Although what we will be exploring in this article may be similar to content marketing, using content to attract a target audience, I want to talk to you today about using content to specifically, and proactively, assist and direct identified prospects through the selling process. You might also call this process your sales pipeline or funnel. They’ve been hooked. Now we need to land them!
Nor will we address whether or not sales needs content (they do) or whether or not they or marketing should be creating it (both). Sales already likely has this content at their disposal. They are also the people who should best know the needs of their customers. The problem is that they don’t know where this content is or when to throw it or even what to throw at what in any given situation. Chaos.
Social does not replace traditional
While you should employ social selling as a part of your sales process, I do think that social sales can create a dangerous atmosphere, maybe even worse a tendency, for salespeople to become lazy. Instead of picking up the phone or making a customer call in-person, and specifically when both you and I know that to be the correct thing to do, we instead send an email or maybe we launch a tweet. This is not only slothful, it smacks of stupidity.
I have yet to see any sale be closed with the power of a tweet. Certainly not in sales where the dollar value might tend to be higher as might be the complexity of the sale itself. Some things are just better done in-person and closing a sale or performing a presentation, where having the ability to see and gauge body language can be critical, are two such occasions.
On the other hand, for the savvy sales rep, there may be opportunity here. Perhaps your prospect will be as startled by a salesperson who knows how to use a telephone to the same degree that I am knocked over whenever I receive a personalized invitation to connect on LinkedIn. When applying social sales tools, techniques, and strategies … we need to recognize that social is not a substitute, but rather that it augments, traditional selling methodologies.
Let’s take a weapons inventory
I have always maintained that you need a lot of arrows in your quiver, weapons in your arsenal, in order to provide you with the means of making unique and memorable recurring touches as well as the correct types of touches that will be pertinent to your customer and to their situation. Content is quite versatile and can be used as an active selling tool during prospecting, such as adding content when sending an introduction or a request for a meeting, or at any other stage of the sales process. It is both an outbound (prospecting) and inbound (attraction) sales and marketing tool.
Examples of great content – Great content can include your blog, articles, white papers, case studies, testimonials, slides, videos, and any other marketing materials and collateral. What we really need to do is to formalize these strategies and techniques and you can start by organizing and categorizing your available content. For example, when this happens or when we reach this stage, you can choose to use this, this, or this. This isn’t brain surgery. It can be as simple as creating virtual folders on your desktop to house electronic files or using something like Dropbox or Google Drive to do the same thing.
The goal is always to move our prospect to the next stage and you should have a plan, and an arsenal of weapons, that can and will be used to move these pieces on your chessboard.
Therefore, with every piece of content that you have, or that you will create, you will want to apply these five questions ….
- “Where might this content be best used?”
- “What is my goal in using this content? Will it move my prospect to the next level?”
- “At what point will I use it?”
- “How will I deliver this content?”
- “What is my next step after delivery?”
Delivery Systems – It’s one thing to have all this content but, quite another thing to distribute it. Fortunately, we have a huge selection of content delivery systems that are available for our use:
- Marketing tools – There many many marketing automation applications that can be particularly effective in terms of creating and executing drip content campaigns.
- The social networks – Your social networks are great sources for finding new content and … new opportunities! Not only that, they can be used to generally distribute content (call it trolling) or to showcase your expertise and services such as is the case with your LinkedIn profile and company page.
- Websites and blogs – Think about other websites in addition to your own. Your goal is to find the best content to share with your prospect and often others are the ones who will be providing you with this
The process begins
Let’s think about the sale in terms of a simple 6 step process. Each stage should include – “What is the next step?” or “What needs to happen next?”. When we know what needs to happen next, we can apply content and engagements that will facilitate that desired action.
This is important! You must match your content to the specific needs of each individual customer. This includes your customer’s industry as well as their needs, wants, and pain points.
- Attention – Right now you need to be selling the sizzle! Getting a potential customer’s attention, particularly with how they are being bombarded constantly from literally every angle and via every channel, is a deft dance of seduction. This is prospecting! Once we have an interested party, we can now move them to your funnel (or your pipeline, if you prefer).
- Qualify – Are you dealing with the M.A.N. (he or she who has the Money, Authority, and Need)? Examples of great content for use at this stage might include cost justifications, financing options, and spreadsheets to determine if this is right solution for your customer.
- Interest – Always remember to sell the benefits rather than the features. Benefits are what you product with do for your customer. You are selling anticipated results. This can be accomplished via white papers, videos, podcasts, slideshows, and articles.
- Desire – In the desire phase, we are establishing the need and the want. Buying is an emotional decision and appropriate case studies of other customers who are already enjoying the benefits, can be very powerful.
- Conviction – I happen to be a big fan of anticipating potential objections and/or concerns and addressing them head on before they can become an issue. For example, if your product is priced three times higher than its closest competitor, there has to be reasons for this and you better have the answers why since you know this is going to raise its ugly head at some point. Most customers, and you may or may not be able to see these on the surface, will have concerns. This step is where you will put these final obstacles to bed.
- Close – The transaction has been completed or, as I like to say … “They been bagged, tagged, and sent to processing.” Or have they? Beware of buyer remorse. Now is the time to truly solidify that they have made the right decision!
Finally, before and after we close, you will have the need to …
Follow-Up – Follow-up calls will be inevitably inserted repeatedly throughout the sales process and they need to be more than the traditional “Have you made your decision yet?” phone calls. Mix it up and mix it up with content that is specific to this stage of your sale and to the needs of your client.
How about you? Are you having success with sharing content during selling situations and what is your formula for enhancing your efforts?