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Gartner's Guide for Digital Content Management for Sales

Due to evolving technology advancement and the altering needs of both salespeople and customers, sales content management vendors shifted their focus from a sales management tool to seller empowerment channel. To keep buyers and vendors updated, Gartner published a market guide for digital content management for sales. In light of the recommendations provided by the Gartner report, in this article, we will discuss benefits and use cases for sales content management.

How Do Enterprises Benefit from Sales Content Management?

The most obvious and important benefit of having sales content management in place is sales enablement, as it is the way to win the hearts and wallets of modern buyers. “Employees are getting smarter all the time. But a lot of the technology inside a company hasn’t changed. Match the evolution of your employee with the evolution of your technology to create engagement and get more control,” said Eric Berridge, CEO of Bluewolf, in an interview with one of our contributors, Barb Mosher Zinck.

In the past, solutions “for salespeople” used to be designed around the needs of managers and executives, rather than enabling sales forces to respond to buyers’ demand. Therefore, the most common use of those solutions was programmatically prescribing rigid sales processes wrapped around basic contact and account management. With the rapid shift in consumer behavior, the role of  technology for sales force has changed as well. As a result of the altering needs of both salespeople and customers, the sales content management vendors shifted their focus from a sales management tool to a seller empowerment channel as mentioned in my opening statement. How do enterprises benefit from digital content management for sales (DCMS)?

From a salesperson standpoint, it offers content recommendations and next-best-action suggestions so sales content would be directly incorporated with the opportunity management process.

From a marketing standpoint, it measures effectiveness and meets regulatory requirements by tracking the use of electronic sales materials throughout not only sales presentations but also the rest of the sales process.

From a management standpoint, it reports how their sales representatives utilize sales content in order to meet their KPIs and overreaching organization goals.

Here are some use cases of digital content management for sales:

  • Distributing sales content to sales reps so they can educate prospects to evoke a purchase decision

  • Delivering unique tailored experiences for various sales roles

  • Taking the guesswork out of the sales process and enabling sales teams to deliver smarter customer experiences across sales interactions

  • Minimizing the amount of manual data entry (HubSpot revealed 57% of respondents are spending up to an hour per day on data entry.)

  • Giving sales teams unprecedented visibility into every aspect of the customer relationship

  • Offering efficiencies through mobile devices and apps

  • Informing representatives as well as partners about new products or services

  • Providing formal sales training, onboarding and coaching functionality

  • Plugging the holes around seller functionality through system integrations

  • Delivering AI-driven recommendations and next-best actions

How to Plug the Hole in Your Sales Content

First, it is essential to understand that gone are the days when sales reps were considered a valuable source of information. Today, the sales process is dictated and navigated by buyers who are less dependent on sales reps, more reliant on content that can be found through search, social media, websites, peer reviews, and so on and so forth. In fact, 90% of buyers want to purchase from the company that shares the most relevant information. However, the tricky part is that today’s modern self-researcher consumers mostly decide what to buy long before they create contact with sales or a support department. A study by Forrester discovered that as many as 72% of customers prefer to use self-help options rather than reach out to a company, meaning they will be searching your content for more information to get answers to their questions.

As Steve Jobs once said: “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” To do so, you don’t need to be a psychic. All you need is the right technology that can translate data into next-best actions and the right inbound strategy where your marketing team shares a wealth of data that tells which content resonates with your audience the most or which has been a turn-off. This knowledge will help salespeople either move roadblocks away from the customer journey and/or build little bridges to close the gaps along the road.Therefore, a sales content management system should include some essential capabilities that Gartner has included in its guideline:

  • Content Usage Analytics

  • Sales Process Integration (especially with CRM systems)

  • Content Development

  • Content Delivery  

  • Content Repository Management

How to Develop and Push Sales Content

As we all know content without access is worthless, however, 65% of content is unused mostly because the content is not findable or relevant. As a matter of fact, some studies even claim that salespeople end up spending 30% of their time creating content themselves because they simply can’t find the right content even if it exists somewhere in the portal.  In many cases, what it takes for a salesperson is just having access to the right content from a single browser-based access point. At the end of the day, this whole issue leads to a distinctive disconnect between sales and marketing.

To me the reason behind this vicious cycle is that general perception suggests organizations should just simply rest assured that the content creators are spending time and money on creating content being put to use while sales people's use of time isn't on searching and curating content when they’re supposed to be focused on closing the deals. Although this is partially correct, in my opinion, there is a missing piece of the puzzle that drives the misalignment between the teams. By that, I obviously do not mean that salespeople should spend less time with customers and more time with content curation. What I mean is having the sales department share more specific and in-depth insight with their counterparts in marketing, whereas having the marketing department take more time to listen to those insights in an effort to mold them into a marketing message. Developing sales content without involving sales just sets the content up to fail. Given $.25 of every dollar spent on content marketing in the average mid-to-large B2B firm is wasted on inefficient content operations, marketing and sales need to work on sales content development together.

Additionally, according to a Hubspot survey, 44% of respondents say Marketing and Sales are generally aligned, while 22% indicate there’s a formal service level agreement (SLA) in place between teams. Given that HubSpot has done this annual market research for eight consecutive years, this year, they concluded that marketing respondents whose organizations have an SLA in place are 3x more likely to say their strategy is effective compared to those in misaligned organizations.

Thanks to the recent advanced improvements in the artificial intelligence area, digital content management solutions are getting smarter to help salespeople pinpoint the right content in real time. Sales content management solution providers are improving their platforms’ content repository functions such as automatic content tagging, enhanced built-in presentation tools, smarter microsites for content delivery, search engine optimization (SEO) for driving prospects to the right content, account planning and enhanced analytics based on machine learning. Highspot, for instance, offers AI-powered capabilities that automatically tag uploaded content, including accurately tagging content where keywords are inadvertently misspelled. Bigtincan, on the other hand, offers algorithms that deliver real-time contextual recommendations to the sales users based on sales stages, opportunity data, geolocation and prospects' interaction with the content.

How to Measure the Success of Sales Content

To transform more anonymous businesses to known prospects, salespeople need to know which content is being shared with prospects, how frequently, under what sales situations, how engaging it is for prospects, and whether it contributes to more sales. Besides these, they also need to understand what topics are performing well on their rivals’ sites as the platforms can demonstrate the common topic, differentiators, and topic gaps which gives them a broader view of their positioning against the competitors. To address all these and eliminate biased decision making, sales content management solution providers are improving their augmented content engagement analytics so their offerings can provide organizations predictive insights to uncover hidden opportunities and competitive threats. According to Gartner, predictive analytics for content recommendations is another area where vendors have made significant progress this year. The notable functionality cited in the report includes tracking the top KPIs and the top-performing content, and an effective management of complex sales cycles.

My POV

In the Gartner report, you may find all the significant sales content management vendors and their capabilities in detail. In this article, however, we have discussed what drives a buyer to adopt digital content management for sales (DCMS) and what the desired outcomes are for their sales technology investment.

With a set of open APIs offered that permit integration with other CRM applications, complementary sales applications or external data sources, these systems are rapidly becoming an important part of digital ecosystems. By taking advantage of AI technologies, vendors are also improving content search and filtering functions, providing better dynamic filtering and relevant results. At the end of the day, when everything is hidden in spreadsheets on desktops when employees aren’t connected to information, expecting your sales cycle to work or any type of customer engagement to be done well remains a business goal that will never materialize in real life.

Venus Tamturk

Venus Tamturk

Venus is the Media Reporter for CMS-Connected, with one of her tasks to write thorough articles by creating the most up-to-date and engaging content using B2B digital marketing. She enjoys increasing brand equity and conversion through the strategic use of social media channels and integrated media marketing plans.