Years ago I worked with an amazing marketing consultant and sales trainer, Linda Pogue. Anyone who was in publishing back then will remember her. She started her career in marketing before becoming a consultant, trainer and coach. She was way ahead of her time in terms of her philosophy around sales and marketing. She is also an amazing lady in many other ways. She no longer coaches and is happily enjoying a leisurely life by the sea. I do miss her though and I'd love to know what she thinks about social selling and content marketing.
Her philosophy was truly applicable no matter what company, product, brand you were selling. I worked with her when I was a sales person as well as when I moved into sales and marketing management. She helped me and my teams many times to improve how we approached both our marketing messages and our sales process. Her philosophy was simple. It all came down to two key elements: "Listening" and "Why".
I find that incredibly ironic because back then there was no such thing as social media, no google, no tools at your fingertips. The "listening" included "doing your homework" by researching and reading about that company in trade publications or whatever else you could get your hands and eyes on. And we'd set-up face to face meetings (yes people met face to face all the time not all that long ago!) with people associated with that brand or company (as well as at that company) to really listen and ask informed and open-ended questions that would help you understand that company better. The best in class "selling" was not about "telling" it was about listening and understanding the needs and challenges facing that company/brand.
"Social selling" is now at the forefront of sales best practices. And when you come right down to it social selling is all about listening and understanding your potential clients and their needs and challenges. Social selling is about them, not us. It is exactly what Linda taught us back in an analog world. She was right then and she is right now. Now more than ever. Companies today have so many resources at their disposal to understand the landscape, the competition and compare your brand/product to others long before the speak/connect with you. They are in control from start to finish. And they do not want us to "sell them". The premise is the same today as it was then, though the "tools" are a lot more advanced. Now we have many ways to "listen" and can capture a wealth of information and understanding if we do it correctly.
On the marketing side of the equation she was also "spot on". Whenever we would put together sales materials she would ask as if she were the buyer: "Why should I care? What's in it for me?". If I gave her a stat about our brand/product she would say "So what? How does that help me? What does that mean to me? Everybody says they are the best. Why should I care about your brand more than the others? Why you?" She pushed us hard to always keep the customer at the forefront. To answer "The Why". To stay away from being trite, cliched in the way we communicated our brand. It was brilliant and again it is no different today. People still want us to answer "The Why" and provide relevant, helpful, information so that they can learn more about the industry, category, and us. They want us to offer insights that help them with their needs and challenges.
This need to answer "The Why" is behind the growth of content marketing. It is what our customers want, if not demand from us. We need to do a great job providing relevant, informative, useful information that addresses "the why" and that does not trigger a "so what".
Customers are no more demanding today than they were in the past. They just have a lot more power and insight. We as marketers and sellers need to heed Linda's excellent advice - "Listen" so you understand your buyers and use the incredible tools at our disposal to answer the "Why" and meet the needs of your customers.