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Sales Must Own And Solve The Content Marketing Problem!

by David Brock on February 27th, 2015

Now hold on, count to 10, take a deep breath.  For my marketing friends, I’m not betraying you and giving up on marketing.  For those of you who’ve read my posts railing against sales people blogging, I’m not changing my point of view.

I’m talking about a very specific marketing/content problem that no one other than the sales person can address.  It’s marketing content for an audience of 1–at this very moment.

It’s very unique.  It’s content, that addresses my specific problem, concerns, and priorities right now–because they may be slightly different from those I have tomorrow.  It’s content that captures my imagination, helps me understand opportunities for my organization, based on where we are and what we are doing right now.

It’s content that’s different from the person sitting at the desk next to me.  Yes, she’s involved in the project, but she has different concerns and priorities than I have.  So the content you deliver to her, may not be wholly relevant to me.

And I expect you to offer thought leadership–but not the same stuff you broadcast to everyone else, or even that stuff you talk about to the person sitting next to me.

I want your thought leadership about WIIFM–for me and my organization.  I want to know why you think I should care, what I am missing, how I might improve, and what specific results I’ll get.  And I want this for me personally and for the organization I lead.

That content won’t come from your brochures, or your data sheets, or your case studies, or your blog posts.  It won’t come from your capabilities guides, or corporate presentations–though all that stuff might help you in creating meaningful and relevant content for me.

The content I need comes from you engaging me in conversations and a discussion about what I do, what my people do, what my boss is expecting of me, what my customers and suppliers want.  In comes from understanding my dreams and goals.  It comes from understanding what does keep me awake at night (other than the cat using my body as a punching bag.).  It is specific to me and my priorities today.

What I believe in about the content with which you are engaging me depends on 1)what I believe in you, 2) what you know about me and is driving me right now, and 3)the relevance of what you are saying to my situation today.

It is less about your company, the rich content available to me and 1000’s of others, the 1000’s of likes, the RT’s, or any of the typical content or social metrics….. MEH.  It may have provoked an interest, but ultimately, it’s about how you make me feel and how I can feel certain that working with you won’t get me fired, but will help me and my organization learn, improve, do better—-and perhaps get my boss off my back.

It will help me understand why I must change, it will get me hot and lathered to drive the change.  At the same time it will help me, and you will help me manage the change and risks associated with it.

Sales people are the only people that can solve this content problem.  It’s not a marketing person, a content writer, or even another sales person blogging halfway around the world.  For those of you who’ve been in telecom, you will recognize it as the classic last mile problem.

Before, I go further, sales people must know it’s mandatory they solve this problem–that they focus specifically on personalization, relevance, engagement on specific issues.  That they are conducting a conversation, asking questions, listening, providing a point of view, listening, responding, engaging a customer on her specific journey through her part of the buying process.

Delivering the standard brochures, the corporate presentations, becoming a walking piece of collateral is meaningless and doesn’t help the customer with their last mile problem.  It’s further meaningless, because the customer has probably already seen it–at a website, through a download, or from some other sources.

Marketing cannot solve that problem–but they can help a huge amount.  Marketing can get groups of customers interested and motivated.  They can start the process, providing general information.  They can help shorten the gap between content for many and content for 1-at this very moment.  They can provide content specific to the personas we as sales people work with, specific to industries, the functions, the specific problems, companies and people most like the customer we are engaging (Me in the example above.

Marketing can use great technology and analytics to understand what might be most interesting to our customers right now, pushing it to them in their preferred channel(s).

Sales enablement can help too.  We sales people might be trained in how we bridge the gap of one to many, to one to few, to one to one–at this moment.

We sales people might be trained in what questions to ask, how analyze the responses to provide the right information.  Sales people might be trained in how to challenge perspectives, opinions and points of view, helping shift them.

We might have tools that enable us to use the customer’s specific data to analyze the results or ROI.  We might use demos, evaluations or benchmarks to show, specifically, how something might work in the customer’s environment.

Sales people have a critical role in developing and delivering compelling content.  It’s that ability to connect, personally, in terms meaningful and relevant to specific individuals at a moment in time.

No one else in the organization has this charter or ability.

So sales people have to solve the “last mile” content problem.  They have to own it, they have to deliver it, they cannot be diverted by anything else, or any more general, broader audience.

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  1. Wait a minute. You have marketing friends?


  2. David, thanks for the post. I agree with you that sales professionals are responsible for providing meaningful content to the relevant stakeholder at the right time in the buying process.

    I also agree with Matt Heinz that sales professionals are not copywriters, and therefore should not waste precious selling time.

    I don’t know for sure, but it can’t be beyond the wit of marketing automation/CRM providers to have a bank of different types of content (written by marketing) that sales professionals can simply use and progress an opportunity.

    • Imran, I may have miscommunicated in some sense. What I am talking about here, is the moment of truth, personalized conversations sales people have with customers. These aren’t scripted, formal pieces of content, they are the knowledge and points of view that are exchanged in these conversations.

      I think marketing and sales enablement have a huge role in helping prepare to have these conversations. Both in the amount and richness of the content, and training people how to take the concepts, conducting high impact sales calls with customers. Thanks for the great comment.

  3. Dave,

    This is a great idea but sales people I have ever brought this up with have dismissed it as something that marketing should be doing. I think they also get a push back from sales management since they want their sales people in front of customers instead of being in office writing blogs.

    Also, many sales people don’t have the “write to win” mindset, thus, they don’t develop the skills necessary and realize its power, especially today. Good writing by a sales person can turn a commodity into a differentiated product or solution.

    • Jay, you may have misread what I intended to say. This unique “content” has nothing to do with writing. It is the one on one conversations and discussions we have with the customer—moments of truth and specificity. These conversations are where the sales person takes all that general content, customizing it in real time to engage the customer in very specific conversations that are of concern to only them.

  4. Doug Schmidt permalink

    Dave, great comments and wisdom as usual on the importance on relevant conversations and communications with our prospects and clients.
    Few counterpoints to the comments –
    1) “Sales professionals can’t write” – why should we impose a self limiting belief on sales professionals or any other employee that can get the job done.
    2) “It’s someone else’s job not mine” – classic example of lack of contribution to solving challenges we face. Who cares where the solutions come from, let’s focus on getting the job done.
    3) “Sales people can’t write blogs” – weren’t we taught writing in school or was missing in the curriculum? When we have insightful content for our audience doesn’t that increase our sales effectiveness?
    I may be overstating the case at the same time we need begin to develop “Smart Thinking Leadership Skills and Habits” rather than limiting beliefs and habits.
    Dave, thank you again for the wisdom.

  5. I get that you believe salespeople should be more one-on-one with their content, but I agree with the sentiment that they are not writers. However they generally are good conversationalists.

    What are your thoughts on adding personalized context to the generic information? Do you think they can merge into one communication mode or that contextual content needs to be discrete from marketing content?

    • You may have misunderstood the article Ash, sometimes my odd humour is difficult. The whole point was that sales people have to take translate the generic content to contextually specific content, relevant to the specific person and time.

  6. Dave,

    This is a brave column that (already) seems greatly misinterpreted.

    What may be missing are two things:

    1) Context around all the parts of the Sales Process that are mashed together to get to that ‘Last Mile’ and then the unique way in which (21st Century problem for sure) content can solve for it… I believe you are at the bleeding edge of the curve on this point and may just want to own it… 😉

    2) What you are describing would be akin to the top of the pyramid of sales activities. If I were drawing a parallel, it would be to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs– this would be the self-actualization step. As this is about as aspirational as it gets.

    What would help me and others– would love to collaborate here– would be examples of sales leaders executing at the high-levels you outline… With even more specific examples of the unique content they are producing. Though not lending to 140 characters or bite-sized (snackable?) posts, I believe there would be a hungry audience for theory melded with real-world practice here.


    • Eric, great observations, rather than responding fully here, let me add another post. Regards, Dave

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