As a 15-year sales veteran and content marketing convert, I have a real appreciation for the opportunities that sales and marketing alignment presents and the tangible barriers that exist to bridging that gap.
At its core, content marketing is the answer to a fundamental shift in the way business buyers purchase complex solutions. It’s about diligently serving the natural purchase process of your buyers. By understanding their preferred purchase journey and thoughtfully designing useful and compelling tools to aid their progress, you can bring more and better prospects into the pipeline and grow the supply of quality sales-ready leads.
But what happens after content marketing has done its job and creates sales-ready leads? Do your buyers continue to feel educated and served or do they feel a palpable increase in pressure and persuasion? And why should sales care about content marketing?
A better buyer experience
This is a very important question, and not only for the obvious reasons of maximizing sales and marketing success. According to The Challenger Sale by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson, how you treat your prospects after the hand-off to sales has the potential to build greater customer loyalty than product quality or service level combined.
Based on a study of 6,000 salespeople and their methods conducted by the Corporate Executive Board, The Challenger Sale found that salespeople fall into five profiles. The challenger profile deeply outperformed the other four profiles, making up 40 percent of the top sales performers. Unlike other sales approaches, which are based on building customer relationships, challenger salespeople introduce new solutions to their prospects and push them to think in new ways.
Challengers help ensure that your buyers experience the same level of service and thought leadership after the hand-off to sales as they did while discovering and researching your company. Instead of focusing on features and benefits, they offer prospects “commercial teaching”—insights that are novel and pertinent to the individual and organizational value-drivers of your prospects.
This should sound very familiar to content marketers.
Teach, tailor, and take control
The secret to the outstanding performance of the challenger lies in her ability to “teach, tailor, and take control.” Teaching and tailoring are certainly core tenets of content marketing.
While reading The Challenger Sale, I was increasingly drawn to the coherence between the findings in this sales research and the underlying principles driving the rapid adoption of content marketing. Here are some of the parallels that most impressed me:
- The emphasis on teaching first
- The importance of original and pertinent insights or thought leadership
- The importance of tailoring to your audience
- The subordination of your solutions in the sales process
The challenger within
Overall, I came away with the strong sense that this method puts sales squarely in service of the buyer’s natural buying process, placing them in powerful alignment with content marketing.
Here at Yesler, we are aggressively incorporating The Challenger Sale into our B2B demand framework and philosophy, and encourage our client companies to familiarize and use this research in their own marketing and sales strategy.
Have you read The Challenger Sale? What are your thoughts on its relevance to and compatibility with content marketing?