Episode #2: "Content as Currency for Sales," with Jill Rowley

Hosts: Tim Clarke & Tiffani Bova

Modern buyers don’t want to be sold to — they want help. Content is how you signal you have the knowledge to provide genuine help that solves actual business challenges. Social strategist Jill Rowley, Chief Evangelist at Social Selling, reveals the best ways to use content to educate, help, and attract more prospects.

Read the article that inspired the conversation: “Content as Currency for Sales

Tim Clarke: Hi. Thank you for joining the "Quotable podcast." Today we're really excited for our guest speaker Jill Rowley, who is the social selling queen, and Chief Evangelist at Social Selling. Welcome Jill. Today we're discussing how content is currency of sales and the modern sales professional. Welcome Jill.

Jill Rowley: Thanks, Tim and Tiffani. I am totally excited to be here.

Tim Clarke: I'm Tim Clarke, product marketing director at Salesforce. I'm joined today by our guest host, Tiffani Bova, former VP and fellow at Gartner. Now Customer Growth Innovation Evangelist with Salesforce. Welcome, Tiffani.

Tiffani Bova: Thanks for having me, Tim. This is great to do a podcast with you, Jill.

Jill: It's nice to be having a conversation in another channel.

Tim: Jill, you obviously have had a couple of pieces on Quotable. One of the first pieces out there, which has been gaining a lot of traction, is called "Content is the Currency of the Modern Sales Professional." That's really what we're going to be focusing on today. Within this article you talk about how the modern B2B buyer has unmet needs. Could you elaborate a little bit more on what you mean by this?

Jill: Absolutely. Let's start with the modern buyer doesn't want to be sold to. The modern buyer wants help. The modern buyer is trying to figure out how to solve the business challenges that they have today. They're trying to solve the problems that they don't even know that are solvable.

Salespeople need to be out there and be part of the education process. They need to be part of the awareness stage of the buyer's unmet needs. They can't be doing that by being out there, pitchy-pitchy selly-selly, always be closing mentality. They have to be out there sharing content that provides insights to the buyer that educates them, that informs them, that helps them. Content is a way to meet the buyer where they're learning and to hopefully meet those unmet needs of the buyer.

Tiffani: Jill, when you talk about the content, I think one of the challenges today is the fact that there's so much content. When you think about what the buyer is looking for, especially around those unmet needs, what do you think it is that is out there that's too much today, versus what are the things that maybe are lacking that give sales professionals an opportunity to fill that void?

Jill: Sure. Let me start with nobody tweets your data sheet. Product-centric content has its place in the buyer's journey, but it isn't in the unaware aware stages of the buyer's journey. Let me talk about content is the currency of the modern sales professional. Content is the currency of the modern marketer, as well.

The content strategy really needs to be owned by marketing. Marketing is best equipped to really define, outline, the buyer's journey. The various buyer personas involved in the purchase process. Marketing is best equipped to create content, in story telling nature, that is visually appealing, that is emotionally engaging, that is in snack-able bites, that is useful to the buyer, that is shareable.

The content starts in marketing. Tim, I want to say, your title says product marketing, but you are not creating any content that is product specific. You have changed the content strategy. You are creating content that is very much more educational, more thought leadership, and more insightful to your buyers. That's the kind of content that your buyers are looking for, in particular when they're early in their buying process.

Where sales comes into this whole thing is sales needs to read this content. They need to know thy buyer. They need to know the world in which their buyer lives. They need to know what the unmet needs of their buyers are. They need to read this content. They need to share this content across their social networks.

Tim: There's two obvious questions which come out of that, which I want to take first of all from a marketing perspective for any marketeers that are listening to this. Then secondly from a sales perspective, for any sales professionals that are listening here. To the point you made, if organizations that are listening here that you clearly have a product to sell, why do you think it's actually so important not to push your product and to come up with different types of content? What have you see out there in the market on why this thought leadership content is actually proving more successful?

Jill: It all comes down to trust. Who do we trust? This dynamic is changing significantly with the younger generations. Millennials, it's all the rage. There's a lot of conversation being written about Millennials. In fact last night I read an article. Not while driving because I would never read an article while driving. I wouldn't tweet it either. [laughs] I read this article. "Millennials love user generated content." They don't trust brand generated content nearly to the extent that they trust content generated by their peers.

It's because...users didn't have the ability to generate content the way they can today, but certainly not share the content in a way that it was visible and consumable by peers. The access that we have now because of the Internet, because of social networks -- the access that we have to content generated by people like us, not brands who have an agenda or salespeople who have an agenda, the access that we have to user generated content is massive.

Now we're getting informed via our peers and via non-biased parties much more so than we are influenced by brands. Does that make sense?

Tim: Yeah, definitely. I completely agree with that. Maybe, Tiffani, I know you want to explore a little bit more from a sales perspective.

Tiffani: I'd say this. There's definitely research out there, especially on the trust, that when a customer or prospect is out looking for information that they trust information from third-parties much more so before they make a purchase than after they make a purchase.

What do you think it is for marketers that are listening to this? They tend to want to lean back on the standard status quo. Brand generated content and the PowerPoint's. They sort of keep feeding to the sales rep this content. They can't see that when the customer is now demanding this that they need to think differently.

What is it that sales and marketing can do to come together so that this user generated content becomes more top of mind for marketers? Secondarily, how can sales use other third-party content in lieu of it until marketing kind of catches up?

Jill: Great question. One of the things I want marketers and sales professionals to understand is you need to lead to your company, your solutions, not lead with your company, your solutions. The leading to, is thinking about, "What are the challenges that my buyer faces today? What are the trends that are occurring, that are happening in their world?" Leading with non-company branded content, but content that is useful to that buyer when they're in the early stage of the buying journey.

In terms of third-party content, let me say, I'm down with OPC. Yeah. You know me. I'm down with other people's content. Well, who's content? I encourage both marketing and sales to use a content curation strategy. The curation of other people's content, think about who the smartie pants people are in your buyer's world.

If you're selling cyber security solutions, who are the top experts? The analysts that cover cyber security, the journalists that talk about it, the consultants, the thought leaders, the ninjas, the gurus who cover cyber security. You want to know who those experts are and those expert resources are. You want to leverage that content that is trusted by your buyers. You want to read that content and you want to share that content. By sharing that content you become more visible to your buyers, more valuable to your buyers because you're sharing content that is actually useful, educational, and insightful to your buyers.


At the same time, when you are associated with more influential people your influence increases. In sales influence is important to be able to earn the trust, the recognition of your buyers. Third-party content in a 4-1-1, I say if you're going to share six pieces of content, I encourage you to share four pieces of third-party thought leadership non-company branded content, one piece of company branded content, and one cat picture. Not really cat pictures, but something that humanizes you as an individual.

Buyers need to get to know you. They need to like you. They need to trust you. They need to get value from you. Let's not be business bots. Let's be who we are, social. Where I talk about sharing a lot of content, of course via email, I share tons of content via email. When I share content in social networks, I want that content to be interesting. I want it to be engaging.

Because we're not using social channels to be marketed to, to be sold to -- we're using social channels to learn and to engage. The kind of content you share in social is absolutely critical.

Tim: I think that ties in nicely with the piece in your Quotable article, which is people are avoiding the pushy-pushy, selly-selly, pitchy-pitchy always-be-closing behaviors. They're ultimately looking for people to share insights, resources.

I always describe it as, "who do I follow on Twitter? Which publications do I follow? Which individuals are sharing knowledge?" As soon as I see an organization or something in my feed which is just pushing that product down I'm going to unfollow it straightaway.

Maybe, therefore, for some of the salespeople that are listening to this, what if they want to add their own context? This is the great saying, "Content is king, but context is God."

I guess the question for you here, Jill, is it's not just a case of sharing different articles that either you create or Marketing creates, but it's also adding your own context, right?

Jill: Context is king, or God, or I don't know. [laughs] Here's the thing. You can use an article, just like I tweeted the "Millennials Love User-Generated Content" article. I grabbed a stat from the article that resonated with me and that I think would make an impact. The stat was, 71 percent of Millennials check social networking sites at least once per day.

I share the article, but I pull from the article a stat that really resonates. I do that. Now, I might actually put my voice on it too, like, "Love it. Bang on. Winner, winner, chicken dinner." I might put an emoji on it.

That's my personality. That's who I am. If that's not who you are, if that's not your voice, then don't do it. Another example would be account-based marketing and sales, sales development. Salespeople know we don't sell to leads. We sell to accounts.

There's a buying committee involved in the purchase decision. We know that we have to get the account, multiple stakeholders, to buy into our solution. There's this thing about account-based marketing about fishing with nets or fishing with spears.

Fishing with a net is you catch lots of fish. Fishing with a spear, you go very directly for the fish that you want, the kind of fish. When I talk about ABM, I talk about the problem with fishing with a net is I catch too many trout. I prefer salmon. That's my voice. That's my spin on the topic.

Salespeople, what you don't want to do is a lot of companies I see, as they start to get more sophisticated around content, they do a daily email or a weekly email and they send it to Sales and they say, "Here are the suggested tweets. Here are the suggested shares on LinkedIn."

The key word there is "suggested." What you want to do is you want to take that and you want to put your voice on it, or your perspective. You might even want to tag a specific person that you know would really need to see that piece of content. This is not just auto-tweeting or auto-sharing. This is really putting your voice onto the content.

Tiffani: That's always dangerous, Jill, right? Because I think the challenge with a suggested tweet -- let's just play that out -- is there's 25 people in a salesforce or a hundred or a thousand -- and all of them take it literally and go, "I'm just going to cut and paste this tweet, or cut and paste this shared content."

Then everyone shares the same exact thing. It sounds the same, which loses that authenticity. It just becomes that blast of content. Whether it's theirs or not, all of a sudden it may even impact the trust along the way, because people are like, "Everyone's sharing the same thing."

Without that personalized touch, I think it ends up being too consistent, if you will, with no personality.

Jill: I agree. I've seen it, and it's awful. It's really awful and it immediately makes me lose trust. I have seen, actually worse than everyone cuts and pastes at the same time the same article, the same language, I've actually seen companies go to the level of having a platform -- there's platforms out there, I'm not going to name them on the show, but you can queue up the content.

You can have each salesperson or even employee log in with their credentials to their social networking sites and you can automate the sharing of that content on behalf of the salesperson.

What happens is then every salesperson is, "sharing the exact same article with the exact same script, if you will, at the exact same time in the exact same channels." That is just more crap into the social ether system. That is not what social selling, or even good social marketing, is. That's spamming. That's crap.

Tiffani: Saying that, publishing pieces like the one you did on Quotable, may seem like a daunting challenge for many sales professionals if they want to create their own stuff.

What do you suggest if they want to lay their own voice on things that is being content-generated by Marketing or they want to lay their own voice on their own created content. How do you suggest they do that?

Because not all are strong writers and salespeople are great talkers. I'd say, how do we give advice to a salesperson on the phone who says, "You know what? I agree with everything you say, but I just don't even know where to begin when it comes to writing"?

Jill: I'm not a writer. I'm going to fess up. I really am not a writer, and I was a Finance major. Math was my strongest subject. I very much struggle. If I have to have pen and paper and write, I have a block. I speak what I would ultimately want to write and do a transcription of me speaking.

First let's back up. Beep-beep-beep. Let's back it up. I don't even think salespeople need to write original content. I think a 500-word blog post for a salesperson, if it's not a core competency and a skill, it's not something that I would recommend they do.

I think that the curation of other people's content, the leveraging of the brand-generated content, that's a better strategy and it's more manageable and scalable and it's easier to get into a daily routine and a habit of using that other people's content.

Creating little videos, video snippets, that's absolutely where the market is going. We're not reading 500-word blog posts to the extent that we used to. Podcast interviews. Finding ways to be interviewed by other sources that your content can be contributed, your perspective can be contributed to other channels that already have an audience that your buyers are part of.

There's many ways that as a sales professional you can create content that isn't blog post format. You can contribute to other channels of content where your buyers are consuming that content. But I really think, if you're going to create a routine and a habit of your salespeople in a content way, you have to first help them understand why this is important today, why content will help them be visible, relevant, and valuable to the buyer where the buyer is learning.

You have to tell them what kinds of content work in the different channels of social and email and so forth. Then you need to train them. You need to train them on how. For people who are socially more native and adapt, hitting the share button on an article is intuitive. For people who aren't that skill, that has to be part of a training system, a learning system that your company creates for your sales organization. Make sense?

Tim: Yes. I'm going to build on that a little bit. For any marketers who are listening to this Jill and one of the other pieces that you've really looked into is the importance of enablement, in getting your content in the hands of sales professionals because clearly then they've got much wider and existential networks.

Do you want to just talk about that a little bit, any top tips that you've seen for marketing teams and actually getting this content out there and how important enablement is?

Jill: Enablement is an emerging role within organizations. I look at marketing on the left, sales on the right, enablement in the middle. Enablement is the glue, if you will, or the bridge, if you will, from marketing content that a lot of times the content that is being generated by marketing is being generated by product marketing.

The word in product marketing that scares me is "product" because when you do product marketing oftentimes it's about your product, and that's not the kind of content that the salespeople need in terms of capturing the attention of the unmet need of the buyer. Enablement is an emerging function growing in its strategic importance.

Sales enablement sits between marketing and sales, and the role of sales enablement is to ensure that your sales organization has the knowledge, has the skills, has the assets that they need to have the customer interaction. Whether that interaction is face to face, whether it's via a cast stream, whether it's via a video meeting, whether it's via an email, or a phone conversation, or in social networks.

Enablement, and there's some incredible resources out there available on how to create your enablement function or how to reshape your enablement function so that it is of the strategic level within the organization that's required.

If I was a sales leader and I was looking at where to spend my money in 2016, I would spend less on acquiring new sales reps, on hiring new sales reps, and I would spend more on enabling the reps that I already have. Ensuring that they have the knowledge, the skills, the assets that they need to be successful in every customer interaction.

Tiffani: If you were a sales rep listening to this and listening to this conversation, and you said, OK, Monday morning what are the one, two, three things you would recommend to a sales rep, Monday morning you should do these things differently or do more of this and stop doing this?

What would be the three things if you were standing in front of your sales force, and you had listened to this podcast at the gym, what would you tell them Monday morning?

Jill: Yeah. Really great question Tiffani. First, know thy buyer. How do I know my buyer better? I read what my buyer reads, and then I share that content. When I'm at the gym listening to a podcast, I'm actually tweeting some of the sound bites from that podcast with a link to the podcast and also tagging the people who are being interviewed on that podcast.

I'm listening, learning, I'm sharing, I'm tagging the people in the podcast, so I'm trying to create engagement. That's just as much of a new routine and habit that I have to develop as going to the gym. I would say know thy buyer, be where your buyer is, lead to your organization not with your organization.

The routine and the rhythm that I get into I don't actually usually get out of bed before I consume a couple pieces of content that I know would be relevant and helpful to my buyers. I read that content, and then I share that content. Now, I might be looking at my LinkedIn home page and seeing what content is being shared by the people in my network, and I'm engaging with that content.

I might just be engaging with the content, liking it, sharing it. For example, this morning in my content stream there was something about cyber security. My husband's company, they do a lot of consulting and strategy work on cyber security. I read the content on cyber security, and I tagged my husband on LinkedIn so that it would come up in his news stream.

This is a rhythm and a routine and a habit and a behavior that has to be developed and built on over time. That's what I would say, know thy buyer, be where thy buyer is, read what your buyer reads, share that content. To be interesting, be interested in your buyer, and lead to you not with you. Those are some of the things that I would develop a routine around that.

Tim: Perfect. Now, Jill we're nearly up on time so any closing thoughts, any great sites, great people to follow, great podcasts to listen to? Anything you would recommend?

Jill: First, I would say you can't sell the way you've always sold because buyers aren't buying the way they bought prior to the Internet, the unlimited access to information and to social networking, the nearly unlimited access to their peers who they trust three times more than they trust your brand.

You cannot continue to sell the way you've always sold because buyers are not buying the way they used to buy. You need to learn how to sell the way your customers want to buy. They're allergic to being sold. From a resources perspective, the audience of Quotable podcast is diverse.

You've got quota carrying sales reps, you have sales managers, you have sales leaders, you have sales enablement professionals. What I would recommend is from a resources perspective on sales enablement, Sales Benchmark Index, SBI. They have an app that you can download. They produce incredible content. They have a podcast.

They have a live stream TV program. They have a daily blog. Sales Benchmark Index, you're going to get content that ranges from aligning your marketing and sales strategy to your corporate strategy. Your corporate strategy needs to be defined by market research. I would say Sales Benchmark Index.

I would say from an analyst perspective, the ones that really understand modern sales and marketing, Forrester, Gartner, Serious Decisions. From individual trailblazers and thought leaders...I know, Tim, you didn't want me to do this, but I would just go to Quotable.com, and I would see who's publishing on Quotable and start to follow those people.

Those are the people who are really seeing the future of sales and how to transform the sales organization to be able to sell the way the customer wants to buy in the age of the customer.

Tim: Perfect. Well, thanks very much Jill, really appreciate all of your insights. Thanks Tiffani as well. Hopefully for all of our listeners here, they'll go out there, they'll go check out some new content, think about how they can create their own content as well and really leverage that as part of the sales process.

Thank you, Jill. Thank you, Tiffani.

Jill: Thank you.

How to Craft the Perfect Sales Pitch By Annie Simms,
Account Executive, Salesforce
The Simple Client Meeting Rules Every Salesperson Should Follow By Laura Stack,
President and CEO, Productivity Keynote Speaker and Author, The Productivity Pro, Inc.
Learn from the best. Sell like the best.