by Todd Youngblood
When you blow all the smoke away, knowledge is the only thing any of us has to sell any more. That’s always been the case for a consulting-type business, but today, profitably selling even the most commoditized of commodities requires lots and lots of knowledge. It’s all about finding and/or purchasing and/or packaging and/or shipping and/or installing and/or applying and/or maintaining and/or disposing of and/or… It’s all about the intellectual content. It’s the knowledge, stupid!
Frankly, if I need to spend lot of time and effort to convince you that knowledge – genuine knowledge – is at the heart of sales success, regardless of the business you’re in, you shouldn’t bother reading what follows. On the other hand, if you’re trying desperately to figure out how on earth Web 2.0 and Social Media can be used to help sell your stuff, join the club!
Personally, with regard to things like blogs, podcasts, internet radio and YouTube, I’ve said MANY times, “I just don’t see how it applies to B2B sales.” I’ve particularly struggled with finding value in LinkedIn, no less the “kid stuff” like Facebook and Twitter. Wikis were the only thing that had any intuitive appeal, and that was mostly due to stunning success of Wikipedia. That said, I’ve established wikis for 9 different groups focused on collecting sales best practices. Everyone loves the idea, but getting anyone to actually contribute content is like pulling teeth. Lots of work, not so much reward.
So what changed my mind? Hey, I’m a capitalist. It was the money. A few people and organizations have already made a ton of money, and they’re making still more using the social networking tools. And as you may have guessed by now, they’re doing it by giving away their knowledge for free.
Go to TED and get blown away with the incredible – free – intellectual content. TED makes money by selling tickets to its conference. (Those associated with an industry conference, are you paying attention?) Up till 2005, they sold around 1,000 tickets for around $4,000 a pop. “Not bad,” you say? Well in 2006 they made it invitation-only and started posting ALL of the talks online for free. In 2009 they sold 1,500 tickets for $6,000 each. For the math challenged, that’s 50% more tickets at a 50% higher price. That’s 125% higher revenue in 3 years. (What bad economy???!!!)
And then there’s MIT’s Open Courseware site. You can pay north of $36,000 for one semester’s tuition. OR… you can get ALL of the course content online for NOTHING. Anybody out there think MIT is going under any time soon?
And then there’s Richard Muller. His claim to fame is a course about hard-core Physics. Yeah… quarks, general relativity, what the universe was like 8 nanoseconds after the big-bang… All that stuff you just can’t wait to learn about. (Talk about a tough sell!!!) Well the core lecture has been viewed on YouTube by over 300,000 people. Oh, and the book, now four years old and in its fourth printing still shows up on the high end of Amazon’s top seller list. How much commission could you rake in if you were the Richard Muller of your industry?
OK, these examples are from industries different than yours, so this concept doesn’t apply to you, right? WRONG!!! It’s all about the knowledge and intellectual content associated with your products and services – remember? It’s a taste of that intellectual content that draws those customers in. It is now pretty much an incontrovertible fact that giving away some of your intellectual content – aggressively giving it away for free – is really, really good for business. And how hard is it to get started? Turns out, not very. We’ve had this monthly e-newsletter for going on 9 years and we’ll continue it, but now it’s also a podcast and a blog with an RSS feed. We’ve taken the first step to producing an internet radio show and for $180 and a 15 minute time investment, acquired the technology and know-how required to produce as many YouTube videos as we want. Personally, I just got a twitter “handle” and a LinkedIn profile, but frankly haven’t figured out exactly how to exploit them for sales purposes …yet.
You can go ahead and ignore all this stuff, but me? I’m going to chase it down. This stuff is too powerful to ignore.