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5 Ways That Content Marketing Has Changed The Art Of Selling Forever

I’ve often said the difference between sales and marketing is that marketing owns the message and sales owns the relationship.

Farm over hunt

Harvest by St0rmz

Some folks suggest that the onslaught of social media, content publishing and real-time search has rendered the need for a traditional sales department unnecessary and to that I still contend: sales still owns the relationship. While content and context are easier to put out there, online connection and community are still best supplied by a person.

So, the fundamental purpose of a professional salesperson has change little, but the function of an effective salesperson in today’s content-driven environment has changed dramatically.

The skills once required, and sadly still taught in most sales training programs, are no longer applicable and organizations and independent salespeople that get this are exploring, evolving and adopting an inbound selling mindset.

Below are five ways that content marketing has changed selling.

1) Listen over say

Salespeople have always been taught to probe, listen and offer solutions. Well, in today’s world they must listen intently before they ever pick up the phone, send an e-mail or draw up a solution.

Salespeople must monitor the social graph of a prospect in order to begin to mine for opportunities, frustrations and buying signals. They must also be adept at constructing ways to put the pieces of information together in a package that opens doors and starts relationship building.

2) Insight over information

A great deal of the salesperson’s role at one time was to deliver information. Most salespeople today face the possibility that a prospect may actually know as much or more about the product, service or solution being offered as the salesperson doing the offering.

Today’s salesperson must provide context and meaning, must aggregate and filter and must become a resource of insight for today’s information overloaded buyer.

3) Proof over promise

Price is a direct reflection of the buyer’s perceived value. This doesn’t always mean it’s a reflection of the true value or even rational reflection of value, but the ROI question will never go away unless, and until, an organization can show proof of value rather than promised value peppered throughout marketing materials.

Today’s salesperson must commit to working deeply with clients to help measure and communicate true value received as a completion of the sales process. With that piece in place, today’s salesperson can offer proof as part of the trust-building, lead-conversion process.

4) Publish over prospect

Marketing departments around the world are scrambling to feed the market’s expectation that they can instantly find content on any subject or need imaginable. Search engine usage has made consistent content production mandatory.

Few salespeople see writing content as a good use of their time, but it’s a skill that today’s successful salesperson has embraced. Not every organization will allow their salespeople to blog, but the ones that do have the opportunity to create a stream of content that is potentially informed with real-life customer stories and experiences. Smart salespeople have also begun to curate content as a way to become a resource for their clients as well.

5) Harvest over hunt

This last change probably runs counter to traditional selling as any of the others outlined above because it sounds so passive. Salespeople have been taught to hit the street, knock on doors and close deals.

The problem is the street is closed, the doors are made of bits and no one answers the phone anymore.

Working the soil, planting seeds and watering the harvest with care is the new metaphor for turning “know,” “like” and “trust” into “try,” “buy,” “repeat” and “refer.”

This post originally appeared on American Express OPENForum

Out of Chaos Something Remarkable Emerges

kevindooley via Flickr

I’ve owned my own business long enough to have experienced many things. I’ve seen what happens when I’m impatient, when I try to be something I’m not, when I trust my gut, when I overcome fear, when I wait something out, when I start something, when I finish something, when it’s time to move on, what it’s like to start over, what it’s like to commit fully and what it’s like to let go and embrace whatever happens.

 

But, mostly I’ve come to understand that if there’s no tinge chaos, no doubt about what’s going on around me, no lingering sense of unknown – nothing magical will happen.

My best work, I’ve discovered, is to construct questions – not to have all the answers.

I believe anyone has the ability to create the most remarkable business ever imagined and to do so only requires letting go of the need for what most define as order. So often we are so afraid of own chaos that we try to copy the rules, methods and processes of others in an attempt to mask it.

We fear above all else that this chaos might make us look foolish as we attempt to fashion something that we hope is art.

It is the illusion that this fear creates that leads us to generate businesses that are lifeless and dreary.

I’m not suggesting that we throw all process to the wind and intentionally build businesses that don’t serve, I’m am suggesting however, that this seeming chaos which we feel is actually a laughing, singing, dancing, remarkable order or its own.

If we can only find a way to embrace this order, the businesses we build will be the kind that feed the heart and soul.

This is strategy, this is culture, this is customer – this is the essence of a business that’s truly alive – embrace it.

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