It’s been interesting over the last few years to see how content has crossed boundaries, sometimes squeezing through the cracks between departmental silos.
The line between sales prospecting and content marketing has certainly been one of the most impactful places where the boundary has been breached, causing a “collision” of sorts.
How sales prospecting and content marketing collide is less of a “train wreck” kind of collision and more of a tango where the friction of synchronized bodies creates something extraordinary.
While content plays a critical role in inbound prospecting — it can supercharge your outbound prospecting, too.
If your product or service will be a good fit for someone, it must solve a challenge or ease a pain point for them. Content can help make the case.
Unfortunately, many companies still go straight for the kill — their prospecting is focused on getting a call scheduled first. But fewer people today are eager to get on the phone with a stranger.
You probably don’t need statistics to convince you that getting people on the phone is a hard sell these days — just ask yourself how often you pick the phone up for an unidentified caller. (Shhhhh, I sometimes let the call go to voicemail even if I KNOW the person!)
That said, about 10-15% of people are actively looking for new vendors while 20-30% are willing to listen if you can show them you have a product or service that will help them.
Still, in most cases, nurturing and relationship-building need to happen before a salesperson can have any hope of getting a prospect to agree to a phone call.
This is where content fits in.
Arm Your Salesforce With Content to Close Deals
Here are three ways that content can help your salespeople provide value and gain credibility with prospects:
1. Thought leadership
According to LinkedIn research, 92% of buyers will engage with salespeople who are thought leaders. Guess what makes someone a thought leader? Great content! Sales team members can share content like infographics and white papers on their own social media feeds to improve their stature in the industry.
2. Influence sales internally
Even if a salesperson has succeeded in developing a relationship with a decision-maker within a prospect organization, the reality in most organizations is that there are often multiple people involved in the buying decision — especially for high-ticket products and services.
Give your salespeople content to share that can help leads champion your solution to the decision-making committee. These should be content assets that help solve the problems keeping these people up at night.
3. Fill the gaps in a long sales cycle
By giving your salesforce multiple content options to drip out to prospects throughout a long sales cycle, it makes it easier for them to periodically check in with a prospect and stay top of mind.
In fact, this is one of the many reasons email is becoming a bigger and more important component of sales prospecting programs — it’s an easy way to send helpful content. The more you can see sending email as a relationship-building activity, the better results you’ll get from your prospecting overall.
Why Email Is More Important Than Ever in Sales Prospecting
According to The Rain Group, 80% of buyers prefer that salespeople contact them by email. Email sequences are an essential part of sales prospecting because it helps do two important things:
1. Build the relationship
When content is used strategically, it can eliminate the “stranger” aspect between a sales rep and a prospect. It offers a way for salespeople to tell their story. Over time, this content can establish a rep’s credibility and build trust.
Believe it or not, any content type can do this — not just high-end, standalone content like white papers. A software client of mine recently took one of the blog posts I wrote for them, put it into a neatly designed PDF, sent it to a handful of hot prospects, and landed several successful sales calls from it.
2. Illustrate how the prospect might solve their problem
An email sequence personalized to the lead and talking about their specific problem can help drive home the importance of solving that problem.
DANGER! DANGER! If your email message is all about your company or your product (e.g. “look at this thing, it’s a good thing, you should talk to me about buying this thing!”), you’re not serving the customer.
Offer targeted content through email to provide value up-front. By “targeted,” I mean chosen with the lead’s real needs in mind.
Understanding your Audience Starts with Listening to your Audience
Good content marketers know — deeply — who they’re marketing to. Sales teams would be wise to take a note out of that playbook.
It’s critical we know who customers are so we can write to them, not at them.
If your sales team doesn’t know the mindset and language of the real buyers of your products — the language they use to describe their problem, their pain points, how they go about looking for a solution to their problems — they will miss the mark.
Outreach and the content a sales rep uses in the process should be customized to the prospect’s particular business, goal, and industry so it will better help them in their everyday reality.
Here’s a checklist the sales team can run through before they send out content to prospects:
- Is it personalized? Are you sending content that you know will help your prospect solve a particular issue they’re having? How do you know?
- Is it timely?
- Is it relevant?
- Does it sound like it’s from a human?
- Is your communication conversational (devoid of salesy ploys) and helpful?
- Does your content address your prospect’s most urgent needs?
If your content marketing and sales prospecting are more train wreck than tango, be sure you are developing content that will help prospects not just sell prospects.