Blogs are an excellent way to establish employees as thought leaders. And if a sales rep becomes a regular contributor to your organization's blog, it's more likely prospects will trust that rep as an industry expert—someone who knows what they're doing. And if the blogging is done correctly... as someone who is friendly and honest—someone they can trust.
Sales reps are great at selling—of course—but that doesn't always translate into being a good writer. That's OK, though; not everyone is a great writer (though everybody writes).
For all the good you're trying to accomplish with your blog, publishing mediocre content can have the exact opposite effect: It can make a sales rep (and your company or product) seem boring, pushy, or simply really bad at communicating.
So, if you've identified a sales rep who wants to contribute but doesn't have the time to write consistent articles or isn't as powerful on the page as he or she is in person, a good solution is to have a marketer ghostwrite the blog posts.
In fact, that can be a great way for the rep to develop a reputation and share his or her helpful experience and point of view while staying true to branding and messaging—all without being too salesy.
The Best Ghostwriting Approach for Various Scenarios
The amount of effort you as a ghostwriter will need to contribute with each blog post or article ultimately depends on the availability of the sales rep and his or her writing abilities.
Here's a quick way to help you figure out which among the four possible options is best for your situation:
1. Copyedit: Good Writer/Lots of Time
For this group of contributors, what you will be doing isn't necessarily ghostwriting so much as it is copyediting.
When you have a sales rep who can write and has time to create content, it's often in your best interest to let that contributor write a draft in his or her own writing style and voice; you can then copyedit the text to ensure it is within branding guidelines, grammatically correct, and properly optimized for search engines.
Note: If you come across a sales rep in this category, then hold on to that person as tightly as possible. These are your reps who understand content marketing. They know their audience, they know what they want to read about, and they deliver high-quality, engaging, and consistent content.
2. Outline: Good Writer/Not Much Time
If you have an eloquent and talented contributor who doesn't have a lot of time to organize his or her thoughts, consider using an outline: The sales rep would create a blog post outline, which the ghostwriter could then flesh out to create a complete draft.
An outline can help teach the ghostwriter about a topic, direct him/her to certain sources, and still help the ghostwriter retain much of the writing style, voice, and personality of the sales rep author.
3. From Scratch: Struggling Writer/Not Much Time
This is when a ghostwriter is the most independent. Though you may work with the sales rep up front to identify a topic or gather some additional direction, ultimately it's up to you to create content for an article. To do so, you can use other employees as resources, along with existing company resources or research, as well as credible external sources.
You arguably have the most freedom as a ghostwriter in this scenario, but you may want to consider either challenging the sales rep to contribute more by using another strategy (such as the outline option mentioned above)—or even finding another sales rep for your company's blog.
Helping someone become a thought leader or prominent blogger if that person has no intention or time to meet you even part way is not a good long-term strategy. Plus, not having readily available resources, such as subject-matter experts, can make ghostwritten content stale or out of touch.
4. Interview: Good Writer/Not Much Time
This situation is my favorite, because it encourages collaboration and builds relationships between sales teams and marketers—a relationship that notoriously is not as cohesive as it should be.
In this scenario, you and a sales rep (or team) will chat either on the phone or in person about a topic. During the interview, the ghostwriter can quickly learn about a subject right from the source and can help steer the conversation away from any topics that are too salesy.
The Ghostwriter Interviewing Process: Sales Rep Edition
In my experience, sales reps see blogging as a way to further promote what they are selling and to gain more leads. Makes sense, right? Except that people who read blogs don't want to read a 500-word ad. Nearly every person looking at a blog is looking to learn or be entertained by something interesting and relevant for free. State that up front when talking with a sales rep.
If you start to interview a rep and soon find he or she is looking to push a product or solution first and foremost, try this: Rather than asking about the features and benefits when you interview, ask about the early stages in the sales process. For example:
- To whom are you talking during a first or second meeting?
- In what situation are prospects where they're willing to give you the time of day?
- What problem do these prospects need to solve? What is the reward for solving the problem and what is the consequence of not solving the problem?
- What questions or objections do they have?
Now, instead of writing about how great the product is (boring!), you can instead address some of the subjects discussed in these very early meetings and answer questions or concerns your readers are likely to bring up when they are ready to reach out.
This approach builds precious trust and credibility with your readers while shortening the sales cycle.
Remind the Sales Reps: "It's not always about you(r product)!"
Some of my most engaging ghostwritten blogs have come from having asked just one or two interview questions. Sales reps live and breathe their industry, and they always have an ear to the ground for new and relevant trends.
They're also great talkers.
Spark the right conversation... and let the content roll in; just be sure to record your meetings! Many times I've been able to transcribe lengthy tangents into paragraphs of pure gold.
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Blogging can be a great outlet for sales reps, but it's up to us as marketers to ensure the brand's best face is put forward with a clear and concise message that's appropriate for the time and place.