5 Tips To Improve Your Use of Content In The Sales Cycle

Today, Postwire and Nimble are cross-posting on our respective blogs (see Nimble’s article on the Postwire blog). Recently Postwire and Nimble collaborated to produce an infographic about the biggest names in saleswomen throughout history. We’ll be publishing it on our blogs tomorrow, and hoping our audiences will find it as inspirational a collection of superior humans as we do.

We are happy to share this timely piece about content written by Cliff Pollan — co-founder and CEO of Postwire. Postwire is a software company charting a better way to engage and nurture your clients by removing the pain of email attachments and portal searches and providing an easy, visual way to organize, share, and collaborate on content.

There’s a new role of content in the sales cycle: Always Be Helpful. Buyers are too savvy otherwise. They don’t care about your product or service. They care about the problems and opportunities they face and how your expertise can educate and help them solve their problems or exploit opportunities. One of the best ways to help them with and educate them on how you can solve their problem is through the use of content.

Content comes in many forms. Within your corporate walls, it likely takes the form of blog posts, product videos, presentations, sell sheets, webinars, eBooks, and whitepapers, to mention a few. Outside of company boundaries, good content can also include industry publications, third-party research, and blog posts from well known thought leaders.

But one of the problems we face as salespeople is that more content than ever is now being created. You likely have trouble dealing with the inflow of content from your marketing team and the world at large. Imagine what your buyers must feel like — they’re consuming Twitter streams, LinkedIn publications, company emails, Quora threads, Facebook posts, articles, blogs, and on and on. They have access to any content they need at their fingertips. So how do you cut through the clutter and make sure your content gets in front of your buyers and is as helpful as possible?

#1 Put the person in personalized.

Buyers expect individualized, easy-to-access and easy-to-share information. The web has raised the bar for personalized content, as anyone can now access information from virtually anywhere, and Amazon knows us better than some of our relatives. Improve your understanding of buyers by mapping out their personas and their associated buying process. Combine this with information you have about them from social media, conversations you have had with them, and other pieces of information you may have available to present personalized, easy-to-access, digestible content that educates them based on their need and spot in the buying cycle.

Remember, you’re on the buyer’s time, so don’t be interruptive. Taking a personalized approach may mean avoiding emails with lots of large attachments that are overwhelming to go through and impossible to find and share. Use tools like Postwire to overcome this and share  PDF documents, videos, photos, web links, collateral, and more on a one-to-one or account group basis. And use tools like Nimble to help you track your interactions with contacts — personal, social, and activity-based — so you can build personal business relationships and gain critical insights into how you should personalize your sharing to ensure you’re sending only the most relevant information that will have the greatest impact.

#2 Make sense of information overload.

Buyers typically go through a massive amount of information via web searches, online discussion groups, and crowd-sourced feedback before they get in touch with you. They discover vendors, track trends, read blog posts, watch videos, connect on Quora and LinkedIn, and maybe even more. The bottom line is that they form opinions before they talk with you. What you can do to help lead them to your view is engage them as early as possible. Provide relevant content, keep it up-to-date, and link it to their pain points. Don’t just send the 20-page ebook, but call out points that are most relevant to them. That’s how you demonstrate value from the outset in a world of information overload, and it’s how you get noticed. Generate and publish content that speaks to your potential buyers, then nurture them along with relevant content to intelligently engage them at each step of the buying cycle. Do this well, and buyers will not only need to speak to you, they’ll want to.

#3 Decrease myopia.

Your job is to show buyers a new perspective. It may seem counter-intuitive, but successful sales often require giving buyers a novel and unique perspective about how to solve their problems. You can help this by providing illustrations to support your approach. Case studies, research, analyst reports, whitepapers, articles, and eBooks strengthen your point-of-view and help your buyer consider theirs.

#4 Feel their pain.

You’re a central hub of knowledge, connecting very similar people with similar problems across many companies. Use this information to share insights you’ve learned from working with others in parallel situations. Show buyers you understand what is on the line for them, and that you can help them deliver the results they need because you’ve done it before. You must solve problems, not sell products. As Forrester explains,“The traits in a salesperson that executives find valuable and strategic, namely focusing on solving a problem and on driving an end result for them were the least common traits perceived by buyers.” Consequently, it makes sense that buyers welcome salespeople who demonstrate problem-solving acumen. In fact, also according to Forrester, 69% of executives take an appointment when a vendor addresses an existing business problem. Figure out what problem you’re addressing, and work with your buyer using your domain expertise and shared content to demonstrate how you’ll solve their problems.

#5 Streamline for sharing and approval.

According to research by IDC, the size of buying teams has grown by approximately 40% over the past two years. This means more influencers are stirring the pot. Effective selling today requires convincing more people – even unknown ones – in less time. You must convince more decision-makers at the same time you’re under pressure to shorten the sales cycle. Who ever said life is fair, right? But what you can do to help even the playing field is equip buyers with the tools they need to sell on your behalf to key influencers in the decision-making process. In doing this you are enabling them to gain internal support by packaging your expertise in a way that makes it effortless for them to distribute and for influencers to consume. As we all know, an endorsement from a colleague is often the strongest one you’ll get. Why not make it easier to get to “yes”?

I sincerely hope these tips improve your use of content in the sales cycle and help to position you as the the problem solver and industry expert to your buyers. Do this and the end result will be you closing more deals.

Download Cliff’s newest eBook, Be Relevant or Be Deleted: The Top 10 Ways to Sell Value and upgrade the way you sell by trying Postwire for free. If you want to know more about Postwire, watch this video.