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Ask the Customer: How Marketing Can Use Sales to Drive Content

May 16, 2014 | Justin Gray | No Comments |

They circle each other warily, sizing one another up, each confident they know best. Best of the wild, fighting over prey? Sworn enemies preparing to do battle? You and your mother in law? Nope. It’s your sales and marketing teams.

It’s a bit ridiculous at this point, this legendary divide between sales and marketing, especially after we’ve seen so much content and awareness around the gap. Stupid, actually. So stop it. You’re a team, and like peanut butter and chocolate, you’re better together.

Remember the customer, the whole point of doing your job? The customer is the shared quest, the plot point in the movie of your business that forces the two prickly protagonists to put aside their differences and unite for a common cause. The customer has needs. They’re trying to communicate those needs. But if you’re too busy squabbling, you can’t hear them.

You need each other, and the customer needs you both to guide them through the buying journey. For the sake of this blog post, let’s call a truce and explore some that ways sales and marketing can work together to actually listen to customers and respond with better content.  The lines between sales and marketing have blurred to the point where the best sales reps act like marketers (check out what Jill Rowley is doing with social selling) and the best marketers are sales reps (Matt Heinz? Is he sales, is he marketing? You can make a case for both).  So often the battle lies not in getting along, but rather in understanding what the modern job descriptions of each complimentary role are.  To do that we need to look to the buyer.

First, take the wax out of your ears.

Let me spell it out for you: l-i-s-t-e-n. Any way you can – and there are a lot of them. You need to know what the customer experiences. Sure you can just…ask them, with conversations and surveys and whatnot. But they don’t really have time for that. They’re just trying to do their jobs; it’s not their responsibility to tell you where you might be messing up. So find other ways.

Try a secret shopper (shout out to Craig Rosenberg who came up with this term for the all important role play as your own buyer – unbeknownst to the sales pro). Yup, it’s sneaky, but sometimes (certainly in this digital selling age) it’s the only true way to test how content is deployed during the sales process. Set your shopper on the typical path a lead will experience and have them report to you along the way. This will test how well content flows from marketing to sales, revealing strengths and weaknesses on both sides.  The best secret shopper tend to be executives or consultants who know and understand ideal process, they also understand what curve balls to throw.

And marketing, dare I suggest actually talk to sales? These people are on the phones day in and day out, having conversations, answering questions, and sending out information. Suck it up, bring a box of donuts and start asking questions. Better yet, plug into some actual sales calls so you can hear for yourself what leads and customers are saying, asking and requesting.  The most valuable days are those that we spend just listening in the sale bullpen or on ride-a-longs with the revenue team – best insight into objection handling content ever!

Now, do something about it.

See what you learn when you work together? Take your sheepish grins and newfound respect for each other and get to work. Sales—what can marketing do to better prepare customers before they get to you? Marketing—what kind of new content can you create to help sales answer the specific questions that come up during the cycle? How can you both better communicate moving forward?

This is a good time for buyer personas. Combine marketing data with sales anecdotes to sketch out clear pictures of your typical customer types – their processes, thoughts, buying behaviors, decision triggers, etc. Personas create a common ground that everyone in the organization can rally around to make a better customer experience. There’s a big HINT here – if you believe your buyer is their job title, go back through the process above until you have spoken to the same job role on several different interactions.  Did they behave the same way? Were the same things important to all of them  Heck no.  Now tear up those false personas, those liars, and build meaningful buyer data that actually stimulates the content pipeline,.  Content has become noise, and bucking the trend that all content is good content starts with knowing the buyers mindset.

Now that wasn’t so hard, was it? Quest accomplished, mutual respect earned, the customer saved. Sales and marketing, there may be hope for you yet.

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