The Forrester Wave™: Sales Content Solutions, Q4 2022, revealed a market that has radically expanded its capabilities, truly providing a lid for every pot. Modern sales content solutions (SCS) are multifaceted, highly integrated keystones of the sales/marketing tech stack and are table stakes for most companies past the startup stage. Providers are focusing their innovation on enriched buyer and seller experiences that are tightly interwoven with sales competencies, workflows, and revenue intelligence. Sales content and readiness solutions have converged and continue to evolve amid a flurry of M&A activity, integrations, and partnerships.
There are a few variations, and one size does not fit all. Some companies have taken the kitchen-sink approach, building incredibly powerful, connected platforms that facilitate expansive digital transformation. Other companies focus on a customer base that simply wants a clean central library optimized for sales. Companies that started as sales content solutions and added readiness capabilities work somewhat differently than companies that came from readiness and added content. Features aimed at specific industries such as life sciences, financial services, consumer goods, and manufacturing add yet another layer. The differences enable customers to choose a solution tailored to their needs.
Selected Sales Content Solution Highlights
Here are a few highlights that stood out during the evaluation:
- Digital sales rooms (DSRs; aka buyer sites, pitches, deal rooms, etc.) are a quiet revolution. The best of these are permanent customer portals featuring rich, immersive, multimedia experiences and deal-management tools. Real-time buyer-engagement insights surfaced within the sales workflow are popular and well used. The most advanced tools offer a wealth of features such as prebuilt templates, microapp builders, prescribed content selections, and sophisticated privacy management.
- Data science advances are unlocking credible, accessible insights. While SCS tools have a solid track record of usage-based analytics, it is still a challenge to quantify content impact on seller performance, deal progression, and buyer engagement. Happily, many providers are investing extensively in analytics, providing engagement insights within the sales workflow along with role-based dashboards and score cards. A few top providers have invested in knowledge graphs and delta lakes that deliver massively scalable, connected, multidimensional insights.
- Integrations open the way to full-featured one-stop shops — and a more complex experience. SCS integrations have exploded far beyond core tools such as CRM, cloud file shares, and email. Top SCS providers offer marketplaces with access to dozens of technology, consulting, and data solutions. This flexibility is leveraged by many customers to extend SCS access to functions outside sales. Reference customers valued the extensibility but wanted integrations to feel integrated and not disjointed.
- Buying centers in sales signify success — but marketing still matters. The original buyers and owners of SCS were often in marketing. With success has come a move to sales and revenue operations and, sadly, less emphasis on sales-marketing alignment. Marketing provides a large portion of SCS content, and they need features that help them deploy, measure, and scale. A few providers in the Wave evaluation stood out as exceptions, but overall, the focus on buyer-seller interactions, sales intelligence, and sales workflow seems to be displacing attention to marketing needs.
- Organizational readiness is the unrecognized variable. SCS customers are realizing how much their success depends on their own vision, readiness, alignment, and content operations maturity. Implementing a solution that far exceeds internal capabilities and vision is a recipe for frustration. Accordingly, companies aspiring to a super-enabled sales force; a transformative, seamless buyer experience; and robust insights should choose a full-featured solution. Organizations that don’t want that level of power and complexity should explore more focused options.
Satisfaction Entails Fit As Well As Features
Every vendor that qualified for inclusion in the Wave demonstrated that they could provide and operate an SCS. Every vendor had loyal, satisfied customers and marquee customers. While modern capabilities sparked exciting success stories, they were only part of the picture. Overall, happiness and loyalty among reference customers were strongly correlated with “fit”: the customer’s conviction that the vendor was invested in their success, treated them as a partner, and had an offering and vision that aligned with their own capabilities and goals.
Leaders and Strong Performers stood out for the breadth and depth of their features across a wide range of use cases, for their advanced data science, and for their beauty and ease of use. Their solutions anticipated many different customer needs and provided engaging, robust DSRs, guided selling tools, sophisticated management and localization tools, and actionable insights for any role, region, or sales scenario.
For a detailed assessment of sales content solution providers, read the Wave evaluation. Forrester clients can schedule a guidance session with me for further discussion.