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How Customers Consume Content Today - And What it Means for Sales

How do you take your content?

If you’re like most people, you interact with content throughout the day. You get your news and entertainment on demand, you fast forward through commercials, and you wince at the sight of a multi-paragraph email. (You may even reply with a curt “TLDR.”)

The way we consume content today has changed dramatically. And that has big implications for salespeople trying to get their message in front of busy customers. While in the past a customer may have slogged through a long, but well-meaning sales presentation or email, today they are much more likely to disconnect the second they’re not engaged.

Content, and the way customer’s access and interact with it, has fundamentally changed. If you want to gain the attention of today’s customers and move them to take action, you must adapt to the following trends:

I’ll have it my way

Walk into any Starbucks and you can now order one of approximately 87,000 possible drink combinations. That’s just one example of the type of customization consumers have come to expect. Smart content providers, like Apple News and Netflix, recognize the impact of this trend and are learning to adapt to and target our individual behavior and interests.

In an “I’ll have it my way,” world, a one-size-fits-all presentation has gone the way of the three major networks (yes, kids there were once only three!) Today’s customers expect content that is tailored to their needs and interests, and are quick to recognize – and often, reject – content that pretends to speak to them but is clearly nothing more than a cut-and-paste job.

Tailoring content requires learning as much as you can about each customer before and during the sales process. Fortunately this does not have to be as difficult as it sounds. There are a number of tools that make it easier than ever to tailor your messaging, but none better than a sales engagement platform.

With visibility into exactly which sales presentations–better yet, which slides within a presentation–resonate with prospects and customers, sales reps can tailor follow up emails, content, and overall messaging to best reflect what prospects and customers care most about. Now that’s how you give customers content “their way”.

Think Snack-Size

Gone are the days of reading a newspaper from top to bottom, or watching a show from opening to ending credits. Technology has made it easy to zip in and out of content as soon as our attention wanes. And boy is it waning!

Studies show that the average focused attention span of humans has dropped from twelve minutes a decade ago to a mere five minutes. Yet most presentations fly in the direct face of this stark new reality, delivering long stretches of content that invites tune out. How can you stop this attention free fall keeping customers from interacting with your content?

You can stop fighting for attention and start aligning with it for one thing. Think about serving your message in snack-sized portions, rather than the whole meal. Presentation topics broken down into two-three minute chunks or emails of one-two paragraphs are much better suited for today’s customers.

But just how can you apply this to real-world selling? With the right sales engagement platform, sales reps are able to seamlessly jump to a particular slide within a given presentation during an online pitch, without the viewer even knowing. And because best-in-class sales engagement solutions offer a single content repository where all content is stored, this type of on-demand content customization is possible. To the viewer, they are watching one presentation. The flow of the conversation should guide the rep, in real time, to which pieces of content should be displayed.

By changing the subject or introducing a new form of content before your customer’s attention has taken a nose dive, you will keep them engaged longer and expose them to more of your content.

Start with the Lead Story

The sheer volume of content coming at customers today forces them to make quick decisions about where they spend their time. Therefore it’s vital that you make a powerful first impression. If your first few slides don’t grab your customer’s attention immediately, they will move on to the next in a seemingly endless supply of content.

Too many presentations and emails buck a fundamental rule of journalism: lead with the biggest story. Key information is often buried in the middle of the presentation or saved for the very end. Unfortunately today’s customer may never get that far.

The first few slides of your presentation or lines of your email are where your lead story belongs. To determine your lead story, think in terms of what is of primary interest to your customer. It could be a key issue, an insight, a benefit, or something you found out in discovery. But it’s almost never a slide full of boring company facts or credentials. You can make your lead story even more engaging and memorable by packaging it in a unique way through a story, a quote, a video or a great graphic.

But as with any solution, if you can’t measure it, you can’t optimize it. A sales engagement platform with robust analytics will tell you just how your lead story is performing in the content you deliver. If your lead isn’t resonating, you’ll want to know and adjust accordingly. If your lead is strong but engagement drops immediately following it, you’ll want to adjust messaging to retain a prospect or customer’s attention.

As technology continues to change, so will the expectations and behaviors of your customers. Salespeople need to continue to adapt if they want to succeed, and tailoring content is a key component of a successful selling strategy suited for today and the future.

This blog post was contributed by Julie Hansen, Founder of Performance Sales and Training and Author of ‘Sales Presentations for Dummies’

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