You spend a lot of time and effort on your content. You make sure it’s accurate, on-brand and acceptable to all the C-suite above you. You plan out a strategy to get it out into the world. You send links out to your sales people. And slowly, over time, you realise they are ignoring it.
Getting salespeople to embrace content has always been a problem. In fact, if you don’t think it’s a problem in your organisation, you just don’t know yet that the sales team are ignoring you.
The solution is to take five simple steps which gives you control of distributing your content through sales. These steps will also make your sales team look like heroes, which creates a virtuous cycle.
The content that sales love
Different salespeople have different selling styles, but they all have one thing in common. The one client they are most interested in is the client at the bottom of the sales funnel. The one who is easiest to close. And unless your content is of the boring, product-focussed, ‘features-and-benefits’ type, they don’t get it. They can’t see how it will help push that client over the line.
So if you’re creating ‘engagement’ and ‘awareness’ content there’s no point in giving it to sales yet. They won’t get it. But there is one thing you can give them. That is, give them an excuse to contact an existing client.
Making sales part of the content process
Sales people are only human. Despite their training, they know as well as you do that nearly every time they ring a client, it’s to ask for money in some way. Their clients know that too. So any excuse they have to get in touch and NOT ask for money is very attractive. It lets them cement a relationship without nagging.
So ask your sales team for recent examples of happy clients. Tell them you are going to produce a case study showing how this client solved their problem, and that it’s going to be published on your website.
By making them the contact point for the customer, they get maintain ownership over that relationship. And better, they get to ring that client up and do something good for them for free.
If they don’t have a happy client, ask them what the next step in the sales process is. What’s the next product they want to sell someone? What’s the opportunity for cross-selling?
The second step
If you can’t interview a client about the problem your company has solved for them, interview the salesperson. If the interview is a case study, focus on the problem that client had, and how the salesperson solved it. If the interview is with the salesperson, look at what they sell, and ask them, “what’s the next thing a customer needs?”
If you’re selling finance, for example, it might be a related credit card. If it’s a piece of equipment, the next thing needed might be insurance. Or it might be information on when to upgrade.
If you can’t do the interview or don’t trust your skills, hire a content agency or writer to do it. You may have to promise an agency more than just a single one-off article, but it will still be relatively inexpensive for a short article.
Either way, you will be producing engagement and awareness content. Because in each case, you’ll be focussing on a problem rather than a product.
Once you’re finished, get your sales person to liaise with the client to get sign-off. Make sure both of them are happy with what is produced. Once again, if it’s a case study, they have another reason to get in touch and give their client something for nothing.
Step three: harnessing the power of Linkedin
All of your sales team have Linkedin profiles. If they don’t, you can make a Linkedin profile for them. Either get their log in, or create their log in.
And here’s the important bit.
Post the article to Linkedin Pulse. Right at the top of the page when you have logged in, you’ll see a dialogue box headed “Share an article, photo or update”. In the bottom left hand corner will be a link that says, “Write an article”. That’s what you click on.
You can post a copy on your company web page if you want also. But also put a full copy on Linkedin Pulse. Because even if they don’t admit it, Linkedin’s algorithm clearly preferences articles posted on in full on Pulse, rather than just status updates with links back to your site.
I know everyone says you shouldn’t build your house on rented land, and that’s right. You shouldn’t post all of your content on a social media site. But this exercise is as much about selling the idea of content internally as externally. And so your focus is on making the salesperson look good.
If the content is a case study, you should also make a point of sending a link to the client. Ask them to share it on Linkedin or on their site. That will help you with your backlinks, which helps with SEO, and gives the client something to humble-brag about.
Watching and listening
Linkedin gives good data on who has interacted with a Pulse post. Check the post stats regularly, but don’t overdo it. Once a week should be fine. Keep a basic spreadsheet which shows the names and Linkedin address of everyone who interacts with the post. But don’t hand that information over to sales yet.
Repeat the process two or three times over the course of a few months. After that, you should have a solid list of people who are regularly interacting with the articles you’ve been posting on the salesperson’s behalf. Then, with the permission of your sales person, send each of those people an InMail saying, “I’ve noticed you’ve been enjoying some of the articles I’ve been posting on Linkedin, and I’d like to connect”.
Handing over the results
Just before you hand over the result, go back to your spreadsheet. In a third column, mark anyone who has accepted the invitation to connect. Then sort that spreadsheet by the third column. What you’ll have is a list of people who have already offered up contact details, shown an interest in your products, and feel like they know the salesperson.
Hand that over to a sales team, and it is far more powerful for them than any one piece of content you create.
The last step
If you can, keep a copy of each of these lists. If and when someone becomes a customer, mark it in a fourth column. Then, when anyone else in your organisation asks whether the content you are producing is worth the cost, you can supply a list of customers you can prove have been delivered via that content.
Of course, if it’s working, it’s unlikely anyone will ask you that.
It’s more likely that you will create a virtuous cycle. Salespeople will start contacting you with information about happy customers. And so it starts again.
Explaining content marketing to a sales team who are only interested in immediate results is too hard. But including that sales team in the content creation process is easy. By giving them jobs that are vital, but that require no hard work on their part, you can illustrate that value rather than explaining it. Which will always be more powerful.