Inbound Success Playbook

Integrate Content into Your Sales Process

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After “more leads,” every single sales pro you’ll meet will tell you they also want “more time.” Time to spend nurturing and closing qualified opportunities. Time to spend with their friends, families, and loved ones. Time for the activities and hobbies they enjoy the most.

Great teaching through content can be the ultimate “time giver” to a sales department. More than that, it can shorten your sales cycle and increase closing rates.

Here’s why:

  • Every time a buyer consumes a piece of content that addresses their questions thoroughly on your website (blog articles, videos, etc.), their trust in you will rise. They are also self-qualifying.
  • You can also think of every piece of content your buyer views as an equivalent of a meeting with them.

In fact, the more content your buyers consume, the likelier they are to buy from you.

Marcus Sheridan learned this when he took the time to examine the behavior at two groups of potential River Pools buyers -- those who filled out the “get a quote” form and didn’t ultimately buy a pool from them, and those who filled out the same form but did go on to buy a pool from them.

After looking at the data in HubSpot, Marcus noticed something interesting about the second group. They had viewed 30 pieces of content or more on the River Pools website. So, he dug deeper and found that all website visitors who consumed 30 pieces of content or more from River Pools had a closing rate of 80%.

But if they consumed fewer than 30 pieces of content, that average closing rate dropped to 25%.

If you knew having your buyers consume 30 or more pieces of content would increase your closing rate to 80%, what would you change about your sales processes?

Typically, when businesses embrace inbound marketing and creating content that truly answers the questions of their buyers, they publish everything to their website and wait for the magic to happen.

Unfortunately, this isn’t enough.

But when you engage your sales team in the content production and dissemination processes, magic will assuredly happen. And that’s what this playbook will teach you -- the exact steps you need to follow to integrate content into your sales processes, so you can start to see the revenue growth and results you’re looking for.

Step 1: Implement Assignment Selling

What Is Assignment Selling?

Since we now know that it’s not enough to simply publish your content to your website, you need to institutionalize the active use of your content during the sales process -- which is called “assignment selling.”

More specifically, assignment selling is:

  • The process of intentionally using information.
  • …which you have created via text, video, or audio.
  • …that is educational about your products and/or services.
  • ...with the purpose of resolving the major concerns and questions of the prospect, so they are dramatically more prepared for a sales appointment -- or multiple sales appointments.

How Does Assignment Selling Work?

Let’s say someone were to contact us with this message:

“Hi, IMPACT! Our website is www.abc123company.com and is currently built on WordPress. We have already scheduled a time to talk with someone from your sales team on Wednesday. But can you send us a quote for how much it would cost to redesign our website and put it on HubSpot before that meeting? Thank you!”

An assignment selling response would look something like this:

Hi there! You’ll actually be speaking with me on Wednesday, and I am very much looking forward to it. But since a website redesign project of any size is an extremely important investment that will have a direct impact on the success of your business, I want to ensure you’re as educated as possible, so no mistakes are made throughout this process.

First, we recommend that you read through our Guide to Website Redesign for Businesses. This guide walk you through everything you need to know before you hire an agency to redesign your website, including what influences the cost of a website project, how to set your timeline and budget, questions to ask prospective agencies for your project, and who on your team should be involved in the project.

This is a great resource that will answer many of the questions you have right now. It is a bit long, but I promise you, it will be well worth your time. Would you take the time to review this guide before we meet on Wednesday?

We can tell you that about 90% of the time, someone will reply with, “Sure!”

At that point, we would confirm the appointment and their completion of that homework:

“That’s great to hear! I’ll reach out to you on Wednesday morning to confirm our meeting and to ensure you took the time to read through that guide.”

You can also leverage assignment selling to make your follow-up contacts about a pending proposal more targeted and specific. For example, you could ask a prospect to watch a video that addresses any questions they may have mentioned to you about the proposal process or the service you had been discussing…

“Tomorrow, I’ll give you a call, so we can discuss.”

It may seem bold and audacious to you to make such requests of prospects during the sales process, and you’d be right. But it’s also incredibly effective. And if you embrace the role of the teacher, you will earn the right to ask for such commitments from your buyers.

Keep in mind, however, that these asks should be limited to the content you produce on your website. So, make sure you’re producing the right content and videos for your potential buyers, so never feel as if you do not have the content to support assignment selling in your sales process.

Step 2: Hold a Workshop

If you did not bring your teams together for a workshop as part of the completion of the Align Your Company playbook, now is the time to do it. In order for your people -- particularly your sales reps -- to catch the vision of the what, the how, and the why of inbound, you will need to facilitate an interactive workshop that focuses on the eight principles of inbound.

An email or a brief company announcement will not do the trick. A workshop that covers the following is a must:

  • Principle #1: Buyer Expectations Have Changed a Lot
    Your employees need to acknowledge that their own behaviors as buyers have changed, and how they rely on the internet now to research their purchasing decisions. Otherwise, they won’t understand what’s changed with your buyers.
  • Principle #2: How Google & Other Search Engines Work
    No matter how much their algorithms may change, search engines only have one goal -- to give searches (their customers) the best, most relevant answer to their question, as quickly as possible.
  • Principle #3: What Consumers Are Searching for & “The Big 5”
    The Big 5” refers to the five content topics -- cost, problems, comparisons, reviews, and best in class -- guaranteed to drive traffic, leads, and sales.
  • Principle #4: Content Idea Brainstorm
    Now that your team understands The Big 5, have them brainstorm a list of the questions, fears, and concerns they hear from buyers and customers every day.
  • Principle #5: How Content Will Impact Your Sales Process & Closing Rates
    Here, you’ll explain to others outside of marketing why they’re being asked to participate in creating content and what is in it for them. You’ll show everyone what’s possible with inbound content.
  • Principle #6: Why Everyone Will Be Critical to Your Success
    Your marketing team isn’t the voice of your company. Your marketing team’s job from this moment on will be to help other members of your team (buyer-facing and subject matter experts) to earn the trust of your audience through content creation.
  • Principle #7: Your New Editorial Process & Guidelines
    Who will be in charge? How often will people need to contribute content? How often will they work with someone to create content? What kind of content can your team create? What are your new editorial guidelines? These are the questions you’ll answer at this stage.
  • Principle #8: Looking Ahead to the Future 
    End your workshop with a discussion with the group, where you ask them to answer, “What would prevent this culture of inbound and content creation from working in our organization?”

Need someone to facilitate this workshop for you? IMPACT can help.

Step 3: Promote Content Awareness

The organizations that see the most success with inbound are producing (at minimum) two to three pieces of new content per week, in the form of videos, blog articles, and so on. Additionally, everyone in the company should be contributing in some form or another to the creation of that content.

At that scale -- and with so many people participating -- it can be challenging for everyone, including your sales team, to keep up with all of the valuable content you’re creating and know what is available to them to use with current customers and potential buyers.

To promote awareness of the content you’re creating, your content manager should:

  • Make announcements (via Slack, email, etc.) when there are important content updates -- new videos on your website, a new piece of premium content, an in-demand blog article goes live, etc.
  • Create a sales content directory document in Google Docs, an internal Wiki, or other online option, that breaks up the most valuable content you have by product or service, with a brief description as to why it’s valuable.
  • Reach out to individual company stakeholders when a piece of content they were wanting to be created is published. (A great content manager is keenly aware of the individual content needs of other employees; particularly, sales reps.)

These are just three examples of tactics we’ve seen success with here at IMPACT and with our clients. So, challenge your content manager to get creative in ensuring everyone knows what content you have available at any given time.

Step 4: Celebrate Your Content Wins

One of the most powerful ways you can keep your team members engaged in your inbound efforts is to consistently go out of your way to celebrate wins and recognize employees who have made a difference with their content contributions.

If you can make the employees (especially those in the sales department) look like rockstars, others will naturally want to be a part of the “movement” as well.

Here are a few examples of achievements and milestones worth celebrating:

  • Articles or videos that reach 1,000 views.
  • A very high or record number of leads generated.
  • A very high or record number of views from organic traffic.
  • When you finally rank on the first page of search results for a keyword or phrase.
  • Content that played a huge role in closing a particular deal.

You can share these wins at company meetings, or you can create a recurring internal newsletter with content highlights from a given time period.

Also, don’t forget to spotlight individuals on your team who have made significant contributions to your content creation process -- those who set a sterling example for others to follow. Again, not only does this make that person feel good, you also encourage others to seek that level of recognition.