“What kind of sales do you do?”
It was a perfectly reasonable question, given that I was at a client’s sales conference where we were all learning how to engage with today’s business customers. But it was a question I’d never been asked before, since I don’t work in sales.
At first, I hesitated, unsure how to answer. Then I thought about all the valuable insights I’d been hearing from industry leaders at the event.
“PR,” I responded simply. “I sell my client’s ideas and stories to the media.”
Yes, we are in the storytelling business. In public relations, as in sales, it’s vital to understand buyer needs and wants; to connect; to clearly articulate; to provide valuable content; and to build the authentic relationships that allow us to tell client stories through the media. We create compelling narratives that move people to action.
According to Forrester, 68% of B2B buyers would prefer not to interact with a sales rep. I imagine many reporters feel the same way about PR professionals in this era of impersonalized and untargeted email blasts.
Media, like buyers, don’t want to be sold to.
They want interactions that provide customized data and bespoke insights that help them learn something new and clearly demonstrate how stories impact end users.
In the age of Amazon, Spotify and Uber, expectations have shifted dramatically, and the best sales and PR professionals embrace multiple social channels and digital tools to turn data into insights that enable more meaningful connections.
People still buy from who they know, like and trust. But these days it’s all about smart, personalized communication that allows sales reps – and PR professionals – to deliver a better experience, with genuinely helpful information and content. We get increasingly less time with our targets, so the pressure is on to make each interaction worthwhile.