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Making the Case for Sales Content Collaboration

Two large shifts have occurred over the last few years in B2B sales:

  • Increased competition and scrutiny in sales cycles
  • A power shift to buyers leading the process and expecting more of sales professionals 

The “dot com boom” in 2000 was probably the height of what we think of as “sales.” You can picture it — a room full of people in suits making cold calls and closing deals on the spot. 

But, that’s not the reality of sales today.

In fact, over half of the decision making process for B2B sales is made before a salesperson even picks up the phone. On top of that, only 2% of cold calls today result in a call booked.

So, in this more competitive, more buyer-led, more scrutinized era, how do organizations continue to win business at a high rate? 

While most sales teams may be focused on automation and efficiency (i.e: “how quickly can I make these tasks faster and easier so sales reps can just sell?”), high-performing teams know that’s only the tip of the iceberg. 

To those revenue teams, the secret sauce is full-funnel sales effectiveness. The second a lead indicates buying intent, the orchestration starts and that buyer has a consistent and delightful experience throughout the entire process. 

To truly achieve this, teams must optimize two crucial areas:

Sales Content Effectiveness
+ Sales Team Effectiveness
—————————
= Sales Effectiveness

Sales Content Effectiveness

When looking to optimize sales processes, one area of low hanging fruit is often content. Typically the pain is acutely felt in RFPs and other Response Management-focused content. That’s because these requests can be cumbersome, arduous, and require a lot of manual effort. 

This can be defined as the need for greater Content Efficiency.

Then, to be more strategic and customized with content while building on efficiency gains, Content Personalization becomes an imperative.

With additional growth such as new products, teams, or new markets, additional complexity arises. Compliance or regulatory requirements may drive the need for greater accuracy or technical trust within the content put forth — thus, the need for Content Accuracy.

Once content is efficient, personalized, and accurate, what else exists? The height of full optimization involves an understanding of your very best content and its contribution to the sales cycle across varying dimensions. What messaging resonates with a certain industry? How many times have we lost in a certain region? This illustrates the final phase of content maturity: Content Effectiveness.

Full-funnel content effectiveness is Sales Content Collaboration’s sweet spot. The other objectives are important steps on the road to that effectiveness, but optimizing each and tracking the efficacy of the content throughout the sales funnel is the real goal. After all, you don’t want to just speed up the process, you want to ensure that every opportunity is treated as your best opportunity for success.

But, content effectiveness doesn’t happen in a vacuum. In tandem, you’ll start looking to make your team members more effective as well.

Sales Team Effectiveness

For years, sales and revenue teams have been obsessed with automation and making their jobs easier and faster. Often, that comes in the form of automating “swivel-chair” tasks like note-taking, email blasts, opportunity creation, and contract generation. Additionally, it may have to do with creating better processes in an effort to increase productivity.

However, driving true effectiveness starts in how you engage with buyers — most often, with your content. That begins with website copy, digital ads, events, marketing blogs, whitepapers, and more.

Then, they’ll get farther into the sales cycle, asking for a proposal, RFP response, Proof of Concept, the list can go on. In this meaty, mid-funnel content, a gold mine lies. ✨

But, often, this content is treated without the same care as those early-funnel marketing assets. The paradox organizations must solve is how to ensure team members put the very best content in front of prospects at these critical stages of the sales cycle. 

There are a myriad of point solutions that seek to plug a hole, whether that’s for RFP responses, DDQs, or quick sales proposals, but the more holistic and fully-integrated approach is typically not solved for. 

Sales Content Collaboration strives to do just that — unify your highest-value sales content under one roof to help your team win more business and give a better, more consistent buying experience.

Core Components of a Sales Content Collaboration Platform

Within a Sales Content Collaboration platform, three main areas of functionality exist: content management, project collaboration, and content and task automation.

Content Management

When you read the words “content management,” you’ll often think of the traditional content management providers of the early-2000s: a fairly static repository or database to house all content in one place. Then, more dynamic content platforms such as Google Docs rose, making more common the expectation and need for pervasive access, clear categorization, searchability, and approval of content. 

Enter Sales Content Collaboration. 

Within these platforms, content is structured not just document by document, but more granularly to specific topics, sales responses, and company information. This provides better searchability, easier reuse of content, and a more streamlined user experience.

Key Content Management Features:

  • Semi-structured content database with context and topics.
  • Semantic search to bring meaning and context to search results.
  • Customizable document templates to drive brand consistency and professional deliverables.
  • Hierarchical categorization structure to yield stronger search results.

Project Collaboration

Mid-funnel sales content doesn’t happen in a silo. Usually, a variety of teams including presales professionals, sales leadership, and various subject matter experts contribute to make this content the best quality possible. Many deliverables, deadlines, and expectations need to be met throughout mid-funnel sales motions. As a result, project management and the ability to collaborate effectively becomes critically important. 

Sales Content Collaboration solves this with all the typical project management features software users have come to expect while applying those features to sales content. 

Key Project Collaboration Features:

  • Curated documents to give users a headstart on content creation.
  • Project and productivity statistics to drive ROI reporting.
  • Configurable user experiences make collaboration seamless.
  • Ownership assignments, due dates, and expiration dates to ensure project visibility and timely completion.

Content & Task Automation

A certain level of consistency often exists in mid-funnel sales deliverables which presents an opportunity for automation while also continually improving the content available. Deliverables like RFPs, DDQs, POCs, and SOWs can generally look very similar. But, are you sure the content used is correct, up-to-date, and approved? Is that the best content for this particular prospect? After you invest time creating new content, how can you be sure you can find it again? 

Sales Content Collaboration satiates these questions by providing a fully searchable database that surfaces and prioritizes your most relevant past content, while automatically updating the library with the latest and greatest content.

Key Content & Task Automation Features:

  • Automatic content curation to ensure your very best content is always readily available.
  • Machine learning, user activity, and opportunity data to drive search result accuracy.
  • Real-time versioning with viewable history to ensure content compliance and full transparency.
  • Content nomination and flagging to allow on-going, automated content review.

Key Use Cases of Sales Content Collaboration

So, what content should you actually be storing and generating in your Sales Content Collaboration platform? 

Outstanding content candidates for Sales Content Collaboration fall into two main buckets:

  • Text-based content typically tailored for each request or client
  • Repetitive requests only needing small tweaks each time

What makes these types of content quality candidates lies in the nature of the platform’s capabilities above: content management, project collaboration, and automation. 

RFPs & Response Management

Whether you have a centralized proposal team or take a more decentralized approach to RFP responses, Sales Content Collaboration platforms handle the intake of requests, project management, and professional delivery easily.

Vendor Security Assessments & Due-Diligence Questionnaires

The repetitive nature of these requests make creation, generation, and delivery of these a snap by being able to compare previous versions, standard formats, and industry-standard language instantly. 

Statements of Work

Standardized language, document templates, and workflows can make the creation of these documents straightforward and consistent to ensure compliance and accuracy across the organization. 

Proofs of Concept

The right balance of compliance and customization can be achieved within POC documentation while also accounting for variance across product lines, service levels, industry verticals and much more. 

Sales Proposals

Enable as much or as little creative license across your team by providing standardized content and merge fields for personalization along with the ability to embed rich media, videos, and brand standards to stand out from the competition. A read-only web format is easily shareable and offers the added benefit of content tracking to gauge prospect engagement.

Knowledge Management & Employee Onboarding

All your best, approved sales content in one place and accessible across your team - this can fuel much more than the creation of sales documents. Ad hoc responses, technical information, and company positioning housed and categorized in a single location create a powerful resource to support a dispersed and scaling revenue organization.

Who Sales Content Collaboration Serves & Key Benefits

It would stand to reason that a Sales Content Collaboration platform would be specifically made for the sales team. After all, it’s in the name! 

But, if you peel back the layers of that content, you’ll find that’s only a small piece of the puzzle. In fact, 91% of the top-performing sales organizations collaborate across all departments. With this in mind, Sales Content Collaboration platforms serve a greater purpose and broader user groups than the typical sales productivity software or content storage system. 

Sales & Revenue Teams

Content lies at the heart of every sales cycle. At each stage, the right piece of content at the right time may mean moving closer to your goal —closing the deal. So, it’s important to deliver content that is 1) high quality and well-written, 2) speaks directly to your value proposition, 3) outlines the prospect’s specific needs, and 4) shows that you truly understand their business and the challenges they hope to solve.

With traditional content management systems or point solutions, you may be able to deliver on one or two of those objectives, but it’s rare to find a solution that can deliver on all four. 

Key Benefits for Sales & Revenue Teams: 

  • Context-based search helps surface the very best content at your fingertips.
  • Full knowledge base for one-off questions or full sales content requests.
  • Minimize administrative content tasks and focus on making higher-quality content.
RELATED READ: How Quality Sales Content Separates Good Salespeople from Great Salespeople

Pre-Sales & Sales Engineering Teams

Sales engineers and pre-sales professionals are invaluable members of a revenue team - combining technical savvy with the ability to sell and / or consult with prospects. They’re often industry experts with a wealth of knowledge on your offering, the competitive landscape, and your specific value proposition. 

So, when a lengthy sales content request comes along, it’s natural to leverage their expertise and knowledge to provide the best possible response. But, is composing that specific document the best use of their time? Especially if they’re having to craft a brand new response every single time? Probably not. 

Sales Content Collaboration solves this so instead of bogging down pre-sales with a plethora of content to create, instead of being able to curate existing content to the specific customer. 

Key Benefits for Pre-Sales & Sales Engineering Teams:

  • “Reference” documents allow for standard content to be easily updated and always accurate.
  • Dissemination of tribal knowledge and pre-sales expertise via knowledge base and search.
  • Automatic curation gives users a head start on response completion versus re-inventing the wheel every time.
  • An always up-to-date knowledge repository to support one-off questions, new team member onboarding, compliance standards, and much more.
RELATED READ: Why Sales Engineers and Pre-Sales are Your Best Source of Mid-Funnel Sales Content Creation

Proposal Management Teams

One of the great benefits of having a dedicated proposal team is having trained, experienced writers on your team who can drive the production of the most effective result. But, often, these teams are bogged down with process and project management instead of the part of the job they enjoy the most: crafting exceptional sales responses.

With traditional proposal management solutions, this team will typically be the only real users of the system, making gathering tribal knowledge time-consuming, convoluted, and frustrating. 

By removing that invisible boundary between proposals and other sales content, proposal teams have all the project management capabilities they’ve come to expect, with the added benefit of having their subject matter experts right in the system with them to reduce back-and-forth and the “cat herding” we so often see in proposal response. 

Key Benefits for Proposal Management Teams:

  • Ease of project management and oversight with progress reporting and clear assignment of tasks.
  • Subject matters can collaborate ad-hoc or curate their content on their own time, saving proposal teams review cycles.
  • Collaborative tools and integrations bring context and clarity to every request, never missing a crucial piece of information.
RELATED READ: 4 Tips to Make Your RFPs Stand Out

Sales Operations & Enablement Teams

The number of people in Sales Operations roles has more than doubled in the last two years and increased 2.7X faster than the sales function overall. (LinkedIn, 2020

With this fast increase in headcount has come more responsibility, visibility, and scrutiny on how time is spent within these teams. Sometimes, those increased responsibilities will include all the sales tools and RFP responses. When that’s the case, how do you prioritize the project management of RFPs while you have so many other things you need to focus like territory management, pricing agreements, and sales enablement at large?

Sales Content Collaboration solves this by taking the manual and rote tasks off sales operations’ plate, and allowing your team to focus on the effectiveness of the material, as opposed to the efficiency.

Key Benefits for Sales Operations & Enablement Teams:

  • Automation capabilities reduce the amount of manual tasks that sales operations have to pick up the slack for.
  • Curated, “reference” documents give peace of mind on the accuracy of deliverables.
  • CRM integrations make reporting a breeze.
RELATED READ: Hey Sales & Revenue Ops...Sales Content Collaboration is Your First Big Win in 2021

Security Teams

Compliance and security has, understandably, become an increasingly important concern for many companies. As a result, many industries have seen increases in security assessment and due diligence requests. 

With this influx of requests in the sales cycle, security teams have become strapped with content creation, instead of focusing on the important task of keeping their offering and company secure. And, often, they’ll have to drop everything at a moment’s notice to hit a quick deadline. 

By off-loading the bulk of content creation, Sales Content Collaboration empowers security teams to simply review and approve content, as opposed to them putting pen to paper.

Key Benefits for Security Teams:

  • Content filtering and locking capabilities ensures compliant answers every time. 
  • Curated, “reference” documents give peace of mind on the accuracy of deliverables.
  • Typical security assessment template upload (i.e. SIG) ensures the team never misses a question or requirement
RELATED READ: Security Assessments are the New Norm—Make Them Painless

Various Subject Matter Experts Across an Organization

As B2B buyers expect more personalized, detailed information throughout the sales cycle, subject matter experts (SMEs) have become increasingly vital. Whether it’s a product manager who can speak to the intricacies of your product use cases or a security professional who understands the complexities of GDPR, B2B selling “takes a village” now more than ever.

But, often these individuals are engaged on a one-off basis, clogging their inboxes, brain power, and patience.

Key Benefits for Subject Matter Experts:

  • Intuitive, easy-to-use platform for users who log in infrequently
  • Task- and project-oriented dashboard to clearly see where collaboration is required
  • Email and Slack notifications to easily manage assignments and tasks
RELATED READ: The 4 Steps to Engaging SMEs in the Sales Process [Free Guide]

Sales Content Collaboration vs. Alternatives

Many solutions in the sales content ecosystem solve part of the problem, without the focus of full-funnel content effectiveness. They either solve a small part of the funnel, serve a small part of the team, or only house one type of content. 

Below, we’ve included two common types of platforms that Sales Content Collaboration is often compared to, and how it differs. 

Sales Content Collaboration vs. RFP Tools

RFP tools focus on two main things: getting content in fast, and getting it out faster. 

While efficiency is great, these tools often miss the bigger picture of full-funnel content effectiveness. They fulfill the need for a small portion of content (sales requests like DDQs and RFPs) but they’re usually segmented from the greater content efforts throughout the sales cycle, losing context and consistency of message throughout the buying cycle. 

If a salesperson only sees the final result, how can they know the best possible value prop is being articulated?

These tools do have strengths, though, especially for growing companies who are feeling the pain of content creation for the first time. 

RFP Software Strengths: 

  • Easy-to-use and light-weight so you can get up-to-speed fast.
  • Simple interface with templated options for content.
  • Quick content storage for use in future documents.
  • Purpose-built for response management use cases.

Sales Content Collaboration Strengths:

  • Accommodates large user bases with specific roles and groups.
  • Customizable templates and content handle complex document types.
  • Intelligent curation and content management on an on-going basis.
  • Multiple use cases throughout the middle of your sales funnel.
Want a more in-depth analysis? Check out RFP Software vs. Sales Content Collaboration: What's the Difference? [Infographic]

Sales Content Collaboration vs. Sales Enablement

One of the key areas of focus for sales enablement is marketing and sales alignment. It’s a common problem — marketing has their set of KPIs and sales has theirs and they don’t always jive. With Sales Enablement, go-to-market teams can be under one roof collaborating, training, and enabling each other.

The content focused upon in Sales Enablement platforms typically lives at the top of the sales funnel.  Sleek presentations, thoughtful case studies, and off-the-shelf proposals are great examples. While that content is crucial to the sales cycle, these tools often miss a crucial part of the sales process: the meaty, document-based, less “sexy” mid-funnel content. 

The difference between these two tools really lies in the priorities and content they serve.

Sales Enablement Platform Strengths:

  • Hyper-focused on enabling and empowering the sales team with the content they need at a moment’s notice.
  • Quick personalization of branded, marketing-made content for distribution.
  • Led by marketing and sales enablement with a focus on enabling sales teams.

Sales Content Collaboration Strengths:

  • Broader use case with the knowledge transfer of SMEs.
  • Deep customization MoFu/BoFu documentation at scale, revenue team-made. 
  • Led by sales with a focus on enabling the entire revenue team and SMEs.

Learn more about Sales Content Collaboration:

See how others have succeeded with Sales Content Collaboration: