Buyers read everything they can about your solution before they reach out to your team.
High-performing sales reps on the other side of the deal should be reading voraciously too, especially at the beginning and end of the process.
In fact, a wide-ranging SiriusDecisions study found that top sales reps consume 68% more content in a single sales cycle than low-performing reps.
By following the content consumption cycle that the high performers employ, sales professionals can soar to new heights.
The first stage: How to maximize binge reading for sales success
The “getting to know you” stage is the most reading-intensive, and as soon as a new enterprise prospect appears on their radar, the best sales reps kick-start the process with a flurry of reading. Low-performing sales reps do not do this. Instead, they muddle through the first discovery call or two, hoping the path forward will become clear as they go.
While less successful reps wing it through their first calls, what are the top reps binge-reading? It’s a mix of internal-facing content and external content.
Internal content arms salespeople with intel from past deals. This enables the sales rep to structure the upcoming conversation for success by studying past wins, losses, and best practices.
Internal content includes:
- Buyer personas
- Industry reports
- Case studies
- Product updates and guides
- Solution-specific slide decks
- Deal anatomies
- Competitive battlecards
- Value messaging
Early, internal-focused binge-reading runs smoothly on a smart content platform. Ideally these documents live in a single, dynamic sales enablement repository, where the most up-to-date version of each is always on hand, organized by industry, pain point, solution, persona, and company size.
Without a well-organized sales content platform, this process devolves into a stream of emails and Slack messages from reps asking where “Content X” is. They resort to outdated materials or waste valuable selling time creating their own content.
High-performing reps: What are they binge-reading? And where are they reading it?
In addition to internally produced marketing content, high-performing reps consume anything that will give valuable insight into the prospect’s goals and pain points. This side of early-stage binge-reading veers off into broad web searches, leading to a wealth of free resources:
- Financial reports: Get clues to the direction the prospect’s company is going by reading their financial earnings reports, and listening to their earnings calls. Where is the company heading? What areas do they plan on investing in? What are their long-term corporate goals? This will give sales reps a clue.
- Corporate websites: Scour the prospect’s social media accounts and the marketing on their websites. What is important to this customer? What are the industry-specific buzzwords they use? Good sales reps don’t get caught flat-footed by terms or phrases used by the prospect. Prospects want to be assured that the sales rep understands their business.
- Industry journals: Sales reps can use these to look for common pain points related to the solution they sell. They also read to gauge the overall direction of change for this industry. Better yet, sales reps can sometimes learn how the prospect’s competitors have accomplished this change. This gives the sales rep important clues about the buyer’s motives for purchase.
- Blogs: Once the sales rep knows the buyer personas involved in the deal, it’s easy to find reputable blogs tailored to these personas. Leading blogs inform salespeople about the most salient problems and ideas for the buyer’s peer group. This positions the sales rep to walk into the conversation as an informed participant, prepared for a wide range of questions.
- Social media: Aside from getting familiar with the company’s social positioning, top sales reps use social media platforms like Twitter to examine trending industry hashtags for clues about the latest issues. They scour professional networks like LinkedIn to read messages from company leaders, and find news about competitor shake-ups.
The early-stage reading binge enables high-performing sales reps to be savvy about which pieces of content they package and send to the prospect up front.
Unlike low-performing reps, who send very little at this point, top salespeople send an average of 6.2 pieces of content during the early stage of the sales cycle, according to SiriusDecisions research.
The middle stage should be the least reading-intensive
High-performing sales reps aren’t binge-reading in the middle stage of the sales cycle — it’s go time. They’re busy having a productive, two-way conversation with the buyer. They’ve established themselves as knowledgeable partners, able to help the prospect solve her organization’s most pressing problem. Top sales reps consume the least content in the middle stage of the deal.
On the other hand, low-performing sales reps consume the most content in the middle stage. They’ve had a few not-so-great calls, and now they’re scrambling to catch up. They’re binge-reading internal content in a belated attempt to understand the industry and the buyer. They’re hunting for answers to the buyer’s questions and objections. And they’re digging for content they can send to sway the buyer’s decision.
As these low-performing reps mature in their processes, they learn to turn to the content available to them in the beginning of the process to stay ahead of the conversation as a solution partner, and not to wait until mid-conversation to start heavy research.
The final stage seals the deal
Just like the early stage of the sales process, the final stage splits high and low performers down the middle. Once again, the two sides flip. High-performing reps are consuming content in a frenzy, both reading it and sending it to the client. Meanwhile, low-performing reps are reading and sending very little.
In this stage, high-performing salespeople are studying internal content to find the perfect customer anecdote and customer reference to share on the next call. They’re looking for triumph stories with similar pain points. They’re using competitor comparison charts to answer a budget-holder’s concerns, or a two-minute video that illustrates a differentiating feature.
They are also poring through competitive battlecards to get an idea of what the competitors are likely telling the prospect, and how they can counter that. At this stage of the deal, most sales reps will know the top two to three competitors, so it’s time to know every nuance of the competitors’ tactics so they can be prepared.
High-performing reps take advantage of organized, easy-to-search sales enablement content system in this stage, more than any other. They have no time to waste when the prospect is entertaining proposals from three other vendors at that very moment. They need the right information and collateral at their fingertips.
A data-driven content system not only helps great sales reps to achieve even more, it teaches less experienced sales reps how to binge-read like high performers.