How Marketers Can Behave Like Salespeople (And Get More Leads)
I once received an exceptionally valuable piece of advice.
If you want to be a better marketer, you need to think like a salesperson.
At the time, I had only been copywriting for six months and was surprisingly taken aback by this comment. I had an almost superstitious fear of salespeople. These were the people who seemingly spent more of their time on the phone than actually doing work (or so I thought). Plus they would surprise me with new clients and gently remind me that the contract stipulated a £1million turnover in 12 months.
I was sceptical. To say the least.
But after a few days of reflection, I started adopting this advice into my everyday marketing activities - and I noticed a real change in not only how I created content, but how I evaluated and saw results from it too.
It only seems fitting, then, to pass on this advice for any other marketing pros looking to boost their content marketing efforts. Much of the advice in this blog is specific to the B2B sector, but should also prove useful for those working directly with clients in B2C.
Talk like your customers
As a marketer, it’s easy to create copy that seeks entirely to delight the whims and preferences of your editor. We’ve all done it - and any copywriter will tell you praise comes few and far between, so falling into this trap is all too tempting.
But the reality is that this type of copy doesn’t just perform poorly. It lacks empathy at its very core - and is the everyday equivalent of squeezing up to a complete stranger on a crowded bus and complaining that you deserve more space than everyone else.
Salespeople, however, are great at empathising with customers.
Don’t believe me?
Then grab your coffee, laptop, and park yourself next to sales. Listen to how they talk. How they overcome objections. How they sell to your customers.
Unlike some marketers, a great salesperson has an almost intrinsic ability to put themselves in the position of their customers and empathise with them. Before they make the cold call, they already know what type of objections their lead is likely to have. Or what type of product benefits will appeal most to the customer.
And it’s not just because they’ve done their market research.
To exceed in the fiercely competitive world of sales, it’s not enough to memorise the marketing collateral. You also need to get in the head of your customer and communicate in a way that adds genuine value.
Rather than telling digital audiences why Mailchimp is great, their copy focuses on overcoming the concerns that impact its customers the most e.g. ‘Maybe my emails could be better’. Or ‘Maybe I’m not getting the best deal from my current email marketing provider’.
If you gave a salesperson the task of selling Mailchimp in a cold call, these are exactly the type of concerns he/she would try to dig out. Then the magic would be happen: they would offer Mailchimp - the perfect solution to finding an email marketing platform that was both high performing and cost effective.
But after that, the salesperson wouldn’t just ask the other person down the phone to immediately purchase a Mailchimp subscription. That would be jumping the gun. Instead, they would offer a free demonstration - something which would build consumer trust - in the hope of up-selling in the future (just as the website’s ‘Sign Up Free’ call to action seeks to do).
In the case of Mailchimp’s digital content, it’s not simply enough to talk like your customer - you also need to think like them too. Something that salespeople know better than anyone else.
Follow up your leads
Thinking like your audience is one thing, though. Having the conviction to follow up those leads is something else altogether.
In any organisation that lacks clear cohesion between sales and marketing, there’s a good chance that potential customers won’t even make it into your sales funnel. They might visit your website, view a few blogs, and never return again. Or worse, never interact with anyone who encourages them to get in touch and find out more.
This is a huge problem for anyone in the marketing profession.
According to research from Marketing Sherpa, 68% of B2B organisations don’t have a sales funnel. This means that many marketers - especially those without an internal sales team - need to learn the basics of how to follow-up leads.
One of my new favourite tools for doing this is Lead Forensics, a wonderfully useful tool for any inquisitive (or downright nosy) marketer.
Designed for B2B organisations, Lead Forensics tracks who visits your website (including which company they work for) and provides data about which web pages they visited and for how long.
The digital team at pixel8 recently put this tool to good use. Six months ago, we received a call from a hotel chain that was interested in pursuing our integrated marketing services. We chatted for a bit, sent over a brochure, but unfortunately didn’t hear anything back.
Using Lead Forensics last week, however, we saw that the same hotel had been visiting the pixel8 website looking at our brand guideline and case study pages. So we gave them a call and asked them what happened, and it turns out the organisation couldn’t secure buy-in at the time.
Now, any good salesperson would know exactly what to do in this type of situation. But we didn’t follow-up six months ago, so nothing happened.
After giving the hotel a call, however, we were able to establish a new touchpoint and arrange a meeting to discuss our services further. Amazing.
In my own experience, there is an abundance of content out there dedicated to helping marketers become more lead-savvy. So here are a few useful resources if you to develop a sales funnel to do exactly that:
Udemy’s Ultimate Guide to Creating Customers
The Marketo Sales Funnel presentation (also available in video)
Anthony Iannarino also has a great blog about the common mistakes businesses make in producing a sales funnel
Beyond following up leads, the next piece of advice I received was about something else altogether.
As a copywriter, this was up there in my Room 101 - alongside giant squid and the clown from Stephen King’s IT.
You mean going out and talking to complete strangers? Not lurking from the comfort of behind my computer screen?
But the same person who recommended that I think like a salesperson also suggested I make an effort to get experience outwith the office. It wasn’t just to be a ‘brand ambassador’ - however valuable you deem this to be - but to develop the relationships with people who might find your content valuable.
It might seem like an activity restricted to the realm of salespeople, but great marketers know how important networking can be - especially if they work within a B2B organisation.
If you accept the sales philosophy of Bob Burg, for example, then customers only do business with organisations they know, like, and trust. The same rule also applies to blogging and social media: if you really want people to get excited about your content, it will be tremendously helpful if you already have a network of fans who want to share and recommend your glorious words.
Think of it this way: you’ll have more luck asking your friend for a favour, rather than approaching a stranger on the internet and hoping for the best.
Of course, it’s not something that happens overnight. Below is a small selection of some helpful websites designed to help professionals find conferences, meeting opportunities, and networking events for their sector:
IEEE - you can filter by location and date
Chamber of Commerce - great for any sector
Trade Association Forum - also useful for keeping up with industry events
Make them smile
The last piece of advice I received from this person was probably the hardest: make your content delightful.
Whether you are creating content to inform, persuade, or entertain your customers, making your audience smile is one of the most worthwhile things you can do.
Ask a salesperson.
As Bill Rosenthal has cleverly pointed out in his blog, comedy can be invaluable for breaking down the customer-marketer barrier and creating a sense of normality in the digital realm (after all, where else - other than social media - would you tell strangers about what you had for lunch?).
Now, I’m not suggesting that your website about pylons contains a plethora of belly-jiggling puns. But great salespeople know how important it is to make a potential customer smile within the first 30 seconds of conversation - if you’re lucky enough to maintain their attention for that length of time. As Grant Cardone, contributor to Entrepreneur, explained it:
“Any humor that can make people feel good, inspired or hopeful is always appropriate during the close. Everyone loves a good story, and people are more likely to make decisions when they are less serious. You will close more deals if you can get your client to lighten up and laugh.”
With this in mind, marketers should also consider adopting this approach to bring delight to their own digital audiences. It doesn’t have to be outrageously witty, or enough to warrant your own shining moment at Edinburgh’s Udderbelly. All you need to do is convince a potential customer you’re more than an anonymous voice on the internet.
If this sounds like something you’re excited to explore in your own content marketing efforts, here are a few golden rules:
Avoid offensive or humour at the expense of someone else
If you do want to make fun of someone, then you’re probably the best starting point
Time is precious, so avoid long, drawn-out puns - otherwise your audience might lose interest
Don’t go overkill - what you might find funny (like Mrs Doyle) might not be amusing to someone else
Regardless of your own style, finding the right balance between offering delight and value to your customers can be exceptionally powerful for content marketers. Especially for those who want to give leads a reason to pick up the phone and get in touch.
Why marketers should be more like salespeople
It’s been nearly a year since I was given the advice to think less like a copywriter and more like a salesperson.
At the time, I knew that this was a completely different approach to how I had already been creating content. But it’s only been recently - as I embarked on a new creative venture - I’ve realised what an impact this person has had on my own work too.
And for that I am extremely grateful.
If you want to learn more about content marketing, we have a library of hints and tips on the pixel8 blog for you to explore.