Empowering the sales conversation

Marketing Predictions Guru Lisa VitaleHere’s a frightening statistic for B2B marketers:  90% of the content produced by marketing is NOT used by sales.[i]  For all of our focus on carefully crafted messaging, we have largely missed the mark.


Forrester’s Laura Ramos recently blogged about this startling statistic from the AMA, noting that as marketers, we need to do a better job of helping sales truly own the messaging we create.  As she says, “It’s about creating content that can play dual roles: attracting and educating buyers while giving sales a deeper understanding about what’s attracting their prospect’s attention in the first place.”


Yet, in our zeal to craft key messages for prospective buyers, it seems we’ve largely neglected that other vital audience: our sales team.  This little oversight is borne out by another revealing AMA statistic: Salespeople spend 30 hours a month searching for and creating their own selling materials.[ii]


Clearly, simply providing good content doesn’t suffice. Rather, the salient question is: how can we enable sales to engage in more powerful conversations with prospective buyers?


Speak with sales.

Given the statistics cited above, the natural place to begin is by crossing the departmental divide to engage in open and honest dialogue with sales regarding their needs and how our content is falling short in meeting them.  No matter how brilliant our content might be for the end buyer, if sales isn’t finding it useful, it’s a wasted effort.  Central to marketing’s role is the ability to communicate value – if our own sales teams aren’t “getting it,” we need to adjust and determine how to work with them in a more effective manner.  We cannot assume that they know how to use our content.  Sales must be a key audience.


Context matters.

We can equip sales to succeed by enriching their understanding of the buyer’s context in both the generic and specific senses.  The generic context informs our knowledge of the language and issues pertaining to our target buyers’ industry, market(s), and personas, while the specific context addresses the individual’s particular needs and challenges (gleaned through the use of prospect surveys and the like).


While marketing can enable sales to speak intelligently from a well-informed understanding, nothing quite replaces the value of learning directly from the source.  Contrary to conventional approaches that lead the sales conversation from the solution end, buyer studies inform us that what buyers want is to be better understood, not pitched to. Consequently, sales should lead with questions and dig deep to first flesh out their buyer’s specific context.  Inherent to our human nature is a need to be heard, to feel as though someone understands our perspective.  Business buyers are no different and asking intelligent questions regarding their specific context – questions informed by a well understood larger context – engenders confidence and trust in prospective buyers.


Speak in terms of buyer problems.

Shift away from the ubiquitous (and tired) approach of delineating product/service features, to focus the sales conversation on solving prospects’ key business problems.  While in some cases it may seem to be largely the same conversation, what’s important here is the framing.  Buyers think in terms of solving problems – speaking to them in these same terms will resonate more powerfully, tangibly connecting their problems to your offerings, while positioning you as an empathetic and valuable partner.


Provide insight.

Entice your way into the purchase process sooner with insights of commercial value addressing those vexing business problems prospects are wrestling with, but from a new and intriguing angle.  By demonstrating a credible, relevant, and frame-breaking perspective, you can disrupt your buyer’s conventional thinking and trigger buying decisions in your favor.  Insights of commercial value equip your sales team with a true point of differentiation.


In order to work more effectively and efficiently, we must recall that ultimately, marketing and sales are working towards the same goal. Unfortunately, this is often obscured by the inherently different approaches and styles each department produces.  However, marketers can learn to work far more productively by establishing regular, cross-departmental dialogue to truly listen to – and hear – the needs of our fellow team members in sales.  By playing on our strengths in communication – both in working with sales and in messaging to engage buyers – marketers can empower the critical sales conversation to deliver better business results.

For more on this subject, download our whitepaper “Reshaping Field Marketing for a Digital World.” Here 


[i] http://blogs.forrester.com/laura_ramos/14-02-05-how_top_marketers_use_customer_centered_content_to_make_their_message_more_valuable

[ii] http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2010/09/audience-content-marketers-ignore/