The Secret Tool Salespeople Use (Hint: It's Content)
by Dan Soldner
"Content" is a jargon term many people aren't familiar with, even though they interact with it every day. It's another word for the information you find on the internet, such as blog posts, ebooks, infographics, white papers, and more, that you're served up as a result of a simple Google search.
At first glance, content doesn't look like a sales or marketing tool, since it doesn't perform the traditional advertising function. But it's actually a powerful way of drawing traffic to your website and generating word-of-mouth buzz. And a clever sales team can leverage good content to their advantage, too.
The Strength of Content
Content isn't advertising copy: the most it'll have "sales-wise" is a call-to-action, usually at the bottom that leads to another piece of content within a buyer's journey. Instead, it's accurate information, written with education in mind. While other companies may operate differently, it's typically the marketing team that takes the lead with identifying a need for content, producing it, and keeping it relevant.
While salespeople and marketers can choose to boost content (especially with promoted social media posts, for instance), it's often posted on the internet without special promotion. However, content marketing teams will use search engine optimization (SEO) techniques to encourage Google and other search engines to show their content near the top of their results for a commonly asked question.
Marketing teams love content because it positions the brand as a reliable authority. Successful content - content that draws a lot of traffic - will also typically drive search engine rankings for the rest of the site.
The Disparity Between Sales and Marketing
Marketing teams and sales teams are typically separate units in a company. But this isn't always to everyone's advantage because the two units have interlocking functions. The use of content is one example of this: while marketing teams typically are the ones who create content, sales teams benefit from it and can use it to their advantage as the core prospectors and connectors in the company.
But many companies don't recognize this. An estimated 60 to 70 percent of B2B marketing content goes unused - it just doesn't meet the needs of sales teams. This is a massive waste in many organizations and points to the need for companies' sales and marketing departments to coordinate - call it smarketing.
In general, there are two ways sales teams can use marketing's content: by building a relationship and by minimizing the time spent closing a sale.
Building a Relationship Via Marketing Content
Building a relationship with your leads is a key part of any sales team's work. Sales teams have several tricks they use to do that, and content is one of them.
By referring potential customers to useful content, the sales team doesn't just boost the profile of that content (which, again, can have a positive effect on search engine rankings). They also demonstrate their expertise and credibility, as well as that of the brand more generally. Sales teams can do this by sending out links to content on a broad scale (say, by linking to a blog post in a monthly newsletter), or by referring individual leads to the company's content as they interact with the sales team (say, to answer a question the customer has).
Minimizing Close Time of Sales People
Encouraging customers to buy quickly is an important goal for sales teams. Referring them to content is one way to do this, but the content needs to be carefully honed for this to work. It has to be part of a comprehensive campaign or overall strategy.
One example of content that can minimize close time is a list of useful products the company offers or things to look for when buying a product (which, conveniently, the company's products offer). This content needs to be carefully written, so the end result is still informative and doesn't read like an advertisement - after all, the world has changed from a buyer's experience and marketing must change to meet those needs.
Content is a powerful tool in any sales team's arsenal, even though it's often dismissed as just a marketing tool. By learning to use the power of content, sales teams can close sales faster, as well as build a relationship with potential customers by establishing themselves, and their brand, as authorities.