Real Talk: Is Content Rendering the Sales Rep Obsolete?

Business.com / Marketing Strategy / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

The content explosion has blurred the lines between marketing and sales even more. Here's how to get clarity.

Content marketing has shifted the way consumers interact with brands.

With the rise of digital marketing, content is everywhere and successfully marketing your company’s products and services is no longer about placing a few ads and advertorials, but providing in-depth, valuable information that’s relevant to consumer interests and helps them solve key challenges.

This is the process through which many companies are now building trust with target audiences, attracting prospects and nurturing leads through the sales funnel.

Related Article: How To Make Content Marketing Work in a Boring Industry

In other words, sales reps are no longer the sole or primary source of information for buyers.

The Evolution of Content Marketing

Content marketing has become the new norm, but it’s also undergone quite an evolution of its own over the past several years. With Big Data making it possible to personalize messaging like never before, gone are the days of creating content for the sake of creating content in hopes that it appeals to the majority of your audience. Today’s content marketing efforts are highly focused, precise, and targeted to the individual prospect at just the right time.

Content marketing doesn’t just attract prospects to the modern sales funnel; it plays a critical role in nurturing leads and enabling buyers to self-educate and gain brand recognition, even facilitating customer loyalty, before buyers ever engage with a sales rep.

Content is a “Longer-Burn” Strategy

Wheelhouse Advisors points out that content marketing is a longer-burn strategy than the old-fashioned method of cold calling. “Back in the day when you were cold-calling potential leads, you’d be able to gauge pretty quickly whether there was a realistic chance of a sale. And, if they decided to buy, it would happen quickly. Content, on the other hand, is a longer-burn strategy.”

Some businesses, Wheelhouse Advisors explains, hope that they can simply create some fantastic content, prospects will read it, and then buy. But the reality is much more complex, as Rand Fishkin illustrates in a SlideShare presentation for Moz, Why Content Marketing Fails.

how content marketing works

Related Article: 10 Surprising Facts About Millennials and Content Marketing

Instead of the “if-you-write-it-they-will-buy” approach, content marketing should be thought of as a channel through which you can establish and build long-term, trusting relationships with key prospects. And because there are dozens of touch points at which prospects can engage with your business, and each prospect may be at a different point in the buyer’s journey, one-size-fits-all content has become obsolete.

The Content Explosion

As the need for more personalized content only continues to grow, marketing professionals and sales reps have found themselves faced with a new obstacle: the massive explosion of marketing and sales content within your organization. 

If you must create personalized content for every buyer at each stage along the buyer’s journey, not only is this extraordinarily time-consuming, but it creates a massive library of content that’s often duplicated in whole or in part. That’s because it simply because it takes too darn long to find content suitable for your unique selling scenario that you can easily adapt and personalize to your buyer’s specific pain points.

What’s more, this isn’t just a problem for sales reps, but for buyers, too: Consumers feel overwhelmed when they’re overloaded with massive volumes of content, particularly when it’s not quality content or doesn’t solve their problems.

As a result of these influences, sales reps now spend as much as 70 percent of their time not selling, but performing other tasks, gathering information, and creating content to support their sales process. So if sales reps are spending the majority of their time doing something other than selling, what takes up the bulk of their time? According to data from IDC, McKinsey, and SiriusDecisions, sales reps spend the most time on:

  1. Presentation building, including searching, compiling data and content, and finalizing.
  2. Updating the company’s CRM system, including documenting meeting notes, updating opportunity records, and entering other information.
  3. Navigating multiple platforms, such as CRMs, databases, email, knowledge repositories, and the many other tools and solutions most organizations employ today.

It’s not that content marketing has rendered the sales rep obsolete – quite the contrary. It’s just that content has changed the game of sales and shifted the role of the sales rep, resulting in a transition from traditional selling to a more consultative approach in which the sales rep serves as an advisor to prospective buyers, arming them with valuable insights and information to help them make buying decisions. On the downside of this scenario is the fact that the role of the sales rep has grown increasingly complex over the years, culminating with the obstacles that exist today when sales reps don’t even spend half of their time doing what they do best: selling.

Solving the Sales Content Challenge

Despite the many challenges of the large volume of sales content most organizations are managing today, sales-focused organizations aren’t out of options. In fact, the right solution can not only enable sales to close more deals by providing more effective, personalized, targeted content unique to prospects at every stage of the buying journey, but it alleviates the substantial amount of time your sales reps are spending searching for and customizing content. The key elements of an ideal sales content/sales enablement solution include:

  • A central repository for marketing and sales content.
  • Tagging capabilities that allow for quickly and easily locating the best content for each unique selling scenario.
  • Content analytics, arming sales reps with critical data that reveals the most effective content for prospects matching a specific buyer persona in solving specific challenges at individual touch points along the buyer’s journey.

By providing a means through which sales reps can quickly locate the best content for each selling scenario, sales reps spend far less time searching for and tracking down the content and data they need to create sales presentations. It’s not uncommon for sales reps to simply re-create content and presentations that already exist, because it’s too cumbersome to track down the existing assets.

Related Article: Create Better Content With These Content Marketing Rules to Live By

The right solution means less duplication of effort, more effective, targeted content to convert prospects to buyers, and better relationships with customers. It allows your sales reps to play the role that they should be playing in the modern sales climate: that of a trusted advisor. It cultivates brand loyalty and affinity with both new and existing customers, and allows sales and marketing to collaborate like never before – an essential element in today’s world, where the line between marketing and sales is increasingly blurred. Above all, your sales reps will regain up to 70 percent of their time – because now they can achieve in minutes or hours what was taking them days or even weeks.

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