What is it really like to be a successful B2B sales rep, dialing for dollars and working hard to close deals every day? Instead of speculating, we went straight to the source and asked sales reps from a number of companies exactly how they sell – what works, what doesn’t, and why.
Unsurprisingly, some of the best sales reps in the business are focused on using marketing content to better engage prospects. They’re sending out case studies, blog posts, eBooks and more throughout the sales process to educate their buyers and close deals more easily. These talented sales reps discussed how they utilize content while selling, and how it can help you close deals, too.
Selling with Content
Sending a few case studies to a prospect halfway down the sales funnel just isn’t enough anymore when it comes to content. Content has become a natural extension of a sales conversation for many of the reps we interviewed. Sales reps are sending out specific blog posts, case studies and video tutorials to prospects based specifically on where they are in the funnel, according to Ian Adams, Sales Development Rep at Yesware and Founder of the Senator Club.
“I use content at every step of the sales process,” he revealed. “From the very first email introduction, all the way through to close – but particularly after I initially engage with a prospect. Because at that point, I now know what content is most relevant to them and can benefit them most.”
Tailoring content to prospects in this way can help you close deals faster, because it gives your buyers the information they specifically need to know. Maureen Wall, Business Development Rep at AG Salesworks, shared how she worked with a client known for serving large, enterprise-level customers, while she was selling to smaller customers who were hesitant to buy. There was content on the website geared to this audience, but it was buried and difficult to find.
“In order to close more deals, I had to be creative in sending the content directly to my prospects via email attachments or embedded links, altering my prospect’s perception before important conversations were held,” Wall said. “It worked! A few strategic accounts closed within a much shorter amount of time.”
If you’re trying to sell a more technical product, content can help your users better understand the details and specs, according to Donny Barnas, New Business Manager at Logentries.
“Blog posts and documents are helpful because they can serve as a resource to answer questions that might be over a salesperson’s head,” Barnas said. “If someone is having trouble with a certain feature and you are able to provide content that helps them figure it out, you are no longer the ‘evil, trickster of a sales guy’ – but instead the employee at Logentries who is truly looking to help.”
Keeping Engagement High
No matter how interested the prospect is after a great call or sales demo, it’s all too easy for people to lose focus or become confused. Content can help you push through periods in the sales process where engagement is lower, according to Marc Petito, Strategic Accounts Executive at Localytics.
“After the initial demo is completed there is always a quiet period where the sales rep loses control of the deal,” he said. “As the prospect is in the evaluation stage, content is a great way to stay on the prospect’s mind and act as more of a trusted advisor than a sales rep. Good sales reps leverage educational content to remain relevant with prospects – without coming off as overly salesy.”
Content can also help you maintain momentum on deals that may not close for a long time. Matt Sanda, an Account Executive at InsightSquared, shared a story of connecting with a newly hired Sales VP who wasn’t quite ready to buy yet.
“We talked about him transitioning to the role and his need for more information on creating a metrics-driven sales process,” Sanda explained. “I told him I’d send him our Operational Manual for Sales VPs. He really liked it, and then we re-engaged and had another more in-depth conversation about a month later. It’s still a little far out, but I’m getting closer to him evaluating the product.”
“By using content, we’ve already built rapport,” he continued. “It gives you credibility as more of a trusted advisor, instead of someone trying to push product at every chance they get. ”
While sending content via email will always work, social selling is yet another tool in your arsenal. Some prospects may ignore your email in their inbox, but will be incredibly receptive to content shared on LinkedIn or Twitter. You simply have to find the channel that works for you.
“I leverage content throughout the sales cycle to engage customers and prospects through both traditional and social channels,” said Rich Stone, Global Account Manager for TechTarget. “Typically, I share links to our marketing-driven Mktr2Mktr blog on LinkedIn and Twitter.”
In addition to social media, Sean Kester, Head of Sales Development at SalesLoft, relies on independent product reviews to help convince prospects. Instead of telling prospects that customers love the product and offering up a case study, he offers a link instead.
“We use resources like G2Crowd for social proof,” he said. “I send them a link as soon as as possible and say, ‘Don’t take my word for it, see what our users have to say.’”
Some prospects will be more likely to trust these anonymous reviews than your in-house case study. There simply is no wrong way to share content, and different reps have different approaches that work for them, and their company.
Finding the Right Balance
There is no wrong way to offer content to prospects, but many reps warned that you should be careful about overwhelming your prospects with too much content. Remember, your marketing content took a lot of time and money to produce, and you shouldn’t give it away without thought. Sanda said sales reps should remember that the content you’re giving away is a powerful value-add for prospects.
“I don’t like to bombard people with our content because I feel like it decreases the value and the likelihood that they’ll actually open it,” he said. “When I do send it, I make sure it’s very valuable.”
Matthew Virzi, Account Executive at Localytics said he’s happy to have a lot of content on hand, so that he can be better armed for each particular customer situation.
“As long as a piece of content is relevant and applicable to the conversation, I would recommend leveraging it,” he said. “If you’re using content without any real purpose, then it can become a problem. Just like when customers have trouble understanding what info to trust and what to ignore, you need to frame the discussion in order for the content to be useful.”
If you’re not using content like these sales reps, it may be time to re-think your selling strategy.
Petito put it best: “Sales reps who don’t use educational content to nurture prospects are not good sales reps. Used at the right time and in the right context, marketing content can help establish thought leadership and move a deal along.”