Digital and social sales enablement is going to have a grand year in 2014. That’s because more B2B and B2C brands will implement (not just plan or “do PowerPoint”) actual programs that help customers value and connect with salespeople earlier in the buyer journey. These connections will happen before buyers have even figured out what they might buy to solve a problem, possibly before they even know which problem they have. Conversely, we will equip salespeople with the content and data they need to be of greater service throughout the journey.
If you are a Caterpillar dealer (client) servicing the general contracting and construction trades or if you are an insurance agent selling property and casualty to small business or if you sell cloud services to large enterprise, you want to be first in-the-door when a customer is contemplating a purchase. And just as diaper manufacturers kill each other to romance moms even before they have a baby, you essentially want to be close to a customer before they actually have the need for your service or product. In many cases, you want to help them decide they need your type of solution when all they know is they have some business problem.
Sales people suck at that.
Historically, their idea of qualified leads is someone who knows they need a backhoe or new property insurance or are shopping for cost effective, reliable cloud services. They haven’t really had the bandwidth or the means to know who is contemplating what at the mouth of the funnel. And that's no slam on sales people. They just haven't had teh means t do much better. Meanwhile buyers are self-educating well before they come in contact with a sales rep.
Matchmaking Through Content & Data
This year, we will all be distilling data to equip sales people with more information about customers – even identifying them as potential customers earlier in the journey. We will also get serious about content marketing and sales support. That means connecting all content used in the customer experience from marketing to sales enablers to what our Twitter handle spends its time publishing.
If I had to start afresh in developing a strong social and digital solution for sales people, I would focus on three things to start:
1. Create a single story platform for everyone
I am a huge fan of what I choose to call the “story platform.” Imagine if all of your marketing and PR and your sales interactions were rooted in the same 3-4 narratives about your company. All of those impressions and touchpoints would accumulate in your prospects minds. You would become know for those 3-4 qualities. All of your communications and customer experiences would be reinforcing each other. That means that all of the content you publish for customers to discover on Google and that you equip the sales force with all reinforce each other.
Walla! This is how we build brand in a content marketing model.
2. Fuel salespeople with on-demand content
Salespeople need content their customers will find valuable. That usually means content that helps them with a business problem that may lead to buying a product or service but may just be helpful. Giving a contractor ways to forecast housing starts in their market over the next 5 years is helpful. It can also inform their Caterpillar equipment purchases.
Brendan Cournoyer put it this way on Content Marketing Institute,
“… According to the CMO Council, salespeople spend 40 percent of their time looking for or preparing content for customer communications. That’s a lot of wasted time, wouldn’t you say? It can also lead to problems like inconsistent messaging, inaccurate information, and even legal or compliance issues in some highly regulated industries.”
Creating the right content for a sales-focused relationship is harder that it looks. Making that content available and usable with no friction for the sales person is half of that challenge. We need Flipboard meets KaPost meets ShareThis. It’ll happen.
3. Convert data into sales intelligence
There are at least three great sources of data to add to your customer intelligence today: search, social and content data.
We mine Google search to understand what customers and prospects are most concerned about. We even created a live dashboard that told us in real time what questions customers were trying to find answers for based upon search data. We then turnaround content to deliver those answers (and return great in those queries).
Everyone talks about mining social data for insights. Its simply a lot harder than hooking up Radian6 and plopping a bunch of keywords. For the insurance agent serving small business, they are not just looking for people explicitly talking “insurance.” They need to know what those business moments are that trigger concerns around risk or that ought to. Buying new storefronts, stocking up on inventory for a selling season, making it through natural disasters, expanding into a new state – to name just a few. Give me a good social analyst any day and I can come up with new selling opportunities.
We cannot forget the data that streams back from the very content we use in marketing and sales. Simple things like which LinkedIn post earned the most engagement and an understanding or hypothesis about ‘why,’ or more complex analysis about when and where your prospects read and share your content can inform how you sell better.
Brendan Cournoyer offered an example from what his company does (video marketing),
“For example, when integrated with your marketing automation system of choice, text-based content will tell you that an individual clicked on your link… and that’s basically it. In contrast, the right video analytics tools can tell you how long they watched for, how many times they watched, and even if there were parts of your video they viewed more than once.”
How is your social sales enablement?
What data are you converting into usable sales information and insights? How have you aligned all of the content used in your customer touchpoints? How have you made relevant content available for your sales team to share with customers at all the right times?