As we welcome in a new year, people around the world will once again participate in a familiar seasonal ritual. No, we aren’t referring to the annual “I’ll never go into a shopping mall again” pledge. We’re talking about setting resolutions for the new year.

In the same spirit, your organization may have committed to improving the way sales uses content in meetings in the year ahead. Good sales content management gives prospects a better experience, shortens sales cycles, and increases deal sizes and win rates.

Here are five resolutions, a bit of advice, to point your organization toward those benefits:

Resolution #1: Make content findable
According to research by the CMO Council, sales reps spend up to 40% of their time looking for content, or recreating content to fit their needs.

In the year ahead, resolve to make your sales content more findable by:

  • Organizing content based on pre-set variables (e.g. buyer persona, use case, industry, deal stage, objection handling, etc.)
  • Tagging content so that it’s easy to find via keyword search
  • Adding summaries and notes, so sales reps can quickly grasp how to use each piece of content
  • Publishing all content to a single, centralized cloud-based repository

As a bonus: by covering all of the above you’ll not only empower your sales reps to meet their quotas and earn their bonuses, but you’ll make their jobs easier. That’ll make them much happier and more engaged, which can transform good performers, into legendary rainmakers.

Resolution #2: Align sales and marketing
A survey by Showpad and Demand Metric found that sales reps don’t use 70% of the content created by marketing teams. Granted, some of this is because (as noted above) sales reps can’t find what they need. But that’s not the whole story.

Sometimes, sales reps can find content – or as least they know where it is – but they choose not to use it, because they think it’s ineffective, outdated or off-message. Or they just haven’t read it. Fortunately, this situation has a straightforward fix: align sales and marketing teams so that they’re supporting each other’s success instead of impeding it.

To that end, resolve in the year ahead to:

  • Put a dedicated communication channel in place that lets sales reps provide feedback to marketing teams on specific pieces of content, types of content, and future content needs.
  • Give marketing teams the resources they need to provide sales reps with the latest research, trends, and competitive information, so that reps are prepared for every conversation and presentation.   
  • Make success a group effort, and remind everyone that they’re in this together. Marketing teams can feel alienated because they don’t get credit for generating customers. And sales reps can feel that marketing teams don’t appreciate that, as my colleague Kyle Parrish aptly observed, “selling is really f*!@^%g hard.”  

And if the above isn’t enough to get you excited, consider this: as noted by Marketo, organizations in which sales and marketing teams plan and work cohesively enjoy a 38% increase in closed deals and a 36% reduction in customer churn versus their less aligned competitors.

Resolution #3: Increase active selling time
If you think that your sales reps must be firing on all cylinders because they’re incredibly busy, then beware of mistaking quantity for quality. According to CSO Insights, the average sales rep only spends 35.9% of their time actively selling – this despite the fact that 82% of B2B decision-makers think sales reps are under-prepared. So yes, your sales reps may be working hard. But are they working smart? And better yet, are you enabling them to work smart?

This year, boost IQ and increase your sales reps’ active selling time by:

  • Aligning content to all stages of the customer’s journey (discovery, education, validation, proposal, close)
  • Using performance indicators to track which pieces of content are getting the job done at different deal stages, use cases, and so on
  • Sending proposals instead of quotes or contracts, in order to increase engagement and improve results
  • Building a library of templates to drive engagement while improving efficiency

Resolution #4: Measure content’s performance
Content marketing automation tools are a good news, bad news thing. The good news is that these tools – once they’re implemented, configured and tested, which isn’t always fun – can significantly reduce time and manual labor, track customer behavior, and qualify leads. All of these are major advantages.

The bad news is that these stack consolidators are designed to monitor early stages of the customer lifecycle; i.e. content that pulls traffic, and generates leads. They’re less useful when it comes to shedding light on which pieces of content are working at later stages of the customer lifecycle, which is when qualified leads become paying customers.

Fortunately, you can get the content ROI visibility you need by resolving to:

  • Change the paradigm in your organization so attention is paid to what, how and why content moves through the complete lifecycle – and not just the early stages
  • Use technology to automatically track bottom-of-funnel analytics for content used in sales meetings, presentations, etc., objectively calculating the true value of content, and comparing those figures with production and distribution costs.
  • Give marketing teams the resources and budgets they need to truly support the end-to-end sales process – and not just lead generation and prospect nurturing.

Resolution #5: Support a consultative sales process
As noted by Customer Experience Insights, today’s customers want a more personalized sales experience. And at the same time, an IBM study found that four out of five customers don’t feel that brands “really know them.” These oppositional forces – expectation for more personalization on one hand, and perceived neglect on their other – create a gap that customers can fall into…and disappear from the buyer’s journey.   

To close the gap, support a consultative sales process in which your sales reps:

  • Conduct more in-depth, personalized selling helping them easily access content aligned with each specific customer’s pain points, questions and requirements
  • Support them with software – whether it’s Showpad or not, it’s important that they can do things like easily follow up with a prospect by sharing the content they presented in a meeting, and then see how that prospect interacts with the content
  • Track prospect interaction and engagement, and use this insight to customize follow-up for maximum impact  

The Bottom Line
Per University of Scranton research, just 8% of people achieve their New Year’s Resolution goals. But a big reason for this massive failure rate isn’t a question of willpower; it’s a matter of strategy. That is, many people set worthy goals, but neglect to put a realistic action plan in place to make them happen.

If your goal in the year ahead is to improve sales content management, then the above will help you safely and strategically map the way forward – so that when you eventually reflect on “the year that was,” you’ll do so triumphantly. It may even be your best year ever.

Last update: February 22, 2017

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