What is Assignment Selling? Using Content to Close Deals Faster
One of the most frequent complaints we hear about content marketing is how long it takes to see results.
You write an amazing blog, hit publish, and often have to wait several weeks (or even months) before it ranks in search engines and gets found by qualified buyers.
For businesses looking for a quick return from their content, this can be a bit discouraging, leaving many wondering if the wait is worth the effort.
Rest assured, your content — if it's high quality — will deliver results and is well worth the wait. But content can also deliver quick wins.
A common misconception about content marketing is that it’s only good for bringing in organic and social media traffic, but there’s another use that can start from the very day your content is published.
Enter assignment selling.
What is assignment selling?
Assignment selling is the act of using content to address major prospect objections and questions to speed up the sales process.
The idea was developed by IMPACT Partner Marcus Sheridan when he was doing sales calls for his swimming pool company River Pools and Spas in 2008.
Marcus was writing lots of sales enablement content to answer his buyers' questions. His website was getting tons of traffic and the number of requests for sales appointments was rising — but his closing rate was stagnant.
Digging through metrics in HubSpot, Marcus realized he had two very different groups of people requesting sales calls — and he was seeing dramatically different close rates depending on which camp someone came from.
The first group had a closing rate of around 25% and only viewed a small handful of his website pages.
The second group had viewed an average of 30 pages of his website and had a closing average of 80%.
Why does this matter?
Well, the first group requested sales calls even though they were fairly uninformed about the process and cost of purchasing a pool. The second group, however, requested sales calls after they did extensive research on pool buying.
One group was completely ignorant about buying a pool, and after the sales call, usually realized it was not a good fit for them, while the other knew nearly everything and were ready to buy.
Shortly after making this connection, Marcus decided it was in his, his team's, and even his buyers' best interest if all prospects were as educated as possible before they had a sales conversation.
In turn, he made it mandatory for any prospect requesting a sales call to review specific pieces of content from the company before the call.
As a result, while the total number of sales calls went down, closing rates and revenue went up.
Let's unpack what happens when you implement assignment selling a bit more.
Benefits of assignment selling
Initially, assignment selling may result in fewer sales calls, a slower sales process, and also a little homework on the part of the prospect, but in the long run, it's more beneficial for everyone involved.
For your business, assignment selling can lead to:
- Better informed leads: Because leads are being showed exactly what content to consume for their needs, assignment selling allows them to be better informed about your business, service, and what using it entails.
- More effective sales conversations: Since leads are better informed, sales conversations can focus on the prospect's specific needs and issues. There's little need to go over general background information as that was covered by content shared earlier.
- Faster sales process: Less time spent on educating means the sales process can move along more quickly. In other words, deals can close faster — while leads that aren't a good fit can be disqualified faster.
Meanwhile, for the buyer, assignment selling means:
- They're empowered to do more research on their own. Modern buyers want to own more of the buyer's journey. They want to be able to research products and solutions on their own without having to go through a salesperson. Assignment selling helps enable that.
- They can qualify or disqualify themselves. When you share educational content, buyers are better equipped to figure out if yours is the solution they truly need. When you create and share high-quality, honest content about what it's realistically like working with you, they can decide on their own if you'll accomplish what they need and if they can afford you.
- Less wasted time in sales meetings. When people are able to self-qualify or disqualify, they (and your business) waste less time in sales meetings that go nowhere. They also ensure their time is better spent on questions and solutions specific to their needs when they do reach out to sales.
How to implement assignment selling
So you know why you need to use assignment selling, but how do you get started? We've got a full free course on that, but here's what you need to know in a nutshell.
1. Figure out what content you need to create
Before you can begin assignment selling, you need to ensure you have the right kinds of content.
Review all of the content on your website with these questions in mind:
- How much of your content is promotional versus educational?
- How much of your content is helpful to consumers trying to make a purchasing decision?
To really excel, your content needs to be relevant, helpful, thorough, and honest. It needs to answer the key questions most consumers want to know (or should know) before making a purchase.
We’ve found time and time again nearly all people looking to make a major purchase have a few major questions they need answers to:
- How much does it cost?
- Which are the best options?
- How does this option compare to others in its class?
- What are some of the problems with this solution/product?
- Are there reviews of this product/company?
We call these The Big 5, and while, they're not the only questions your buyers will have, they are a good place to start creating.
Remember to talk to sales!
In addition to The Big 5, talk with your sales team and ask them to write down the top 25 questions they hear most frequently from prospects. These are questions they will benefit from having a resource to address.
2. Teach sales when to use the content created
Once you've written answers to these topics in blog articles, don’t wait for people to find the content on their own through search.
Instead, put it into the hands of your sales team.
Sales has told you the most pressing questions prospects have and marketing (and maybe others on the team) have answered those questions through content.
Your sales team can now use this content to save time and help prospects better prepare for sales conversations — or even disqualify themselves.
In our experience, many salespeople would be more than happy to use content in their sales cycle, but often don’t know when or how to.
Marketing should educate sales reps on the different use cases for each piece they create.
Use your revenue team meeting (or another regularly scheduled meeting between sales and marketing owners) to keep sales apprised of what content has been created and explain how they can use it.
For example, assignment selling can be useful after a prospect fills out a form on your website.
After someone fills out a sales call request form, you may be tempted to simply send an email that says “Great, here's the date and time to confirm!"
However, with assignment selling in mind, you should go the extra mile by sharing a few resources that can prepare the prospect for the meeting.
3. Make the content easy to access for all
If your content isn’t easy to find on your website, both your website visitors and your salespeople won’t be able to get the answers they’re looking for.
With this in mind, show your sales team how to navigate your company’s website.
Much of your sales enablement content should be readily available on your website via your service pages or blog. Some specific information (i.e. pricing) may even have its own dedicated page.
You can also work with your sales team to create a spreadsheet or repository they can bookmark that includes links to the content that has been created.
Below you’ll get a glimpse into IMPACT’s own internal assignment selling spreadsheet that includes the types of services we sell along with content that should be reviewed by prospects before a sales appointment.
There’s even a section for including topics that have been requested but are yet to be written.
But won't we scare buyers away?
One of the biggest objections sales reps have about assignment selling is, if I assign content, will it make the prospect cancel the sales appointment?
And it’s true — if you’re giving people the best education possible, some of that content may make them realize they’re not a good fit for what you sell.
Assignment selling may influence some unfit customers to exit the buying funnel, but that’s a good thing.
Just as Marcus saw the number of sales appointments decline, his closing rates for the remaining sales appointments increased.
That's because he was only meeting with prospects that had been educated thoroughly on his products and wanted to continue forward.
When you use assignment selling, you help yourself avoid sales appointments that end in a quick disqualification.
Start selling smarter
Now that you have a better idea of what assignment selling is, why it’s important, and how you can implement it, it’s time to start doing it.
First, meet with your sales team and get their top list of most asked questions on a sales call.
Identify if you already have these answers on your website.
If not, add those questions to your content calendar to create ASAP.
Make a repository for sales so they can easily access links to the content, and educate them on how and when to use the resources.
After some time, follow up with your sales teams to see the impact that assignment selling is having on their sales calls and to learn if anything new is needed.
If you want to learn more about assignment selling, check out our free course, "Assignment Selling: Content Is Your Greatest Sales Tool."
Wondering where to begin?