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For Organizational Leaders

Brutally honest pros and cons of They Ask, You Answer for digital marketing

They Ask, You Answer sounds great... in theory. But what's the catch?

By Will Schultz

Brutally honest pros and cons of They Ask, You Answer for digital marketing Blog Feature

Alright Levinson, here’s the rub. 

If you’re reading this article, then I’m going to assume a couple of things:

  1. You’re generally familiar with the philosophy of They Ask, You Answer – maybe you’ve read the book, maybe you’ve watched the free introductory course on IMPACT+, or maybe a coworker has talked your ear off and sent you this article.
  2. You’ve been around the block when it comes to new business strategies. You’re skeptical about new ideas. Heck, you might even be cynical. 

And now the question you’re asking is...

"What’s the catch with They Ask, You Answer?"

Presently, I’m helping 15 companies through their own adoption of They Ask, You Answer. And although there’s not one specific “catch” lurking behind a corner, ready to leap out and scream "Gotcha!", there definitely are roadblocks that companies tend to smash their heads into unexpectedly.

🔎 Related resources:

That brings us to our topic for today. I'm going to break down the brutally honest pros and cons that I've seen companies unexpectedly experience while going through the culture change that They Ask, You Answer promises.

Cons of They Ask, You Answer

First, let's rip off the band-aid and talk about the not-so-good stuff. The stuff that gets glossed over when people get excited about the promise of They Ask, You Answer.

1. It's a long process with upfront work for your company

Building trust takes time. Content creation takes time, as does teaching employees how to use the content. 

By adopting the philosophy of They Ask You Answer, you’re committing to provide the highest volume – and highest quality – of the publicly available information in your space, so your ideal buyers can make the most informed decisions possible.

You’re also committing to change how your company delivers information, starting with your prospect and customer communication.

The most common critical feedback that I hear after the first 90 days of working with a leadership team is:

“We completely underestimated the amount of work and change that this journey involves…”

Scary, huh?

However, this feedback has always been followed up with:

“...AND we’re all aligned that this is the most important change our company needs to work toward to survive/thrive for the next 10 years.”

Why am I telling you this? Because leadership teams that succeed in this endeavor are thinking about years, not months. They’re willing to invest more time and money in the next two years and watch it pay off during the following 10+ years.

If you’re next four quarters are somehow “make-or-break” for your company, then you don’t have the necessary mindset to become the voice of your space – yet.

2. The ROI timeline is different for everyone

How long would it take until we see a return on the work with IMPACT?

Canned answer: "It depends."

From the organic inbound side, we're posting valuable educational content (written and video) online and waiting for people to find it and reach out. That means, typically, we won’t see a dramatic increase in organic traffic until the first six months of publishing two to three pieces of content each week. 

Twelve months in, you’re starting to see the “hockey-stick growth” of revenue and "closed won" deals on your CRM chart. Eighteen months in, you’re looking at your business in a dramatically different way.

This timeline also assumes that there isn’t a mountain of quality information online that we have to compete against to be “the best available answer.” If we’re not making the best available information online from the perspective of our buyer, then we’re not generating new traffic.

The sales and sales enablement side is an entirely different story, however. You create positive ROI the moment someone on your sales team closes a deal that would not have otherwise closed without the use or assistance of written and video content in the sales process.

🎓 IMPACT+ course: The revenue team approach to sales enablement content

I’ve seen this take days – I’ve had a company close a $1 million deal with their very first industry-wide cost article – and I’ve also seen this ROI take longer than the organic traffic.

It depends on how effectively your sales/service team can articulate what content they want. It depends on how quickly they change their communication habits to include content through assignment selling. It depends on how much your employees genuinely believe that this will make them more money with less effort.

Not all leadership teams have control over these variables, which leads me to the next con.

3. Your company will fail with They Ask, You Answer if you consider it an add-on to your business

What is They Ask, You Answer going to mean at an individual level to EVERYONE in our company? 

Is it a marketing initiative? A sales initiative? Or both?

Is it just another business framework or summer program?

One of the first questions that I ask leaders in our sales process is, “How much control do you believe you have over your company’s culture?”

The response is telling on so many levels. A typical follow-up question is, “How do you plan to talk about what we’re doing here when we’re six months into working together?”

I ask these questions because they reveal the leadership team’s current understanding of what we’re actually doing together when we say we’re “doing They Ask, You Answer.”

I define company culture as the shared values, beliefs, and characteristics of the employees that make up an organization. 

I’ve written another article about this, but bottom line is that we’re changing the culture of an organization, which is the highest level of change – and without a doubt the most difficult to do successfully.

If you are not in control of the culture of your company and its employees at some level, then adopting the habits that allow you to become the most trusted voice in your industry will be nearly impossible.

Can you teach your sales and service teams to actually type emails differently? What happens when we want to update what a one-on-one looks like between a sales manager and one of their reps?

Will salespeople make time to meet with the videographer to finalize the information for a script or is it okay to be “too busy”?

And remember, this is not about compliance. This is about changing beliefs.

Each of your employees will be asking these questions internally: 

  • What does all of this mean to me individually?
  • Is it worth my time?
  • Is it more work?
  • How will this make me more money?
  • Will this eventually go away if I keep my head down?

That’s why They Ask, You Answer simply cannot be an initiative, a program, or anything that we’re doing “in addition to” everything else. This is not something that sits on top of everything else. It’s a philosophy must instead be embedded into every single part of the organization. 

How you communicate this change to your company is the most complicated and important part of adopting They Ask, You Answer. I’ve met countless leadership teams that never had a real chance at making lasting change to their company and it’s because they had no grasp of their own culture.

3. It’s never finished

Your industry’s landscape is consistently changing.

Your competitors shift, your buyers evolve, your employees churn, your website requires updates, and the publicly available information about your industry constantly grows.

You need to hire people full time to “own” separate digital sales and marketing efforts because their job will never be complete. By agreeing to become the most trusted voice in your space, you are agreeing to stay that trusted voice. 

You’ll be updating and optimizing outdated content. You’ll try to find ways to educate your sales/service team on the hundreds of resources that they have at their disposal. You’ll constantly be chipping away at improving the culture of your employees of being obsessed with buyers questions.

This work will never be “done,” just like WebMD or Wikipedia aren’t ever going to be “done.”

4. It almost always involves employee churn – including hiring and firing

How to do you change people who aren’t willing to change?

The answer is you don't.

You are going to have to hire multiple people in the first year of this journey, including a content manager and a videographer. You may also need a specialist to work on your website, HubSpot, and social media. These three roles simply cannot fall on any less than three people. Those who “wear multiple hats” will fail.

You’ll also need to educate your entire company on why we’re doing this, who the new faces are, and what this all means to them individually. We’ll be asking everyone to buy into this business philosophy, and also to change their role around this philosophy. 

This will require a complete reconstruction of your new employee onboarding process as well as training of current employees.

Rarely have I seen an organization do this where 100% of the company truly understood and believed in the changes, and also adopted the individual role changes. 

You’ll almost certainly come to a point where you’re faced with the following questions:

  • “What’s going to happen when someone on my team doesn’t (or refuses to) change?”
  • “Am I going to bail the first moment someone on my team expresses they don’t like the direction we’re going in?”
  • “Am I comfortable with the fact that true cultural change sometimes means people will opt-out and leave the company?”
  • “Am I willing to do what needs to be done to achieve what’s possible with They Ask, You Answer?”

Pros of They Ask, You Answer... for your buyer

That's right, if you're doing They Ask, You Answer correctly, you'll soon realize it's all about your buyer.

1. Your buyers can choose how they want to learn from you

Treat people how you want to be treated – or at least how they want to be treated

As fellow buyers, we can actually recognize that feeling of frustration, that feeling of “just let me buy from you on my own terms” – and yet as companies, we often fail to allow that to happen. 

The spectrum of how buyers want to learn from your company continues to broaden. Don’t get me wrong, there will always be people that just want to pick up the phone right away. The point I’m making is that buying habits are continuing to become less standardized, and it’s your company’s responsibility to adapt your public information to provide whatever type of buying experience that each customer prefers.

2. Your buyers decide when they're sales-ready

Without a doubt, there is a segment of qualified buyers that for whatever reason never make it past the “marketing” stage of interacting with your company. They could’ve been willing to purchase something the same day they visited your website, and yet the buyer didn’t get the information they needed to consciously move themselves from your “marketing” stage to your “sales” stage. 

Do companies get to decide when a buyer is ready to transition into talking to a sales rep? Nope. Not really. However, you do need to make their path clear when they're ready to do so.

This means something slightly different for every company, but the principle stands: It should be easy and obvious for a buyer to recognize how to transition from your marketing efforts to your sales efforts. 

3. Buyer's remorse declines

Close the gap of “I don’t know what I don’t know.”

What level of fear do buyers in your industry have about making the wrong decision? The higher that level of fear is, the more that information and transparency are required to close a sale.

Here's another question: 

Do you lead your buyers through the sales process or do they lead themselves? If your buyer leads themselves, then most of your deals die in the sales process due to buyer indecision. 

Recognize this: Buyers don't want to be told what to do before they make themselves known to your company. They want to self-educate on their own terms. 

However, once they make themselves known to you, they've indicated that they trust you enough to learn from (and be guided by) you through the rest of their buying decision.

If you are properly guiding your buyers to make the the right buying decision for them, you should be able to clearly explain the entire sales process to them. You should be able to tell them the questions they need to consider at every step, and there should be clear "If… Then…" statements that allow the buyer to know when they're ready to either move to the next step or self-disqualify. 

By creating content to be used specifically in your sales process, you are adding the structure that allows a buyer to feel like they are truly being guided with every consideration along the way, which slowly removes the potential for buyers remorse and stalled deals due to indecision.

Pros of They Ask, You Answer... for you

OK, now let's talk about you.

1. They Ask, You Answer is your best internal training

Every video script, every blog article, every interview with a subject matter expert is another training exercise. Why? Because you’re asking your employees to define the answers to questions on the record, in a way that has to be standardized enough for your website and/or sales process.

Sales and service people proudly answer questions on the fly that they get all the time, delivering different information within their own accounts. Why are we happy that we’re winging it? And why are we okay with different answers from different reps?

Get ready to realize how everyone has a different opinion of the “best” answer to a question. It’s frustrating, but it’s the healthiest thing you can do with a sales team to standardize the voice and process of the company.

It is also a time-saver in the future with prospects asking the same questions, and it becomes the best training material that new employees could ask for.

2. You'll standardize and improve sales and service communication

We get to use data to improve our sales process rather than try and pull out all the best practices from your three folks that are “somehow killing it.”

Sales and service people can sometimes become abrasive toward being put in a box as their sales/service processes begin to formalize with more structure, usually in the form of assigning content to consume, email templates to use, and process steps to guide people through.

However, in the long run, employees love the structure and the heavy-lifting that consistency creates. They often feel like they’re more in control of their time, and they undoubtedly can handle a bigger book of accounts with less work overall.

Plus, standard activities give us data, which leads to insights for improvement on sales/service activities in ways that we haven’t experienced before.

3. And, of course, traffic, leads, and revenue forever

Like a snowball.

When you become the most trusted voice in your space, and you are the best source of truth for information for an entire industry, you make more money. Duh.

You also look at your business in a way that you most likely don’t today. 

I’ve seen companies open franchises, I’ve seen entire industries turn to one company to purchase leads, I’ve seen manufacturers go direct-to-consumer, I’ve seen pool companies start to manufacture pools, I’ve seen companies start to provide coaching services like IMPACT’s specifically for their niche.

When you are the top authority in your space, you will have an ever-growing presence online. You will own the traffic and leads for your industry, and you’ll make more money with the amount of power that your company has – usually in unexpected and new ways.

Topics:

For Organizational Leaders
Developing Your Strategy
They Ask, You Answer
Published on April 6, 2021

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