Buyers today can get all the information they need about a given product or service on the vendor's website. This means salespeople need to offer value to prospects beyond merely explaining features. Whereas salespeople were once primarily product experts, they now need to become experts on their prospects' industries and businesses to stay relevant.
But how do you advertise your business savvy? One of the best ways to identify yourself as an expert and express your unique viewpoint is through blogging. When salespeople blog, prospects can familiarize themselves with the rep's approach and begin to form trust. Not to mention that blogs can help sales reps attract qualified buyers to them -- no outbound outreach required.
This is the argument in favor of salespeople blogging. However, there are equally strong points against the practice.
So, should salespeople blog? We asked six experts to weigh in. As you'll see, the answer isn't a firm "yes" or "no." But the nuances are incredibly informative for any Sales or Marketing leader thinking about instituting such an initiative.
What are the benefits of salespeople blogging?
Blogging "shows how knowledgeable we are -- not only about our products and our industry, but also about our customers’ needs and wants and what’s happening in their industry. Sharing this knowledge attracts the right people. They follow us and get to know our reputation." - Alice Heiman, founder and chief sales officer of sales consulting and coaching firm Alice Heiman LLC
"Today salespeople must not only find their customers and identify customers’ early buying patterns -- they must also help customers find them. Writing blogs is a great way to establish a brand. Salespeople who want to blog can position themselves as a person with a viewpoint and perspective to share. They can bring insights to their customers, spark agreement and debate, develop relationships with peers and other bloggers, and help customers find them." - Linda Richardson, founder of Richardson and faculty at The Wharton School
"I think writing is one of the most important skills a salesperson can have and blogging helps develop those skills." - Craig Elias, CEO of SHiFT Selling, Inc.
Should salespeople blog? If so, where -- LinkedIn, their company blog, a personal blog, etc.?
"Yes, [on] all three, as each site is going to reach a different audience and have different outcomes. For nearly everyone, LinkedIn is going to be the best platform, but only if you have taken the time to develop connections with people who are probable to 'like' your posts and thus push them out to more people." - Mark Hunter, speaker, trainer, and consultant at The Sales Hunter
"Yes and no. Creating trust and expertise is crucial for [a rep's] credibility, particularly in high-end and complex selling environments. Creating original content -- about best practices, not about the awesomeness of their solution -- is a great tactic, but it takes time away from selling. So, I suggest an occasional original blog be interspersed with more frequent sharing, retweeting, and reposting of marketing-provided content. In terms of which venues are best, it’s wise to try them all and see which gains the most traction." - Peter Ostrow, vice president and research group director for the customer management research practice and sales effectiveness principal analyst at the Aberdeen Group
"I support blogging as a marketing activity and know it will increase sales. However I don’t think there is enough incremental value in having sellers blog for their corporations to warrant them blogging directly. I think companies are better served with sellers as 'content curators' rather than 'content creators.' Provide sellers with pieces they can republish to their social networks and personal blogs, share with clients, and talk about at networking events." - Colleen Francis, owner of Engage Selling Solutions
"I think LinkedIn is the best place to start blogging because your network becomes your readers and it's easy to promote your posts within the groups you are a part of. Once you've mastered blogging on LinkedIn you can move to guest blogging for other sites where you can get a wider audience." - Craig Elias
"On a practical level, there are questions such as: Where does blog writing fit into the salesperson’s priorities? Does the salesperson have the writing and editing skills needed? Does the company [need to] censor? How will the blog be managed, and what is the quality of the content? If blogging for any of these reasons is something salespeople can't commit to, they can ask and answer questions on the sites their customers visit or comment on a thread." - Linda Richardson
"In very limited cases, salespeople should blog. With the right circumstances it will be helpful. For most companies, I recommend that marketing and sales leadership be the authors of the blogs and that salespeople be trained to share that information properly by email and social media. I also recommend that we teach salespeople to be content curators. Salespeople need to elevate their status as experts in the eyes of customers and prospects. Blogging is one way they could do that. But they could also do it by curating and sharing good content online, holding training webinars, speaking at events their customers and prospects attend, and solving problems." - Alice Heiman
What are some of the downsides to having salespeople blog?
"There are so many issues about having salespeople blog. Getting them to actually do it is only one of them. In companies where there are hundreds of salespeople, it would be a logistical nightmare any way you tried to do it. Brand and reputation are everything in this market. Having salespeople blogging on their own could be damaging." - Alice Heiman
"In the end it’s customers, not just eyeballs, that you want. Too many people believe if all they do is crank out blog content, everything else will take care of itself. People relying on that strategy will soon find themselves broke. First of all, blogging takes time, and it might be months or even years before your blog content gains traction. Only a fool would believe content -- even good content -- is going to translate into immediate sales." - Mark Hunter
"The benefits are more exposure, and more discussions about your company in the market. The downsides are also more exposure, and more discussions about your company. Assess the risks and requirements in your own market before opening up blogs to your sales teams. Can you control the messaging that is being published about your company tightly enough for your satisfaction and profit?" - Colleen Francis
"The downside is a rep going off the rails in terms of style, promises, pricing, or overly aggressive or competitive behavior. An editor from the marketing team should try to provide oversight." - Peter Ostrow
Should salespeople receive training before they blog?
"Anyone who blogs should have training. There are many dos and don’ts for writing blogs and anyone who is going to write needs to be trained to follow them. Having a writer who interviews salespeople and gives them the byline may be a good idea." - Alice Heiman
"No. The key thing is making sure what you write is grammatically correct and compelling. It may be helpful to have another person review and edit what you write before you post it. Yes, there are things you can do with regard to keywords, but if you share compelling copy, search engines will do the rest." - Mark Hunter
"Yes! When you create or curate content you are representing yourself and your company publically. If you are going to allow sellers to blog, they must be trained on how to write, and what to write. They should also be given written guidelines about what they can write and what they can republish from others." - Colleen Francis
"Yes, and their first couple of entries, at least, should be supervised until they are up to speed." - Peter Ostrow
What are some tips to help salespeople get started with blogging and/or curating content?
"Before any salesperson blogs, they should first focus on building out their LinkedIn profile. Your LinkedIn profile will do more for you than anything else in terms of allowing people to become confident in you. My suggestion is to then use the LinkedIn publish feature as the platform for you to begin sharing content. Don’t even think of going beyond that point until the posts you put on LinkedIn are gaining both views and comments." - Mark Hunter
"The best reps earn their buyers’ trust by helping them do their jobs better, before the sale. Learn about your buyers’ challenges and provide value -- for free, in the spirit of sharing user-generated content -- by at first curating, then creating, content that will make you look good. Don’t use your publication platform to sell the product -- just to educate." - Peter Ostrow
"Show them how to find industry experts to follow and gather that content using Pocket, Feedly or some similar tool. Teach them how to share that content on social media and with email. More importantly, show them how to follow their customers and prospects online and interact with them in a meaningful way." - Alice Heiman
What do you think -- should salespeople blog? Give us your opinion in the comments.