Effective sales collateral is any piece of content that supports the sales process. Back in analog times, that meant things like brochures, sales sheets and catalogs. While print still has its place, today’s digital marketers have a much wider variety of collateral available to them — including e-books, blogs and video.
But even with all the possibilities, a whopping 78% of executive buyers say that salespeople aren’t equipped with relevant content to share during meetings.
Sales teams need pieces to take with them or share via email that clearly represent the products, services and mission of your company. Get it right, and these collateral pieces can enrich the sales process and even nudge a prospect into the customer zone.
As with any marketing approach, there are best practices for creating effective sales collateral (and things to avoid). In this post, we’ll cover what sales collateral is (and isn’t), how your team should use it and seven practical tips for creating collateral that works.
What is Sales Collateral?
In short, sales collateral is any type of content (printed or digital) that helps your sales team attract and win new customers. In its ideal form, it’s the right information presented in the right way and at the right time.
It’s also useful to understand what good sales collateral is not. It’s not a heap of content created in a marketing silo, shot over to the sales silo and expected to convert. The best — and most effective — content strategies come from sales and marketing working in tandem to create collateral for every stage of the buyer’s journey that builds on itself and ensures a cohesive representation of your brand.
The best strategies come when sales and marketing work together. Per Marketing Profs, organizations with tightly aligned sales and marketing functions enjoy 36% higher customer retention rates.
Marketing pro tip: Sales staff have a deep understanding of what customers want and need. Pay attention to the words and phrases they use when talking to and about customers.
Sales pro tip: Your marketing counterparts have their finger on the pulse of the industry. Lean on their data-driven tactics and best practices.
How to Use Sales Collateral
Sales collateral — at least good sales collateral — isn’t a static document or a one-size-fits-all promo piece. The best sales collateral is tailored to the needs of your specific audience with consideration to where they are in the buyer’s journey (awareness, consideration or decision).
Let’s break down how to craft sales collateral for each stage of the buyer’s journey (with examples).
Awareness. These leads may not even be sure what they’re looking for. Create collateral for the awareness stage through entertaining, informative and engaging content like blog posts (oh, hello!), e-books and how-to guides.
These pieces anticipate your prospects’ pain points and respond with well-crafted, expert advice. You position yourself as a thought leader in the space and as someone your lead would want to grab a beer with (if what you’re promoting is a service that hires out friends to go grab a beer with).
Bonus: Sales collateral in this category is highly shareable. If your collateral is valuable, leads will share it on social media and email it around to all their friends, family and countrymen.
Other types of sales collateral for the awareness stage:
Consideration. As your potential customer moves from awareness to consideration, it’s important that the collateral they’re presented with shifts as well. Consideration buyers know what they want; they’re just not sure you’re the best company to give it to them. But don’t jump in with the hard sell yet. Consideration buyers, like Bambi venturing into a hunter-filled meadow (too soon?), tend to scare easily.
Sales collateral for consideration-stage buyers should still be primarily focused on adding value to your prospect’s life while clearly demonstrating why you are the best one to do that.
A standout piece of sales collateral for this stage is the corporate brochure. Yep, that old-school OG form of sales collateral, but revived for the digital marketing world. Interactive digital brochures allow prospects to click through your products and service offerings while interacting with maps, popouts and active links to more content online.
More sales collateral for the consideration stage:
- Case studies
- Digital product catalogs
- White papers
- Videos that explain hard-to-grasp concepts
Decision. You made it! This is where your sales team swoops in and closes the deal. Give them the best chance at converting that warm lead into a loyal customer with sales collateral that adds value and ends in a handshake. (Also, a signed contract — we don’t recommend doing business on handshakes alone.)
Before we get to that sweet decision-stage collateral, let’s pause for a brief joke:
Why should all decision-stage buyers live in Missouri?
Because their motto is “show me!”
Get it, cuz the Show Me state and … the decision stage and the … OK. Moving on.
Every piece of sales collateral a buyer gets in this stage of the journey should be dedicated to showing them how you are the best one to meet their needs and alleviate their specific pain points. For these pieces, stick with the three Ps: presentations, proposals and proof. Client presentations outline potential benefits and values specific to the buyer. It’s here that you’ll offer your carefully crafted sales proposal complete with testimonials (social proof) and pricing (ooh, another P!).
More (non-P) sales collateral for the decision stage:
- Digital reports
- Case studies
- Competitor comparisons
7 Dos and Don’ts For Creating Effective Sales Collateral
Not all sales collateral is created equal. We’ve gathered several dos and don’ts to guide you through the collateral creation process. Ready?
1. DO create sales collateral your sales staff will actually use
According to SiriusDecisions, 60% to 70% of content created by B2B marketers is never used by sales. Why? Part of the problem may be that your marketing and sales strategies are out of alignment. You can create the best collateral in the world, but if marketers are not on the same page as sales staff, it will likely go unused. To get your strategies in sync, you need a comprehensive sales enablement strategy. Once your whole team is working in unison, content creators can produce collateral that’s right in line with sales, and sales will actually use it.
2. DO focus on the needs of your target audience
Your sales collateral should be designed with your target audience in mind. What kind of information will they find most useful? What format will be most helpful for them? Keep your target audience top-of-mind when creating sales collateral, and you’ll be more likely to create something that’s truly valuable to them. One way to do this is by using buyer personas to pinpoint exactly who you’re speaking to.
3. DO set clear goals for each piece of sales collateral (and measure your success)
The key to any marketing effort — sales collateral included — is to see tangible results. That starts with having a clear goal in mind for each piece. The end goal may be more customers, but a more useful metric may be to measure the ROI of individual collateral to see if they are meeting smaller metrics like increased web traffic or engagement.
How, you may ask? Oh, have we got the blog post for you: How to Measure the ROI of Your Content-Driven Digital Marketing Efforts
4. DO keep your collateral updated
Sales collateral can quickly become outdated. Be sure to regularly review and update your sales collateral so that it always accurately reflects your product or service offerings and the needs and pain points of your target audience.
5. DO keep it simple (and make it look good)
Your sales collateral should be easy to understand and digest. Use clear and concise language and avoid using jargon or overly technical terms. The goal is to make it as easy as possible for your target audience to understand what you’re trying to say.
When designing sales collateral, the same applies. You want your design to reflect who you are as a company and brand. If you’re a parts manufacturer with a 150-year history, chances are your collateral shouldn’t be packed with Gen-Z slang and the latest memes.
6. DON’T forget about SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO) ensures your content can be easily found by potential customers. This is particularly relevant for content directed toward the awareness stage, like blog posts and landing pages. In addition to using keywords throughout the body of your content, be sure to include them in title tags (h1s) and meta descriptions so that your pages appear higher in search engine results pages (SERPs).
By optimizing your sales collateral for SEO, you can improve its visibility and reach, making it more likely to generate leads and support the sales process.
7. DON’T make it all about you
While sales collateral technically exists to let prospective customers know who you are, resist the urge to make it all about you. Listing a bunch of facts about how great your company is isn’t likely to resonate with buyers at any stage of the journey. Whether you’re creating blog posts, videos or case studies, make sure your focus is on the pain points and value for your potential customer.
Create Collateral That Resonates
Marketing author and podcaster Jay Acuzo says, “In a world obsessed with reach, the most valuable skill is the ability to resonate.” This gem of a sentence can apply to all aspects of the digital marketing world, but it’s particularly applicable to creating effective sales collateral for every stage of the buyer’s journey.
It’s fairly easy to put together a sales one-sheet or slap up some landing page copy, but it’s much more difficult to create content that resonates with your audience, builds affinity and positions you as the answer to their burning questions.
Sure, it’s daunting, but with the right team in place on both the sales and digital marketing sides, you can create collateral that attracts, resonates and converts.