Sales Portal Best Practices: A Summary
Why Sales Portals Matter
The opportunity cost of unused or underused marketing content is approximately $2.5 million.
Great, so how do your sales people get the content they need? Traditionally that’s through a classic Sales Portal. Portals fill a critical need. They are where marketing and sales enablement professionals store white papers, success stories, training, and other important sales content.
Sales as an organization depends on information. Information about customers and prospects. Information about prospects pains and needs. Information about corporate priorities. Information about the products themselves. So, this information needs to be readily accessible. And that’s what a sales portal is meant for.
That’s a lot of critical information stored in the sales portal. These are assets that helps a sales person to intelligently position against the status quo and competitors. Sales people are hungry to find, use, and share this content. Now they just need to access it.
What’s Wrong with Current Sales Portals
88% of missed opportunities were because sales couldn’t find or leverage internal resources.
This is terrific, right? But ask your sales team whether they love to use your existing portal. Study how often they use it and you’ll find shockingly low usage — particularly low ‘return visitor’ usage as sales people come in, find what they need, and leave.
Most companies have some form of a sales portal in place already. This could be a file sharing tool, their website, a marketing automation library of content, or even just a shared drive. But despite making that content accessible it remains unloved and disused.
Why Isn’t the Sales Portal Used?
A problem with tools that are infrequently used is that they are easy to neglect. For instance, think of training material. A sales person is very aware of the training material during the initial onboarding process. But as soon as it’s over and the sales person is working on their regular job, will they remember to go back to the sales portal for a refresher on content?
If there’s new material they may go back, but only because they are prompted to do so by an alert or email from their training team. But that’s being charitable. They are more likely to ignore yet another non-critical message rather than follow-up.
It’s odd, isn’t it? The sales portal was built to serve the sales team and address one of their key needs. There are three main challenges that are why it doesn’t get used. We’ll look into each and then how you can address each of these problems.
1. The sales portal is a standalone tool that lies outside of the day-to-day of a sales person. They need to actively leave what they are doing to visit the portal.
2. The sales portal can be an impenetrable beast. Searching or browsing for content can be a frustrating experience for the sales team. If they’re too frustrated, they’re going to not come back.
3. Sales people are looking for inefficiencies in their processes. If they find something useful on the portal and download it, why do they need to come back?
Alright, with these as the primary challenges facing your portal, let’s look at the best ways to address these challenges and achieve your main goal: getting more great content used by your sales organization.
The best way to get your sales portal used is to know the motivations of your primary users — i.e. your sales team.
1. The Sales Portal Must Be Relevant
95% of buyers chose the company that provided them with relevant content
A sales person only has so much time to look through your portal to find content that matters to them. Let’s say a sales rep is trying to get an insurance company’s CFO to buy your product. And the salesperson wants quick access to the best content to share. If they can only find highly technical information, unrelated case studies, and information for other products, how happy will they be and how likely are they to come back to your sales portal?
Instead, use the detailed information you have or your sales rep provides about their current sales context. Context could be industry, sales stage, persona, products being offered, or whatever element matters to target messaging to the prospect’s information needs. When this context is used, content that is most relevant can be matched and pushed to the sales people as they need it.
2. The Sales Portal Must Be Timely
90% of marketing content is never used.
It’s not a fun experience for a salesperson to not even know what to search for when looking for content on the sales portal. She may know that she wants an interesting piece of research to demonstrate thought leadership. But now what do they search on? eBook? Paper? Thought leadership? There’s no way for them to easily know what would make a compelling outreach to their prospect. So, they don’t know what to search or browse for. And even if they did put in a search query, they’re likely to be overwhelmed with hundreds of search results that are irrelevant to them. They’re not getting what they need right now.
Instead, a more effective approach is to come to the salesperson before they even knew to ask for it. If the recommendations are limited to what matches the sales context, then they quickly select the right material and share it with their prospect — boosting their relationship with the prospect.
To be timely means to be in the workflow of the sales person. It doesn’t mean waiting for the sales person to come to a portal. It means bringing the portal to the sales person. If I’m looking at a prospect’s record in Salesforce and need to call them, how frustrating would it be if I had to look somewhere else for their phone number?
That’s the same reason that sales portals can be so irritating. I need to find a report to email to my prospect. Or I need training material before my call, and you’re telling me I need to leave my email or whatever I’m doing, load up a different tool, and search? Make it easy by pushing content to a rep just-in-time in the context of whatever tool they are using now. Push material to reps in email, the CRM, or as a standalone sales portal. Again, bring the portal to the rep.
After all, think of a sales person’s daily workflow. Reps are focused on communicating with customers and prospects. They don’t have time to pick up yet another tool — especially an inaccessible portal. Imagine how much more likely a rep is to use your sales portal if it comes to them in their email, browser, CRM, and mobile device. Now that’s an active sales portal.
3. The Sales Portal Must Be Current
If I visit a sales portal I expect to find the most current content. And if all I can find are drafts, old pieces of content, and other wrong versions then I’m not coming back. Instead, I’d rather rely on myself to create and curate the content that I share with my prospects. And that can spell disaster for anyone hoping to ensure consistency of messaging — and highly focused, successful messaging.
One of the big weaknesses of any content strategy is how to deal with these diverse versions and distributed content stores. You don’t want to have to manage copies of content across your marketing automation, website, file share, CMS, LMS, and sales portal. You should have a means to synchronize or centralize content across your many avenues.
Another reason that content grows stale is that reps will often visit a sales portal, download content, and then use it repeatedly. To avoid this, you need to incentivize a sales person to use your sales portal. That can be by overlaying a smart technology that suggests the right content. It can be because this sales enablement technology tracks content use, alerting reps when content is used so a rep can follow-up.
4. The Sales Portal Must Be a One-Stop Shop
25% of B2B marketing budget goes towards content creation, but 70% of that content doesn’t get used.
Your team has produced a lot of content. But too often that material is spread across many locations. You might have video in YouTube. Blog posts on your blog. eBooks in your file share, etc. And then to a portal for general training information. That process is just not going to work. If all of the materials are in one place, then the reps will always know where to go.
There’s no over-thinking of where to go. All reps will know that they need to just go to a single place. Or even better, as mentioned above, if the sales portal comes to the rep, then usage will skyrocket. Sure they can go to a standalone portal as needed – especially if it is a one-stop — but the power of a just-in-time portal is hard to beat!
Sales people are under a lot of time pressure. They need to respond quickly to the demands of their prospects. So, if they can’t find what they need, get frustrated by the search, or generally don’t like the experience, why should they persist. Again, from a marketing campaign perspective, if the customer experience is poor, you shouldn’t expect a marketing success.
5. The Sales Portal Must Be Self-Reinforcing
Sales people need to have access to relevant content in the heat of the moment.
Reinforcement with sales teams is vital. Reinforcing because it helps the sales team to do their jobs better. That means that sales enablement and marketing teams need insight into which assets and content pieces are truly being used and delivering value to the sales organization. When sales people see that there is value, they’ll be much more supportive and likely to use — and recommend the sales portal to their colleagues. In our marketing campaign analogy, this is like a search for product-market fit. If the product you’re offering isn’t being demanded by your audience, why would you expect it to get used?
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