Last week I had the privilege of speaking to the New York Metro chapter of the Sustainability Leadership Forum on the subject of B2B sustainability marketing best practice as a revenue driver. Before I gave my presentation, each of the senior sustainability mavens from Fortune 500 companies went around the room and shared some of the challenges they face when it comes to sustainability marketing. Not surprisingly, it boiled down to two very related issues: finding relevant messaging and getting buy-in from the sales force.

Sustainability should be easy to sell, right? It makes you feel good. But in the B2B world, being sustainable for the sake of it won’t work if you can’t show your customers a business case. The sustainability factors have to make a difference for THEIR BUSINESS in a tangible way.

So I talked to the group about using the Buying Conversation methodology to uncover what really matters to customers. To stop thinking about key selling points and start concentrating on key buying points. I also really stressed that when it comes to sustainability, actions speak louder than words. No one is willing to admit that they don’t care about the planet. They lie. Especially to telemarketers and online survey tools. So focus your research on those who’ve already made a purchase and flee as far as possible from stated-intent-based studies.

Time after time, we’ve used the Buying Conversation process to uncover the real priorities of a target audience when it comes to sustainable products and services.

We craft that messaging into content marketing campaigns to attract, engage and nurture prospects through the buying cycle until it’s time to hand them off to sales for a conversation.

And once those key buying points are established, it’s easier to get sales to play ball. When any good rep finds out that his best customers made the purchase because the product is significantly more energy efficient, for example, he’ll understand that it’s something his next best customer probably also prizes.

When he puts energy efficiency up front in his pitch – backed by verified data – he’s got an engaged audience. They’ve been nurtured to this point. They’re already pretty sure they want to buy (or they’ve whittled the field down to just a few options). When the rep concentrates on the sustainability features his customer wants to buy, he makes a much easier sale.

I really enjoyed my time in NYC speaking to such a thoughtful and committed group of sustainability experts. Over the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing some additional resources with that group to address some of the questions and challenges they raised in more depth than my hour-long presentation could accommodate.

If you’d like to receive those resources, sign up here.

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