The variables that play into experiences for prospects over the course of their conversations with sales are numerous, to say the least. Buyers may have a strong idea of what you provide based on the materials they consumed before reaching out (or being prospected), or they might require the full context as to the problems you solve once Sales has entered the picture. Marketing has a role in the sales process as well—multiple roles in actuality—from pre-qualification to sales enablement materials.
We’ve discussed previously how friction in the sales process may truly be a broader company positioning issue, but for argument’s sake let’s assume your organization’s value to the market is well defined and your go-to-market messaging is a true reflection of your brand today. There may be another symptom in the process that is attributable to marketing or would be better optimized if marketing played a larger role.
Let content grease the skids
Yes, your Sales team may need to refine their processes or get an outside perspective on how to better prospect and sell, but they will also have easier, more effective conversations if their efforts are supported by a body of marketing content that helps prospects pre-qualify themselves before their first conversation with your organization. Think about the commonly asked questions your Sales team answers for prospects, from high-level “what do you do” to situation-specific questions about how you bring ideas to life and drive results in their type of scenario.
You can leverage marketing content in a few ways to help answer these questions before your prospect ever reaches the Sales team:
- Website content that clearly articulates your positioning and the environments you serve
- Industry- or service line-specific content (both short- and long-form) that showcases a history of solving similar problems
- Case studies that bring your products or services to life and emphasize the results—helping to alleviate concerns of buyer’s remorse
- Lead nurturing content that continues to remove concern and provide validation to your prospect as they progress down the funnel
If you are leveraging these types of content opportunities across your prospective customers’ various touchpoints with your organization, there is a higher likelihood that your Sales team won’t have to re-position your organization in their conversations and will be able to sell more effectively. You are, in essence, answering their early-stage questions in that sales process before they hit your inbox or phone, reducing the lift on Sales and accelerating time to close.
Leverage your first-party data
When your CRM and marketing automation activities are working as intended, you can gain valuable insights—for Marketing and Sales—around what your prospects are looking for and how you might better serve them additional content that is both valuable and validating. Your website and lead forms are an invaluable resource to start compiling where your potential buyers are engaging, so what can you do with this information?
Improve your marketing outreach
Now that you are seeing the pages your prospects are viewing, ads they’re clicking, and content they’re downloading, you can feed this information back to your marketing automation system and leverage workflows to provide additional content—specific to their needs—and gain new information to build out their customer profile. If you have a platform that allows for progressive profiling (ie, removing basic fields like name, email, company name, phone, etc., if they are known, and substituting other fields) you can supplement your forms with the type of questions that Sales wants to know—company size, revenue, time to decision, industry, services of interest, and more. You can also use tools to collect similar data upfront—a quiz, test, or calculator can be perfect for capturing more first-party data from potential customers.
Tailor your sales outreach
A quick example of how sales can leverage this CRM data is through reviewing the pages contacts are reading—taking the opportunity to see if there is industry- or service-specific engagement—and adding that into outreach communications. This will allow you to speak to their individual scenario and needs (with better accuracy) rather than a generic cold outreach. Let them know you often solve problems in “X” industry or “Y” scenario and see if it might make sense to have a further conversation.
Take advantage of existing content in the process
Once an organization is in your sales pipeline, past the initial outreach, your Sales team can then—if you have the right content created—share this additional content in and around their conversations as they gain more context. Do you have a case study that speaks to solving a similar problem? Send it their way. Have you created educational materials that may be useful based on your conversations? Share it as a value-add during the sales process and help build your credibility along the way.
There’s value in disqualification through content too
Another way in which marketing content can help Sales is through disqualification, rather than pre-qualification. If the content on your website and go-to-market materials are clear enough around the environments you serve, poor-fit buyers will have the ability to self-select out of the buying process with your organization and reduce the lift on your sales team to speak with the wrong prospects—taking valuable time away from correct-fit deals.
Remember the feedback loop
Your content is not going to land 100% of the time, and a feedback loop from sales to marketing is a key process to continually refine your materials and marketing outreach. At Element Three, Sales and Marketing have a weekly meeting to recap deals that are in the pipeline, see where there’s an opportunity for marketing content and materials to support current deals, and find out where there is still friction in that sales process that may warrant updating marketing content.
And beyond that, content’s job is never done. If you answer all the questions that Sales wrestles with (or customer service, or whatever), the prospects are going to ask different questions, which kicks off the next round of content development. The idea of “when you solve one problem, three others crop up” or that a solution likely solves the immediate challenge—but by its very nature creates new ones to solve—could hold true for most organizations. If you listen to your customers, respond smartly, and educate them wisely, they are bound to get smarter and thus ask different, even harder questions.
The more reps you get in both leveraging content in tailored sales processes and refining that content with sales feedback, the better velocity you can experience in the pipeline, finding efficiencies for both teams along the way.