Getting the right content to salespeople at the right time to serve potential customers has been a struggle for a long time. In the old days, when a company might produce only one or two all-purpose sales slicks, the solution was as simple as training salespeople when to hand the brochure over.
Today, however, most companies have marketing and sales content coming out their ears. We have content marketing to thank for this proliferation, which promised to deliver us tons of cheap leads but managed instead to create a bottomless pit of need in consumers, who expect to serve themselves information on their own schedule in their own way, and who return the favor by doing most of their shopping before ever contacting a salesperson.
This proliferation of content means that salespeople rarely know which content is appropriate to what situation, or even what content is available for them to use. Often, this results in salespeople focusing on one or two “favorite” pieces that they deliver every time, regardless of the prospect’s real questions and needs. Or, worse, creating their own “content” in response to customer questions that would have been better answered by official company materials, aligned with value messaging and branding.
Recently, several content technology companies have sought to spice up their offerings by bringing AI into the equation. In their optimistic sales messaging, these companies promise that artificial intelligence can analyze your data and content, and determine which content is best suited for what prospects and when, and serve it up for the salespeople to share at the right time.
Here are three big reasons that current AI solutions will never fully live up to these promises.
Currently, most AI solutions that are available in the market are disconnected from the salespeople’s workflow. They require salespeople to be logged into yet another application and to pay attention to its notifications outside their regular workflow. (Or they are "integrated" into large CRM systems in a bulky way, reducing the speed and usability of that platform.)
We all know how hard it can be to get salespeople to use their CRM, let alone additional applications. Every new point solution adds complexity to their day, and reduces their ability to stay focused and to get the job done. Most "content solutions” simply contribute to this problem, without ultimately offering substantial benefit.
These systems also fall prey to the second, even more significant, problem.
In most cases, the root of the content problem isn’t that the sales team doesn’t have enough technology… it’s that they don’t have a clear sales process and documented best-practices. When salespeople are all operating independently, they will necessarily also all use content in different ways.
In the haphazard environment of most sales organizations, there is simply not enough clear data to draw useful conclusions from. The result is a hodgepodge of data that is basically garbage. And when you feed an AI garbage, the AI has no choice but to feed garbage right back to you.
This problem is closely related to the second problem, but has to do with the fact that most companies aren’t tracking the right information to put content in context, and in fact have no effective way of doing so.
In most CRMs, there is no way to readily assess where each sales contact is in the sales process, how they are related to other people on the same buying committee, which conversations have and haven’t been had with each one, and what their primary concerns and objections are, let alone who the key competition is or how well qualified they are for the opportunity.
Without this contextual information, it is impossible to know which types and specific pieces of content are appropriate to share and when. Instead, salespeople end up sending whatever the latest greatest thing is from the marketing team, or whatever they “feel” is best at the moment. Or maybe the pieces that have received the most "likes" from any recipients.
When you add AI into the mix on these terms, the best you can hope for is that the AI will reflect back the “feelings” of your sales team, without any real foundation to the AI’s recommendations.
But the wrong content at the wrong time can actually make matters worse, not better. Sales slicks that are delivered to prospects who haven’t had their basic questions answered can make them feel pressured and undermine trust. Case studies that aren’t relevant and features lists that don’t demonstrate value can amplify a customer’s fear that they haven’t been heard and that salespeople don’t care about their needs.
Material that is focused on a user’s concerns can be irritating to an executive, while white papers about strategic issues may be useless to a mid-level manager responsible for making purchasing decisions.
The solution is to provide salespeople with a way to access the content that is relevant to each stakeholder at each point in the process. And the only way to do that is to have an actual staged and milestone-based process, and to operate with a workflow that supports the process, and delivers content based on the context provided by that process. This is why we decided to build a Content Hub right inside of Membrain!
For instance, when Membrain is correctly implemented to help execute an effective sales strategy, it guides salespeople through the sales process through visual workflows and collects relevant data about each account and sales contact that can be used to correctly identify the right content for each situation.
Content managers and sales leaders can load content into the system and tag it according to the role of relevant customer personas, their stage, step or milestone in the process, industry, company size, and other relevant context.
Without leaving Membrain’s workflow, salespeople can open a new email and see a menu of relevant content items to choose from tailored to the context they are in and the recipient(s) of the email. This dynamic menu offers content based on who the email is to, their role in the company and buying process, their stage in the process, and other contextual information based on your strategy, process, and metrics.
The salesperson chooses the right piece from the menu, and sends the email with a personalized note. Once content is sent, Membrain tracks how the recipient interacts with it, and intelligently updates future menus based on what has already been sent and how the prospect responded to it.
Likewise, internal sales enablement content, such as training videos, helpful documentation, internal tools and resources, can be made available through the same contextual framework. This takes content beyond just sales collateral and extends it to help reinforce sales training and best practices.
Everything happens in a single workflow, making it easy for salespeople and straightforward for managers, and substantially improving your team’s ability to deliver the right content at the right time based on relevant context - as well as guidance on how to do it most effectively.
And it’s all built-in and included in Membrain, with no additional third party plug-ins required.
I’d love to show you how easy and powerful our upcoming content in context engine is. We're calling it The Content Hub. Contact us for a demonstration today.
George is the founder & CEO of Membrain, the Sales Enablement CRM that makes it easy to execute your sales strategy. A life-long entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the software space and a passion for sales and marketing. With the life motto "Don't settle for mainstream", he is always looking for new ways to achieve improved business results using innovative software, skills, and processes. George is also the author of the book Stop Killing Deals.
Find out more about George Brontén on LinkedIn