As published on Forbes.com

Kelly runs a business services company. They provide exceptional service for their clients across industries. After initial meetings, Kelly and her team noticed that their potential customers would often stop returning phone calls or emails. Kelly commented that their follow-up seemed to sound like begging. They send a note or leave a message that says “Just checking in to see if you’ve made a decision yet.” Kelly asked me what they could do to stop begging for business. I explained that they needed to adapt their sales and marketing for today’s customer.

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“Just checking in to see if you’ve made a decision yet.” This type of follow-up gives the impression you’re just begging for your customer’s business

I am honored to work with companies across industries on how to grow their business. We follow a specific, consistent process to achieve results. One of the most surprising steps for many of my clients is that I insist that they align their sales and marketing organizations to ensure sharp and consistent messaging and content. The shame is that in most organizations, businesses overlook the importance of a tight connection between the two parts of the organization. When you recognize how today’s customers have evolved in their buying habits, the sales and marketing connection becomes obvious.

How We (As Customers) Buy

Research shows that more than half of the buying decision is made before actively engaging with the seller’s organization. Some research suggests that the number exceeds seventy percent. As a customer, when you are looking to solve an issue, do you start at a store, or do you perform a search? Over the past several years, we’ve been conditioned to search first, and ask questions later.

When we find information, we seek to understand our options, uncover the expert in the field, and ultimately reduce the risk associated with our decision. If you boil those elements into a single concept, customers are seeking someone they can trust.

Sales Is Marketing – Marketing Is Sales

We used to think of marketing and sales as having two distinct roles: The Marketing Team was there to create interest and awareness. The Sales Team was supposed to build customer confidence and urgency. It doesn’t work that way anymore. As more of the buying process continues to shift on-line, you have a huge opportunity to build customer confidence and uncover urgency through content.

As Marcus Sheridan of TheSalesLion.com says,

“Content marketing is your company’s ability to be the best and most useful teacher in the world about what you do.”

Marcus goes on to say that when companies resist the notion of embracing content marketing, it’s often because someone internally seeks approval for “content marketing.” There are likely very few CEOs waking up thinking “We should do more content marketing,” adds Sheridan. Being the most respected teacher in the space, on the other hand, might help get people on board.

Where Do You Begin

What are the questions your ideal customers might ask that would indicate they would need your help? If you sell regulatory services, your ideal customer might wonder, “How do I know if I am in compliance with certain regulations?” If you sell web design services, your ideal client might ask “How to increase web traffic to your business website?” These questions become great headlines for articles. When you seek information, do you want biased information, or unbiased? If you said “biased,” stop reading and turn in your secret decoder ring. Since you want unbiased information, so does your customer. Where do you get the questions?

Your sales and customer service teams are regularly in front of customers. They receive multiple questions per day. Ask them for the questions they hear most often. The good news is that those same people on your team regularly answer those questions. With a brief discussion, you’ll have the information you need for valuable content.

How To Integrate Marketing And Sales

Once you have created great content, you are now armed with great tools for follow-up. This means that instead of saying “Hey, just checking in to see if you’ve made a decision, yet…” You can send a note that says “When we met, you asked a great question about driving traffic to your website. I’ve included a link to an article that might be helpful. Once you’ve had a chance to review the article, please let me know if you have questions.”

Great content helps to not only attract the right customers, but serves as a valuable tool for maintaining a conversation and building confidence and trust with your potential clients. The key, however, is to ensure that your sales organization is feeding relevant topics to marketing, and then using that content as part of a follow-up strategy with clients. Marcus Sheridan and I are conducting a joint half-day workshop at Content Marketing World in Cleveland on September 8, 2015 on this very topic. If you are attending, please send me any topics you’d like to discuss in advance.

Next Steps

Pull your team together to brainstorm on the top questions customers are asking. Think about what concerns your clients might have about doing business with you. Be sure to create content (text, or video, and/or audio) to address each issue. Once you have the foundation for content, be sure to arm your team with the links to share with your customers. You’ll be amazed at how much trust you can build just by addressing common questions with honesty and transparency. If you decide to ignore integrating sales and marketing, then invest in cardboard signs, markers, and tin cups since you’ll be doing plenty of begging for business.

It’s Your Turn

Where have you gained confidence because the seller shared great content?