The secret is out: content marketing is here, and it’s here to stay. Virtually every marketing department is now investing heavily in content marketing – defined as the technique of creating and distributing relevant content to attract a clearly defined audience – as old ‘outbound’ marketing tactics and their poor return on investment (ROI) fall by the wayside.

Yet, content marketing is still largely underutilized by sales teams. This is a mistake. In fact, sales managers and sales reps can benefit tremendously by leveraging content marketing.

Here are 7 reasons why sales must take advantage of marketing content.

1) Allows them to take ownership of the lead nurturing process

Lead nurturing is often viewed as the domain of the marketing department; data shows that when both sales and marketing play equal parts in lead nurturing, conversion rates skyrocket. Incubated leads need to be reached out to and checked in with every so often. Instead of just dropping these leads into a drip marketing campaign, your sales reps should take ownership and periodically send personalized content straight to these leads. Customized content coming directly from the rep that the prospect has already interacted with? Now that packs a powerful punch.

2) Reach a wider audience when prospecting

For your prospecting reps, content should be a holy grail. Making hundreds of cold calls each week will likely yield only a handful of meetings booked – not a great ROI on the reps’ efforts. While they still need to make their daily calls, these reps can add another painless avenue by sharing marketing’s best content via their own personal social networks. What if a cursory connection on LinkedIn has her interest piqued by this great eBook? What if a friend re-tweets a shared blog post on Twitter, which then grabs the attention of an unknown third party?

3) Shed light on a prospect’s previously unrecognized pain points

Oftentimes, prospects might not even know what they’re struggling with until it’s staring them right in the face. If your rep is in the very early stages of a conversation with a prospect, they can share some pieces of content with them, just to give the prospect an idea of what the company is all about. The prospect, sifting through those pieces of content, might suddenly stumble upon an issue that he had never previously thought about. That marketing content is now a conversation starter for the next time they interact.

4) Adopt a position as an educator

Nobody likes being sold to and, by extension, people don’t really like sales reps either. On the other hand, everybody loves teachers. To that end, sales reps stand a much better chance of connecting and communicating when they can come off sounding like a benevolent educator, rather than a self-serving sales rep. Sharing content is a great way for your reps to position themselves as thought leaders and educators, shifting the perspective of how they are viewed by prospects.

5) Prepare themselves before calls

Marketing content doesn’t necessarily have to be sent to prospects to be useful to sales. In fact, sales reps can turn to marketing content for a refresher on concepts before they get on calls. Know that you will be speaking to this prospect about conducting win / loss analyses by lead sources? Pull up that great post marketing wrote on that very topic months ago to refresh your memory on the topic.

6) Contribute to the content generation process

Of course, the relationship between sales and marketing should go both ways. Sales can really play a pivotal role by contributing to the content marketing process with ideas and experiences straight from the front-lines. If your reps are noticing that prospects keep bringing up the same objections or concerns, perhaps that should be spun into a blog post that immediately addresses all those concerns at once. Sales reps can really benefit by getting into the shoes of marketing too, helping them gain a more well-rounded perspective on the entire demand waterfall.

7) A written article is worth a thousand spoken words

Finally, sometimes content is simply a great substitute for what the rep was going to say on the phone call anyway. Instead of spending 5 minutes breaking down the nuances of sales forecasting by opportunity stages, sales reps can instead briefly touch upon the point and then say, “I could go on and on about this topic for hours. Would you prefer it if I sent you a blog post or eBook on that subject for your own perusal? We can then move on to another issue that concerns you.” Chances are the prospect will leap at the opportunity for the rep to stop droning on and on.

Sales managers and sales reps can benefit greatly by leveraging the content efforts and collateral produced by marketing. Don’t let all that great content go to waste. Work with marketing to truly unlock the great sales potential of content marketing.

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