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Why the Sales Director will champion Content Marketing in 2013.

With 57% of the buying decision made before a customer talks to the Sales Rep, life for the sales team got a whole lot more complicated over the last 3 years. But after a period of transition, a new consensus is now emerging around the concept of The Challenger Sale. Companies with complex sales cycles are adopting Challenger methodologies and in 2013 and beyond this will have a significant impact on B2B marketing and shape the dialogue between Sales and Marketing Directors.

Challenger sales people operate differently. Instead of ‘leading with’ their service offering, they ‘lead to’ it through a purposefully choreographed sales process. As a result, they have far better control of the sale, proactively manage deal momentum and in complex markets may already be responsible for more than half the revenue. So imagine what could happen if every sales person learned to be a Challenger. If you operate in complex markets, this is the question the Sales Director is focussed on.

So, how does that impact marketing, and more specifically content marketing? Well, here’s the kicker. The whole Challenger concept is based on the idea that sales people need to reframe the customer conversation; because if they accept the way the customer defines their need and the buying process is almost done by the time they enter the room, what else is there to talk about but price?

Reframing is not easy. It requires that the sales person is able to engage the customer as an equal and ‘teach for differentiation’. Moreover, it requires that the individual is sufficiently aware of the customer’s economic and value drivers to ‘tailor for resonance’ in doing so. This requires a change in the way most people sell; a level of structure, planning and insight that is unusual for many organisations and a fundamentally different marketing approach.

With empowered buyers starting their process earlier and engaging sales later, marketing is doing more of the heavy lifting. Therefore, it will be responsible for setting up the challenger sale engagement and equipping the sales team with the right insight and resources to do the job well. So the Sales Director will be looking for marketing to help them establish a unique perspective on the customers’ business, effectively communicate this early in the buying process and develop the credibility and gravitas necessary for the sales person to engage as an equal. They will be driving the Content Marketing agenda.

In the challenger world, content quality matters more than content quantity.  It has to:

  • Offer unique and valuable perspectives on the market
  • Help the buyer navigate the alternatives
  • Help the buyer avoid potential land mines
  • Educate on new issues and outcomes
  • Shape opinion across the organisation, building a consensus around change

But most importantly, it has to progress beyond what the business can relatively easily and cost effectively produce and push through the communications machine; into something that is highly targeted to the point where the customer would be willing to pay for the conversation itself. We’ll talk more about how to do this in future posts.