Once upon a time in B2B tech sales the sales rep had the keys to all the information a prospect needed to buy a product or service. This meant that whatever stage of the buyer journey they were at, even at start in the research phase, they had to speak to a sales rep – or meet them face-to-face.
While cold calls might not have been exactly welcomed, they certainly had higher success rates than today. Many technology companies also had their sales team on the road, turning up at businesses looking for the opportunity to speak to a decision maker. These methods worked, because there weren’t any other options.
This of course has changed dramatically. Since the early 1990s, with digital transformation, the buyer has increasingly taken control of the selling process, especially in the early stages. In fact it is now estimated that on average buyers are almost 60% through the sales process before they make direct contact with a sales rep or their company.
Anyone who has been faced with a list of prospects to call will know that the vast majority a) won’t have time to speak, b) won’t want to speak to you – ever! or c) will request you point them to information so they can learn more in their own time, on their own terms. However, when calling a qualified lead this pattern begins to change. Having done their initial research, if they’ve found the answers they need and your company has provided them with the right information, they’re ready to speak to you.
At this point the sales rep can start to take control of the deal and drive it through. But how do we get buyers to this point without any contact?
Getting Buyers 60% Through The Sales Process With Content
Content is the solution, but what kind of content does it need to be? A key issue for Product Marketing teams and their counterparts in Sales is to really understand what content assets are actually working, and when.
For example, putting a product sheet in front of prospect when they are only just beginning to identify what kind of SaaS product they need is not going to convert. Instead at this stage they’re more receptive to educational content that helps them understand the range of solutions available.
Below I’ve outlined the type of content product marketing needs to create to get prospects 60% through the sales process. But that’s not the end of it! Sales will then need additional content to close the deal – it’s content hungry world!
The first step as any marketer knows is to attract prospects to your solution. At this stage many prospects will have no idea what solution they need – they may not even be able to articulate what it is e.g. a sales enablement tool, or a content repository, or a CRM solution.
Instead they will be interested, and could be actively searching, for the answers to the problems or challenges they have. They’ll be interested in content around how to drive efficiencies in key functions or areas of their business, how to improve performance in their department, what support they need to give their team to achieve specific goals etc. etc. They may also be searching for information about what their competitors are doing that’s effective, or insights into how other companies have addressed the challenges they share.
At this attraction stage there are opportunities to write blog posts, PR articles, webpages and other digital content that’s educational and offers impartial advice. This type of content helps prospects understand what options are available to them, and builds trust and your company’s reputation as experts.
The next step is to create content that helps prospects to self-qualify. This about providing them with information that guides them towards your solution, but also minimises poor leads. Tools that help prospects decide if they have a genuine requirement are useful at this point – for example a checklist that highlights the key trigger points customers have that are aligned with your product. Benchmarking or comparison content is also valuable, focussing on factors that really differentiate your product from others – identifying where the value-add is.
Case studies and other content that validates what you say is important too. Prospects want to see how your product has delivered, and how it has helped companies like them. This is a good opportunity to help prospects self-qualify with highly targeted content. If your company’s target audience is enterprise customers, don’t share case studies featuring small businesses.
Now’s also a good opportunity to see how interested a prospect is by offering them the chance to provide an email address. This could be done with a lead gen – for example a downloadable piece of content like a whitepaper, or could be an offer of a demo.
At this point if the prospect is still with you, they’re a borderline Sales Qualified Lead. The content they’ll now be interested in is much more product specific. Our research shows that content that has a technical focus is more engaging at this stage of the buyer journey. Pricing information, technical integration content, product overviews, service level agreements etc. are all important for the prospect to make the decision to contact your team.
If you know who the prospect is, perhaps they’ve provided you with an email address, you have an opportunity to pre-empt the call and start to take control of the sale. I would recommend that you use your technical content as an incentive to make direct contact. For example, you could invite a lead to login to your online sales portal where all this information is stored.
By doing this you’ll get much better visibility on the lead and what their requirements are, and then share content aligned with the key decision makers’ needs, and the company’s objectives.
If you’ve found this interesting you may also be interested in our downloadable Buyer-Centric Sales Cheat Sheet that provides really useful information for sales reps once you’ve got to 60%. Get your copy here.
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