Digital Sales Support

Sales Support In the Digital Age

It wasn’t that long ago that the average sales rep’s toolkit was limited to boxes filled with paper collateral. Today, there are many more options, including multimedia tools. So how do you decide which tools to invest in? And how do you help assure their effectiveness?

These tips can help make the most of the time and money you invest in sales and marketing support materials.

Talk to Your Star Salespeople.

Asking a few questions of your highest achievers can yield significant insights. (While this may seem like an obvious thing to do, you’d be surprised how often this step is skipped.) What materials are working for them? How are they using them? Are there any that they rarely or never use? Any they wish they had to fill a gap? Talk to both veteran sales reps as well as those who may be less experienced, but offer a fresh perspective. These conversations can happen individually or as a roundtable. However you approach this step, overcome the perception that you always know what your salespeople need more than they do. Their input won’t dictate what materials you pursue, but it will absolutely inform your strategy.

Optimize Materials for Multiple Uses.

To make the most of your marketing support budget, don’t just limit the number of content pieces you create and maintain—maximize how you leverage them. Plan to use different channels to tell your stories. You’ll want basic versions that can be expressed with text and images; these can be applied to simple documents like PDF sheets, iBooks, and others. You’ll also want richer multimedia versions; ideally, video that engages with sight, sound, and motion. Regardless of the medium, try to make your materials as modular as possible to streamline inevitable updates.

A few types of media documents that we consider most practical and effective:

  • Portable documents. That’s right – PDFs. These are so widely compatible, they’re practically ubiquitous. Across a multitude of devices, they’re readable and maintain layout consistency better than any other format. They’re useful locally on a laptop or tablet. Post them to your web server and they become searchable content.
  • iBooks. We’re big fans of the iBooks format. Compared to a native iOS or Android application, iBooks can be a really cost-effective way to get multimedia content onto an iPad while also avoiding the distribution hurdles that native apps (especially iOS apps) present.
  • Video. If you want rich, engaging content that’s portable to many different contexts and technical applications, it’s hard to beat video. Sure, truly interactive pieces (e.g., games) offer the highest potential for deep engagement. However, they’re costly to create and update, and usually platform-specific (therefore, limiting). Video, on the other hand, offers a wide range of production techniques, can be viewed on many devices and platforms, and can be embedded in web pages and many other types of documents. And it’s no secret that video is one of the most comfortable and enjoyable modes for people to consume content.

Make sure you think through each use case when making media selections. For example, will materials be used with a rep present, or are they freestanding and self-guided? Does the content need to work in more than one context, or just on its own?

Make a Plan for Distribution and Organization.

It’s not enough to produce great sales collateral—you need to plan ahead so your sales reps know what’s available and how best to use it. If you’re replacing materials, make a plan to get the older ones out of circulation. Keep a central repository for sales support documents, and make sure it’s organized and easy to use. If you already have a system in place to keep track of documents (like the clean, easy-to-use Dropbox, or the more robust and complex Salesforce), make sure that new documents will be compatible.

One last tip: while there are many systems available that provide a structure for distributing and even tracking the use of sales documents (like Showpad, which we haven’t taken for a full test run yet), in our experience, none of these can operate well without regular care and maintenance from a knowledgeable (human) manager.

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