Create, Curate and EXTRACT

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A sales team without the support of strong content marketing, more specifically, a strong Sales Process Media support process is lost. If you don’t believe that, take a quick look at this and/or this and/or the other 8 million articles and blog posts written about it.. If you still don’t believe it, good luck. You’re missing the boat! (Sorry if you’re insulted…, but it’s true.)

Seems like Content Creation is nearly always the first strategy sales leaders adopt. For good reason! If you create content yourself, it is highly customized and targeted with great precision to your audience. It doesn’t take long, however, to learn that creating good content is hard and time consuming. Sales reps, for the most part, cannot or will not do it well or consistently.

Personally, I think they should, as expressed here, but that’s a different discussion. The fact of the matter is, most sales leaders find getting their reps to create content is an important, but uphill battle.

For purely pragmatic reasons, Content Curation becomes the strategy that is actually implemented. No don’t get me wrong, I’m a HUGE fan curated content. For some aspects of Sales Process Media – notably providing broad perspective from a wide variety of relevant sources – curated content is clearly more effective.

Better yet, Content Curation is something that all good sales reps are doing already. They’re all reading and learning and scouring up new insights for self-improvement. It’s quite easy, quick and inexpensive to simply collect what they’ve read, listened to and watched and re-distribute it via your Sales Process Media Platform.

Content Creation and Content Curation by themselves, however, don’t cut the mustard!

pullingteeth1Content Extraction also needs to be part of the mix. Sales Reps may not curate content well or create it at all, but they most certainly do have the knowledge necessary to make a Sales Process Media strategy catch fire. So yank it out of them!

Actually, sales reps probably won’t even balk at the extraction. They might even like it. Shoot, I know they’ll like it! Start, oh sales leader, with the two fundamental Content Extraction techniques; interview and sanitize.

Interview:  Grab your smart-phone, make like a radio commentator, and interview one of your reps. Pick any topic of interest to your customers and about which that rep is knowledgeable. Chances are, with a few minor edits to the recording, the content will be pretty darned good. (Especially since you as a sales manager have honed your ability to ask great leading questions for so many, many years.) If not, transcribe it, edit it and publish it as text.

Sanitize:  I’ll make another assumption here… Your team writes great proposals with great value propositions based on astute analysis of current customer situations, rock-solid transition plans and financial justifications to implement your products and services. (Certainly, at least a few of your reps do.) Take those proposals, those incredibly great examples of the value of your stuff, make them generic so customer confidentiality is not compromised and distribute it via your Sales Process Media Platform.

Extract, Baby, Extract!

What’s an SPM System?

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You NEED a Sales Process Media (SPM) system. See last week’s post for why.

(In a nutshell, Since no sales professional in the universe has time to get everything done, every sales professional needs a digital assistant to help deliver the right, relevant knowledge to the right customers at exactly the right time. That’s what an SPM system does.)

stretchtheday

S – T – R – E – T – C – H the day!

It’s easy to understand why a digital assistant that delivers knowledge to customers in digital form is essential. Actually building and using such a system is not so easy. (Sorry to sound like Mom, but just because it’s not easy does NOT change the fact that it’s essential!)

Now for some good news!

The basic, “starter-set” platform for a Sales Process Media System is really pretty straightforward, simple and inexpensive. Here are the three basic parts:

  1. A blog
  2. An e-mail system with distribution list capability
  3. A means to create and publish Landing Pages

A means to create and distribute “Mini-Series” courses on specific topics is also considered by some to part of an SPM starter set. Personally, I see that as part of “stage 2″ since it requires Content Harvesting. (Sign up for a Content Harvesting Mini-Series right here.)

Back to the issues at hand. You’re responsible for selling. If you have some tech help for setting up the following, great! If not, well… a bite at a time is not that hard! Either way, get to it and acquire a platform consisting of:

  • CRM System: To manage who you’re targeting with your SPM System.
  • Web Site:  Your fundamental “distribution system” for all the knowledge your customers need.
  • * E-mail:  You already know why e-mail is essential.
  • E-mail Campaign Manager:  Most e-mail systems have at least distribution list capability, as do most CRM systems. A Mini-Series/Automation function comes with tools like MailChimp.
  • RSS Reader:  You need to consume TONS of content so you can feed the best, most relevant bits of it to customers. Feedly is a good one.
  • * Blog:  Think of it as the holder for short bits of highly focused, highly valuable content. Ideally each member of the sales team will have a personal blog. Don’t worry if it takes a while, even a long while, to get there…
  • * Landing Pages:  Highly focused, single-purpose, standalone web pages, each with a very clear Call-To-Action!
  • Document Sharing System: Go read about how document sharing works on Google Drive. If you’ve ever shared and helped update multiple versions of a proposal or spreadsheet or other document with multiple people via e-mail, you-will-love-it!
  • Wiki:  Ditto the above for large collections of data, information and knowledge. Try Google Sites.
  • Screen-Sharing, VOIP Meeting Tool:   You can’t always be there face-to-face, so go with the next best thing via something like Skype or GoToMeeting.
  • Analytics Engine:  Measurement and use of statistics for web site traffic, lead quality, conversion rates and a host of other SEO-ish stuff is essential

…and a few more tools for the toolbox:

YIKES!!!

Sounds like a lot of work and it is. But do you or any member of your sales team have enough hours in the day to get it all done? How can you survive without a digital assistant to deliver the right digital knowledge to the right customer at the right time all the time? Get to it!

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Why an SPM System?

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Before we get to Sales Process Media Systems, a quick reflection on Customer Relationship Management Systems…

papermessOnce upon a time, the typical Sales Manager was unaware that a robust CRM System is an absolutely indispensable tool for sales professionals. Today, only the most stubbornly old-school holdouts try to keep track of prospects, accounts, contacts, opportunities, forecasts and the long, long list of action items, due dates and appointments with a notepad/scrap-paper/envelope-back/yellow-sticky/napkin-based “system.”

Thankfully, it is now common knowledge that CRM is the essential tool for sales territory and time management.

That brings us to the next battle; the next change that will be mightily resisted by sales reps, managers and executives. (Please make note here, that we sales types, we so-called “change agents,” are as resistant to changing our ways as the most obstinate customer out there!) That battle is the one over the crying need for Sales Process Media Systems.

I expect the battle to be long and hard. I expect to be repeatedly told that I’m wrong. I expect a few early adopters to hit grand slam home runs! Hopefully, I can convince you to at least begin thinking about their potential value.

Start with the need for Sales Process Media itself. Since no sales professional in the universe has time to get everything done, every sales professional needs a digital assistant to help deliver relevant knowledge to customers. That is:

  • A robust collection of core digital content:  Text, image, audio and video that articulates elevator pitches, value propositions, problem definitions, case studies, product overviews and all the other chunks of “standard” knowledge customers need to make the buy decision. (Think of it as digital replicas of everything a sales pro says on a recurring basis. Everything!)
  • The capability to quickly produce high quality customized digital content:  Text, image, audio and video that articulates the unique chunks of knowledge that a specific customer needs to address a specific problem or opportunity at a specific time. (Think of it as digital replicas of all the customer-unique bits of knowledge a sales pro delivers on an as needed basis.)

How would a sales professional keep track of, produce and appropriately deliver at the proper time to the proper place literally everything he or she delivers verbally both repeatedly and one-off? With a notepad/scrap-paper/envelope-back/yellow-sticky/napkin-based system??? I don’t think so.

Hold that thought… Next week, a few requirements for your Sales Process Media System.

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Creative Discipline

Leadership

Think about those two words for a minute… Think about how they represent conflicting concepts.

Creativity – the hallmark of the right-brained free spirit; freedom from the constraints of bureaucracy; independence; the ability to see and articulate the big new picture. Without it there is no progress.

Discipline – the hallmark of the left-brained engineer; methodical execution of the scientific method; adherence to mathematical standards; control; the ability to repeatedly produce identical results. Without it there is no progress.

creativedisciplineThe fact is, both creativity and discipline are pre-requisites for progress. One without the other simply does not work. All of the heroes in history – be it philosophy, government, sports, music, inventing, politics, the military or business – demonstrated “Creative Discipline.”

Most of you reading this are in a sales role. Most likely your DNA makes you very comfortable with doing creative work. That’s why most people get into sales to begin with. For us sales types, however, the discipline stuff is not so comfortable. Rules and procedures cramp our styles and seem to interfere with our effectiveness. Down deep though, we understand the need for repeatability, and appreciate the value of discipline.

As a sales leader, focus on the discipline side of the coin.

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Why your sales reps SHOULD be creating content

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First off, I must make it clear that I regularly consume the content of the Matt On Marketing blog. The consistently good stuff created and curated by Matt Heinz and his team makes me think. I highly recommend it.

That said, I’ve got to take exception with Matt’s recent Why your sales reps shouldn’t be creating content post. My contention is that reps who are not creating strong content on a regular basis are:

  1. Not exploiting a powerful tactical sales tool
  2. Ignoring one of the best Personal Development exercises ever
  3. Denying sales teammates access to their knowledge, experience, creativity and expertise

1) A sales rep who is not creating content is not exploiting a powerful tactical sales tool:

Here’s a specific example. Sales rep had worked an opportunity through the pipeline right up to closing the deal when it stalled. “Do nothing” was the competition. (Sound familiar?)

Customer decision team consisted of Sales Manager, President, CEO/Founder and COO/Co-Founder. Rep had built an excellent relationship with Sales Manager and President and had the support of both to go ahead. Rep had not been able to end-run the President, …and really didn’t want to!

Rep created a 4 minute video of himself articulating the customer’s situation, issues, problems and how his company’s offering would deliver value in that context. He sent it to Sales Manager and President with a suggestion that President forward it to CEO and COO, which she did.

Four days later the deal closed.

The video made it crystal clear to the never-before-spoken-to CEO and COO that this rep and company understood the specifics of their situation. It also shot the rep’s credibility with the customer top executive team through the roof.

Sales-Rep-Created-Content closed the deal.

2) A sales rep who is not creating content is ignoring one of the best Personal Development exercises ever.

Same example. The first version of the sales rep’s video ran 17 minutes. Do you think the attention span of any of those customer executives would have lasted 17 minutes? The rep didn’t think so and therefore thought, studied more, eliminated extraneous detail, identified the guts of the problem and solution and got it to 4 minutes.

That exercise (which took him just less than a full day) dramatically enhanced the rep’s visceral understanding, not only of a common customer situation, but also the true essence of his own offering.

Sales-Rep-Created-Content was far more effective in growing sales for this rep than the 4-day sales training class he attended earlier that year.

3) A sales rep who is not creating content is denying sales teammates access to his or her knowledge, experience, creativity and expertise

Same example. Rep’s company “sanitized” and re-made the video. This more generalized version is now used by the entire sales team at the front end of the pipeline for both prospecting and for engaging the attention of decision makers.

Sales-Rep-Created-Content is helping to fill the top end of the funnel for the entire sales force.


rant


OK, so not all sales reps have the wherewithal to make a video. Ummmmmm, but any teenager with a cell phone can, …and does. Ditto for recording an audio. And if video or audio is too still too much, write it out! It’s your damn job, sales rep, to articulate the value of your wares! Verbally is the only way you can do so? Ummmmmm, but couldn’t you record what you say on your cell phone?

End-O-Rant


And a final thought. (Perhaps this was Matt’s point.) Is creating content really the highest and best use of a sales rep’s time? In the majority of cases, no.

However, creating highly customized Sales Process Media is!

One of the reasons the term “Sales Process Media” (vs. “Content”) is important is it’s specificity to sales. “SPM” is a subset of “Content Marketing.” It’s content tightly linked to already identified opportunities (like the above example,) and opportunity types (e.g., Problem A, that Functional Executive type B in Industry C typically has that can be addressed by our Offering D.)

Is Matt right? Am I right? Are we both partially right?

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Georgia Manufacturing Day

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We’re proud to be partners with the Georgia Manufacturing Alliance. As part of the leadership team of this organization, I have an opportunity to invite a select group of leaders in the manufacturing community to join us for the celebration of “Georgia Manufacturing Day”. I would like you to join us for this special day on February 17th at the Georgia State Capitol.

This event is designed to help promote your company in a unique way. By attending, you will be among other manufacturing leaders who will be recognized as part of the founding team of the “Buy from Georgia” movement.

You will be in the official photo as Governor Nathan Deal presents the Georgia Manufacturing Alliance Leadership Team the “Buy From Georgia Month” Proclamation.

Why should you attend?

  • Meet and network with other Georgia manufacturing leaders.
  • Learn about upcoming events that can benefit your company.
  • Receive your copy of the official group photo (download – high resolution).
  • Support and be supported by other Georgia companies who understand the power of buying local and growing jobs in Georgia.
  • Meet your state representative  (no guarantees because they are in-session).
  • Take a self-guided tour of the Capitol.

This image shows the 2014 GMA Leadership Team proudly receiving the first “Buy From Georgia Month” Proclamation from Governor Deal in 2014. Based on the feedback received from this event, the decision has been made to allow more Georgia Manufacturers like you to participate. GAmfgDay

You can be a part of this historic event in 2015!!!

There is no cost to attend this event but registration is required.

Visit http://www.gamfgday.com to register online

Registration is at 9:00am
Networking 9:00am – 9:30am
Photo Staging 9:30am – 9:45am
Proclamation 10:00am

Park in the Capitol Lot, located off of Capitol Avenue (parking is $10 Cash-Only).

If you have any questions, please contact me directly. Thanks again for your time and consideration.

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Blogs, Drips, Landings & Mini-Series

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Nobody, and I mean nobody, I’ve ever talked to about Sales Process Media (SPM) disputes its value in advancing a sales process. If you had all of the knowledge, experience and insight of your entire sales team embedded in digital format (image, text, audio, video) and available for on-demand distribution 24 X 7 X 365, you would have an awesome competitive advantage. No customer or prospect question would ever go unanswered. The reach of your message would be limited only by the reach of the internet itself.

We all need Sales Process Media, but creating SPM is oh so challenging.

elephantPardon the cliché, but the only way to eat that elephant is one bite at a time. So here are a few bites… Take a quick look at this and this, then start building Blogs, Drips, Landings & Mini-Series.

Blogs:  You know what a blog is. If you don’t have one, start one. Now! If you don’t have the budget for one, get a freebie here. If you do have one, post something to it every week. Even if your writing stinks, it will improve with time. And you can also use the content of others by employing a curation strategy. Your blog (and/or your organization’s blog) is your SPM base. Ya’ gotta’ have it.

Drips:  You know what an e-mail distribution list is. Create, maintain and use several of them to send bits of valuable knowledge to selected customers on a regular basis. Emphasis on “bits” and “valuable!” (Did you really need me to tell this?) And don’t forget that your blog must have a “Sign-Up for e-Mail” option.

Landings:  Or more specifically, Landing Pages. A Landing Page is a highly focused, single-purpose, standalone web page. Most significantly, a Landing Page has a very clear Call-To-Action! (or even multiple calls to action) That call could be as soft-sell as Read more about Sales Management Development, as direct as Buy Now!, or something in-between like Sign up for short course on Content Harvesting.

Mini-Series:  You know what a TV mini-series is. Pick a key product or service of yours and make your own mini-series. Doesn’t have to be video-based. Could be. Or could be audio. Could be plain text. Could be some combination. Here’s an example for Content Harvesting, an essential foundation for a robust Sales Process Media strategy

If the above sounds like a ton of work, that’s because it IS a ton of work. It took you your life-to-date to learn what you now know. To learn enough to lead your team to sell more faster. Sales Process Media accelerates and extends your ability to use all that learning to sell even more, even faster.

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Beware the north-bound bull!

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I just read the bio of an author whose business book I was about buy. The bio contained the word “guru.”  I did not buy the book. Someone who uses the self-descriptor “guru” isn’t. It tells me that the poor sap is probably desperate for some recognition; or maybe at least one book sale to a non-family member.

…not only that!

Anyone who does not stop others from bestowing that dopey descriptor is just as bad. It smacks of the distasteful flavor of phony humility. Phony humility about some alleged expertise.

…which reminds me!

Ditto all of the above for the self-described “expert.” Anyone who genuinely pursues expertise of any kind knows that the more one learns, the more one realizes how much remains unknown.

…and one more thing!

“Secret sauce.” Seriously? Maybe NASA or the NSA or the visitors from outer space maybe have some secret sauce. A google search will turn up gobs of detail on whatever other “secret” the “expert guru” claims to know.

So, my friends, beware the south-facing ends of all northbound bulls.

BullsAsses

End-O-Rant

This outfit understands Leadership

Leadership

Some organizations understand leadership. I mean really understand. Studying what these organizations believe and what they do provides great insight for any sales leader. So read and heed the Leadership Principles of the U.S. Marine Corps.

MarineCorp

  1. Be technically and tactically proficient – Maintain a high level of competence in your Military Occupational Specialty. Your proficiency will earn the respect of your Marines.
  2. Know yourself and seek self-improvement – Use the leadership traits to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. An accurate and clear understanding of yourself and a comprehension of group behavior will help you determine the best way to deal with any given situation.
  3. Know your Marines and look out for their welfare – You should know your Marines and how they react to different situations. This knowledge can save lives. Knowledge of your Marines’ personalities will enable you, as the leader, to decide how best to employ each Marine.
  4. Keep your Marines informed - Informed Marines perform better and, if knowledgeable of the situation, can carry on without your personal supervision. Providing information can inspire initiative.
  5. Set the example – Set the standards for your Marines by personal example. The Marines in your unit all watch your appearance, attitude, physical fitness and personal example. If your personal standards are high, then you can rightfully demand the same of your Marines.
  6. Ensure the task is understood, supervised and accomplished – Before you can expect your Marines to perform, they need to know what is expected from them. Communicate your instructions in a clear, concise manner, and allow your Marines a chance to ask questions. Check progress periodically to confirm the assigned task is properly accomplished.
  7. Train your Marines as a team – Train your Marines with a purpose and emphasize the essential elements of teamwork and realism. Teach your unit to train, play and operate as a team. Be sure that all Marines know their positions and responsibilities within the team framework.
  8. Make sound and timely decisions - Rapidly estimate a situation and make a sound decision based on that estimation. There’s no room for reluctance to make a decision, revise it. Marines respect the leader who corrects mistakes immediately.
  9. Develop a sense of responsibility in your subordinates – Show your Marines you are interested in their welfare by giving them the opportunity for professional development. Assigning tasks and delegating authority promotes mutual confidence and respect between the leader and the team.
  10. Employ your unit in accordance with its capabilities – Successful completion of a task depends upon how well you know your unit’s capabilities. Seek out challenging tasks for your unit, but be sure your unit is prepared for and has the ability to successfully complete the mission.
  11. Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions – Actively seek out challenging assignments for your professional development. Seeking responsibilities also means that you take the responsibility for your actions. You are responsible for all your unit does or fails to do. Stick by your convictions and be willing to accept justified and constructive criticism.

Funny thing about applications of your products & services…

Rodin's Thinker in Silhouette 0782

Of course you already know that your sales team needs to maintain a “solving-customer-problems” mindset. “Sell the application not the product” truly is the only way to fly. All high performing sales professionals live that philosophy and high performing product/service development and marketing folks live it as well.

There’s a funny thing about applications though.

Sometimes we’re trying to solve the wrong problem – even if we have a truly great product/service to sell.

Edison_and_phonographConsider Thomas Edison who invented (among many other things) the phonograph. This world class product developer had one of the biggest winners of all time, yet his early sales efforts were absolutely dismal. He knew that the best application of phonograph technology was to record a voice message and then stick it in the mail so the recipient could listen to it.

I can imagine his sales pitch.  “How cool is that! Your customers, friends and family can hear the inflections, tone and nuances of your voice. You can communicate far more information than you ever could with the written word.”

Nobody bought. Not until somebody else came up with the “record music” application. Then sales skyrocketed.

Not Bell, but an AT&T actor AFTER they got the application right!

Not Bell, but an AT&T actor AFTER they got the application right!

Or consider Alexander Graham Bell. You may not know that his sales pitch consisted of explaining how his telephone mic could be placed in front of an orchestra and that someone many miles away with one of his telephone receivers could hear a live performance.

Nobody bought. Not until somebody else came up with the “have a live business conversation” application. Then sales skyrocketed.

Two of the greatest product developers of all time were dead wrong and worked like crazy to solve the wrong problem with the wrong application.

So keep those minds open, sales leaders. Your product/service developers and marketing teams will have beautifully prepared application scenarios for you. And they will make loads of sense. They might also be missing the boat.