One of the biggest challenges facing media companies who adopt the inbound marketing methodology is re-training their sales team to sell inbound campaigns to advertisers.
Because Inbound marketing is fundamentally different from many other traditional advertising options—like PPC or event sponsorships—it's often pretty far out of your sales team's comfort zone. Even so, it's worth investing the time and effort into training your sales team on inbound, as the results will likely be much more valuable, long-lasting relationships with your advertisers.
Here are several ways you can make sure your sales team has everything they need to make the transition and grow your inbound marketing program.
Update Your Team's Skill Sets
Just as any sales person would get up to speed with a new product line, so should your media sales team when they shift to selling inbound sponsored content-based campaigns. Make sure they not only understand how this type of advertising differs from what advertisers are more familiar with or are currently using, but also can demonstrate how it's more beneficial.
Being able to convey concepts like using ads to provide educational value to readers, and the fact that inbound leads are much more qualified than click-throughs that come from traditional ad campaigns, will be vital to their ability to sell. Your advertisers may not technically be marketers, but they need to think like one.
Practice What You Preach
If your sales team is still using an outbound sales model to pitch inbound campaigns to advertisers, there’s going to be a big disconnect.
Hold your company's feet to the fire. If you want your sales team convince advertisers that inbound works, they should be able to prove that they can get at least some of their own MQLs through the techniques they're selling. Additionally, by getting them involved in that process, they’ll understand it better and gain first-hand experience to use in conversation with leads.
Imagine if someone said to you “I actually got your contact information through this exact process, let me tell you how it works.” That can be very compelling. One way to do this as a publisher would be to place a CTA on your own site, leading potential advertisers to a landing page with more information on inbound and sponsored content.
Create Compelling Sales Materials
Once your sales team is fully knowledgeable on inbound campaigns as they relate to advertisers, equip them with plenty of materials to close the deal.
Consider creating a template that can be customized for each client, highlighting the stages of a sponsored content campaign launch. Once you have a little experience under your belt, case studies can be a great tool for highlighting top-line stats as well as more qualitative procedures. Also, a short guide or one-pager on Inbound Marketing can be a great piece of material for leads to bring back to their internal teams and decision makers.
Don't forget, your website and audience are one of your most valuable assets. Compile data provided to you from self-identified forms, and create user profiles that demonstrate who your audience is, what products they're interested, and where they are in the buyer's journey.
Allow Your Sales Team to Incentivize Advertisers
Especially when your sales team is new to selling inbound campaigns, it may be helpful to allow them the opportunity to offer potential advertisers an incentive.
For instance, MQLs are what most advertisers want out of a campaign, and preferably with the highest ROI possible on their spend. What if your sales team were to offer a 30-day free trial or discount on their first sponsored content campaign to prove both quality of leads and cost per lead? This could be particularly helpful if the sales team is converting an existing PPC advertising relationship to a sponsored content-based one.
Redefine and Report on Success
Instead of focusing your sales pitch on clicks, impressions, or placement, shift the conversation by defining the value-add concepts that make those variables attractive in the first place. Instead, sell the things marketers and advertisers really care about—MQLs, sales pipeline, and revenue generated. By making the connection between your sponsored content, the type of leads it will generate, and the actions those leads take, you’re closer to answering the advertiser’s question of “how does this affect my bottom line”.
Back these theoretical offerings with numbers from real past campaigns. Passing along these stats not only demonstrates how you measure success, but also the the transparency of your media company in delivering campaign results.
Re-training your sales team is a necessary step when adopting an inbound marketing approach. While it’s not an easy task by any means, these suggestions will get your team a lot closer to closing new (and more valuable) deals for your publication.