The typical cycle of content development goes something like this: Executive and/or marketing team comes up with an interesting topic or email campaign idea. Marketing does the writing. Once complete and approved, marketing throws it up on the website and maybe sends an email or Slack out to the sales team with a desperate plea to ‘use it!’ And there it dies on the vine.
I can feel the heads nodding along as this is what I hear from marketers and sales teams alike. An all too familiar sequence of events transpires. It’s both extremely broken, and extremely expensive when you consider the amount of content we all create.
Sales can always use valuable messaging, and in recent years, it seems they are asking for more and more all the time. In the form of playbooks, battle cards and case studies – our sales professionals want to be equipped. Yes, part of marketing’s job is to arm these teams with materials they can use, and with it, marketing preserves a level of quality and professionalism. The problem, of course, is that no one knows the buyer better than sales. No one can react as quickly to the needs of the buyer than sales. This leads us to the rub: Sales needs to be writing, and they need to be damn good at it.
Here’s my open letter to today’s sales pros:
Sales & marketing alignment has failed because of the dreaded ‘handoff.’ It’s time to kill the handoff.
As account-based marketing (ABM) has picked up steam and become a major go-to-market strategy for many business, the wall between marketing and sales is eroding. This means that you are often reaching beyond your normal comfort zones and engaging the buyer right from the first touch. This is a positive shift, but it’s also one that raises the expectations of all departments. And because of this, sales, you need to understand—and be immersed in—the business’ content program.
This might sound like blasphemy at first. After all, many sales folks would rather drink battery acid than even think about sitting down at their computers and writing a blog post. But when you think about who knows the mind of the prospect the best, it’s you. And when you think about who hears sales objections first hand, also you. And what about who best understands each part of the buying cycle and where a prospect needs to feel comfortable each stage? Bingo! It’s you. We need your help in leveraging this information and hands-on experience with talking to our prospects. It only stands to reason that you be intimately involved in creating the content that will compel our buyer.
There’s no one who can react as quickly as you
When talking about process, scale is always a factor. However, really great personal conversations are almost impossible to scale – so we need more feet on the street. For example, I participated in an execute dinner a few weeks ago. We had a great campaign created to get attendees—all of our boxes were checked. However, after looking at the invite list, I noticed that I had personal relationships with a few of the potential guests. So, I quite simply removed them from the bulk campaign and sent a casual, personal invite directly. Just because something can be automated, doesn’t mean it should. By taking the 10 minutes to craft a thoughtful, personal email invite, we got three RSVP’s – a batting average of 1000.
That said, I did have to put the time in to be creative and relevant in my communications. But what I didn’t do, was ask marketing to remove them from the list and draft the copy for me to send. We all need to be doing more of this.
The best data (most often) doesn’t reside in CRM
I wont get into a tangent about how disappointing this fact is, but it is a fact. If your marketing team regularly talks with your sales team in order to get information or inspiration for new content pieces, that’s good, but it’s not enough. As a prospect goes into your funnel, salespeople begin developing relationships and gathering details about this person. At this point, this data should be given to marketing. If they know specific questions the prospect asked, or even where they heard about your brand, they can use this information to build better, more targeted content.
But even handing over this data is not enough.
As customers move through the funnel, they need very specific content that addresses their fears, hesitations, excitement, longing and everything in between. Sales will know what these emotions and needs commonly are, along with how to respond to them. So sales, we need you to become content writers in your own right.
You’re busy, I get it… but that’s a lame excuse and we all know it. It’s not that you’re too busy, it’s that you’re too busy to spend time on tasks that don’t yield results. Thus, we need to prove writing yields results and that’s exactly what we’re going to do. Start by writing a piece of content geared toward prospects in one particular stage of the funnel with which you are extremely familiar. Write down your thoughts, use fresh experiences as the basis, and just keep jotting ideas down as they come to you. Tell stories. Don’t worry about your grammar or the structure of your piece or even the title. Other people who are writing whizzes can take care of all that for you after you’re done. Just get those ideas down. Then you can pass it over to marketing (I often use my wife as my editor) to clean it up and dial it in. Set a goal to write one of these each month, so you force yourself to regularly contribute to content creation. Use this organic content to help push your buyer along to the next stage of your process. I challenge you to track your conversion rates and I’ll be damned if you don’t see some movement. Stories sell and you have the stories buyers want to hear.
Long story short, in this age of hyper-relevancy and personalization, sales can’t solely rely on marketing to give you what you need to win over your next batch of customers. You have a lot of insight and experience that’s worth adding to the conversation—and it’s up to you to do so. Good luck, and get busy. Seems to me you have some writing to do.
Meet Justin Gray
Justin is a serial entrepreneur and the CEO and founder of LeadMD, the world’s largest revenue operations agency having implemented over half of the Marketo user base. Justin has made a career of launching successful companies and scaling them, with successful exits of over 200MM+ in the last decade. Justin’s latest endeavor launched in 2016 when he co-founded Six Bricks an online learning startup designed to combat employee and customer churn through experience-based education. Over the past 10 years, Justin has emerged as a strong voice for entrepreneurship, marketing and culture. As a recognized speaker, Justin has been published over 350 times in industry publications and holds his own column, Tribal Knowledge in Inc., while writing for Entrepreneur, Tech Crunch and others. Justin and his wife Jennifer met over marketing and three years later welcomed their son, Grayson, into the world in April of 2017.