The relationship between sales and marketing has always endeavored to be symbiotic when it comes to training and enabling salespeople to increase sales productivity and effectiveness during buyer interactions. In fact, a recent survey of sales leaders found that marketing is one of the top internal functions involved in sales enablement (66.7 percent). Despite this, 43 percent of those surveyed said they still have somewhat limited alignment between these teams.
For its part, marketing wants to create and deliver the right content for sales to use. This usually takes the form of content intended to help sellers increase engagement and move deals through the funnel more quickly. To this end, many marketing departments have invested significantly in sales content management systems, glossy portals and sharing tools designed to carry messaging to the market. The majority of that content goes unused by sales, however — 90 percent of it, in fact, according to the American Marketing Association. This is a significant problem, especially since 87 percent of B2B buyers say that content has a big impact on their buying decisions.
Content goes unused for lots of reasons. Sellers may not know that the content exists. If they do, they may find that it’s rarely updated with current information. Moreover, the content probably isn’t aligned well with the use-cases or business challenges faced by sellers, making it difficult to find what they need when they need it. For example, a seller may need easy access to industry- or title-specific objections and responses, or content that’s aligned with different sales cycle stages. Altogether, this type of chaos conspires to compromise sellers’ ability to maximize the value of every selling situation.
Aligning marketing content with desired sales outcomes requires a partnership between the marketing and sales teams to do all the following.
Benefits of Marketing and Sales Alignment
- Understand how and when sellers use content, and how effective, just-in-time training content — meaning content aligned with sellers’ immediate needs — affects seller behaviors.
- Gain visibility into buyer engagement with content and its correlation with deal progressions.
- See the impact of go-to-market messaging on buyers.
Align Content With Sellers’ Needs
Since marketing professionals aren’t in the field with sellers, it’s challenging to understand how, exactly, sellers are using content and the context in which it’s actually used. Engagement data in content platforms purport to do this, but often they lack information beyond shares, views and downloads.
As an alternative, sometimes organizations use anecdotal, blunt instruments to quantify content ROI: “Seller X sent out this datasheet at this point and the deal closed.” Although this approach provides some recommendations about when to use certain content, it doesn’t account for so many other variables outside of content that could have affected the deal to a greater extent. For instance, the seller’s acumen as a salesperson may have been far more influential than any marketing material. Therefore, this approach to calculating content ROI is unreliable, and, when advanced by marketing, can hurt its credibility.
A more reliable approach is to figure out how top performers use content, and to what effect, in the sales process. Tracking sellers’ content usage, the tools used and the external-facing materials shared with prospects all help to quantify content ROI. Still, these must be understood not as isolated events, but in the context of that sales process. You can do this by correlating content use with business outcomes: advancement in sales cycle stages, competitive wins, revenue attainment and so on.
With these insights, organizations can build a just-in-time sales content management system and organize it by content type.
Evaluation — The product or technical content customers require to make a decision such as a feature comparison or product “deep dive.”
Insight —The content that articulates industry vision and helps sellers tell a customer something they didn’t know. Examples include use-case guides that demonstrate a product’s value in a business setting.
Objection — The content that will clear hurdles, either from the customer or a competitor, like an objection-and-response FAQ, for example.
Value — The content that shows top-line improvements or bottom-line savings, such as ROI analysis, customer case studies, use cases or references.
Tracking and analyzing top sellers’ content usage has a collateral benefit as well. It also helps identify the winning traits of an ideal sales rep and helps you develop an ideal rep profile (IRP). Developing the IRP is as important as developing an ideal customer profile, as it provides a template for the gold-standard attributes and behaviors required for success, including judicious use of content to accelerate deal cycles.
It bears repeating that having all this great content means nothing if sellers can’t find it. Often, content is in disparate silos spread across an organization, making it difficult to access and update as new messaging, positioning, and products and services are rolled out. Storing it in one, easily accessible and searchable repository solves these issues and ensures valuable content can play its part in helping a seller close deals.
For example, instead of wasting hunting for a competitive positioning doc (or worse, making one up), a seller can easily access existing material that is aligned with their needs, which increases the value of the content and eliminating the opportunity cost of finding or creating the content to begin with.
Using the Customer’s Voice to Shape Content
Customers are typically the best resources for building content. Their feedback can inform a range of content topics, from company messaging to market drivers to competitive differentiators to overcoming objections. Since sellers, and perhaps their managers, are the only ones to hear the customers’ voice in the sales process, marketing often loses out on this valuable resource.
Many platforms allow you to post and manage content, but how can you differentiate your approach with input from real-world sales interactions? Conversation intelligence solutions, integrated with content management and sales enablement, have emerged as an important tool in filling this gap for marketers in their quest to develop usable content.
With conversation intelligence, marketers can review recorded sales calls and align their content development strategy around reality-based insights. Shared call snippets uncover real-life reactions to go-to-market approaches and messaging, for example. They provide detailed intelligence about competitors and provide the foundation for new content to be created that helps sellers overcome objections. For example, sellers may be positioning your product against the competition just as you instructed, but by being a “fly on the wall” during buyer interactions, you can find out whether the competition has set traps that are difficult to overcome, or even hear input that can help you define even better competitive positioning.
With conversation intelligence, marketers not only hear valuable insights from customers, they can also get firsthand visibility into the content that reps are using — or missing — in the field. By the same token, this also helps inform coaching efforts: With managers reviewing sales calls, they can better understand whether sellers are using the content they should be using to advance a deal, and where adjustments must be made if they aren’t.
Alignment Improves Collaboration
In summary, the sales and marketing disconnect is a long-standing problem across many organizations, contributing to wasted time creating content that is irrelevant, unused and ineffective. The following compelling stat crystallizes the problem for us, once and for all: Organizations whose sales and marketing teams are misaligned pay the price in terms of fewer sales and lost revenue. One estimate puts this misalignment at more than $1 trillion each year.
Avoiding this costly pitfall comes only when sales and marketing teams build a close partnership to understand the sales process and hurdles and listen to the customer. Doing so also opens up conversations about what sales actually needs, and how marketing can support it with relevant, timely and useful content that actually moves the needle.
Ultimately, when organizations align their marketing content with actual sales needs, they reap the benefits in terms of hitting revenue goals and creating desired business outcomes. When sales and marketing teams are in sync, organizations on average benefit from 15 percent profitability and 19 percent faster revenue growth. Moreover, strongly aligned teams drive 208 percent more revenue and are 67 percent more effective at closing deals.
Clearly, commitment to sales and marketing alignment — and the resulting content — is a boon to organizations. Those that take the steps now to bring together these two teams will benefit from reaching their desired business outcomes and revenue goals now and into the future.