Expert: Leader, Follower or Copycat?

When it comes to social media, probably 4 in 5 people you meet these days are experts. A quick Internet search reveals there are 310Genius baby million “social media” experts with 166 million grabbing the “social selling” expert moniker. That’s a lot of experts.

The problem, as I see it, is that “social media” is so big, so broad and so misunderstood that it is tough to pinpoint what expert really means. How do you really know if you are talking to one? Are you talking to someone who leads, follows or just copycat’s the work of others?

It takes 10,000 Hours (or close to it) 

Just yesterday I was interviewed for an edition of Top Sales World’s HardTalk podcast series. While talking to Jonathan Farrington about what it means to be an expert, for grins, I had looked up the definition before we got started with the interview. With so much noise being created by self-proclaimed experts, potential customers need a way to determine who’s got the goods and who does not, which might be tough if they aren’t even sure of the questions to ask or what skills to vet.

As defined on Wikipedia, “Experts have a prolonged or intense experience through practice and education in a particular field.”

While some will argue that you don’t need the 10,000 hours of experience that Malcolm Gladwell talks about in Outliers, I happen to believe that demonstrable experience actually matters. Do you think someone with no athletic experience can take up figure skating and within a year be competing in the Olympics? Anything is possible, but I’ve  NEVER heard of it happening.

Gladwell said in his book that “the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours.” If you did nothing else but study, work with clients and practice your craft 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, you could get there in just over a year. Of course, we all know that isn’t realistic at all. More likely, we are talking in the neighborhood of five years at least. Expert status, I believe, takes time, it takes hard work and especially where social media is concerned, you must be constantly learning and adapting.

Tactics and One Trick Ponies

When it gets right down to it, you know you are talking to someone with social media chops when they demonstrate breadth and depth of knowledge of the various platforms and how they fit together. You may be a really good LinkedIn trainer, but that does not make you a social media (or social selling) expert. Someone who understands social media strategy and how it impacts Sales, Marketing and Service will have a clear sense of best practices, and they will also know where the potential for disaster or failure lies. They will be able to show you the strategic work that they’ve done.

Be wary of one proven process or one way of approaching things. What works for one customer won’t necessarily work for another one.  A truly experienced social media player knows that it all begins with strategy and that strategy is crafted after you invest the time to understand the core of a customers business. Tactics come after strategy and not the other way around.

Buyer Beware

At the end of the day, I suppose it is the way of the world. People latch onto hot ideas and hot terms and want to ride the wave without learning how to surf. But trusting your reputation, your sales and your business to “experts” could be dangerous. You may find out that all they are expert in is taking taking your money.

 

It’s All in the Details

As a new member of a non-profit board, the chair recently asked all of us to complete the Everything DiSC Work of Leaders assessment. Having completed a number ofbob the builderassessments through the years – Myers Briggs, DiSC, Hermann Brain Dominance, Strengths Finder, Emotional Intelligence 2.0 – the results were no big surprise. As Popeye would say, I am what I am. Still, I always find the data helpful in reminding me where I might have blind spots or where certain situations and people may challenge me.

Understanding personality and behavioral styles is a good thing. In business we deal with people. For sellers who understand style differences and how that plays out in sales meetings and communication, it can give them a real leg up when selling. When they adapt their style to give their buyers what they need, deals are won more often than lost. Sell the same way to everyone and the probability of missed opportunities increases.

Let’s say that your style is more high level thinker, optimistic and good at verbal communication but you tend to gloss over the details. If your buyer happens to have a style that requires details to make an informed decision, you need to be prepared to go there. If you try to reassure them through promises that you’ll do whatever it takes, that just will not be enough.

So assessments and understanding human behavior can be helpful in selling and in all interactions with other people.

Where assessments – and they are assessments not tests – become problematic is if other people try to box you in based on your style designation. This assumes that an assessment score is the sum total of who you are as an individual. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Assessments provide big clues as to a person’s dominant way of thinking, behaving or decision making, but even two people with the same style designation are not exactly the same. And, in the case of DiSC, which is based on four quadrants, you may be most dominant in two of them but that doesn’t mean you have no strength in the other areas.

If you don’t know DiSC, let me briefly break down the four quadrants.

  • D=Dominance. Priorities include Results, Action, Competency. Avoid the small talk and focus on demonstrating quick, confident action.
  • i= Influence. Priorities include Enthusiasm, Action, Relationships. Upbeat, outgoing, openness is important. Negativity, too many details or detached people are bothersome.
  • S=Steadiness. Priorities include Sincerity, Relationships, Dependability. Casual and low key, these folks like predictable, harmonious environments.
  • C=Conscientiousness. Priorities include Quality, Competency, Dependability. Quality and high standards is of utmost importance. Be prepared to present logical reasons for decisions.

Curious about my style?

My style is a balanced Di. These are my natural tendencies. Core priorities that shape my leader traits are:

  • Being Pioneering – strategic, big picture thinker, I often see trends ahead of others. Always willing to risk trying something new and untested.
  • Being Commanding – that’s the D in me. I will drive for results. Meeting after meeting but accomplishing very little or nothing at all… makes me nuts.
  • Being Energizing – positive, glass half full gal is who I am. I believe the best in others until they prove me wrong. I tend to focus on what we CAN DO not what someone thinks we can’t.
  • Being Affirming – seeking to include others comes naturally. Collaborative in nature, I like to share and acknowledge the good work of others.

And while these four descriptions are accurate, they are not the total picture of Barb. Though details can sometimes bore me, my style does not mean that I am not a detail oriented person. It means that you wouldn’t want to place me in a role that required detailed work 100% of the time. It drains my energy, and I’m the first to tell you that looking at detailed spreadsheets can make my head spin. But I’m pretty darn detailed when I need to be. If it is important, I do it. To assume otherwise strictly based on my personality type is incorrect and unfair.

What got me thinking about how people make assumptions about each other, especially when you complete assessments and share results among team members, is a comment made at recent meeting. The conversation related to a particular project that I am responsible for and jokingly someone said, its good that so & so is on your team because you aren’t much for details. It was a stupid thing to say. It is untrue and disrespectful. As a practitioner in the field of people development, that individual should know better.

Human beings have so much more depth than any assessment, regardless how detailed or scientifically validated it is, can ever fully describe. In team building, coaching or hiring, use assessments to provide insight about the styles of others, but never assume you know all there is to know about them.

It’s More Complicated Than That

“Become disenchanted with anything that takes complex subjects and breaks them down into “Top 10” lists.” – Brian SolisWell-known physical formula

Social media has changed business. Today’s buyer looks nothing like the buyers I first met when I began selling 25 years ago. Technology allows them to evade us, block us and downright ignore us if they so choose. It’s a new world, and if you don’t think so, I’m worried for your future in selling.

Anyone who reads my blog posts or articles knows that I am unwavering in my belief that WHAT you sell is less important than HOW you sell. For the sales reps who have, to this point, made a pretty good living selling through feature dumps or demos, understanding that the “what” is less relevant now is a tough transition to make.

That I keep seeing questions or conversations about how to better “cold call” tells me that we have a lot of sellers stuck in the past. A member in one my LinkedIn sales groups asked if you should leave a voice mail when calling someone you don’t know. Group members actually debated techniques…yes, no, phone number in the beginning, compelling pitch in the beginning, phone number at the end… really? Instead of trying to improve upon an outdated mousetrap, get a new one.

Change is needed and it isn’t simple.

I follow a number of highly regarded leaders in sales. One of those leaders is Tamara Schenk, who writes an excellent blog that you should follow. Her recent post on the difference between simplification and simplicity is brilliant. It crystallized for me what the problem is related to the thundering din that is social selling. In their attempts to make social selling sound simple, the usual suspects have created a loud, confusing mass of noise that leaves sales leaders either completely confused – OR – they mistakenly assume, because that’s what they’ve been told, that if their sales people just follow a prescribed set of steps, their sales challenges will dissipate.

There is NO one size fits all.

Are there tactical elements that typically lead to success when using social for selling? Of course. Will they work for every seller, in every industry the same way? No. Should you even start with tactics in the first place? Absolutely not.

You see, that’s the biggest gripe I have regarding the chatter that largely surrounds social selling. It is surface at best. The message has become… just deck out your LinkedIn profile, send InMail to the prospects on your search lists, Tweet the content of industry influencers – so that they will one day reciprocate – and share a few blog posts… boom, you are now a social seller. The top of your funnel will magically fill up, decision makers will scramble to clear their calendars to see you, and deals will close in no time. You wish.

If it were easy, everyone would be doing it and succeeding.

“As customers make their decisions differently, every time, because their situation is different – so do sales leaders. There are no silver bullets. Every sales organization’s challenges are specific. Every sales organization’s customers are different. The way that your specific customers want to engage with your sales organization is different as well.” –Tamara Schenk

Social selling is not simply about adopting a new set of “tools”. Success requires developing a new mindset related to selling entirely. A change is required in attitude, approach, process and skill set. Change is tough, it can be messy, and it is painful in the beginning. Leaders must think holistically about what needs to change, what they have to work with – people, tools, process – and what they need that is missing.

I’m not saying don’t give sales people LinkedIn training, but I am saying that isn’t the first place to start. And if that’s all you do, expect limited results.

Just Cancel My Account – Part 2

This is the story of how I became a client and canceled my AWeber account all in the span of 3-days. Game Over

In part 1, I talked about Infusionsoft and how frustrating their process is for canceling your account. Had it been easy to walk away, I wouldn’t have broadcast to my followers that Infusionsoft doesn’t live up to its promise, and they are tough to do business with. In AWeber’s case, the process for canceling my account wasn’t difficult and they refunded a portion of my money to boot. But a process that they spin as being better for you – the customer – isn’t.

For 8 years, I’ve been building my email list. I take the CANN-SPAM act seriously and have always followed the rules of email marketing. This is so important to me that I NEVER add anyone I meet who hands me a business card. That’s not permission to add to a list my friends, although far too many people do it. Subscribers can easily opt-out of my list; I don’t waste their time even asking why. I assume their reason is nothing personal. Everyone is on overload these days. I’m no exception. Email inboxes are more crowded than ever and people often just don’t have the time to read one more newsletter. I opt out of plenty of them myself.

While using the Infusionsoft system, I once again scrubbed the list. If a lot of people start opting out, Infusionsoft assumes you are a spammer and will halt you in your tracks. I think that’s a good thing. But imagine my surprise when we wanted to upload our mailing list to the AWeber account only to find out that they insist on sending out a “reconfirmation” email. That means that people who have opted in to my list, now have to go to another step to say yes again.

AWeber will tell you that it is the best way to ensure that emails are not blocked by spam filters. They claim that their process is why they have a high rate of delivery versus other email marketing companies. I don’t believe it. There’s a back story there somewhere.

As I’m working to get my email marketing back on track, this little hiccup didn’t make me happy. I asked a couple of my colleagues what they thought about the double opt-in policy. Depending on who you talk too there are two ways to look at it.

1. You can think of the process are further cleaning and purging your list. Makes sense. I really do want people to find what I send them valuable.

On the other hand…

2. People are super busy. What if they never get around to reconfirming? Depending on how long it takes people to confirm again, my email marketing might not be very effective.

I did some checking on AWeber’s support site to find out if there was a way around this default. After all, quite a few of their competitors don’t require this and have their own ways of verifying if you have a purchased or spam list. It turned out that – yes – you could ask them to waive this default setting if you have a clean list. Awesome, I thought. Now we can move forward.

Uh, not so fast.

I sent AWeber my request, explaining my reason for switching providers and confirming that I had just gone through the process of scrubbing the list about 12 months earlier. Pretty quickly I received a response that essentially said that AWeber rarely makes an exception to their policy (OK, why is it on your website and written in a way that suggests you do make exceptions?). The service rep goes on to say that if I will answer their list of questions, they will research my situation and get back to me. They are trying to verify that I’m legit…I get it.

The next email I receive now says they aren’t sure and that maybe they’ll make an exception, which they will rarely do, but now I need to give them the log in details to the Infusionsoft account so that they could verify the last campaign that I’d sent. Well, for starters, I told them I had not sent a campaign in a few months. I also told them that I’d canceled my Imfusionsoft account, which at the time, I didn’t know was still active.

Now I’m fuming. Time is already being wasted; I’m no closer to getting a newsletter out. And there was no guarantee that they’d say yes anyway. Screw it, I said to myself. I told the service rep that this was a complete waste of my time and wasn’t worth it. I said that I planned to cancel the account, which I did right away.

And then…

I receive another email from the same service guy saying that if I would provide the list, they’d do some sort of verification thing to see if the addresses were valid. More of my time to be wasted and again no promise that my request would be approved.

Thank you, MailChimp.

MailChimp and AWeber both receive good reviews and recommendations but AWeber seemed have just a bit more under the hood that would suit my purposes. After my brief experience with them, I went to MailChimp. They have ecommerce hooks and other things that I need. They also happen to be a business local to me, many of my colleagues use them, and they have a fair number of corporate client. Good enough for me. But the biggie…they don’t force the double opt-in process.

MailChimp has designed an algorithm that can test your list to determine validity. Guess what…within a few minutes, my list was verified and I was ready to go.

If you won’t, your competitors will.

There must be hundreds of email marketing systems available. Why would any company want to make it difficult for new and existing customers? It is beyond me.

The experience with AWeber left me feeling a little like being back in grade school. It feels like their “rule” is meant to stop the real spammers, but in the process they penalize legitimate business people who work hard to do the right thing.

Well, thanks for the memories AWeber. MailChimp, I look forward to a beautiful relationship!

A Tale of Kick-Butt Service

I love Zappos.iStock_000015017344Medium

Hard to remember when I first heard about Tony Hsieh, Zappos’ CEO. Digging back into my memory banks, I think it was when I was still with Microsoft and Tony’s company, LinkExchange was acquired for a hefty sum. I remember thinking…a multi-millionaire at 24? I barely had a steady job at that age. WOW!

But I don’t love Zappos because I’m a big shoe buyer. Contrary to urban myth, not all women are! I don’t like “traditional” shopping either. I love the Internet; hate going to the mall. There is something so deliciously fun and easy about having packages delivered right to your door. I admit that my face lights up when I come home from a meeting and find presents waiting for me. So what if I sent them, it’s still fun.

OK, I got off track for a moment.

I am a Zappos customer.

When I need shoes or athletic wear, I’ve bought from them. They have other great stuff too. Point is that the process has always been smooth and easy. Though I’ve purchased from Zappos, that isn’t the only reason I am a fan. For starters, I love their CEO.

As CEO, Tony is quite engaged on social media. He interacts and engages with people online and demonstrates that he cares about the people who buy from him. His beliefs around culture and service mirror mine.

And who can’t love a company whose CEO pens a book called Delivering Happiness?

The company culture is amazing. Heck, they are so keen to get the right people into their culture of excellence, that they’ll pay you to walk away if you do not fit.

Service practices should be designed to make your life, as a buyer, easy. Zappos has got this down. You can automatically return something that you ordered from them if it doesn’t work for you with no hassle AND for free. The return authorization is sent with your order.

I love Zappos, and I had also never had a problem until…

On 2/4, I placed an order. Fine with the regular shipping, I figured the order would arrive around the 8th. Then I receive the confirmation email today that says my order just shipped. What? Ordered 2/4 but not shipped until 2-days later? I took to Twitter with my question at 3:56pm Eastern.

Bam! 4:01pm Eastern I had a response. The response wasn’t a lame…click this link and report your problem here…a real person was actually engaging me.

This is the exchange that ensued (read from the bottom up):

zappos

I had selected the free shipping, because I wasn’t in a big hurry. But when I saw that 2-days had elapsed between order and ship date, I was a bit annoyed. I wanted an answer as to why my order wasn’t shipped sooner. That had never happened before.

The support rep didn’t justify, argue or give me excuses. I’m simply told my shipping was upgraded; I can expect my order tomorrow. That is seriously cool!

I didn’t actually receive an answer to my question about what went wrong, but obviously something went awry. OR, maybe I misunderstood the email and that’s why the rep said “no worries” when I inquired if I’d made the mistake. Again, no blame assigned to me…the customer. The way the service person handled it, who cares what went wrong, if anything?

That’s the lesson.

When things go wrong or customers misunderstand your communication, all that is expected is that you make it right. WOW them! Don’t make their life challenging or difficult. Don’t put the burden on them. Just handle it.

If you compare this story to the one I shared in my prior post about Infusionsoft and their “make it a challenge to cancel my account policy”, the differences are stark. Point of fact, I have spent a heck of a lot more money with Infusionsoft than Zappos, but Zappos treated me as if I have been spending thousands on Christian Louboutin’s for years. Not only will I continue to be a loyal buyer, which will translate into thousands over time, I will continue to tell everyone I know to buy Zappos!

Finally, what I really love is that Zappos understands that their customers will interact with them in ways that suit them. Zappos’s doesn’t force you to communicate with them in their way, they adapt to YOUR WAY! They actually have people manning a Twitter account who are clearly held to responding fast. I contrast that with other companies who claim to have service presence online but never actually respond to you.

Zappos gets an A+ from me. They are a shining example of what kick-butt service looks like AND feels like to the customer. If you don’t buy from them – you should!

Just Cancel My Account – Part 1

In my last post, I said that I planned to share some recent examples of the less than WOW experiences I’ve had as buyer of business products. I wish I could say this post would be the only one, but I have many more to showcase going forward.

All I wanted to do was cancel my account…it should have been easy.

Business concept of problem, cancelled

At the end of 2012, I transitioned my email marketing to Infusionsoft. I’d been a long time Constant Contact user, but now I needed a more robust system that supported more sophisticated marketing campaigns and was integrated with an online shopping cart. I’d heard a lot about Infusionsoft from a variety of sources – all of it positive. After doing more research myself, I decided to make the move. Over $6,000 dollars later with nothing much to show for it, in January I decided to cancel my account.

The promise is that the system is easy to use. That wasn’t my experience. Even creating basic newsletters burned too much time. Two assistants never could figure it out and were constantly flustered. Without having the support I needed to manage the system – unless I wanted to spend thousands per month for a “certified” consultant – I let the account languish while I explored other options.

Experience matters. Every interaction counts. The system didn’t work for me, and that’s OK. I was fine to cancel my account and move on. Instead, I’m calling out Infusionsoft as one example of a company whose processes/policies make life difficult for their customers.

Here’s my story…

1. I wanted to cancel my account but Infusionsoft doesn’t make it easy for you. I should have been able to cancel online or with a quick email to the service department. Nope. Infusionsoft insists that you call them. Right away I knew why that was their policy. They wanted an opportunity to “sell me” on remaining a customer.

2. Grudgingly, I make the call. The gal who answers the phone notes my request and tells me that someone will be calling me back “to verify” that I want to cancel. WTF? I’m thinking, why am I talking to you then? I’ve already burned up time making this call to handle something that shouldn’t be a hassle for me. I gave you my name and account number but someone else has to call me to verify that I do want to cancel? Argh…

3. Later in the day, I receive a call from a representative who is a “loyalty guy”. I understand you want to cancel, he says. Yes, I do. The system isn’t working for me, I tell him. He says, tell me what the problem is…maybe I can help. I basically lay out the story for the 2nd time (I’d already told the gal that I talked to) and tell him that I am firm on canceling. OK, I see you’ve made up your mind, he says. Well, yeah dude. That’s why I’m canceling; otherwise, I would have called tech support for help. Stop wasting my time.

4. Loyalty guy confirms that my account will be canceled immediately. Imagine my surprise when 3 days later, I’m billed for another month of service. Then I notice that my account is still active.

5. Phone call number three and this one to the accounting department. Naturally, I had to leave a message. I explain the situation and ask for my money to be refunded.

6. Later that day, I receive a phone message from accounting gal saying that – yes, she confirmed my request to cancel but that my billing cycle was in progress when I called them. According to their billing policy, Infusionsoft doesn’t issue refunds, so my account remains active until the end of the billing cycle. Of course, you won’t be billed again, she says. Isn’t that nice. Another $259 wasted for software that I’m not using.

What really ticks me off here is the time I had to waste going through their silly gymnastics to cancel my account. Then I’m billed for another month of service to boot. We are talking 3-days into the new cycle but Infusionsoft doesn’t prorate or return your money if your cancellation timing happens to be off. On top of that, loyalty guy never confirmed that I understood their billing policy or told me that I was already into a new cycle. Yes, I realize that I agreed to the written terms at some point. Still, the right thing to do was to tell me to be sure I understood what would happen. It would have saved me another phone call!

This is not service excellence. It is a classic example of how companies like Infusionsoft are blowing it. Even if a customer decides to cancel your service, the last thing you should want to do is piss them off! I was already annoyed at the wasted money and time that had been spent trying to get the system to work for my business. Infusionsoft’s process only made it worse.

The final point I want to make is this…

Had it been easy for me to cancel my account, I would have gone on my merry way. If someone asked me what I thought of the Infusionsoft system, I would have told them it didn’t work for me, but that I knew plenty of people using it successfully. Now I’m telling everyone I know to steer clear.

P.S. To the Infusionsoft consultants who want to come at me and tell me how easy the platform is to use…please, save your breath. I’m very accomplished with technology. You think it’s easy because A) you are drinking the Kool-Aid and B) you’ve invested hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars to become certified. Contrary to the Infusionsoft marketing hype – without extensive training, it is not that easy to use. I don’t have that kind of time to waste, and if I can’t pay someone a reasonable fee to do the administration for me it isn’t worth it.

 

No Christopher Here

“Telemarketing and fancy email marketing campaigns yield disappointing results.”no

Yes, because the sales message sucks. Just like the one you sent to me.

If I am tired of this kind of cheese, you know that other busy Sales Executives and Business Owners are too. You would welcome the opportunity to learn more about my sales process?

First, I’m not Christopher and Christopher has never worked here.

Second, I’m not available to waste my time educating you about my business.

Third, you assume that the people you are emailing struggle to find prospects.

Four, if you really “care” – take time to do your homework and tailor your message.

Five, the email is a pitch, and I don’t care that you are “excited” to share how you help others.

To all sellers, sales leaders and marketers…

Differentiation from the competition is a common sales goal, and it isn’t that hard to do. Guess what…don’t send messages like this one. Guaranteed, you will stand out! Why? Because it is RARE to receive a cold email that adds value or is compelling enough for buyers to want to know more.

PLEASE don’t send emails like this one.

“Hi Christopher,

Most business owners and sales people struggle to find prospects. Telemarketing and fancy email marketing campaigns yield disappointing results. I’m excited to share how I’m helping others have a constant stream of prospects with XYZ’s automated prospecting technology; the return on investment is typically less than 3 months. I provide sales expertise and can help in other areas too.

Benefits:
• 30%+ Response rates (personal & relevant content with multiple touches, totally automated & managed)

• Steady Stream of prospects=$ MORE SALES$

• Fewer missed opportunities: our clients are at the “Top of their prospects minds”

•Personal and professional attention from a sales professional with over 20 years of B2B sales success, I care.

I would welcome the opportunity to learn more about your sales process and share with how I can help add drive more revenue.. Do you have any availability for a brief call in the next few weeks?

Sincerely,
XYZ
Chief Salesologist”

The Future of Business is Change

Though I maintain my steadfast passion for igniting sales transformation, I do not believe that placing emphasis on improving just one silo of the business makes sense if anything is expected to change. The conversation should no longer focus on social selling or social media marketing, as if each is operating in a vacuum. Organizations need to become much more focused on becoming a “social business”. Time for change. Stopwatch on white background. Isolated 3D imag

Engaging consultants or trainers to help improve Sales, Marketing or Service capabilities – in silos – won’t net much more than marginal improvement. With departments myopically focused on their own improvement, not surprisingly, you rarely see the large scale, institutional change needed when the market evolves to a point where it is clear that business practices must change.

Social media did that…it disrupted business completely. Most companies were not – are not – getting a real handle on what that means for the future of their business. And I haven’t even started talking about the impact of multiple generations on a social business strategy.

As social, mobile, cloud and digital technologies are going to force business leaders to rethink everything they thought they knew about how buyers choose to purchase something, it isn’t only Marketing or PR that has to change things, but Sales, Service and every other department too. The connected buyer communicates through any number of modalities…text, phone, email, mobile, social networks – LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, blogging – and cloud computing services like Evernote or Dropbox. Not everyone with dollars to spend will want to interact with your company in the same way. If you keep trying to force them to do that, you’ll lose.

After eight years, I thought companies would be seeing greater success and be a little farther along in their strategic use of social media to support business objectives in Marketing, Sales and Service. One reason it isn’t happening is because social strategies ARE NOT LINKED to the performance of business goals. According to Brian Solis and Charlene Li in their white paper, The Evolution of Social Business, they suggest that business use of social media is often guided by a peer or competitive-driven “social for social’s sake” philosophy. Unfortunately, there is a ton of truth in their observation.

It is rare to find the company that doesn’t relegate the social strategy to the Marketing department even though social now impacts the entire enterprise (inside and out), but certainly Sales and Service in big ways. Even if companies establish measurable outcomes to track, and it’s a big IF, social initiatives fizzle and die due to a lack of strategic vision, funding and oversight that is guided by top down vision from the C-Suite. This has to change.

Buyers have choices…lots of them. You are kidding yourself if you think otherwise. Do you know what happens from that very first interaction with a prospective customer? Do you know what they are thinking? Do you know how you stack up in their minds?

What about your customers? Are they sticking with you? Are they happy? Are you sure? What happens if something goes wrong? What’s the service and support experience like? You may think you know the answers to these questions, but my bet is that your company is not doing as well as you think.

If you expect to have a future in business, your business has to change. Stay tuned for my next several posts, because I will be sharing my own personal experiences as a business buyer. Hopefully, as a business leader, it will give you a bit more to think about.

Go Beyond Social Selling

At the first of the year, I talked about what I believe lies ahead for the profession of selling. At least in 2014. More of the same dismal sales results we’ve seen for years can be expected IF teams simply do what they’ve always done.

iStock_000026784565Medium

Optimistically, I’d like to believe that sales leaders will step up to radically change how their sales organizations operate. Having finally accepted that “coffee is for closers” sales tactics have dulled in effectiveness, leaders will expect their sales people to do more than pitch and passively wait for orders to roll in. This is the year that leaders will invest in developing the business skills of their team members and the sales process that they follow. Why? Because buyers expect more.

And yet… revenue success requires so much more than simply making improvements in the Sales department.

We’ve been talking about Buyer 2.0 and Social Selling for so long now that it is becoming a big yawner. For me anyway. In the years since I’ve been evangelizing social for business and the three years since my book The New Handshake: Sales Meets Social Media was published, I’m surprised at how basic today’s conversations related to social media marketing and social selling remain. If I read one more blog post from an expert telling sellers how to “tune up” their LinkedIn profiles or create a lead search, I might have to hang myself. By now, if you are a seller and it has completely escaped your attention that buyer behavior has changed, or that leveraging social strategies as part of your sales process is not an option, well then, you might as well retire now.

Let’s get beyond today’s social selling conversation.

Buyer expectations are not standing still. The bar is rising – and fast! Buyer 2.0 made it clear that they were circumventing the early stages of what we formerly knew as the traditional sales process. Crappy salesmanship made it inevitable that this would happen. The Internet, social networks, peer reviews, data at our fingertips and word of mouth recommendations have made it possible. Buyer 2.0 wanted to work with a different kind of seller entirely. One who understands their business and functions as an advisor not an order taker. As Jonathan Farrington of Top Sales World puts it, customers and prospects are still marching, but not to your drum.

Buyer 3.0 has expectations that go far beyond what current social selling rhetoric largely focuses on. This buyer expects companies to WOW them with great experiences at every touch point in the process of moving them from prospect to customer. A go/no go decision can happen with the first marketing email they receive, webinar they attend, your cumbersome and complicated phone system, or your over eager sales reps hounding them after they downloaded a white paper. Every interaction – positive and negative – leads to revenue or not. And if you think that once a customer always a customer…think again. Most companies are not taking the idea of creating WOW experience seriously enough.

Revenue goals aren’t achieved by sales alone. That’s the big fat elephant in the room. Sales may carry the quota and the bag, but other functional departments – Marketing, Service, Operations, Accounting – play a big role in a win or a loss. Rather than expecting Sales to shoulder the entire burden, I crazily think that all executives, department heads and employees need some portion of their performance and salary tied to revenue goals. It isn’t enough to assume that people will do the right thing because they earn a paycheck.

Let’s stop talking about the tactical aspects of “social selling” – great profiles, status updates, search lists, sales research – as if that’s all it takes to succeed in today’s competitive business environment. Don’t misunderstand me. These things are important but they are a fraction of the bigger picture.

If you thought that Buyer 2.0 came out of nowhere, watch out. Buyer 3.0 is demanding more, and they know what you fail to recognize…your company isn’t the only game in town!