Are You Boring Prospects? 3 Steps to Effective Content Selling

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Are your sales team’s lackluster follow-ups boring prospects and losing deals? KnowledgeTree CEO Daniel Chalef explains how to transform the conversation via content selling.

Hands up if your sales reps send “Just checking in…” emails to prospects. Are your prospects actually responding, or are they glossing over them out of sheer boredom?

Best practice dictates that your reps should be reaching out to prospects regularly. However, is that contact filled with content that engage, challenge, and educate buyers? Are the messages sent ultimately moving prospects through the buyer journey to a successful close?

According to a recent DemandGen Report, 95% of buyers chose solution providers that arm them with the content necessary to navigate the buying process. Moreover, Forrester found that 61% of buyers think sales people add no value to the conversation besides product knowledge.

That’s pretty scary stuff right there. So, how should you — as a sales leader — respond?

What is Content Selling?

Daniel Chalef, CEO of KnowledgeTree

Content Selling (as opposed to Content Marketing) is the practice of using messages and content in sales interactions to assist prospects along the buyer journey to a successful close.

If you’re genuinely focused on helping customers be successful, you can’t force them through the buyer journey. Content selling is about enabling (and at times provoking) prospects to move themselves to a close. This requires your sales team to leverage content that resonates, educates, entertains, and challenge. Your prospects must see your reps as trusted advisors.

This level of engagement can be a tall order for many teams, particularly for companies who hire relatively inexperienced sales reps to meet increasing sales goals. You may also be asking yourself whether you have access to enough relevant content, and importantly, how you can get your sales team using this content.

Follow these three steps, and you’ll be implanting content selling practices in your team in no time.

3 Steps to Effective Content Selling

At a high-level, effective Content Selling requires great content, a motivated and educated sales team, and a clear understanding as to what actually resonates with your prospects.

1) Understand What You Have

Whether you’re an early stage start-up, or a well-funded growth company, you may be surprised by how many sales assets you have at your disposal.

Firstly, what is your marketing team using at the top of the funnel to turn web visitors into leads? There’s likely an array of content, ranging from product-specific to thought-leadership material covering your industry or category. The content may take the form of blog posts, articles, videos, eBooks, and white papers.

Secondly, what industry or category blogs, and other resources, do you and your colleagues read? Independent, non-competitive content can be very appealing to buyers.

Consider who you sell to: are there specific industries that you target? Lines of business? User personas? Other buyer characteristics that you use in your sales plays?  Identify several of the most important characteristics.

Look across the content that you have access to, and consider which assets would resonate most for buyers presenting each of the above characteristics, and create a map of content to characteristics.

2) Publish, Educate and Empower

Ensure that the content you collected is easy to find. Your team doesn’t want to be searching for content across multiple sources. Find a central place to publish your content: an intranet / wiki / or sales portal often works. The closer to your team’s daily workflow you can get the content, the better, so try avoid adding friction to their finding and using the content.

Importantly, make sure to organize the content by the buyer characteristics that you identified above, and ensure that the content is easily discovered by your team based on these characteristics.

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Your sales team is unlikely to use all of this great content unless they buy in to the value of having rich sales conversations supported by content. Take time to walk your team through examples of how different types of content may be used, when in the buyer journey, and why.

A great way to leverage content in conversation is in support of social selling. If your team is monitoring your prospect’s social media presence, and company / market dynamics (mergers, new legislation, etc), relevant pre-baked content can reignite conversations that may have gone cold.

3) Understand What Works, Kill What Doesn’t

Tuning what content your sales team uses is an iterative process. Your marketing team’s content marketing successes may provide initial hints as to what content resonates, and for whom, but conversations at the bottom of the funnel may present different characteristics, and content successful for driving demand may not be as useful when selling (never mind that your prospects may have already seen this content!).

Some of the content you selected in your initial collection exercise may not work as expected. When content isn’t resonating with prospects, you need to retire it, find new content that is more likely to work, and ensure that your reps use this new content in their conversations.

Be on the lookout for new content generated by your company, or by 3rd parties. Your marketing team are likely continually investing in blogs, and other material. Track your company’s twitter feeds as social media managers often tweet both your marketing team’s new material, and great content from outsiders. Helping your sales team find fresh, compelling content for use in their conversations ensures the success of your Content Selling strategy.

For more content selling insights, download KnowledgeTree’s free eBook: Content Marketing, Meet Content Selling.


Daniel_ChalefDaniel Chalef is CEO of KnowledgeTree, where he leads the ambitious goal of unlocking the value of sales and marketing collateral. He co-founded KnowledgeTree in South Africa and led the company through its relocation to the US and major series A and B funding rounds. Daniel was an early employee at South Africa’s highly successful and first Internet Service Provider. In addition to developing marketing solutions for Tesco Stores and Britvic Softdrinks, he’s been a guerrilla marketer (and sales rep) at two startups. Connect with him on Twitter @danielchalef.

Photo by: Rebecca Marshall

  • Couldn’t agree more Daniel! Content-marketing is different than content selling. Salespeople need their own content designed to support their selling process.

    I especially agree with this statement, “…conversations at the bottom of the funnel may present different characteristics, and content successful for driving demand may not be as useful when selling(never mind that your prospects may have already seen this content!).”

    Understanding what’s needed and at what stage, and knowing what’s working and what isn’t, is a complex process. The 3 steps you suggest are a great starting point.

    People will be hearing a lot about Content Selling going forward. Developing a lead is one thing, but converting leads into a closed deals requires it’s own unique and well thought-out content plan.

    • Daniel Chalef

      Thanks, Nancy. Glad you enjoyed the post! I’m hoping to expand on this post in the next few weeks…