Should your content produce sales or should sales produce content? Short answer: Yes.
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This blog was originally published March 23, 2017, but has been edited and updated for relevance.
What originally was going to be another typical post singing the praises of content marketing quickly evolved into a plea to sales managers, copywriters, marketers, and anyone else involved in the sales funnel to get the sales department producing content. This can be for your company blog, YouTube, Linkedin, or any other channel where customers go to find you, but just get them started writing and producing content as quickly as possible.
This idea is not new to me. Far from it. I willingly recognize that many, many people, much smarter than I am, talk about this process all the time. Take for example the amazing book by Marcus Sheridan They Ask, You Answer. In it, he makes the very compelling case to respond to each and every question a client asks with some type of educational content, be it videos or blog posts. If you go to the site he established as Sales Manager for River Pools and Spas, you’ll see the Learning Center is just overflowing with incredibly user-friendly educational content that responds to the various questions customers have asked over the years. They have a plethora (don’t you just love that word, a plethora of piñatas) of videos and very easy to read blog posts.
RiverPools didn’t stop there. They also have a substantial YouTube channel full of videos that are in direct response to customer questions. They even answer the tough questions that many sales people typically shy away from answering. For example, they made this video about cost, pricing, and budgeting for an inground pool. Talking about pricing makes many people uncomfortable, but Marcus believes that an upfront analysis of cost saves time down the road.
Marcus has since started his own marketing and sales consultation company, but his belief in direct, honest answers remains the same. Look at this blog post he wrote about the cost of a marketing workshop. From his blog:
How Much Does a Content Marketing Workshop Cost?
There are a lot of factors that dictate how much a content marketing workshop will cost. A few of them are:
- Location of workshop
- Size of audience
- Total time investment with team (some workshops are more intensive than others, and can even go more than one day)
- Type of Industry
These are just a few of the factors we consider. That being said, our workshops range from 7.5-25k in most cases. But again, we’d have to discuss your situation before giving you an exact number.
While he doesn’t give specific prices, he does explain what goes into the cost and then proceeds to give the range for most workshops. This takes the pressure of the sales person because this information is online and if someone knows the pricing upfront and still contacts them for a workshop it is a much easier close than if you are haggling over price right from the beginning.
There are additional incentives to have your sales people producing content beyond the immediate benefit of your audience. I even made a list with bullet points and headers to make it easier for you to skim through (don’t worry, we all do it). With that in mind, here are four awesome outcomes of having your sales department contribute to your content strategy.
When your sales people create content it gives them authority
I’m not a salesperson myself, but I know how much I love the feeling when I’ve done some research on a topic and can share that information with others. It is fun to be seen as an authority. Many times we take what we know as common knowledge and we are surprised when we meet people who don’t have the same information. I like the feeling I get when I can share a post on social media and tell people, “I wrote this, check it out.” Think of how useful it would be if during a sales call when your customer asks for some literature you can say, “I’ll do you one better, here is this article I (or my coworker) wrote and I think it will help answer some of your questions. Let me send you a link.” Now your sales person is a published authority and, while it isn’t a book deal, it shows your customer you are a lifelong learner and eager to become a thought leader in your industry.
It teaches them to be better story tellers
I wouldn’t expect your sales team to do this immediately; it is a skill that takes some time to develop, but if they can start to see the sales pitch as a narrative instead of purely persuasive, they will be more successful. The writing process is extremely helpful in forcing you to slow down and look at a problem from multiple angles. Telling your customer about your ability to solve their solution won’t work until that customer believes you truly understand their problem. What better way to interact with a potential customer than by telling them a story of a company with a similar problem who made the wrong choice or telling them the story of their own problems and how you plan to address and resolve them.
If you are writing, you have to do research. If you do research, you can talk about a lot of different topics.
A crucial aspect of the creation process is research. Whether that is research for a new article or post on your company site, or putting together an innovative new presentation to pitch to a big client, when you are in the state of mind to create, you instinctively start to investigate and learn more about that topic. This desire for new information is extremely beneficial to your sales teams for a number of reasons:
- It makes them more creative problem solvers. As you begin to read and learn more about fields with which you may not be familiar, your ability to create metaphors and find similarities in unlikely places also grows. This will come in handy during a conference call when they are asked a tough question and have a deeper reserve of random information from which to pull.
- Not only does it make them more creative, but it creates opportunities to learn new sales techniques and processes that could be beneficial. You never know when you will need to dig deep and find something unexpected to really WOW a customer. If your sales people are producing content, they are more likely to have a larger bag of tricks.
- Finally, this research will help them get to know their potential client better (whoever it may be) because they will be reading more and paying more attention to industries outside of your own. They will be more likely to find common ground when talking with new customers and can identify pain points the customer may not even know she has because the sales person read a post just the other day addressing a similar concern.
Sales reps who write make better teachers. And this is very, very important
According to Copyblogger, teaching is so important for a salesperson because “you’re teaching first instead of pitching, [your]content has an additional powerful, persuasive effect when it comes to communicating benefits and overcoming objections. That’s because an education-forward marketing approach gives you the influence that comes with authority.”
But they aren’t alone in talking about the advantage of sales reps that can educate with their content. In the revolutionary sales book The Challenger Sale the authors make it very clear that the ability to teach a customer is what separates excellent sales people from mediocre ones. They explain that “challenger reps deliver insight that reframes the way customers think about their business and their needs” (p. 33). If your sales people are already used to research, crafting a compelling narrative, and looking for insights in unlikely places (because they have been producing content) they are going to be in a much better position to educate their customers about unidentified pain points and solutions for those pain points. The book goes on to elaborate on the importance of having sales teams that can teach:
Teaching is all about offering customers unique perspectives on their business and communicating those perspectives with passion and precision in a way that draws the customer into the conversation. These new perspectives apply not to your products and solutions, but to how the customer can compete more effectively in their market. It’s insight they can use to free up operating expenses, penetrate new markets, or reduce risk (p. 36).
In short, well, maybe too late for that. But to summarize, getting your sales team involved in the content creation process can only help. It is extremely tough to get started but once they see the benefits it should get easier to get management on board. I am a copy guy. I don’t get to talk to customers very often. I don’t hear from them or know them the way my sales teams do. They are the experts and they are an invaluable resource for my job.