How to Develop a Sales Content Strategy
Despite over 70% of marketers spending more on content marketing, only 55% of the best b2b marketers have a documented content strategy. Right now, you might be feeling the pain of needing a content strategy for sales content or maybe you’re simply feeling the frustrations from trying to get stuff done without an overall plan. What if you could guarantee great sales content that’s produced on a regular schedule?
The best of the best recognize the impact of content strategy on their content production, and there’s plenty of room for improvement for everyone else. Sales content is no different from marketing content there.
I’ve discovered that to really nail sales enablement, it all starts with a solid sales content strategy. And while people get hung up asking the difference between marketing content and sales content, I cover all that and a lot more below. Keep reading this comprehensive guide to learn how to develop a sales content strategy: with the right tools, structure, its benefits, and more.
Keep reading this comprehensive guide to learn how to develop a sales content strategy: with the right tools, structure, its benefits, and more.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
What’s the Difference Between Marketing Content and Sales Content?
When you think about it, sales content is used by prospects later in the buyers journey to make a decision, while marketing content builds awareness of your products and services. If you want to more deeply dive into the differences, Column Five has more detail on the sales content vs marketing content topic.
I think of it as a marketing-sales continuum with a lot of the content always being generated by your marketing team. The difference, though, is that sales content is all about 1:1 communication – anything that will be used by a seller and a prospect – and can be pointed to at the end of the deal as directly helping to win it.
Your marketing content is going to be deployed on more broadcast-type channels like webpages, paid ads, and large scale campaigns. Optimization of those efforts like minimizing bounce from slow loading pages and increasing click through rate is the name of the game.
On the other hand, sales content is used in one-on-one settings like direct email, LinkedIn shares,personalized account based campaigns, and SDR outreach. With sales content, it’s even more critical to develop persona based messaging that converts. Optimizing sales content means measuring prospect engagement as well as internal team engagement. Something that never gets sent to a prospect won’t ever be viewed!
So, when developing content for sales, it’s important to recognize how it stands apart from marketing content. Understanding these differences helps align sales and marketing team campaigns—better alignment aids in higher lead generation, closing deals, and, ultimately, ROI on your content production spend.
So, how do you get started with building the right sales content? You start with the right strategy, of course.
What’s a Sales Content Strategy?
A sales content strategy is a plan to develop, draft, revise and organize the production of sales content that aligns with your sales funnel and converts prospects in each stage of your process. An integrated sales content strategy with your marketing content strategy means the difference between success and getting stuck wasting a lot of time and effort producing content that is never used.
With sellers and 1:1 interactions with prospects in mind, a sales content strategy relies on auditing existing content, identifying gaps, prioritizing content needs, building a content creation machine, and having some metrics in place to understand if it’s all working.
Wondering if you have the time to do all of that?
Well, if you break it down into these specific activities, I think you’ll see that creating your sales content strategy isn’t really difficult, and you can get started right now.
How to Build a Sales Content Strategy
As I mentioned, developing your sales content strategy follows a set process. First, we’re going to focus on funnel stages. The goal with following these steps is to align your sales funnel with content (and content with your sales funnel). Then, you’ll be able to evaluate gaps and what content needs improvement.
1. Document All of Your Funnel Stages
Your enablement content strategy needs to follow the sales process. We’ll map content to the buyer’s journey, so that means understanding all of your funnel stages and the right content types at each stage of the funnel.
At the highest level, the buyer’s journey can be explained by three stages of the sales funnel. Each funnel stage offers key opportunities for content development. Here are some definitions, but you likely have your funnel already well-defined.
Top of the Funnel
The top of the funnel (ToFu) is all about awareness. ToFu means active engagement of new audiences. You’ll want to consider reach as well as engagement as important measures.
Sales teams’ knowledge of an audience often begins with customer data. Your marketing team and customer success teams likely have this data, based on the metrics used for expansion and retention.
Documenting impactful content at the ToFu allows for better content further along the sales process. This content usually includes blog posts, research articles, e-books, and white papers at this stage.
Usually, it’s mostly marketing operating at the top of the funnel to build awareness, but many companies also have outreach campaigns, so this is relevant to sales development (SDR) teams and the campaigns they are running.
Middle of the Funnel
When prospects are researching solutions and building their checklist of the required capabilities, they are somewhere in the middle of the funnel (MoFu). At this point in the sales process, your sales team is working with (hopefully) solid leads. Often, these are leads that have been identified as Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL) and handed off to sales to become Sales Qualified Leads (SQL). Your content at this stage will be less about awareness and more about the value exchange with the prospect.
Now, it’s up to sales relationship building and great sales content to help convert these leads into closed-won deals in the final stage of the sales funnel.
Also, in the middle of the funnel, it’s important not to oversell your products or services – it’s more about delivering value to the prospect during their initial phases of research. One way to improve the value of your content is to spend more time on your product messaging and service messaging. I highly recommend checking out our Content Camel guide and template for product messaging.
MoFu content is often videos, podcasts, webinars, product-focused blog posts, and comparison guides. This type of sales content allows your sales team to nurture those warm leads, qualify them, and assist them in moving toward a decision (and ultimately closed deal). The more that customers understand your offering and how to actually make a decision, the more likely they are to convert into revenue.
Bottom of the Funnel
The bottom of the funnel (BoFu) is all about converting leads to revenue. Your sales team is working directly with the prospects, building a relationship, and understands their frustrations and fears. Your sales team is working to build urgency, communicate the cost of inaction, and demonstrate the value of your solution. It also means your prospects need to know everything they need to before making a purchase.
Do you want to know the secret of great content strategy for the BoFu funnel stage?
Well, imagine a closed deal. Imagine everything the prospect needed to get there – the pitch to internal team members, the checklists, and the confidence that had to be built around required capabilities.
You build your content with that end state in mind and …work backwards.
You craft content like case studies, live demos and scripts, sales decks, and rollout plans with the goal of enabling the prospect to buy (and even sell their internal team). This type of sales content usually “sells itself” and is about delivering value at this late funnel stage.
In other words, the BoFu is your last point for conversion before a sale. Your content for sales confirms what clients already know, gives them confidence in their purchase decisions, and charts a course ahead for implementation success.
So, we have ToFu, MoFu, BoFu as a broad understanding of the buyer’s journey and funnel. At your company, you’ll probably have specific names and maybe a more granular understanding of your stages – like Awareness, Consideration, and Decision. Or, Awareness, Interest, Consideration, Evaluation, Decision, and Purchase. You get the idea.
The real point, as we’ll see below, is to figure out where your existing content fits into the stages and opportunities for filling gaps.
2. Do a Sales Content Audit
Once you understand each stage of the buyer’s journey, you need to audit your current sales content. Teams that skip this step are missing out on making solid use of the content they already have (but aren’t using effectively).
The purpose of the sales audit is to create a strategy to fill gaps in the buyer’s journey and increase conversion rates. You do this by mapping content to your sales funnel and figure out areas of improvement and what you already have to work with. Part of your audit is gathering metrics to understand current sales content performance.
What sort of metrics do you measure for sales content performance?
Well, when auditing your sales content, focus on gathering funnel performance metrics like conversion rate at each separate stage. These metrics will help you understand funnel performance from lead generation to close.
Then, you’ll want to look at sales content specific metrics like shares, views, and content used throughout the buyer’s journey. Here’s the basic approach on how to audit sales content – follow these steps:
- Understand your sales team’s needs.
- Set goals for the sales content audit.
- Create a sales content inventory.
- Organize existing content.
- Reevaluate goals and create an aligned plan.
- Produce content and train the sales team.
- Track content metrics and improve over time.
For an extra deep dive on the process, check out our post on conducting a sales content audit.
Following these basic steps will lay the foundation for your sales content strategy. Don’t forget to include any content used by market qualified leads (MQL) through to close and won deals. You’ll find MQL conversion rates in marketing and sales performance data in your CRM or tracking spreadsheets.
With our sales content audit underway or complete, let’s look at the next step.
3. Identify Sales Goals
The next step in your enablement content strategy means identifying your sales goals. Ok, obviously, your goals include crushing sales, but now it’s time to think more deeply about this quarter’s focus. When I say focus, I’m talking about your plan of attack for achieving your sales goals. As we’ll see, your sales content plays a pretty important role with any plan.
Now, I bet your content audit will reveal some gaps. This can be gaps in the funnel – “whoa, we have almost no content at the bottom of the funnel”, the wrong content – “whoa, we only have long videos at the bottom of the funnel”, or performance issues – “whoa, no one is sending our bottom of funnel content to prospects”. Surprises like that aren’t fun, but they are opportunities.
Opportunities for new sales content to fill the gaps in your funnel.
Opportunities to atomize and restructure existing content to match your buyer’s journey.
Opportunities to engage your sales team in activating on the right content at the right time.
Let’s say your sales goals for the next quarter are to close late stage deals faster. You don’t want your teams misaligned only to discover marketing (and maybe sales) only created top of funnel blog posts, right? You’d want to look back and measure what content was created (like comparison guides, improved pitch decks, and maybe an ebook on successful product rollouts), that the team activated (eg sent) that content to prospects, and that prospects engaged with that content. On top of that, you’ll focus on moving the speed of closing or the overall conversion rate on those bottom of the funnel deals.
See how that works?
All of that new content will get added or updated in your existing audit as well. It’s a living, breathing document (or system, like Content Camel).
There are a lot of areas you can focused on. Take it one area at a time and make sure you and the teams are really maintaining the focus.
As another example, your goals may include increasing conversions in the early part of the marketing-sales handoff. Or, they could include enabling sales to handle objections for the BoFu stage. Here are some other sales content goals:
- Clarified product specifications
- Identifying target buyers’ needs
- Improving the value pitch of your products or services
- Sales skills and methodology
- Operational processes
- Competitive offerings and comparisons
- Sales content coverage for the entire buyer’s journey
You can accomplish these goals with the creation of new content. Or consider repurposing existing marketing content for sales teams.
Just make sure you’re maintaining focus, aligned with the current sales strategy, and you’ll realize the benefits of having a solid sales content strategy.
So, with an audit in hand, our focus area defined, what content do you create?
Creating Your Sales Enablement Content
After your sales content audit and funnel analysis, it’s time to (literally) fill in the gaps. Yes, it’s finally time for content creation.
I like to keep in mind all of the persona work that’s been done, so each deliverable really speaks to my audience. If you haven’t defined or refreshed your personas with our detailed persona template – I really recommend it. There’s a big difference between content that informs and content that converts.
Based on your focus, your strategy should be to work from the latest funnel stage to the earlier funnel stages. So, you’re going to work backwards up your funnel. If you’re focus is on mid funnel content, then start there before adding any top of funnel assets. It takes discipline and getting the whole content creation team on board to maintain your focus, but when you look back over the quarter and the year, you’ll be glad you did.
If you surveyed your sales team on what content is missing from their process, now is a good time to let them know what’s headed into production and what to expect next.
Even better, get your sales experts involved in sales content creation – even just to outline and edit copy and scripts.
Let’s dig in to some of the assets you might start work on and where they fill in gaps in your funnel.
Top Sales Enablement Content
There are many common types of content for sales. Some work best for different levels of a sales funnel (see each stage definition above), some are better suited to certain audiences, and some are a better fit for certain channels. Below is a summary list of top content for sales enablement content strategy.
- Case studies
- Sales scripts
- One-sheets / product sheets
- Utility tools (“product as marketing”, eg quizzes, scorecards, etc)
- Competitive analysis (battlecards)
- Blog posts
- Video demos
- Product webinars
- Analyst and Industry reports
- Sales decks
What are the key content types that are going to benefit the most from your strategic approach to sales content?
Case studies, sales decks, and one-sheets / one-pagers.
But really all types of content count when it comes to addressing the buyer’s journey, and you’ll know what fits into your sales process the best.
Here’s more detail on those three types.
Case Studies: Case studies support the BoFu best. With fuller evaluations of pain points, this sales content meets very specific concerns from buyers. Case studies highlight the key benefits of products without directly selling. A good case study relies on credible sources, quantifiable results, and digestible stats for prospects. The shorter the sweeter, too. Too much information overwhelms, detracting from the content’s impact. Case studies are brilliant when developed with our product messaging template. It keeps the focus on prospect conversion and avoids simply providing information.
Sales Decks: Believe it or not, your company sales deck qualifies as content for sales. A strong sales deck sells your business vision. This includes content that addresses customer needs and why your business offers the best solution. Keep your company’s sales deck brief and concise. Ensure all copy is relevant; avoid “fluff” at all costs. Consider custom sales scripts, static visuals, and impactful headlines.
One tip used by the best reps?
Have a version of the sales deck for sending as followup and one for pitching. Understand that your audience will be in different modes – listening and viewing for pitching, but reading and sharing with that follow up version.
Want to know the most common missing piece of sales decks? The implementation or post-sales plan. If you can make it easy for the customer to rollout and adopt your solution – show them a plan – then you you’re demonstrating how easy it is to make a buying decision, closing them that much faster.
One-Sheets / One-pagers: One-sheets offer the best form of concise sales content. Built to deliver the most information in the least space possible, they focus on parts of the solution and the benefits to the buyer. If your product or service meets multiple needs, one-pagers can address each one separately.
One-pagers are going to typically be a better fit for mid or even top of funnel engagement.
Before we move on to content production, want to know the most overlooked content for sales?
After your content audit and while you’re creating new content, it’s worth really digging through your posts and organize them by funnel stage. Unfortunately, it’s not a one time thing – you need to keep up with the bookkeeping. But so much blog content goes overlooked or unused by the sales team, that you can increase your content ROI with this straightforward action.
Prioritize Content Production
Ok, with funnel gaps identified and existing content updates and new content types brainstormed, you might be overwhelmed by what to do first. When I think of content production, I approach it as there are usually no wrong answers – it’s all great ideas, and great content to put together.
But the sequencing of your work matters. A lot. It’s all about using your resources effectively.
So after brainstorming what’s possible, use a prioritization framework like RICE (Reach - Impact - Confidence - Effort) with your team to assess the highest impact work to do right now. The output flows into your content calendar and helps everyone set expectations and know they are going the highest value work first.
The next tip is specifically for all of you in sales operations, sales enablement, and sales content creation within the sales team.
Marketing, Product Marketing, and Sales Collaborate to Produce Sales Content
Most teams don’t have dedicated sales enablement content creators. It ends up being truly a team effort with many participating (and maybe no one owning?).
And, as I cover above, marketing content and sales content differ in their targets and measures.
I bet you have different departments already producing great content either directly for sales or that sales can pick up and repurpose. Product Marketing, Marketing, Sales Operations, SDR team, Account Executives, and even Customer Success can all be contributors of original content in your organization.
At a minimum, sales content creators need to pair with the marketing team to review all assets available. Focus on those assets meaningful to the sales process for the MoFu and BoFu stages.
Partnering with Product Marketing will improve later stage messaging. And, with effective messaging and using product messaging templates, work can easily be outsourced to scale content production. This saves time in getting product messaging to the market and amplifies your efforts.
Stay organized and use your documented sales content strategy to keep the different contributors engaged and focused. Have consistent follow up and refer back to your plan to maximize all of your hard work.
What’s the next step once content is live and the teams are informed, trained, and pitching with the new assets?
Well, to measure the impact of course.
Measure Content Activation and Impact
I find that Sales management, Marketing, and Product Marketing are often wondering “is the sales team using the latest stuff?”.
It can be hard and frustrating to answer that without some systems in place. With our Content Camel sales enablement tool, we measure this with shares, views, and sales leaderboards. This gives us a picture of both activation (by the team) and engagement (by the prospects).
Shares and individual views can be great KPIs for sales content. Unfortunately, sharing and views are metrics untracked in marketing automation tools designed for larger campaigns or off-limits for the sales team.
That means you’ll miss the impact of content on 1 to 1 interactions.
And, without a system, it’s a bit of guesswork and just some observation on whether the overall sales process is accelerating and closing at higher rates.
But beyond these engagement metrics, the bigger question is about ROI.
Demonstrate Content ROI and Refine Sales Content Strategy
At this point, your sales content strategy needs to demonstrate ROI and it’s time to iterate for improvement.
Revisit your sales funnel metrics and performance. Determine any ongoing gaps still unmet with new sales content. Also, review whether you produced the content and filled the gaps according to your prioritized list. I find that a lot of teams shelve their strategy and fall back into the old ways of doing this.
So, don’t do that.
Go back, review, and prove that your content – your content types and the focus on funnel stages – mapped to what you said you were going to do. Quarter over quarter.
Engage the Sales team on the gaps filled by the new and updated content. Get feedback on how it’s working. Survey your sales team again. Then, leverage tools like Content Camel’s sales content request feature for continuous feedback from sales on needed content.
This keeps you closer to the field with a constant stream of feedback instead of exhausting stop and start efforts.
But for sales content ROI, go back and review the impact on your funnel metrics. Close rate, time to close, buyer satisfaction (NPS), and internal feedback to prove out the impact content contributed to deals closed. How may assets were typically used in a deal? Which assets are the most popular? What’s been upvoted by the team? How much did it cost to produce?
Then, keep it going.
Sales content audits as part of your overall strategy are painful if you don’t keep up to date. Content Camel makes this easy with continuous sales audits, so you never have to pause your content production work.
As you scale your efforts, you’ll move beyond DropBox or Google Drive to get a handle on your numbers. Then, you can expand your sales content efforts based on real measures and the opportunities ahead of you.
The Right Solution for Your Sales Enablement Content Strategy
Hey I’m biased, but I like to think Content Camel makes it a lot easier to execute on all of this and put your sales content strategy to work. We offer everything you need for sales enablement success. Our platform offers solutions to improve content management, content traceability, and buyer experience.
We offer a solution to streamline storage and content for sales and marketing assets. If you’re sick of losing stuff in Google Drive, Dropbox, and Box, sign up for a free trial. You’ll get a firsthand look at our advanced search, content alignment to your funnel, and content engagement tools.
Give sales reps the ebooks, datasheets, white papers, blog posts, and videos they need to serve buyers and close deals faster. add content online and offline in one consolidated space. Take advantage of top-performing blog posts, industry articles, and marketing collateral organized by funnel stage and content type. For personalization and content experiences, use the right tools to help reps curate content for your buyers.
Also, if you didn’t already audit your sales content, download our audit template. Find those gaps in your performance today for your ideal strategy. You can also sign up for our newsletter to make sure you don’t miss out on the latest sales insights.