June 29, 2021

Sales Content Management: Mastering The Content Chaos And Empowering Modern Sellers

**This post is part of a series based on Showpad’s 2021 Modern Selling Study. To dig into all the data, visit the study homepage.

Content management is all about the storage, management, distribution and governance of content assets. With the term “content assets,” we mean all assets that customer-facing professionals need along the entire buyer journey to effectively serve their prospects and customers.

In detail, those content assets cover customer-facing content types (e.g. case studies, whitepapers, success stories), and internal content types (e.g., playbooks, objection handling) in different formats (e.g., PDF, presentations, audio, video).

The selling challenges that directly link to sales content management

Inability to access relevant content

The top selling challenge since the start of the pandemic and most directly linked to sales content management is the inability to access relevant content (29% versus 20% prior to the pandemic). In second place is the difficulty to drive and measure engagement on remote calls with 28% since the pandemic. Both challenges are linked to the enablement domain of sales content management.

We can state that most organizations were running into the economic crisis that followed the pandemic rather unprepared, as they already had an internal content chaos that was not tackled adequately. Prior to the pandemic, it wasn’t considered a problem worth solving.

Now, since the pandemic, this challenge is absolutely worth mastering. In fact, in a virtual first world, it’s mandatory to master all things content for all customer-facing roles strategically and cross-functionally.

Difficulty driving and measuring engagement on virtual calls

We heard this a lot from enablement teams and sales professionals since the pandemic. Forced to thrive in remote only selling scenarios increased another selling challenge: driving and measuring engagement on virtual calls became a real issue.

The energy on video only interactions is different, not necessarily lower or higher, just different. Customer-facing professionals with outstanding communication skills and lots of intuitive abilities were still able to tune into their prospects and clients. However, those with rather average communication skills experienced more limitations in their approaches. Also here, we see that an existing selling challenge was amplified by the pandemic.

The consequences of existing selling skill gaps became obvious during the pandemic as the inability to access relevant content and the challenge to drive and measure engagement during remote selling scenarios showed up at the top of the list. The percentage may look small, however, it was a “click all that apply” question.

Additional challenges connected to sales content management

There are a few other challenges that are at least indirectly related to sales content management: the challenge to diagnose the buyers’ challenges and the challenge to connect solutions to buyer goals.

Of course, these challenges also have a big readiness component. However, the sales content management component is relevant and valuable content that supports the sales person as well as the buyer at each stage of the customer journey.

Ideally, sales content management provides relevant content assets in a digital, online experience that salespeople can share with their prospects to walk through a tailored, value-oriented discovery process. The future here is not about uploading a bunch of content assets that may fit or not. The future is to create a flow of potential stages (experiences) with content that’s designed to support these different stages, covering the customer challenges your organization can help them solve.

Content chaos is the underlying issue to address

How do you determine whether or not you have content chaos in your organization? Here are a few questions you can ask yourself. The more you can answer with yes, the bigger the content chaos in your organization.

  • We have content in many different places, shared drives, folders, etc.
  • We have little to no transparency into content effectiveness and buyer engagement
  • We have many cooks in the content kitchen
  • Our sales force creates a lot of own content
  • Our sales force doesn’t use all our content
  • We have no transparency into version control
  • We have lots of old and irrelevant content out there
  • Our content is not branded appropriately
  • We have no real overarching sales content strategy, just a demand and lead gen content strategy

How sales content management can help

The inability to access relevant content can be solved with the right technology, the right content and the right content strategy and management approach.

What are the recommendations to get started? 

  • Go through the questions in the previous paragraph. The more yes answers you had, the more important it is to get started.
  • Assess your content landscape: how many places is sales content located? How many assets per location?
  • Define your content types for customer-facing (case studies, success stories, proposal template, contracts, etc.) and internal content (playbooks, objection handling, etc.)
  • Map all content assets to your content types.
  • Retire all content assets that are no longer relevant or up-to-date
  • Implement one enablement content platform and retire all other content locations.
  • Integrate the enablement content platform into your CRM so that your salespeople have a one stop shopping experience along the entire customer journey.
  • Implement a sales content management process, powered by the enablement platform.
  • If you started your enablement adventure in marketing, invite other relevant content creators (product, sales ops, legal, etc.)
  • Focus on change management to drive adoption, collaborate with your sales managers so that they can coach along those lines.

The critical dependency: the quality of content

Your sales content management approach can be the best in the world, but if your content is not designed to be valuable, relevant and differentiating at each stage of the buyer journey, you won’t achieve your goals.

Customer-facing content should be designed to speak to your ideal customers, not to everyone. And that means to address their challenges that you can help them solve. In other words, feature and function driven content is not what we mean here.

Customer-facing content should be tailored to the different phases of the customer journey. For the early phases it’s important to address their challenges and to create a shared vision of success. The business impact, the approach and the solution are important here, not the features and functions. In the actual buying phase, you need more detailed, product specific content for certain buyer roles. But not early on. This is where the biggest mistakes are still made. Then, the conversations are ineffective as the salesperson talks about a product to solve a problem the buyer is not even fully aware of.

*Survey demographics

Showpad conducted the 2021 Modern Selling Study, a global survey at the end of 2020. More than 400 organizations were involved in the survey that covered the US (56%), the UK (23%) and the DACH regions (21%). Organizations came from various industries such as technology, manufacturing and finance. We interviewed sales (45%), marketing (38%) and enablement roles (17%). And also at a hierarchical level, our study participants covered practitioners (20%), manager and director level roles (63%) and executives (18%).

Visit our 2021 Modern Selling Study hub and discover how the pandemic has impacted every area of enablement.