Five sales-enablement content challenges and how to solve them

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Digital innovation has enabled organizations to produce different types of content spread across multiple delivery channels. If Sales is not using the content, what are they using and how are they succeeding?

It’s difficult to believe that after many years of tracking, most content produced by portfolio marketing in high-tech organizations goes unused by Sales. It’s almost as absurd as the fac that we have still not found a ready cure for the common cold despite all the advances in medicine. At the same time, digital innovation has enabled organizations to produce more and different types of content than ever and spread it across multiple delivery channels. If Sales is not using the content, what are they using and how are they succeeding? This brief explores five key areas where the portfolio marketers battle to keep the face of their products and solutions in front of Sales and what they can do to overcome these challenges.

  1. Content not easily accessible or valued by Sales — old problem
    • Many organizations use legacy KM systems inside their corporate firewalls that are difficult to navigate and have obsolete user interfaces. Yet they are the systems of record portfolio marketers are often asked to use by management. Alternatively, “tee rooms” have sprung up on SharePoint and similar technologies. Although they present an alternative, they lack the logical user interfaces and often have space limitations not conducive to multimedia files and videos becoming much more common. Pretty soon, content becomes more siloed and protected by individual business units and geographies to get around corporate mandates. These conditions spur the need to reproduce many sales tools, such as first-call decks and data sheets, that are more germane to the individual business unit and easily accessible—hence, the answer to the point above about the relationship between content being accessible and valued. Content produced centrally by portfolio marketing often has a one-size-fits-all look and feel for maximum breadth of audience. That leads to a top-down feature focus and less of a solution focus—the very thing Sales needs to make it useful to clients. Also, in more technical and emerging market products, the influence of development vs. portfolio marketing tends to dominate until knowledge transfer permeates the marketing and they can more easily glean the benefits rather than relying on the cache of the bright shiny objects.
    • Solution—With portfolio marketing sponsorship, CMOs should lean on IT organizations for nimbler document management systems—easily navigated, managed, and maintained by a line of business user. As they increase their visibility at the head of the revenue table, the CMOs’ clout (and budget) for departmental innovation increases. With today’s, remote Sales organizations, systems permitting mobile access to content on the fly are critical—another strong driver for the CMO to have a stake in the KM system. By partnering with sales operations, portfolio marketing can jointly sponsor one location for all product content, enablement material, and competitive analysis. Solving the feature-based content issue requires portfolio marketing to be engaged early in the development process so they can socialize the benefits with industry marketing teams and other geographies, and obtain early customer feedback. Understanding benefits is the easiest way for Sales to digest product features and translates to industry marketers more seamlessly. This improves content value and usage adoption by Sales.
  1. Limited bandwidth and attention span to utilize traditional content forms — new problem
    • While the mobile sales organization has provided better time-management flexibility, it has also increasingly disconnected them from portfolio marketers and other resources. This, along with the pressure to increase customer-facing time, has changed the way content needs to be packaged and delivered. Sales has less bandwidth for content that does not engage them or that they can reuse with prospective clients. Traditional text-based content takes excessive attention span to absorb and apply and, of course, it is not very mobile friendly.
    • Solution—All of these are symptoms of a modernized selling model that requires engaging content-like videos, blogs, and inbound-marketing processes. Also, content developed for Sales must serve to transfer directly to their clients in an interactive fashion that can be absorbed on the go. Imagine the salesperson with planned visits to clients just after the announcement of a new release of software. The best way to absorb this would be as they are in transit to the customer’s location. Mobile-ready videos and audio blogs are good examples of content vehicles that can be absorbed easily and reused and repurposed with clients and colleagues. It is also effective to condition Sales to expect content in a consistent vehicle, whether it’s a weekly digital postcard or a webinar. Consistency and regularity are paramount. Portfolio marketing can support inbound marketing initiatives with compelling webinar and whitepaper content that engage and educate clients and draw out levels of interest that may not happen in the first interaction. A staple of the modern selling model is the high level of product education clients receive before talking with a salesperson. This has dramatically changed the way marketing organizations create and distribute content.
  1. Content is not consistently used within the organization
    • Imagine three different organizations within marketing—all with the goal of supporting Sales with the right messaging at the right time for the right event but neither in coordination with each other. That is the issue when corporate, field, and portfolio marketing are not in alignment with each other’s processes and messages. Examples abound of field and event marketing using high-level or even outdated messages because refreshed messaging from new products was not in concert with the event. This is compounded when product messaging on the web is not consistent with downloadable assets and shows corporate and field marketing are not aligned with portfolio marketing. All of this impacts the quality of the sales-readiness process since they are the recipients of product messaging, whether at a field event, reviewing the latest first-call deck or responding to leads generated by marketing. If all are not in alignment, Sales becomes confused and slows market momentum.
    • Solution—According to a HubSpot survey, next to generating leads, proving ROI on marketing activities is the biggest challenge to marketers. CMOs need to encourage effective IMM (integrated marketing management) processes with foundational product messaging within the framework of the IMM process. Foundational product messaging with branding from corporate marketing must be aligned with GTM messages. It must also be consistent with sales operations and enablement to ensure messages are consistent with internal and external assets. It also aligns marketing strategy, process automation, and technologies required to integrate people, processes, and technologies across each of the functional areas of marketing. By following this, portfolio marketing insures their peers effectively represent their messages and content, encourages greater prescriptive planning and budgeting, and enables Sales with consistent messaging throughout every venue that they operate.
  1. Lack of customer-centric approach
    • This is most often the symptom of a product-centric vs. solution-centric culture. It has been a challenge for every organization competing in highly evolving and innovative industries, such as software and technology. As mentioned earlier, the product-centric world fails to recognize that without a solution they risk developing products in search of a problem rather than the other way around. Similarly, it fails to account for differences in buying centers (line of business vs. IT), the role or title decision makers, and the respective industry in which Sales is focused. Another challenging outcome for sales enablement and content is whether the portfolio team can target offerings to clients based on the maturity level of their product adoption.
    • Solution—Portfolio marketers need to develop personas for each buying center with messaging aligned to each persona type. Early engagement in the product requirement process, with representation from each of these centers, insures aligned messaging by role/sector and maturity cycle with respective benefits. Further, by looking at offerings from the client’s lifecycle lens, they can provide content relevant to new clients with adoption messaging vs. mature clients with enhancement messaging. Effectively messaging to all the buying centers, industries, roles, and adoption levels requires insights to each persona and can be daunting for portfolio marketers. But, if executed, it ensures healthy pipeline growth and customer loyalty to ultimate benefit of Sales. These should all flow back into internal content and cover off persona attributes in battlecards, sales playbooks, and training tools and competitive messaging that does not negatively sell competition.
  1. Content created not aligned by phases of sales cycle
    • Messages and content are often unknowingly tilted to early stages of the funnel. That known, how do they decide which content should be used for what phase of the selling cycle? This will inevitably be based on past experiences and inquiry from their client. Short of these facts, how do portfolio marketers know they are creating effective content that is aligned with each of these phases? This is an underestimated gap that relies on past behaviors of Sales and their comfort level in presenting assets to make these decisions.
    • Solution—By training to present content in a prescriptive fashion that aligns with each phase of the sales cycle, there will always be something compelling to be offered in the nurturing cycle or closing cycles and in between. Portfolio marketers need to train Sales (and their marketing peers) when to use which asset based on the level of engagement and penetration of the client. For instance, while a first-call deck seems like a natural early-use asset, it will appear too general and verbose for clients still understanding their own needs and pain points. Likewise, an industry whitepaper may be too little too late for the prospect that was through the sales cycle and getting close to a decision as it is more of an evaluative and thought-provoking tool and not one for closing.

The modernized selling model has significant implication to portfolio marketers in terms of the quality and level of engaging content they need to produce. Not only must they face tighter attention windows with Sales, but also contend with content for the nurturing phase of the cycle where Sales is often yet to be involved. The advent of social sales and marketing also adds an extra dimension in developing content for these channels. Portfolio marketers need to be strategic in developing foundation messages—nimble enough to repurpose for multiple assets and connected enough with marketing peers so they can repackage for an event- and demand-generation purposes. By following sound fundamentals with differentiated buyer personas and engaging content, Sales and other constituents will quickly grasp the concepts and become conditioned to selling in a prescribed fashion, positioning themselves as strategic advisors to clients rather than just suppliers competing to deliver at the lowest price.

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