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Social, Content & Selling - a Chief Revenue Officer's take

by Trish Bertuzzi on Thu, Nov 10, 2011

 
I recently participated in a conversation over at Focus.com: How can you create a culture where your employees feel comfortable creating content? The idea being, that the creation of content is now an organizational responsibility as opposed to just being Marketing’s.

At one point in the dialogue, I was sick of hearing what all the pundits think (myself included) so I threw down the glove and asked a Sales Exec to chime in. Well, Alex Shootman the Chief Revenue Officer of Eloqua did. His excellent response follows:

Three interesting words in this exchange; culture, sales & content. In a vacuum these words do not seem like they should go together but let's break this down.

1) Culture is the external manifestation of the shared values of a group.
2) Sales is connecting what you have or know with what someone else hopes for.
3) Content is useful information or tools that people find helpful.

So the question of creating a culture of content management for sales to me might need to be re-framed. What parts of the sales culture are already in place that result in content being created and shared? What values always exist in great sales organizations? Since the beginning of time great sales people need to go hang out where their customers hang out and be interesting. What we need to help sales people understand is that their customers are hanging out on-line and they get interested in interesting content....

We are spending more and more time with our sales teams helping them learn to authentically prospect in social media. The more they create their online 'brand' and the more time they spend on-line seeing prospects attracted to great 'bait' and reject poorly thought out 'bait' the more they are beginning to become content aggregators. Which is the first step to beginning to actually create content.

Awesome, right? I immediately called Alex and asked him to share a bit more about how he actually shares this vision with his sales team.

[Trish] You say you are teaching your reps to prospect in social media. What channels specifically do you point them to?

[Alex]: The channel selection is one of the easiest parts. There are numerous communication channels for you to use to develop and build your personal brand. The basics are online communities, social networks like Twitter and Facebook, YouTube, SlideShare, blog sites, Flickr. The sheer number of different platforms makes learning where your customers/prospects hang out so important. We ask them to study their territory and learn where their clients are hanging out. They have to show us concrete examples of people they are trying to sell to and the channels in which they participate.

An overly simplified example of this is a great rep on the west coast selling to technology companies is on Twitter. A great rep in Chicago selling to more traditional manufacturing organizations hangs out on LinkedIn. The next step is teaching them to master the channels. I guess we are fortunate here we have one or two experts on each of the major channels and we enroll them in teaching the others and being the resident expert. For example check out Kevin McArdle - LinkedIn or Jill Rowley - Twitter.

[Trish] How are your Reps creating their online "brand"?

[Alex]: We've created a program. We're not yet sure if it is comprehensive because we are experimenting, but this is what we are doing in four simple steps; Discover, Develop, Monitor & Communicate.

First – discover; What are your personal drivers? What are you known for? What do you have answers to? What do others consistently say about you?

Second – develop; Who are you customers and what do they care about? As you think about your territory, what issues/challenges do your customers have in common? What’s a “day in the life” like for them? Do you know why your customers value you? In this phase we are asking the team to think about how they want to position themselves.

Third – communicate ; this is where channel selection fits in. Where did you decide your customers hang out? Do they find their information on Facebook and Twitter? Are they blog readers? Are they at conferences and other networking events, too? Again, personal branding is about positioning yourself as the trusted solutions provider. This step is about identifying the combination of communication channels that will consistently reach your customers and play to your strengths. Then it is about creating a publishing schedule – here is an example:

Fourth –monitor; we have them set up Google Alerts on themselves and also at every quarterly sales meeting they have to stand up in front of their peers and demonstrate their on-line brand and activity and the rest of the team scores them. And yes; I have to lead from the front. I'm coming way up the learning curve on this. Sometimes the team gives me a passing grade and sometimes they fail me. For example I have a personal blog I used to keep a long time ago; it is still up because I am interested in the type of research that people interviewing at Eloqua do before they show up but the content is really old. They kill me on that every time.

A huge thanks to Alex for taking the time to share. I do think it is important to note that Alex and his team sell to Marketers (a group that does fall into the early adopter category for social media.) A word of caution – as you are defining your approach, think about your buyers as a) people who b) want to consume relevant and useful information. Where do they go to get that information? Answer that question, invest there and you've taken Step One in your journey!

So, what do you think? How are you encouraging your team to use social media? I love Alex's online brand show & score sessions at the quarterly sales meeting. What stood out for you?

Topics: inside sales management, target marketing, executive interview

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