Category Archives: Guest blog

Sales Enablement: Going Beyond Content Management to Increase Your Competitive Edge

photo credit: wmosest.wordpress.com

By Kara Tiernan, Highspot

The rise of millennials, disruptive competitors, and rapidly changing technology is transforming the sales landscape as we know it, making it increasingly difficult for sales professionals to stay ahead of the market. In order to reach target goals, organizations need to increase sales productivity – and arm sales teams with the tools to deliver the right message to the right prospect, at the right time.

In this post, we’ll review how an effective sales enablement strategy can be the key to increasing sales and revenue, and reaching your target goals.

Reduce sales process complexity with a dedicated sales enablement team

In the past, it was easier for companies to grow revenue faster than their sales expenses. But today sales processes have become more complex and less efficient – leading to poor profit margins. Having a dedicated sales enablement team can be the game changer you need to sustain success. 65.4% of respondents in a recent Highspot study said they are experiencing more complex sales processes. This is because the internal process to close deals is getting more complex, the number of stakeholders involved is increasing, and sales cycles are expanding.

This study also revealed that respondents who had a dedicated sales enablement team were twice as likely to say their sales process was becoming less complex. Sales enablement teams help Sales identify customers’ needs, streamline and accelerate sales activities, and easily find content created for every stakeholder in the purchasing process. When sales enablement tools and techniques are woven into everyday activities, companies are better equipped to simplify processes and reduce cycle times.

Identify sales content through semantic search

Most sales reps use about one-third of their company’s available content according to a study by Sirius Decisions.  If you’re a content marketer, and are concerned about this low percentage, you’re not alone.  But there are some factors beyond our control in content creation, including the fact that many companies don’t have a single content repository, or don’t have a good process to help the sales team know what content worked well  in similar situations. Companies can easily increase sales productivity by implementing a sales enablement strategy that includes a sales enablement team and Content Management System (CMS) that provides granular search capabilities. Housing content in a single place offers substantial benefits, but using tools that offer efficient search capabilities allows sellers to search all text in assets (not just asset names!) and modern search algorithms will rank items based on usage and relevance so sellers can decrease search time and find relevant content quickly and easily.

Align Content with the Buyer’s Journey

Even when you reduce complexity in the sales process and implement a CMS to reduce search time – uncertainties can still lengthen the sales cycle at any time. Having effective content ready for every stage in the buyer’s journey is crucial. In the Highspot study, companies that had a sales enablement team were 52% more likely to have a sales process that was aligned with the buyer’s journey. Respondents with a sales enablement team were also 51% more likely than companies without a sales enablement team to agree that their content is closely aligned with sales stages.

When sales content aligns with the buyer’s journey, increased revenue follows. 

For example, 75% of respondents from companies using sales enablement tools reported their company increased sales over the past 12 months – and nearly 40% reported sales increased more than 25%. Sales enablement can have a direct impact on your success, and having increasingly granular content based on industry, focus area, and regional specifics will align content with the buyer’s journey and help you close more deals in less time.

Sales and marketing professionals will agree that improved collaboration achieves goals – and makes bonuses possible. A sales enablement strategy and a dedicated sales enablement team helps Sales and Marketing stay aligned, and helps vendors improve content, customer conversations, and revenue outcomes.

Kara Tiernan is a content strategist at Highspot, the sales enablement industry’s leading solution for content management, customer engagement, and analytics.

How Credible is the Advice You’re Reading?

By Rachel Davidson, Content Specialist, Highspot

Which of the following statements are based on research?

a) “48% of all salespeople never follow up with a prospect.”
b) “2% of sales are made on the first contact.”
c) “Business buyers say interactions with providers influence their purchasing decisions more than anything else.”
d) All the above

Answer: C. (via Harvard Business Review). In fact, A and B are complete fiction.

Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Scarily enough, most of the percentages you read in those compelling thought leadership pieces are either embellished and taken out of context or completely made up from scratch.

Venture Beat did a great job discussing this in their article, Those Incredible Sales Stats Everyone Cites Are Actually Completely False. The title tells all.

Today we’re taking a look at how much data people find in their daily news sources, and questioning why many times, we end up taking this information at face value.

Today’s we’re taking a look at the amount of data people encounter every day, questioning the credibility of that data, and analyzing why we end up taking all of this information at face value – time and time again.

The Problem with Statistical Malpractice

When a business journalist or sales blogger throws out a few facts and figures in order to support a compelling narrative, most audience members don’t bat an eye. It’s simply easier to accept a story as it’s been given instead of questioning it for what it really means. By nature, we want to avoid critical thinking while believing and trusting in our news sources.

People accept statistical assertions as fact for many reasons, mostly because they…

– sound credible
– corroborate personal biases and beliefs
– seem exact
– are provided by familiar sources

The truth is that an increasing proportion of content features unsubstantiated data that’s out of context, unsupported, and most importantly – misleading. Whether intentional or not, this is what we call Statistical Malpractice:

Using statistics to promote a point without attribution or without a balanced point of view.

Today we’re questioning the status quo of data journalism and teaching you how to be more scrupulous about your daily news feed.

The biggest urban legends in sales + marketing

When you hear a report described time after time again from multiple sources, it’s easy to believe it as fact – even if it contains sensitive data. That, dear readers, is called an urban legend.

We’ve compiled a few of our favorite urban legends that seem to circulate within content management and sales circles. Here are a few of the biggest (believable) myths that bloggers spread about sales and selling, according to Contrary Domino’s 78% of All Sales Statistics Are Made Up:

• “Ninety percent of all sales people never bother to ask for the business.”
• “Eighty percent of all sales people still do about 20 percent of the business.”
• “Sixty-five percent of a sales rep’s time is spent NOT selling.”

Those are some catchy numbers, and we mean literally catchy. These statistics “caught on” to sales leader’s radars and ended up influencing their beliefs and business strategies.

However, no matter how easy it is to believe that these journalists are out to spread fake news to the public – that’s not always the case.

The “malpractice” of Statistical Malpractice simply means that an author has omitted support of or context around a specific data point. There’s simply no way to get a grasp on what it is that the figure really means.

When was this measured? What was the sample size? Who were the people being polled, and what was their relationship with the surveyor?

What to look for

Take, for example, the 2017 State of Sales Enablement study conducted by Heinz Marketing and Highspot. In the introduction the authors clarify the timeliness, survey method, and key findings. They’ve done their due diligence. They’ve established credibility and authority over a subject matter that both companies already specialize in. They’ve avoided statistical malpractice, and provided their readers with valuable, digestible information that improves businesses.

Although we can take a page from Highspot’s best practices, the real solution to filtering through deceptive data comes down to an individual being able to distinguish the shiny object from something that has real substance.

So, how can executives protect themselves from marketing misinformation?

Don’t beat yourself up; this gullibility is something we’re all prone to. In fact, skeptic guru and author Michael Shermer speaks publicly on this topic time and time again. Check out his TED Talk on Why People Believe Weird Things, as an example.

Here are a few tips to get you started in critical thinking and protecting yourself from becoming a victim to statistical malpractice.

(1) Exercise caution. Be wary of the words “obviously,” “clearly,” and phrases like “everyone knows that…” These are some of the simplest ways to fall into the trap of convincing yourself that you’ve made the deductive reasoning, and that you’ve reached this conclusion that the author is providing you with.

(2) Recognize hype when you see it. Every year it’s a new hysteria: “content marketing is dead,” “computers will replace content marketers,” “you’re doing content marketing all wrong.” Take each of these trends with a grain of salt and think about what motive the author might have, or why this particular company might be sharing this information. Do research elsewhere, compare and contrast the best resources available, and take initiative to question what doesn’t look right.

(3) Ask the author: “Can you back that up?” Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions – especially for data that sounds like it lacks foundation. If a writer is credible, they will be happy to expand on a data point. If not, maybe they’ll think twice the next time they throw together an argument.

(4) Whenever possible, find the source. Don’t take doubtable data points at face value. Find out where the discovery came from, and whether it was properly vetted. The lack of any source is a red flag that someone asserted the finding based on anecdotal information or gut feel.

Statistical malpractice exists to make you uncomfortable. The entire point is to alarm people in order to promote a specific position on a topic. Authors use data like weapons – they’re looking for that shocked and helpless reaction; they want readers to really pay attention.

So, it’s time to go ahead and do just that. The next time you’re reading your daily digest of sales, marketing, and business articles, follow our steps for detecting marketing misinformation. Exercise caution, don’t give into hype, and question the author’s motives every step of the way.

Reading analytics isn’t always easy, but critically thinking smarter is a cinch.

Author Bio

Rachel Davidson is a content specialist at Highspot, the sales enablement industry’s leading platform for content management, customer engagement, and analytics.

Don’t be Content with Your Content!

by Rachel Davidson, Highspot

Digital media has changed how we view, interact with, and share content. But you might not know that while it changes the type of content we engage with, it simultaneously jeopardizes the value of that content.

The push for blogs, podcasts, social media posts, and more hasn’t gone unnoticed from content creators or their audience members. In the business world especially, sales teams seem to need it more and more: Demanding that their marketing counterparts produce more content, in more channels, with more customer touchpoints – all while sacrificing content quality and positive customer engagement. The result is wasted investment and friction between vendors and customers.

Leaders frequently look in the wrong places for answers to their content marketing problems. A modern sales technology that organizes, prioritizes, and analyzes content can give teams the insights they need to deliver the right content when and where their reps need it.

Throughout this article we go mythbuster-style and crack a few common content misconceptions. We’ll see what your team is misaligned on while debunking some popular beliefs, and reevaluate the tools they need to get them back on track.

“Content Is King”  In an age where news stories are free and newspapers are dying, qualified and unqualified newshounds alike are hopping on their keyboards to write articles, spread falsified or misleading stories, and clutter your newsfeeds with worthless content that you either don’t care about or can’t easily verify.

Bharat Anand, author of The Content Trap, was interviewed during a podcast episode produced by the Harvard Business Review, saying that “content is not simply about broadcasting information or news to your readers, it’s also about facilitating conversation and connecting your readers.” Within a few minutes, Anand contrasts America’s failing newspaper industry to successful social networking sites today. The main difference?

Social media sites utilizes content creation as a complement to their service – not the service itself.

On the other hand, newspapers have completely relied on their advertising revenue to drive content creation. In the process, the ads themselves have become the service.

Lesson: Recognize when content creation undermines your business, instead of supporting it.

 

“Quality Over Quantity”  Yes, this is typically a great rule to write by, but there are plenty of ways to utilize all of your content – rather than only the pieces that “pass the test,” so to say.

A 2015 study by SiriusDecisions shows that a whole 65% of marketing content is wasted and never implemented or used by sales teams. This breaks down to 37% of marketing content being useless or unusable, and reps aren’t even able to find or search for a full 28% of that content. These numbers make existing usable and findable marketing content all the more valuable.

Chances are, if you discover a piece of content to be particularly effective, so will your team. That’s why it’s so important to use a sales tool that provides you and your teammates with organized, prioritized feeds so no valuable content is lost or falls through the cracks.

 

“Content Marketing Is Dead”  If there ever was an outlandish myth, this is it! Content marketing may be mismanaged, misused, and misunderstood – but it is far from dead.

As Bharat Anand shared, it’s not about what content you produce; it’s how it relates to your business. Ensuring that your articles, videos, infographics, and podcasts complement your service will drive your company’s success.  Not only that, you need to ensure that your content – and what you do with it – matters to your customers, inspires them to engage with you, and opens conversations. In any case, you should be learning from and building off of each piece of content you produce – not from the content itself, but from the insight you gain via customer feedback.

It’s not a matter of whether the content marketing industry is alive and thriving; it’s whether your business is using the right tools and technology to manage and mediate the content that matters most.

 

Conclusion  You can’t believe everything you read, see, or hear online. Despite what your instincts tell you, skepticism is a valuable trait in many instances, especially when it comes to managing the validity of business content.

It takes is a bit of sifting to separate content junk from treasure. But you will be rewarded, and you’ll see exactly why content can be such a powerful resource.

 

Author Bio Rachel Davidson is a content specialist for Highspot, the sales enablement industry’s leading platform for content management, customer engagement, and analytics.