The biggest hurdle to an effective B2B content marketing program is convincing the sales force to utilize the content in their lead nurturing process. Most B2B marketing departments incorrectly diagnose the situation as a lack of willingness, support, or desire to engage in social selling on the part of the sales team. But I would submit to you, based on past experience, that in fact the single biggest hurdle is lack of understanding.
Overcoming Sales Force Reluctance
Marketers often are guilty of forgetting that your sales force is constantly exposed to new programs, ideas, and training designed to improve their sales prospecting ability. As sales people move through their career, they are exposed to new program after new program after new program.
And in each case the programs promise a brighter future of more sales, commissions and ultimately success. But if each of these promises was truly recognized, there would be fewer new programs. As a B2B marketer, you have to understand this mindset. It’s not that your sales team wants to fight you on implementation of a content driven sales process. It’s that they have been let down so many times over the years, resulting in wasted time an effort, that they simply have become skeptical of ANY new program.
But you can break through and gain buy-in for a content marketing and social selling program. Here’s how:
Help The Sales Team See Their Role in The Program
Before you start any social selling programs, start with a social selling readiness assessment. The goal of the assessment is to understand, in statistically quantifiably terms, how comfortable your sales team is incorporating social selling into their sales prospecting process. Then use this information to help craft a kick-off workshop designed to help them understand their role in a social selling, inbound marketing lead generation ecosystem.
In the workshop you should seek to accomplish three goals:
- Help them understand how a content marketing & social selling program works together to create new, qualified leads for them to follow up on
- Show them how the social selling tools actually make it easier for them to nurture leads, touch prospects, and reduce their reliance on things like cold calling and event networking to find new, qualified sales prospects
- Show them how to use the content you’re creating as part of their lead nurturing process
That last bullet point is absolutely essential. Don’t assume they know how to use content as a lead generation or nurturing tool.
Instead, use the workshop to help them understand that the web content you’re creating isn’t strictly for inbound lead generation. It’s also an outbound lead nurturing tool not unlike the traditional sales slick or brochure they’re used to using.
Invite The Sales Force Into The Content Creation Process
There really is no way to know what your sales force content needs are without walking a few days in their shoes. So I recommend that any B2B marketer seeking to create a successful content marketing based lead generation program have every member of your team including the ad agency, if one is included in the content creation process, participate in ride alongs with your sales people. You will learn more in a few days of ride alongs than you could read about in an entire career. And this insight is essential to understanding the difficulties your sales team faces each day. You can use that insight to help you create more useful content. And by useful, I don’t mean for your customer. I mean for your sales team.
Yes it is common for many B2B marketers to focus their content around answering the questions customers ask. That’s still a great idea. But I would encourage you to focus equally if not more on creating content designed to help your sales team jump the hurdles that they face in the selling process. If you want to obtain sales force buy in, create content that can be used to help them prospect more effectively and efficiently.
Social Selling Is a Habit Not a Workshop
Don’t make the common mistake of just doing a workshop and expecting a successful adoption of your social selling program. You are asking your sales force to change, in some cases, extremely long-held habits. Research on habit formation indicates it can take anywhere from a few days to as many as 200+ days to adopt a new habit. It all depends on the complexity of the new habit.
I would submit that getting your sales team to adopt social selling habits qualifies on the high-end of that habit adoption process. So don’t just do a workshop. Go one step further and hire or select a social selling coach for the sales team. The purpose of that coach is to educate, cajole, and support the sales team as they adopt this new social selling habit. Give the team a non-threatening shoulder to lean on, ask advice of and when necessary — call to vent and complain.
Need help installing a social selling program in your company?
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