The role of content and conversations in today's buying and selling process

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With a world of information at their fingertips, consumers no longer want to be directly sold to. Nevertheless, telling a good story remains as powerful and important as as ever.

Through social media and blogging, your product and brand can become a valuable resource. Appropriate use can create differentiation and understanding of products, their uses and advances. Content and conversation can create new markets and position products within them.

Buyers armed with smartphones need a place to find the information they seek. By furnishing appropriate content, and fostering community and communication, salespeople can leverage these platforms to answer buyer’s questions – why do anything? Why now? Why your product?

This message is best conveyed through a story – a successful customer, a smart hypothetical. They give data a structure and a flow, making it memorable.

“Stories are memorable. That’s what makes them so effective,” says Kendra Lee, Founder of KLA Group.

“A prospect may not remember the speeds and feeds, but he or she will remember that your company helped The Big Cheese cut overhead by 18% and solved the downtime issue that seemed unsolvable.”

The efforts of Microsoft, Etsy and Buffer provide great examples of exactly this.

Through its blog, Microsoft engages with executives and publishes stories of its customers. This is especially noticeable with the rollout of Microsoft’s cloud offerings – a useful but potentially non-intuitive product for many businesspeople. As Microsoft transitions from licensing Windows to a suite of cloud products, providing this context is vital.

Meanwhile, Etsy’s blog provides much needed curation to the huge array of products available on its platform. On top of directly generating sales, it also creates a less intimidating introduction for newcomers and inspires new creators.

And Buffer, a startup providing social media scheduling, has built a community around productivity on its blog. Putting itself at the forefront of the productivity conversation has allowed Buffer to differentiate itself in an increasingly crowded marketplace of similar apps and services.

As ever, it is the role of sales to convince buyers that the status quo is unacceptable, to educate them about problems and options, and inspire a change. It is only the method that is different – first positioning yourself through content and conversation and then striking while the iron is hot.

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