Nicole Ferris, a 23-year old photographer is looking to book a ticket from New York to San Francisco for Thanksgiving. She prefers ample leg space and enjoys listening to music on flights. She knows she’ll be tired from a hard week at work and will want to catch up on some sleep in the flight. So, she is looking for comfortable sleeper seats and doesn’t really mind a stopover at Denver midway on her journey.
Just to give you an idea about the options that Nicole can choose from, on an average, there are 290+ flights a day between New York and San Francisco. While browsing her options from travel agencies to book tickets, United Airlines emerged as her best option compared to American Airlines or Delta based on the customer reviews that she read. One particular customer had even called out the specially designed seats that provide extra leg room and a great sound system on the flight that United Airlines operates from JFK late on weekdays. Nicole knew that was exactly what she wanted.
What prompted Nicole to choose United Airlines over the rest? Real time reviews from passengers such as hers whom she can relate with! These reviews are the modern forms of sales collateral.
What did United Airlines do differently here despite facing stiff competition? They made sure they displayed their best customer reviews just below their ticket prices which is easily noticeable by discerning prospects.
That’s how they got their sales collateral do the job it was designed for – convincing prospects.
Let us now look at a B2B example. Ryder, a North America-based fleet management and supply chain company prides itself in providing access to its skilled technicians. With 400 shops across the US, Ryder truck drivers can always be assured of the best service from the 5,000+ technicians the company has.
In order to show how efficient their workers were, the company created a video of a remote-controlled Volvo truck being completely destroyed (it even featured a wrecking ball ramming into the bonnet of the vehicle). The company hired vehicle-stunt production companies to create a visually stunning video of the demolition.
It then challenged its technicians to reassemble the truck within 24 hours. The team did it with about 8 hours to go on clock. The catch in this whole video was Ryder technicians are adept at fixing not just Ryder trucks, but any truck in the world. Don’t miss out on watching the video here. The result? The video garnered more than 449k views on YouTube, besides several awards for its effort.
Why was this video campaign successful? When it comes to truck maintenance, there is usually a lot of delaying to identify the best service providers, parts, and online reviews. Besides, the industry is rather a silent one unlike the passenger vehicle segment. The company wanted to create a video that made a splash within their target audience such that they find it thrilling and even share it within their community.
What IS the IDEAL b2b Sales Collateral definition?
There are quite a few B2B sales collateral definitions around. But, we’d like to explain it from our perspective.
Sales collateral is used to convince clients with the value proposition of the company’s solutions. In B2B scenarios, they are used mostly in the middle of the funnel stage i.e., the Consideration and Decision stages when a prospect is choosing between products or services that she wants to buy.
Sales collateral could be in different forms such as product videos, customer credentials, research reports, case studies, customer fact sheets or even presentations all of which can be used to persuade buyers of how their product/solution is their best option among the available alternatives.
In the above example that we discussed, it was customer reviews that convinced Nicole to buy a ticket on United Airlines.
In this post, we will examine how sales collateral is key for sales teams to convince buyers who might be sitting on the fence to make an informed decision. But, that reminds us of marketing collateral which is designed to inform and educate the target audience. How does marketing collateral differ from sales collateral?
What is the Difference Between Marketing and Sales Collateral?
Let us now try and understand the difference between Marketing and Sales Collateral as we often tend to get confused between the two, although each of them has distinct uses. In our post titled “What is Marketing Collateral?” we defined marketing collateral as a collection of media used to educate prospects and customers about how their challenges can be solved (needs can be met), thereby delivering actionable value and ensuring that it occupies top-of-the-mind real estate.
Note the emphasis on how marketing collateral educates customers about how their challenges can be solved. It is mainly used to gather mindshare of prospects and customers. But, sales collateral alerts them further more pointedly – it tells them to look in a particular direction so that they are able to make their decision, one that favors the seller. It helps them cut out the noise from numerous sources and reach for the one that will solve their problem.
Typically, marketing collateral can take numerous forms such as newsletters, white papers, videos, podcasts, infographics etc. – all of these are used in the Awareness and Interest stages of the buyer’s journey, where prospects are trying to gather as much information as possible on their problem. It can be displayed out in the open such as social media, content distribution platforms, landing pages, websites etc.
On the other hand, sales collateral is used mostly in the Consideration and Decision stages of the buyer’s journey (and even later) when it is time to attract the prospect towards us instead of going elsewhere. It is mostly used by salespeople during meetings and conversations with prospects, in email campaigns, case studies, in passive forms such as customer reviews on a website and can often be personalized to ensure a higher conversion rate.
What are the Different Examples of B2B Sales Collateral?
Obviously, the next query that comes to mind is what are the B2B Sales Collateral examples? Similar to the nature of marketing collateral, sales collateral can be different according to different industries. We have captured 6 of the most common examples of sales collateral used in B2B scenarios:
1. Product Videos
Salespeople are needed to demonstrate how their product/solution works and the best way to do that is through a video that shows how their challenges are solved. The biggest advantage of videos is not just their visual appeal, but also the fact that they can be viewed in offline mode or on social media or video platforms.
Check out Dollar Shave Club’s video on how their razor blade subscription program works – a video that does not even showing their blades at all! It is an audacious attempt indeed. This is what we call ‘ripping the core of the product yet packaging it in a way that they’re able to sell it’. Product videos are applicable during the Consideration phase of the buyer’s journey as the prospect is constantly learning more about her problem and has narrowed down on a few solutions.
Brochures explain how the product works and can be in digital or printed forms that customers can peruse through while comparing one solution versus the other. It can include product dimensions, uses cases, underlying technology, and sometimes even a brief case study to drive home the point. Here’s a collection of the best brochure templates from Canva that we found quite attractive. Don’t fall for the design in them, but make sure they serve the purpose they’re created for.
Brochures are mostly used in the Consideration stage or even slightly earlier depending on the industry. For example, in the consumer goods industry such as TVs or ACs, they’re used to compare features between products. In B2B scenarios, brochures are used in between the Interest and Consideration stages. We liked Yellow Tail’s array of wines which come with simple and clean brochures that talk about the nature of the wine, the region it comes from, its aroma, nature and how it is prepared.
3. Customer Testimonials
Customers believe other customers, so there can be no other authentic form of sales collateral other than hearing from them directly. That means your customer experience must be so good that your customers are willing to appear on a video or on your website to vouch for your product.
Check out this video of how Salesforce is enabling one of its users succeed while using their product. The fact that the user is speaking for Salesforce is not evident until about midway into the video, but the emotional message is so strong (the user comes from a difficult background and now wants to help others in her city succeed) that you are drawn to it.
The video of Ben Stiller at the airport in the movie Meet the Parents is a perfect example of how not to deliver customer experience such that they don’t vent it out on social media. The actor is clearly exasperated as the clerk at the check-in counter punches away at her keyboard barely maintaining eye contact with him.
Customer credentials are mostly used in the Decision stage of the buyer’s journey because the buyer has more or less figured out which product works for them and is trying to see what other customers have to say about the product she is about to buy.
5. Case Studies
Case studies are another genuine form of sales collateral that explains the success that a client has experienced using a company’s solution. It includes the initial challenge, the solution that was provided and its benefits. Salesforce has a great case study repository built on how it is helping companies succeed by using its product. Their case studies do not always follow a fixed template but vary according to the industry and the business problem that they’ve addressed. Here’s one of their examples and there are many more like these. Case studies are created mostly in the B2B context and are effective in the Consideration stage of the buyer’s journey.
6. Customer Fact SheetS
These documents provide information about the customer that could include company history, management information, scale of operations, budgets, needs etc. Take a look at the Equinix Company Fact Sheet to know how a comprehensive fact sheet looks like. This document clearly shows key data that a salesperson wants to know before deciding his pitch such as their global data centers, location metrics, their ecosystems etc. Customer fact sheets are similar in nature to battle cards and are used by sales teams to study buyer personas and are used in the Consideration stage.
7. Research Reports
Research reports are detailed pieces of content authored by analysts at specialist research firms. Companies choose to sponsor research reports because that adds credibility to their own story. Research agencies understand the storyline from their sponsors and then independently research on the topic to compile a comprehensive report that is used as handy sales collateral during client meetings and conversations.
For example, Slack’s research report published in collaboration with IDC titled “The Business Value of Slack,” enlists the benefits that companies can derive for each of their departments like Sales, Engineering, HR, Marketing and Customer Support by using Slack. You need not necessarily sponsor a commercial research agency to compile a research report. For example, Capgemini has partnered with MIT Digital to create a research report titled “From UX to CX: Rethinking the Digital User Experience as a Collaborative Exchange,” that talks about a valuable user experience – one where customers extract value and the firm captures profit.
8. Technical Sheets
Salespeople are not meant to be technical wizards due to the nature of their jobs. Yet, they invariably get queried about the technologies embedded in the product that they sell. Hence, having the technical sheets handy prior to/during client conversations will prove useful. Usually, technical sheets are part of a larger document that captures a lot more details such as benefits, use cases etc.
WonderPaint’s products come with brochures that have technical details about its paints such as its physical properties, weight per gallon, film thickness and more details that people would seek while selecting the paint.
9. ROI Calculators
ROI Calculators are tools that let users visualize scenarios and determine the output based on certain inputs. Creating such ROI calculators could cost a bit, but hold promise for creating more trust within the client community due to the intrinsic value they possess and the thought process that goes into building them.
Some of these can be given away free for their clients (unless they have an inherent privacy layer attached to them or if they’ve been built for specific projects). For example, AON Hewitt’s Risk Analyzer helps insurers manage risk in their retirement plans based on actuarial and investment calculations.
There are a few other forms of sales collateral (which we will cover in greater detail in a separate post) but these are the most prevalent forms of B2B sales collateral that holds a lot of promise.
B2B Sales Collateral Management Best Practices
While marketers are constantly helping sales teams with material about the company, sales folks are also coming up with their own forms of collateral such as presentations, dossiers, etc. No matter what collateral sales teams use for their conversations/interactions with clients, it must be relevant and contextual. The first signs of a wilting spirit within the sales force is their inability to sell using the collateral that they are armed with.
But, determining which piece of sales collateral needs updating or what forms of sales collateral are doing well is not easy. Why? Because with the constant pressure and scrutiny that sales teams are under, they may not always have the time or the inclination to convey their feedback to the marketing team. That is why sales collateral management is a key aspect of the marketing teams, one that they cannot shy away from.
In this section, we will look at the most practical sales collateral management best practices that an organization must adopt for its sales teams to succeed:
1. A Common Collaborative Platform
Gone are the days when marketers used to send company-wide mails of the latest collateral that they have published. That was a passive form of marketing by informing everybody, “Hey, the fries are ready.” Today, that no longer works as people need access to the right collateral just when they’re about meet with a prospect. What you need is a robust platform that unites people across your organization – management, marketing teams, communication groups, sales staff, product engineering teams, etc.
This platform must be able to publish (or distribute) collateral, curate them for its originality and intended milieu, talk to other software that teams use daily, provide deep analytics on collateral usage, and give a wholesome experience to prospects. Investing in a such a collaborative platform will reap rewards down the lane in the form of improved visibility of collateral, shorter sales cycles, easier communication between teams and more importantly tell you the true ROI of your investments in creating sales collateral.
2. Personalize Your Sales Collateral
How amazed are we when we walk into a restaurant and are served with our favorite dish that is just prepared exactly to our liking? Or, that feeling of elation for that extra glass of wine that we are served because we waited an extra bit outside? That is how your prospects feel when you personalize your sales collateral for them.
Today, in the age of automation, it is easy to shoot off a thousand mails without realizing if people are really interested in what we are sharing. This means when you are going that extra yard to satisfy one customer, there will be many more who will line up outside your door. Remember word-of-mouth marketing? It is still relevant and quite powerful.
3. Sales Collateral Audit
Every business has its own brand that it wants to preserve and nourish. If you’ve changed your marketing theme, you cannot have sales teams go to market with stale collateral as that will only confuse customers. Similarly, you don’t want your sales teams to talk to their prospects with customer credentials of folks who have already left their organizations. That is why you need to audit the sales collateral from time to time.
For a large organization, auditing might be an arduous and lengthy process, but it is still worth the effort because you will then know where you stand, which collaterals need updating, which ones need to be retired, etc. That way your sales collateral will stay up-to-date for a longer time and you will have lesser anxiety if the right collaterals are being shared with prospects.
4. Get Your Publishing Calendar Out
If you have decided on your calendar for sales collateral for a month, then inform your teams on what to expect. That way, they know what is in the pipeline and can accordingly plan their campaigns. Moreover, when you have published a calendar, stick to it no matter what happens.
So, this also means you don’t bite off more than you can chew – take up only what you think is achievable within a certain time period. This can be tricky as there will be a lot of dependencies on getting these out, but it will build more goodwill and credibility with the staff in the long term.
5. Security Matters
You don’t want people from all over your company looking at critical numbers that were customized for a particular client. That is needless risk which can be easily avoided if you provide access only to people who require it. Today, clients are becoming increasingly wary of their information being shared elsewhere. So, protecting their information becomes imperative. If you have a company policy on sales collateral security matters, then ensure everyone abides by it lest it becomes a cause for embarrassment later.
6. Do Your Research
Are you preparing a battle card or a product sheet with information about your competition? That’s a good strategy, but make sure the information that you have included in there is not stale. For example, you have found out that one of your competitors is offering their product at a 5% discount rate to early bird customers.
But, two months later, your sales staff report back to you saying their discount rate is now 7%! Out-of-date information could hurt your reputation and that is why you need to stay on top of your competition and keep your sales collateral updated. Set aside time and resources for research because that will help create collateral that is timely and appropriate.
7. Repurpose Your Assets
There is always more than one use for every sales collateral that is built. If you have been able to get a customer speak for you on a video, you can always use it elsewhere perhaps in an email campaign or even on a customized landing page for your customers. If you have designed a template for a case study, you can reuse the same template for a different client instead of doing it all over again. That needs you to have a clear understanding of where your sales collaterals are lurking and how they can be repurposed.
If you have noticed, all that you wanted to achieve with sales collateral can be done with a powerful sales collateral management platform. This becomes a backbone of your collateral development, curation, distribution and analytical process.
Coming Up with B2b Sales Collateral Ideas
One of the biggest challenges for content marketers is to come up with B2B sales collateral ideas. But, that doesn’t have to deter you from making the best sales collateral that your teams can put to good use. In this section, we will look at 5 different ways to come up with ideas to create them.
1. Communicate with Sales Teams
You know your sales reps are slugging it out with competitors and talking to customers day in and day out. Their feedback can be invaluable in creating meaningful sales collateral that buyers are willing to engage with. Keep the door open to talk to your sales teams as often as you can.
Even informal chats with them at coffee counters will help you understand the ground reality. Instead of a top-down approach where you push sales collateral to your teams, try a bottom-up approach where you get feedback and start working towards delivering it.
2. Look Between the Numbers
How do you decide which sales collateral must get a higher priority over others? How do you know if a particular sales collateral is attracting a lot of attention? The answer lies in analytics. We discussed earlier about the need for a collaborative sales collateral management platform.
This platform should be able to provide you with numbers and insights for you to create more of the material that is working. Try and get metrics such as how many times the sales collateral is being downloaded, how are salespeople accessing the content, how are they using it to get buyer attention?
3. Events and Conferences
Companies showcase the best of their solutions at the biggest events and conferences. SAP’s Sapphire is one of the biggest business events where there are all sorts of companies who come and display their SAP-based solutions. There are prospects and customers as well who are looking to gather more information about their problems.
The sales collateral used in these events are very innovative and you could always make a note of how they have designed their collateral (if you see customers lining up for it) and apply similar methods for your business.
4. Look at Competition
Once in a while, it helps to look over the fence to see how your competitors are doing it. Try and see what methods they are using to woo their customers. A cursory visit to their website especially their resources section could tell you the sales collateral they are designing. But at times, this can be difficult especially in instances where the sales collateral is being customized. In those cases, a trial and error approach may tell you what is working versus what is not.
5. Narrate the Best Stories
Nobody wants to know what challenge your product can solve. Instead, customers love to hear stories about how you have helped others in a similar situation. Assuming there are no legal hassles in getting their word out to their market, get your customers to speak for you. It could even be a review on a platform such as G2 Crowd where a lot of buyers come to evaluate software.
If you want to make sales reps and customers fans of your sales collateral, you need to provide what will make them successful. They want you to be empathetic to their needs. They want to be delighted.
Creating and distributing sales collaterals doesn’t have to be hard if you have the right technology and a process in place. If you are still trying to decipher how to create the best sales collateral, ask yourself these 5 basic questions:
- What keeps your sales force (and customers) awake at 1 am?
- What outcomes do sales reps look to achieve from each meeting?
- What is unique in your product that no other alternative can offer?
- What are the three things you want your prospects to remember after a meeting with a sales rep?
- Why should leads/prospects care to read/view what sales reps share?
We hope you have enough to ponder over creating the best sales collateral for your business. Do let us know your thoughts by mailing us at Karthik@Paperflite.com.