In today’s market, even the most successful salesperson needs a little backup. 81 percent of buyers research products online before contacting sales, so if your company doesn’t have a bit of advertising skin in the game, you’re not getting very far.
Customers need to know what they’re buying. Sure, it’s the salesperson’s job to come up with a unique selling proposition, but they shouldn’t do it alone. They need sales collateral.
According to Forrester, the average salesperson uses about 17 pieces of sales collateral throughout their pipeline. This content helps them establish authority, brand consistency, and an image of trust and quality.
Keep reading as we explore what sales collateral is and how to use it to springboard sales rep success.
What is sales collateral?
Sales collateral is any supplementary, informational content designed to enhance your sales process. This collateral includes tangible and digital content and can be used by individual sales reps or distributed as marketing materials. It is a part of sales enablement and sales support, both of which help your sales team.
Good sales collateral gives your prospects the information they need to make a purchase decision. Depending on where your prospect is in the sales funnel, you’ll want to use certain types of collateral.
Different kinds of businesses may also prioritize specific types of sales collateral to fit their target demographics—after all, no one needs a full case study to be convinced to buy a pint of Ben and Jerry’s.
Your company likely already uses some form of collateral as part of your marketing plan, but let’s dive deeper into why smart sales collateral is crucial to your sales plan.
What types of sales collateral do you need?
The sales collateral you need will depend on what you’re selling and where your customers are in their journey. The buyer’s journey stages you’ll want to reference are:
Awareness: Leads are at the top of the sales funnel (TOFU). They may or may not have spoken directly with a sales rep, and they are still doing research to determine whether they want to look further into the products or services. An important note: 40 percent of B2B buyers consume three to five pieces of content before ever speaking to a sales rep. Sales content matters here—it’s not just about marketing.
Consideration: Prospects are in the middle of the sales funnel (MOFU). They understand how your products or services can help them and are actively learning more from a sales rep. 70 percent of B2B buyers say they wish the content was more tailored to their pain points, so it’s critical to select the appropriate sales collateral at this stage.
Decision: Prospects are at the bottom of the sales funnel (BOFU). They know what they need and are close to making a purchase decision. Sales collateral is useful here, but you don’t want to oversell. These prospects have been with you for a while and already know a lot about your products or services.
To determine which types of sales collateral you might want to use in a particular situation, ask yourself these four questions:
- What product or service am I selling?
- Who am I selling this product or service to?
- What questions do people in this target audience usually have and at what stage?
- What sales collateral content best addresses these questions in that given stage?
Going through these questions helps you decide what collateral you need and what sales methodology to follow. Now, let’s explore the types of sales collateral.
Traditional sales collateral
Traditional sales collateral covers any content in printed materials. While some can be presented digitally, they are frequently given as tangible items. Examples of traditional sales collateral include:
- Advertisements: billboards, bus ads, window cards
- Brochures: available on-site or mailed to prospects
- Catalogs: frequently mailed to prospects
- Direct mail: snail-mail that contains special offers or advertisements
- Postcards: condensed information from direct mail content
- Sales sheets: a basic breakdown of your product or service on one sheet
- Posters: frequently placed as public advertisements
- Datasheets: numerical facts and statistics about your products or services
- Case studies: individual success stories from your company
- White papers: in-depth studies on your product in the context of your industry
Tangible sales collateral tends to start as marketing materials, but using it later in the sales pipeline can be extremely useful if you’re having trouble moving a prospect forward.
Digital sales collateral
Digital sales collateral is any content designed for online or digital distribution. Some common examples of digital sales collateral include:
- PowerPoint presentations: slide decks for sales presentations
- Digital advertisements: social media ads and sponsored search postings
- Business websites and landing pages: all website content counts as collateral
- Ebooks: long-form discussions of blog topics
- Webinars: live, interactive presentations by company experts or guests
- Interactive demos: hands-on walk-throughs of products or solutions
- Long-form competitor comparisons: factual comparisons of the differences in features, pricing, benefits, etc. between your company’s products and those of a competitor
- FAQ pages: accessible and searchable answers to frequently asked questions, usually housed in a knowledge base
- Digital communication templates: email templates, chat scripts, and sales scripts for various types of online communication
- Videos: explanatory and advertisement videos
How does sales collateral benefit your business?
The purpose of sales collateral is to nudge prospects further down the sales pipeline. But there are several other ways collateral can benefit your business:
Shows your expertise
When you publish blogs, white papers, or case studies, you show potential customers that you can be trusted. Especially with more complex products and services, buyers don’t always know the full scope of what they’re purchasing. They rely on companies to be truthful and walk them through the facts.
If you demonstrate your expertise alongside high-authority, third-party links, you can win over even the most suspicious of prospects.
Consumers who research your company are likely to spend a bit of time on your website. Putting in-depth sales collateral behind an email gateway is an easy way to collect visitors’ contact information for your lead qualification team. You’ll need enough free content on your site to grab their attention, but if you can do that, most will offer up an email for the chance to learn more.
Keeps your interactions fresh
Sales cycles (especially B2B sales cycles) can be long. When you’re interacting with a prospect for months on end, you can run out of new things to talk about. You don’t want to spend all your follow-ups simply asking the prospect if they’re ready to finalize a deal, so what do you do?
Sales collateral can be your ticket to getting updates without appearing overly aggressive. If you create a plan and space out the information you send, you can use collateral to share additional resources while gently reminding the prospect that you’re available to answer questions.
New information via sales collateral can inspire prospects to contact you, instead of the other way around. Now that’s always a sales victory.
Gives your prospect leverage
Large B2B sales deals rarely happen between one sales rep and one decision-maker. These deals typically involve multiple people on the prospect’s side, and they often don’t receive the same information. Sales cycles partly run long due to a lack of communication or commitment between stakeholders. Sales collateral gives your primary contact the ammunition they need to persuade the rest of the group.
Information coming directly from a sales rep can be construed as biased, but strong evidence shared by a coworker can be extremely convincing.
Sales collateral example and walk-through
Now let’s review a strong example. This is one of our sell sheets:
Here’s a breakdown of this first page:
- A strong, clear title: Right off the bat, the large and simple title tells the prospect exactly what this is about. If they want more information about a sales CRM, they’ll read on; if they don’t, they can move on with their day.
- Compelling graphics: Today’s consumer only reads about 20 percent of the text put in front of them. Any sales collateral you send should have full-color graphics that take up space. Graphics will make your collateral more eye-catching, and prospects will be more likely to read it.
- Customer-focused copy: You must show prospects that you understand their pain points. In the sell sheet above, we use the subheader, “Boost productivity and exceed revenue targets.” You could say the same thing with product-focused language—for example, “Our software delivers faster processing and automates paperwork”—but that’s not as compelling. It doesn’t matter to the prospect that our software offers automation if they can’t see how that benefits them. Enhanced productivity and exceeded targets are specific goals our clients have that we directly help them achieve.
- A visual example of what the product does: One of the biggest challenges in SaaS (software as a service) sales is the potential learning curve for the end-users. No company wants to invest in a product that will drain resources because it’s too complex for their team to use. A visual of the solution in action demonstrates its simplicity and accessibility without going into wordy detail.
Take a look at the second page:
The second page builds on the information from the first page by including key features, a visual of mobile access, and a testimonial.
The testimonial is a useful addition because it shows a reputable company uses and likes our product. This helps to immediately establish authority and credibility for our brand. It’s not just us promoting ourselves—our clients are happy to promote us as well.
But the most important aspect of the second page comes at the bottom: a bold, simple CTA (call to action). Every single piece of sales collateral you create needs a CTA. It doesn’t have to be a full sentence, but it does need to be there.
Forbes estimates that most Americans see between 4,000 to 10,000 ads every day. So, even if a prospect is inspired by your content, they’re likely to click away and proceed with the rest of their day if there aren’t clear instructions for moving forward. A straightforward CTA tells your prospects what to do next and gives them a no-hassle way to learn more about your product or reach out to your team for more information.
Where would we use this type of sales collateral?
This sales datasheet is a great type of sales collateral for buyers in the awareness stage. It tells leads and prospects what we do and who we are, and it describes a few features of our software. It also sends them to the appropriate page to learn more or talk to a sales representative.
A prospect in the middle or bottom of the sales funnel may not have much use for this sell sheet. They already know what a CRM is and what problems they’re hoping to solve with robust sales pipeline software. They also don’t need a link to our website because they’re familiar with our company and product. If we were using a CTA with a middle- or bottom-funnel prospect, the link would be a direct email or phone number back to their sales representative or the sales team.
Tailoring the CTA to the prospect is important—you never want your potential customers to think you’ve forgotten where they are in the sales process. Inconsistent or impersonal messaging deteriorates trust, authority, and relationships. A critical part of your sales management should be ensuring the right pieces of sales collateral are going to the right people at the right time.
Sales collateral best practices + tips
Keeping your sales collateral fresh, accurate, and on-brand is easier said than done. There are several best practices, however, that we recommend. Below are a few tips for making sure your collateral stays in tip-top shape:
Create your sales collateral with your audience in mind
Your favorite things about your products or services aren’t necessarily what your target customers care about. To appeal to the right buyers, your sales collateral should always focus on how your product or service solves your audience’s pain points.
Collaborate with all departments
Marketing should never create sales collateral in a void. Provide them with feedback from your sales reps about which pieces are working and which aren’t so that marketing has a better idea of what they need to produce and adapt.
Keep everything and recycle when you can
Too often, companies throw out seasonal sales collateral or collateral focused on a specific product. Always keep your old collateral. Even if you have to update it, it’s always faster to revamp than it is to start from scratch.
Make your content easy to access
Your sales collateral is only as good as the number of prospects who see it. Don’t hide it away in a corner of your website or in back-office boxes. Make sure your links are visible and your tangible collateral is within arm’s reach.
Combine high-quality sales collateral with a robust CRM
For your sales collateral to make an impact, you need to combine it with a fast, organized CRM and sales engagement platform like Zendesk Sell.
Zendesk Sell is a simple, user-friendly sales CRM that maximizes productivity, increases pipeline visibility, and helps you connect with your prospects. With Sell, you can easily segment your prospects by customer journey stage and ensure they’re getting the content they need at the right time. You can also see real-time interaction analytics so you know what type of sales collateral is performing well (and what isn’t).
Request a demo today and combine your sales collateral creativity with Zendesk Sell’s efficient distribution.