Whether you’re new to the field of public relations (PR) or you’ve been at it for a while, you still might be surprised to learn that PR and sales have a lot in common. They’re both people-focused endeavors. Both PR reps and salespersons live or die based on their ability to build, and maintain, relationships. Perhaps most important of all, both PR pros and sales teams depend on the power of great communication to succeed, and indeed, to thrive, in their careers.
The Necessity of Networking
You probably haven’t given much thought to the role that networking plays in your career success, but the odds are that you devote a fairly significant amount of time to it. Have you ever considered, though, how the most effective sales teams go about their networking?
To make that sale and get that commission, a good salesperson has to be strategic. Connections that lead to commissions don’t just happen, nor do lucrative business networks simply sprout organically from the ether.
No, as every good salesperson knows, you have to have a plan, and you have to work that plan continuously if you are going to build a network that gets results.
What is true for sales is also true for PR. After all, it doesn’t matter how great a story you have to tell if you have no one to listen to it. So, whether you’re marketing your PR services or your penning an attention-getting (and gig-grabbing) op-ed, to capture the attention of clients, prospects, and the media, you need a good “sales pitch,”
The effectiveness of your sales pitch, though, is going to depend largely on your ability to understand the pain points of your particular target audience. Thus, if you’re writing a press release to introduce a new product or brand, you need to understand what is going to capture the interest of prospective consumers.
Similarly, if you are preparing for a media interview, then you need to understand the reporters’ interests, needs, and motivations. Such preparation can help you anticipate, and nail, reporters’ questions every time.
Relationships Aren’t Everything; They’re the Only Thing
Every salesperson worth their salt knows that building great relationships is essential to your professional success. After all, if your prospects don’t like or trust you, your business relationship is already dead in the water.
What this means for you as a PR professional is that you need to leverage the kind of relationship-building techniques that salespersons employ to such a great effect. This means, for instance, prioritizing first impressions. Once a prospect has formed an opinion of you, which usually happens within the first seconds of your first interaction, it’s enormously difficult to substantively change that opinion. So, if you want to capture and keep a good business contact, always try to have them at “hello”!
Of course, all of this sounds great in theory, but you’re probably wondering how to put theory into practice when it comes to cultivating a meaningful and productive relationship from day one. Well, once again, it all comes down to understanding your contact, particularly their pain points, and telegraphing to them, both in word and deed, that your priority is in meeting their needs.
Thus, you should always come prepared when engaging with your contact. Do your research and come armed with the answers they’re looking for. Above all, sweat the small stuff. Consider your appearance, your attire, and even your body language. If you comport yourself as a true professional, then prospective clients, media representatives, and other key partners are more likely to engage and trust you–and there’s nothing more important for building a productive and enduring business relationship than that.
Capitalizing on Communication
One of the greatest hallmarks of a sales expert is their ability to communicate brilliantly at any time, in every situation, and with all audiences, large or small. And as important as strong communication is for sales, it’s equally vital to success in public relations, if not more so.
This is why it is so important to make clear, comprehensive, and continuous communication the cornerstone of your work process. Talk to everyone. Reach out to other departments. Network with partners, stakeholders, and other professionals in PR as well as other fields.
On-going interdepartmental communications will enable you to keep your finger on the pulse of the company you serve, and that means that you’ll always have the tools you need to produce accurate, timely, and results-oriented media campaigns. Similarly, external communications with stakeholders and industry experts mean you’re going to continuously expand both your business connections and your knowledge of the industry, the market, and related fields.
Public relations and sales are both people-focused industries, but that is far from the only similarity. There’s much that PR professionals can learn from sales teams, including how to network, how to identify and address the audience’s pain points, how to build and grow relationships, and how to communicate effectively with clients, colleagues, partners, and subject matter experts alike.
***Blog post authored by Guest Contributor Ainsley Lawrence, a writer who enjoys discussing how business and professionalism intersect with the personal, social, and technological needs of today. She is frequently lost in a good book.***