create-right-contentContent -- it's everywhere these days, including in data reports, infographics, white papers, ebooks, videos, podcasts, webcasts, and webinars. It is one of the most powerful tools in the marketer's arsenal for generating inbound leads.

But utilizing content doesn't stop once the lead is handed over to sales. As a salesperson, you can further leverage your company's content to close a deal.

Sales will use content based on a number of factors, including opportunity stage, company industry, role, and product -- but this many not necessarily align with what your content marketing team is creating.

Sales and marketing teams must work together to align content creation and utilization processes. When content is aligned, shared, tracked, and measured throughout the entire content cycle, you can increase engagement and sell more effectively.

Here's how you can work effectively with your marketing team to leverage content and convert leads.

1) Take Inventory

You need to know where all of your sales assets are and when they were last updated. Work with marketing and ask them to help you determine what you have and what you don't have. By knowing what you have to work with -- and what content helps answers questions your prospects are asking -- you can suggest new collateral that will assist you at specific stages of the engagement.

2) Get Organized

Chances are, your content is spread across multiple repositories and is maintained by another department. Work with those owners to determine how to get access to those assets. Determine the best way to organize this collateral so that you can access it fast. Some create bookmarks and others have used more advanced solutions that curate content specific to the engagement within their CRM. Do what's best for your particular sales process.

3) Create a Content Map

Once you have identified all of your usable assets and organized them in a way that makes them accessible, you should create a content map. This will lay out what content needs your prospects have throughout the sales engagement. This is a technique generally used by the marketing team, but it can be adopted by sales. The rule of thumb here is to determine the level of education your buyer needs and only send content that matches those needs. This will help prevent sending too much of the wrong content to the buyer, also known as "content puking."

4) Track Content Usage

You will never know how effective your content is unless you track its usage. To a salesperson, this data is very important at the sales engagement level, but to marketing, the aggregate helps make strategic decisions on what content to put their weight behind in the future. Log what content you send to each prospect. There are solutions out there that even help you track when your prospect has opened emails and clicked through on links within. When this data is synced with a CRM, you now have solid numbers to determine what content your prospect is most interested in.

5) Gather Feedback

Salespeople are on the front lines every day. What they hear from prospects and customers should be shared with the organization and help give insight to internal decision-makers. The same goes for sales collateral. There are sales rebels out there who create their own collateral, which puts them at risk of being off-message and using retired collateral. Gather feedback and get it to marketing so they can work on improving existing content and educate buyers correctly.

With prospects increasingly doing more and more research online before ever speaking to a salesperson, it's becoming critically important to use an inbound sales approach. This means that you need to be consultative and use content to engage your prospect. Having a system in place that helps salespeople use the right content at the right time will make your sales process more effective.

What types of content do you use to engage your prospects? Does some content work better than others? Leave us a comment in the section below!

Greg Hyer is Marketing Manager at KnowledgeTree, a venture-backed software company that helps sales teams utilize content and track engagement right in Salesforce.com. You can follow him at @GregHyer.

Image credit: Ken Teegardin

Originally published Sep 26, 2013 2:30:00 PM, updated September 26 2013

Topics:

Sales Collateral