Content is the cornerstone of sales enablement, but creating it is a massive headache.
In order to create quality content, you need talent, tools, and time – lots of it. Those are resources that most sales teams do not have, and resources that most marketing teams need to protect.
Adopting tools like an animated video maker can certainly help. To meaningfully speed up your content creation process without sacrificing quality or quantity, though, you also need to look closely at how your team approached sales enablement.
Agile sales enablement offers an opportunity to increase collaboration, improve content, and build up capacity all while speeding up the process. Sound too good to be true? Read on for a cursory overview of how Agile can be applied to creating sales content along with a few tips for getting started.
What is Agile sales enablement?
Traditional sales organizations are often silos, mired in practices, structures, and habits that inhibit agility. There is a pressure on teams to move quickly and scale early. Salespeople are pushed to spend 100% of their time engaging leads and closing deals. Content, as a result, only gets produced by dedicated specialists and outside contributors.
This well-intentioned effort to streamline sales results in ineffective and inefficient content creation. By unlearning these paradigms and adopting an Agile mindset, we can build better content faster.
You’ve probably heard “Agile” used in any number of ways. Sometimes it’s referring to software by the same name. Sometimes it’s used metonymically to refer to various Agile frameworks and methodologies. Other times, it’s used as a polite way to ask teams to just hurry up.
Despite the confusing historical use of Agile, the original movement offers astoundingly impactful ideas to improve everything from marketing to finance and beyond – including sales enablement.
Agile is a mindset, not a methodology
Most commonly, businesspeople refer to Agile as a practice or methodology. In reality, Agile is a mindset defined by certain values and principles that enable continuous rapid improvement.
The Agile movement emerged first in the world of software. In fact, its founding document is the revered Manifesto for Agile Software Development. In the “Agile Manifesto,” we’re given four values and 12 principles that help to define Agile development.
Nowhere in the document does it prescribe a particular approach, nor is there any mention of popularized frameworks like SAFe, scrum, or kanban. What is there, however, is a paradigm shift that we can adapt for any creative work.
How to create content in an Agile way
Let’s explore how to use the Agile methodology for content creation.
Develop T-shaped professionals
Everybody wants their marketing content to look and feel premium, and sales enablement content is no different.
Team leaders will often try to achieve that end by means of onboarding highly-specialized talent. That highly-specialized talent could look like graphic designers, writers, or video producers. It might also look like an outsourced creative agency, or a freelance content marketer.
There’s certainly value in bringing these dedicated resources to your sales enablement program. By building a system of hyper-specialization, though, you’re building a creative process that will be characterized by siloed knowledge, multiple hand-offs, and a tangled web of dependencies.
To avoid slowing down your content, you’ll want to balance specialization with generalization. By developing sales enablement talent to be generalizing specialists, you can augment your capability for creating media like videos and whitepapers without building dependencies on external contributors.
The idea is to develop T-shaped professionals who have deep skills in a particular specialty (the vertical stem of the T) complemented by a breadth of general skills (the horizontal arm at the top of the T).
So, what does this look like?
Let’s say you want to keep up with the race for video by creating videos for sales enablement. Rather than hiring a video production firm to create one-off content, you’ll want to instead build up T-shaped professional talent. Look to hire an experienced video producer who is also a strong salesperson or marketer. Even better? Find a current member of your marketing or sales team, and give them the tools to learn how to produce pro-quality videos for your organization.
Encourage self-organization and collaboration
You might have read the words above and wondered: “is this guide for sales enablement, or people management?”
The oft-overlooked reality is that sales enablement – like any kind of content creation – is a process that relies on systems of people. That is to say; if your content creators are working optimally, neither will their content.
Self-organization and collaboration are two of the most critical features of Agile content creation. In fact, it’s one of the 12 principles outlined in the Agile Manifesto: “Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.”
If you are a sales or marketing leader managing content creators, one of the best things you can do is to step out of their way. Shift your leadership focus to the what: what is most valuable to the business, and what is most valuable to the customer. Give content creators the reins on the how: how to best execute an idea, how to best achieve a desired outcome with content.
This isn’t just about motivation and empowerment. This is about tapping into the well of creativity and experience you already have on your team to get the best results, even in an unexpected way. The people who are closest to the work – in our case, the content – have the most information and are the best equipped to make decisions in service of the desired outcome.
When you get those people working and self-organizing together, you unleash knowledge-sharing and creativity that directly improves the quality of the decisions they’ll make throughout the creative process.
Let’s say one of your executives comes back from annual planning with a vision: a year-long webinar campaign highlighting primary research from your marketing department.
Rather than dedicating a whole team of event managers to a 12-month project, you can dig into the directive to better understand its objective. Did this vision come from a desire to become a leader in serial webinars? Are you trying to generate MQLs? Or is this about building a library of on-demand content your sales team can use to nurture leads?
Pass the desired outcome on to your content creators, and encourage them to find the best solution. Who knows? If your desired outcome is about on-demand content, maybe they can achieve it in a couple of weeks with videos they create together, giving you eleven and a half months back.
Create and improve iteratively
More often than not, sales enablement content initiatives end up falling into the trap of becoming a project.
The marketers want to “do it once, and do it right,” moving on to other priorities as soon as the content meets their standard of quality. The sales leaders want to work on the entire campaign at once, deploying and scaling it without taking sales reps off the sales floor.
It’s reasonably tempting to project manage your way through sales enablement. When you do that, though, you miss out on everything Agile content creation has to offer. Improving your content becomes time- and cost-intensive. Updates are thus made less frequently. Ineffective content continues getting scaled while you wait to replace it, and even your best content can quickly become obsolete and irrelevant.
Adopting an Agile mindset means adopting a culture of continuous learning and experimentation. It also means valuing rapid, early delivery. By working on content in smaller chunks, you can get it into your audience’s hands sooner. The sooner you get that content into your audience’s hands, the sooner you can learn from it and improve.
Need to revamp your outreach email campaigns? Start by only replacing the first email. Replace it with two versions, split testing a single variable like the subject line or call to action. Keep learning from that first email, and later, move on to the next one.
Want to create landing pages for each of your key vertices? Start with just one landing page, and learn how it fits into the purchase journey. If and when you find out that it’s working, then you consider building more.
Better yet; before you create that first landing page, build the content that will live on that page first. Write the key messages, build your own video, and design the graphics. Test those assets on other channels to see if they resonate with this audience.
Learning should always come between creating your content and scaling it. Otherwise, you’re just scaling bad content. Or biased and unvalidated content at best.
Hold frequent retrospectives
Let’s review two big ideas from the previous sections:
- Creating content for sales enablement is a process that relies on systems of people.
- Learning should always come between creating your content and scaling it.
When we acknowledge the role of people in sales enablement, it becomes much easier to recognize the need for learning that goes beyond how our content is performing. In addition to assessing the impact of your content, you need to be continually assessing the impact of how you are collaborating.
The retrospective is an advent of Agile software development where, following a software release or development sprint, the team would come together to talk about it. More specifically, everybody would quickly debrief on what worked well, what didn’t, and how their teamwork could improve for the next iteration.
Even if you don’t have a dedicated sales team, and even if you are not working in time-bound sprints, you can apply this idea of a team retrospective to content creation. Identify a facilitator and have them guide the group through an exploration of how your creative process can work even better. Prepare gentle guard rails to keep the conversation from veering into content performance. While that data might help you understand exactly what worked, the retrospective isn’t intended as a content audit.
Like all creatives, sales enablement professionals are often forced to deeply immerse themselves in the task at hand before quickly shifting their focus to whatever’s coming around the pike next. As much pressure as we feel to always look ahead, it’s worth the investment of time to build the muscles for looking back too.
Create sales content that serves
Agility is a means to the end of greater customer value. Create content that goes beyond selling your audiences, and start serving them. While the preceding process suggestions are designed to enable customer-centricity, the fastest way to achieve that is to authentically put your customers first when creating content for sales.