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December 30, 2013


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Very interesting topic -- the change in relationship between marketing and sales. I come from a sales background and have been in marketing for two years now and I can't speak for the past (before my marketing time), but can speak for what I see happening today.

For starters, the need for excellent, topical, find-able content is front and center. Sales enablement can't be an exercise in throwing PowerPoints across the network. Marketing needs to be very accountable for top-shelf, fresh content that responds to the company's customer successes, industry penetration and strategic direction. These three are in constant flux and most sales repositories are lacking in currency and breadth.

With the speed of today's market transformations, both marketing and sales need to be very close and very much on a mutual journey of constant learning. That's tough to apply consistently as not everyone has the same perspective on how to sell or what to produce. In our organization, I'm aligned directly with a top sales rep and we work together to establish the content and delivery methods. I can't be successful without my sales partner telling me what the field needs and he can't be successful without my delivery of the right content.

David Meerman Scott

Chris - Thanks so much for jumping in. Yes, I agree that sales and marketing need to be very closely aligned in the new world where buyers can find their own content on the Web, bypassing the company. Glad to hear you are making it happen. I'm all ears if you ever want to share a specific example.

Bob Apollo

Great topic, David. In more enlightened sales and marketing organisations, the rigid dividing line between the functions is disappearing, and being replaced by a more collaborative approach. But there's still more work to do. The content - context axis is a particularly interesting example.

There shouldn't be a rigid separating line here, either: whenever marketing creates a piece of content (whether that's a blog article, a presentation, a white paper, etc.) it's always useful to anticipate what sort of sales conversation you want to stimulate - and to give the sales team a series of potential talking points to pursue.

This becomes a virtuous circle: if marketing adopts the principle that no piece of content gets released without its accompanying talking points, and works with sales to develop them up front, they tend to produce better content - and the sales people certainly end up having more productive conversations.

David Meerman Scott

Bob - good point on having no rigid demarkation in today's world. I remember when I was a marketing VP more than a decade ago, we'd take "leads" (for example business cards collected at a tradeshow), and toss them over to the VP sales to follow up. Now marketing has a role to add value through content all the way through to close.


David - content/context axis is a nice way of thinking about the roles that sales and marketing play in modern selling. You and Greg are spot on in your thinking, however I believe that the role that sales plays in creating the context is almost always over simplified.

Creating good content and an effective content library aren't easy, but at least they are clear and actionable. Creating context for each piece of content with every account is incredibly difficult to do well and it is in my experience where most sales organizations fall short (if they even figure out that they should be doing this). Doing this well requires a lot more emphasis on sales training and enablement, and it also requires sales leaders to have different expectations of sales people.

A good example of what I am talking about is: how many sales people actually read the content that marketing produces? In my experience most sales people don't read that much of the content at all. To Bob's point above it's helpful when marketing can provide some scenarios and talking points for each piece of content, but is that really enough?

I believe that more sales leaders need to change the expectations they have of their reps to really learn more about the challenges their customer's face in order to present the right content in the right context. And not just from the content that marketing produces, but from other resources as well.

Of course when sharing this approach the objection that i often get from leaders and front line managers is that sales people need to spend more time on the phone with customers than reading content.

I would love to hear thoughts on this from you and Greg on this trade off.

David Meerman Scott

Ori, I think you are right in that we oversimplify the role of salespeople in adding context (especially among marketing people - it is so easy for us to misunderstand how salespeople do their jobs!).

I think there are two approaches here -- 1) Marketing should create social media ready small bite content that the salespeople can use with their followers (who are hopefully their prospects and customers). For example, a tweet ready text pointing to a webinar or a LinkedIn ready update about the company's take on something in the news. And 2) Sales leaders need to give reps time to digest content. Rather than simply managing to the CRM and looking at calls, reps need time to be content curators. How about a once a week meeting where content is reviewed so they spark ideas of how to use it.

Mark Gibson

Great article David and it touches on a few very familiar topics.

We are of like minds on the blurring between sales and marketing and in my view they are artifacts of a bygone era. I see the facilitation of the buyer across the buying cycle as a process requiring skills and methods that come from both disciplines, but where the buyers needs are best served by working as a single unit.

No handoff, no SLA's and no lead quality/quantity arguments. We work as one responsive team; different players fulfill roles where they excel, from creating content and attracting the contact to the Website in the first place to responsive engagement from the first light touch and through continual engagement with helpful content and ideas to the point where the buyer is ready to buy.

Three barriers preventing this approach are:
1. Entrenched thinking and the lack of imagination in sales and marketing leadership, who view the buyer through the lens of the sales process.
2. Enabling technologies – Few companies are able to deliver first touch leads to people who know how to engage vs. close. Inbound marketing technology is essential to engage buyers who being their journey with a Google search at the outset.
3. Messaging is inconsistent across the buying process and is not in a useful form for salespeople. Most messaging is out of date, product centric, trapped in documents and in sales portals or presentations and unusable and not easily shared.

A great topic for a link blog – thanks for posting.

Haim Cohen Mintz

This is a really good article.
I would like to touch a bit on the enabling technologies.

Context in terms of content is relevant also in online sales.
On the one hand, you have all these companies create tons of content: whitepapers, case studies, webinars etc.
At the same time, best practice dictates that a web page should display not more than 3 calls to action - in this case 3 pieces of content to download.

So how do you know which content to display?

There are a few companies out there that are trying to tackle this problem. One of them is BrightInfo (disclaimer: I work there).

I believe that this will be a key issue that inbound marketers will need to deal with in 2014.

David Meerman Scott

Mark, Many thanks for jumping in here! Yes, the inbound marketing revolution needs to catch up with sales. I like what you are doing on your blog talking about this.

Haim, I agree that a big challenge is taking tons of content and making just the right offers.


David - You continue to capture the big waves of change. I share the view that how content is used by sales will be fundamental to their success (and their company's success) with buyers . As Greg says - "It is where the magic happens" - resulting in closed deals and increased revenues.

A couple of thoughts:

1. Persona and Person - Marketing is about a persona and sales is about a person. Sales needs to help that person create their vision of success and how they will reach that vision. As Greg says, the sales person takes that content, uses it in context to have a conversation to create that vision. It is a bit like therapy where sales people help to create an environment for change.

2. New Content Role - I think we need to have an explicit role (or responsibility) that is Sales Enablement - Content Marketer.

Today, the content marketer is thinking mostly about creating content to help fill the top of the funnel. Many leading groups are completing their persona work and mapping their content to have relevant pieces that map to each part of the buyers journey ( the traditional, but disappearing, top, middle and bottom of the sales funnel.)

People in this new role would think about how content being created will be used by the sales team in their process. What new forms might the content take? How is it used by a sales person to create a conversation? We will need to break some paradigms but the start will be this person who sits with the sales team and helps make the magic happen. In the old days this might have been product management, but now we are looking at differentiating more on how we sell as much as what we sell.

3. Buyer and CEO - There are two important stakeholders in this new process. One is the buyer. So much great research points to the buyer wanting to engage with sales people earlier in the process when they can help create unique insights for the buyer. In the end this is about Greg's point of using the content to in context to create clarity for the buyer.

I add the CEO, as sales and marketing alignment through content will be a foundational to growing revenues. Not the old stuff but so much of what you captured in your post and by the contrbutors in the comments.

Cliff Pollan, CEO, Postwire


True story!
Without context content seems dry and "general". "General" - in the bad meaning of this word, meaning that this content is not PERSONALIZED, it doesn't meet current needs of the audience. So, the formula you've mentioned, concerning adding the context and generating magic, is absolutely true and working. Since when we give customers what they wish, isn't that a magic?

David Meerman Scott

Serge, Absolutely!

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