As reps move prospective buyers down the sales funnel, they’re going to need more than just their people skills to close the deal. There’s power in established sales processes for reps to master, software solutions to automate tasks, and content to demonstrate value to the customer.
A key function of any sales enablement team is to make sure that every rep is equipped with the tools, resources, and strategies they need to convert leads into customers. In show business, those items are called sales collateral.
What is sales collateral?
Sales collateral refers to the materials used by sales reps through their entire selling process. Businesses will create, implement, and optimize their repository of sales collateral with the goal of improving their sales strategy.
The B2B sales scene has become uber competitive. Offering a solid solution to customers in your buyer persona isn’t going to cut it anymore. To earn their business, buyers are expecting – and in a way, demanding – to be well-informed and engaged throughout the entire sales process, given a solution that goes above and beyond, and provided a relationship with a business to match.
Your catalog of sales collateral can be the difference between a customer choosing you over a worthy competitor. The sooner you create a strategy for creating and using sales collateral, the better.
Marketing and sales collateral
The constant collaboration between sales and marketing can create confusion about where the line is drawn in terms of responsibilities, strategies, and collateral used to acquire new customers. While sales reps use their collateral repertoire to close deals with new and existing customers, marketing teams use theirs to promote a company’s solution.
Before going into the different types of sales collateral and best practices for implementation, it’s important to point out the three ways that make it different from what marketing uses:
Purpose: Marketing collateral is used to attract and educate potential customers, while sales collateral is meant to help them reach a decision about making a purchase to relieve their pain point(s).
Funnel placement: Marketing collateral serves its purpose when customers are at the top of the sales funnel, where they are usually focused on becoming more aware of their problem and potential solutions. Sales collateral, on the other hand, is when customers have made their way further down the funnel when they are ready to choose a solution.
Format: Marketing collateral can take a variety of formats, like blog posts, social media, email newsletters, or anything else that marketers have the time and budget to try. Sales collateral has a more narrow scope in terms of formats, typically sticking to brochures and customer testimonials.
Both sales and marketing collateral have an important part in the process of converting a lead into a loyal customer. However, the distinction between the two sets of resources is important when deciding which one to deliver to customers.
Types of sales collateral
As buyers move past the initial awareness stage of their journey, sales reps need to step in with their knowledge, sales skills, and content toolbox to wow customers into making a purchase. While the types of sales collateral a business uses can differ depending on their industry or cadence, here are some common examples of resources used to close deals as effectively as possible.
A landing page is a place where website visitors go if they click through one of your calls to action, making it a type of collateral that works for both the sales and marketing functions of your business.
Most landing pages are created in an effort to collect a lead’s contact information after they interact with one of your blog posts, email newsletters, social media posts, or another one of the pieces of content within your digital marketing materials.
A good landing page requires good copywriting and visual elements that work to engage the customer. Businesses will typically have more than one approach to landing pages, all with different messaging and value propositions.
This way, when a conversion occurs, the salesperson knows exactly what made the customer intrigued enough to do so. This offers the ability for segmentation, which is important when prioritizing and pitching your clients.
Sales conversations can take on a variety of formats, and it all depends on the preferences of the customer and the channels included in your sales cadence. Your sales collateral should definitely include scripts for social media messages, cold calling, voicemails, and emails, along with follow ups for each method.
None of your customers are going to be exactly the same, so your approach shouldn’t be either. Having scripts on hand are important for reps as they contact prospects, but it’s possible that the content will need to be altered to appeal to that particular audience.
The beauty of offering sales scripts to your reps is that they have a greater chance at mastering the delivery. Soon enough, they won’t even need to reference the script and will be able to handle customer conversations on the fly.
Corporate brochures, whether printed or digital, are informative documents that describe your company, a certain product, or both.
A lot of times, businesses will use brochures to compare their products, giving customers access to all of the information they need to decide which one best suits their needs. Examples of content within a brochure includes product features, pricing, use cases, and maybe even a customer review or two.
Brochures are typically given to customers when they are in the consideration stage, meaning they are comparing their options for a vendor. However, it could even be in the stage beforehand, too. This double use is a blessing and a curse: you can use it for both situations, but the brochure must intrigue the customer successfully at both stages.
A value demonstration is a meeting you have with a prospective customer where you present the benefits of buying your product.
These conversations can happen over the phone, on a video call, or in person. While they might come across as an outdated approach, sales presentations are actually one of the most effective ways to convert prospects.
As you go about creating your value demonstrations, it’s important to take segmentation and personalization into account. You don’t want to use the same presentation with every one of your customers.
You might follow the same structure, but when it comes to highlighting product details and benefits, you’re going to want to adapt the presentation to hit on the pain points of that particular customer. The best way to go about that is through research and comparisons with similar existing customer relationships.
It’s highly unlikely that your prospect will agree with everything you say and sign on the dotted line without a word. They’ll have plenty of questions, comments, and concerns you’ll need to address. So another part of your sales collateral toolbox should include anticipated customer objections and how to go about handling them.
A product video is an explainer video that shows the benefits of using a certain product. Offering the customer a diversified set of materials is a good method to compensate for not knowing their content preferences when being pitched. Your description of an infographic might’ve gone in one ear and right out the other, but the addition of a video might’ve driven that value home.
Product videos give salespeople the opportunity to show how their solution is used in real life. By focusing on the prevalent features, potential costumes will be able to make connections as to how that particular detail can help them relieve a pain point. Clever narratives and metaphors can easily stick out in the customer’s mind, and that’s exactly where you want to be.
Customer testimonials or case studies
You can only advocate for yourself so much before the customer starts to wonder how authentic your vision of your own solution is. That’s why it’s crucial for your sales collateral to include customer testimonials, reviews, and case studies.
Potential buyers rely heavily on what real-life users have to say about your company, solutions, and support. What do they like? What do they not like? What features do they use the most, and which ones could they do without? Who would they recommend buy this product?
This information is gold to build trust with potential buyers sitting in the decision stage. However, to make customer testimonials and case studies work to your advantage, you must provide a positive experience for the customers you already have.
Fact sheets, also known as data sheets, are an example of sales collateral that isn’t distributed to the customer. Instead, it’s a list of facts regarding the customer that the sales rep needs to effectively sell to them. Items on a fact sheet will include their company history, organizational chart, pain points, and budget.
The word “sheet” here isn’t being used literally. Keeping track of customer information on a piece of paper is a recipe for lost data and poor organization. Even if your business only has a few customers, CRM software can automate the data collection process, ensuring that every customer facing department has access to details about a prospect.
Sales collateral best practices
Anyone in sales will tell you that it’s not always about what you have, but how you use it. Your business could have the most elaborate and carefully crafted sales collateral, but if you don’t implement the following best practices, you might miss out on the positive effects.
Identify buyer personas
No sales strategy has been successful without properly identifying buyer personas. A buyer or customer persona is the ideal person that you want buying your solution. It’s not that you want to count out any interested parties, but it’s important to understand the people who are most likely to make a purchase so you can prioritize your time selling to them.
If your business has more than one product, you’ll likely have multiple personas. When creating your sales collateral, you need to learn who your buyers are and have content ready for all of those audiences. Pay special attention to things like product descriptions and language.
Keep the end in mind
Every action you take throughout your sales cycle should always be done with your end goal in mind: to close a deal, creating a lasting impression, and establish a relationship with the customers. Your sales collateral should reflect this idea as well.
When creating materials to use along your buyer’s journey, always double check that it’ll help you make moves to your final goal. Keep your objective, metrics for success, and use cases in mind and ask yourself: Is this piece of sales collateral serving its overall purpose of converting prospects into customers?
If not, don’t sweat it. Just regroup with a more focused approach.
Research your competitors
It’s possible that you have a competitor in the market who is killing it with their sales collateral. While you won’t be able to sit in on a meeting with them and their prospects, you can do research to see what types of sales collateral they are using.
If it’s working for them, it could potentially work for you as well. To go above and beyond, identify what your competitors are doing and take it up a notch. Find whatever it is that they’re missing and add it to your approach.
Collaborate with other departments
The beauty of a business is that sales isn’t alone in the challenge of acquiring new customers. Marketing, customer service, customer success, product designers, and countless other departments are along for the ride. Collaboration is necessary in creating a truly well-rounded sales collateral collection.
Marketers understand the audience and how to engage them. Customer success has the know-how for creating a lasting relationship. Customer service experiences customer issues and how to combat them. Product designers get your solution inside and out.
You have a whole team at your side waiting to support you. Use them!
Again, you can’t create one version of each type of sales collateral and call it a day. Every piece of content, whether given to the customer or not, needs to be personalized for that particular buyer journey. Pain points, communication preferences, and place in the decision-making process can all alter the content necessary for getting a new customer on board.
After time, or as you begin, your sales collateral materials can start to get stale and out of date. You need to keep up the image your brand has worked so hard to create, and something like an off-brand landing page, poorly designed brochure, or irrelevant value demonstration can make or break your chances at closing the deal.
As your business, selection of products, industry, and customer base change, your sales collateral needs to adjust alongside it. Conducting regular audits of your current arsenal will help you pick out materials that aren’t serving their purpose, need updating, or need to be redone completely.
Create a calendar
Sales teams will promise prospects certain materials when selling, and if they can’t deliver, that won’t leave a good impression on the customer.
Establishing a calendar for final publish dates when collateral is ready for use is helpful when reps are planning out their campaigns and cadences. This also gives the business an idea of what is currently achievable and what is a bit out of reach.
Repurpose where you can
Repurposing has two meanings in regards to sales collateral. In one case, it’s used to describe using the same piece of content twice (if appropriate). So if you have a video review from a customer, include it in your next sales email.
Repurposing also refers to creating templates for things that need to be adjusted depending on the customer, but still stick to the same format. A perfect example of this is having a template for all of your sales scripts, including cold calling, voicemails, and emails.
A rep's most important asset
A sales rep should never go ill-equipped. There is power in the sales collateral, tools, and other resources they use to communicate value to customers, and having it readily available is a crucial part of the sales process.
Each piece of sales collateral your reps use should coincide with a step in your sales cadence. Here’s how to make one.
Mary Clare Novak is a Content Marketing Specialist at G2 in Chicago, where she is currently exploring topics related to sales and customer relationship management. In her free time, you can find her doing a crossword puzzle, listening to cover bands, or eating fish tacos. (she/her/hers)
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