What Are Your Sales Reps Telling Customers? Now You Can Figure It Out.

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Marketers have fine-tuned their methods for identifying, tracking and nurturing leads. But what happens once a lead is handed over to sales? Are reps having valuable conversations? This is where we start to lose the trail. What has -- to date -- been the veritable, vexing “black hole” of measuring sales conversations emerges, impacting both productivity and the bottom line.

Many times, it turns out the conversations aren’t going well. The number-one reason sales reps don’t hit quota, according to analyst firm SiriusDecisions, is because they can’t articulate value in conversations. Is more training the remedy? Accenture reports nearly half of organizations spend up to $5,000 per rep per year on this -- but one in three are unsure what measurable improvements they seek. Yikes.

Related: The New Wave of Sales Acceleration Technology

Since managers can’t tag along on every meeting or call, how the heck do they know what reps are telling prospects? Wouldn’t it be great to elucidate this? Think of the benefits related to honed training and coaching -- as well as productivity, forecasting ability and overall sales results.

Content as a proxy.

A confluence of factors and technologies has emerged to help make the unknowable knowable -- letting sales use content as a proxy for being in the room. Cost and technical barriers to creating and delivering rich media have become virtually non-existent -- fueling the growth of compelling, interactive sales content, videos and other types of media, and the ability to track how they’re being used.

At the same time, the sales “conversation” is no longer limited to what takes place in a meeting room. Rather, it encompasses all the communications leading up to, during and after that meeting -- many of which are taking place online.

Applied effectively, analytics can capture intelligence around how -- and how successfully -- content is telling a company’s story. Data can be served up intuitively, in a way that answers key questions, such as: “What are my reps talking about?” “What are hot spots of prospect interest?” “What ideas are we getting from customers that might, otherwise, not percolate back?”

What’s in it for me?

For sales organizations, this may involve a shift in mentality or process. As such, what’s the upside of using content analytics to measure conversations?

Related: 4 Ways Technology Can Help 'Clone' Your Best Salespeople

Be the proverbial fly on the wall. Time is money, and it’s become unpractical and untenable for sales to always visit buyers. Plus, at a certain stage in the deal, reps aren’t allowed to attend meetings. By tracking who’s viewing content, when, for how long and more, sales can understand dynamics that help plan their next move. Content puts them where they often can’t afford and aren’t allowed to be -- but still need to be.

Uncover hidden players. Reps may be sending a video to one contact, but it’s being passed around and viewed by others. Who are these people? What are their roles? Content becomes, literally, the inside “track” to the organization, revealing different personas involved and how they’re responding to messages.

Clone "A"-grade reps. Analytics provide insight into what makes the best sales reps. What content are they using, at what stage in the sales cycle and with whom? By analyzing and deconstructing processes used by the most successful reps, managers can create a set of repeatable best practices that help turn "B" and "C" players into "A" ones.

Provide more effective, individualized coaching. With improved visibility into rep activity, managers can also take a more proactive, effective role in coaching. They can tell whether reps are sharing the right content at the right stage of the sale, and even look at how reps are performing in live meetings -- comparing presentations delivered and time spent per slide with proven best practices. It’s then easy to identify instances of content misalignment, and provide individualized coaching and support.

Improve content development and use. Analytics provide a windfall for marketers, trainers and other content creators -- showing, at a glance, which content is associated with closed deals (and how frequently), what’s used most often and what seems to be a dud. This lets content creators invest time developing materials they know will drive sales, rather than what they think might be useful.

Lighting up the black hole.

Content plays a central role in telling a company’s story, so it’s important to control the message and track when, how and by whom it’s being received. Effectively applying analytics helps sales teams get their foot in the door -- and stay there -- while enabling managers to demystify elements that contribute to success. These honed insights into sales conversations lead to better conversations and, ultimately, shorter sales cycles and more closed deals.