Mike is a traveling salesman at Ingenius Precisions Inc., manufacturers of high-tech enterprise products such as routers and networking devices based in New York. He meets prospects and customers thrice in a week, often at their offices, cafes or at events/conferences.
Mike keenly listens to his prospects to understand their pain points and leverages sales collateral provided to him to explain how Ingenius Precisions' products could help his buyers.
Sales collateral acts as an aid and is vital to helping customers visualize the benefits of using high-end products.
One day, during a Hi-Tech conference he is attending, Mike bumped into Brad, an executive decision maker whom he was chasing for a while. Brad was a highly qualified lead but gone cold.
Despite repeated attempts, Mike had not been able to get hold of him. This time, he wanted to introduce Brad to the newest product Ingenius Precisions had rolled out recently. Mike remembers seeing an updated sales kit with stunning visuals sent by the marketing team. But, to his horror, he can’t seem to find it on his machine or inbox.
All he could manage was a dated brochure that was lurking in his mail from some time ago. However, he knew he had let an excellent opportunity slip by. The brochure’s visual elements complimented along with a video would have been critical in engaging with Brad effectively.
Mike feels low about being so near, yet so far and speaks to his manager about how to avoid future mishaps.
They realize an effective Sales Content Management strategy might hold an answer to their woes.
This is a scenario that plays way too often in small and large enterprises. Successful companies realize it sooner and put an effective sales content strategy in place.
In this blog, we will delve deeper into Sales Content Management including:
- What is Sales Content Management?
- The Importance of Sales Content Management
- Adopting an Effective Sales Content Management Strategy
- Measure the ROI of Sales Content
- The Need for a Sales Content Management System
- Sales Content Management Best Practices
What is Sales Content Management?
Sales content management is the art of producing, storing, organizing, and distributing content that sales teams use to sell their products/solutions. It shrinks the conversion time from an initial pitch to a paying customer.
A good sales content management approach lays down the principles to:
- Host and curate content
- Distribute sales collateral to buyers
- Use sales content during events and campaigns
- Use a content management system for all content-related activities
- Discover sales content
- Manage user access
- Audit sales materials
- Measure the ROI of sales collateral
11 Reasons Why Sales Content Management is Important
Sales content management helps sales reps to organize their content, gives them more visibility into what needs to be shared with customers and stay on top of their priorities. More importantly, it helps them use appropriate sales materials to reach new audiences every day.
Here is how it empowers sales teams:
1. Improves SALES REP Effectiveness
With a good sales content management strategy, sales teams can streamline and arrange sales collateral based on their needs such as regions, themes, campaigns, target audience segments and more. Sales reps know what they’re needed to do with the sales content they have. All updated content will be in one place instead of multiple sources that they can immediately put to work.
2. Overcome Limitations of Information Systems
Today, businesses have to appeal to a global audience and need software/systems that can match the demands of nimble marketing teams.
Enterprise Information Systems offer limited functionalities and often fall short of organization-wide expectations. It becomes more exacerbated if you are a small & medium business with limited resources at your disposal. You will not be able to track every piece of content generated by all departments in your company through an MIS system.
3. Accelerated Sales Cycles
A good content management system helps reduce sales cycles and move the pipeline faster by:
- Enabling sales teams to answer customer queries effectively
- Helping customers compare products/solutions and make decisions
- Sharing sales content as soon as it is available for distribution
- Locating appropriate sales content timely
- Linking deals with contextual sales collateral
4. Become brand compliant
Nothing irks a brand marketer more than seeing sales reps share collateral with customers with dated branded materials. That prevents customers from perceiving the product in a way entirely different from what was intended. Every brand marketer swears by it.
Sales collateral is audited by teams such as marketing, communications, and branding before being uploaded on sales content management platforms. This way, prospects get sales materials that are brand-compliant and approved.
5. Bring Everybody On the Same Page
An efficient sales content management strategy keeps all stakeholders informed. People can quickly familiarize themselves with its approach, focus, goals, benefits to suggest newer content forms that directly help solve customer challenges. This collaborative approach helps everybody involved in the sales cycle.
6. Decreased Onboarding Time
A new customer might be overwhelmed by a product's features. They need to be hand-held for a while before getting used to it. A good sales content management approach helps in actively reaching out to new customers before they lose interest by using relevant content to onboard them quickly.
7. Sales and Marketing Alignment
Sales and marketing teams are forever at loggerheads over content for sharing with customers. Using an effective sales content management approach, they can agree to create sales materials suitable to customer needs. As customer expectations change every day, aligning sales and marketing teams early is crucial.
8. Manage, Track and Control Media Across the Whole Buyer Journey
As sales reps reach out to numerous customers every day by way of conversations, emails, in-person meetings, etc., it can be challenging to keep track of sales content and its utility to every individual customer. Managing sales content effectively helps in tracking the buyer’s engagement with it.
9. Helps Nurture Leads
Managing sales materials effectively helps nurture leads. Sharing contextual sales content at every stage of the buyer's journey keeps buyers interested. There are no more leads dropped because every lead gets content that suits his needs.
10. Make Content Easily Available to Sales Reps
Sales reps need content at short notice for conversations, meetings, and campaigns. Far too often sales material gets buried in inboxes, shared folders, or personal computers, making it unretrievable.
Even when a website hosts sales content, sales reps are not aware of its location leading them to exasperation. An effective content management strategy can ensure that sales content is published and distributed appropriately.
11. Removing user bias
Sales reps often fall into the trap of assuming that their clients/prospects love their content. Sales reps tend to have this bias based on hearsay or wrong assumptions. Sales content management can help uncover deep insights about user engagement with content than relying on instincts.
Adopting an Effective Sales Content Management Strategy
No matter how good your sales collateral is, it will not help you close a deal unless it is useful to your customers. Sales collateral must provide adequate value to your customers by engaging them to achieve its objective, i.e., more sales.
To make your reps derive benefit out of the sales collateral you are putting together, you need a proper strategy in place. Here is what a sales collateral management strategy must encompass:
1. Identify the gaps
Know the gaps that exist between the sales content that exists currently and what your sales reps need. You can accomplish this by:
Periodical sales content audit.
- Interviewing sales reps.
- Creating checklists.
- Using a sales content management software
By doing this exercise, marketing teams can plan their publishing calendar, assemble necessary resources before making it available to reps.
2. Identify the objectives of Sales Content Management
Before you implement a sales content management approach, know what are you measuring. Here are a few objective questions that you need to ask yourself before diving into it:
Why are we creating sales content?
- Why do we need a sales content management strategy?
- How will our customers benefit from our sales content?
- How will our reps discover this content?
- How will our reps distribute content?
- How will our sales reps know which content is successful?
Answering these questions will help you stay on course towards implementing a successful sales content management strategy.
3. Create a sales content editorial calendar
How often will your sales materials be refreshed? Sales content cannot be generated randomly without guidelines or timelines. Sales collaterals are appropriate when there is a need for it. For example, a new feature or a new product that directly addresses customer pain points warrants new sales collaterals.
Having a publishing calendar aligned with major events helps sales reps distribute content instantly and not wait for it.
4. Type of sales content
One size does not fit all. Don’t compress all your messages in one single collateral type because different audience segments have different ways of consuming them. For example, millennials might prefer videos, while older adults prefer printed material. Decide which type of collateral suits your audience and earmark resources for it.
5. Audit sales content
Sales content must be audited periodically to ensure its continuous availability, application, and contextuality. From our conversations with marketing teams, we found that based on the volume of sales collateral that exists, a half-yearly or annual audit is their preference.
It is vital to publish audit results so that all stakeholders are aware of their responsibilities and there is concrete action.
6. Sales Content ROI
Return on investment is the revenue earned for every dollar invested.
Sales content ROI is about measuring the results of your sales content activities against your expenditure (including creation, hosting, and distribution). Sales content ROI tells you which content pieces are most effective in generating sales for your company and focus on creating more of them for best returns.
“Sales content ROI is about measuring the results of your sales content activities against your expenditure (including creation, hosting and distribution).”
Measuring sales content ROI is a key element of sales content management.
7. Monitoring sales content results
How do you know if your target audience is engaging with your sales collateral? Do they prefer videos over written sales materials? Do they re-sharing it with a decision maker?
Answers to such questions will tell you how good your sales collateral is. A sales content management platform will give you critical insights about your content. These insights help marketing teams chart their future course for sales content creation.
8. Understanding user engagement
User engagement helps you to know which sales collaterals your target audience prefers. Is the message in your sales content compelling or is it a scattershot with results that are hard to track? Are your customers coming back to you with more questions? Here are a few user engagement metrics that sales collateral effectiveness:
Number of views
- Number of downloads
- Number of re-shares
- Time spent on each piece of content
9. Which sales content is used and unused?
Along with knowing how popular your sales content is, it is also vital to know which of them is unused. A thorough evaluation of unused content pieces will tell you why they aren't popular amongst sales folks. These sales collaterals could then be optimized to suit audience needs through a content refresh (such as conciseness/clarity of message, visual depiction) or an optimization process to make it relevant.
The Need for a Sales Content Management System
To make the most out of your branded sales content and materials, it’s worth considering software for your company. Simply put, it is an online location for all your authorized sales materials that can be accessed anytime.
A sales content management system is a secure, web-based platform that houses all sales resources necessary to support the company’s marketing and branding efforts, irrespective of their location.
The sales content management system allows marketing and communication teams to produce localized pieces of collaterals while still maintaining their brand identity.
Sales teams tend to use sales collateral management system once they realize its intrinsic value. Here is how sales reps can use it under different circumstances:
1. GAIN Product Knowledge
Before selling to customers, sales reps need to know their products well. One way of doing it is by looking through all sales materials that are produced by marketing teams to learn about the latest feature updates and new product releases.
Even before sales collaterals make their way to customers, it is essential for sales reps themselves to become familiar with it to answer queries during demos.
2. Manage digital assets with ease
Often, there are far too many collaterals for a single use case or pain point, which undermines their utility. For example, a quick 1-minute video can be effective especially when your leads/customers have time constraints instead of a 3-page brochure. A detailed brochure is useful when they are deciding between a few products.
Nevertheless, all such sales collaterals have their different uses and must be easily retrievable. Sales content management software can ensure this and enable sales reps to solve customer challenges.
3. During Field Trips
Today, sales reps are facing an explosion of digital assets at their disposal. Sales reps can use a content management system during field trips when they are out meeting clients. Many a time, they may experience poor internet connectivity. Besides, lugging around a laptop is not chic anymore. That is why content management systems must be made available for use over mobiles or iPads.
4. During Live Demos
Imagine flicking between different media files during a webinar that you are hosting. Viewers could get disengaged with a lot of activity happening on their screens.
Sales collateral management platforms are a medium of discussion during demos to customers. Digital content such as media files and documents can be seamlessly retrieved from these systems and displayed. It is easier to switch between two content pieces when all it is on a single content management platform.
5. Accessing the right content at the right time
Not all buyers are at the same stage of the buyer’s journey. Some might just be testing the waters, while a few others might have made up their minds already. As a result, all of them need different content. Salespeople must be able to whip up the most suitable material for each class of buyers. Looking for it in inboxes, local PCs, and Sharepoint is a futile exercise.
A sales content management platform can store the content with hashtags, categorization, and descriptions so that they are quickly accessible.
6. Discovering content
There is no way salespeople will know which collateral is available. Even with a well-organized calendar, it is difficult to keep track of which content is ready. That is why content must be available to them instead of manually adding every piece.
When they do not find content, they tend to create their own. That does not augur well for the company because salespeople need to focus on selling.
Choosing the Best Sales Content Management Tool
An efficient sales content management tool should have the below features to help sales reps do their job effectively:
1. Host Sales Content
Sales collateral management systems must host content to make it accessible by sales reps. Content could be heterogeneous such as videos, documents, spreadsheets, data sheets, battle cards, URLs, and images. This is because assimilation of different types of sales material makes a deal happen.
2. Distribute Content
Sales content management systems should let reps distribute content to customers. While most sales reps use emails to interact with customers, they are not suited to send files with large file sizes. Sending content through sales content management systems (that can handle any file size without breaking down) helps sales reps address customer pain points promptly.
3. Integrate with Email Providers
Expecting a sales rep to use different tools - one for content interaction and one for email is (besides CRMs, email automation tools, etc.) can be unfair to them. Integrating with email providers such as Outlook and Gmail synchronizes all your conversations than having them in multiple systems. It ensures all your interactions are in one place and you know the stage in which your buyers are in their journey.
4. Look for Content
Imagine having to scramble to look for your content when a buyer is showing keen interest to buy your product during a demo. Sales reps are often in a rush to meet their targets and need their tools handy to perform well. Sales content management platforms should be let reps search for content to get what they're looking for instantly.
5. Tagging and Categorizing
Content should be tagged and categorized for easy discovery in content management systems. This feature ensures easy discoverability and content tracking. It also allows others to find it using keywords instead of searching for it.
Remember how helpful YouTube videos are? It helps viewers know more about their creators, purpose of creation, and have a call to action. Similarly, sales collateral management systems should enable descriptions for every piece of content.
Who does not like personalized stuff? It is an age-old strategy to make buyers feel special. Sales content management software should allow sales reps to match their content with buyer personas and personalize content for easier recall and action.
While sales collaterals are rarely created to suit individual needs, sales content management platforms help personalize generic content cannot do.
For example, buyers could engage with sales collaterals in exclusively personalized microsites created by a sales content management platform. It helps drive more user engagement with content and generate feedback as well.
8. Sales Rep Usage Patterns
Content creators should know which sales reps are using what form of content. Do they prefer brochures over case studies or testimonials? In essence, what is their go-to content type for selling?
Insights from their usage patterns enable optimizing the content strategy for specific content types. For example, if long-form case studies are not engaging users enough, perhaps it is time to think about delivering messages in smaller capsules such as infographics or short videos.
9. Sales Collateral Themes
Use analytics can help content marketing teams use themes that will resonate with their target audience. Based on this data, they could decide content marketing themes.
A company specializing in ERP software for large enterprises might discover that their buyers are engaging with content that focuses on improved employee productivity. This is a clear indicator of the broad themes for their sales collateral strategy.
10. User Access
Not every sales rep should have access to all sales collaterals as a lot of data (such as pricing, deal value, etc.) can be confidential. Sales collateral management systems should allow administrators to grant access to those who need it.
11. Move Content Around
Reps should be able to move sales content around using a collateral management system. It helps content reuse in different contexts and sales conversations.
12. Seamless Integrations
Besides email, sales reps use software such as CRM, storage systems such as Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive and chat platforms to engage with buyers. A sales content management platform should integrate across these systems making it seamless for sales reps.
13. Accessible Anywhere
Salespeople are often traveling or attending events/conferences or at a customer’s office. The sales content management platform should be available for use over iPads and mobiles giving sales reps extra flexibility to access content.
14. ROI of Sales content
Despite all the features, reps must be able to know sales content ROI. Without it, they do not know which content is working well with their target audience.
Sales Content Management Best Practices
As with any content management strategy, there are best practices that sales reps must follow to make themselves effective.
1. Sales Content Audit
Auditing sales collateral from time to time helps you to take stock of all sales collateral that sales reps will use to sell their product/service. It tells you which pieces your audiences are connecting with, which pieces have outlived their shelf life and which ones need a refresh.
Sales reps must be trained on the content management platform to be able to make them work. Use internal communication mechanisms (such as videos, internal newsletters) to tell sales reps about new features that are available, product updates, new releases, etc. Schedule training sessions for sales reps periodically to help them learn new ways to use it.
3. Content Consolidation
No matter what content platform you use, if you do not consolidate your sales collateral, it will become unusable. So, you'll need to consolidate sales content under different types, and modes such as:
a) Forms - Videos, documents, podcasts, PDFs, images, PowerPoint, infographics.
b) Audience segment - Different segments of the target audience such as millennials, baby boomers, elderly folks.
b) Themes - Themes such as innovation, digital transformation.
c) Buyer personas - Different buyer personas that buyers have.
d) Buyer’s Journey - Various stages of the journey that buyers are in.
e) Business Units - Various business units in your company. Each business unit may have a dedicated landing page, which would host its own sales content.
f) Campaigns - Different campaigns that you are running such as spring sale, summer offers, etc.
g) Regions - Regions/geographies that produce content such as North America, the UK, Germany, etc.
h) Industries - Based on the industries that your business sells into - manufacturing, banking, healthcare, etc.
i) Brands - Number of brands that your company has.
4. Ensure timely updates
In an era where customers are always 'switched on,' sales reps need ammunition to sell products. A sales content management tool should let sales reps know of the new content as and when it is available.
5. Maintain a Regular Publishing Schedule
Ensure you publish sales content periodically to build trust amongst sales teams. Assure sales reps that they would receive a steady stream of content from the content marketing team.
When it comes down to it, sales content management isn’t just a one-off process that you conduct once in a blue moon. It is a mindset approach that you need to bring amongst producers (content marketing teams) and consumers (sales reps and customers).
By carefully organizing the sales content pieces and assessing the insights you’ve gathered for each item's engagement, you can make informed decisions that will help your sales teams to work efficiently, save time, reach more customers, grow your business, and improve your overall content ROI.
Moreover, there is no one-size-fits-all solution here. Sales collateral management can take many routes, approaches, and scopes. It all depends on your organization’s needs and goals.