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Why Your Sales Team Is Your Most Important Content Marketing Channel

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hally pinaudMarketing and sales. They’re like peanut butter and jelly. Can’t have one without the other, right?

Not so fast. More and more, marketing and sales teams operate in their own separate spheres.

Hally Pinaud is a marketer who has noticed this disturbing trend at tech companies: Large swaths of the marketing team are often completely disconnected from their counterparts in sales. And that disconnection and lack of communication is leading to bigger business problems.

With the world of marketing changing constantly, marketers and salespeople need to work together in a partnership — and, according to Hally, that partnership has to go deeper than handing off MQLs. I asked Hally how we can get marketing and sales back together.

What are the biggest challenges you see in content marketing right now?

It’s so saturated. Occasionally you'll publish something that's a really big anchor piece. If you do your top-of-funnel push, people will engage, because they’re interested in data or they’re interested in the perspective. But inbound as a strategy has become so oversatured that even the most inept companies are doing it. To me, that means it’s in a precarious place. You need more thoughtful strategies in order to succeed at inbound marketing now.

So you’re saying it’s harder than ever for content marketing to really work. How can we change that result? How can we get our content to work harder?

I think to make content marketing work you really have to have an end-to end-strategy. Your most important channel — the channel you have to activate — is your sales team. Because theoretically they’re the face of your brand. If they’re doing their job right, they’re at least making contact with prospects.

But you want that contact to be purposeful. The most purposeful way they can do that is by giving prospects something that they value.

I'm constantly thinking about how we can insert a salesperson into the typical marketing funnel in a way that doesn't feel like pushing. And I’m not the only one. Just about every organization out there is trying to get their sales teams to outbound more effectively in a world where inbound efficacy is waning.

Content marketing the way I talk about it and the way I think about it — and account-based marketing, which is the other big thing that's happening right now — these are actually old things, they're old techniques that people have been using forever. It was just putting new words around them. You have a sales team already and probably the smartest ones are already sending people your content. But how do you build a process around that?

What do you think marketers are overlooking about their relationship with sales?

The marketer's job is to support sales. Maybe some marketers don’t want to think of themselves as sales support. But that’s what you are! Your job is to bring in more revenue.

The more you lean into it, the more sales is going to give you credit for that. I don't know anybody in sales who's so averse to teamwork that they wouldn't thank marketing for a job well done. But I think marketers often come in with the attitude, “I'm a creative.” Or alternatively they just don't understand how to work to revenue. So it’s not necessarily an attitude. It’s just lack of awareness.

What happens when marketing and sales teams don’t work together?

Content is totally disembodied from the sales team. And when that occurs, sales is just going to start making stuff up — or worse, they totally miss helpful content that could help them open doors. Sales starts taking the reins, and the content team is not feeding that engine at all.

So sales is out talking to people who have never heard of your brand before and they're using the content that content marketing is creating, but content marketing is not leaning into giving them any context, and it’s super problematic.

So you see sales teams creating their own content?

Yes. They might take a great piece of research and chop it up into an email. It goes sideways if they didn't read the content, or if they don't understand the key thrust of why you did the research. They just know research is cool, and people will open it.

I’m seeing this free-for-all happening right now in my inbox! We need to make sure that sales is a channel that is equipped in the same way we equip our other (marketing) teammates to fully understand when and how to use content. We want folks using content, and we want them getting maximum benefit from it! Content + Sales done right is instant credibility.

What are some basic ways that marketing leaders can involve sales in the conversation and bring them into the content process?

Alignment requires enablement and understanding. Here are a few ways to do that:

  • Have you actually shared how the content process "works" with your sales team? Join your next team huddle and start there!
  • Do content launches for your big pieces — not to the extent you do a product launch, but get out there and do an enablement call when something goes live. You can't rely on osmosis.
  • Your greatest hits should be part of what folks are exposed to in onboarding. Newbies should know where to start with your content to use it to cultivate credibility.
  • Make your latest and greatest pieces easily accessible in your sales portal or sales newsletter. Bonus if you give sales the tools to easily curate content experiences for a prospect using a tool like Showpad.

What are some examples of organizations that are doing a good job including sales in the content process?

I'm biased — I think Gainsight does a great job, hat tip to my colleagues on the content team there. But I won't toot our horn, so let me say I have been SO impressed with the way the teams at Outreach.io and Gong.io use content in their customer lifecycle (as a customer of both companies).

Their sales and customer success teams teams are so knowledgeable about what their marketing teams have published, make proactive recommendations, and in the case of Outreach, their sales leaders seem to be at the helm of some of the very best pieces they publish. It's inspiring. And also really, really helpful as a customer who genuinely wants to engage with best practices.

How can content people win the trust of salespeople?

The best thing content people can do is engage sales in the content process and provide them with the context that goes into great content. Content shouldn't be a black box and ideas should be welcome, but there should be a mutual understanding of how marketing measures performance and prioritizes ideas.

Ellen Gomes, now head of content at Glint, was a great model for this when she led content at Marketo. She actively included sales in the content planning process. She had plenty of data for why certain projects ended up getting resourced. All of that factored into the enablement she helped lead when new anchor assets published. But she also built a blog where sellers were some of the best contributors, because when she heard, "we should write about..." she had a program set up where anyone could take an idea into their own hands and contribute! Sales was wildly enthusiastic because they were bought in all along.

 

Lee Price is managing editor of Managing Editor and content marketing consultant at Rep Cap. She's a proud University of Virginia fan, Twizzler enthusiast and feminist. She lives in Georgia with her husband and two young daughters. When she's not reading or writing, you can find her on Twitter @leevprice.

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