When you think about who creates the content your salespeople and other customer-facing professionals use to engage prospects and customers, you probably think about your marketing team. For many leaders, marketing is synonymous with content. Whether it’s branding, demand generation or website creation, marketing is all about content.
But you might be surprised to discover that marketing only creates about 39 percent of the content salespeople need.
That’s just one of the interesting findings from our 2017 Sales Enablement Optimization Study that we cite in our new book, “Sales Enablement: A Master Framework to Engage, Equip and Empower a World-Class Sales Force.” To put the finding into context, here’s a breakdown of the percentages of sales content created by other teams, as reported by our study participants:
- Salespeople – 18 percent
- Product management – 18 percent
- Sales enablement – 16 percent
- Sales operations/legal – 6 percent
- Other – 4 percent
Are these percentages off-kilter? Or are they about where they should be for optimal sales performance? There’s one aspect of these results that we don’t find troubling (though others might) and two that we do. Let’s start with the one that is not a problem from our perspective.
Marketing Isn’t Shirking Its Responsibility
Leaders who see marketing as synonymous with content might wonder why marketing doesn’t create all the content salespeople need. After all, the other teams (especially sales) have better things to do than create brochures and presentations, right?
To understand why marketing shouldn’t create all the organization’s content, you need to look at marketing’s role in the sales funnel. Typically, marketing is responsible for filling the top of the funnel with qualified prospects. The marketing team’s performance metrics tend to focus on lead generation – and so does most of the content it creates.
As prospects pass down the funnel, they need different types of content. It’s easier to see this if you look at it from the perspective of the customer. We segment the customer’s path into three phases: Awareness, Buying, and Implementation and Adoption.
In the Awareness phase, the customer needs the type of content marketing is good at creating, such as product brochures that sell the benefits of a solution and help the customer envision how they might solve a challenge. However, as prospects travel down the funnel, they require more detailed content. While marketing may remain involved, its role diminishes as the subject matter experts from teams like product management take over.
It’s Time to Re-evaluate the Division of Labor
So, if the percentage of sales content created by marketing isn’t an issue, what is? The most obvious problem is that salespeople create 18 percent of the content they need.
If we were talking only about content the salesperson tailors for specific customers (e.g., presentations), it wouldn’t be an issue. But too many salespeople are creating content from scratch. Sometimes, the content they need isn’t available. At other times, the available content is inconsistent, ineffective or difficult to use. Whatever the reason, time spent creating content means less time spent selling, and that’s a problem. According to our 2017 World-Class Sales Best Practices Study, salespeople only spend about a third of their time actively selling.
The second issue is more visible when we dig into the individual answers in the survey and the feedback we receive from our clients. Time and again, we find that no one team is responsible for coordinating the content salespeople need along the entire customer path.
In one very realistic scenario, marketing might create a brochure for the Awareness phase using value messaging it developed, while product management creates a presentation for the Buying phase using different value messaging, and sales operations creates a proposal template that doesn’t leverage either set of value messages. With this level of inconsistency, it’s no wonder sales ends up creating its own content!
Sales Enablement Needs to Take Control
The answer to resolving these issues lies in sales enablement. No, your enablement team doesn’t have to create more content. It simply needs to orchestrate better to improve the consistency and effectiveness of the content.
Orchestration is the art of producing effective enablement services by enlisting the aid of cross-functional teams based on a central design point: the customer’s path. As shown by the data from our study, multiple teams are already involved in creating content. By focusing everyone’s efforts on the most-needed content, enablement can increase the value of content for sales. In many cases, the enablement team can also decrease the time other teams waste creating content that is either not needed or not useful.
Enablement also needs to orchestrate the process of creating and delivering content. This starts with defining the content to be delivered, including how it is designed. Here, enablement may need to collaborate with individuals from other teams, such as design experts in marketing. Enablement’s role extends all the way through delivery of content and evaluation of its usefulness – two tasks that require collaboration with sales operations.
Finally, enablement must ensure consistency across content services. This is achieved by creating a common set of value messages used throughout all content. Again, enablement may need to collaborate with other teams, most commonly product marketing and product management, to make this happen.
To be clear, orchestration does not mean enablement needs to do everything. Effective content (customer-facing and internal enablement content) requires collaboration with others, and that isn’t always easy. For ideas on how to foster cross-functional collaboration for a stronger, more effective enablement discipline, see our recent post: “How Cross-Functional Collaboration Accelerates Sales Enablement.”
Also, our long-awaited, comprehensive guide to sales enablement is now available. Order “Sales Enablement: A Master Framework to Engage, Equip and Empower a World-Class Sales Force” today.