Using Content Marketing Strategically As Part Of The Sales Process Closes Business
Content has been prevalent in marketing for the past 10 years. Marketers have been doling out content in massive amounts in an attempt to turn visitors to your website into leads. They’ve been using content to qualify the leads, assuming the types of content are an indicator of qualification. They’ve been using content to pull prospects through the funnel and even flag “sales-ready” prospects as well.
It’s all worked fairly well. Today, content makes up at least 20% of most client engagements, and it’s critical to the demand generation, lead attraction and lead engagement part of any well-designed funnel. But content in the sales process has a strategic role too, and if you want to have leads turn into sales opportunities and sales opportunities turn into new customers, you also must be looking at the role content plays in your sales process.
When it comes to content and your sales process, content isn’t king, context is king. Here’s how you might want to consider using content to close more customers and drive revenue.
Do More Listening And Less Talking
Salespeople like to talk. Most of the time, people are in sales because they’re extroverts and social. This works a lot of the time, but there is a part of the sales process where you should talk less and listen more. This is especially important when it comes to delivering educational content in context to the buyer journey and the conversation you’re in with that prospect. Think about your sales process as a long, extended conversation.
When people ask us about Agile or Waterfall website development, we answer their questions and then follow up with a whitepaper and a website link that adds more color to that conversation. Since the prospect is asking us about it, it’s safe that this is an area of concern or interest to them. Giving them more information on this topic shows we heard their concern and we’re prepared to help them make a good decision around their development process. If you’re not listening and responding accordingly, you can’t deliver content in context.
Strategically Align Content With The Buyer Journey
Most buyer journeys are similar (not the same but similar). They have an awareness stage, a consideration stage and a decision-making stage. Prospects ask different questions at each of the stages. Identifying those questions, documenting them, talking about them internally and aligning content to those questions equips your sales team to deliver content in context.
As new questions come up (and they will), you need a process for collecting those questions, funneling them to marketing and then creating new content to answer those questions and provide a richer educational experience than simply the answer that the sales rep provides.
Content is also an opportunity to introduce your company, products and services to other people within the prospect’s network. Content shared with John might end up in the email boxes of Larry, Bill, Cathy and Mary. New opportunities might come up as they either participate in your sales process or start their own.
Add A Dash Of Psychology To The Process
There has always been a little psychology in sales. Prospects must know, like and trust you. They must feel safe. People buy emotionally first and rationalize that choice second. They use their reptilian brain to make a purchase decision. It’s the same part of the brain that controls the flight-or-fight reflex. By giving them a remarkable experience that includes educational content in context with their issues or challenges, you’re checking off a lot of boxes. Your sales process is going to run smoother and faster, and you’ll win more frequently.
Track And Test Every Piece Of Content
More good news, especially for you data people or you “Cs” in the DiSC profile. Today, everything is measurable. Once you start using content, you need to make sure you can track its usage, open rate and view rate. How much of the doc was viewed? Where did people exit? Was it shared, and if so, how often and with whom? This gives you insight into how effective your content is and how effective your sales team is at using it to move the deals forward.
Then look at it on a macro level. How much did the new customer spend? How short was the sales process? Is your close rate increasing? How is this content impacting your ability to close more deals, close them more quickly and close them for more money? As you introduce new content or adjust your current content, keep a close eye on these bigger numbers too.
There is a lot of chatter about the concept of selling or helping when it comes to the evolution of the revenue generation effort. Should you be actively selling or simply working to help your prospective customers make a good purchase decision? To me this is just a question of semantics or maybe even vocabulary. The answer is yes to both selling and helping.
Yes, you need a proactive, strategic and scalable sales process that supports the conversion of a prospect into a customer. That’s sales. Yes, you need to be helping these people make a safe and educated decision. That’s helping. It’s not one or the other but rather how do you do both.
Content is just one of the tools in the salesperson’s tool kit. If that content is created with the prospect in mind and delivered in context to the questions and journey the prospect is going on, you should have yourself a new customer. Like any of the new tools available to the sales rep, used wisely it will work. But if it’s used too frequently or in conjunction with the wrong stories, it will look forced and inauthentic, and result in a lost opportunity.
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