She isn’t a salesperson. She’s an information concierge.
Jill Rowley, EloQueen and marketing automation evangelist, represents the transformation occurring in today’s sales organizations. Instead of waiting to push products and services at the bottom of the funnel, salespeople are now educators, thought leaders and trusted consultants. With the help of new technology and social networks, they build relationships with buyers far earlier and provide them with the information they need to succeed, whether or not a deal is in the works.
This is social selling, and Jill is at the forefront.
The New Buyer’s Journey
“Buying behavior has changed,” said Jill during a recent phone interview. “People buy not from people they like, but from people they trust. And those people they trust are usually in their social networks. This is why we’re seeing a change…and a greater importance being put on customer advocacy.”
Whereas buyers used to reach out directly to vendors to learn about solutions, today buyers go through 57% the buying process before engaging with sales. Buyers now search for valuable information online and seek recommendations from their networks.
To capitalize on these changes, Jill continually shares ideas, opinions and content on topics she cares about—the same topics that matter to her clients—and develops her own reputation as a resource for anyone seeking information on marketing automation. As the bestselling book The Challenger Sale confirms, people researching solutions have an urgent need “not to buy something, but to learn something.” These people, in turn, are connecting with Jill, their information concierge, and cultivating a relationship based on knowledge sharing and trust.
From Selling to Educating and Informing
Authors of The Challenger Sale Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson explain that reps who are able to “teach customers something new and valuable about how to compete in their market” are more successful at winning long term customers. “The best companies don’t win through the quality of the products they sell, but through the quality of the insight they deliver as part of the sale itself.” Jill and the Eloqua team whole-heartedly invest in this philosophy. And it’s working to bring customers and sales together in a new way.
ABC no longer stands for Always Be Closing. With social, it means Always Be Connecting. Connections, content, close.
Both sides gain from this method of engaging. Customers learn how to be more efficient and successful, and sales gains invaluable trust from and insight into their clients. And it’s clear that Jill truly values and respects the relationships that emerge from this strategy. For example, she refuses to use the word “prospect,” which she considers “a dirty word,” to describe potential buyers. Instead, she calls them “future advocates.”
This intentional word choice (along with redefining herself as an information concierge) casts aside the outdated notion that her job starts and ends with a signature on the dotted line. Instead, her role is to give people the information and knowledge they need to succeed. “I want to be out there instructing, informing, challenging and providing insight,” and it doesn’t stop when the deal is done. “I think of everyone who’s involved in the buying process as future advocates of marketing automation, of Eloqua, and of Jill Rowley.”
Personal Branding and Customer Advocacy
In fact, Jill invests just as much in her own brand as she does in her company’s. Eloqua empowers the entire sales team to do so by educating them on personal branding and tools, including the use of LinkedIn Sales Navigator, to connect more efficiently and effectively. Eloqua understands that, more than ever, its sales organization needs to provide the right information at the right time.
And with social selling and the Challenger sale, best practices concerning the timing of thought leadership and other content are changing. For example, holding back case studies and testimonials until buyers reached the bottom of the funnel was a common practice, based on the assumption that they wouldn’t want to consume company-centric content until later in the buying process. However, says Jill, “we need to bring customer advocacy and references and success stories to the beginning of the buying process to shape the user’s vision of what the solution looks like.” Without a clear understanding of how a product or service helps customers, potential advocates may be left in the dark too long. “If you’re waiting until the end, you’ve already lost the deal—or you’ve won it–by the time they get around to checking your references.”
The ways we buy and sell are constantly evolving and Jill Rowley is at the forefront of harnessing content to fuel successful social selling.
Jill spoke on content-driven social selling at Content Marketing Bootcamp, a one-day conference on February 21st in the Bay Area. If you weren’t able to make it, you can download her full presentation below.