How Content Marketing Has Changed the Economics of Selling

In the not-so-distant past, scaling a B2B company meant hiring more sales people that were responsible for all their own business development. They would bang on the phones, knock on doors, go to conferences and networking events and that would be enough to fill their calendars with enough qualified appointments. 

On paper, the numbers supported it. For example, if you had one sales rep carrying a $1 Million quota, and it cost $200K in salary and commissions for that resource, adding an additional sales rep could double the business. 

But there are two major problems with that model today:

  1. Quota-carrying, outside sales reps are an expensive resource to be putting on the phones to follow up on marketing qualified leads. The math doesn’t work the same as it used to because of decline in connection rates. It simply takes a lot more touches through calls and emails to turn connections into appointments. Prospects aren’t as willing to talk to sales people anymore, and because they can conduct research online, they don’t think they need to. 
  2. Top producing sales people that have reached a level of success in their career have choices, and where they certainly have the skills sets required to prospect, they’re going to go to companies where they don’t have to sit an hit the phones all day long. They’ll work for the companies that supply them with good leads, or at least have enough market awareness that they can focus on selling and consulting to solve their clients business problems, and coincidentally make the big quotas and compensation that goes along with that job

Content marketing has fundamentally changed the economics of selling.

Prospecting at the top and middle of the funnel has changed, and it requires marketing to produce a bulk of the interest in the company through content. People see a piece of content, realize that they might have an issue you can solve, and are interested in having a conversation. 

When it works that way, it’s great!

But usually moving prospects from a level of interest to qualified sales conversation requires some more nurturing in between. 

A middle reliever is needed to connect the marketing produced lead and the sales closer. (If your sales people are saying that the leads marketing produces are crap, that’s a good indication that you need a middle reliever). This business development or inside sales rep is usually a hybrid between marketing and sales, where they work the phones and email, nurturing prospects with content with the intent of securing one-to-one conversations digitally until they’re sales ready. It’s similar to a sales job, but they also must be a nurturer of many prospects at a time like a marketer does.

Middle relievers are many times on a different career path than the enterprise sales person, but the good news is that they tend to be less expensive high-commissioned sales rep. Most importantly, the middle reliever significantly improves the productivity of your closers.

So instead of adding a $200,000 sales rep to get you to a $2M quota, adding a $60–$70K per year business development rep may enable the business to increase the quota by the same amount or more because now someone is feeding qualified prospects to the really expensive (but talented) closer where they can spend all of their time running sales process instead of prospecting. This model does, however, assume that you’ve also shifted resources into demand generation on the front end.

Ultimately, switching to this model should dramatically decrease the overall cost of customer acquisition over time.