For Sales Blogging and Social Selling – Think Like a Publisher

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The practice of social selling has crossed the chasm and entered the tornado stage. (Huffington Post, see Mike Kunkle’s excellent webinar)

To fuel this content dependent activity, many are urging sales people to blog, and to become thought leaders. (Lori RichardsonJohn Jantsch,  ITSMA)

This is a logical extension from a belief that sales people must think more like marketers.

In my view, “think like marketers” means sales people must approach selling from a buyer perspective. They must understand and align to the issues, questions and process buyers must address to make a buying decision. (See Sharon Drew Morgen – Buying Facilitation) Not all buyers are ready or interested to hear about your company and product — especially those features.

But I also know that thinking like a marketer does not mean thinking like a journalist. It does not require sales people to “blog” – certainly not in the way most people, and marketing bloggers, think of blogging.

Social (or digital) selling makes sense because it embraces new tools and methods to conduct core activities sales professionals have always performed: research, networking, prospecting and building relationships with people.

Sales people need content to build credibility, provide innovative insights (please, let’s stop with  “thought leadership”) and give value to get attention and interest.

Here’s where the blogging premise is flawed: they shouldn’t have to create content. Indeed, isn’t this what we’ve been trying to avoid for 20 years? We want to reduce the time sales people need to spend creating and editing customer relevant content.

On a practical level, and statistics bear me out: they won’t do it. Most people and companies that set up blogs either stop or under-perform writing for them.

A senior marketing executive at a huge global software company told me they learned that pre-sales engineers “have two, maybe three blog posts in them.” After that, they run out of things to say. They also run out of desire and time. The novelty goes away.

Tweet: Non-professional writers don’t know how to set up & consistently use a disciplined blogging process

They lack the skills, desire, discipline, time, focus and inputs required for effective and efficient writing.

I believe social selling is an essential and natural selling activity, but blogging isn’t. So what can you do?

Think Like a Publisher

How does the admonition to think like a publisher address this issue?

Consider three core publishing practices:

  1. Separate content production tasks and assign them to the right resources
  2. Continuously acquire inputs
  3. Create content first for the database — a database of reusable source assets

1.  The activities sales people need to perform, both for early stage social selling, and later stage customer engagement, are to understand customer needs, select the right information, make sure it’s in the right format (packaged content), and deliver it at the right time through the right method (channel).

Often this information must be delivered as a conversation. Today, conversations have moved online into social channels like Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus.

So the “content” is often text, posted as comments on someone else’s post, or comments to set the context for viewing produced content such as a document, article or blog. We refer to this as “unstructured content” that is free from the constraints of content containers such as a document or video.

2.  Key to creating quality content efficiently is a process of continuous acquisition of inputs. This “curation” process includes:

  • Recording and transcribing talks, briefings or presentations by subject experts, including customers
  • Extracting elements from traditional content projects so they are reusable, such is images and video segments, facts and data, technical explanations, quotations and stories, etc.
  • Capturing third party articles, analyst research reports, or other third party content assets 

3.  Tweet: Content should be created for sharing and reuse as well as specific projects.  This practice is part of what we mean by “think like a publisher.” Unfortunately, people have mis-interpreted this admonition simply to mean, be a journalist.

How to Execute

How does this solve the blogging problem?

With this approach, the need to create original blog posts becomes a select, edit and comment activity. Each of us can edit and comment far faster and easier than we can sit to write from scratch.

A top recommendation is for sales people to spend time commenting on appropriate posts, rather than creating original blog posts.

This requires a library of source content assets — documents as well as links to blog posts, YouTube videos, Slideshare decks, and third party articles — that are tagged to common use case scenarios such as customer problems (topics), buyer roles, and answers to buyer questions (as a simple start and example).

In addition, a library of “unstructured content,” also tagged, should be maintained in a wiki or shared document (such as a Google doc). This is text not in formatted documents, that can be copied, edited and pasted into comments or posts.

Marketing should think of this activity as “stocking the pond.” (1 minute video.)

Marketing resources should acquire, prepare and manage inputs for everyone in sales, marketing or customer communication roles (executives, customer service, even the sales channel.) They can recommend and even regularly deliver packages of content suitable for posting to social channels.

Finally, rather than set up separate blogging site, such as WordPress, sales people should use LinkedIn, and especially Google+ (see Why Google+ blog). These platforms provide simple but effective blogging tools, and ready audiences.

In Google+, posts are indexed by Google, contribute to author ranking, and show up in general Google searches. Posts can be distributed publicly, or to targeted “circles” such as customers, prospects, or other audiences. All posts are archived in each sales person’s homepage, making them easy to find and reuse.

None of this should be left to individuals to figure out. This must be owned and operationalized as part of a unified, enterprise content strategy (see 6 Competencies for an Enterprise Content Strategy.) A key competency of this strategy is to support people: content creators and users.

With guidance and support this activity can become a regular, consistent and effective practice that produces quality customer experiences and higher business outcomes.

Strategic Implications

Supporting social selling activities in this way is also an example of the need to operationalize enterprise content strategy with new approaches that get more out of content investments, while minimizing unintended consequences.

This work is part of our Structured Content Publishing System. Our customers tell us this program accelerates their time to success and operational maturity. When you are ready we invite you to contact us for a conversation.

Please join the conversation and post your comments on the Google+ for this blog


Resolving the number one unconsidered cause of low B2B sales and marketing performance, and revenue growth …
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