant content can increase lead-to-close ratios. Intent data can fill in the answers about how people search, both early in the journey and later when someone is closer to a decision. When B2B marketers use this information to empower Sales, you prepare better content that addresses the reasons for the search. That in turn opens the door a bit wider for Sales to show understanding and add value — and get a jump on things. And you may earn their respect.
7. Grease the Funnel with Content
As each buying journey progresses, B2B buyers want to:
• Understand the problem they have
• Discover how others solved it
• Identify and research solutions
• Collect feedback and recommendations
Smart content marketing helps move buyers through this process faster. Content and intelligence around an account’s intent behavior and buying group activities can trigger productive conversations and thought processes. (This webinar shows how Imprivata used buying groups to their advantage and hit 430% ROI!)
Marketers empower Sales and earn their respect by creating content that moves prospects through the process faster. This means providing useful pieces that address specific issues and questions. Create content that lets reps jump into the buyer’s journey earlier. If reps are there with the right content, they can get a foothold in the early stages and position themselves as the authority. Good content that answers buyers’ questions and objections accelerates the buying process when correctly timed and delivered. A good source of information about these customer questions? The Sales team, of course.
8. Activity Alerts and Routing: Help Reps Prioritize Leads
Inbound sales teams typically use some form of call routing, but companies still struggle to get leads out quickly. With the right solution, marketers can immediately route opportunities to the most appropriate reps based on a prospect’s intent data. We’ve helped B2B marketing teams set up alerts to notify reps when a prospect engages on a certain topic or from a certain territory. Reps can follow up right away when a clear signal indicates an actual contact is sales-ready or at least well through the self-directed funnel stages. Some intent tools capture the channel, campaign or even keyword that a prospect recently viewed for additional prospect intelligence for Sales.
However, keeping tabs on every opportunity isn’t easy, especially when there are multiple contacts in each account as part of buying groups. Social listening tools can be helpful, and intent monitoring is also useful to watch for topic search behavior by particular accounts. Our True Influence intent technology does this for B2B marketers like the ones in these stories. Help your sales team identify the subject of prospects’ searches using intent data and give them tools to reach out and add value to these conversations.
One way that B2B marketers empower sales reps to be more effective is by prioritizing leads, so reps spend more time talking to the prospects most likely to close. Intent data based on certain parameters allows confident scoring of contacts before passing them along to a rep.
9. Use Competitive Monitoring to Alert Reps to Behavior Changes
Marketing can also use alerts to keep Sales informed about competitive activity or interest. Tools like InsightBase make it possible to set up alerts when existing customers research competitive sites, or if prospects download their assets. When a client or prospect downloads that type of content, it’s the ideal opportunity to reach out. By the way, intent data captures this sort of behavioral information in near real-time across thousands of topics.
How about developing some competitive-response collateral? If your reps routinely go up against certain competitors, consider content that positions your company against their messaging. In the next deal against them, your reps will be prepared with thought leadership and guidance to create an advantage.
Here’s the point. Start with just a few best practices, and wherever you are with regards to Marketing empowering Sales and earning their respect, you’ll find yourself a few steps closer to that goal.