How to Publish Insights That Set The Agenda
March 13, 2018
Let’s face an awful truth: Very few salespeople are good writers. But in a world where the gap between marketing, sales, and publishing is murkier than the fifth pint of Guinness on Saint Patrick’s day, they need to find a way.
I do not advocate that salespeople write content during business hours; they should instead pick up the phone and dial prospects and customers.
All sellers should, however, self-educate and do research. Then they should create their own insights. Creating their own insights enables them to carry the right conversations with senior people in their target marketplace.
As a result of this activity, there are two types of content that can be created within your LinkedIn profile:
Posts (updates) are short and often for the purpose of sharing other people’s content, which can be relevant to your audience or customers. This is where you need to subscribe to a content-sharing tool such as Buffer, which has a plug-in for your web browser. It makes the process of capturing content and scheduling it for publication on social media extremely easy.
Original articles (blogs) may be shared. They are typically more than 400 words and embedded with images or videos.
Being a thought leader with updates
Let’s cover updates first, because anyone can do this, even if you have poor writing skills. Any time you come across content that will be appreciated by your customers, simply click the LinkedIn share button on the page where that content lives or the Buffer icon in your browser... bingo! It is queued and ready to go without you needing to give it another thought.
But where do you find this content? Every professional stays current by reading the latest articles, journals, blogs, and publications relevant to them and their audience. The best salespeople do this — and those who struggle with reading listen to podcasts.
If you sell into an industry vertical, or if your market is defined by a particular demographic, or if your buyer is a particular role or persona, then you can identify the places where they learn online.
Ask your customers that very question: “Where do you go online to stay up-to-date?” You could also ask: “Who do you follow as a leader in your industry?” or “Which analysts or commentators do you rate most highly?” Then find those people online, subscribe to their blog (RSS feed), configure a Google Alert for their name, and follow them on Twitter. Now the information you need comes to you! Technology is now serving you and making you highly efficient for content sourcing and learning about the things your customers care about.
This is how you build a platform for sourcing and sharing content that will be of interest to your buyers. If your marketing team can help you with a corporate tool similar to Buffer, then use it, but do not share corporate propaganda. It will be perceived by your audience of potential customers as spam, and they will probably disconnect or ignore you.
Your LinkedIn profile is your domain, not your employer’s — you choose the content you share or publish. Make sure that all of your content is of value to your target audience.
Your goal is to be seen as an aggregator of high-quality, relevant content for those who are too busy to source it for themselves. If you were selling a cloud software solution for accounts payable automation, then your primary target audience is the CFO. You would investigate where they learn online about outsourcing and find the analysts and journalists who write about the latest trends and research for transforming the finance function within corporations.
What are the major conferences? Who are the speakers? Which research has been published?
Sharing this kind of content and associating yourself with credible brands is a smart thing to do. Therefore, seek to connect with the industry influencers and leaders who publish the best articles and papers.
Overcoming objections with articles
Original articles or blogs require more effort, but they are massively powerful for proactively dealing with objections and setting the agenda on value and risk mitigation for customers. At a minimum, everyone should have three articles that they have published within their LinkedIn profile, and these articles should be 600 to 900 words, which is just over one page in a typical Word document.
The first topic to write about is proactive objection killers. This is a self-learning exercise that beats any sales training, because it creates clarity of message with a narrative that has the power to avoid objections altogether!
List the common objections you receive, and then adopt the positive counter position. As an example, I have worked with recruitment companies where salespeople commonly receive this objection from a hiring manager: “If I met with every headhunter that wanted my time, I’d never get anything done. I’m too busy to meet, so just send me a CV if you have a viable candidate.”
To deal with this, I’ve helped recruiters write articles about why investing 20 minutes in a meeting with a recruiter can save 12 hours and dramatically reduces hiring risk. In this example, you take the excuse for not wanting to meet and make it the reason to engage. The seller creates an article in LinkedIn Publisher that supports this narrative:
It’s because you’re busy that we need to meet. It’s not enough to screen based on skills, qualifications, and experience; you must also eliminate anyone early who is not a cultural fit. This is because that’s where most of the risk is with a new hire. I define value by how few CVs I send, and I’ll invest the time to understand how you personally define cultural fit to significantly de-risk your hiring process. That’s why I need 20 minutes with you to understand how you personally define the culture of your team. Twenty minutes together will save you 12 hours and give you the right result. When can we get together for 20 minutes on Thursday?
Instead of leading with the product of supplying candidates for a role, the seller is leading with why a conversation matters. The reason for a conversation is that the seller can help the buyer save time and reduce risk; and that’s what is being sold initially — a way for the buyer to save time, reduce risk, and protect the culture they have built into their team, so they can achieve the necessary results.
Writing an article and finding research to reference, even a funny video to embed, enables you to hone your narrative and deliver the conversation with relaxed authority. No script is necessary because you genuinely know your stuff. Start writing after hours; it will change your professional life! Find someone to be your editor before you publish, and always ensure that you are consistent with your employer’s brand and values.
In addition to positive proactive objection killers, sellers should develop insights that hook the buyers’ interest. Again, this is highly valuable sales training as it forces research into the customer’s world. It should be done outside prime selling time and treated as homework in the evenings.
What are the trends, risks, disruptive forces, innovations, or case studies that potential customers need to know? How are their customers or markets changing? Beyond information, what are the insights or lessons to be learned? What are their biggest risks concerning commoditization or disruption? The people you follow for creating posts are the sources for these articles you can write, and it is not a difficult task to create an article that quotes several experts. You can then add your own commentary before posing a question to your audience to create engagement.
Chris Beall believes salespeople are the smartest nonreaders on earth but that they need to become readers in order to write with strength. He says, “Listening, especially while driving (which provides a calming activity to absorb some of that native sales restlessness) lets them hear written language and begin to transform into a writer. Even if their writing ends up being spoken into Siri, cleaned up by Grammarly, and — if they’re really smart — run through a friend. If something is worth writing, it is almost always worth a light editing pass.”
Every seller needs to be a capable micro-marketer, and if you’re serious about creating a stellar personal brand and embracing social selling, you must read David Meerman Scott’s book The New Rules of Marketing and PR.
As you build followers, who aren’t necessarily connected to your profile, you can start to share insights such as short quotes, statistics, pithy phrases, and, especially, provocative questions. This will create threads of engagement where you can start building your network (again, outside prime selling time) with anyone relevant who views your profile, posts, or articles. These can become leads you can call, and it’s a conversation starter to call out that they just looked at your profile.
When I first came across Jack Kosakowski, I noticed he had some amazing techniques for notifying prospects when a social action happened. One way he did this was to call them after they just added him if there was a number shared on their profile. There are other ways to connect with prospects, but first, it’s important to build a following.
Putting a bow on it
Let’s review what needs to be done up to this point with your brand. You’ve created a professionally attractive profile within LinkedIn and enhanced it by showing insight and value in what you publish.
You’ve identified the thought leaders who are relevant to your target market that you will begin to follow on LinkedIn and Twitter. Then you can curate their content and share it with your network. You can begin to be a “forager for the tribe,” as Michael Hyatt describes it, which means being a content hub for relevant, quality information about a topic, domain, or industry.
Then there is a reason for people to connect with you — because you provide insight and value relevant to those in your network.
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