We have more content than ever, but is it helping?
Our communications with buyers start with decks, case studies, and datasheets that were written, designed, and produced by teams of creative professionals who put a lot of thought into whether dark blue or slightly darker blue is most likely to lead to a deal.
But beautiful decks alone won’t get us as far as we might hope.
A recent study from Challenger, Inc. shows that high performance doesn’t hinge on polished presentations alone − effective two-way communication is more important. Sellers who project a polished image but do not excel at two-way communication only have a 15 percent likelihood of high performance. Flip that around, and sellers who do not project a polished image but do excel at two-way communication have a 19 percent chance of high performance.
But sellers who deliver both polish and communication can really reap the wins. Their likelihood of high performance is 27 percent. That’s a number that could change a career.
Today’s buyers spend more time learning independently, consuming significant content early in their decision-making process. They are 57 percent into the buying journey before they ever engage with your company’s website, let alone talk to a seller. As their journey progresses, their content consumption slightly drops but the volume remains quite high.
Buyers are spending a painstaking 15 percent of their time trying to reconcile conflicting information being thrown at them in their buying journey. After they’ve ingested a certain amount of content, there is an inflection “consumption” point where knowledge retention drops and one can no longer retain everything they’ve learned. They start to rationalize because they’ve hit their consumption point − like a Thanksgiving dinner, they can’t take another bite!
These buyers are trying to discover the truth. They find loads of credible information, but much of it is contradictory. They don’t know what to believe.
It’s up to sellers to spark a powerful dialog. We try to do that with content, but there’s a disconnect between sales and marketing that causes friction. Only 66 percent of the content created by marketing is used by sellers. That’s not really surprising. Marketers aren’t sellers; they aren’t familiar with the sales process and they’ve never sat in front of a buyer and faced hard questions.
Despite the constant drive by companies to pound out more content, ninety-five percent of sellers say they don’t have access to enough material and 78 percent of buying executives say sellers don’t have relevant materials. So what we’re seeing isn’t a shortage of content − it’s a shortage of the right content – specifically content that furthers the seller’s dialogue, rather than competing with or contradicting it.
Salespeople create about 20 percent of the content they need by themselves. And that’s a good thing in some ways: the content is customized for a specific customer, it’s timely, and it hopefully delivers a persuasive pitch that will lead to a deal. But it also may not hit key messages that are important to company strategy, may not support the creative brand, and hasn’t been proofread. It may not make the polished impression that’s key to high performance.
The sellers who are winning today make the effort to align sales messages with marketing messages. In their minds, it’s one continual dialogue. These sellers help buyers find clarity among the noise, directing them to the right information and recognizing alternatives. By cutting down the noise, we cut down skepticism and build confidence. We help our buyers navigate the buying journey.
But we can’t do that with PowerPoint or PDF. The one-sided monologues delivered by traditional static media are outdated and ineffective. We can do better. We can create a dialogue. The way to do that is through interactive content.
To separate meaningful messages that resonate with buyers from the white noise that just confuses them, sellers need friendly yet powerful tools that let them create a personalized experience and evolve that experience beyond the initial presentation, so each buyer can take their own journey, even after the fact.
Interactive content helps us understand buyers better and guide them through a journey that makes sense to them. We can see how people interacted with content we shared, who they shared it with, and which content they spent the most time on.
We know a lot about a buyer before we ever get on the phone. Instead of a lengthy (and sometimes murky) discovery call, we can just say, “It looks like you spent a lot of time learning about this solution, why is it important to you?” We can see that a buying group spent a lot of time focusing on a certain capability and suggest another experience that will interest them. And we can respond to questions in a flash by adding or changing content as needed.
We’ve all waited on the phone while a buyer searched their inbox for the roadmap we sent on Tuesday and the proposal we sent on Friday. That’s the status quo, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Interactive content gives the buyer a single asset that contains everything they need to do business with you. You can start them off with product information and then add the road map, proposal, security detail, or anything else, all in one beautiful package that is always up to date and complete.
This is how polished presentations become two-way communication. This is how high-performing sellers educate buyers in 2019.