Many years ago, I worked for a content marketing SaaS platform that was then quite small, and the content creation team was pretty new. As one of their first editorial hires, I gave a presentation on the importance of well-written, well-researched content and ended with some editorial tips for good, concise writing.
The Sales team was rapt. The information I relayed was new to them, but it was a treasure trove of insights they knew they could use to pull in more clients.
Quite frankly, I was pretty surprised they didn’t already have materials underlining the importance of quality content, given that it was one half of our product.
It was then I realized how important it is for content marketing teams to help out their sales teams, not only in qualifying leads but by providing content to help them close sales, as well.
The content used to streamline and boost sales is called Sales Enablement Content. It can come in all shapes and sizes, from blog content turned into an ebook to slideshow and email templates.
Your sales enablement strategy will, of course, depend on your sales team’s needs, so talk to them and work together to create content that helps increase ROI.
The Difference Between Marketing and Sales Enablement Content
There’s plenty of overlap between content marketing and sales enablement materials. But even in that overlap, there is a big difference between the two.
Sales enablement content encompasses a wide variety of content, tools, and analytics that will help sales qualify leads, reach out to and nurture prospects and close deals more efficiently.
In fact, in a survey conducted by Hubspot, of all the content sales teams used to close deals, only 36 percent of it was created by the marketing team.
Essentially, you’re providing the content and analysis a sales team would have to create and find on their own, which takes their focus away from reaching out to prospective customers and closing sales.
Think of all the opportunities marketing and the sales have to work together to increase ROI.
How Are Marketing and Sales Enablement Content Different?
While there can be some overlap between content marketing and sales enablement materials, your content marketing team has to think about the goals each team is trying to achieve when considering the types of content they need.
You know what your content is for: first, to draw in an audience by creating content that entertains, informs and puts your brand forward as a thought leader. Then, you create content to take potential customers through the buyer journey and turn them into qualified leads or better, loyal customers.
Sales enablement content is not necessarily customer-facing. If it is, it’s meant to help the sales department at the bottom of the funnel, so you’re talking to an audience that’s about to make a buying decision.
Why Does Marketing Create Sales Enablement Content?
Marketing is a wealth of information for Sales. They are the brain trust when it comes to branding, tone, voice, audience, competitive analysis and content.
Think about all of the research and analysis your team has done: competitive analysis, content audits, gap analyses, analytics, and keyword and topic research. You live and breathe your brand and your content.
You’ve thought about every aspect of your content marketing strategy and how it can boost brand recognition, brand loyalty, conversions, and ROI.
There’s no one better within the company to create consistent, on-brand content that aligns with audience, voice, and tone than you and your team.
And don’t lock all this information away in your own Google Drive folder. Make sure all of the analysis, research, insights and even templates you’ve created are in a shared folder that Sales can access.
No matter how much you own the sales enablement content process, Sales will always have to create a slideshow or find an ebook on the fly. Give them the tools they need to do that quickly and easily.
The Best Content Types for Sales Enablement
Sales enablement content falls into three camps: true content, tools and data, and analytics.
The true content you create for Sales falls into that overlap between your content strategy and their sales strategy. It’s the blog posts that you collect into an ebook. It’s the white paper or thought-leadership piece you put on your site behind a subscription wall, and Sales hands out to potential customers.
Here are some examples of content that can do double-duty for sales enablement.
- White Papers
- Blog Pieces
- Case Studies
- Thought Leadership
Make sure your sales team has access to your content library, and that you alert them every time you publish something new.
In the content companies I worked for, new content was either shared via an internal newsletter or through a company-wide Slack channel. That way, Sales could grab a new blog post, for example, and send it out to potential customers to increase engagement.
They could also share it through their own social channels to attract more attention to the brand.
Meanwhile, white papers, ebooks, and case studies were created with input from the sales team. From concept to finished piece, Sales was a part of the planning. This was not only to keep them in the loop. Salespeople are very attentive to the customer experience. Often, they have vital feedback and insights from customers and potential customers.
For example, the sales reps for your B2B SaaS platform may be getting requests for examples of the kinds of success your current clients are seeing by using your product. Sales could bring that information back to you and discuss creating some case studies.
Data and Analytics
Sharing the analytics you collect on your content is, of course, invaluable to your own content strategy. But it can be helpful to your sales team, as well, especially if you can share some context or insights along with that data.
Think about everything you collect on your audience: who they are, what they’re searching for and which content pieces resonate with them.
Share this information with Sales. Let them know which social media and blog posts are trending, what people are talking about and how they’re finding your site.
All of this will help them hone in on more qualified leads and have more meaningful conversations.
Marketing can also provide Sales with tools that are on-brand and consistent in style, graphics, and color. Think slideshow and email templates that keep with the tone and voice of your content.
Emails, in particular, should have consistent messaging for each stage of the sales process. Then all your sales rep need do is grab the template, personalize it, and send it off.
Sales enablement tools might also include video demos or tours.
How to Determine What Content Your Sales Team Requires
There’s only one way to find out the kind of content your sales team needs: talk to them.
But don’t ask them “What do you need?”. Instead ask them about their daily tasks and their interactions with customers, or potential customers.
- What do they spend the bulk of their day doing?
- Are they writing emails to engage potential customers?
- Are they preparing slideshow after slideshow?
Perhaps they’re researching statistics that back up the need for your product.
Ask them about the conversations they have with potential customers. Are they asking for demos? Industry statistics? Success stories?
Essentially, you’re looking at Sales’ pain points, much like you would look at the pain points of your customers and potential customers. Listen to what they’re saying and then think about how content creation could address those pain points.
Sales productivity requires efficiency to maximize the time sales people are in contact with prospects. If they’re spending too much time writing emails, templates might speed up the process. If they’re continually looking for statistics or thought leadership pieces, you may already have what they’re looking for in your content library, or it may be time for a new blog post or white paper.
Finally, look at the content your successful salespeople have already created. Most likely they have their own content that may or may not be on brand.
Make sure everyone in sales has access to style and branding guides. Walk them through each document. Then, work with them to create consistent templates that meet everyone’s needs.
Sales Enablement Content Metrics and KPIs
Just like every other piece of content you create, you need to measure the success of your sales enablement content.
According to sales and marketing SaaS company Seismic, there are three key metrics you should be tracking: quota attainment, content usage and sales time.
Every sales team keeps a close eye on their quotas. At that SaaS company I worked for, they even had a sort-of digital tally on a tv screen above their desks.
Before you implement your sales enablement strategy, take stock of the monthly or quarterly quota attainment your sales team has historically achieved.
Then keep track of their attainment after you launch your strategy. Note whether quotas are hit more quickly, or if nothing changes at all. Collect feedback from your sales team to understand what sales enablement materials are making their jobs easier, and which are not, and adjust accordingly.
You may even consider launching and testing your sales enablement content in sprints and adjust appropriately.
According to Hubspot, 90 percent of content marketing materials go unused by sales teams. If you see an uptick in the use of your content library from Sales, that can only lead to good things.
Pro tip: Keep track of the kinds of content your Sales team is utilizing and requesting, much like you would keep track of popular keywords and topics for your blog. Work with your Sales team to create more of the kinds of content that resonate with them and the people with which they’re having conversations.
This is the one metric you want to see decrease. With content and tools at their fingertips, the amount of time it takes a sales rep to close a deal should go down.
Think about it. If they’re not spending time researching, writing emails and creating sales decks from scratch, they’re making more calls, meeting with potential customers more often, and making sales sooner.
Too often, Sales and Marketing work in silos, having no idea the knowledge and content each team holds. While Marketing may think they already have so much on their plate, creating sales enablement content can become a seamless part of their content creation process.
Increasing marketing ROI through content strategy is a concern of any organization. But you can do the same by looking inward at a different audience: your sales team.
Laurie is a freelance writer, editor, and content consultant and adjunct professor at Fisher College. Her work includes the development and execution of content strategies for B2B and B2C companies, including marketing and audience research, content calendar creation, hiring and managing writers and editors, and SEO optimization. You can connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.