How do you get your sales and account reps to help with case studies?
“We need to get more case studies done, but the sales/accounts team is over-protective, unresponsive, and won’t help!”
I often hear this complaint from marketing and customer success teams who are tasked with producing case studies at scale, but are getting stonewalled by other internal teams.
If your sales team won’t help with case studies, it’s a huge problem: sales and accounts reps are usually the ones closest to the customer. They’ve got more context and accessibility than anyone else, and they’re critical to both identifying wins and getting customers to agree to be in case studies.
Ironically, sales and account reps stand to benefit most from case studies—if you can just get them on board.
If you need to get your sales and accounts teams on board, here’s how to do it:
- Involve them in the strategy.
- Prove that there’s a plan.
- Collaborate on the process.
- Templatize to simplify.
- Consider incentives.
1. Involve them in the strategy.
Salespeople and account reps are busy. It’s no wonder they’re not excited about diverting their attention to support marketing’s ‘pet project’ if they don’t see anything in it for them.
One way of changing that perception is by giving them a seat at the strategy table, demonstrating that you’re genuinely interested in creating assets that are completely tailored to their needs, goals, and priorities.
Instead of starting the conversation with a set of demands, begin by asking these questions:
1. What challenges is your team facing?
From long ‘time-to-close’ periods to massive gaps in proof, sales and account reps have obstacles that stand in the way of closing deals and hitting their numbers.
By getting them to lay these out, you open the door to a conversation about how you can ensure the collateral you create will directly benefit and support them.
2. What types of stories, quotes, or anecdotes would YOU benefit from most?
Other ways of phrasing this question can prompt interesting responses:
- What objections do you wish you had ammunition to counter?
- What stakeholders or industries are toughest to influence?
- What use cases are we light on proof for?
- What questions are you constantly having to answer?
Customer success stories can be extremely powerful in countering objections and demonstrating the efficacy of your offering—but only if they actually exist, and are told in a meaningful, focused way.
Their answers to these questions can be used to map out the story themes you go looking for.
3. What formats are most effective for you?
A 1,500 word blog post might be amazing case studies for SEO and marketing, but miserable for a lead with a short attention span. Your sales and account reps need collateral that’s completely tailored to the awareness level and appetite of the prospects and clients THEY deal with.
One-sheets, audiograms, and videos may be more effective for these teams; show them you’re intentional about creating content that will best supports them.
Stuck for ideas? Here are 16 ways to empower your sales team with case studies. (It even opens in a new tab, so you can keep reading!)
When you involve sales and account reps in the strategy, you make it valuable for them.
2. Prove that there’s a plan.
Sales and account reps work very hard to build rapport and earn every deal.
It’s understandable why they’re protective of those relationships: they don’t want to do ANYTHING that would undermine what they’ve spent months (or years) establishing.
They’re naturally hesitant to nominate their clients to be part of case studies unless they’re confident that you’ll respect them—and their time.
It’s up to you to prove that’s the case by walking them through the creation process:
- Lay out what happens when, and why. If you have documented SOPs around this (and you should!), bust ’em out.
- Demonstrate how the process is optimized to maximize convenience and minimize the ask of the customer.
- Give them a clear understanding of the timelines involved.
- Explain how you give their customer control over the final outcome.
- Prove that the ways you communicate are considerate and well-thought-out.
(Of course, this requires that you actually *have* a process that’s optimized and efficient. For clients, that’s where we come in.)
Finally, if you can, share examples of successful projects and feedback from customers who have taken part so that they can see the process not only exists, but is working well.
When you prove to sales and account reps that there is a plan, you make it safe for them.
3. Collaborate on the process.
The creation process is one thing. But what about the pieces you’re counting on sales and account reps to own, like identifying candidates or making the ask?
You’re far more likely to get them to take part if they’re involved in shaping those processes.
And because these folks are on the frontlines, they’ll have clearer insight into…
- The natural cadence of communications with clients
- The best opportunities to identify a win
- When to make the ask
- How that ask should be made
- The easiest way to surface KPIs and context for the story
Don’t try to wedge things into their existing workflow: develop processes in tandem, and offer to handle any heavy-lifting it takes to document them or create the collateral to support it so they don’t have to.
When you involve sales and account reps in designing the process, you make it realistic for them.
4. Templatize to simplify.
The less time, thinking, and energy involved in an action, the more likely we are to actually do it.
The same goes for busy sales and account reps:
If you make supporting your case study program simple, you make it more convenient. If you make it more convenient, you make it more likely to ever happen.
Work with these teams to develop templatized…
- Scripts for asking for participation
- Follow-ups and responses to questions/objections
- Hand-off emails
- Story briefs
And more to take make the process fast, easy, and unintimidating.
Assign clear ownership for updating and improving them over time, since your first attempts at these templates are likely to improve as they get tested and new ideas emerge.
Otherwise, you’ll wind up with very dated templates that nobody actually uses and nobody is accountable for.
When you provide sales and account reps with templates to tweak, you make it convenient for them.
5. Consider incentives.
Money, recognition, rewards… while we’d love to say that it’s always as simple as approaching things with a collaborative spirit, sometimes you need to gamify things with incentives to get the whole team on board.
No matter what, supporting your case study program will cost sales and account reps time and energy (though if you’ve followed these steps, less of it), and so finding ways to make it even more worth their time can be the difference between adoption and total apathy.
What works best here will come down to your company culture and resources, but we’ve seen things like…
- A bounty on case studies
- A leaderboard with a prize for contribution
- Monetary rewards
- Visibility to leadership
- Tiered perks (think back to your Scholastic Book Fare days!)
Make a big difference in terms of participation from teams who otherwise couldn’t care less.
Case studies are a team effort, so get every team on board!
One of the major differences between our most successful clients and the companies who struggle to get case studies is the mentality that everyone, organization-wide, has a role to play in making them happen.
While it can be a challenging, months-long process to finally win over the sales and accounts teams, the rewards are well worth the effort: more (and better) stories that benefit multiple departments, which benefits the organization as a whole.
Pssst… struggling with this stuff? We can help.
With over 1,000 stories delivered for over 300 B2B brands (and counting), we’ve seen a whole lot of what works, what doesn’t, and what the best companies do to make case studies inevitable.