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 article introduces an approach and steps to do this. To understand why, see Why B2B Sales Organizations Must Requisition Sales Content. To understand why you need a sales content strategy, see article referenced bellow.
This requisition work could be a key role for sales enablement professionals. While the steps are simple, the work isn’t necessarily easy. In a sentence the approach is this:
Assess critical sales conversations
at key buyer engagement points,
in the context of:
1. Assess and Define Key Customer Engagement Use Cases
This is the best starting point for planning and preparation work (content strategy). It defines the context for the “job” you need content to do. (See What “Job” Do You Want Content to Do?)
Identify each critical conversation within each use case. These are the conversations that, if your reps get them right, they’re in the deal, perhaps gain the “pole position,” or even become a “trusted adviser.” If reps do poorly they don’t get in the game. Or worse, they’re carried as pricing fodder, while thinking they’re still in the game!
Define and document the:
- Micro-decision being made at that stage
- Information required for that micro-decision
- Questions buyers ask to acquire that information
- Conversations buyers conduct at that stage
The work that comes next will define the specific nature of that information and content.
2. Design Key Conversation Frameworks
Think of every buyer engagement AS a conversation. Don’t overlook the reality that conversations ARE content. And knowledge, conversation support, and situation-specific content SUPPORT conversations.
Why expect each sales or channel person to figure out
the best way to conduct every critical conversation?
Conversation frameworks address a primary sales problem B2B value selling organizations have — how to universally and consistently conduct effective, customer-relevant, value creating conversations. (See an inventory of typical critical conversations.)
This isn’t a “messaging” initiative. Messages are source components for conversations. It also isn’t scripting for conversations. Frameworks identify the context for specific sales and buying scenarios. They provide the important elements required for effective conversations.
For example, good sales conversations are based on asking the right questions the right way, and on listening. Frameworks provide a recommended inventory of sequenced questions. Sales reps receive guidance on what to listen for. Different paths a conversation could take are also mapped out.
Checklist graphic shows a summary example of both the methodology and elements that are defined.
When frameworks for critical sales conversations are designed, the process naturally surfaces inputs to the next step, if you know what to look for.
3. Define for Sellers, Buyers and Customers their:
Knowledge, Conversation Support, and Situation-specific Information Requirements (graphic above)
I refer to these elements as three “lenses” that clarify the nebulous term “content.” Sales, partner and customer content each have unique and important characteristics. And they differ in important ways from marketing content as well.
As you design each conversation, the specific requirements for each element will almost automatically “show up,” especially if you’re looking for them.
A sales content category that is almost always missing in sales content inventories we assess is content customers will use in their internal conversations.
Document the purpose and nature of each specific content asset. No matter how small, an email or social post for example, or large (ie whitepaper, webinar, etc). At this point you don’t need the full specifications document, you simply need enough information for the decision-making process to determine content priorities and investment requirements at the end of this work step.
Once you complete these moves you are in a position to make decisions about priorities, investment and timing. But the clarity provided by this work should simplify the decision. We have found this to be a breakthrough approach to content strategy.
4. Document Content Specifications
Sales content is, or should be mostly outsourced to creative producers. But they have no idea about the nature and use of sales content in different selling scenarios. This is the purpose of the requisition process in general, and content specifications in particular.
This is similar to the way product feature specifications are typically requested. The success of this critical activity is determined by the clarity and specificity of the requirements document. In our content practice this was a multi-page document. This “Content Brief” provides a summary outline of a formal Content Requirements Document. Develop a version that supports your purposes.
This document must be detailed enough to guide non-sales oriented, creative content developers to create effective, situation-specific information, in the appropriate forms and formats, for the purposes content is required, by all content users (aka “constituents”).
5. Meet with and enroll content creation teams in the requisition approach
Content teams — internal or agency — often develop content briefs. Agencies typically create these documents, both to clarify accurate communications with clients, and as protection for (inevitable) change requests.
If this is not a common practice in your organization, embrace it. It will improve output quality, reduce creation time, eliminate hassles with your constituents, and about a dozen other important benefits. In short, it makes you more professional.
So before you head into this process, sit with your content teams, enroll them in this approach, and get their input on everything. This is a collaborative effort. They will appreciate your help. Over time they could adopt this process and take ownership of requirement definition and specification. Or, for many organizations, it might make more sense for this competency to reside in each group.
Implications for All Business Functions
This is an emerging competency requirement for all business functions. Digital content is becoming increasingly sophisticated, innovative, and complex. Appreciation for its strategic potential to B2B functions, such as sales and the partner/channel organizations, is growing. With this investment will continue to rise, most likely quickly and significantly.
This will lead to an inevitable shift away from siloed, function-based, creative craftsman producing functional point content products. Creative and technical expertise, investment, new content supply chain operation methods, and professional management will shift content creation to a centralized function.
Those organizations that can best define their requirements, document them as development specifications, and requisition content from operations teams will receive better work products, with less effort and hassle, than those who rely on this work from central operations.