Inbound marketing and lead generation seem to be synonymous. It makes sense — inbound marketing has proven to be an effective and cost-efficient method to capture online leads and build robust sales pipelines. Consequently, inbound marketing methodologies and the content that drives it seem to be a widely-accepted component of every CMO’s marketing strategy.
But sales teams shouldn’t let these valuable resources be labeled “For Marketing’s Purposes Only." In fact, the premium content that’s been created to attract visitors and convert leads can also be effectively leveraged to enable the salesperson and accelerate the sales process.
Below are five ways content can be leveraged to help position the salesperson as a thought leader/subject matter expert and guide the prospect to the next best step in their buying journey.
When people first realize they have a problem that needs to be solved, the last thing they want is to be sold to. At this stage, they don’t know enough to make a decision. They’re not even sure what they need. These prospects are at the top of the funnel. They are just beginning their buying journey. They know they’re not experts, so they want to seek the experts out and learn from them.
The salesperson who can guide them to the information they are looking for and help them learn will be well-positioned for later on in the buying/selling process. Whitepapers and eBooks that are written in a “non-salesy” way and void of marketing fluff are great tools to educate and inform.
2. Case Studies
No prospect wants to feel like a Guinea pig. Everyone wants to work with a proven solution or product. Prospects are often telling salespeople (with their words or maybe with just their attitudes), “Show me you’ve done this before and you know what you’re doing.” Reviewing a relevant case study in a sales appointment (virtually or in person) can be a great way to alleviate fear, build the prospect’s confidence in your solution, and encourage them to take the next step in the buying/selling process.
3. Blog Articles
Staying engaged with and nurturing long-term “not-ready-to-buy-yet” leads is a challenge that many salespeople struggle with. Staying engaged is different than staying in touch. Many salespeople resort to sending the “just checking in” or “just touching base” email every few weeks or months. These offer little value to the prospect and are often viewed as nothing more than annoyance.
Instead, stay in touch and stay engaged by sending links to relevant blog articles. It can be an article that was just published on your company blog, or it can be one the was published weeks, months or even years ago. It can even come from a third-party source. It’s important, though, that it be relevant to topics you’ve previously discussed with the prospect and to the problems your prospect is trying to solve. This is another method of building your personal brand of thought leadership/subject matter expert and it will set you apart from all the other salespeople that are chasing this business.
4. Webinar Recordings
When a prospect is ready to dive deeper and really get serious about finding a solution, they begin seeking information that goes beyond the 101 or elementary level. They’re saying, “Tell me something I don’t already know." Webinars can be a great tool to facilitate more advanced learning. It’s great when you can get a prospect to participate in a “live” webinar event. Unfortunately, the hectic business day and life in general can often make this difficult.
The next best thing is the webinar recording. This can be the event you promoted last week, but it doesn’t have to be. As long is the content is still timely and relevant, you can give your prospects access to webinars that were produced weeks, months or years ago. In addition to facilitating the prospect’s buying process, webinars can serve as a great qualification tool for sales as well. The prospect’s willingness to invest an hour of their day in a webinar provides insight into the seriousness of their buying intentions.
5. Sample Client Deliverables, Reports, etc.
When prospects are at the bottom of the buying funnel, and they’re nearing a final decision, they want to envision what it will be like to be your customer. Using samples of content that you provide your current clients can help the prospect better understand what it’s like to work with you. This could be a sample monthly report, a customer service ticket, or even a sample product that you’ve created. This is often a great follow-up to the proposal.
Leveraging the content that marketing designed for inbound marketing/lead generation can be very effective when used throughout the sales process. It can educate, inform, guide, and even accelerate the prospect's next steps. The content can be presented in person, can be built into automated workflows, or can be used in the one-to-one correspondence of individual salespeople. It can even be delivered via snail mail or fax — whatever it takes to effectively communicate with the prospect.
*Editor's Note: This blog has been updated since its original post date.