In our 30 ways in 30 days series, we're sharing 30 essentials to developing or refining your company’s sustainability strategy and action plan. To dive deeper, download our Field Manuals.
For B2B companies, your sustainability initiatives and strategies can be a superpower for your sales teams. Regardless of what business you’re in, a subset of your customers will be interested in the sustainability features and benefits you have to offer. If integrated successfully, this can be a differentiator that shows—and brings—added value to your product or service offering.
Weaving the sustainability thread into sales teams’ narratives doesn’t always come naturally. Maybe your sustainability initiatives are still being rolled out, or perhaps a portion of team members are new to your company’s impact priorities. As you progress in your sustainability journey, it’s important to connect the dots between this work and your sales team’s objectives. When integrating sustainability into the sales conversation, be ready to navigate some of these common challenges:
- Uncovering which parts of your strategy will resonate with specific interests of your customers
- Educating sales teams at both a high level and tactical level so they can easily remember key points and feel prepared to answer questions
- Not adding another “thing” to sales teams’ plates by creating easy-to-use messaging and tools that will make them look good
Successful sales strategies answer the question “What’s in it for me?”. To be most effective, position your sustainability features and benefits in ways that answer this for your different customer segments.
To make sustainability a compelling part of your company’s sales narrative, focus on the following:
- Develop personas for your customer base—Not everyone is interested in sustainability, but once you know who is, you can move the needle. Get clear on your customer segments and their motivators by outlining what is most important to whom. A big box retailer likely wants to see financial savings that align with their business objectives. While consumer-facing brands value company reputation and potential claims they could use by partnering with you. Understanding the ‘why’ for each of your audiences’ interests is crucial for your messaging to work.
- Prioritize key components of your sustainability strategy—Don’t talk about everything to everyone. It is much more compelling to focus on one or two elements and connect them to impacts and outcomes for your customer. Does an energy-efficient component of your supply chain help your customer reach their own impact goal? Is a certain recycling investment or commitment driving a new product to go to market faster? Translate the things you’re doing internally into external impacts that will be compelling to your end user.
- Build tools that strengthen knowledge and provide customization—Employees will be most engaged when it’s an easy and exciting experience for them. FAQ sheets, talking points, and conversation guides organized by customer persona are key to creating confidence and knowledge. Engage your team by providing customer-facing materials that are customizable. In product sales decks or leave-behind summary sheets, highlight key sustainability proof points for that target audience. And give employees ownership by providing a bank of key data and highlights for team members to pull from.
- Activate your messaging by meeting customers where they are—‘Tree-hugger Terri’ likely isn’t seeing communications in the same place—or sustainability in the same way—as ‘Standard Service Steve.’ Create a customer journey map that guides teams on effective communication tactics. This will help you reach your audiences in ways that resonate with them. It might mean creating a simple, fun explainer video for ‘Steve’ and a data-focused white paper for ‘Terri’.
Want to learn more about engaging your sales team? Take a look at our ESG field manual part III: from action to amplification. And let us know if you want to brainstorm ways to leverage sustainability in sales.