When was the last time your sales team applauded your marketing and/or customer reference teams for delivering a case study or lining up a great customer reference call for their use?
If this is not happening frequently enough (or at all) then perhaps we should consider the reasons.
I recently read a statistic from CSO Insights that only about 35% of a sales rep’s day is actually spent selling. Thinking this was way low, I asked Jim Franklin, a former CSO and VP of Sales, how his teams spent their work time. After a brief pause, he told me “One of the biggest challenges that I had to overcome as a sales leader was increasing the amount of time that my sales team actually spent selling. A huge time sink and distraction was having individual sales reps spending time creating or identifying the appropriate content.” Content like brochures, specifications/data sheets, white papers, case studies, presentations, the list went on and on. “It’s a major time suck and definitely not what I’d prefer them to be doing with their day,” he said. As he started confirming the CSO Insights stat was truer than I originally thought, I asked him out of all of that content his team sends, what was the most effective with their prospects? His answer was simple: The ones that included testimony from his happy, satisfied customers. Jim said customer-based content led to better buyer interaction and steered conversations along faster.
As a Marketing Director in charge of creating content to support our own sales processes, I can attest that none of my sales reps have ever thanked me for making brochures. After all, research proves the most effective (and increasingly the most preferred and trusted) marketing collateral is customer content like testimonials, case studies, video interviews, and customer quotes.
It is common sense that useful and effective sales enablement content will be used by sales teams and ineffective tools will sit on the shelf (or in the file folder on their laptops). If the most effective and useful marketing content in B2B sales cycles is the kind that activates the voice of the customer, ask yourself:
- What content are you spending the majority of your time creating?
- What kinds of content/tools do your sales teams really use to close deals?
- Who manages customer advocacy programs at your company?
Here are a few things to consider when creating customer-facing sales enablement content for B2B sales cycles:
Who Does Your Customer Trust?
Research confirms that the voice of the customer is critical in the B2B buying cycle. The Edelman Trust Barometer reports, 84% of decision makers begin their buying process with a referral, which means you better have happy customers willing to share your name when a peer initially reaches out to them, or risk not even getting invited to the game.
What’s more, SiriusDecisions research shows behind their own experiences, B2B decision makers rely most on the experiences of their peers when making their purchase choices. The B2B buyer study, which surveyed over 600 B2B marketers, also reports:
- Peers are the most trusted information sources, second only to industry analysts
- In the early B2B buying stages, peers are the second most influential information source, and 51% of respondents say peer referrals are their most favored content.
- In middle buying stages, peers are the most influential information source
- Near the end of the decision making process peers are rated the most trusted information source
With research like this, it’s clear your customer and your customer’s peers hold the real power in marketing and buying your solutions. Rather than reinvent the sales and marketing wheel, just leverage more of what already works with buyers!
Is Customer Content Easily Accessible?
Vendors are often completely shut out of the initial stages of the buying process as buyers do their own research. The stat goes: up to 70% of the buyer’s decision is made before they contact a sales rep. Since much of the buyer’s evaluation process is completed without the vendor, it is vital for the vendor to add value and immediately adjust to the buyer’s needs after being invited to the table. That means from that 70% mark forward, you better be darn sure your sales reps are agile and using the right customer proof points and peer testimonials to build trust and influence their decision (see above if you need a refresher) at the right times; else risk losing the deal all together.
Remember, only about 35% of a sales rep’s time is actually spent selling one-on-one with prospects. The rest of their time is spent on non-selling activities like searching for “stuff” to send to their prospects (or creating it themselves) to personalize interactions and move deals forward. That is why it is CRUCIAL for high value, relevant customer advocacy content to be easily searchable, findable and quickly deployable in a centralized repository.
It should only take a couple clicks and a few seconds for a sales rep to do a search that produces poignant voice of the customer collateral they can deploy within seconds to their prospect. Even better – it should already be pre-packaged for the rep by stage of the sales cycle and filtered against relevant data points from the sales opportunity record in their CRM. Customer reference content literally needs to be “goof proof” and enable reps to get what they need, when they need it, where they need it so they can spend more of their time in active selling conversations. After all – salespeople are paid for closing deals, not for being paper pushers, right?
How Personal Are Your Sales Experiences?
No two prospects are exactly the same. That means what resonates with one buyer may not resonate with the next one that looks just like it. The challenge today is making your sales and marketing messages truly resonate so the sales cycle moves along quicker.
This is again where your customer references can help. Let them reinforce the marketing message you’ve been pushing all along, but in their own words. Hearing it directly from a peer over a live call versus a vendor written white paper can make all the difference in making the buyer see you as credible and trustworthy of their purchasing dollars.
The other strategy is to put the buyer in the driver’s seat. Help sales by crafting content appropriate for different buyer personas. Let them view content that is targeted and relevant to them, but accessible at their own pace. Select a couple of relevant assets along with a customer video testimonial and present it in a trackable microsite. That way, you can be alerted when the buyer accesses it, and more importantly what they viewed on the microsite and for how long. This highlights their highest interests, enabling sales reps to tailor the follow up discussion to best solve the customer’s business challenges. With interactivity proven to increase product knowledge retention by 78%, it’s no wonder that companies are turning to sales & marketing strategies that put the customer in control.
When you boil it down, the end goal is to provide engaging informational knowledge exchanges that enhance the buying experience. Whether you slice it as customer marketing, customer reference influence, or sales enablement, the overlap and common thread is this: buyers seek out and respond best to the voice of your customer, and thus it is a “must have” in your sales and marketing strategies.
To hear how the best-of-the best companies in the world deploy this strategy, and the world-class tools they’re using to do it, contact RO Innovation.