January 3, 2011

Educate and Earn the Right To a Conversation by Jim Bloedau of Information Advantage Group

As you launch into the New Year, you’ll be considering whether your investments in research and training are appropriate for sales and marketing to educate the channel and prospects about your company’s products. Should you write about new mobile tech? How about hand-held health, the aging in place movement, HIEs, ACOs or the coming physician consolidation in healthcare? Nothing is more important, or as difficult, as developing the right content that breeds buyer-trust in your company and more importantly the sales staff.

All vendors are challenged by how to cultivate, fertilize and weed their sales people to
become more effective -- and, more importantly, how to influence or get ahead of buyer’s calls for RFP. The temptation is to use the latest “new thing” that has been industrialized for marketing like behavioral targeting, social media, streaming and mobile crowd sourcing. Much of this comes from the fast changing publishing and agency industry which is becoming even faster because such a big part of it is about "the new." As a marketer, sales professional or buyer, we’ve all experienced the cycle of a seemingly new idea, new technology, or new service being exploited only for its newness and then discarded to the “used ideas” pile. Each new thing spawns a communication category that further dilutes the amount of revenue available to all those successful programs that are in place.

What are we to do? If we evaluate what’s worked and is still working and needed, healthcare and financial services have institutionalized adapting to change and can teach us a lot?

Training: These two industries are extremely technical and predicated on high knowledge and trust - both have intensive continuing education requirements. Competency that minimizes risk is the goal; the transference of this to the customer’s perception of how you add to their knowledge and minimize risks overall during the buy-cycle is the challenge.

Research: Is a coffee cup with the product logo on it or social chatter the best way to approach the professionals and customers served by these two industries? Not really, high professionals value new research to build on their knowledge and refer back to it as they experience greater comfort and results more rather than merely relying on their opinion. This is the primary responsibility of any professional – a person who puts the customer first.

If you believe that the sales staff earns the right to hold a conversation with a prospect, then you also know that instead of providing rhetoric over research...or opinion over knowledge, professionals want to have conversations that will help them form a vision of their path forward ahead of the RFP process starting. Once this cycle has been started, then the same well-trained sales staff can put each new media innovation in a context and be able to effectively put their own communication opportunities in the best light.

Nothing is more important, or as difficult, as developing the right content that breeds buyer-trust in your company and more importantly the sales staff…How are you doing?

image credit: debaird

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