Content to Enable Sales and Close More Deals
by Hana Abaza, Uberflip
“Put. That coffee. Down. Coffee’s for closers only.” If you work in Sales or Marketing (and were born before 1992), you probably recognize that line from Alec Baldwin’s character in Glengarry Glen Ross. But let’s shake it up a bit. Forget coffee. Content is for closers. Today, your customers are self-educated about your products and services before you even have a chance to get a word in. But marketers and salespeople can adapt to this reality by learning how to leverage content for the buying process and use it to enable sales, accelerate the buying cycle and close more deals. Join Hana Abaza, VP of Marketing at Uberflip, as she walks you through the ins and outs of how both Marketing and Sales can leverage content to manage objections, increase sales velocity and generate more revenue.
Hi, everybody, Hana Abaza here, VP Marketing at Uberflip. I'm really excited to be here today to talk to you today about one of my favorite topics, which is content. And today we're going to talk about content in a little bit of a different context and really understand how we can start to leverage content for sales enablement. Now if you've never actually heard of Uberflip before, just a quick preview. What we do is we actually help people leverage their content marketing by creating, managing, and optimizing their content experience. So what does that mean? It means we help people aggregate their content using what we call a content hub, and then they can slice and dice it, and use it to generate leads, and also use it to really enable the sales teams. So we have a lot of experience with this, and not only do we have experience with it, but our customers do as well. So excited to share what we've learned and what they've learned and how you guys can actually take that content and start to really use it to close a few more deals.
So I think we're all familiar with this mantra: "Coffee is for closers." And we've really taken this to heart, in that we've changed it, and we've made it our own. So we say, "Forget Coffee." We say that "Content is for closers." But why is actually that the case? Because content works. And I think we all know that. I think content marketing is a really hot topic. It has been for a few years. It's not going anywhere. But the fact that content works and the fact that we've actually shifted to this economy where buyers are actually using content to make purchase decisions a lot earlier then they talk to a sales team, this changes how our sales team needs to actually interact with people, not only to leverage content, but to also take the conversation a level further.
So when we take a look at some of the stats in terms of how things have changed, I think many of you have seen this before; by 2020, 85% of the relationship will actually be managed without talking to a sales person. Pretty compelling stats there. So if they're not talking to sales people directly, what are they doing? Well, they're consuming content. And the reality is content is everywhere and it's really easy to access, especially with more and more marketers taking content and integrating it as a really fundamental component of their overall marketing strategy. Now in addition to that, people are more informed than they ever were before, so not only is the content easily accessible, but there's a thirst for it. People want it. People are consuming it. And then of course, the lines between marketing and sales are really starting to blur, which is one of the big reasons why social selling is also becoming such a hot topic, because the sales people have to start to think about selling in different terms and a lot of that actually overlaps with what we do in the marketing side of things.
And what I'd like to say is there's changes happening on both ends. So marketers need to think like sales people, and what I mean by that is marketers need to start to think in terms of dollars and cents, how do their actions and their initiatives and their marketing strategies and activities and tactics actually affect the bottom line. And as marketers we have more tools than ever before to be able to measure that and determine that. But sales people also have to shift their thinking a little bit, and they have to start to act like marketers. And what I mean by that is that you kind of have to flip the model on its head a little bit. So years ago, before we had content marketing, before we had the ability to generate leads based on interest, which is really what content marketing is, you're putting your content out there and people that are interested in it, that it resonates with, are actually coming to you through that, before all that happened, the situation was we would find leads that kind of fit the ideal customer in our mind, and then we would figure out if they had the pain points. Right? That's what used to happen in selling. But now we actually already know they have that pain point, and then it's just a matter of figuring out, "Hey, are they the right fit?" And that's a really big distinction. It's much easier to determine whether a company is the right fit than it is to determine whether or not they have the pain point. If you already know they have the pain point because of the content they've consumed, because of the e-book they downloaded, because of how they're actually engaging with you online, then determining fit is easy. Fit is usually "Are they the right size company?" "Do they have a budget?" "Is it the right person I'm talking to?" "Is it the right title of person I'm talking to?" So like I said, that part's the easy part. You just need to figure that out, but the pain part is always the hard part, right? So that shift has really changed the dynamic not only between marketing and sales, but between sales and the buyer, and it changes the type of conversation that you need to have.
And these types of leads are really the new leads. These are the leads that are coming in. And I think a lot of us have actually started to see this in the content marketing space and also through various other industries, but the reality is one, many of these leads are actually not looking to be hardcore sold. They're looking to be helped. And if you guys all follow Mark Roberge, who is the CRO at HubSpot, he's got a great quote. He says, "Don't think 'Always be closing.' Think about 'Always be helping.'" And that is really in line with that shift that we've talked about. That's really in line with determining what the pain is, and then figuring out fit, as opposed to the other way around. So that's really how I like to think about it. That's how our team thinks about it, our sales team and our marketing team. And these inbound leads, you don't want to lead with the pitch on these. Again, you want to lead with their interests. You know what content they've consumed, you know the pain points that they're having because of that, so start the conversation there. Don't open with product. Open with a conversion around their interests. And that conversation could start via e-mail. It could also start via Twitter. It could also start via LinkedIn, especially if you know if they've consumed content. But it could also just start as a simple outreach. Just figure out why they have these pain points, why they're interested in that content. It's a great way to get the ball rolling.
Now you might look at me and say, "Hey, sounds good, but you know, I think this is bullshit. How do you actually use content to really close deals, to really leverage it? Because content is great for awareness, content is great for lead generation, but can it really help up the bottom line, close those deals, get people actually signing on the dotted line?" So let's actually look at how we actually do it, and content can and should do this. So in addition to doing all those things around generating awareness, generating leads, content also has a very specific purpose: to help push those leads closer to that end goal. And content can persuade, it can educate, it's really good at clarifying the value proposition (provided obviously you have good content, I think that goes without saying across the board), it helps manage objections and it can really help you accelerate that sales cycle. And there's actually some really great stats around how content helps accelerate that sales cycle, and if you Google it online there's tons of it out there, but don't discount it because it's something that can really add to your results.
But that only happens if it's done right. And the reality is content usually starts with the marketing teams, right? And 9 times out of 10, it's very rare that there's somebody else doing content. But the reality is 76% of content marketers actually forget about sales enablement, which is a huge, huge percentage. And the reality is if we're not thinking about that type of content when we actually start to create it and map out our content strategy, our sales team is going to be high and dry when it comes to finding the right type of content in order to leverage it for their leads, and we really have to start to think about sales enablement when we're creating content. Not only do we have to think about sales enablement, we have to create a really good feedback loop with our sales team in order to make sure that we're creating the right content, that we're hitting those pain points. And that feedback loop with your sales team extends beyond just content marketing, that really needs to happen across the board between marketing and sales, which is a whole aspect of sales enablement. What's interesting is that you're actually seeing a lot of companies actually hire somebody that is exclusively dedicated towards sales enablement. Now depending on the size of your company, it may or may not make sense to have that person, but if you don't have a dedicated individual focused on sales enablement, then you need to have it be part of somebody's function, whether that's somebody on the marketing side or whether that's somebody on the sales side. It doesn't really matter, but they have to have that function available to them.
So, you know, with 76% of content marketers forgetting about sales enablement, this is what we really end up with, right? So this is really kind of what a lot of people think of in terms of sort of the buying process and the buyer journey. And if you look at this, it's pretty straight-forward if you're on the marketing side. When we're looking at creating content as marketers, we often think of that "top of the funnel" content, that "middle of the funnel" content, and then of course that "bottom of the funnel" content. And then we just kind of stop there. But the problem is that doesn't take us all the way through the buyer journey in most cases, especially if we're talking about a product that's a little bit more costly, that's at a higher price point. So when you're thinking about creating that content, you can't just sort of stop at that marketing side of things, and when we actually look at where that lead fits, well, we're taking care of them on the marketing side while they're a marketing qualified lead and then we're passing them off to the sales team and then we're totally forgetting about them. So when we've gone through awareness, when we've identified the problem, when we've identified a potential solution, and then people are still sort of considering their options, shortlisting us, looking at purchasing, looking at implementing, we kind of forget about them a little bit.
Now there's a couple of things wrong with this. If we forget about them a little bit and we have this big black void where potentially bad things can happen, that can actually stifle the sales process. So if you're at the point where they haven't quite purchased but they've shortlisted you, there might be a little bit more you can do to help out that sales team. There might be some common questions that are coming up when they get really close to that purchase phase but they're not quite tipped over the edge. That's where you need to start to talk to your team and figure out, "Okay, what can we actually do to help expedite this process or help push this process along?"
Once they've purchased and they're ready to implement your solution or product, content still plays a really key role and this can be a collaboration between your marketing team and potentially a customer success team if you do have that there. But the reality is content's purpose isn't just to generate new leads. It's not just to generate new acquisition. It's also really effective at retaining customers and also cross-selling and upselling customers. If your content stops midway through this journey, you're going to lose out on all of that stuff. So this is really what I'd like to see most organizations adopt.
So you've still got that same buyer journey where you've got awareness, you've got a problem, you've got a solution, and then potentially you're getting shortlisted, it gets purchased, it gets implemented. Now the marketing and sales lead qualification should be happening across the board, constantly reinforcing where that person is in that stage of the buyer journey and also reinforcing the value and benefit of your product and also reinforcing their decision to buy your product. So especially towards the end, once they've purchased it, they're going to be thinking, "Did I make the right choice? Is it going to be easy to implement? How am I doing here?" So that's all stuff that needs to happen in the content marketing and sales enablement. It's got to go in parallel, and it's got to match every single stage of that buyer journey in order to really be effective and in order for content to be able to actually help accelerate sales and speed up the buying process in general.
So how do you actually get there? I'm going show you sort of the ins and outs of how we do it here at Uberflip, and I'll give you an example of actually one of our sales team members doing it, and a really great use case that he actually leveraged and he was able to close a deal off of it as well. But before we do that, allow me to bust a few myths for both you marketing and sales people out there. I talk to a lot of marketers, especially a lot of content marketers, but a lot of marketers in general. Those are all of our customers. So when we talk to marketers, really it goes back to this idea of there's not enough alignment between marketing and sales and there's a lot of myths when it comes to content and marketing and how it sort of relates to sales and the sales team. So one myth that I want to talk about right off the bat is that content is the marketer's domain. Now it is the marketer's domain but content should really be informed by almost everyone in the organization. And earlier I mentioned that there needs to be a feedback loop between the marketing team and the sales team in order to be able to really mine your sales team with good content ideas. You have to remember they're the ones on the front lines. They're talking to people. They're actually conversing with them in terms of what their pain points are, how they feel about the product, how they feel about your website, how they feel about your marketing initiative. So essentially, you can actually tap those resources for really, really good information. And don't content market in a bubble, I like to say. Make sure you're talking to them, but not just your sales team, also your customer success team, also your product team potentially. So marketing has to take the initiative and really spread its tentacles throughout the organization, because the reality is if marketing doesn't do it, most other departments also won't do it. And marketing has the responsibility to put that stuff in front of your audience.
Myth number two. Sales people don't care. They just want something to send as a follow-up in an e-mail. They don't really care about the content. They don't care what it is. And this is actually one that I've heard from several marketers before. And you know, effective sales people do care. And if they don't care, you should probably get rid of them, because the type of content you send and the content itself, the topic itself, has to really be in line with the conversation that they're having. And if they don't have that content available to them, that sales person should ask for it, should actually talk to the marketing team about it, and you have to create that culture of communication.
Now next myth. Sales people are lazy. Again, I hear this a lot from marketers. And while maybe sometimes it's true, I think more often than not they're just really busy. Right? There's a lot of outreach that has to happen. There are a lot of conversations that they're managing and juggling. And really effective sales people are productive sales people and are typically busy almost all of the time. So we have to make it as easy as possible for them to leverage content as marketers. One of the things that I like to say is, when you're thinking about structuring your content (and we'll get into how to do this in a second), but when you're thinking about structuring your content you have to make it as easy as possible for both your audience and your internal team because if your internal team can't find what they need, then you've got a problem because your audience probably can't either.
So how do we actually do this? How do we put this into practice? Well, let's take a look at a framework that really helps you do three things. So number one, how do we align content and sales? How do we organize your content so that again, both your audience and your internal team can actually leverage it? And then how do you tailor that content experience in the context of a salesperson's need and in the context of reaching out to a prospect?
So a couple of other interesting stats, or one other interesting piece of information: Demand generation and sales teams have reported the least alignment between asset and content development. I believe that stat is actually from Kapost did a study on this. And when you think about that, that's actually really, in my mind, dangerous, because the assets that are developed at that stage, when we're talking about sales, are really the ones that should be your closers. And if your assets that are supposed to be your closers aren't aligned with what's actually happening and with the conversations that are happening with the sales team, then you've got a major problem. So you've got to figure out a few things. You've got to figure out what kind of content they need.
So if you're aligning your content creation with insight from sales, that's going to give you one step ahead. You also need to address and reinforce common pain points through your content, and the only way you're going to know what those pain points are is going to be to talk to your customers, talk to your sales team, talk to your customer success team. And then of course, you want to create content that helps manage objections. And there's a difference between managing objections and reinforcing and addressing common pain points. Pain points are really those areas that people struggle with, the problem they have that your solution solves. That's a pain point. Objections really comes down to "Why am I not buying the product?" And an objection could be it's not within their budget, or if they don't have approval from their VP sales or VP marketing. An objection could vary, right? It's really more of why they're not buying the product, even though it addresses their pain points, the problem that they're having. So make sure you can sort of distinguish between the two there.
So what I like to do is regularly kind of get together with the sales team. I know we meet on a regular basis. We have a chat group on a regular basis where we can actually talk to each other. We have a weekly meeting with our ADRs and our SDRs. And then we have a monthly meeting to recap the previous month depending on how things went, to just do a little bit of a debrief. And then we're always asking them for insight into some of the content we're creating. And in turn, they're also pinging us for stuff that they think would be helpful or think that they need. So a few questions that I like to ask my sales team when we sit down in these meetings is, you know, number one, "What's the top non-product related question you're getting?" That's really great fodder for content that's a little bit higher up in the funnel. So a really great example: I was chatting with somebody on the content team at Sales Force and one of the biggest questions that they used to get wasn't directly related to Sales Force was just a very simple question: "What is a CRM?" Had nothing to do with Sales Force itself, but just understanding what CRM software actually did, and that was really great content for them. I think it's still probably one of their biggest lead generators. So those are the types of questions you can actually get from your sales team, because if people are asking your sales team those questions, there's probably a lot more people out on the internet asking them as well.
The other thing you want to consider is asking them what the common pain points are, and also what the common objections are. So you know, we had a couple of really good examples of common objections. So one of them was when we first launched Uberflip Hubs, one of them was "Oh, I'm not sure I have enough content for a content hub." So we'd simply address that question in a blog post, and funnily enough, after a period of time, our sales team stopped hearing that question as often as they used to. Another objection that comes up every now and then is really around, "Oh, should we, you know, purchase Uberflip software or should we maybe build our own content hub in-house?" Now if you've ever built your own sort of experience, your CMS, in-house, or management tools, you know that it's never a good idea to build. It's usually a good idea to go with a third-party solution, and that's generally the consensus they come to. But the reality is that was an objection that our sales team was having to handle. So we created a blog post that handled that for them. So instead of waiting for our customer to come to that conclusion, what we did was we sent them a blog post with all of the pros and all of the cons of building versus buying so they instantly understood what the lay of the land was and they were able to digest that quickly with their team and they were able to come to the right conclusion a lot faster. So that's a really good example of using content to help manage those objections.
Now the next thing you have to think about doing once you've sort of aligned your marketing and your sales teams a little bit better around the content that you're creating is how do you actually organize your content? And this seems like a little bit of a silly thing, but it really comes down to is your content discoverable? Do people know where it is? Can they find it easily? As marketers, how many of us have gotten a message, or an e-mail, or a question from the sales person saying, "Oh, do we have a blog post on XYZ?" And then what do you do as a marketer? You go to the blog, and you search for it, and then you send them the link and then you sit there with smoke coming out of your ears thinking, "You could have done that! It's on the blog!" So again, I've heard countless stories about this. But the reality is, if it's not super easy for them to find it, they're not going to know where it is. Now part of that is how are you organizing and structuring your content? Are you doing it in a way that makes sense? And once you have organized your content, you also have to sit down and show them where it is. Right? So there has got to be that transfer of information to your sales team.
Now here's a really simplified sort of model. Most of us have, you know, all of our content. We think of it in terms of top of the funnel content, middle of the funnel content, bottom of the funnel content. Oftentimes the sales team is going to be dealing with that bottom of the funnel content. But it really comes down to how do we actually organize that? Right? There's a couple of ways you can do it. You can organize it by content topic, right? You can organize it by content type. You can organize it by vertical. You can organize it by persona. But the reality is you have to make sure whatever model works with your business, that it is easily findable by everybody, including your sales team. And that might mean building out a content library specifically for your sales team. I know we have customers that have used Uberflip to do that. We've done something similar in-house as well. And that's also very effective because you've really narrowed the field down to the right content that they need at the right time.
Now one thing I will say: While it's important to make sure you organize your content in a way that makes sense for your buyer personas and for your audience, one thing I would avoid doing is organizing content simply by content type. And the problem with that is if you organize it by content type, so for example if you put all put all white papers in one section and then all e-books in another section and all webinars in another section, is that people still can't find what they need. I will never go to somebody's resource center and say, "I want to read a white paper. I don't care about the topic. I just want to read a white paper." People don't do that. People search based on topic. So if you're going to organize by type, that's fine. But you also have to have categories organized by topic and allow people to filter through those. So that's one important point that I want you to keep in mind.
Now when we're talking about how to communicate that stuff with your sales team, let's say you've reorganized your content, you've got a beautiful content library set up for your sales team, now how do you tell them about it? Well, with a sales team, much like your audience, and your leads, and your potential customers, you have to use a multi-channel approach. Very few businesses, as they start to grow and as they start to scale, only use one channel. I know very few people that only use e-mail to communicate with their audience. I know very few companies that only use Twitter or only use newsletters. So your sales team is the same. You have to use that multi-channel approach. And there is a lot of different ways that you can do it. So again, you can create that content library that we talked about. You can include content in links to e-mail templates if you're helping them create those. You can send regular marketing updates. I know for us at Uberflip, we use Slack for our internal messaging system; we have a channel on Slack that's essentially marketing updates that everybody checks and comments on. And you know, you can have newsletters and webinars and weekly and monthly meetings that are specifically geared towards your sales team. It's really easy to set up a screencast really quickly on your laptop and just do a quick walkthrough of where they can go to find everything. A two minute video, very low quality, very low effort, can go a long way to making people understand where everything is and how to access it.
So think about using those different approaches to actually connect with your sales team. And also think about making sure that you empower them to contribute. We're really lucky here at Uberflip, because we really have created a culture of content. We're lucky because our product is content marketing related and everybody in the company buys into it. So we have sales team members that actually contribute content and great pieces of content. They'll sit down and they'll write it and we'll have somebody in marketing to help them out with that. So if you're in a position where you can actually have your sales team contribute, that's great, but even if they can't contribute the content themselves, they can still add a lot of insight into the type of content that can be created, and they can also tell you how effective it is and they can also tell you what their go-to pieces are so you know what they're sending people on a regular basis.
So I promised you guys I would give you an example of something that we did in-house, so here goes. This is a story of how one sales rep uses content on a regular basis. And the idea here is that we're really looking at tailoring the content experience. And for content to be effective, it has to be relevant and tailored to the buyer's specific needs. So I want you guys to meet Jon. Jon is an account executive here at Uberflip. And a while back Jon actually started using our own Uberflip Hub, which is where we house all of our content, so all of our content is hosted there, from webinars to e-books to blog posts, all content, from the top of the funnel to the bottom of the funnel content, and we've organized it in a very specific way. But then Jon said, "I have an idea. What if I could create a content stream that's super-tailored for one specific prospect that I'm talking to?" And in this case, it was for a company called Netskope, who did eventually become a customer as well.
So Jon went to our content hub on Uberflip and he created this super-customized stream of content. And he was able to do that because we have a feature in Uberflip where you can create these custom streams, so you can literally go in and cherry-pick specific pieces of content and put them into a page just like this. And you'll notice that everything here is customized to that prospect, so that top title says "Netskope content." The message there is a personal message from Jon to Jamie, Scott, and Gary, as you can read, who he was just on a call with. And not only that, but he's also added a call to action, and the call to action is really for anybody from Netskope that gets this content passed to them. If they have questions about Uberflip they can e-mail Jon and it just links to a little mail-to link. Now the great part about this is that it's a hidden link, it's a hidden stream, so nobody will see it unless they have the URL. And now Jamie, Scott, and Gary from Netskope can take this and they can actually distribute it to their team and their other internal stakeholders that have to buy in to purchasing Uberflip. On the back end of that, Jon also gets a little bit of metrics. He can see who, people that have actually clicked on the links and actually consumed the content, so he knows what the activity is like there.
Now for Jon, this was really effective, and the great part about this is that it was done in a couple of minutes because the content is already there. All he had to do was click on it and put it into a page. It's super targeted. He knew exactly the type of content to include in there because he just got off a phone call and he knew what their pain points were, what their objections were, what they needed to hear and read and see in order to go ahead with the deal. It was super actionable. He had that call to action there. It was measurable. And this is repeatable. He did it for this prospect. He can easily duplicate it for another prospect and customize it even further. So at the end of the day, this is a really great example of marketing, thinking like sales people, thinking in terms of dollars and cents, by creating that bottom of the funnel content, and making sure that the sales enablement piece is taken care of. And it's a great example of our sales team thinking like marketers, helping their prospects distribute content within their organization, helping them pitch the idea of Uberflip, helping them by giving them the right content to provide information on what Uberflip does. So love this example. This worked really well. And since Jon started doing this, I would say probably a year ago, this process has actually been adopted by our sales team as a whole, and it's actually become something that we've done on a regular basis. So this has been key to helping us sort of accelerate our sales cycle and this is something that I think many people can implement, whether you use Uberflip or not. It doesn't really matter. There are other ways you can do this. But it's really helpful in helping get that information out there and putting it in front of people as soon as possible.
So key takeaways, I know I covered a lot here today guys, but a few key things I want you to keep in mind. Number one, it's all about alignment. Align your content with insight from your sales team, and if you want to go a step above that, we can also talk about aligning marketing and sales in general. But it all flows down from that really solid process for communication. Number two, organize content, buyers and your team. So content needs to be easily findable for everybody, internal and external. And then of course you want to tailor your content experience, just like Jon did. So when Jon created that stream for Netskope, it was super customized. It had the right content, it was targeted at the right people, and it also had those tracking abilities so he can see if those people were engaging with that content.
Now super excited to have talked to you guys about this. If you do have any questions about any of this stuff, feel free to tweet us at @uberflip, @HanaAbaza. Hope you guys are enjoying this social selling summit, and hopefully we hear from you soon, whether it's on Twitter or elsewhere. Thanks so much, everybody. Bye.