Sales collateral is necessary at all points of the purchase journey. And particularly beyond the Awareness stage, they can be a salesperson’s best friend.
The B2B sales process is often a sophisticated one, and each purchase undergoes a lot of consideration.
The buyer and the salesperson both need the right information at the right stage to convince the buyer that the product or service the rep is selling is worth their investment.
The playing field is vast. The sales process is a long one and there are a lot of different kinds of collateral out there.
But enough preamble. let’s get into it.
In this post, I’m going to cover the various types of sales collateral based on where they fit into the buying process.
What is sales collateral?
Just so we’re on the same page, sales collateral is any kind of material that is aimed at giving more information to the prospect to help make their decision.
It’s a little different from marketing collateral. Marketing collateral is generally higher up the sales funnel, and is focused on education, capturing mindshare, being helpful, and helping create demand for the problem your product solves.
Sales collateral is used by the salesperson to convince prospects and customers about the value of their solutions. It comes into play after the conversation has been initiated with the customer in the middle and bottom stages of the sales funnel, and there are a limited number of types.
Awareness stage collateral
At this stage, you’re fighting for the customer’s attention. So unless it’s a document that requires a lot of detail, make them easy-to-read and absorb. These come into play very early in the buying process, when the prospect is doing their research or if the salesperson is cold calling. In general, this is where sales collateral overlaps the most with marketing collateral.
1. Research Report
Detailed piece of research that is authored by in-house experts or in partnership with a research firm. They demonstrate your dedication to the problem your company solves and your expertise in the field.
If the research is good, it may even wind up being referenced by others for a couple of years at least. And that’s good for credibility and SEO, among other things.
But bringing it back to the customer, it increases their confidence in you. They are more likely to think, “OK, these guys have done their homework and put time/effort/money into understanding this problem better.” Reports are meant to be educative and not overtly promotional.
Example: HubSpot is known for being an authority in the marketing world. HubSpot’s “Not Another State of Marketing Report” is looked forward to by many. This global report talks about the trends in marketing for the year, and major publications as well as everyone with a blog (and their grandma) references it. Here’s the 2020 edition.
2. White Papers
These are essentially opinion pieces written from your company’s perspective, but have technical insight to back up those opinions. In other words, they are what your company thinks about X based on their experience in the business.
They seek to establish your company as a thought leader in your industry. Like research reports, they are meant to educate more than promote.
Example: In this white paper, Fujitsu describes how their disk storage systems provide energy efficiency in the face of rising energy costs in data centers. Although very technical, they have explained the concepts to sell their solution. They’ve also highlighted their green IT initiatives and what they're doing to reduce burdens on the environment.
3. Case Studies
Few things work better for a sale than actual verifiable proof that your solution worked, and how it worked. It’s the highest converting content type of content, and consistently the thing I get asked for the most as a product marketer.
Case studies give prospects insight into how they used your product to solve a particular problem. It’s good to have case studies that show your ability to solve a wide variety of problems, and— if relevant— across industries. The more case studies you have, the more likely you’ll have one that your prospect can relate to.
Example: we filmed a video case study with our client, Hudl, which our sales team can send around to their prospects.
4. Persona Documents
Every buyer has certain characteristics. In B2B buying, basic buyer information like role, firmographic, and demographic information is pretty standard. More detailed (I really mean more human) attributes include personal interests and personal aspirations, as well as their stake in the problem you solve.
A persona is a representation of a character that many customers would be similar to. Preparing salespeople with the various personas that they are likely to interact with and how they should speak to each one makes them better prepared to develop a good relationship with them. Personas are designed based on insight and experience from within the company, and can also be helped along with an agency that specializes in this.
Example: This blog gives 10 different representations of user personas.
These are periodic emails that you send out with information that might be useful to prospects as well as existing customers. You might include company news, deals won, new case studies, industry trends, or anything else your ideal audience might appreciate.
Example: This is an excellent example from Yesler. Just look at those huge CTAs that stand out in between small, easy-to-read blocks of text. It’s beautiful.
With an ebook, you can still show off your business knowledge and expertise, but it allows you to let your hair down when compared with research reports and white papers. It’s just not as rigid as those types of content, but you can turn your expertise into actionable information for everyone.
These can also be gated to capture more information about a prospect, and if the ebook is compelling enough it will get a lot of traction.
Example: We wrote an ebook about onboarding, since that’s our area of expertise. It’s a how-to guide for onboarding reps right, and you can get your copy here.
These are made with the customer in mind, and are all about getting attention while also demonstrating your expertise.
Creativity-wise, the sky’s the limit.
You can develop something simple in-house, or spend a lot of money (if you have it!) to work with an agency to develop an evergreen piece that cuts through the noise for a long time. Do what works for you and your budget.
Example: Perhaps the most memorable product video ever made (OK, for me) features two trucks, an Enya song, and Jean Claude Van Damme doing the most epic split ever.
Consideration stage collateral
The prospect has reached out to you or your cold call has shown interest. Either way, you are in dialogue with them, and surface level information will no longer cut it. They need specifics.
8. Pitch Books
These are developed by the sales org. They contain an overview of the sales team and their company, aimed at sparking a deeper discussion with the prospect about the solutions they can offer.
9. Product Documents
A salesperson should know what they are selling. It’s not only about the product details, but knowledge about how they can solve the specific problems of the prospect.
But humans aren’t computers, and many salespeople are working with vast product lines or complicated products, so it’s always good to have the product documents on hand.
10. Buyer Guides
When it comes to complex products, there are a lot of considerations to make. A new buyer may not be aware of all of them, and this can be quite overwhelming.
A buyer’s guide will help them by providing them all the information they need (what to know prior to purchase, who needs to be involved, what they will need after purchase, what is the servicing cycle like, and so on). It also makes you look like a trusted advisor.
Example: While this is not a buyer’s guide from any company, this Popular Mechanics blog that talks about everything you would need to know before buying a lawnmower is exactly the kind of information that would help a potential buyer.
11. Sales Scripts
They are used by salespeople to increase buyer engagement and usher them down the sales funnel. Based on the expertise and insight of the sales org and chock full of best practices, they contain strategies for each stage in the sales cycle.
12. Sales Playbooks
Scripts are helpful, but conversations with customers often go off-script. A playbook is a comprehensive guide used by salespeople that outline the most effective ways to sell.
The playbook is always evolving, getting updated with best practices as the sales org learns them. There are often separate playbooks for each sales stage.
Example: This blog post presents a few examples of sales playbooks from major B2B companies, and highlights what they do right and wrong.
13. Customer Fact Sheets
The name is self-explanatory. This sales collateral has important information about the customer (that is, the organization), like company history, management information, the scale of operations, budgets, and needs, etc. It’s almost like a persona for the company.
Example: Here is a fact sheet for Equinix, a data center company. It shows critical information like their global data centers, location metrics, their ecosystems, etc. This is good information for a salesperson to have as they craft their pitch.
Evaluation stage collateral
You’re almost there. The prospect wants to buy, and is the final stage of choose a product. Content at this stage needs to be focused on the prospect’s actual problem and on reinforcing to them that your product is the right one for them.
14. Data Sheets
These are full of technical specifications on your products / services, to handle questions of actual input / output or any other operational queries.
15. Sales Battlecards
These documents help salespeople clearly highlight their competitive advantage over other players in their field. They are great for handling objections and pushing along negotiations.
Battlecards need to be prepared based on the few issues that are most important to the prospect and must enable salespeople to tell their prospect why they should choose you over another company for these issues.
The material is not meant to badmouth your competitors, but to educate buyers about your unique selling points.
Example: Here’s a template for a sales battlecard from Klue.
16. Reviews + testimonials
It’s great to have a lot of data, but to have a real human story about how your product / service helped them is the cherry on top. You can’t speak to a person’s emotions with numbers, but honest and good feedback from someone can. The bigger the customer, the better and more credible your service appears.
Of course, testimonials should also be on your site, so the customer can see them in their Awareness stage. For example, some companies put them on the pricing page, while others put them on the homepage itself.
Third-party sites are often great sources for reviews, since they tend to be perceived as more neutral (e.g. not curated by the company) and thus, a bit more trustworthy.
Just to close out
You should have sales collateral for every stage of the sales journey so you can engage your prospects every step of the way.
As the sales cycle progresses, the collateral has to be more detailed and more customized to the prospect’s needs. The base information, therefore, needs to be organized and easily available to the sales org so that a salesperson can quickly get exactly what they need, add their own notes, and move towards closing the deal.
These sales collateral are also constantly evolving as the sales org learns more about what, how, and why their customers buy. It’s important to liaise with the customer success team and marketing team on this. Sharing vital information across these departments helps all of them do their job better, increase customer satisfaction, and cut out what isn’t working.
Salesmanship is one thing, and is a craft that needs to be honed with coaching, practice, and outcome-based enablement. And you can close deals with sales alone. But having the right information at the right time is essential, and could be the difference between missing and making your quarter.