This guest post is written by Andy Paul, a leading authority on sales for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) and the Founder of Zero-Time Selling. Andy is also the author of the award-winning book, Zero-Time Selling: 10 Essential Steps to Accelerate Every Company’s Sales. Zero-Time Selling was selected as one of the Top 3 Sales & Marketing books of 2011. Andy was our featured guest in a webinar on Thursday February 9 @1PM EST. You can view a recording of the webinar here. Take it away, Andy…
There is a lot of talk about content in marketing and sales these days. A company no longer has just brochures, datasheets or a company website; it has a pool of content about the products and services it markets. The company makes strategic and tactical decisions about how to most effectively communicate that content to potential customers, whether by blog, tweet, email, brochure, slide deck, webinar, datasheet, phone call or other means.
What does “content” mean for your customer?
When asked to define “content”, salespeople tend to have a very parochial point of view, believing that content is solely the information developed by their company, about their own products and services, that they can supply to their prospects.
Unfortunately that narrow perspective creates a mismatch with the information needs of their prospects. The problem for a sales person is that their potential customers have a much broader definition of and requirement for content. To the prospect and customer “content” is the sum total of the data and information they need to make a fully informed purchase decision in the least time possible.
In their buying cycle, prospects are looking to gather not only the specifics about particular products and services but also information and data that will help create the overall context for the decision they have to make. For instance, an informed buyer may need to know where technology is evolving in your product segment, not only for you but also your competition. They may need to know what their competitors have done or are doing with similar products. They may need to have an understanding of what products will be coming to market in the near future that could impact their competitive position if adopted by a competitor first.
Think Globally, Act Locally
In the early days of the environmental movement, grassroots activists encouraged their followers to ‘Think Globally, Act Locally.’ In other words, you needed to consider the implications for the global welfare of the earth in the actions you took locally in your day-to-day life.
Similarly, salespeople need to think more globally about the content they provide to prospects and the positive impact it can have on their local decision-making. It is no longer enough for your sales team to be a conduit for proprietary content only.
A salesperson can create real value for the customer by taking a broader view of the customer’s need for information and identifying and providing the 3rd party content that assists the customer to make a more informed purchase decision in less time.
3 Easy Steps to Becoming an Effective Content Provider
- The salesperson needs to thoroughly map out the entire set of information the customer will need to A) make an informed purchase decision and B) make the decision to purchase your product. A and B are not the same data. Unless a salesperson is new to the company they should have the customer and product knowledge to complete this on their own.
- The salesperson defines a list of the 3rd party content they could provide that would create value for the customer. The goal is to make the customer smarter, in a global sense, about their problem, their requirements and the value of the solution that you can provide. Yes, the customers could go online and find this information for themself. But, envision the credibility and trust you will build with the customer if you proactively provide it.
- The salesperson goes online and finds the information they need. Here are a few quick ideas about finding relevant content that would be valued by your prospect:
- Set up Google Alerts for keywords associated with the prospect’s industry as well as for your products/services. Check these daily for content that will provide value to the prospect.
- Subscribe to key blogs in the prospect’s market space. Provide links to postings from bloggers in their industry that discuss the problems solved and benefits received from solutions like yours.
- Find 3rd party industry or academic research on your product category. Even if all you can find online is the abstract from a research report, you can usually learn enough information from that to understand what its conclusions are. If you were working on a big enough deal then perhaps it would be worth buying the report for the customer.
- Search YouTube (www.youtube.com ) for videos that address the installation or implementation concerns the prospect might have for a solution like yours.
- Check resources like SlideShare (www.slideshare.com ) for presentations that address areas of interest to the prospect.
- Search online for industry conferences in their space and look for interesting presentations that are relevant to the prospect’s buying cycle. Find a link to the conference proceedings. If not, email the presenters and ask for a copy of his or her slides.
- Use a tool like Postwire to provide the 3rd party content to the customer in Zero-Time. Track which content the prospect looked at so that you can focus your follow-ups on the topics that matter most to the prospect.
Being an effective content provider requires an investment of time and thought on the part of the salesperson. This investment is usually the difference between a successful salesperson and one who is always playing catch-up with his or her quota.