How to Leverage Content in Sales Communications
March 5, 2020 | by Timothy Wier
Your marketing content is a powerful lead gen tool. But that’s not all it’s good for.
It’s also a great tool for salespeople to engage both prospects and customers in conversations, nurturing them wherever they are in the buyer’s journey:
- Engage a cold prospect. We’ve all had a prospect go cold. Rather than reach out with a request to purchase — which almost never works on a cold lead — send them something of value to pique their interest.
- Diversify your touches from interest to purchase. No one wants to hear the same old pitch again and again. When you diversify your touches, you’re able to give them something different each time, keeping the relationship from falling into a rut.
- Reconnect with previous customers. If there’s a customer who you haven’t communicated with in a while, sharing a piece of helpful content can be a good way to get that conversation started again.
Since marketing content answers key customer questions, your salespeople can use it to provide an answer rather than re-typing the same answer over and over again.
Here are some tips on how to leverage content in sales communications.
1. Start with a trusting relationship.
With the sheer volume of content available to everyone in every industry, people can be skeptical about whether some “helpful” piece of content is worth their time.
If you want to be effective, the answer has to be a wholehearted “yes.”
When the marketing team promotes your business’ content, the value is predicated on the brand’s authority and the effectiveness in marketing that content through social, email, and even paid channels.
For you, the salesperson, it’s predicated on the relationship they have with the reader.
If you’ve been messaging someone for months and all you’ve been doing are sending “buy now” requests, you can understand why they’d be unlikely to consume your content.
Likewise, if you’ve never reached out to someone before and you immediately send them a piece of content, they could find it interesting, but the intent could be confusing as they don’t know you or your brand.
If you focus on a strong foundation for the relationship — ask questions, get to know their interests, communicate with them as a human being, don’t pitch before they’re ready — they’ll be more likely to consume your content when you send it along.
And if the content does its job, that means they’ll be more likely to make a purchase.
2. Only choose content relevant to their problems and pain.
When leveraging marketing channels, marketers try to make their communications as non-interruptive as possible. We try to build opted-in communities, and send communications to potential buyers only when they’ve expressed an interest in what we have to offer.
Sales communications, on the other hand, are often interruptive by design.
This means that if you’re going to communicate with a prospect, you’ve got to have a good reason.
You need to provide value that’s not only objective, but also subjective. Meaning: you need to make sure the content you’re sharing is highly relevant to them:
- Show how the content speaks to where they are in their buyer’s journey. Don’t share a case study if they aren’t even aware they have a problem yet.
- Demonstrate how the content is relevant to their situation. If you’re sharing content that isn’t solving the problems that person is facing or answering their questions, you’re going to run into trouble.
- Understand their familiarity and trust with your business. There may be times when your business puts out controversial and provocative content (and you should). But if someone doesn’t have trust with you, maybe that’s not the content you want to share right off the bat.
It’s easier to do this when you have a large library of content. This is one of the many reasons your marketing team should create content as frequently as possible.
But if you don’t focus on providing content that’s relevant to your prospect, you risk some problems. You may come across as not listening, or not interested in helping them. They may see you as just promoting something for the sake of promoting it.
Remember: the goal in promoting your content is to be helpful. Keep that in mind when you leverage content in sales communications.
3. Provide specific context for the individual.
Selecting relevant content is important. But the more you can provide context for the individual, the more likely they’ll be to stop and read it.
This is where salespeople have an incredible advantage over marketers. Marketers try to be as personalized and contextual as possible. But as with any kind of communication at scale, specificity and nuance doesn’t always translate.
As a salesperson, however, you have the unique advantage of communicating directly to a prospect’s specific situation. You can provide a level of detail in communication that marketers can’t.
So when you have a piece of content that, while relevant, is still generalized, use the communication — whether it be email, text, or a LinkedIn message — to provide the full context. Explain to them, based on your knowledge of their situation, how this content could help them.
In order to provide this level of detail, you’re going to have to understand their situation and be able to speak to it in a way that makes sense.
People can tell when you’ve just copied and pasted something. And nothing kills trust like knowing that the person who’s pretending to be sending a personalized message has done nothing to personalize it at all.
The more trust you have with your prospect, the better you’ll understand how to speak to their context: making you better able to leverage content in sales communications.
4. Don’t turn it into a sales pitch.
We’ve all seen the Trojan horse content. The one where you think you’re reading something interesting and educational, and it ends with “contact me for a demo of our one-of-a-kind product that will magically solve your problem.”
First of all, if you’re the kind of salesperson who posts this kind of content on LinkedIn regularly, please stop. No one is interested.
One of the great things about effective content marketing is that it lets the buyer guide themselves along the buyer’s journey. While this may seem scary to salespeople — who traditionally like to control the process — a buyer-centric process is something that is to your benefit.
It’s an analogy that we’re all familiar with. If a kid is forced into a decision by an authority figure, they grow resentful. If they make the decision themselves, they do so enthusiastically and are more likely to do it again.
The same goes for a sales decision.
If you can guide your buyer to making those critical purchasing decisions themselves, you’re going to get a more enthusiastic buyer. Plus, you’ll increase the likelihood of them to repeat a purchase.
This isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do. In order to keep up your quota, it requires you to 1) make sure your funnel is always full, and 2) plan your funnel 3-6 months in advance. There’s no last-minute scramble to the finish line here.
Keep this in mind when you leverage content in sales communications. Don’t end your message with a sales pitch.
Instead, use the content to open a door. If the prospect decides to step through that door, then that’s their decision, and you should then guide them through the rest of the sales process.
5. Be consistent in the value you offer.
I’ve talked a lot about trust in this article. Trust is the key to an effective relationship between a buyer and seller.
Every time you communicate with a potential buyer, you’re establishing your reputation with them. Whether that reputation is positive or negative depends entirely on the sum total of your interactions with them.
If you consistently provide them with value, it’s going to build a solid relationship. If you are less than consistent, then that trust isn’t going to grow like you’d want it to.
Keep in mind that value is defined by the customer, not by you. The way you provide value is just like we’ve described above: relevance, context, and not being too pushy from a sales perspective.
Remember: it takes an average of 7-13 touches for a lead to convert into a paying customer. That’s 7-13 chances you have to build your reputation and trust before making that critical decision
Ask yourself: what value am I providing in this communication? If you don’t have a solid answer, then you need to re-think what you’re doing. Or you should not provide anything at all.
6. Guide them, don’t drive them.
We’ve all been driven through a sales process before. No one likes it. And yet, it seems to happen again and again.
Believe me, your prospects know when you’re driving them through a sales process. That’s why they’re skeptical about communicating with you — they know the tactics and the pressure are going to come and they aren’t too thrilled about it.
That’s why if you want to effectively leverage content in sales communications, you really need to overcorrect in the other direction.
Stop driving your prospects through a sales process. Instead, come alongside them in their buyer’s journey.
This requires a shift in mindset. It’s like I mentioned above — you’re handing the keys over to the buyer. That can be a scary move.
But here’s the thing: the buyer already has the keys. Thanks to the internet, they’re able to conduct their own research. They already know more about your company than you think they do. People in the age of the internet are more informed than ever before.
So instead of driving them through a process, come alongside them in their buyer’s journey and understand their next step. Then provide the content necessary to guide them to that next step.
If they take that step, then that’s a good sign they’re ready to continue on in their process.
If they don’t, you should stop pushing it and move on to someone else who’s willing and ready to buy.