There is a fine line between sales and marketing communications, especially in many B2B markets. Adopting a fresh perspective on how to meet communications needs can have significant benefits not only for sales teams, but also for the way marketing and the rest of an organisation supports and resources sales.
Brand communications and marketing teams and their agencies are often asked by sales teams to produce one-off material for a particular initiative or customer. This still varies from the old-school bespoke brochure and PowerPoint decks to microsites, email templates and propositions for an individual product or opportunity.
A low friction world
The demand for bespoke material and support for sales continues to increase. The flexibility of the web and digital content management hasn’t made this need disappear. The ‘low friction’, transparent ways businesses now work in across functions and with customers and prospects still leads to the pressure for consistent, tailored, relevant sales and marketing collateral.
“… the relationship between sales and marketing is only getting stronger and tighter, and it’s necessitated by having a common experience for the customer. Customers don’t care if you are in sales or marketing or service. They want one touchpoint with you as a company, as a brand.”
Of course, a sales collateral or support brief should be challenged like any brief to deliver the strongest results with questions such as: Why are we doing this? Do we have clear objectives? What’s the business case? Have assumptions been made about what the best solution or channel is?
Collateral or enablement
There is a more specific question that can be asked when looking at a sales collateral brief, although it sounds like a horrible piece of management speak – ‘do we need sales collateral or sales enablement?’. However the concept of enabling a sales team, rather than supplying collateral is exactly the perspective to bring and to have in your checklist when looking for alternative solutions. It can encompass anything from improving sales ‘talent’ recruitment and development and cross-functional working to the way sales are measured and tracked.
In a marketing and communications context it helps to divide ’sales enablement’ into three principal areas: Process (techniques and ways of working for sales and cross-functional teams they work with), Platforms (digital tools and systems to create the solutions needed) and Content.
Opening up the sales collateral brief
|Type of Solution||Challenge questions||Examples|
|Process||What is the best practice approach? Can it be generalised into a standard process? Does it need cross-functional input? Or can it be made self-serve?||Sales proposition development framework and training, Portfolio deployment strategy and workshops, Customer reference programmes|
|Platform||What sorts of tailoring and creative are needed for specific customers or campaigns? Can we automate their production? Or provide easy-to-use components?||Email campaign manager, Campaign-specific landing page builder in a website’s CMS, Online collaborative tool for proposition development|
|Content||How do we produce multi-purpose content that can quickly and cheaply be tailored and adapted for different channels, opportunities and customers?||’Smart’ digital creation and production (e.g. static infographics pre-designed for animation and tailored copy) Content strategy planning and pipeline management|
To avoid ‘sales enablement’ embarrassment try swapping the jargon for a truism – “Give someone a fish and you feed them for a day; teach them to fish and you feed them for a lifetime” – and asking whether developing a sales tool with sales is a better answer than producing a piece of collateral for sales.