There’s no denying it — sales and marketing teams don’t always work well together. The two departments may see eye-to-eye and share unified goals, but it’s less common for sales to proactively help marketing perform better, or vice versa. But in today’s digital world, the line between sales and marketing is increasingly blurred. There’s no better example of this development than the relationship between content marketing and sales enablement.
Sales enablement refers to the process of providing a sales team with the information and content they need to nurture prospects and close deals more efficiently.
Content marketing, on the other hand, refers to written, visual, audio, or other content that drives interest in your brand, products, or services throughout the buyer’s journey.
What do you get when you combine the two? Sales enablement content — in other words, content that sales reps can leverage in order to sell more effectively.
Every hero needs a sidekick — and in sales, that sidekick is content marketing. Keep reading and find out why!
What is sales enablement content?
More than half of all businesses now budget for content marketing. And, the majority intend to increase spending in 2019 (source). Why not maximize the value of that content by putting it to work for your sales team?
A sales enablement content strategy involves a structured process for sales teams to access and deliver relevant content to the prospects in their sales pipeline.
If your business lacks a formal sales enablement process, don’t fear. You likely have plenty of sales enablement content waiting in the wings, if you’re producing assets such as:
- White papers.
- Case studies.
- Video testimonials.
- Sales emails.
- Virtual product demos.
Those are just a few examples. In reality, any content that helps your sales team do their jobs can be classified as sales enablement content. That includes onboarding documents for new customers, training collateral for new sales hires, and marketing reports that provide insights into audience behavior.
All of these assets and more will enable your sales team to ease prospects into purchasing conversations. For example: let’s say a prospect displays clear intent to make a purchase, but they require one last push before they make a decision. A sales rep then sends them a relevant testimonial. This piece of content adds momentum to the decision stage of the funnel.
Who owns sales enablement content?
The answer to this question depends largely on your organizational dynamics. But, sales enablement content shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of either marketing or sales — it should be a collaborative process.
For example, creating content is almost always a marketing team’s responsibility. But, your sales department should offer insight into what types of content their prospects are looking for. Conversely, marketing should offer distribution recommendations to sales to ensure the right content reaches the right people.
As you can already guess, strong sales and marketing alignment is a prerequisite for a sales enablement content strategy. Because it relies so heavily on communication, sales enablement is most effective when you foster a culture of collaboration among sales and marketing stakeholders.
Best Practices to Implement a Sales Enablement Content Strategy
Sales enablement is a simple process to understand, but a more complex one to implement. So, let’s look at some concrete examples of how to kickstart your sales enablement content strategy. Let’s dig in!
1. Distribute a content newsletter between marketing and sales.
Visibility is the most crucial element of sales enablement. In other words, your sales reps need to be aware of the content that your marketing team creates. The best way to start this process is to create an email newsletter for your top-of-the-funnel content like blog posts and articles. These are the preferred assets for the awareness and interest stages of the buyer’s journey according to 73% of marketers (source).
But — is your sales team reading that content? If not, they should be. By reading your blog, your sales team can offer prospects engaging content about relevant topics and problems. And, sales can provide feedback about topics your blog might be lacking, or specific pain points and differentiators they’ve picked up on during their conversations with prospects. In this way, your blog can actually facilitate sales and marketing alignment.
If you already have a weekly newsletter, make sure the members of your sales team are receiving it. Or even better, create a separate, internal newsletter specifically for sales.
Blog posts won’t necessarily act as a stand-in for training content — especially in the highly technical markets where reps need to understand the complex nuances of their audience. But, top- and middle-of-funnel content is useful as a supplement for your sales team’s knowledge, and as a bridge between your marketing and sales departments.
2. Create a sales enablement content library.
If your company produces a large quantity of content, a simple newsletter won’t be sufficient. For example, let’s say you have created hundreds of case studies over the years. They’re all high-quality, well-formatted documents that contain powerful success stories across a variety of industries. It’s the type of content that would be helpful to have on hand when emailing a prospect or creating a slide deck to present to them.
But, with so many of these case studies available, your sales team is hit by information overload. The solution? Collect your content into a centralized library for the purpose of sales enablement. You can organize your content based on content type, target audience, industry, and other variables that make it easy for sales to quickly find what they need.
Here’s an example: Let’s say a sales rep is about to meet with a prospect in the mining and energy industry. With access to an organized content library, they can quickly locate an entire portfolio of success stories pertaining to that industry. They won’t need to waste time digging through your site’s archives. Instead, they’re able to spend more time preparing for the meeting.
3. Align your content strategy with your buyer’s journey.
The quintessential content marketing-to-sales funnel looks something like this:
Top-of-the-funnel content like blog posts are best suited for prospects in the awareness stage of their journey. Your gated eBooks, infographics and webinars live somewhere in the middle — where prospects still aren’t ready to make a purchase decision, but are looking for more in-depth content about their pain points.
White papers, case studies, and testimonials usually live a little deeper, and they help nurture prospects toward the decision phase. The decision phase is usually where sales gets more involved, as they send out targeted sales emails containing additional social proof such as testimonials and case studies.
It’s critical to not only recognize what content fits what stage, but to proactively align your content strategy with the stages of the sales funnel. This process is commonly known as content mapping. Building off of our previous point, this structured approach will enable your sales team to quickly locate the right content based on where a prospect is in their journey.
But, content mapping will also allow you to identify holes in your content library. For example, perhaps your team has produced a wealth of mid-funnel content like eBooks and marketing webinars, but your library is lacking in bottom-of-the-funnel content that will help the sales team close deals faster.
By segmenting your content library based on stages of the buyer’s journey, you should have no trouble creating content that caters to prospects within each stage.
Even as individual concepts, content marketing and sales enablement share the same purpose of boosting efficiency. Content marketing creates a steady flow of inbound leads, and helps speed up the sales cycle by nurturing leads to the point of sales-readiness. Similarly, sales enablement helps to provide sales teams with the tools they need to guide potential customers through their journey as efficiently as possible.
In today’s world, those two concepts must work hand in hand. Sales teams should help their marketing counterparts create more valuable and targeted marketing content. In return, they receive consistent, easy access to the blog posts, testimonials, thought leadership, white papers, and other resources they need to enable smooth handoffs throughout the stages of the sales funnel. And that’s what makes content marketing the unsung hero of sales enablement!
For more help scaling your sales and marketing efforts, contact ZoomInfo today. We’re a leading B2B contact database and we have the tools you need to streamline your strategy and grow your business.
Dominick Sorrentino is a senior writer for Brafton, a creative content marketing agency based in Boston. He’s a wordsmith who endeavors to use language, story-telling and creativity to solve problems. He enjoys pizza, the musical styling of A Tribe Called Quest, traveling, and, putting pen to paper. You can find more of his work on the Brafton blog.