Sales and sales channel performance suffers due to poor or missing situation-specific sales information. This is still a common B2B selling problem.
Despite significant investments in sales and marketing technologies, most B2B organizations don’t provide enough of the right information and content to their sales and channel sales organizations — and audiences!
Sales content isn’t designed and created “on purpose.” It isn’t created to meet well-defined use case requirements. Without clear requirement definitions, developers don’t know what to create, how or why. Sales organizations don’t know if they’re getting what they need.
Marketing is largely responsible for content strategy and development. Yet few marketers can provide clear definitions or guidelines for what effective sales content really is. Most believe they currently create the content sales needs. They believe the problem is lack of awareness or access to that content. This is flawed thinking.
Symptoms of this are the decades old finger pointing. Sales: “our content sucks.” Marketing: “Why?” Sales: “I don’t know, that’s your job to figure out!”
Note that the words “information” and “content” are too broad and conceptual to provide useful guidance in these decisions.
As the graphic above indicates, what buyers and sellers really need is situation and purpose-specific: knowledge, conversation and communication support, and explanatory information. These are the three categories where specific requirements must be defined.
Since these are key drivers of success for any B2B selling system, sales leaders must ensure there is enough of the right information for sales people to perform well. Below are the steps and actions that will get you there.
During 20 years developing content for B2B sales and marketing organizations we developed an approach supported by documented frameworks that enabled us to quickly create effective sales content, “on purpose, by design.” This experience gave us the three category insight above, as well as the focused activity introduced below, that yields that information effectively and efficiently.
Sales Content Requisition Framework
To get effective, sales-ready content, sales organizations must “requisition content” from the marketing and content groups that are resourced and budgeted to create it. This requisition work could be a key role for sales enablement professionals.
While the steps are simple, the work isn’t easy.
1. Assess and Define Key Customer Engagement Use Case Requirements
This is the best starting point for content strategy. It defines the context for the “job” you need content to do. (See What “Job” Do You Want Content to Do?)
This analysis should define the customer’s micro-decisions at each stage, the information required to make those decisions, the questions customers ask to acquire that information, and the nature of the conversations that are conducted.
It’s the work that comes in the next step that defines the specific nature of that content.
2. Design Key Conversation Frameworks
Most people overlook the reality that conversations are a type of content. Why expect every sales or channel person to figure out the best way to conduct key conversations? This considered work defines a recommended baseline framework. Over time, as feedback from live conversations is acquired, frameworks can be updated to reflect the best guidance available. (See B2B Sales Conversations — By Design)
When frameworks for key conversations are designed, the process surfaces knowledge required for both sellers and buyers. Communication and conversation support needs become clear. This might include emails that deliver finished assets, visual support for conversations, as well as specific guidance for the conversation itself.
For example, good sales conversations are based on asking the right questions the right way, and listening. Frameworks provide a recommended inventory of sequenced questions. Sales reps receive guidance on what to listen for, and suggested paths a conversation could take. A frequently missing sales content category we see is content customers will use in their internal conversations.
Situation-specific information includes background information or stories, deeper explanations, proof points, that customers will expect.
3. Document Content Specifications
Sales content is / should be outsourced to creative producers. But they have no idea about the nature and use of sales content in different selling scenarios. Sales organizations must requisition content through well-defined content specifications.
This is similar to the way product feature specifications are requested. The success of this critical activity is determined by the clarity and specificity of this requirements document. In our content practice this was a multi-page document. This “Content Brief” is a summary example.
4. Oversee and Quality Check Content Creation
Breakdown in execution is a predictable cause of poor sales content. Without oversight, marketing and creative developers may misinterpret or overlook documented specs. This needs to be monitored in process, ideally by sales enablement leaders who know what they’re looking for.
5. Curate Content to Deployment Repositories
Content must be ready for sales to deliver and use. This means it must be findable through good organization, tagging for search, and metadata that quickly informs on the purpose and use of each asset.
All content assets required to address each previously identified key use case scenario must be grouped or cross-linked. For example, an email or social post to deliver a primary asset should be clearly available when a sales person accesses the primary asset.
6. Maintain Sales Content Strategy
Sales content should be a continually evolving competency. Content competes in the marketplace as much as products and sales people. Content strategy involves the work to answer the question: “what content must we invest in and create, why and how?”
The elements to support this decision are very similar to sales playbook elements that sales enablement is responsible to maintain as well. These decisions are dynamic and evolve with improving maturity and changing market conditions. Sales enablement leaders play an important role in keeping all of this current.
Foundational Support Requirements
Once content is produced and deployed there are some further actions sales leaders can take that are really table stakes.
Coach Sales People on the Effective Use of Content to Sell
Using educational content to help buyers learn, “unlearn,” and reach consensus is a new sales competency. Virtually by definition, most sales professionals and their managers have never really done this before. “No content without training, no training without content.” (Tamara Schenk, CSO Insights)
Feedback and Improvement
The hallmark of any good system is feedback and continuous improvement. Operating content as a system is consistent with the principle of operating the sales organization as a system. Content, and its related inputs, must be part of a continuous sales improvement process. This requires leadership that sales enablement professionals should be able to provide.
One final caution. When it comes to sales content, much more is involved than documents. Getting sales content right was written to help your organization redefine and align around a more useful definition of situation-specific sales information.