There’s an often-cited line about content and the sales process that goes something like this:
“The typical buyer consumes X pieces of content before talking to a salesperson.”
Feel free to replace the X with just about any variation of this data point that you can find using a quick Google search. (Rest assured, there are a ton.)
While it’s awesome to acknowledge the important role content plays in kicking off the buyer’s journey, the overuse of data points like this perpetuate the notion that content isn’t involved in actually driving the sales process forward. And that’s a misconception that’s costing sales teams time and money.
You see, when a marketing lead becomes a sales opportunity, sellers don’t suddenly stop sharing content. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: Sales outreach is powered by fresh, compelling collateral that drives the process forward, keeping prospects engaged while navigating a lengthy sales cycle or an ever-increasing array of stakeholders (or both). But most sales teams struggle to get the sales content they need, and what’s more, few have access to the data that tells them which content is actually working.
The Non-Linear Sales Process Demands High Performing Content
Sales isn’t as simple as it used to be. And driving prospects to a purchase has grown more complex over time.
In fact, 63% of people who get information on your company today won’t purchase for at least three months — and 20% will take more than 12 months to buy.
And, what happens if you actually book a meeting with a prospect?
Prepare to do even more outreach–80% of sales require five or more follow-ups after that initial meeting.
All of this is to say that sales is increasingly becoming a non-linear process that takes place across a variety of channels. And for sellers who are responsible for owning and guiding that process, the fuel for outreach and prospect engagement is–you guessed it–high-performing content.
Only problem is, most sales leaders feel like they have very little access to real-time data about what’s working to drive sales engagement, and even less data about how their content connects to actual deals closed. The end result? Sales teams are flying blind when it comes to understanding how content drives business outcomes throughout the sales funnel, like meetings booked, deals won/lost, and other key performance indicators.
Data revolutionized marketing and how success is measured. Now data is poised to transform the sales process. If sales teams want to evolve and become more efficient, they must recognize this, and find solutions that deliver contextualized analytics and insight about the performance of their content across the buyer’s journey.
Enabling Sales With the Right Content
At this point, you might be asking yourself, what exactly is sales content? Is it sales enablement material? Is it top of the funnel content that’s repurposed for sales teams?
In reality, it’s any of those things. But a better answer is:
Sales content is anything that helps sales teams close more deals, faster.
Usually this includes collateral like product and feature overviews, industry-specific case studies, white papers, how-to slide decks, and in later stages of the sales process, detailed proposals and implementation guides. But the most important part of sales content isn’t how you define it, it’s how it actually performs. And the only way to track the performance of your sales content is to actually measure it.
So, where do you start? Glad you asked.
What You Need to Be Tracking and How It Will Help
Sellers need content to power the outreach that happens after marketing hands off a lead to sales. And since the primary means of sharing content during the sales process happens over email, a huge barrier to measuring your content’s performance is the old-fashioned attachment.
Think about it: Attachments don’t let you track anything.
If you send a proposal to a prospect as an email attachment, you won’t even know if they looked at it. And that, unfortunately, is where your ability to measure content performance ends.
That’s why the first step towards tracking the performance of sales documents is to find a content management and tracking solution that uses a link-based system for sharing. This will help you organize and serve up all your collateral, and most importantly, monitor views, reveal area of interest by prospects, and track return visits to your content. And, if you really want to connect content to real business outcomes, make sure the solution you’re using integrates with Salesforce so you can associate content with actual business closed (more on that in a second).
Once you have a means of managing and tracking your sales content, it’s time to start evaluating it based on these four key performance indicators.
Conversion rate. Marketers are used to hearing this term when it comes to content. But sales? Not so much. However, the concept of tracking how well a piece of sales content drives prospects from one stage of the buyer’s journey to the next helps you identify which content you should be using to drive your sales process. If you use a content management and tracking solution that integrates with Salesforce CRM, it’s easy to do some basic analysis to determine which content closed more deals (just compare content used in deals won/lost). If you want to go deeper, you can perform the same analysis and get highest converting content by each stage in the sales process.
Content ROI. How does your content impact metrics linked to your bottom line? You’ll never know if you’re not connecting content to your CRM, and slicing your data to reveal which content is used in the highest revenue generating deals.
Revenue by account. If you’re pursuing an account-based approach to sales and marketing, you can see how content performs winning specific account types. This will help you fortify your outreach with the right flow of sales content to prospects.
Content usage. In most organizations, the marketing team creates the collateral for the sales process, using valuable time and resources to do so. Unless they’re using a content management and tracking tool, once they hand it off to sales, it’s typically unclear how or when that content is used by the sales team. And that’s another huge blindspot. Marketing needs to know when and how content is being used by sales in order to figure out what to make (or not) next. Mixpanel’s Head of Brand and Content, Amelia Salyers, probably said it best when she stated, “You can make all the content in the world, but if you’ve got a distribution problem with your sales team, it doesn’t matter.”
Owning the Optimization of the Sales Process
Everyone knows that high performing content is a marketer’s best friend. But it’s about time we acknowledge the pivotal role high performing content plays in the sales process, too. And that starts with tracking content as it relates to sales objectives specifically. With the right long-term approach to leveraging sales content, sales teams can make sense of the increasingly non-linear buyer’s journey, and build a highly efficient sales process.