Estimated reading time: 23 minute(s)
Well done! In the past three weeks, you’ve learned how to generate brand awareness, turn your company’s website into an SEO powerhouse, rev up that conversion engine (vroom!), and secure it with good old-fashioned trust. Time to sit back and watch those deals roll in.
Well…yes and no. You’re definitely on the right track. But there are a couple more steps to take before you can switch on that customer acquisition machine.
Case in point: no matter how strategic your content, some leads will always need a final push before they transform into customers.
That’s where sales collateral comes in.
Sales collateral—what it is, and why you might care
First things first, what exactly is sales collateral?
In a nutshell, we are referring to the marketing material typically dispensed at the stereotypical “bottom of the sales funnel”—just before a sale. These are your product pages, sales sheets, PDFs, brochures, and other assets intended to give leads that final little nudge that pushes them from still-cautious prospects to deal-signing, check-writing customers. Unlike “top of funnel” marketing copy, such as your blog or an ebook, this stuff is a close-up of the products and services you offer.
And unlike “top of funnel” marketing assets, these are pieces that your sales team may or may not be trying to write themselves.
Why? It’s tempting to view sales collateral as the cherry on top—something you can take or leave, and which does not have to be very good. After all, by the time a lead is speaking to your sales team, they’re already engaged. The traditional view is to rely on that rep to reel them in. What, really, can another (crappy) one-pager do?
Great sales collateral sustains—and accelerates—purchase momentum
Let’s think about that. After taking a sales pitch, presentation, or follow-up call, buyers typically want to think things over before pulling the trigger. Next starts the deliberation process, which carries with it the following palpable risks:
- That your prospect will clean forget you exist
- That your prospect will put you on the back burner for…a while. Inertia is popular!
- That your prospect needs to persuade other decision makers—and won’t be able to
- That the sense of urgency they’d had when you last talked to them will fade—becoming academic. In other words, they’ll start thinking of working with you or buying your product as a good idea—but only “in theory”
- That they’ll choose to ruminate over their (remaining) skepticism and objections—especially if unexpressed to you. In ruminating, they’ll augment these little seeds of doubt—until they dwarf and drown out the excitement and certainty they expressed at your last interaction(s)
- That they’ll simply change their minds and go elsewhere—and you’ll never, ever know why…
We ask: for someone in such a delicate, precarious state, do you want to hand over a flatly-written, ill-conceived, totally lackluster cherry on top? Or do you want to give them something that will wow them, inch them further toward you, and combat every single risk listed above?
We vote for the latter. You need to tantalize them with your spark….until they march into your arms and never look back.
The must-have elements of brilliant sales collateral
Here’s how you do it: Simply capture your prospect’s excitement and urgency, like a lightning bug in a jar. After that, just hang that jar where they can see it, hear it, smell it, touch it, and have it re-ignite their excitement all over again, every single time.
The jar? It’s an effective piece of sales collateral. And a great copywriter darn well knows how to write it.
Sales collateral copywriting, aka the ingredients of your lightning bug
Well-written sales collateral can be the difference between a lost prospect and a satisfied customer. But what should it look like?
Great question. We’ve put together a little checklist of the components of an effective sales piece. Hint: they’re not super-far from the sales-converting engine we built here. And they’re deceptively simple, too.
- Context. The best sales pieces don’t resort to spitting out a flat (and lifeless) definition of your solution. No!! They put your offering into context, laying out the whole universe of a prospect’s condition. This includes:
- What’s important now (and why). This could be in the larger industry (or global) context—or it could just pertain to them.
- What they know (and don’t know). This mind-meld is the way you relate: by meeting readers where they are…and then leading them where you need them to go.
- What they want (and maybe didn’t know about). This is where you hook into a reader’s emotions. Powerful stuff!
- What they fear or dread (and how to avoid it at all costs). You’ve heard that fear is more motivating than greed. Here’s where to put that into action.
- Offering. In this bit, and sans cheesiness and self-consciousness, you provide evidence of how your offering resolves all of the above. Limber up!
- Offer a compelling list of benefits—and keep them crisp.
- Explain—just briefly—how it all works.
- Add proof points: add data, name-drop awards, toss in some testimonials.
- Give examples that bring it all to life.
- Mix thoroughly.
- Clarification. Here’s where you can clarify any loose ends, dive into logistics (like process), and produce other nit-picky little details. Explain pricing. Spell out some terms. Toss in a few FAQs. Tell them how to get started.
- Call to action.
Enter…your magical lightning bug. You’ve painted a picture: the “before” state. You’ve whetted appetites with the logical “after” state. You’ve clarified things—and in doing so, kept your reader firmly at your feet, entranced and engaged.
If you’ve done these things right, the reader will be reminded what they came here for—and you will have moved them closer, not further away, from where they were headed.
Risks vanquished? Yes. It’s not foolproof—but it’s far better than presenting them with something half-baked, non-persuasive, and counterproductive.
Tell me again: why can’t my sales reps write their own collateral?
They could—but you might not want them to. The answer has nothing (nothing!) to do with grammar or spelling. Here are some more compelling reasons why not:
- It’s on paper. Persuading a listener is far, far different from persuading a reader. Even within the same brand, there’s an entirely different cadence and rhythm, different absorption process, necessitating different narrative development.
- They don’t get to customize. What they write needs to work for everyone—and it needs to work the whole way through. For example, on paper, it’s impossible to read facial expressions and switch approaches on a dime. The hard part is to figure out in advance what to write, so that it pertains to every qualified prospect that’s reading.
- They can’t answer follow-up questions. Similarly, your collateral piece doesn’t come with a live person. It’s a document. The copywriter has to step inside the reader’s head, figure out what they want to know, and give them exactly that: no more, no less.
- They can’t drone on. Speaking of “more,” being long-winded is the kiss of death for any marketing piece. The writer cannot get too in the weeds. A good rule of thumb? Let benefits take center stage—and put features in the chorus.
- They can’t bow out. On the other hand, what gets written has to be sufficient. If it’s too short, you run the risk of confusing and/or making them not care.
- They shouldn’t over-rely on jargon. If anyone uses jargon (which sales reps love to lean on—and for good reason), they should probably explain it. But how much do they have to explain? That’s a great question—and one that a solid copywriter, after downloading the proper insights, can answer. And by the way? Human speak builds a stronger, more lasting connection…every time.
- They can’t tell that story about Joe—the one that gets them every time. This is a biggie. Sales reps can be compelling storytellers. But an effective verbal story can easily fall flat on the printed page, and vice versa.
We can’t tell you the number of times we’ve been asked to fix a sales-rep written piece of collateral. And we’re always happy to do so.
Can we put our best marketers on it?
Maybe! But marketing teams are often needed for a higher need: to create strategy—and then get it produced. We’d rather they do what they do best…and hopefully, so would you.
At MarketSmiths, we work closely with internal sales and marketing teams to learn why your offerings are valuable to the world. Then, we produce content that takes prospects by the hand and moves them as far toward a sale as possible.
Want a demonstration? Ask to see some of our own sales collateral today!