The last thing your sales team wants to focus on is shuffling through tens or sometimes hundreds (I’m not kidding … ) of sales materials to get their hands on the one or two tools they need for their next prospect meeting.
Any salesperson will tell you the same thing: when it comes to sales tools, it’s about quality NOT quantity.
So how do you know if your sales team has the right tools they need to close the deal?
It’s possible you have a well-organized marketing portal or strategic documentation process for storing your sales materials. If that’s the case, you can skip this step. But in my experience, I’ve found that most companies do not have a fool-proof filing system.
Another angle to consider is that the filing system is your problem, not the actual sales materials. While we’ve developed digital filing solutions for clients, that’s the topic of another blog.
So, if you’ve worked with us in the past, you’ll be very familiar with this phrase: “It all starts with a list!” This holds true for auditing your sales tools. It starts with listing out the full library of your sales materials: presentations, sell sheets, demo videos, proposals, etc. This is an important step because you need to understand the breadth of materials and possible scope of your work.
A simple tool that can help you get started is using Google Sheets. List the name of the material; if possible, link a digital copy of the tool; include the format of the tool (ex: PDF, video, PowerPoint); identify the audience intended to use the tool; and, note any additional information you use internally to organize your content.
Once you have the list, you need to analyze it.
Look for Red Flags:
- Age and Activity: Time is our enemy, especially in this digital age, and there are two dates you need to consider to determine the functionality of the material. First, when was the last time the document was updated? If it was more than two years (and as a marketer, I feel I’m being extremely generous here), then it’s likely out-of-date. Even if your team is using this tool, it’s time for an update or at least a thorough review. Next, when was the last time someone downloaded or accessed the document? Some platforms allow easy access to this insight. If your storage system does not, you’ll have to find this out manually by asking your team.
- Multiple Versions: Often the multiple versions debacle is a shortcut solution to updating ineffective or dated materials. This usually means your salesperson wants to use this tool, but it doesn’t entirely provide them with the right information. Your salesperson might find 80% of the information useful, but the other 20% is irrelevant or no longer a sales offering. I’ve actually seen inventory lists of at least 100 materials, many with three or four versions of the same document, resulting in a couple hundred different tools available to your team. Who has time to sort through that and make their prospect meetings?
- Off-Brand: Have you recently gone through a rebrand? Or maybe not so recently? Sometimes companies tweak their brand multiple times over the years. I’ve seen organizations using sales materials with three different logos - their 90s look, early 2000s, and current update. This red flag is easy to identify. If it’s not on-brand with your current messaging and visual identity, it’s time for an update.
- Missing Pieces: This could be the lack of materials to support a specific buyer type who you actively sell to, or maybe you are only providing supporting materials for 3 out of your 4 primary service offerings. The missing pieces could be different for each organization, so it’s your responsibility or your consultant’s responsibility to identify these gaps.
Who are the people using these materials? Sometimes, they are just your inside and outside sales team. But, if applicable, don’t forget about your business partners, brokers, or contract representatives that sell on behalf of your company.
Once you’ve identified who to talk to, you need the questions to ask them. During our Business Audit workshops, I’ve found a few simple questions to be a great starting point for the conversation.
“What materials do you use to sell?”
This is a good starter question. By simply understanding the materials your salespeople currently use, you can start to eliminate the unmentioned content ... at least for now. You can either write these down and cross-check with your inventory list later, or you can check off or star items on your list in-the-moment.
“Of the materials you’re currently using, what’s working and what’s not?”
Just because you have the tools, doesn’t mean they are the best tools. The simple thought prodders “what’s working” and “what’s not” help keep the interviewee’s mind out of the weeds. Make sure to take thorough notes because this information will be useful when the time comes to update the tools or create new tools.
Build Out the Wish List:
“Are there any tools or resources that you currently do not have, but you think would help you do your job better?”
The primary purpose of conducting interviews is to identify gaps and opportunities in your sales process. This question opens dialog for both. Sometimes the feedback is, “I don’t really need sales tool X, but I think it would be really awesome.” This is an opportunity. Another example is finding out that your sales team is spending hours manually entering data that could easily be automated. Again, I’d consider this an operational opportunity to improve efficiency. A gap would be finding out your team does not have a resource they need to get the job done, such as the inability to prove ROI on purchasing one of your products or not having a standard leave-behind material when meeting with a prospect.
Now you’ve taken inventory, talked to your salespeople, and assembled the feedback. Using this information, determine the 3 most used materials and, if there is a significant trend, the top 1 or 2 most requested materials. (After completing the entire 5-step process, you can return to your list and continue to update the next-in-line, relevant materials.)
Consider these 3 to 5 materials your priority items and the starter pack for your sales toolkit.
Regardless of who is currently using the selected materials, it will all serve the same purpose: close the deal and make more money. They might complain at first, but your sales team will adjust and likely even benefit from a more unified approach to selling your products or services.
It’s time to consider everything you’re learning in your pre-work and research. You’ve determined the top 3 to 5 materials that need to be updated. Now, look back at the notes you took about what works and what doesn’t. It’s possible that you have all the information you need to make the updates and distribute the tools to your team. But, I’ve found it can be useful to gather the group once more and get a consensus on how you plan to use each tool and what information is best to serve that selling purpose.
Finally, you can take all of the necessary information and build or update the materials to be the current, relevant tools your team really needs to effectively sell.
It’s a good practice to circle back on any process, tool, or technology every 6-months, or at least once a year. Gather your sales team and the tools they use and ask “What’s working?” and “What’s not?” and “Is there anything you don’t have but you need?”.
You already know how to run these conversations, and now you should have the templates created to easily update the tools. Ideally, keeping up with the 6-month cadence will help you make slight tweaks to enhance the tool instead of having to scrap and start over.