We’re seeing a marketing shift: the sales go to those who tell the best stories. This is why it is important to focus on storytelling as a craft. Whoever tells the most compelling stories — who captures the most attention with them — wins. Few of us pay attention to ads any more. We’ve become advertising blind. Most of us are willing to pay a few dollars a month Not to be advertised to through our streaming subscriptions. What we seek is entertaining & compelling content that captures our attention. We also don’t want to be interrupted or annoyed. We want what we want on demand and we’re willing to pay for it.
Modern marketing today is describing compelling customer journeys, and meeting the customer where they’re at now. Since each prospect is at different professional stages, those desiring to sell to them need to meet them where they are. Not too advanced. Not too novice. Just where they are. Content designed to match these prospect stages wins the day. Not everyone is ready to buy today. But they may be next week or next month. But most everyone is ready to be coached and provided expertise and guided along a desired path.
Today’s creatives need to think more like marketers and today’s marketers need to think more like creatives. Further, the sales role has changed. Salespeople who think and act like marketers are the ones who truly succeed in expert positioning. Salespeople have to think and act like marketers because traditional sales methods are history. Today, it is the perceived expert salesperson who gets the sale, not the one still stuck in old world selling strategies and tactics. (It’s amazing that smiling and dialing is still employed and considered a viable sales method.)
He who can give the most wins. What if you provided industry insight to your prospect instead of asking for 15 minutes of her time? What if you put together content valuable to your prospect instead of content valuable only to your company? What if you solved a problem for your prospect that they didn’t know they had instead of putting them through another same, old, boring Powerpoint presentation that doesn’t have anything to do with them? What if you created original, story-based content that shows the prospect the path of a protagonist just like them who went through similar struggles, highs, ups and downs and emerged victorious in the end? What if, instead of another boring brochure left as a leave behind, you sent them an industry white paper with an executive summary that outlines the latest insights that your prospects would be interested in? What if you made each point of contact with your prospect about them? Their interests? Their hopes? Their desires? Their dreams? Their fears? What if you could help them achieve more than they thought? What if you got into the business of anticipating their needs and solving them?
In the old world of selling, salespeople had all the power because they controlled all the information. They knew all about the product, its pricing, what people were saying about it, how versatile it was, when the company was coming out with a new version, etc. And they had all the marketing material to complement this knowledge. Prospects and customers had to go through the salesman in order to get the information.
Now, clearly, the salesperson no longer has the information advantage. It is reported that a prospect will do 60 to 70% of her research and decision-making before even wanting to talk to a salesperson. And if the salespeople are not very good or they’re selfish, she probably won’t want to talk to a salesperson at all! The customer has much of the power now, which is why the sales game has changed. Salespeople need to turn themselves into experts or else they are not really needed. This is why salesperson as expert content creator is such a powerful role.
When you create content and share it regularly, you prove to your market that you’re an expert with something to say. If you write blog posts regularly, ship out a weekly email tip or trick, are active on the major social channels with sharing your expertise, answer questions regularly on forums, provide new product knowledge people may not know about, research industry trends and discuss them as a thought leaders, all these activities position you as an expert to your market. Expert positioning is right where you want to be. Today’s salespeople ought to shoot for being perceived as the expert author, speaker, consultant and coach. Because if you’re creating content consistently and are getting asked to speak on your expertise, you are those titles. You are not just another salesman giving people information that they can easily find themselves. You are creating marketing assets that build up your reputation, career and positioning. Each of these assets goes toward creating your body of work. You may build enough to have a full book written some day. Who do you think gets the deal? The guy who read the book or the guy who wrote the book? A book written for your industry on your expertise is the ultimate business card. See why it is important that salespeople think and act like marketers now? It is all in your expert positioning.
Is creating content consistently hard work? Yes, it can be. But it need not be perceived like that. Think of it as work you’d be performing anyway, only written down or recorded. If you’re the expert, you have the knowledge that few possess. They come to you for answers. They come to you for teaching and training and coaching. They come to you to learn new things about their industry. They come to you for regular updates. They come to you to learn what’s new. Why not record that for them and share it with everyone? Why not write that down simply and succinctly and share that post? Why not give them some inside baseball that they couldn’t find anywhere else? Why not record your problem-solving for all to see instead of just for one to benefit? Note that they are not the only ones who benefit — you benefit, too, through positioning, marketing and, when written or recorded correctly, salesmanship. You are essentially cloning your expertise.
A common old world salesman excuse for not sharing their expertise on the web or social is that they feel by sharing what they know, people will get the inside upper hand on them and no longer need them. This is an old world fear because salespeople used to have all the inside info. Now, the tables have turned. Everyone has equal access to information.
What’s interesting about sharing your expertise is that the more you do it, the more people want to be around you and listen to you. If you do it consistently, they aren’t going to one day not want to talk to you or one day arrive at all the answers. They are always going to have more questions. Industries change fast. Business is constantly evolving. There is always something new to learn. So, don’t worry about your prospects or customers one day saying that they no longer need you and your expertise. It’s not going to happen. It is especially not going to happen if you consistently learn, create, contribute and share what you know with them.
Remember the Jantsch DuctTape Marketing Hourglass:
Know. Like. Trust. Try. Buy. Repeat. Refer.
It all starts with your prospects knowing, liking and trusting you.
Today’s salesperson ought to shoot for trusted advisor status. This should be everyone’s aim. Trusted advisor means that they come to you first for advice. Trusted advisor means that you’ve put in the work, you’ve got the expertise, and you’ve ran the miles. You have positioned yourself as the go-to guy for industry questions. You are the one who makes things happen.
One of the key ways you achieve trusted advisor status is to create and publish content on a regular rhythm. We’ve already discussed all the ways that content creation is the best way to position yourself in your marketplace. A regular cadence of content publishing means they will quickly get to know, like and trust you without you ever meeting them. It gives you local celebrity status to your market, which is exactly what you want. Local celebrity easily morphs into trusted advisor. Think the weatherman on your local TV news you like. She’s an authority. She’s got the data. She’s got the experience. She’s on TV. She is the perceived expert on what will happen with the weather today and tomorrow. She’s in the weather prediction business that is distributed through TV, the web and apps. You can earn the same credibility and celebrity through your own content creation and publication. Yes, you. But you must be dedicated and driven and disciplined to make it happen.
What most people do is start, write a few blog posts, create a video or two, post them online, and then wait. And wait. And wait. And wait. And then wonder why their inbox isn’t flooded with hot leads ready to buy. You have to be dedicated, disciplined and willing to invest the time to build up your following. I postulate it takes 18 months. Then, keep going. Don’t stop. No one will follow you at first. Yep. Keep going. A month in, you only have 9 followers. Yep. Keep going. Three months in, you only have 45 followers. Yep, keep going. Because six months in, you have 1,000 followers and email addresses. Now, you’re making headway. Now, you’re getting somewhere fast. Now, you’ve built momentum. Now, you’re building authority & celebrity status.