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Structuring Your Content for Sales Reps

| 52 min read


Matt Heinz: Everyone having a good day so far? Right on. Here’s what we are going to do, but here’s also my beef with Highspot. This session is for 45 minutes – we’re from 3:00 to 3:45 – and if you look at the schedule outside, the happy hour starts at 3:30 which I just realized I probably, just probably, shouldn’t have announced to the crowd. Yeah, no, don’t leave.

I want each of you to quickly introduce yourselves, who you are, where you’re from, a little bit of your role, and then please also share with us – the Highspot team is going to bring us drinks at 3:30 so you don’t have to wait in line – so what would you like from the bar? You can answer that first or last. Let’s start with you.

Karishma Patel: I’ll take a water. I’m Karishma Patel from Twitter. I work in sales operations there, really working to operationalize how our teams use content, be able to measure ROI which is something we haven’t really been able to do in the past.

Michelle Kanan: My name is Michelle Kanan and I have almost a decade of experience in sales enablement specifically, helping teams figure out their onboarding, content strategies, growth paths, for example. And I think my drink of choice is red wine.

Harbinder Khera: Thank you. I’m Harbinder Khera, founder of Mindmatrix. I started this company almost 21 years ago. I would say probably I am the only company around here that in terms of years, we have focused on sales enablement. The focus of Mindmatrix is to enable channel partners and direct sales all in the same box. So this is one of the things we are finding nowadays – a lot of SaaS-based companies that start up with a direct program, they will enable the direct guys, then they start building the channel program on top of it. So from a content strategy perspective, you have content that is sitting in silos, so our platform brings the partners and the direct teams all on the same platform.

MH: What would you like to drink?

HK: Cabernet.

MH: Alright. Getting specific. I like it.

Greg Stephenson: I’m Greg Stephenson from LinkedIn, specifically the talent solutions portion of LinkedIn, and my team is focused on transformation within LinkedIn in three areas. One is rethinking the way we launch our products. We have in the past launched like a consumer organization without little thought of, is the sales team ready, is the customer ready. We’re putting a lot of work into that. The second is compete, so a competitive intelligence team. We have been fortunate enough over the years to not really care about competition. That is very different today. So we are building teams and capabilities to operate in that environment. And the third is what we call field transformation. We have grown as a hyper-growth organization with a very transactional sales team and we are trying to transform them into a consultative sales team, and that’s a very different way of producing content and thinking about competencies. That’s what I focus on. Oh, a beer. A cold beer.

MH: An old beer?

GS: Cold.

MH: A cold beer. Okay. You want an old beer? Hey. You be you. It’s fine. Alright, and so you already heard my little intro. I’m going to test the bar. I would like a rye Manhattan. Let’s go with that. See what comes out.
Let’s start by – let’s define what we are talking about here. What exactly is sales content? Because we could have a broader conversation about content but do we need to differentiate and distinguish what sales content is? What do you think?

KP: Yeah. For us, we did have that. We don’t actually have an enablement team at Twitter, so our content comes from a few different teams. It is content that product marketing produces, our sales learning team, even produced by sellers themselves and so for us it was a wide variety of things. And as we get into some of the questions, mapping that was difficult because we had to define it from the beginning.

MH: Yeah, yeah. That’s true. Michelle, I think we were talking about content for sales. I think SiriusDecisions says there’s 65% of content that goes to sales teams that goes unused. I think that number is light, quite frankly. I’ve seen numbers as high as 90% of sales content that goes unused, so how do we address and fix that? Is there a different perspective we need to have as marketers or as sales enablement professionals to flip that number?

MK: Yeah. I am a huge believer that content needs to be a workhorse. Each piece of content that you create needs to have not just a purpose, right, we’re all creating content for a purpose to be consumed, but we really need to start thinking about how that content is going to move the sales process along. If your sales reps are not using content in a way that is going to move their sales process along, then how are they possibly using it? I think this goes to your point, the reality is they’re just not using it. We want to make sure that when we create content, we are doing so not just thoughtfully, but that we are actually thinking about where it is going to live within our sales cycle. How are we going to train reps to use it the proper way instead of leaving it up to how each individual rep wants to think about it?

MH: Well, that last point, I think, is important. You mentioned earlier that to create better content for sales, I think we need to better understand how sales is going to use the content, right? It’s not enough to just say I’ve got this member of the buying committee and I’ve got this stage in the buying journey, and so let’s give them a sales sheet, or give them a whitepaper. The nature of the content, the context in which it is shared, that also ties into the way that the sales reps are working is all going to impact whether or not the sales team uses that content.

Greg, how do you guys think about this at LinkedIn? I mean, as a content platform in a large degree yourself, how do you think about sort of understanding the work habits of the sales team to create better content?

GS: The initial question first in terms of the definition of content, the way we look at it, is kind of rep to customer content. We then look at it from a sales enablement set of content, then internal communications in terms of sales rally on the content. We treat those incredibly different.

MH: Okay. Harbinder, how about you?

HK: I want to talk about this. The question you are asking – why sales guys are not using content. It’s a fundamental question. I’ve spent 21 years thinking about this problem and I will give you an example. I’m not going to name one of my client’s names, so it’s a billion-dollar company. So this is five years ago. We integrated sales assets, all that stuff in Salesforce. A couple of weeks later, a month went by, we started looking at the reports, the analytics, and they had put in all the case studies, whitepapers, and nobody was using it. And the first thing they called us and said, “hey, this system is not working.” I said, “the system is working. Let’s see this – nobody is using it.” They say, “well, our sales guys are coming in and doing all the work.” We found out the sales guys are not even logging into Salesforce. They are only creating opportunities at the last stage. They were all using Excel files and Outlook, okay? So the question I want to ask is why sales guys are not using it.

Now this really cuts across – if you look at any organization, you have direct guys, then you have reps, then you have channel partners. Each of these different entities has a different way of consuming assets. For example, you have a channel partner. Channel partners have their own CRMs. They have their own tools. Now as a vendor, you try to make sure they are using your content. So how are you going to push your content to them? You have direct sales – you can at least force your direct sales guys to use CRM because you can force them. Then you have reps that have different ways of consuming those assets. It all depends on how you bring this content to your sales guys. Content delivery is also very important to reps, and that is one of the things that will need to be addressed. So once that is streamlined, then you can talk about what content. Now, you have access to it in the area they are using content, and then you can see the effect of this in the usage of that content.

MH: I think sometimes as sales enablement professionals and as marketers, we have a little bit of arrogance around the effectiveness of our content and why the sales team shouldn’t use it, and we’re not really putting ourselves in their shoes. We are not thinking about the fact that when they share content that doesn’t answer the prospect’s question, it reflects badly on them. It just causes the prospect to just ask the same question again, right? And now we’re back at the same place we were before. So, for you, what are some of the ways that you guys have structured and sort of tactically, how are you structuring and delivering content to sales?

KP: Yeah. One of the things we started off with when we were implementing a platform is we actually had – and I heard this so many times today – but we actually had the sales team participating in how we set up the navigation. So if we give you a bunch of content, you’re a salesperson, how would you organize it? And then we collected all that input and that’s how we built out the system tactically. One of the other things – even when you talk about wanting to be able to measure ROI, and this is a problem we have faced recently – we have these large events. Sellers should be using the content. They should be relating to opportunities in Salesforce. It sounds like a perfect story, and then you get to the end and they aren’t necessarily doing pipelining in the way that they should, and so we have 50% of the story. And so even if they are able to find the content, for us to be able to map it and see what’s effective, the other parts of the puzzle need to come together for us.

MH: I mean, there is finding the content for reps, which could be a challenge. There is structuring it in a way that makes it easy to use and then sometimes when we think about content, we think there’s a whitepaper or something kind of formal. I mean, content can be a statistic. It can be a quote. It can be a chart, right? You know, everything the light touches, quite frankly, is content. So actually, if you think about it that way, a lot of organizations will hear 90% of content for sales isn’t getting used. The response from a lot of companies is, let’s produce 90% less content. And the answer is actually the opposite of that, right? You actually need more specific content for very specific sales situations that is actually going to make the sales team more effective and help increase velocity on the prospect side. How do you guys think about this?

MK: From my perspective, it is really important that we talk to sales reps, especially our top performing sales reps, and understand, how are they talking about this content? What are they referring to it as? There is such a disconnect with the language that we use. There are a couple of different languages that we need to kind of meld together. One of them is, what are sales reps saying? What are buyers saying, right? The reason why reps are coming to us and asking for this content is because buyers are asking for it. Then we actually have what product marketers are referring to, or sales enablement when we are building content. We are all speaking a different language and we need to make sure that that nomenclature actually is aligned. If we are thinking about building a hierarchy or a sales central hub of information, so often it is difficult for reps to actually find that content because they think in their mind one kind of way to refer to it vs. maybe what the buyer is asking for vs. what we have actually labeled in trying to think that we kind of put it in the right hierarchy.

MH: A couple of years ago, in doing one of the first sales enablement studies with Highspot, we asked reps, “when you are not selling, what are the things that keep you from selling? What are the things that you are doing that you could eliminate or alleviate a little bit?” The number one thing was time in CRM, which you know. Then number two was creating content. Number three was actually finding content, right? And when we dug in on the finding content, they were like, “well, it’s in the c-drive” or wherever it is. But we found that the majority of the time it wasn’t just finding content that the company created; it was the company doesn’t have what I want, I need to go outside the company, and I’m going to find that content I want elsewhere, right?

So, Greg, how do you think about content in terms of what you create and then what you maybe curate to help the sales team provide what may be even more credible third-party information that addresses certain stages or certain, sort of objections in the sales process?

GS: Yeah, we used to do the same thing – just develop content for the sake of content. We just only started thinking about sales motion, where does everything sit within that sales motion? What is the specific persona within that sales motion? We also got ourselves into a spot of just understanding, confining ourselves to the broad definition of content – of a pitch deck, let’s develop a data sheet, a battle card. We had to put a lot of thought into what else does a salesperson actually need to sell, which isn’t kind of a traditional aspect of content, so how do we embed company 10Ks into our system so they can research the customer before they actually speak to that customer? How do we think about the competitive landscape? How do we prepare a salesperson to have a sensible conversation with the customer that isn’t related to product, but just able to give them a strategic conversation because they understand the industry that customer is in? So, a lot of our content production is centered around that these days.

MH: How do you figure out, though, the point of most returns on creating and delivering that content? And I would like to have you address this question, Harbinder, because as someone who thinks about sales and marketing but also as an owner of a business, right? Creating content for your company, enabling your sales team with content, how do you measure the effectiveness of that? Is it based on, someone gets content and they move forward more quickly? Is it, if I give my sales team more content, they are going to spend more time selling? How do you measure what’s enough and maybe what’s too much?

HK: From content effectiveness and use – there are two parts – one is that if the content is effective and, two, if the content is being used. So the two aspects, how you measure if they are working or not, let’s look at the usage part of it. From our perspective, I want to kind of circle back to all the conversations we are having about content. So the first thing would actually be engaging with our clients. We go through asset inventory, so we look at how the best performers in the company sell, and we would map out the journey and the steps they go through. Then we do the inventory of what is available. One thing that we have found – a lot of times, people have a lot of content in one bucket, and they don’t have content in other areas all together.

Another client of ours – very successful company – and they didn’t have one content (it is surprising enough) for why they are better than their competitors. All the distributors were asking for this content, and they are still a very successful company, and people are asking. So again, something very simple. You will find that they have content and product specs and features and a gazillion pieces of content. So the first thing is making sure the right content is there in the right bucket, okay? Then the question is how you measure the effectiveness of the content. Now, again, effectiveness of content is really dependent on the person who is also using the content in terms of the seller and the person who’s consuming on the other side. And it all depends on the competency of the seller.

Now, I’ve seen salespeople, sales guys – good, bad, ugly – over all these years, right? The sales guys – obviously a lot of people are lazy – and so they want to make sure that content is being served to them in the right way and it is for making it actionable, so they don’t have to do much. And even if you give them the right content at the right time, serve them, push them the right content, some of these people don’t know how to use it, okay? Then if they use it, obviously the one thing you can measure would be the sales guys – I have also seen sales guys really effective in selling and they are not using the sales content because they are good at relationships, so there is a fuzzy line. Obviously in the metrics you can see what content has been used a lot, map it to the sales pipeline and see if this content was used x amount of times, helped close these five opportunities and this content was used. So you can have all the analysis, but ultimately it all comes down to the seller and how they are using that content.

MH: Karishma, I think sometimes sales content is kind of like gardening. Stick with me for a second. You’re never done gardening. You’re never done creating and curating your sales content, right? So you can sit and say, “okay, here’s my buying journey, here are the people we are talking to, here’s the content we need to start with.” But then over time, how do you decide what’s next? Is it based on input from marketing? Do you use input from sales? How do you balance those?

KP: So, a little bit of everything you said. One of the things that we use that has worked for us is one, just looking at the metrics that we get. We have Highspot and we take a look at the analytics and see what sellers are actually looking for. That’s what matters to them and marketing, and any of our teams that are creating content need to be open to that feedback and wanting to create the content around what the sales team is essentially looking for. One of the things that I was thinking about today is we mentioned competitive landscaping and what our sellers need to be able to successfully pitch and sell our products and it is one part to just check off the boxes and say we have all this content. But are we regularly refreshing it? Is it still resonating with our products and the landscape and the stories that we are trying to tell?

MK: I would agree with all of that. Definitely. Something that I found to be really useful is understanding what your sales funnel looks like and figuring out what those gaps are and where the conversion lacks. I think to your point, you had said we tend to build a lot of content in just one bucket or a small amount of buckets. But in reality, what we need to be doing is thinking about content as a workhorse, and we need it to be moving and increasing sales conversions across all of the sales funnel. We need to be looking at that sales funnel, understanding what those gaps are, and building content where we feel we want to see those increases in conversion. Then, we need to be teaching our sales team exactly how to leverage that content in order to move from stage to stage, and that seems tough, absolutely, but otherwise, we are just creating a ton of content that is not going to get used.

MH: Well, you create content, but even if you do find the content that is valuable, the content is a thing and it is inherently delivered to the prospect, right? So, Greg, beyond the content itself, what kind of structure, what kind of tools do you need to have in place to really help increase not only delivery but increase consumption of that content at the buyer level?

GS: To be honest, we’ve done this pretty badly in the past, so we’re kind of going through the exercise of deploying CMS systems. An anecdote is that I got pulled into a sales leadership meeting, which was “we just want you to come in and present what latest content is” – content being product content in this instance – “and where we can find this content.” I went in and it was an embarrassing conversation because it started off with, “I can’t actually tell you, but what I can give you is 23 wikis that are distributed ways that you can find bits of content maybe in different areas.” So, I was giving them a map of these wikis, and that was a wake-up call that the productivity impact on our sales team must be incredibly bad. It’s like an archaeological dig every time they want to find some content.

We are going through that exercise of taking that dig away and very thoughtfully not only delivering content but the just-in-time mentality of when they need it. However, we over the years have defined what we call a “content bill of materials”. That, for us, is the kind of base content that every rep needs to have to be able to sell. Then, we have defined that and part of the definition is to make sure that’s what we always keep up to date because one of our biggest struggles is just keeping up-to-date materials, and you at least know that’s covered. When you know that’s in place, that’s when you can start being intelligent, smarter, to produce content that’s allowing them to sell better than what they’ve previously sold.

MH: Yeah. Along the lines of not just thinking of content as sort of just this thing – it’s not just a whitepaper, it’s not just a five-minute video. Harbinder, how do you think about – there’s the idea, there’s the message you want to get across, and then there is the format it takes, right? And there are many different formats. What kind of a framework do you use, or what kind of decision-making process do you use to figure out how to create the right format in each situation and for each individual that might be receiving that?

HK: It’s a good question. From a sales guy’s perspective, it really comes down to what to say, how to say it and when to say it. Now, I want to talk about another role of marketing in sales and how it has transformed over the years, and how it affects the content. The role of marketing has changed. So, marketing is actually selling nowadays. That is what I tell everybody. Marketing is selling, and the responsibility of sales guys is to close the deal. People have already made a decision based on the content that is online. They already know out of 10 vendors they need to talk to three, and then it is the responsibility of the sales guys really to convince that prospect to actually buy from you.
If you look at the recent study that CEB put together about how the buyer journey looks, it is like a maze. It is not a linear process, so that means the buyer has gone online and is going back, talking to sales guys, and so this is like a maze. Depending on the type of salesperson – again, the rep has a different need, and a direct guy has a different need, and a partner has a different need. Partners are looking for marketing content and sales content a lot. To help build their brand, they need content on both sides. Direct guys – maybe more sales content.

Now coming back to the delivery of it, how you package it, obviously you can take the same content and you can repack in multiple ways. You can take the same content and put it on a blog, put it on LinkedIn and Twitter, and repurpose the same content in an email in a PDF, and the effectiveness of this content varies how you package this content and how you personalize this content.
Another thing that we have not talked about is the personalization. A lot of the things the sales guys are also looking for are taking bits and pieces from everywhere, but personalizing the content based on what the prospect is looking for. So personalization is another important element.

MH: It absolutely is. I want to do a quick poll of the room. So, show of hands, how many people in the room have sales enablement as a function of your role, maybe not your entire function but at least a portion of what you are doing? Keep your hand up if you’ve then had that role for less than a year. So, a fair number of people. You get to the end of a day like this, right, where you spend a whole day sort of, you know, with a smaller group and then a hundred or however many billion people here in DreamForce and it’s a whole day of sales enablement talk. At this point in the day, your head’s ready to explode, right, because you’ve got a lot of great ideas, you’ve got a lot of great notes. It’s kind of like going to get a golf lesson and they ask you to show me your golf swing and then the poor guy sighs, and he gives you like 34 things to do over the next half hour. How do you decide where to start? Because you can’t do all this at once. What is the progression for someone that’s in this role that may not have been doing it for very long? Where is the right place to start building momentum?

KP: For me, when I started in this role, I actually didn’t even know what sales enablement was. We were thinking of it as content management. We knew we were looking for a tool to help us manage all the sales collateral and that’s how we came across sales enablement. I think in the past, one of the things we had done wrong is we knew we had a need and we would say, “there’s this really cool technology, let’s go ahead and get that, and we’ll fix everything else and we’ll make sure it works.” You hear about frameworks all the time and how to think about things and how to approach problems, and we’ve all heard of people, process, technology, and so the people part was important. I think we made the mistake that we kept thinking, “what does the seller need” and not focusing enough on what the content creators need as well to make this as easy for them.

On the process side, we did have a sales process, a sales methodology, when we were starting to look at technology, so it did help quite a bit. Then on the technology side, we had so many tools. I think the most important one for us to be able to integrate to was Salesforce, as that’s where all of our information was being stored from the sales side. Then the last part that plugs into that is content, right? So, if you have people, process and technology together, how does content fit into this? I put them in that order because figuring out the content was very difficult for us. I think when we migrated we had like 16,000 individual files of information, so just figuring out what that was and getting it mapped and understanding what sellers actually needed and getting rid of the rest.

MH: Michelle, I want to ask you a question about justifying all of this, right? We talked a little bit about that earlier. Not to put you in the hot seat. You mentioned this earlier, so let’s say I’m a skeptical CEO, right? And let’s say my sales team has always been selling, they’ve been doing pretty well. This sales enablement thing, it sounds like just a bunch of busy work lighting dollar bills on fire. How do you go to that person and justify the need for this, which may be less about work and may be more about the problem it solves? How do you think about that?

MK: Let me think about that. But for the most part, I think any time you are having to convince somebody what the value of sales enablement is can be a little bit tough because everyone defines it differently. But when it comes to content creation, I always look to the top salespeople and I look to see how they are using content, and when they are using it; how, why, and from there actually being able to justify why it is so important that maybe that middle tier – not our top performers, but that middle tier – needs to have greater access to it. Remove the hurdles, so to speak. Making sure that it’s easy to find, that they understand the how and when they are supposed to be using it just like your top performers because chances are, your top performers are already doing that, right? They are going out and they are seeking it, and it seems to be that that middle tier actually struggles and they don’t know what they don’t know. They don’t know what they are looking for and that’s the real reason why they can’t find the content because they don’t know what they’re looking for. We really need to use our top performers as a map, and when we talk about justifying that, we really want to move those mid people into that top-performing space. The more often we can do that, CEOs, VPs of Sales – they are all going to get on board.

MH: Yeah. I agree with you. I think if you go to a CEO and say, “you’re hitting your numbers sometimes, but also did you know that your reps spend only 25% of their time actively selling?” They want to go fire someone, right? So, you look at that and think: what’s the opportunity cost of not addressing that, what’s the opportunity cost of when I’ve got a sales rep who is laboring over writing a follow-up email, who God-love-her, she’s trying her best but she’s writing an email that, quite frankly, three other people on the other side of the sales floor are writing the same email – so that doesn’t sound efficient. So it’s bringing up those kinds of challenges, saying this is happening already. If we fix that, what could that mean for our sales results? Greg, how do you think about the same kind of question? How do you justify and make a case for what we are talking about here?

GS: I learned a long time ago to use the customers.

MH: Big round of applause for Highspot!

GS: I can’t believe that actually worked, but I’ll take it.

I use customers a lot. A while back, it was always building a case for thinking there’s this gap within the sales organization, thinking they’re not being as productive as they could, but it was always my word against leadership’s word. Now I look through NPS surveys, which are a great tool for me. It gives a lot of verbatims and a lot of that verbatim is on the sales organization. A lot of it’s based on things like, “every time I interact with a salesperson, they’re just pushing product.” I quote a handful of customers that have given me that feedback either through NPS, which is not telling me the customers’ names but I use them verbatim. Then we have what we call customer groups that I go to and say, “I’m hearing a lot of this from the field, what do you think?” And then I get customer names. It is amazing the power when you go to leadership and say, “x said this” and they say, “okay, we need it.” The customer voice is incredibly powerful.

MH: Harbinder, you are selling to this space directly, so when you find a prospect that is qualified but not ready to buy, where they don’t necessarily see the why, what are some of the reasons they give you and what are your answers to those questions?

HK: So, Matt, you see all the grey hair?

MH: At least you’ve got hair, man.

HK: Selling is hard, you know? You’re talking to a guy who’s doing it for 20 years – and selling a sales enablement solution for 20 years, so tell me about it. This stuff you talk about value proposition – over the years, obviously, our product has evolved. We do the direct and the channel. So, our value proposition is very simple. I have a client who has signed their partners with our platform and said, “you have a 10% partner that is engaged with your brand, how would we increase it by 20%?” Today, the same partner is 53% engaged to all their partners. There was a SiriusDecisions case study – we’re all going with the numbers – we would say, “hey, we’re going to increase your sales engagement effectiveness by 25%.” It is not the technology that is going to do it. It is the technology, content, and services around it to drive that engagement and effectiveness.

There’s something that I realized, as a software business – obviously we used to have an on-premise solution, so it’s easy to sell someone and you move on. Now as a SaaS, if they don’t see the value in the first year, you are out. It is so easy to kick you out. We realized as a software company we have to survive and do well. We just need to go lead with the numbers and we’ve got to make it happen. We can say, “hey, let’s talk about your goals, the KPIs,” and we will say, “your engagement today is x and we will make another 20% on top.” That’s how we justify our existence.

MH: Well, I think technology is not the strategy, right? Technology is an implementer of your strategy but in many cases, technology is a key part of delivering that, right? I mean, if you could find something that robots could do work that people would otherwise have to do, which is a way of increasing active selling. So again, not just thinking about the content idea, not just thinking about the format, how do you best mix content and technology and what else do you need to have when you think about training people on using the content? You think about having the people that can create and fulfill that. It’s not just, “well, it’s by Highspot and we’re done.” There are other resources you have that are behind that. Thinking about that full package could be – I think it’s lost sometimes for people. I’m curious at Twitter how you guys think about that and how you guys structure the overall package of the people and the content and the technology to make this successful.

KP: I don’t think we’ve 100% figured it out.

MH: Oh no, that’s fine.

KP: We talk about this year after year because I don’t think anyone’s perfected it. I think we are learning as we go. Luckily, we have a tool that’s giving us some of these analytics so we can figure it out. One of the things that has helped when we think about it is the perspective that all of us are in this Twitter game together. It is not just the product marketing team that’s creating collateral, or a business marketing team, but what is actually helping the seller and making their life easier? We can make these assumptions. If I told a marketing team that 65% of the content you’ve created is not being looked at, they are not going to believe it until I show that. That’s how it’s going to have to work for now.

MH: I think we’ve got about 10 more minutes. I know we’ve got some questions out here. We’re going to do questions kind of white elephant gift exchange-style, so when you guys ask a question, you can take someone’s drink from up here. If we are sitting here next year and – you don’t all have to answer this, maybe one or two people – if we are sitting here next year having this same conversation, what are we talking about? In an ideal world, what has changed or evolved as part of this?

Well, as you mentioned, I think – show of hands of people that have nailed all this. I mean, if everybody’s honest then zero hands go up, right? I mean, people come on stage and say here’s what we’re doing, but we are all making this stuff up as we go, and this is all fairly new stuff in general. But I think ideally as we get better at the content, as we get better at putting technology in place, we will evolve the effectiveness of that but that will introduce new challenges as well. So, it is a little bit of the crystal ball question, but like where do you see this going, what do you hope gets improved and what are the next obstacles or hurdles in the way that we need to start thinking about now?

KP: For me personally, it is I think the data and analytics part. We can continue to learn and fix the content, but if it’s not doing the full circle that I was talking about and some part of that being automated, we are always going to be stuck at “this is how many views”, “this is how many downloads”. We don’t really know what effectiveness is until all of it comes together. Hopefully next year I am telling a different story.

MH: There you go. Anyone else want to take a stab at that?

MK: I’ll take a stab. For me, I think it’s ensuring that we are teaching sales reps to have an active dialogue with us, right? So much of the time they want us to be listening and they want somebody to be hearing them, so for me, it’s taking an empathetic approach, trying to understand where they are struggling, why they are not using that content, where we need to place it in order to match their workflow.

I think some of the feedback I get most often is, “yeah, great, you created this lovely hub of content and I don’t ever go there.” It just lives in a silo and it is not where I spend the majority of my day. That is really disheartening because we are building something that nobody is ever going to use. So for me, it’s really having them be part of the active process and as soon as we start doing that, as soon as we start including them in the conversation, then they want to be our advocates. Then they actually want to go out and encourage others and be the evangelist of using that content. So, first things first, it’s getting them to be part of that conversation.

MH: If your sales reps aren’t using your content, you can get angry or you can find out why, right? I mean, every sales rep I know chooses what they do and chooses where they spend their time based on one thing: how do I make money as efficiently and as much money as possible? If they’re not using your content it’s because they don’t think that content is worthwhile, if they’re laboring over an email it’s because they think your email sucks.

MK: Yeah, and once you open up that dialogue, then they feel comfortable coming to you and saying, “hey, this piece of content worked,” or “hey, I need to understand how to use this piece of content”. We have a huge gap here where we deliver a bunch of collateral, we just send it out in an email maybe or just populate it within our hub and don’t even tell them, and then we expect them to use it. We don’t give them any sort of direction. In sales enablement, the thing that you want is consistency. It’s really important that not only are people using your content that you are creating, they are using it consistently so that every single person is using it at the same time for the right thing during that sales process.

MH: Alright. I think that’s a good way to end before we get into some Q&A. I saw a number of hands up. Who wants to start?

Audience member: Hi, my name is Charles. First off, shout out to Twitter. I’m with Square, so the sister company. So, my question is, yes, it’s very hard to communicate with the reps in terms of using the material. I want to ask on the opposite end of that. I think there’s also a challenge to work with partner departments to help create that kind of content that you need, so I was wondering what is your advice? Especially Karishma and Greg, I think you guys have a larger view in cross-departmental work, how do we communicate more effectively from the sales side to say this is what we need, this is what works, and to align our goals with one another?

GS: So I think probably two parts. One is how I collaborate with cross-functional partners. I think everything that we produce from the team always has an identified need. Then I go to those departments and say this is a need that the sales organization has, which is connected with the definition of the content. Then we just look across the different departments in terms of what the contributions are that need to be made to that content. A big cross-functional player that we have is the insights organization, which pull all of the clever metrics that help to reinforce the story that we are telling in our content. That’s how we cross-functionally partner. I’ve forgotten the second part of the question.

Audience member: (inaudible)

GS: We operate in tiger teams for almost everything that we do, and that’s for the development of product, but even a piece of content. We will very thoughtfully sit down in a room with all the cross-functional partners and ask those questions of what actually is the need that is being solved by this piece of content, and what other component parts are needed? What is the distribution method? What are the competencies that the sales team might need to be able to leverage that content? We just operate in this tiger team, and that also brings along all of the cross functions on that journey, which I think is a critical part.

MH: We have five minutes. We have plenty of time for more questions. They’ll bring in coolers of beer if we ask questions. It’s going to happen. One right here.

Audience member: My question – this is more of a thought-provoking one. When I get content a lot of times I’m ignoring it, right? So, any thoughts just on that? I mean, you’ve created this content, you’ve got everyone going to the right repository to get it, you’re sending it out and maybe there’s a download or whatever, but what is true engagement and is it actually working on the customer side, and what if they’re just ignoring it?

MK: Absolutely. I call that a sales trap, and I think with all the content we are creating, we are creating these inadvertent sales traps that our reps are falling into, and it is this concept of a prospect asks for something and the immediate thought is, “great, I have this one-pager white sheet, canned response that I am going to send over and kind of check that box.” The reality is we lose out. It is kind of like sending pricing over and it just gets sent out into the abyss and then the rep is like, “well, why did this prospect go dark on me? I don’t understand why my deal died.” So, to your point of are you reading it, are you really digesting it, did it answer the question that you actually were asking? This is something that we need to train reps on. It’s not just to send content out blindly, but to maybe get on the phone with you, understand, walk you through it, figure out if that content is actually going to solve your problem. This kind of goes into the discovery aspect of it.

MH: I think you earn over time the right to get more time with your prospect. Whether they’ve asked for something or not, the first time you engage with a prospect you don’t have that much time. I mean, think about sending an email to a prospect who is going from meeting to meeting and checking their email on their phone in between their meetings. When you are checking email on your phone, your objective is not to read email. Your objective is to delete the email, right? So, you have just this much time. If you leave someone a voicemail, the job of the voicemail is in the first four to five seconds, what do you do to get someone to stop typing, to stop multitasking?

This is a little trite, but what do you do to take your marketing and your sales efforts from interruptive to irresistible, where people know that when they talk to you and they hear from you, they know they’re going to learn something, they’re going to benefit from that? That becomes something that you prioritize. When you see an email that you can’t read right now because you’re in between meetings, you’re not going to delete it. You’re going to keep it. It is going to make it from the mailbox of the house and not end up in the recycle bin on the way. I don’t think that’s something that happens quickly. It’s not something that you get right away just because you have good content. I think you still have to have really small pieces of content that are easily consumable that start to build reputation and trust that gives you more attention from that prospect.

GS: We’ve stopped communicating content to the sales team based on the actual title of the content. So, we don’t say, “here’s the latest battle card” or “here’s the latest data sheet”. We communicate it in business objectives, so your customer will have a certain objective. For LinkedIn, as an example, your customer will have a need to fill for hard-to-fill roles. That’s a business challenge that they have within the HR side of the business. This is how you can help as a sales rep to solve that business need. That can be a body of content that is helping to sell products that will help fulfill that need, but also we have started to share content such as just what’s that 101 on that business need. So, how do you have the conversation with that HR VP on whatever that need is? We just kind of wrap everything to all of this body of content in your playbook for that need that you are solving with your customer.

Audience member: Mine is a little bit of an add-on question. Something that I have just started doing with content in my organization is because I’m in sales and I write and get delivered a lot of content, and I had the same problem. If I wrote it then I knew it intimately. If I did the case study with the customer, I had it down and I could tell the story.

One of the things I’m starting to do for the sales reps who didn’t write the case studies and don’t know it intimately is creating an outline of it and creating a story for the sales reps so that we can familiarize the sales rep with the content at a glance. Within 30 seconds or less, they know what that content is. They now know if it’s interesting enough to read the whole thing. Then from another step, we’re going to start doing it for the customer at a glance. Now if the at a glance does it for you, then read the whole thing.

My question to the panel would be with that type of layered approach of the outline and then the deep dive and maybe even a video to go with it, how would you format that or present that internally to the sales team and also externally to your customers or your channel partners?

HP: I can certainly talk from a product perspective. In any content that you create and put on a platform, we have the synopsis, how you tag it, and also then the detailed description to go with it. When the content update happens, they get notified, they get the gist and the synopsis in the email, and then obviously they can click on a link and they’ve got the complete asset to go with it.

Now we also provide sales playbooks. The sales playbooks have the synopsis of the assets or the process and so they can see what the value proposition is. That’s how we try to support it on our platform. There was a question earlier about sales guys having feedback on new assets, so at companies like Mindmatrix, we provide tools that a sales rep can rate any asset and they can also provide input on what kind of assets they are looking for. This is one way to streamline the process.