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How B2B marketing can influence the sales team to use its content according to behavioral science

Your sales team is more likely to use the content B2B marketing products when it is presented by a high-performing peer in sales – rather than a sales leader or a product marketer.

If you’ve worked in B2B marketing for a minute, you already know the sales team doesn’t like to use marketing content. Even if you’ve asked the sales team what types of content they want and delivered it made-to-order, chances are they haven’t even looked at it.

Then, in the middle of a hot deal, you get a panicked message from a sales rep begging for help: Do we have any content about X, Y and Z?

This has happened to me many times over. I’ll go into my email sent items, copy the email I sent them previously with X, Y and Z and send that as if it were a new response. And suddenly, I’m the sales team’s best new friend.

Yet I always wonder why it takes a moment like this to even get the team to consider the stuff I’ve made for them. How many opportunities have we missed because they didn’t even look at the deliverables?

Leff Bonney, PhD, summed it this way:

“All the effort your marketers put into crafting the most persuasive collateral gets wasted if you can’t convince your sellers to use it. Worse yet, when sellers don’t use what marketing provides, they often spend hours every week re-creating their own content to use in customer conversations.”

He penned those words in a recent report titled “Getting Sellers Engaged: What Motivates Sellers to Use Your Content?” (link below)

Bonney is a research director at B2B DecisionLabs which wrote the report. It was commissioned by a software company called Allego, which develops a sales enablement platform.

The report is unique because it’s based on two behavioral science experiments – not a survey – that the consulting firm conducted with Allego.

Among the key findings:

  • “Using a high-performing seller to present new collateral increased the likelihood of us.e by 61% over a similar presentation made by the product specialist.”
  • “Presenting new content with a case study or a demonstration increased likelihood of use by roughly 30% over basic information alone.”
  • “When a high-performing seller presented new collateral with a demonstration, the likelihood of use increased by 111% over the least effective combination, which was a product specialist presenting only basic information.”
  • “Asking reps to create a plan for how they would use new collateral in their sales motions drove a 98% increase in the likelihood of use over the control [group], which was not asking the reps to do any learning activity.”

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So why does this work? Behavioral science offers some insights:

1. Social proof: you too can be best performing.

Everyone is doing it!

That’s social proof and effective salespeople use this to sell products all the time. B2B marketing should use social proof to influence the sales team to use the content they’ve made:

“On average, all sellers who participated were more motivated to use the content when a high-performing peer presented the information. But some results varied based on the sellers’ levels of experience and performance.

Less experienced participants were significantly more likely to use the content after watching the senior sales leader.

Experienced sellers were more skeptical – they had lower-than-average use intentions after hearing from the sales leader and product manager. Underperforming sellers were significantly more influenced by their high-performing peer.”

There is a nuance here that merits highlighting: it’s not just everyone, but the best-performing salespeople. This implies ‘you too can be among the best-performing salespeople if you use the content.’

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2. Storytelling enhances value.

Storytelling can be a powerful sales tool. For example, there’s a great TEDx talk about a person who bought and ornament for .99 cents, had a story written about it – a pure invention – and then resold the ornament on eBay for $62.95.

The lesson is that storytelling can be used to motivate a sales team to use B2B content too:

“Sellers were significantly more likely to use the content after watching a role-play demonstration from a high-performing peer.”

Storytelling even helps product marketing and sales leaders – remember these groups were less convincing in the previous finding:

“When a product marketing manager or senior sales leader presented the content, a case study worked best.”

But if you combined social proof and storytelling together, you’ll get the most benefit:

“Overall, sellers were significantly more likely to use the content after watching a roleplay demonstration from a high-performing peer. So, if you can recruit an all-star seller to demonstrate a buying conversation, you’ll likely see the best results.”

It’s worth pointing out storytelling doesn’t just work on trinkets. Smart businesses use PR to help tell a story and increase their valuation.

3. Loss aversion is a motivating factor.

Loss aversion is the notion that losing something hurts twice as bad as winning feels good. In other words, the risk of losing something valuable is a bigger motivator than being rewarded for achievement.

The study put it this way:

“Participants who were asked what they might lose by not using the collateral were significantly more likely to use the content than if they were asked what they might gain.”

And it illustrated a better method:

“The most effective approach was asking sellers to think about their personal plan for using the content.”

The report went a step further and suggested mixing the two:

“Ask experienced, high-performing sellers to think about their personal plan for using the content. Newer and low-performing sellers are more motivated when they think about what they lose by not using the content.”

* * *

The full report is worth a read and can be downloaded here: Getting Sellers Engaged: What Motivates Sellers to Use Your Content? I first learned of the report from this article in Sales & Marketing Management: 3 Ways to Increase Sales Reps’ Use of Marketing’s Content.

Need help with B2B marketing or public relations? I’m a seasoned B2B marketing and PR consultant that can both bring big ideas and execute. I’d be glad to speak with you about your needs. Here are some useful links: aboutservices and contact. Or just reply to this message if you are a subscriber and receiving blog posts by email.

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Image credit: DALL·E 2023-05-08 10.31.34 – several sales people on phone calls looking desperately for a report in the style of van Gogh

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