150625_sales_enablementWe talked about bridging sales and marketing with content before. Now comes a report from Docurated that claims 90% of marketing content is unused by sales teams. A hefty figure – but nothing new, is it?

Cue Round X of the finger-pointing: the salespeople ‘don’t get’ all that high-value stuff, or are too busy ‘living from quarter to quarter’ to bother, while the marketers are ‘disconnected’ from the ‘harsh reality’ on the ground. It’s an old and tired refrain – and still as tricky a subject today as it ever was.

True, many times it’s the content itself that’s not working out. But when it does, and still gets less usage than a flashlight in a bright room, perhaps a few small shifts can help.

A shift in mindset

In many traditional companies, marketing produces content on demand. Sales goes to them and says, “I need a competitive analysis deck for Product X” or “Can you do up a case study video on Client Y?”. This point-solution mentality, though, has a problem: it cuts marketing out of the pre-production loop.

What’s needed is a bit of backpedaling. Sales enablement content needs a purpose, and that means ironing out three things:

  1. who exactly it’s for,
  2. what it’s going to be used for,
  3. and its desired effect.

Of course, it’s the job of salespeople to know the people they’re talking to. But by rethinking the usual approach of giving them what they ask for, and providing an ‘outside looking in’ perspective, marketers can optimise their efforts. No sense in bringing out the battle cards when the prospect’s problems remain unaddressed.

Marketers should, likewise, ask these questions even in organisations where they take a more proactive role. Client-facing content always costs – making the most of it means examining not just what goes into it, but what it’s supposed to achieve. And the sales don’t always know the latter.

A shift in usage

Content is a tool, and like any tool there are ways to use it.

Using an asset as-is may not always be the best option. As the complexity of the sales process grows, so will the need to customise sales enablement content, to ensure prospects and clients get the most relevant messages.

Basic content modularity, such as slide decks sliced into removable chapters, is common. But just as important as these measures is their application. A closed-loop system of knowledge sharing and feedback, between sales and marketing, is necessary for optimum targeting.

As Tamara Schenk writes about communicating value messaging:

Salespeople are always responsible for the messages they use in front of customers. Only they can decide, based on synthesising the customer’s context, the different stakeholders’ concepts and their specific decision dynamic, what kind of messages will create value and support their perspectives.

This is where marketers come in – helping the sales decide. Data drawn from marketing automation can, for instance, aid sales in determining a prospect’s level of savvy – which will determine what messaging is used.

Without a feedback loop, salespeople don’t benefit from marketers’ insights, and marketers have no source for the practical experience they need to improve sales enablement content.

A shift in placement

The larger the organisation, and the longer its track record of content creation, the greater the chance it suffers from content sprawl. Findability is the final factor in bringing down the barriers for salespeople to make full use of marketers’ creations.

Self-service is key. Salespeople need to know where they can find relevant assets, and once they are there, how they can get their hands on what they need in as little time as possible. To this end, consolidating and categorising sales enablement content on a dedicated hub, separate from corporate systems, may be a good idea.

Organisations with existing CMS systems should weigh the pros and cons of consolidating on those, versus setting up a new one. While the latter is a significant investment, it is an opportunity to move away from ‘what we’ve always done’ and build a version fine-tuned to both sales and marketing sensibilities.

One real-world example is Cisco, who topped the content placement game with SalesConnect: a mobile app putting their entire content library in account managers’ pockets.

Sales enablement content is the product of collaboration between the creators and the users – in both the creating and the using. How does your organisation tackle the issue? Tell us about it.

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