Convincing sales people that inbound marketing is an effective way to prospect and fill the sales funnel is a great way to grow a business. We've worked with dozens of companies that either have a small sales team or don't have a marketing department, and they struggle with lead generation. We've heard different versions of the same story over and over:
"When we get face to face with a good prospect we close a high percentage of the business, but we're just not getting enough chances to win."
Many companies in this position try to solve their problem by telling the sales people to do more prospecting, make more cold calls, and just go make more sales. The problem with this is that simply demanding more sales isn't a strategy or plan for success. We have helped our clients build an effective pipeline and grow their business by helping them develop the tools they need to successfully use an inbound marketing strategy.
By adopting inbound marketing methods, sales people can be their own marketing department and make the connection between what they do every day and generating content as fuel for inbound marketing.
Not many sales people like to write content (or much of anything else for that matter), so how do we get them to create the content that is the foundation of inbound marketing? The first step is to show them that they are creating content every day — they just don't realize it. Examples include:
- Any letters or emails with detailed explanations of the uses of their products to solve problems
- Phone calls with customers answering questions
- Sales presentations, especially the parts that are designed for particular industries, companies, or common problems
- Internal training on products and their use
- Interactions with service and technical support
- Industry trends, news, and events that affect customers
- Questions and objections from existing prospects and customers
- Success stories and testimonials
We've tried a lot of tricks to get sales people to create content, but the most effective one we've ever used is to have the sales people keep a pad of paper by their phone and to make a note of every call they make or email they send where they are answering questions, explaining their products in detail, or otherwise dispensing information. It doesn't take very long before the sales person realizes they are already creating content that is re-usable on a daily basis. Once they have gotten over their fear of "writing" and "content", they often find that creating content is something they're good at. There's nothing like stroking the ego of a sales person by showing them how much of an expert they really are.
Most sales people aren't aware of the large amounts of valuable content that they already have and aren't using to drive prospecting. A lot of sales content comes to sales people only as product-based information like catalogs, specifications, and feature focused content. This kind of content is easy to create because it is internal and, more often than not, cut and dry. There's a lot of great information in this kind of content, but it isn't very good at grabbing prospects' interest.
The key is shifting your mindset so that you are focused on the prospect, their issues, their needs, and their opportunities. You can reshape that internal, dry content into something that caters to your prospects and their needs. Thinking like the customer and creating content that matches their expectations is often best accomplished by sales people that interact with customers every day.
Publishing and Publicizing
Sales people should identify the information platforms that their target customers are using, learn the rules of the road for that platform, and then publish consistently to them. In many cases, sales people want instant gratification so they need to understand that building a following and learning how to communicate using new mediums takes time and effort. Just like making an effective face-to-face presentation takes time and practice, so does learning to use inbound marketing and content publishing to attract quality prospects.
We work with sales people to build reasonable daily activity schedules that are perceived as manageable and not too time-consuming. Twitter and LinkedIn are generally the most popular for B2B engagement, but it all boils down to fishing where the fish are.
Once content is being created and published, sales people can now engage with prospects and build credibility for themselves and for their company. Inbound marketing is about attracting and educating prospects first and selling second, so sales people need to be patient and not go for the sales the first time someone responds. The selling will come in time if the prospect is engaged at the right time.
We have a client that produces industrial lasers used for marking just about any part. They publish really cool videos showing how lasers can be used to mark unique parts. The videos are often made as a part of the engineering and technical specification of the system and can be easily shot by the salespeople during a test or plant tour. We added them to the list of content we were publishing and qualified prospects find the videos and other related blog posts and convert into leads as a result. Instead of selling the features of the lasers, sales people share the benefits and capabilities, attract prospects that need those benefits, and a conversation is started.
This type of inbound marketing generated conversation is different than one generated by a cold call. The prospect is self-qualified because they want, and seek out, the information you have. The sales person is positioned as an expert helping and sharing educational content, not as a time wasting annoyance.
Sales people may or may not come to the conclusion on their own that inbound marketing is an effective lead generation strategy. However, showing them that there is a process and a pathway that yields demonstrable results leads them to the water and, most of the time, gets them to drink.
About the Author: Todd Hockenberry is the founder of Top Line Results, an inbound marketing agency that specializes in leading top line revenue growth at small and medium-sized companies with a focus on manufacturing, technology and capital equipment.