There’s one topic both marketing and sales can agree upon:  content builds awareness and accelerates customers though the sales funnel. But the practices of Content Marketing and Content Selling differ in many ways.

The sales funnel doesn’t work in the same manner any longer. Today, buyers acquire information online before engaging with a vendor. A bit of research through online channels and social media results in analysis, opinions and other data that shape buying decisions. Sirius Decisions reports that the majority of the B2B buying process is executed via these channels prior to engaging with a sales person. This can place prospects at various places in the funnel – not just the top.

Content Marketing changed how businesses sell to a B2B audience. It helped generate awareness and interest through thoughtful, fun and engaging content. But sales people need to take advantage of the value content marketing pioneered. The importance of content to the sales process led to the need for Content Selling – a targeted method to help sales discover, deliver and track the effectiveness of messages that advance sales engagements.

Just blasting content to lists is not an effective solution anymore. Buyers are overwhelmed with content overload, and have developed filters to determine what’s important and what gets ignored. Content Selling involves locating and sharing the best content at the right time. Different audiences need different collateral at different stages in the sale. This is what wins engagements and sells products.

The Content Selling process can be greatly assisted by discovery tools, such as KnowledgeTree, delivering the most current and effective sales content with no searching. The slide presentation on a salesperson’s desktop may be the quickest to find, but it may not be effective in closing the deal. KnowledgeTree serves up the most appropriate piece of content, right in Salesforce.com, so no prospect is ever presented with poorly targeted, deal-killing collateral.

In a recent piece on the Marketo blog, Jeff Ogden, Creator and Host of Marketing Made Simple TV, collaborated with marketing guru Jay Baer to write “Stop Selling, Start Helping: 5 Tips for Creating Magnetic Content.” The blog offers a number of tips on making content attractive to buyers, but also addresses the concept that content must be precisely targeted to win sales. Ogden notes that you first must understand your prospect. Then writes, “Now that you really understand what buyers need, you can focus on mapping your content to really resonate with those needs. A sales lead is a prospect who meets specific, predetermined criteria for becoming a customer. They desire specific information about their circumstances…” This is an important part of content selling, and marked extension of Content Marketing.

Content Marketing and Content Selling both have their place in the mix. However, Content Selling’s approach allows sales teams to target relevant content to prospects across multiple channels and specifically touch the right nerve at the right time.

Perhaps Carla Johnson said it best in her blog on the Content Marketing Institute site. The piece, titled, “The Role of Content in the Sales and Marketing Marriage,” reports  “Research conducted by the Custom Content Council points out that 61 percent of people feel better about a company that delivers custom content and are more likely to buy from that company. Makes sense.”