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Should Sales People Be Blogging?

by David Brock on January 16th, 2011

I’ve been reading a lot of opinions about sales people blogging–many favoring this.  Frankly, I think this is dead wrong, from a business point of view, I’m not certain that sales people blogging is an efficient or effective use of their time.  Don’t get me wrong, I think all sales professionals should be actively participating and leveraging social media, but I don’t see a whole lot of value in having sales people blogging–at least regularly.

What do we want sales people to blog about?  Perhaps they could “pitch our products,”  they could write about our products, features, functions, feeds and speeds.  If I were a sales executive, it would seem like a tremendous waste of time, duplication of effort, creates great exposure for our overall messaging, and reinforces behaviors we should be trying to avoid.  Think about it, isn’t that the function of our marketing organizations?  Don’t we want them to create a whole stream of communications–correctly positioning our products and solutions, tailoring the messages to specific customer problems, creating a stream of customer experiences and interactions?  Why do we need sales people jumping in and doing what they think best, as well?  If I have 10 sales people, why do we need them each expressing their opinions about the latest greatest widget we announced?  What’s the purpose of 10 views of the product spec sheet?  Just when I’m trying to get sales people to engage customers in a conversation and not just regurgitate the latest PowerPoint presentation, why do I want to have 10 people spending their time reinventing the wheel–and probably not doing it as well as our marketing people?

Some might say, “Dave, you have it all wrong,  the sales people should be writing about issues and problems, nurturing the customer through their buying process.”  Well, I don’t get it, I think that’s an important function, but isn’t that part of the nurturing strategy our marketing organizations should be implementing (with the support of sales).  Plus, who is the sales person nurturing in this process?  Do I have a sales person with a territory in Southern California nurturing our German customers?  Then as that German customer starts to need a sales person, do I have that Southern California sales person jump on the plane to visit the German customer?  Then I multiply it by 10–for my 10 person sales organization.  How do I manage their productivity?  What do I make them accountable for?  How do we build deep customer relationships?

Should sales people be blogging about their customers perhaps?  Don’t we want our sales people focusing on the customer–focusing on their specific needs and priorities, focusing helping them address new opportunities?  Where does the sales person’s blog fit into this?

Blogging is an effective way to reach a large number of people, to start to communicate, to start a conversation, to start the engagement process.  But sales people focus on specifics–they identify companies and organizations, they identify individuals within those organizations, they work one to one.  It doesn’t seem to me that blogging is an effective tool or method for sales people to be leveraging for those purposes.  Every way I look at it, I think requiring our sales people to blog is just wrong.

Blogging is important.  Every organization needs to incorporate blogging into their socia media, marketing, and selling strategies.  But blogging is just one channel for social media/selling and needs to be leveraged heavily and in concert with the other tools and channels we are leveraging to inform and engage customers and prospects.  We need to make sure our marketing organizations are leveraging blogging to the utmost, creating strong, consistent messages for our markets, customers and prospects.

Sales people need to be actively engaged in social media and social selling—but this is far broader than blogging.  State differently, too many people think Social Media = Blogging.  This is dead wrong.  Blogging is simply one component of social media and social selling.  We need sales people to be reading, listening, and engaging in the social media world–but not exclusively through the social media world.  Sales people should be leveraging social media to understand their customers–broadly and specifically.  They need to be listening, learning, engaging–reading their customers’ blogs and websites, reading the competitions’ blogs and website, learning about the markets.  They need to be engaging, writing thoughtful responses and comments on blogs, participating in online discussions or forums. meeting their customers in the virtual markets as well as the physical markets. 

Much of sales people’s communications with customers will be through social channels, but I don’t think sales people blogging is an effective channel.

If a sales person wants to blog, personally, that’s terrific.  I know many sales professionals who blog–not on behalf of their company trying to engage customers and drive business, but they do it because it satisfies personal goals they have.  Blogging is a wonderful release  and a powerful means of expression.  I encourage any sales person who wants to to do it–but on your own time, representing primarily your own interests, not as a principal communication channel for the company.

Sure there are always exceptions to this.  In small companies sales people may wear multiple hats, they may have some sales and some marketing responsibility–blogging is an important component of the marketing communications strategies.  If you are a solopreneur, you wear all the hats in your company, so blogging is important, as is everything else.  Some sales executives may find business reason to blog—though I’d be more happy if the marketing organization did that, or if it was a part of an overall plan for executive level engagement. 

I’m sure I’ll get many comments and articles that say I’m dead wrong.  I’m actually looking forward to reading them and learning.  But my belief is we want sales people to be engaged with customers in understanding and solving problems.  We want to move sales people away from regurgitating standard pitches to translating how our solutions address their specific problems.  Blogging just isn’t the tool for doing this.

What do you think?

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  1. Juan permalink

    As long as I continue reading, writing, learning, training, leveraging my mind during off work time, I will do it.
    It is like…sales people should not read books because they lose time.

    Granted – training has to be before game time, game time is when my customers are not working or when they cannot cut me a PO.

    The bottom line is – writing and reading blogs is fine as long as I don’t do it during game time, game time is to play, to get in to the zone, to close the deal.

  2. David – Given that research suggests almost 75% of all businesses in the US are now one person shops, they wear multiple hats including selling. I agree for dedicated sales people in larger organizations your observations make sense. I am not sure if that applies to the majority of small business owners, independent contractors, etc. many who wear the hat of salesperson.

    • Thanks Leanne. When we wear muliptle hats, then we have to do many things. From a pure sales point of view, I think blogging is not an effective use of the sales person, but the solopreneur or small business person may be a sales person/marketing person (and on alternating Thursdays, empties trash). So blogging is important to the organization, and important to their other roles.

  3. Natalie Brown permalink

    I appreciate your blog. I agree with you that blogging for larger organizations should fall in the realm of the marketing department. Sales people need to participate in blogging…reading, listening, and commenting. In other words “joining in the conversation but not starting the conversation.” A sales person might tweet a particular blog to their following with a comment, or send a link to a few specific customers who might find the blog topic up their alley. Thus the sales person is filtering and adding value to the relationship they have already with their contact base.
    In my opinion sales people with a specific territory or client list can not really add value with tweets, blogs and “mass marketing” emails because we have a specific, targeted, customer focused relationship with our clients. That relationship is not nurtured by “blast” marketing (whatever the media).

    • Natalie, thanks for joining the discussion with such a great comment! I think “joining the conversation” is extremely well put! Great insights! Keep visting and contributing.

  4. I think you are totally right for medium sized and large Organization. Blogging should be a part of marketing.

    But even with one person shops and small businesses, I believe it is better to delegate blogging to an inexpensive freelance copy writer or a small spezialized blogging agencies.

    Why? Blogging is extremly time consuming and most business owners are not born and gifted as copy writers and the impact of blogging to total revenue is often very small at best.

    • Michael: Thanks for joining the discussion. I think blogging is important for every organization. In smaller organizations, it is a challenge, particularly since we wear many hats. Blogging, like everything we do is a tradeoff—where are “we” moist impactful with the way we spend our time? Where do we need to get others who may be more effective? Great comment, I hope to see you here more frequently!

  5. Thanks David for a GREAT post. You are dead right on this one. Participating in the conversation via discussion forums, LI groups, blog posts, twitter re-tweets, etc where your customers/prospects are is exactly how sales folks should be using social media tools – dedicated ones that is, not sole proprietors wearing many hats.

    Once sales people start trying to lead the conversation, then they are playing the “spokesperson’s” role that should be left to marketing or who ever has that role in the company. Blogging is not how i define social media. It is tool for distributing relevant content to your target audience and company advocates and influencers.

    A sales person’s job today is hard enough without being distracted by roles (content creation and re-purposing) that they really don’t have the time and don’t get paid to do. The best sales people I know use social media tools to get closer to their target audience companies and contacts to listen and then respond with comments and already developed company content that they have learned is most relevant to their audience.

    Unless we are talking about a pure start-up, once we have dedicated sales reps with a sales leader, if they are spending any time blogging, then maybe they are in the wrong job or wrong company. Maybe David this would be a good survey question for CEOs, Presidents, CSOs and VP Sales.

    Thanks for listening to my lil’ rant.
    Henry Bruce

    • Henry, thanks for joining the discussion, I welcome rants here—I inflict enough on the readers;-) In the “pure” sales role, I don’t think blogging for a sales person is a highly productive activity. We want sales peoople to be connecting directly with customers and engaging them, we have other people in the organization that should be messaging, positioning, creating and engaging a community. If a sales person wants to blog, it doesn’t impact performance, and appropriately represents the strategies and priorities of the company, then by all means do it.

      Engaging in social media is critical for all sales people. Too often, in their misunderstanding of social media, people equate social media and blogging. Blogging is a component of social media. Blogging is important for organizations, but I remain doubtful about requiring sales people to do so. Thanks for contributing Henry, hope to see you here frequently.

  6. Enjoying the difference perspectives. I see this as situational. I agree re: time management & the role of marketing. If your companies focus is specific to a small niche or region why would sales duplicate efforts. However many organizations / reps are fortunate enough to have marketing professionals for each region or specific vertical. The trick is automation and incorporated social messaging as a component of your daily workflow not a dedicated focus requiring large amounts of time. Sales managers should ABSOLUTELY be aware of golden hours being wasted away for personal pleasure writing.

    For those who see the value in differentiation on all levels you can use tools like Add This ect.. which lends to great opportunity to re-purpose relative value (that has already been done) through a blog. Linking your social sites it goes to your entire individual network all at once. People buy from people, as the initial face of the company the value, level of expertise and understanding of ones business challenges and needs vs. one that does not bring the additional value could be perceived as a disadvantage. Takeaway: sales should focus on activities that will drive results, if a blog is a tool used to differentiate and does not take large amounts of time share away, if the latter and blogging is effecting performance, it’s time for a talk.

  7. So, if sales people shouldn’t be blogging, then who should? Think about what it is sales people do – we are expert networkers, communicators and problem solvers. Who in the average sales organization has a better chance of creating good content? The marketing organization? Marketing organizations have been running and controlling the web in most B2B companies for 10 plus years and the result is web sites that consistently rate in the bottom of any web site evaluations that look at effectiveness, ux and aesthetics.

    I do wholeheartedly agree that being an effective virtual sales person means participating in the conversation that is already happening online about their subject area – not blogging per se. However, the sales person’s “blog” is really just a digital signpost and container for content. It serves as a more personalized place to create a brand for oneself, a container for content that i might want to drop links about and a place for folks to find out about me.

    It’s not about generating search traffic better than one’s corporate website – or becoming a destination site. The other issue that does arise however is hiring the right kind of salespeople. A sales person who can’t write a 250 word article once a week in less than an hour on some issue or idea relevant to their business is someone who I wouldn’t want to hire in the first place. Given the increased reliance on written communications across the board for sales people, I think that you would want to hire sales people who can write well anyway. And consider the enterprise effects of a properly conceived blogging campaign – done properly it boosts the profile of the entire company website, and can greatly improve a companies organic SEO – certainly better than having offshore strangers write content for a dollar an hour as some companies do.

    But yeah, it’s a bad idea to have those stupid salespeople blogging when we all know they should be cold calling and leaving voice mail messages, right? Lol.

    • Lot of interesting point Glenn. If, as you indicate, marketing isn’t doing the appropriate job, why don’t we hold them accountable for improving their performance and becoming relevant in their communications strategies with customers/markets, etc. Because they aren’t performing is no reason to shift the job/responsibility to sales. There is a profound change going on in the worlds of marketing and selling. If your marketers aren’t expert communicators, networkers, then they aren’t comptetitive and should be replaced. Marketers need to be driving active communications strategies, across many channels, and increasingly personalized. We need to engage them more in the sales process than distance them.

      I agree sales people are (or should be) expert problem solvers—but they are “optimized” for specific problems, that is they are the most effective people do deal with customers one on one, understanding their specific problems and solving them. It’s the “last mile” that’s most critical for driving business–and that’s the territory of the sales person. Blogging is not a highly optimized last mile tool.

      Having sales people spend one hour a week, writing a 250 word blog post, means we have to stop the sales person from doing something. What are we going to stop? One might say that they are wasting their time in lots of other areas so they can find the time, but that’t a different problem–management needs to eliminate all roadblocks to performance. Having done that, then what do I want to stop sales people from doing to find that hour. Stop that customer meeting, spend less time building relationships within accounts? I realize I pushing a point to an extreme, but we are already time poor, piling on yet another responsibility is not the answer, piling it on because marekting isn’t doing their job is even worse.

      Sales people need to have writing skills and all other communication skills, no question about it. Just because they have them or need to develop them, doesn’t necessarily mean that blogging becomes the answer.

      My point in questioning whether sales people should be blogging or not has nothing to do about whether they can express great ideas, it is really about whether it’s the most impactful use of a sales person’s time. The sales person is the only person we have to address the “last mile.” Anything that diverts the sales person from the last mile impacts the organization.

      Insourcing (through sales) or outsourcing to strangers is a different issue, it’s a performance issue that who ever is doing the insourcing/outsourcing needs to address. Sending every communication problem to sales isn’t necessarily the right or only solution.

      If a sales person wants to blog, can do it without impacting their other job responsibilities, etc. then I would encourage them to do this! Blogging can be fantastic.

      There is the situation, however, in smaller companies, where sales people have to wear multiple hats. In many organizations, sales people, by necessity, have to contribute to content development. There is always the challenge of balancing time across multiple responsibilities to maximize their impact.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment Glenn. It’s not a simple issue, I appreciate your views.

      • David – Your comment strikes me as wrongheaded in two ways. First, why do you insist that it’s marketing’s job to get the web strategy right? I mean, if Web 2.0, it has to be that it’s interactive, yes? I envision an environment where sales is out on the web, winning friends and influencing people. And sales people are far more skilled at this than marketing folks.

        Second, you assumes that this is a bad way for sales people to spend their time. Why? Manage it to effectiveness for sure, support and help sales folks be effective, but just like any other decision a sales exec makes about how to spend their time, isn’t it ultimately up to the sales executive how they spend their time anyway? In enterprise, complex sales, sales folks aren’t following some workflow or “process” that can be broken down into blocks of time or microtasks that somehow if re-jiggered by some marketing person or manager would make me more productive (and please don’t bring up sales processes that merely are qualification tools to understand and communicate about opportunities)

        I say let Darwin do some work here, try it out, see what works, iterate. Also, if some sales people have success with this, other’s will follow so adoption is much better encouraged than coerced. However, most salespeople, particularly in large organizations, will be wary as they know that their blogs will be open to criticism from within the company as their primary concern, so support from leadership would actually be critical.

        more from me?

        • Thanks for the comment Glenn, we may agree to disagree, but I don’t think we are really disagreeing. Some reactions:

          1. I believe in holding marketing accountable for doing their job (as with any function). In your original comment you were suggesting the shift of many responsibilities from marketing to sales, because marketing was doing such a poor job. Moving the responsibility for these reasons is just wrong. Marketing is responsible for developing and executing communications strategies for the organization, across all channels. They need to develop and drive demand and leads, customer engagement, etc. They need to do this across all channels–traditional and virtual. It’s their job, hold them accountable for doing it.
          2. As I stated in the post, and many others, sales people participating in social media, selling, social platforms is mandatory. Blogging is one component of social media, but not the only one. Listening, learning, observing, questioning, answering questions, engaging people in social media is critical. However, equating this to blogging has is both wrong and has the potential of missing much of the opportunity to truly engage (ie we can only enage people that respond to the blog).

          3. A job of the sales person is to engage their customers where they are at. It’s in social media, but it’s also in a lot of other places. Paul McCord wrote a great post,, looking at whether customers are really on the web. The point is less where they are, but meeting them where they are at. For example, I wonder why people who write with great zeal about making blogging manadatory for sales people, why aren’t they also writing with the same zeal about making speaking at industry events mandatory for every sales person? Customers are there, shouldn’t we be doing this, and exploiting other venues, channels as well? Why do we single out blogging as the single mandatory thing that sales people should be doing.
          4. The point is, sales people need to engage their customers and markets everywhere. The highest impact engagement is one on one, talking about specific issues, problems and needs the customer has, and what the sales person can do about it. It’s these up close and personal conversations that no one else in the organization can do. Anything that detracts from the sales person’s time and ability to do this is a negative impact on their productivity and effectiveness. Sure the sales person has to do all the other things, speaking, social media, networking, prospecting (note that is different from cold calling), in order to find the people to have these conversations with, and they need to always balancing all this activity.
          5. I’m not against sales people blogging. Where it fits what they do, where they enjoy it, where it contributes to their effectiveness, it’s fantastic, and there are many that use this very effectively. What I think is wrong what many are saying that every sales person must blog. Making blogging a mandatory part of the job is wrong–it starts gettting into the microtasks you mention. So, I think we are really in agreement.

          I’ll hold off on the effectiveness/process discussion. In all sales, but in my experience particularly in complex enterprise sales is absolutely critical. There is also a lot of data that tends to support this. Process and work flow can’t be confused with microtasking, micromanagement, and very prescriptive formulaic approaches to selling–that’s bad process design. But that’s for a later discussion.

          Glenn, I really appreciate your comments. It’s not important about whether we agree or disagree, but the discussion and airing of different points of view creates a more informed discussion. Thanks so much, and keep contributing!

  8. Courtney permalink

    I wanted to start off by saying that I enjoyed reading your article. I do disagree though in a way. And here is why. This article that you have posted is a “blog”, and in this blogging, you state your concerns and interests and welcome feedback. In the end what you’re trying to accomplish, as I have gathered, a different point of view, or for someone to say something so outrageous that it completely changes your view of the situation.

    Say for example I worked at AT&T and as a representative I hated the iPhone and only wanted to sell android devices because I thought they were better. So instead of fitting the customer with a phone that suits all of their needs, I instead talked them into a phone that was “way too much phone” for them in the first place. These are the customers that come back and return, exchange, and complain. The problem with that situation is, me, as that sales rep., failed to qualify the customer and either created churn (customer cancels and signs up with someone who will give them what they want at another location), burned through phones in store dealing with this customer, or lost a customer. The reason why I quote this scenario, brings me to my blogging views.

    So let’s say that same sales person was an active blogger in (fictitious) iPhone Haters Unite and decides that they too are going to start blogging about how much they dislike that phone. This creates arguments and everyone who likes the iPhone bashes this rep’s blog and everyone who agrees with the blogger bashes those iPhone users; potentially a problem now that has been created. But at the same time it could be a learning experience for the blogger themselves. Because as the sales person, all bias should be removed. For the blogger, seeing what other iPhone users like about the phone from the posts and their arguments, could plant that seed in the reps head and potentially be selling points for him.

    Now that is an extreme case. But to look at it this way, you, after blogging and reviewing what others had to say in response to your argument, could potentially be a learning experience for you. You might walk away from all of this thinking to yourself, “Hey, I never thought of it like that before.” Now you’re going from being one sided to looking at the situation from another’s prospective.

    I agree that there is a right time or place for “blogging”. I also agree that sales reps should “join the conversation”. It is definitely a great way to share new ideas and learn from others as well.

    But I also believe that Rep’s shouldn’t be discouraged for blogging themselves, on their own time, whether it be “pitching” an idea, creating new ideas, or venting about a situation. Assuming they do it in a professional manner, potentially they can grow as a sales rep for doing so. You can’t leave everything for the marketing team to do for you. Their ideas are great, but they are people like you or me at the end of the day and only have so many ideas.

    I say blog on and see where it brings you. You never know what you might learn.

    • Courtney, thanks for the very thoughful comment! You make a number of points that I think too many people overlook. Blogging (and social media in general) can be a powerful learning experience for the blogger—in fact, in my own blog, I learn more from people like you commenting on it, than from much else. (Also, the comments always tend to be better than the blog itself). Forgive a stubborn moment, but the same can be said of virtually any participation in social media.

      One of the main reasons I wrote the article, is I am seeing a trend where, blogging is mandated or “highly recommended.” This is often done without any thought about why everyone should blog, what are the standards, consistent messaging, or even if it is wanted/needed. It’s often done as a corporate movement to increase presence, improve SEO, and can become a variant of SPAM. All of this is way off target.

      That being said, I would encourage every business professional to blog–not for ther company, but for themselves. It’s a tremendous personal development/growth opportunity. They may talk about business, industry, other issues. But it should be only if they want, and probably on their own time. I do believe it’s important for companies to set some standards about how people should represent themselves as individuals and versus speaking for the company. I also believe companies should provide their people training on blogging and social media. Active and positive engagement of customers and others in the social world is of increasing importance every day. (You may want to look at my Hang Out Where Your Customers Are article).

      My only quibble is the “mandatory’ thing.

      Courtney, thank you so much for taking the time to provide your thoughtful views! I hope to see you hear frequently! Regards, Dave

      • Courtney permalink

        No problem!
        I completely agree that blogging should be done on a personal level rather then being mandated by an employer.

        And yes, like you, I learn a lot from blogging like so.

        Thanks so much for your response =)

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