Have you ever wondered why your content isn’t more effective or why your sales reps aren’t using it? You’re not alone. According to IDC, a staggering 90% of selling content is never actually used in selling. Worse yet, according to Forrester Research an average of more than $135,000 is spent each year in support costs for each sales person. Yet despite ample sales resources and support, statistics show that many companies aren’t experiencing the results they had anticipated.
Why is this happening? Certainly there are many reasons, however, a top contributor is the discrepancy between the content sales reps need and the content they are given.
The unified objective of sales, marketing and training is to achieve optimal sales force productivity. This is how revenue increases and the business succeeds as a whole. However, despite this shared goal, there is rarely collaboration and alignment among these departments.
Even with the best intentions, they tend to work independently of each other, each department producing the content it thinks the sales force needs.
As a result, sales reps are often equipped with misaligned content. They are provided resources that frequently fall short of what they truly need to be successful.
Fortunately this problem can be solved by simply taking a different perspective on your content strategy. Push less. Pull more.
Step 1: Align.
The best way for sales, marketing and training to achieve their common goal of achieving optimal sales force productivity is to align efforts. Work together to deliver the tools that will support your sales team from initial learning, into practice opportunities, all the way through performance.
Collaborate to provide the unified support they need to be most successful.
Depending on your organization, collaboration among these departments may not be an easy task.
However, when we continue working in our respective silos, each doing what we think we need to do to best equip the sales force for success, we end up pushing content onto our sales team. Content that doesn’t typically work together and may even counteract productivity.
Consider this example of a company that has integrated mobile technology as a key part of its sales support efforts:
As part of her on-boarding, a sales rep is equipped with an iPad. She uses that iPad throughout orientation to follow along with the presentations, complete eLearning courses and read through training materials.
She leaves orientation with a strong foundation of knowledge to get started in her new role. However, it’s not likely that she will go back and access most of the courses or information provided to her during orientation, because it was really created with introductory training in mind, not ongoing sales support.
As she begins her work out in the field, the rep uses a CRM platform setup and managed by sales. She accesses the tool from her smartphone, iPad and laptop to manage contact information, notes from sales meetings and track progress of her sales goals.
Additionally, within the CRM she is able to access PDFs of sales literature like product sheets, marketing collateral like brochures and PowerPoint presentations.
The CRM system lives up to it’s name (Contact Relationship Management) in that it is an excellent tool for managing contact information. And because so much contact and meeting information is recorded here, it is also a great tool both for her and for her sales manager to see how each prospect is progressing through the sales cycle and contributing to her overall goals.
However, when it comes to content management, the CRM falls short.
Anytime the rep needs sales and marketing materials, she toggles around within the CRM’s interface to find the relevant materials and use keywords to search for the right information.
Once she has the content narrowed down, she must quickly take a look at the date the different pieces were uploaded, as well as some of the descriptions to ensure she opens the correct, most current materials.
It’s inconvenient and time consuming to say the least.
Over time, she begins to realize the best way to get the content she needs is to call the marketing manager and ask to have the appropriate content emailed to her. Sometimes she just goes into meetings without any content at all.
As the sales rep begins to develop habits and routines that work for her, she finds herself working further and further outside of the systems set up by sales, marketing and training. She develops her own system of files, materials, record keeping, product information, and time management.
It’s not ideal, but it works.
Unfortunately, this example and other situations that leave sales reps scrambling for the right information are pretty common.
According to a recent survey, as much as 40% of a sales professional’s time is spent searching the information and knowledge required to do her job. This inefficiency and misalignment is taking a toll. So much so that 58% of buyers report that sales reps are unable to answer their questions effectively.
And according to research from Sirius Decisions, the number one reason for not meeting sales quotas?
The inability of sales people to effectively communicate value messages.
Sales reps are hungry for content that is directly applicable to their everyday challenges and helps them be more productive. But in order to use it, it must also be easily accessible when they need it.
Alignment of sales, marketing and training is the first step towards providing this content and support.
Step 2: Deliver.
Those involved in supporting a sales force might cringe to learn that sales people have forgotten upwards of 85% of new content and skills just four weeks after it is presented to them.
This combined with the challenges we now know they face when attempting to locate the right information at the right time helps us begin to understand why our content isn’t more widely used and isn’t as effective as we want it to be.
With sales, marketing and training aligned, you can work together to leverage technology and create a unified system that will eliminate the sales reps’ constant search for the right content.
You can deliver what they need, so they can “pull” it anytime they need it.
One way to do this is with a mobile sales force productivity app. Apps work because they allow you to provide content reps can easily access when they need it most, as opposed to having it pushed upon them as it becomes available.
The problem with this latter option is that it comes with the expectation that the rep will not only remember that the content you provided exists, but also how and where to access it later when they need to use it. Instead, technology can take all the required thinking, sifting and organizing out of the process for the rep.
There is nothing wrong with being proactive and creating content that helps your sales team perform better. But when building an app for your reps, it’s important to keep the “pull” mentality in mind.
Remember that no two sales reps are exactly the same. They have different territories, varying levels of knowledge, diverse skill sets and distinctive learning styles. Each rep is going to require a different content mix than the next.
This is where individualization becomes a very important feature of your mobile app. Consider making it possible for your reps to set up preferences within the app to establish what content they are most interested in and make some decisions about how to access and organize it.
For example, one rep may be particularly drawn to training materials that are more interactive in nature and he might want to be sure he is fully informed about new products as they are launched. Therefore, he might elect to subscribe to receive notifications each time a new or updated interactive course is made available for new products so he can be sure he won’t miss them.
Another rep may find a lot of success when she uses product literature in sales meetings. She may also prefer to read through training materials as she has downtime, as opposed to going through courses. This rep may choose to receive updates about product literature and written training materials to ensure she is always informed of new resources that meet her preferences.
By using mobile technology to deliver content directly to your sales reps, you relieve them of the responsibility of having to search for and retrieve it on their own.
Additionally, if you allow your reps to individualize the content that is delivered to them, you shift your content strategy to more of a “pull” approach designed to empower reps to decide what content they need and when they need it.
Step 3: Ask.
Once you’ve aligned your efforts and you begin to deliver your collective content in a streamlined and individualized manner, it’s time to watch it go to work. Your sales, marketing and training teams have worked to create content that directly impacts your reps’ ability to sell, but did you hit the mark?
Is the content you provided what your sales reps really need?
The only way to find out is to ask.
Anyone who has ever provided content knows this is easier said than done.
Requests for feedback often go unanswered, simply because sales reps are focused on selling, not providing feedback. Also, while sales reps typically do want your help, they don’t always know how to communicate to you exactly what they need.
The best way to get answers when you ask what your sales reps need is to have technology do it for you.
Thankfully, the same sales force productivity mobile app described above that can deliver the right content to the right sales reps at the right time can also collect valuable feedback for you.
Without requiring anything from your sales reps, a well-designed app can collect data to provide visibility of the content that is and is not working, the holes in your content library that need to be filled, and which topics and formats seem to be most popular.
Simply by recording each rep’s user data and tracking the content they use, as well as when and how often they use it, the app can provide you with extremely valuable clarity. It can provide insights you wouldn’t be likely to get even if your reps were willing and able to provide you with their own feedback.
Step 4: Iterate.
With valuable feedback provided by your technology solution, you will begin to shift to a content strategy driven by the needs of your sales team.
You’re focused on providing the content your sales reps want to “pull” from sales, marketing and training. But to be most effective (and to get used by your sales reps) your content can’t stop here.
It must continue to grow, evolve and stay fresh.
Use the feedback provided by the app, as well as any other feedback received from sales reps or clients, to continuously improve the content. This important step is not one to be missed. Without it, the effectiveness of your content will quickly fizzle out and your efforts will fall flat.
For example, maybe your feedback tells you that your sales reps are regularly accessing training materials and courses for a particular product. The number of scheduled demos and closed sales for that product, however, remain stagnant. This may mean it’s time to revisit the training content to identify ways it can be improved.
Or perhaps you find that reps seem to gravitate to the shorter pieces of content and rarely access the longer, more in-depth items. This may be a nudge to go through your longer-form content and break it into smaller pieces.
Lastly, let’s say your reps seem to be doing really well with the tutorials and flash cards in your app and appear to be using the sales resources and marketing collateral for a new product, but their sales numbers aren’t lining up.
This could indicate that there is a disconnect between your content and the realities of the marketplace. This information could help you nip the potentially major problem of an ill-equipped sales force in the bud and refresh the content to be more effective for your sales reps.
When you apply the feedback delivered by your app to continuous iterations and improvements, you continue to optimize your content that really goes to work for your reps. When your content works, it doesn’t become part of that unused 90%. Instead, it’s a valued, effective part of the well-used, well-loved 10%.
Sales, marketing and training all want the sales force to be as productive as possible. They want to add value and provide content that the sales team will use.
The unfortunate reality is that the vast majority of the content created today is not used because it’s either not easily accessible or it’s not what the sales team needs – or both.
To avoid the abyss that content too easily falls into, sales, marketing and training must align efforts and focus together on the needs of the sales reps. You must deliver content in a way that is easy to navigate and individualized to the preferences of each sales rep.
But you can’t stop there.
It’s important to continue to focus on the reps by collecting, analyzing and applying feedback to continuously improving your content. Never stop iterating and providing fresh content to directly address the needs of the reps.
That’s what it’s about: helping them be as productive as possible. And it’s achieved by pushing less and pulling more.
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