Who owns the problem of (sales) content?

stooges pointing

“Who is going to own the problem of content?”

So says Stephen Diorio, chief analyst, Forbes CMO Practice. “Sales wants the content and can tell you what it should look like. But marketing has to provide it, and there’s a shared responsibility to maintain it.”

A summary of the findings in the Forbes report* is that top performers recognise the importance of delivering the 4Rs;

Right content to the Right person at the Right time and Right place.

It improves seller effectiveness (closes more business) and increases seller efficiency (uses less time/resource).

A key finding is that “Three-fifths of top-performing companies have a defined sales enablement role.”  

In 69% of companies surveyed the sales enablement function resided in the sales organisation.  (To put it in context, the sample interviewed was 216 US companies with 53% over $1Bn revenues and 68% over $500m and 70% of interviewees were in sales and business development.)  But that isn’t always the case. In our experience marketing also dominates in many companies.


If your sales performance could be improved through better content use but you don’t have control of the problem now you may be:

  1. struggling with out of date processes and technology – possibly with multiple point solutions for different parts of the problem – and ….
  2. using a lot of manual resources trying to deal with it or ….
  3. short of resources and not really dealing with it.

You’re not unusual. A very small percentage of companies say they have it under control. Our own survey last year (of UK based tech/media/telecoms companies) showed that over 80% of sales and marketing managers couldn’t measure or tell what content their sales people were using and their sales reps were frustrated.


Just what is the problem of sales content?

  • Creating the right content, which is hard to do, resource hungry and never ending. Think of all the content your sales people use ranging from products and services, to pricing, competition, legal, support and much more. Then add information on best practices, sales methodologies, training and coaching.
  • Controlling, managing and distributing the content to achieve the 4Rs and making sure the expensive content is used and re-used.
  • Operations; driving adoption so that all sales people are using common standards with the right content effectively.
  • Managing the content management technology platform(s).
  • Getting alignment and collaboration of the different stakeholders involved; sales; marketing; product management; customers services and more.
  • Reducing the costs of all of the above.

Obviously the needs vary by business and sales model and so will ownership of the problem and solution(s).

A high value sale of complex products and services needs information that enables “conversations” with the customers – increasingly they should be interacting and showing value relevant to the customer’s situation rather than just product information.   Typically there are stages in the buying cycle where customers gain interest through some standard company information but the final mile relies on information that is created, personalised and shared by the sales organisation. Sales need to be in control.

In contrast more simple, transactional product sales can be far more marketing focused.

Your business model may be one or the other or it may encompass the whole spectrum of sales methods. Selling through 3rd party channels adds another dimension to the problem.

Then there are the needs of other stakeholders that are important for the go-to-market strategy of the company. Sales may need the content they produce but they can’t be in control of it. For example, Marketing has its own content needs for brand management, marcoms, online sites, social media and lead generation campaigns (and more). Product Management need to be sure that the information used is compliant and accurate at all times.   A CTO/head of products with P&L responsibility has a clear set of objectives around making sure the right information is delivered to the sales force and the customers. They need to be able to launch new products and updates and retire out of date information quickly to drive product life cycles and revenue faster. You may also be getting some information from 3rd party suppliers.

If you allow each role to build their own processes and technical solutions you end up with silos of information and technologies and a lot of difficulty controlling what is used. You also risk marketing and product management competing for the attention of the sales reps. So part of the content problem is getting all roles aligned with sales and the corporate strategy and getting a technology architecture that works for all.


What should you do?

Enabling sales with content to suit your business model is really a discipline with good governance rather than a dedicated function and you have to discover what works best for you over time while the business continues to function without disruption to sales.

Some common governance issues that those responsible need to consider to start:

  • Who Creates what content?
  • Who has decision rights?
  • Who has funding?
  • How do we set content standards (and enforce them)?

One piece of good news is that there are documented examples from companies and analysts on how companies have successfully implemented quick improvements in sales content enablement without major disruption to the business. I’ll write about some of these in future posts and I welcome your comments and experiences.


*(http://www.forbes.com/forbesinsights/brainshark/index.htmlOctober 2015)

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