In the pre-Internet age, marketing and sales teams had clearly defined roles. Marketing departments generated leads for sales. Sales representatives then qualified those leads and aimed to close sales. Very little selling took place outside of the realm of the salesperson, and sellers largely controlled the flow of information to buyers. With the power of information at their fingertips thanks to the internet, leverage has shifted to buyers over the past decade. They perform research on their mobile devices, get input from social networks, and are more empowered than buyers at any other period in history. As a result, How to Adapt and Thrive When the Rules Have Changed Over the past ten years, sales and marketing teams have had to learn the skill of social selling. With the increased popularity of sites liked Twitter and LinkedIn, those who do not learn to master the ability to understand the buyer’s identity, interests, and relationships will not be able to compete. Online networking requires sales and marketing teams to inform and educate the consumer through the written word and visual mediums such as video and infographics. In a customer-centric world, the focus must shift from selling something to legitimately helping them. This is where content marketing enters the picture. Quality Content Can Unite Sales and Marketing Teams Getting sales and marketing teams to communicate efficiently and work well together has always been a challenge. In fact, Content Marketing Institute reports that 49 percent of marketing and sales executives state that lack of communication is the biggest barrier to unity between the teams. One key to overcoming this common problem is for sales and marketing to work together to create an effective content marketing strategy. After all, many people are already one-third of the way through their buying journey before they connect with a salesperson. When a prospective buyer acquires a decent percentage of information online, marketers must ensure that he or she connects with quality content along the way. Inaccurate or over-hyped online content often causes buyers to abandon their quest or take it in a different direction. To attract a buyer’s attention at the initial stages, marketing teams must provide them with high-quality interactive content that differs considerably from that of the competition. According to a research study quoted at Content Marketing Institute, interactive content has a 93 percent effectiveness rating when it comes to educating the buyer. Just as importantly, it allows consumers to distinguish between brands 88 percent of the time. What has emerged from this study is that content must be personal to be effective. Marketing to broad audiences no longer works. How to Form a Content Creation Process Sales representatives spend more time in direct communication with customers than anyone else. They have a good grasp of what their passions are and what frustrates them. Unfortunately, this valuable information often gets lost in busyness and routines. Creating a process for content creation is essential to connect with even more customers in the future. Some ideas to get started with this include: Devote time at each marketing and sales meeting to brainstorming content ideas. Sales representatives should prepare for the meeting by thinking about the type of content they would like to have available to them to attract more leads or to share with prospects. Use a shared document to collect ideas for future content. Some people are more creative when they don’t feel like they are under pressure. Creating a Google document and making it available to the entire sales and marketing teams allows for maximum content ideas. It also means that people won’t forget their ideas between meetings. Publish a regular blog under the name of each salesperson. In the case of a large sales team, rotate whose ideas and name are featured. A member of the marketing team can interview a salesperson about a specific product or service and then hire a ghostwriter to create the blog post. This creates credibility for the salesperson in addition to fulfilling the customer’s need for in-depth, useful information. Ask members of each team to share static and interactive content on social media. This will get them more engaged with each other, the customer, and the company’s goals. Strategies to Create Alignment Between Sales and Marketing Many sales and marketing team managers overlook the most obvious strategy to success of all. Neither team can consistently meet its goals without regular meetings with one another. This is especially important when a new salesperson comes on board. It gives him or her the opportunity to learn best practices and acquire access to resources and processes right from the start. An important benefit of weekly meetings is that it gives marketers a chance to see how each member of the sales team is doing with their goals and quota. If anyone is struggling, the two teams can bounce ideas off each other to help the salesperson overcome the challenge. It also lets the sales team in on promotions the marketing team is planning in the upcoming week. Sales and marketing teams should make it clear to one another what they need most to succeed at their jobs. For example, a Demand Gen survey indicated that one-third of sales representatives state their biggest need is higher quality leads. Quantity came in a close second to quality. The good news is that higher quality content addresses both these issues. The Demand Gen study also stated that the same percentage of marketers desired better follow-up on leads from the sales team. This, too, can be resolved by better content marketing. When potential customers interact with content by completing a quiz or test, clicking a video link, or requesting more information, it gives both teams a golden opportunity to capture the type of engagement customers want. Promoting more of this type of content and less of the stuff that gets ignored benefits everyone in the end. Image: Content marketing distribution concept. Woman carrying a box with the word “content” in front.