The Connected Salesforce: Leading a Marketing Revolution
According to the 2015 Content Marketing Institute Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends Report, 86% of B2B marketers are using content marketing to strategically attract customers and drive sales. According to the same report, only 38% of B2B marketers felt that their content marketing initiatives were effective, down nearly 10% from the previous year.
If marketers feel that they’re not effectively leveraging content to drive business, why do 55% of the same audience plan to increase their content marketing budget next year? Are we regressing to the old days where massive marketing budgets were tossed into the advertising ring of fire to simply fuel our egos?
Source: B2B CMI 2015 Report
The short answer is no, but there’s a marketing revolution already taking place led by the “Connected Salesforce” – modern sales professionals who are recognized as experts in their industry by nurturing a strong network of authentic relationships with key decisions makers. They stay connected with their network by continuously providing value and are able to tap into those relationships when they see an opportunity.
Consulting with Content on a One-to-One Basis
There’s a reason top sales performers continue to crush their quota regardless of what content the marketing team has produced. They do this by building authentic relationships with potential prospects earlier on in the buyer’s journey to better understand their pain points. We’ve all heard the overused statistic that “buyers are 67% (or more) of the way through their purchasing process before engaging with a sales rep.”
That stat was put to rest at the 2015 SiriusDecisions Summit where a survey of over 1,000 B2B executives with 500M in purchasing power indicated that a sales rep was involved in their buying journey from the beginning. Not surprising that the highest level of engagement with sales reps occurs during the education phase of the buyer’s journey.
This is a huge opportunity to transform a salesforce into industry experts by providing consulting like services to potential buyers. Smart sales professionals use a healthy mix of content from both their marketing team and other trusted sources to build credibility with their relationships. Providing buyers with information from a variety of trusted sources positions salespeople as industry experts in the minds of buyers.
Building Trust Earlier on in Buyer’s Journey
There are no questions that content marketing is still incredibly valuable when selling to the enterprise, but perhaps our marketing teams and C-level executives expect more from their initiatives given the rise in resources allocated each year to those efforts.
An annual study from the Custom Content Council indicated that content marketing was a whopping $44 billion dollar industry in 2013, up 9.2% from the previous year. As many marketing teams struggle to balance the perfect mix of marketing automation fueled by content, there’s an opportunity for the sales team to get more involved in this process to help further customize the buyer’s journey and add an element of trust earlier on.
Your marketing team may produce engaging content for the masses, however, it’s incredibly difficult to create content that applies to all of your buyers. According to the CMI 2015 report, the average number of audiences that B2B marketers target is only 4. As a marketer having sold to the enterprise, I can say from experience in marketing a complex PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service), there’s not enough marketing budget or hours in the day to properly target and nurture those audiences with in-house content alone.
Sales Experts Keep Their Fingers on the Pulse
The most successful sales leaders I’ve worked with in the past include folks from some of the largest software companies (EMC, Pivotal Software) who manage incredibly complex sales which have multiple stakeholders involved, each with their own pain points. How did they possibly nurture these relationships during sales cycles that stretched over a year?
They did this by staying on top of the latest news and trends that were relevant to what they were selling. By sharing fresh content from trusted sources across the web, their relationships were thankful they had a consultant-like partner providing them with the content they need to make smarter decisions.
Regardless of how complex your products or services are, there’s no arguing that prospects want timely, relevant and unique content from trusted sources that provide real insight into their world. That’s not to say that sales folks should only be sharing “business” sided content.
Think about it. Some of your best business relationships probably came from a shared passion or interest that went far beyond the sale. Keeping your finger on the pulse doesn’t only apply to the business world, it applies to all areas of your prospects’ interests, passions, and professional goals.
Enterprise Selling Drives Innovation
Selling to the enterprise continues to drive innovation to the sales and marketing world and I’m excited to be a part of this revolution working with two founders who helped shape the marketing automation space during their days as founding members of Eloqua. Eloqua, founded in 1999 in Toronto, was one of the early innovators of marketing automation and eventually sold to Oracle for $957 million.
I strongly believe the next wave of innovation will combine automation, big data, and intelligence from the marketing world with a personal touch from sales experts who understand the value of a trusted relationship. A great quote from Steve Woods, ex-Eloqua co-founder, now CTO and co-founder of Nudge, goes something like this, “no matter how personalized marketing becomes, trust will always trump content.” Can anyone really argue with that?