Mike Wisner was my first boss in publishing back in the days of John Denver and disco. He was a unique, colorful, and brilliant character. I learned so much from Mike that some of the lessons he taught me still inform my approach to sales and marketing. In fact, in many ways he was a pioneer content marketer within the sales arena before anyone had imagined such a concept.
Learning a Vital Selling Secret from Mike Wisner before I Ever Got to the Office
Mike delivered a shocking and memorable sales lesson in my first 5 minutes on the job–it was all about why it was essential to get very, very close to your customers and how to make that happen.
He picked me up on an icy January morning at O’Hare Airport on my first day on my first ad sales job for Gorman Publishing. As soon as I had sat down in the passenger seat of his car, he told me, “To be successful, you have to get in bed with your customers.”
Before I had a chance to recover from my initial shock, he described how vital it is to get exceptionally close to your customers in order to sell successfully. Of course, that’s a lot harder to do than to say. Mike went on to explain that close customer relationships depend on becoming super-knowledgeable about their companies, their products, and their markets. In addition, you had to become an industry expert, too.
Why is that important? Once you, as a salesperson, have become an expert in every area that is essential to your customers, you become worthy of their trust. They know that you know what is truly important about the daunting competitive and market-driven challenges they face everyday.
The Salesperson As Thought Leader–And Content Marketer
Once you have developed relevant expertise, you have the opportunity to become a thought leader from the perspective of each and every one of your customers. They will look to you for information that will help make them smarter and more successful. And, that’s before they ever buy anything from you. Then, when it comes time to discuss your products and services, your customers will trust that you have their best interests at heart–and care about helping them to succeed.
Simply put, when you call, they pick up the phone. And, as I learned from observing Mike, when he called, his customers–even at the highest levels of very large companies–picked up the phone. His conversations always began by discussing market trends, industry issues, and maybe even a little business gossip. After sharing valuable and engaging content, only then would he segway into a sales conversation.
Sadly, Mike is no longer with us. But if he were, he would be completely at home in a world where content marketing is a core component of the marketing strategies of companies from small to huge.
I learned a critical customer relationship lesson from Mike:
By becoming a thought leader in the eyes of your customers, you position yourself to deliver solutions that will help them succeed. Essentially, content marketing works just as well for sales professionals as it does for marketers.