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Sales enablement content: How do you get your resistant sales team to use it?

If you're a content manager producing content to help shorten the sales cycle, how do you get the sales team to actually start using it?

Sales enablement content: How do you get your resistant sales team to use it? Blog Feature

Zach Basner

Director of Inbound Training and Video Strategy, Inbound and Video Workshop Trainer, Creator of the Facebook Group ‘Film School for Marketers’

January 6th, 2021 min read

Let’s get real folks. This is a problem everyone faces with content marketing.

And, if you’re reading this, you’re likely dealing with it right now.

You’ve produced great content, probably a bunch of it. But, when you ask the sales team to start using that great content? You hear crickets.

It’s painful. It’s uncomfortable. It’s frustrating.

The chief irritation is that you know how important it is for the sales team to embrace your culture of content and yet nobody is listening. Or, maybe they’re listening, but they’re not really hearing you.

What’s with the resistance anyways? They must not be “bought-in,” right?

Not necessarily.

There are levels to “buy-in”

There’s something interesting I’ve learned in working with sales and marketing teams of all shapes and sizes.

Complete and total alignment is wishful thinking — and this thing we call “buy-in” isn’t binary. It’s not something you either have or don’t have.

In fact, you probably have some folks who are completely motivated to use content in sales, some who are waiting for more direction, and some who don’t understand it at all.

Instead, I like to think of “buy-in” as a series of stages. In this case, using stages of measurement is way more useful than a “have it” or “don’t have it” mindset.

Here are those stages and what they typically sound like:

  • Stage one: Apathy - "I'm already hitting my numbers every month, I don't find this ‘sales enablement content’ useful."
  • Stage two: Reluctance - "I'm willing to accept that we should do more of this content assignment stuff, but only because I'm being told to."
  • Stage three: Agreement - "I agree this ‘assignment selling’ thing could work, I'm willing to try it out."
  • Stage four: Enthusiasm - "This is a game-changer! I wish I would’ve started doing this sooner!"

The individuals of your team are going to fit somewhere in this spectrum here, even after you’ve explained the importance of this content thing multiple times. That’s just the way it goes.

However, now that you have a way to gauge “buy-in” with your team, let’s talk about some of the reasons why everyone isn’t yet in that glorious final stage of adoption.

Reasons why your sales team (probably) doesn't want to use your content

I’ve noticed there are at least five key reasons why teams don’t fully embrace educational content as a means of selling. You’ve probably heard some or all of these before, but these are the very things that slow down adoption and alignment across your teams.

“I’m not sure how to effectively assign content.”

Salespeople might feel unsure of how to use assignment selling effectively, and this lack of competence leads to resistance.

Most first attempt assignment selling sales emails sound something like, “check out this article if you get a chance.” Due to the passive nature of that pitch, the prospect doesn’t “have the chance” and so no meaningful difference is made in that conversation. 

“I would rather address a buyer's questions myself.”

A salesperson might say “I would prefer to address questions in a specific way for a specific person. If I assign a piece of content to them, I miss that opportunity to position us in the best way possible. Therefore, I would rather be the single source of truth versus an article or video.”

“Content might get folks to the website, but education is my job after that.”

The sales team might be under the impression that prospects would prefer just to talk to a person who can give them all the answers they need. Because of this, content is a tool that’s used solely to get folks to the website and become a lead as opposed to being an invaluable tool for both the prospect and the salesperson.

“Our content really isn’t all that helpful for sales.”

It’s entirely possible that the sales team sees the content as pretty “fluffy” and not really adding a lot of value to a potential customer. They aren’t going to send anything that they don't consider extremely useful.

“There’s so much content here, I can’t find what I need in the moment.”

This shows up in two ways. Either they have no idea what content has been produced, or there isn’t an easy way to find what they already know is there. If it’s taking a long time to find the right content, it’s taking valuable time away from selling activities.

If you’re aggressively nodding your head in agreement with one or more of these problems. You’re not alone. These are fairly common issues that prevent even the most savvy content marketers from successfully aligning with their friends over in sales.

Fortunately, I’ve got some pretty straightforward solutions that can eliminate these problems the moment you put them in action.

5 ways to get your resistant sales team to use your content

1. Teach them “assignment selling” and what it looks like in action

Starting with the basics, you need to spend adequate time with your team and teach them how to use content successfully. We call this strategy assignment selling. Rather than selling through persuasion (like that cheesy car salesman), this is selling through education.

🔎 Related: Assignment selling: Interview with a salesman

By assigning content throughout the sales process, we’re delivering the most helpful, unbiased, and complete education for our buyers that helps them make better decisions, faster.

Whether you run an internal training program or send your team over to an online course platform like IMPACT+, you need to make sure they’ve learned the what, why, and how of assignment selling.

Beyond that, they need to see examples of it in action. What makes a good email subject line? What does an effective value proposition for a piece of content sound like?

Once the whole team has learned the principles, the vision becomes more clear to everyone.

You might be wondering how you can approach this need for improvement without sounding patronizing or preachy. This all comes down to how well you’ve articulated the “why” behind this strategy.

Does the sales team believe they're adapting adapting to the changing buyer or adapting to the new needs of the marketing team?

🎓 Related IMPACT+ Course: Assignment Selling

To explain that “why” on a deeper level, keep reading below.

2. Help them take control of the conversation by educating

If there’s anything that you and your sales team could agree on right now it’s that the buyer wants the upper hand in their own buying process. Perhaps even more important, they’re increasingly sensitive to being “sold to.”

The good news is that great sales enablement content can give us a little more control by:

  • Showing the prospect we understand their problems and concerns
    The best sales enablement content will make the prospect think, “Wow, they really understand what I’m dealing with.”
  • Allowing us to lead the buyer (instead of being led by them)
    Rather than waiting for a prospect to ask us the right questions, we teach them how to navigate the buying process and what they should be asking themselves.
  • Getting ahead of objections before they come up
    Those same fears, worries and objections that we’re used to dealing with in sales conversations start to go away because they've already been addressed by content.

These are major strengths to have in the digital age. They help sales remain relevant to a buyer that is actually very “sales averse.”

As mentioned in a recent article by Marcus Sheridan, about 33% of all buyers would prefer an entirely "sales free" buying experience. For millennials, it's even higher: 44%. That means at least a third of your buyers don't want to talk to sales at all.

Talk about this with your sales team. Get their perspective on how they have seen their buyer change over the past five years. How can content help them adapt to these radical changes?

3. Show them how prospects are navigating the website

The studies show us that, on average, 70-80% of the buying decision is made before a prospect raises their hand to sales.

I bring that up here not to make a case for the importance of content marketing, but rather that you need to show how that plays out on your very own website.

Have you shown the sales team how prospects interact with the content you’ve published?

Do they see how much content prospects consume and the journey they take as they become more educated and engaged?

As you’ll hear in the origin story of assignment selling, Marcus Sheridan discovered that if prospects consumed at least 30 pages of content on his website, his closing abilities would increase radically.

That’s a startling realization, and it only came as a result of getting genuinely interested in how the website was truly affecting sales. Once he looked at the data, the picture was clear.

Now, you’ll need tools to do this. If you have HubSpot, for instance, you’ll be able to see this kind of data for individual contacts in your CRM. You can also use visitor tracking applications like Lucky Orange or Hotjar to capture real recordings of website activity.

If your sales team has a better understanding of how your website content is assisting your buyer, they’ll have a much better understanding of how to run their own educational experience with prospects.

4. Give them ownership over what content you create

Think about this. Content marketing was probably marketing’s idea. It's the marketing team that has been producing the content. The marketing team is the one saying how “important” this is for sales.

Yet, in large part, the marketing team has been in total control of what is and is not produced, even though we say content marketing a “sales-first” initiative.

What if your editorial calendar was prioritized by the sales team instead? What if they had the power not only to generate the topics that should be addressed, but also to say when they were addressed as well?

Taking it a bit further, what if they had the opportunity to provide feedback and tweaks to a finished piece of content before it published? How much more likely would they be to actually use that content?

That’s the kind of control that allows sales to take their rightful place in this sales-first initiative, to become way more involved in the process, and to achieve better alignment with marketing.

That’s exactly why we developed the “sales content sandbox” and why we believe sales and marketing teams need to be spending significantly more time together in revenue team and brainstorming meetings.

5. Make it easy for them to navigate the website

It’s a blessing and a curse to have a lot of content. On one hand, you’ve addressed many of the questions, worries, and concerns for your buyers.

But on the other hand, you’ve created the challenge of navigating an extensive library of resources.

As I mentioned before, no matter how great the content might be, if it’s hard to find and takes away valuable time that could be spent on other sales activities, it’s not going to be used.

But here’s the good news. If you solve this problem for your sales team you can also solve for your buyer as well.

AQUILA Commercial had this problem too. After years of creating content, it became too much to navigate in the typical chronological blog format. So, instead, they considered how their customer might prefer to navigate through their content.

And thus, they created a shining example of a “learning center” that allows visitors to filter their content by:

  • Who they are (ex. a property owner)
  • What they are interested in (ex. hiring a landlord broker)
  • What content they’d prefer to consume (ex. articles)

Great for a website visitor, right? But also great for the sales team.

Even if they don’t know what content might be there, they have an incredibly simple way to find the right content at the right time. Easy peasy.

Now, let's get started

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will complete alignment and excitement take place for your team all at once.

So consider this, given our stages of buy-in that we addressed earlier in this article, identify a smaller subset of your team that is further along and is more accepting of trying new things.

Take this smaller team through the various steps mentioned in this article.

  1. Teach them “assignment selling” and what it looks like in action
  2. Help them take control of the conversation by educating
  3. Show them how prospects are navigating the website
  4. Give them ownership over what content you create
  5. Make it easy for them to navigate the website

As those sales reps apply, learn, and grow with these techniques, have them share their wins and successes with the broader team.

You’ll find that when the team sees these early wins, more and more of them will be open to learning as well, and you’ll be ready to help.

Over time, we recommend that assignment selling becomes a mandatory training when you hire new sales reps and that leadership supports adoption for the entire sales team.

Remember, everyone faces this challenge at some point in their content marketing journey.

The difference is, now you have the solutions.

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