In 2019, the show Tidying Up launched on Netflix, featuring organization consultant Marie Kondo going to various filthy people’s houses and having them throw their possessions away. This process included holding items to your chest and asking whether or not they “sparked joy” – if yes, you keep it. If no, you thank it for its time in your life and get rid of it.
This sparked a craze of people throwing away their possessions, as we collectively realized we don’t need 80% of the things we keep around the house. And while one might view a generation of upper class Americans throwing away their junk to make room for more junk pessimistically, Sarah Archer of the Atlantic has beautifully described this process as “cultivating empathy for the things that surround us” – which is really quite a beautiful sentiment if you don’t think about it too much.
I was recently speaking with a leader of sales and marketing who assured me that their organization had over five thousand pieces of sales collateral that needed to be available to the sales team at any moment. These included case studies, blogs, webinars, and data sheets. She was adamant that the more assets the sales team had access to, the more effective they could be in selling.
And while she’s not entirely wrong, I think it’s emblematic of the way a lot of marketing and product marketing organizations view how they provide materials to the sales team: The more material they have access to, the better. This has led to a glut of internal and external content being thrown at sales that many simply aren’t equipped, nor have the time, to wade through. We’ve collectively gone off the rails a bit with our focus on content-first selling; it might be time to “tidy up” a bit around the proverbial sales enablement house.
So, in the spirit of Ms. Kondo herself, let’s talk through a simple 3 step process teams can go through with their own pieces of sales collateral to see if they should be kept around or thanked for their service and tossed. And while we might not have to hold each case study to our chest to determine its worth, if we’re lucky we’ll cultivate some more empathy for our data sheets during the process.
Step 1: Is it being used?
The first step is pretty obvious: are members of the revenue team actually using this asset in selling?
Put differently: Is anyone searching for this material, finding it, and sending it to a prospect?
Ok so I know I said it’s obvious, but this is an exercise that 90%+ of teams simply don’t do today because of the aforementioned “more is better” thinking proliferating marketing. But practically speaking, if a piece of content is never being searched for or sent, it’s just taking up space. Not just storage space, but mental space – it’s another document sales has to consider when actually looking for something they need, adding time and effort to actually find the thing they’re looking for.
Look at any document that hasn’t been sent to a prospect in the last 12-18 months and remove it from the sales repository. I don’t mean to suggest deleting blogs from the website just because they aren’t used in the sales cycle, but sales shouldn’t have to be considering whether a holiday blog recap of 2016’s hottest articles is a great thing to send to a prospect just because the words ‘case study’ are found in it. By simply unlinking a lot of crud from wherever sales can search for what they need, you’re going to speed up sales’ time to access and make finding things a lot less intimidating.
Step 2: Is it effective?
Step 2 goes a level deeper and asks: Is this piece of content meaningfully educating prospects in the buyer journey?
In step 1 we removed a lot of the ‘junk’ from the repository. The easy stuff, the framed still life painting your mother-in-law got you for Christmas four years ago that never really went with anything because the grapes looked weird, they’re too big, those can’t possibly be grapes come on. But step 2 requires a closer look at the part that content plays in the customer journey – is it actually helping anyone?
This is a bit more intensive, but can be done in 2 parts:
Determine how often the asset is accessed it, and how often prospects are engaging with it relative to how frequently it’s sent. This process can actually uncover some really interesting insights, for instance certain documents that have only been sent a handful of times but have a near-100% engagement rate. On the other hand, you’re also likely to uncover what you thought were content pillars that almost never get interacted with. Junk.
Go a step deeper – when prospects interact with this material, do you gain more revenue? This is often the hardest part for sales and marketing teams because traditionally content wasn’t thought of as directly revenue-generating, but if an asset isn’t meaningfully pushing prospects down the sales funnel and advancing their customer journey it should not exist. For each piece of content, look at the deals it’s been used in and see if it’s overall effective. If it leads to revenue, keep it – if not, toss it.
Step 3: Does it Spark Joy?
In episode three of “Tidying Up”, 12-year-old Nolan finds a striped hoodie he’d totally forgotten about and exclaims, “How have I not worn you before? You give me so much joy!”. Lost amid the clutter, he wasn’t able to find something he loved.
We all have striped hoodies sitting in our content repositories, documents that would have been incredibly useful if only we had known they were around. Step 3 in this process is to identify which pieces of collateral aren’t being used simply because no one could find them, and give them the light of a new day.
In this final step, go back over the assets that have infrequently been found or used and ask yourself, “does this data sheet spark joy?”. If you believe that this asset can meaningfully educate your buyers and just needs attention, then take this opportunity to discuss the content in your upcoming sales enablement meeting.
Speaking of sales enablement meetings – going through this process will potentially make these content syncs much more effective. We all know the feeling of discussing sales content with the sales team while staring out at a sea of unblinking eyes on Zoom, waiting for the call to end so they can go back to their jobs. But with less content to consider, it can get more overall attention and create meaningful discussion over how to educate buyers, and the time and place to be using content.
Tidying Up teaches us that in the process of removing unneeded items from our home, we develop deeper empathy and understanding – not only of our possessions, but of one another as well.
As silly as it is, asking if data sheets spark joy does the exact same thing. By going through the process, you get a chance to understand how sales searches for content and how they use it, you’ve made your sales staffs’ lives easier, and made your team more effective along the way.
In the end, you may find that you don’t need thousands of assets to adequately equip your sales team – you just need the right ones. Look at all the content you don’t need, thank it for its time in your sales life, and remove it from the repository.
When not writing articles, Nick spends his time learning about the world with his infant daughter, brewing beer, playing basketball, and cooking. He doesn’t do all those activities with his daughter, though, and he understands how the wording in the previous sentence may be confusing to some readers.