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How to create sales enablement content your sales team will adore

In order to achieve this, you need to embrace the fact that your sales team finding your marketing content useless is not the problem — it is the symptom of a much larger problem.

How to create sales enablement content your sales team will adore Blog Feature

Liz Moorehead

Editorial Director, Speaker, Host of 'Content Lab' Podcast

October 5th, 2020 min read

I’m not a parent. In fact, given that some of my friends lovingly refer to me as a “hospice for house plants,” putting a child in my hands may not be the best idea.

(Fun fact: Did you know that a cactus dies from the bottom up?)

Yet, with today’s topic, I feel a bit like a parent trying to corral two squabbling siblings. They know they need to work together, but still they “just don’t wanna.”

In this case, the two siblings in question are marketing and sales. Even though it's easy for both to complain about how hard it is to create content that both teams find useful, if they would just work together, things would immediately improve.

In fact, creating content is one of the most popular complaints underneath the sales and marketing alignment umbrella of problems, and it comes in many forms:

  • Marketing: “I don’t know what, if any, of our content is working for sales with prospects.”
  • Sales: “Our marketers are content machines… but what they publish is never what I need.”
  • Marketing: “I don’t know what, if any, of our content is going unused during the sales process, or why.”
  • Sales: “I think marketing would be surprised how little of their content is relevant to our prospects in sales conversations.”

On, and on, and on.

In retrospect, it’s a little depressing given that the content-driven inbound methodology came galloping in like a white knight on his mighty steed, with promises of how blogs and pillar pages and case studies would make all of those marketing and sales woes go away.

“It’s what your buyers want,” he said. “It’ll be fun,” he said.

I believed him, you believed him... heck, we all believe him

But if those complaints above are any indication, apparently, we couldn’t get our collective acts together well enough to execute those content strategies in a way that made anyone feel like they were really winning at anything.

In a weird twist of fate, however, we somehow never had that problem at IMPACT. Our marketing and sales teams have always been rockstar collaborators, where every single piece of content we create has been a magical unicorn.

I'm kidding, of course.

While it was nice to live in that fiction for the 15 seconds it took me to type it out, it is a laughable lie. IMPACT definitely had those problems. In spades.

🔎 Related: What is a revenue team?

Our marketing team was creating lots of content, and sales found very little of it useful when talking to prospects:

“Yeah, I use maybe a handful of articles and pieces of content during the sales process? For the most part, we’re not publishing what I need.”

— One of our sales reps breaking my heart with a hammer. And honesty.

And yet no one was changing anything we were doing in terms of our content processes. Well, that was true until a few months ago, when both teams came together to solve that challenge by forming a revenue team.

Six months later, I'm happy to report that while we're still growing and improving — and we still have challenges to overcome — we’ve seen great results from the changes we’ve made so far in how we collaborate across marketing and sales to create awesome content.

So, if you're a marketer who is struggling to create content your sales team will find valuable, this post is for you. While I know every organization is different, the tactics below should be universal.

1. Form a revenue team at your company

That's right, your first step has nothing to do with creating content, looking at content, or (quite frankly) anything to do with content at all. Instead, you need to understand that the fact that your sales team finding your marketing content useless is not the problem — it is the symptom of a much larger problem.

Now that buyers (just like you and me) turn to the internet for our purchasing decision research, rather than talking to sales teams directly (like we used to), the way marketing and sales teams have traditionally functioned no longer works.

IMPACT Lead Digital Marketing and Sales Coach Chris Marr explains:

"Giving [revenue growth] responsibility to the sales team alone doesn’t make sense. By the time prospects have gotten in touch with them, the majority of the decision has already been made. And, perhaps more pertinent are the prospects who never got in touch and went elsewhere, if they didn’t find the information they needed during the research phase.

But, equally, sole responsibility for sales and revenue cannot be given to the marketing team.

One of the main challenges the sales team face is that they need 'better quality leads,' with only around 27% of leads passed from marketing to sales deemed to be qualified. This isn’t because the marketing team is rubbish at their job. It’s because they are working with an incomplete picture.

If your sales and marketing team are disconnected, then it will be dramatically more difficult for your marketing team to attract relevant and qualified leads."

You solve for this by creating a revenue team. But what is a revenue team?

Tactically speaking, a revenue team is made of stakeholders from your sales and marketing teams — your content manager, the head of marketing, the head of sales, your entire sales team, and so on. Together, they focus on a shared goal of increasing revenue through traffic, leads, and sales.

So, instead of two competing teams with independent priorities, the members of this singular unit work together achieve their mutual goal of revenue growth through true collaboration, information-sharing, brainstorming, and problem-solving. 

2. Facilitate revenue team content brainstorms on a regular basis (weekly or biweekly)

The key to creating content your sales team will love is simple — you need to create the content your sales team wants.

This is critically important if you're just getting started with content marketing, because the most powerful, revenue-generating content is the kind that can be used by sales teams to help close deals faster with more educated prospects. This is done through a proven advanced sales technique called assignment selling.

It's with this in mind that you will facilitate content brainstorms as part of a weekly or biweekly revenue team meeting, with the following agenda:

  1. What assignment selling content (written and video) has been published since you last met and how is it valuable?
  2. What assignment selling content (written and video) is currently in the production pipeline?
  3. How has the previously published assignment selling content (written and video) been performing for sales?
  4. What questions are you currently being asked by buyers in the sales process that should have a piece of content created for it?

The last question, which I bolded, is where your sales enablement content magic will happen. The answers you receive to that question from your sales team should make up your editorial calendar. 

If you're struggling to get great answers to that question

Sometimes you need to restate the question in different ways, if you find that (over time) your sales folks are struggling to either latch onto new ideas or to even think of good questions for content in the first place. 

Here are a few ways you can restate this question in a way that will yield even more ideas for great sales enablement content:

  1. What questions do you get asked that immediately indicate the buyer is not close to ready to make a decision?
  2. What do your clients and buyers push back on the most?
  3. What are your buyer's biggest doubts or worries (with respect to the product, the process, the company)?
  4. What do your buyers have to convince the key decision-makers of?

Ask the right follow-up questions of your sales folks

The quality of your sales enablement content will be dependent on the quality and validity of the original question you're answering. So, whenever I'm facilitating the content brainstorm for our revenue team at IMPACT, I will use these follow-up questions with every single suggestion the sales team makes:

  1. Is this the exact question being asked, in the words of the prospect? Or have you reworded it in any way, based on what you know the actual problem is? (Hint: It should always be in the words of the prospect.)
  2. Why are they asking this question? Did they ask this proactively? Or is it in response to something we told them, asked them to do, etc.? Is it a question in response to us saying no to something?
  3. When are they asking this question during the sales process? Is it always at a particular stage of the sales process? Is there no specific time, just a general question that comes up randomly?
  4. What is the question specifically about? Our sales process? A specific product? (Meaning, does this question need to be answered multiple times across multiple pieces of content for each product/service?) Or is it just about working with us in general?
  5. Will this piece of content make us money? We like content that makes money, y'all. It's what we do! 

When we first started doing content brainstorms, I had to ask these questions a lot. (The sales team didn't push back at all, by the way. They saw and understood the value of the questions.) Now, I don't have to do that as much, because they've trained themselves to think with this audience-focused mindset. 

Use this sales enablement content brainstorm tool

In order to facilitate brainstorming, I created this sales content sandbox tool you're welcome to use:

Screen Shot 2020-09-25 at 12.50.20 PM

Here's how it works:

First, suggestions are entered with the following information — the topic phrased as a question in the words of the buyer; whether or not they want it as a blog article, a video, or both; who is making the request from sales; their ideal subject matter expert to address the topic; and why the topic is being requested. 

Next, sales team members can denote priority by "upvoting" topics, and the spreadsheet will automatically sort the topics with the highest votes to the top! 

automated-sorting

I like automated things.

Also, as appropriate, the color of the rows will be updated based on the status column. Again, it makes it easy visually for people to understand where everything stands without a lot of hands-on work.

color-coding

The key with this tool is that it's not just used during the brainstorm itself — it should be used by the sales team all the time. I developed the tool so sales team members could communicate revenue team content priorities in real-time, as ideas came up.

3. Uh, well, publish the content 

OK, so this step is easy. Once you know what you're supposed to be writing about, you need to:

  1. Interview the subject matter experts you need to write the content. (Or, if you don't need to interview anyone, sit down and crank those babies out.)
  2. Publish the content at a cadence of two to three pieces of new content a week. (Three to four is the ideal, but two to three is a great place to start.)

Really, that's pretty much it. 

If these two to four pieces of revenue content will be layered into a larger content strategy — that's how it is at IMPACT, because we publish a lot — I'd recommend strongly tagging every single article in your marketing automation platform with a shared campaign. 

For example, we tag all of our assignment selling content from our content strategy with a "revenue content strategy" campaign in HubSpot.

4. Finally, you've gotta tell sales you've published their sales enablement content

Here's the deal, folks. Even if they're paying attention, your sales team is super, super busy. They're going to miss when things get published.

Moreover, if you want to build trust between your marketing team and sales — trust that has likely eroded over time (if it was ever present at all) — you need to go out of your way to show that the needs of your sales team are a priority to you, and that you're going to keep your promise of publishing the content they need to be successful in their roles and hitting their revenue targets.

So, on a weekly or biweekly basis (I'd recommend the day before your content brainstorm, so you can review it as part of the agenda I outlined above), you should send out a revenue content update to the entire revenue team

At IMPACT, we use Basecamp for asynchronous communication. Here is a real-life example of a revenue content update I've sent out to our team:

Screen Shot 2020-08-10 at 9.23.27 AM

I open it with an overview of what the update is and the most recently published revenue content strategy pieces. (For each, I like to include context, use cases, and perceived value.)

Screen Shot 2020-08-10 at 9.23.53 AM

Then, I give a preview of what's coming down the pipeline, with estimated dates of publication, although they are sometimes subject to change.

Screen Shot 2020-08-10 at 9.24.17 AM

I also do the same for video, so folks know what's been published, what's coming, and what we're working on. 

You have to make the commitment to sales

Listen, content marketers. If you treat what I've shared here as a small "check the box" item on your to do list, you will fail.

You have to let go of the "us vs. them" mentality that has plagued sales and marketing teams all over the world for decades. You must go out of your way to prove yourself to sales and that you really want to see them be successful, and that you're willing to do whatever it is that's necessary to empower them to hit their goals.

You also need to see that "their" goals are actually your goals, too. 

From personal experience, I cannot tell you how rewarding it is to sit on revenue team meetings and hear our sales team say they feel they're actually being given the materials, content, blogs, and videos, they need to close more deals faster. 

🔎 Related:

You can have that feeling at your own company, too. But it begins with a commitment. It begins with you understanding that what I'm suggesting here is more than just embracing a new content strategy. It's a new way of thinking about how your sales and marketing teams work together.

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