You might remember, a few years back, an author named Guy Kawasaki writing about The Art of Evangelism. He wrote about how important evangelism was to the astounding success of Apple, and other companies as well.
I’m now writing not about the huge evangelists like Steve Jobs, but about salespeople. Salespeople were once the primary evangelists for their products and services—and they have all but disappeared.
Inbound Ruins Evangelism
In the last 5 years, there has been a total pendulum swing to inbound marketing only. In my opinion, this shift has resulted in the disappearance of real salespeople. In their place, we now have simple “product presenters.”
I’m not saying that product presentations aren’t important. I’m also not saying that discovering customer and business needs, and marketing, aren’t important. But part of the salesperson’s job, traditionally, included evangelizing their product or service and generating leads themselves.
The whole inbound marketing movement, including generating leads through content, has certainly meant a boon for companies. But instead of being an addition to a successful sales machine, it has resulted in salespeople who simply sit there waiting, asking, “How many leads is marketing producing and bringing to my desk?” Once the salesperson receives a lead, they call or email them. They schedule a call, have a talk, demonstrate the product or service and that’s it. It has become a mathematical exercise, a numbers game.
The Real Moneymakers
I want to be a little bit of a devil’s advocate here, and point out that there can be some slightly tainted motivations for this huge swing over to “inbound only.” Investors for a company can receive “kickbacks” from inbound marketing giants for purchasing services with them. When a marketing company knows that they’re going to receive 30 percent or more of a marketing budget, they can arrange “compensations” that are actually kickbacks to the investors of the company buying the marketing.
When investors invest in a company, the fund structure dictates that a large portion of the money must go to marketing and advertising. If they know that they’ll receive a portion of that money back, it’s no risk for them to invest such large sums into marketing.
On top of that, the bigger companies that are creating this trend can afford to buy the major keywords, and they end up trouncing the smaller companies who can’t afford such measures.
What is the difference between this inbound marketing trend and what I would like to see created again—the evangelist?
The evangelist takes their message to places where it has never been heard. They preach the good news. What is the good news? The good news is that your product has a significant differentiator. It offers something valuable.
It’s true that we should engage in marketing and advertising—no question. But why have we forgotten that the most important factor is the human being and the relationship to the human being? We’re missing out on the people who in some form are knocking on doors, and bringing the good news about products and services.
Today’s trend of passive instead of active lead generation is a dead end for sales. If we’re not communicators, we’re only receivers.
A company the size of Apple can simply wait for the customer to come walking through the door. Customers are aware of such a brand. But how many companies do we have in the world? Millions or tens of millions, mid-size and small. They can’t afford to wait for someone to walk through the door (literally or figuratively). They also don’t have such a big budget that they can really create floods of inbound leads. The majority of businesses must engage in outbound activities. And that’s what we’re missing right now.
Bring Back the Evangelist!
So I want to bring back the evangelist once again. If we don’t actively build meaningful relationships around our products and brands, then we’re sitting somewhere on the sidelines, and becoming robotic product presenters. One day, technology might be able to do a perfect job of presentation, because skillfully programmed algorithms can potentially answer all possible prospect questions. But interacting with humans is not something technology will ever be able to do, no matter how skillfully programmed. The salesperson could be reaching out to someone who hasn’t had a great day, and needs cheering up, and must respond accordingly. Or that needs a type of help that is outside the box of the company’s normal offerings.
The evangelist concept comes from the Bible—the evangelist was traveling from place to place, spreading good news, inspired by the spirit of the ideas. The evangelist is positive, engaging, tell a great story, and creates an impact. People listen. It’s not necessarily an instant sale—but it’s a step, it’s opening the door
Evangelizing is something email can never do. That’s why we tend to hate emails because we get 10,000 of them a day. Then you get bombarded with follow-up emails because marketing automation can do that—“Have you not read my email from 2 weeks ago?” All of that is technology—no humans. Therefore, we are not touched and are not moved in any way, shape or form. So what do we do? We take that mouse, and click! that email is deleted.
But when someone comes calling, is standing there right in front of you and telling a great story, you can’t click on that person and delete them.
I’m not suggesting that everyone just drop what they’re doing, jump up and run out. We do live in a digital world, and this can’t be ignored.
What I am suggesting is that we combine the digital with real-world experience. That we add that crucial human interaction, the evangelist spreading the seeds, planting them and nurturing them. We should certainly use technology, but we can’t depend on it to create and maintain human relationships. When we as human beings lose relationships, we lose our identity.
How should you start evangelizing? I would say that, first, it depends on the product that you have—I couldn’t provide generalized advice that would cover all products.
I will say, though, that a real salesperson should get out there. It could be a trade show. It could be networking events. It could be meetings or gatherings of target groups. Figure out who those buyers really are, and how you can reach them. Perhaps begin with a nice note, a physical card—something that’s not done hardly at all anymore. Most people can’t afford the time to spend 4 hours on a golf course warming up a prospect like they once did, but I do believe that thinking “outside the office” is really the way to go.
Whatever you do—start reaching out and being an evangelist!
In my next article, I’ll lay out, in detail, what really makes for a great evangelist.