How Interactive Content Helps Marketing Support Sales

Anna Talerico, ion interactive's EVP and co-founder

Anna Talerico, ion interactive's EVP and co-founder

"Meet the buyer at their point of interest."

As the sales leader at ion, it’s a statement I probably utter way too many times a day. I can’t take credit for coining my favorite phrase, I think I read it once in a Sirius Decisions blog (and I’ve never been able to find the post since). But I love it. To me, it sums up everything about what the buyer’s experience should be, and what rock star sales people do naturally.

Last week we announced a major new feature to our interactive content software that helps sales do exactly that: Meet the buyer at their point of interest. From the CRM, our new Sell-Side feature gives a salesperson a contextually relevant view into their buyer’s configurations, calculations, solutions, self assessments and more. Anything the buyer did in the content experience can be presented to the sales person in a contextually meaningful way—including hints, tips, and conversation pointers crafted by marketing for sales. It’s a view into buyer behavior that marketing creates specifically to help the sales person understand buyer behavior and responses. Talk about alignment. 

I already wrote about what an impact this can make in improving conversations with buyers when I blogged about why I am so passionate about the digital dialogue earlier this year.

"As a sales leader at ion, I’ve always been obsessed with the concept of ‘meeting the buyer at the point of interest’. It’s incumbent upon sales to not drag a buyer through some sort of rigorous pre-defined process, but rather to start the conversation based upon where the buyer is in their journey.  The best sales people instantly (intuitively, perhaps?) pick up on this and know how to shape their conversations accordingly. Buyers appreciate connecting with a sales person who is knowledgeable enough to make it all about them…."

….and how interactive content can help the sales person meet the buyer at their point of interest….

"With an interactive version of a white paper, we can see which sections of the content the buyer viewed (and which they didn’t). With an assessment tool, we can see how the buyer answered questions about their situation or needs. With an online calculator, we can see the exact specifications the buyer input to receive pricing. Ultimately, what this information helps us do is pick up where the two-way marketing dialogue leaves off. It gives us flexibility to meet the buyer at their point of interest and not force them to answer a bunch of self-serving questions while we try to dig for need or pain or fit. With the right interactive content, the buyer will have already shared their needs, pains or aspirations along the way."

Now let’s take a look at what this actually means, in the real world, for a real sales person. The ion sales team has had their hands on a pre-release version of Sell-Side for awhile now. How does it help us?

 

#1 Sell-Side gives us empathy.

Somehow, looking at how a buyer filled out an assessment makes them more human to us when viewed not as a list of data, but as an actual experience that is much like the one the buyer actually saw when they completed the assessment. We ‘get’ them, because they’ve told us about themselves and their situation, via their interaction with our content. Are they in pain? Are they implementing best practices well? Having a sense of this before we pick up the phone, or send an email, helps us be more empathetic to them. And empathy is a sales secret weapon. The best sales people I know are naturally, and extraordinarily, empathetic.

#2 Sell-Side changes the direction we take a conversation.

To be sure, we aren’t calling up a buyer to say, “So, I am looking at your record and I see you used our calculator 10 times yesterday at 1:45pm and you configured prices from 80 units to 120 units. Can I send you a quote for 100 units?”. But we are also not talking about 10 units or 1,000 units. We’re not using the data from the calculator as a hard-and-fast-never-to-be-changed calculation, but more of a way to talk about price in a way we think will resonate with the buyer. Of course, that doesn’t mean a buyer can’t change direction. They can, and they sometimes do. But for many conversations, we can eradicate shooting in the dark, or a gazillion questions to get to the general sense of scope for any particular buyer. We already have the answer from the digital dialogue.

#3 Sell-Side makes us more relevant.

For example, when a buyer fills out a solution planner and says they have no content today, we’re not going to get on the phone and espouse the benefits interactive content. We’re going to start at square one and talk to them about their plans for content marketing. That’s different than the conversation starter for a buyer who completes a solution planner and indicates they have tons of content and are seeking to improve their content engagement. In this case, we don’t need to start at square one. We’re going to jump right into interactive content as a way to boost engagement. It helps us ignite a fantastic, relevant conversation more quickly.

#4 Sell-Side helps us get from opportunity to close faster.

When we don’t have to backtrack and ask the buyer a bunch of information they already provided in their digital dialogue with marketing, it accelerates the conversation (aside from the fact that it is just a better experience for everyone). This acceleration can lead to faster sales cycles, because we’re just moving forward and guiding our prospect through the gaps they may have in their evaluation, building value that’s relevant to their situation. No steps back. Just forward. 

 

These 4 points combined do one thing—they help us meet the buyer at their point of interest. And that is way better for us, and way better for the buyer. What about you? As a marketer, how do you support your sales team in bridging the gap from the marketing conversation to the sales conversation?