Guest post from Dave Brock, President at Partners in EXCELLENCE
Matt stirred up a hornet’s nest with his post on “Sales People Should Not Blog.” The discussion at CustomerThink was very interesting.
Actually, I don’t think Matt took a strong enough position. I don’t think it’s a good investment in time to have sales people blogging.
This whole issue of blogging comes up every once in a while. Often, it’s brought up by the “social selling crowd.” Blogging is an important element of an enterprise’s presence in social channels. It is a very powerful tool. In our own company, our blogs are the cornerstone of much of our marketing and social strategies.
Also, it’s important that sales people appropriately leverage social strategies as part of their overall customer engagement process. But this is not a case of if A=B=C, then A=C. There are plenty of other things sales people can do to engage socially, without wasting their time, I mean spending their time blogging. They can leverage these channels for research, to listen to customers, competitors and the industry, to engage in discussions, to build their networks, to even thoughtfully curate content.
There are some that argue sales people need to develop relevant content, with the implication that marketing isn’t doing their job, so sales people need to step in to fill the gap. That’s not the way to effectively solve problems in the organization. Marketing needs to step up to their responsibility in developing relevant content. No CMO I know would disagree with this. Clearly, marketing can leverage sales for a lot of great input and ideas, after all sales is the closest to the customer, so sales probably has a great perspective on what’s most needed.
Then there are those who say “If they like to do it, why not,” or “It’s a great way to develop their writing skills.” But then, I’d argue, there are sales people who like to code and are quite good at it, perhaps they should start investing time in coding and development. But there’s more here and I’ll come back to it.
There are those that say, it’s a way of sales people demonstrating leadership and bringing insight to their customers. I think that’s an interesting point, I don’t think blogging is the right mechanism for that. The single most important thing about insight is what I call the “last mile problem.” Incite in a blog or any other marketing content will be, by definition relatively generic. It can be specific to an industry, or even a certain niche or customers. But it will never be specific to me.
That’s the key role sales people have in communicating and engaging the customer in Insight based conversations. They know the customer (the enterprise and individuals) and should be adapting the generic insights to very specific insights and WIIFM for the customer (the enterprise and individual). This is done through conversations, proposals, and other custom communications.
By itself, I think all of these are interesting discussions. I think there are huge merits to sales people blogging—despite what I’ve said before.
BUT……. (You had to know that was coming)
The problem is we can’t view this issue, Should Sales People Blog, in isolation. We have to look at it in the context of all the things that sales people should be doing, and where blogging fits in that hit parade.
Are we to prioritize blogging over a sales person developing and communicating a detailed business justification to win a piece of business, or to write an impactful proposal for why a customer should change, implementing our solution in the process. Are we to prioritize blogging over developing and executing an account plan, preparing for a high impact sales call, managing a pipeline to make sure it is robust and will enable the sales person to hit her numbers? Are we to prioritize an insightful blog to a wide audience over a customer specific insight driven conversation about what it means to them?
There are a whole bunch of things that sales people are responsible for, and no one else, that must take precedence.
Then there’s a further challenge. I don’t know a sales person that isn’t seriously challenged in doing an outstanding job in achieving their objectives. They simply have too much on their plates and too little time to do this. So the reality of blogging is that we have to have them stop doing something in order to blog. What are we going to stop—maintaining the health of the pipeline, not preparing for calls and meetings……..you get my point.
And I don’t encounter a lot of sales people sitting around, twiddling their thumbs, trying to figure out how to spend their time. And for those that I do, I immediately recommend doubling their quotas.
So it is simply unrealistic to add a content development responsibility to sales people. Doing so, means something else—that no one else can do—won’t get done.
Then finally, there’s the issue of consistency and quality of messaging. Requiring sales people to blog, can create terrible confusion in the markets, as each interprets the “message,” brand, value differently. Layer on that a quality challenge, U crt10ly wont the massage to B profshunal end well wrote!
There is a case for blogging. If a person has a passion for it, let them do it—but probably on their own time. Give them some training, set some standards, provide support and coaching. For that matter, if they want to code, embrace it, set standards, provide support and coaching, let them do it on their own time.
Blogging sales people is always a controversial conversation. But it tends to be a meaningless conversation too often, because people forget the other things we want sales people to do.
Matt was right. Sales people shouldn’t be blogging, they have too much else that needs to be a higher priority.