If I only had a nickel for every time I’ve heard a salesperson ask for something only to have a marketer spring up and say, “We sent that out a month ago!”
The strange thing is, they’re both right.
These points of disconnect are symptoms of a fundamental difference in selling objectives between the two departments.
At a 20,000-foot view, a marketing copywriter’s job is to create content that resonates with key personas at different points of the buyer journey. Even use case studies have to be high-level enough that a prospect doesn’t walk away from a sale because their configuration or scenario is slightly different than what is outlined in the document.
On the surface, this may sound a lot like what the sales team does. However, salespeople’s selling cycles are saturated in detail. It’s their job to figure out what’s motivating their decision-maker and cater their pitch to show the product they’re selling solves the buyer’s specific problem to a tee.
Compounding the marketing content delivery issue, a given salesperson is juggling multiple deals while trying to bring in new prospects. They simply don’t have the time to dig through a content platform, read long-form content, and figure out how or when to fit snippets into their presentation, email, or phone call.
Marketing typically focuses on lead generation while sales focuses on closing each deal. The need to bridge the gap with catered content is largely responsible for the number of people with “sales enablement” in their title tripling since 2017.
Whether or not your organization has a budget for a sales enablement team, there are best practices marketers should use to help drive sales content adoption. These practices especially apply when marketing signs up for creating a pitch deck or any mid- to late-funnel pieces of content.
Before development begins, have a conversation with the people who are asking for the content. This helps avoid confusion over terminology. When sales asks for a use case, they may actually want a sheet they can leave behind or content that dispels common objections.
Requirements gathering also gives you an opportunity to understand what kind of materials they’ve tried and what has (or hasn’t) worked. You may save a lot of time by giving an existing piece of content a much-needed overhaul or save other sales reps the pain of using a piece of material that’s incorrect.
Don’t be afraid to ask sales more about the persona they’re targeting and the details they want to convey.
Involve Sales in Development
I’ve never understood department silos.
Salespeople are constantly talking to prospects and are a fabulous resource. They understand who wants to buy when, and they have a finger on your market’s pulse. Chances are they’ll sense a shift in market behavior long before anyone else in the business.
Salespeople create a ton of content. They know what works and what falls flat. Talking to successful sales reps throughout your development process will help you keep the message on point and increase the chances your work will be used.
I once heard a regional sales leader say, “Salespeople gossip like old ladies in a knitting circle.” He isn’t wrong. Salespeople are extremely adept at sharing what they love (or hate) from marketing. Pitching your content to an influential seller and incorporating their feedback can help you gain an ally who will encourage people to adopt the content.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
As someone who has been personally responsible for sales CRM adoption, I can tell you they’re a tough group to sell to. A great deal of this has to do with how little time they have to review communication that doesn’t directly pertain to an upcoming sale.
Always start emails or presentations with WIIFM (What’s In It For Me). You make a career of presenting value to prospects. Use those same skills when you speak with sales. Position your content by stating what it’s intended to help sales do, who the audience is, and when it should be used in the buying cycle.
If you’re creating a piece that has been in high demand or you believe will make a big impact, don’t forget to loop management into your communications. They are more likely to check their email and amplify to their team. Just remember to keep your email short. Bullet points following your value statement are a great way to go.
Spoon Feed Them
When a key piece of content drops for my clients, I draft a communication for their leadership team to send. The format I use is:
This is only done for epic content. I recommend a monthly newsletter for all content with a short blurb on where it fits in the sales cycle, who the intended audience is, and how it can be used. They may not read it, but you’ll have a handy summary to forward when you get questions.
Here’s an example of a communication I drafted for an aboutGOLF article feature in Bloomberg (credit for coordinating the feature goes to Matthew Pilla, PR representative):
Does this seem too long? Sure. But the opening few sentences summarize what they’ll find throughout the email and it’s broken out with headers to make it easy to skip to the parts they care about.
Keep the Feedback Loop Open
It’s not easy hearing something you worked hard on isn’t useful. Finding out the content you’ve been creating for years can’t be used by sales is even harder.
Risk soliciting negative feedback and find out how to fix your content going forward. There’s no better time to lean in than now.
Have you developed a formula for better sales adoption of your content? I’d love to hear what you do or suggest to engage sales.
Freelance writer and Dark urban fantasy author featuring vampires with bite.