If your sales strategy successfully integrates educational content, and your sales reps understand they can be helpful and knowledgeable instead of “salesy”, the entire sales process can become shorter and more effective. Also, educational content can help you build trust and a great relationship with your customers.
Educated leads make better quality leads. Why? Because informed prospects already know what they need and want and are aware of how your product can help them be successful. This will make any sales conversation easier, shrink the sales cycle and extend customer lifetime value.
When you share content that is aimed at informing and educating, you are showing expertise on the topic and helping your potential customers go through the buyer’s journey with a better understanding of what they need and how a solution like your product can help.
And that’s not all. When you are nurturing your leads, it’s important to have great content to share, to be helpful, instead of continuously send sales emails that usually have a less engagement. This content can be in the format of blog articles, guides, reports, courses, videos or any other formats you have available, and that are tailored to the specific needs and interests of the prospects you are nurturing.
In summary, content can be used to attract interest, close deals and delight your customers, making it an invaluable resource at all stages of the sales cycle.
How to integrate content in your sales process?
1. Think SMarketing (Sales + Marketing)
Start by meeting with marketing to understand what content is available, what content can be created and brainstorm on different ways to integrate it into your lead nurturing.
There are three things Sales and Marketing should always do together to make this relationship - and its outputs – more successful: define goals together, sit down and determine what makes a good lead, and draw up your buyer personas so that content is created focused on their specific needs and challenges.
This is where it starts. From what you determine on these topics, the content needs will be easier to define and assign to the different stages of the buyer’s journey, that will include stages handled by Marketing and stages handled by Sales.
2. Use educational content to guide your leads through the buyer’s journey
What exactly does this mean? As you may know, there different stages of the buyer’s journey. To simplify, let’s assume the 3 stages format:
Stage 1 - Awareness: this stage is when your potential leads may have not yet identified they have a problem to solve. So, content should be focused on making people aware of challenges that other companies or buyer personas face, in order to raise awareness to something they may be facing as well.
Stage 2 - Consideration: at this stage, your leads are already aware of the challenge they have and are looking for different types of solutions to fix it. The content designed for this stage should relate to how different solutions fit different profiles. Remember that your solution is only one of the different options available and at this stage you shouldn’t get too “salesy” yet. Educate, inform and think about this stage as a qualification stage. You don’t want every single lead in the market, you want the leads that have a higher probability of becoming (happy) customers.
Stage 3 - Decision: this is stage when your leads have already decided on a solution and are looking for the right supplier that fits their needs. Now is the time when your educational content will have a deep impact on their decision of what product to buy. Throughout this journey you have shared educational content that was helpful for them, and you have shown that you are an expert in the industry. So, your brand will be both familiar and trusted because you didn’t just try to sell, you offered education. And, at this point, your prospects will be ready to talk to a sales rep and close the deal with the partner that feels like the best fit.
This may sound like a daunting task. But remember you can automate this process, saving time in lead qualification and nurturing.
3. Use helpful and relevant content at the right time
Once you know who you are talking to, you will be able to tell what that person considers relevant and what is actually helpful for them. Sharing content just for the sake of having an “excuse” to reach out, is not the best use of these resources.
This means, the timing when you send a specific content is also important. Consider the buyer’s journey. If your lead is still not quite sure that they have a problem to fix, sending decision-stage content will have no effect – because your leads won’t yet know they need it.
But, how can you tell what stage your lead is at? It works differently depending on whether we’re talking about an inbound or outbound approach.
In an inbound approach, your leads will reach you so, depending on what content they converted into a lead (e.g. download an eBook, do a course) you will know in what stage of the buyer journey your lead is, and you’ll be able to continue the conversation having that in mind. For example, if your lead has downloaded a guide from the consideration stage, you’ll know that that lead is trying to find the right solution for their problem.
In an outbound approach, as it’s you who are reaching out to them, it is much more difficult to know the stage they are at. In this case, you are pretty much guessing based on demographic or sociographic information that you find on prospecting platforms, LinkedIn the company’s website, and so on. There are several strategies you can use for outbound sales (you probably know most of them) but, essentially, in this case, if you want to know in what stage they’re at, you will need to ask. And when you have an answer, act accordingly.
4. Make content easily available to the entire team
Your salespeople must know where to find the content they need at all times.
If you have a Sales Playbook, make sure to include the information of where your team can find the content they need for any stage of the sales process. Also, make sure you include skills training in your Sales Academy, to help your sales reps know how to use content to improve their performance, qualify and prioritize leads, and reduce the sales cycle.
An organized content repository, that is accessible to all, is a great way to make this more efficient. Ideally, organize the repository together with the marketing team. Together, decide on what is practical for both teams, and put in place a process for you and your team to get notified when a new piece of content is available, and how they use it.
How can you help your sales team see the benefits of using content in the sales process?
Here are a few tips:
1. Include a course in your sales training academy on how to use content in the sales process. Make it part of the sales reps’ onboarding courses, and the ongoing training programme of your salespeople. Also include, in this course, the benefits of using this strategy, where they can find the content they need, and how any automation you have put in place works.
2. Share success stories from yourself or other members of the team using this strategy, and include leads’ feedback on how they appreciated the content you shared with them – be this an article, a course, a guide, a case study, or any other pieces of content. With time, you and your team will know exactly what content works best and when.
3. Include this strategy in your sales playbook and sales team culture.
4. Make sure all content is easy to access, to digest and to share. Use a centralized – and organized – online repository.
In summary, there are plenty of benefits in using educational, helpful content in your sales process. Whether your team is charge of nurturing leads from start to finish or this journey is shared with the marketing team, don’t overlook the power that educational content can have in your sales results.
6 steps to create an effective Sales Training programme (download guide)
Managing an online sales training academy (take free certification course)
You may also find interesting:
How educational content can help shrink sales cycles (article)
Why having a video academy helps improve Sales and marketing KPIs (article)
How educational content helps your business grow (article)
Top 6 sales challenges and how to fix them (article)
7 ways to improve sales training in your company (article)
How to make the case for a Sales training Academy (article)
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