Why Granular Sales Content Matters, and How to Achieve It

By Mark Populorum posted 03-27-2018 14:47


A key element of sales enablement is providing sellers with relevant and useful content in a timely manner during the sales process. And most sales organizations spend a lot of time and effort to do just that.

However, according to SiriusDecisions, “60 to 70 percent of content produced by b-to-b marketing organizations goes unused.”

Let me start with an example of why this is such an important issue. Assume you are field sales rep conducting a call on a buyer who doesn’t know you or your company very well, and your goal on the call is to develop the buyer’s needs. As you conduct the call you must get the buyer to say “yes” on a number of questions:

  • Is this person different from the 99 other sellers I’ve met before?
  • Does s/he have the knowledge about my industry and the issues affecting me, given my job function?
  • Is s/he competent enough to add insight?
  • Will I open up and tell this person about the critical issue(s) I have?
  • Can s/he help me envision a solution to my issue?
  • Are they “good enough” for me to introduce them to my colleagues who will participate in any decision-making?

Even a seller with excellent skills will, metaphorically, sell with one hand tied behind their back if they don’t have the knowledge they need to apply it to that buyer and their situation throughout the call, and do it in real-time.  This is where a great deal of the content that I see fails.    

The solution is granular content--content specific to buyers based on a number of important factors:

  • The step the seller is executing with a buyer on their journey (as previously mentioned, we’ll assume it is to develop a buyer’s needs),
  • The vertical/horizontal market the seller is selling into
  • The job title or job function they are targeting for their sales call
  • The critical business issues that job title/function likely has
  • The causes behind each of those issues
  • The business capabilities the seller’s products/services provide to successfully address each of the causes for a critical issue

Although content should be developed for each step in the sales process (and, therefore, for each step in the buyer’s journey), I chose need development for three reasons:

  1. It is one of the most important steps in the buyer’s journey with the seller. The seller’s objective is to understand the buyer’s critical business issue and have an effective conversation, at the conclusion of which the buyer should have a clear view of a solution.
  2. For most sales people, developing the buyer’s needs is one of (if not the) most challenging skills to effectively conduct and master.
  3. Need development is one of the most important and challenging pieces of content for the internal team to develop.

So, how should the marketing team go about creating need development content?

The key is that the team must translate the features and benefits of the product or service into highly specific business capability statements that sellers can then describe to their buyers. Further, they must compose these statements in a way that leads the buyer to envision themselves using the product or service in a manner that will help them resolve a critical business issue.

Producing effective business capability statements is not easy, but we have found success using a format we call Event-Target-Action (ETA).  The “event” proposed should set up a plausible emergency in the buyer’s operation that causes a problem today. The “target” is the buyer who would likely experience the problem and therefore need the capability.  The “action” describes how the buyer would actually use the seller’s capability to resolve the issue.

To make this content useful for sellers, the content creation team must take several factors into account. The first is the vertical market to focus on, because buyer terminology, way of thinking, concerns, etc. are usually vertically specific. The team must then identify the primary set of buyers, based on their job titles or job functions, their sellers will be calling on.  Next, for each of those buyers, they must identify the critical business issues as the buyers would describe them and the causes of those issues.

The final--and most gratifying--step is to then link the appropriate business capability you provide for each cause behind a critical issue.  An example of the resulting need development tool is shown below: 


By following this method for each step in the seller’s process, the result will be content specifically formulated to help sellers achieve the desired result for each step in the buyer’s journey.  

We have seen this approach not only enable companies to achieve tremendous success, but also “unleash” the potential of individual sales people. 

Mark Populorum is Adventace’s Global VP of Sales. He has provided sales training and sales management training to companies around the world.  His clients have included Ameritech, Computer Task Group, Genuity, Getronics, IBM, Imation, Progress Software, SolidWorks and TransUnion.  You can learn more about him at Mark's Bio, and reach him directly at mark.populorum@adventace.com or +1 630-653-6471.



04-25-2018 15:51

Steven, I absolutely agree that it is imperative that a company's CRM provides content to sellers so they can use it to help them articulate agreed upon needs of their buyers, next steps agreed upon, etc.  This will help sellers with their communications with buyers, differentiate themselves, and improve internal communications around opportunity status.

03-29-2018 13:50

Certainly agree on the importance of making content granular -- or bite-size and very focused on specific buyer needs/steps of the journey. The next trick is aligning this content with the seller's journey -- getting it to them at the right time. The more granular the content, the more you need content management that closely integrates with the CRM to map content to sales stage and solution.