How Content Marketing Leads to Sales Conversations

How content becomes sales conversation

Back when I sold advertising for my magazine, I had a huge epiphany–my customers didn’t want to buy it. 

Sure, I sold plenty. 

But in sales training, we had to examine people’s motivations for buying and I learned that almost every purchase is bought emotionally and justified rationally. 

Some may indeed have bought advertising because they liked seeing their logo in print (the ego sale). But the real reason most of my clients bought was that they wanted more qualified prospects and thought this would help them.

As B2B marketers, we often forget that the goal of marketing is to help salespeople get into more qualified conversations–not likes, not web visits, and not even lead conversions. 

It’s not much fun to research targets, ask for referrals, make calls, and send out emails. And it’s even more frustrating when we set meetings that don’t go anywhere. That’s why we’re always looking for the magic repeatable process that will ease our prospecting workload and bring in more hand-raisers. 

But the path of least resistance is a collaboration and it requires upfront work to ensure that communications are contextual, convey what’s in it for them, and why now.

So it’s important to understand how content leads to a conversation in the first place. 

Stop Pushing for Meetings 

My most recent sale came from a new subscriber to this blog. I noticed that we were connected on Linkedin, so I sent him a simple note: “Thanks for subscribing to my site Selling With Content. Hope all is well with you.”

That led to him asking what services I offer, which led to a face-to-face meeting, and he became a client the next day. 

More of those, please. 

The more you speak directly to the problems you solve, the more engagements you’ll get. 

But note that I haven’t told you how I do it. I haven’t told you about how great my services are, and I haven’t pushed for a meeting. 

Traditional marketers have not been trained to think about sales strategy, but that wasn’t their function. They’ve been trained to execute projects that create branding and awareness such as: messaging, logos, advertising, public relations, events, etc. And their goal is to generate leads and hand them off to sales to nurture. 

Before the internet became a shopping smorgasbord for anything and everything, brand awareness was enough for salespeople to fill their calendars with appointments because that’s how we got the information we needed.

But it’s not enough today. 

So it’s no wonder that salespeople get frustrated when they don’t have enough qualified leads. 

Salespeople don’t get a pass either. I still get barraged with emails and Linkedin connection requests with messages about how great their services are and how many clients “like me” they’ve helped. 

But I know it’s a template because if they’d taken a few minutes to check out my profile and website, they’d know that I’m not qualified. 

Context, Relevance, What’s in it for me?

Consultative sales training teaches salespeople to probe for pain–ask the right questions, get them talking about their challenges, help them understand the impact of not solving it, and they will often talk themselves into the deal.

But in actual sales conversations the more we present, the greater the chance of losing the sale. 

It’s what David Sandler calls “spilling your candy in the lobby.”

This was a fundamental shift for me as a marketer because when I actually engaged with prospects I got schooled real fast–speak to their problems, they’re interested. Talk about my services, they’re annoyed. 

This is why it’s so important to understand the real reasons why your clients buy from you. 

You have to wear the shoes of your prospect and think about:

  • What problems do they have that are so important that they must find a solution now?
  • What’s keeping them up at night?
  • Where might they go searching for solutions?

It’s amazing to me how seasoned sales and marketing still don’t understand this fundamental principle. For example, we were asked in a recent networking event what our customers would say about us and why they bought. 

One woman that owns a marketing company said, “I think my customers would say that I add value and they bought from me because I’m knowledgeable and they like my designs.”

NO!

They bought from you because they wanted more customers and thought you could help bring more in passively without having to work so hard at prospecting. 

Aligning Marketing with Sales

When someone has a problem, they start searching the web for solutions. They read articles, watch videos, and attend webinars. They also ask their peers about how they’ve solved similar challenges. 

And when they find an answer, they reach out.

So if EVERY marketing piece, EVERY email, and EVERY call is speaking directly to the business problems you solve, it will lead to more qualified sales conversations–if you can get the content in their search path.

Everything falls in place: 

  • You aren’t chasing leads out of desperation that will never be qualified. 
  • You can reach out intelligently because you can see what content they’re interacting with.
  • And instead of spam, you actually take the time to determine if it’s qualified and customize the communication.

So the next time you get frustrated because you don’t have enough qualified prospects to talk to, revisit your buyer personas to include new insights: 

  • Have you gained any new information from recent sales calls? 
  • Are the reasons they buy truly the reasons? 
  • Are the reasons your assumptions or have you actually talked to them?
  • Have you identified any buying triggers?

The good news is that most of the clients that I work with only need a few small tweaks and it’s off to the races. 

And when marketing and sales work together to engage with prospects you’ll get more hand-raisers and receive actionable intelligence so you can engage with purpose. 

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