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We’ve already spelled out that sales reps need to be seen as a valuable resource for buyers, and we’ve outlined how they can do that by establishing themselves as the go-to-resource for all the information a buyer would need about top-of-mind issues, the latest industry trends and relevant solutions. By cutting through all the clutter and funneling only the most relevant content to prospects, reps further their role as a trusted advisor.

But let’s not forget the job they were hired to do—sales pros need to effectively sell their company’s product or service. Getting there means putting prospects and customers at the center of the vision they’re painting for them, and educating and entertaining them as they lead them down the path to purchase. It means engaging buyers with a story that compels them to act, one that answers the questions: Why do anything? Why now? Why us?

According to Brian Kelly of InsideView, “Thought leadership can contribute significantly to all three by informing the market of your value, instilling urgency and differentiating over the competition.”

Make the buyer the hero of the story

Julie Hansen, Founder of Performance Sales and Training, picks up on that thread, saying effective storytelling can do a lot to quickly move buyers along the path to purchase. “A good sales story can draw prospects in and get them emotionally involved and inspire action, in a way that hammering them with facts and figures simply cannot. And because emotion plays a critical role in our ability to remember, good sales stories are extremely effective in making sure that our message is remembered by busy prospects at the time they are ready to make a decision.”

The story sales reps—and their content—tell needs to:

  • Convince prospects that the status quo is unacceptable
  • Educate them about their problems and options for overcoming them
  • Inspire them to make a change and overcome objections to making a change

And here’s why it’s critical that sales reps provide this type of content: according to research by the Corporate Executive Board (PDF), “many suppliers are churning out more and more content in the hopes of capturing more customer mindshare. This approach, however, creates even more noise and even less differentiation and does not help suppliers escape the commoditization trap…buyers perceive little difference between the business value various suppliers can offer.”

Don’t distract sales reps with non-selling activities

Whether called thought leadership or something else, sales reps don’t have the time to create this content. In fact, a 2014 Sirius Decisions study revealed that 65% of companies’ sales reps spend too many hours on non-selling activities, including digging up resources and tailoring presentation materials. That’s hardly the best use of their time.

The answer is for sales and marketing to work together closely to make sure the content their organization produces will truly hit the mark. Then sales needs to pay attention to how and when that content is consumed. Smart reps know that content assets map to the buyer’s cycle and can pinpoint when a prospect is ready to talk. That means they can strike while the iron is hot.

Just remember—once reps are talking to prospective buyers, they need to carry on the conversation that’s already been triggered by the company’s content. That’s one more reason it’s important for marketing and sales to be in lockstep.

Read the other posts in the Always Be Closing blog series

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