Should Salespeople Create Their Own Content?

You’ve probably heard that content is king (I say queen). Content is the way to start wooing your prospects in advance of sales opportunities. content strategy word cloudEvery conversation related to social selling includes a focus on using content to boost your credibility as a thought leader in your field. I don’t disagree with that premise. Buyers are doing early stage research, and the use of content that is relevant and educational can certainly work to your advantage. Buyers turn a deaf ear to the pitch, but they do pay attention when what you do, say and share makes it clear to them that you understand what is important to them.

The right content used strategically at the right time definitely, helps you stand apart from your competitors. But the big question is – should salespeople be the ones creating their content?

Many in the social selling space will insist that the answer is yes. Others say, absolutely not. After all, isn’t that marketing’s job? Me? I say it depends on your personal situation.

When you think about how to use content as part of your sales process, there are three ways you can approach it:

  1. Share the content of others.
  2. Share the content your marketing team produces.
  3. Create your own.

Let’s talk about each one.

Share the Content of Others

This can work to your advantage PROVIDED the content is relevant to your audience and offers them specific insights that can help them improve their business. This assumes something really important – you have to know what your buyer cares about.

Some investigative work is required. Your marketing department may have done buyer persona work you can use, and you can use social media to do your validation about what your targeted buyers are interested in. How? Ask yourself these questions about your target buyers:

-What content do they share on LinkedIn? Not just the topics, but the medium. Do they tend to share more articles or it is video or podcasts?

-What content topics do they comment on? Could be in tweets, LinkedIn status updates or on posts others are publishing.

-Who are the LinkedIn influencers they follow?

-Do they publish LinkedIn posts? If so, what topics do they write about?

-Who do they follow on Twitter and what kind of content do they share there? Is it business, more personal or a little of both?

– What about groups they have joined on LinkedIn, what types of questions do they answer or like?

The point is that online social behavior will provide clues to help you determine how to structure your thinking around the type of content to share. Then you can study your industry to determine who produces content that you believe your customers and potential customers will find of real benefit. Could be top bloggers, publications like Forbes, Harvard Business Review or Inc. Magazine. If you are appealing to folks in the sales world, perhaps you are sharing daily doses of content from Top Sales World. Might be a well-respected publication in your specific industry.

Will this take a little sweat equity to figure out and plan for? Yes. But, honestly, it isn’t too much and if your end game is to secure opportunities to have a sales conversation with buyers, well then, put in the effort.

Share Company Produced Content

Now that you’ve done the digging and have a good idea of what content will appeal to your prospective buyer, you can match those interests to the content your marketing team has worked hard to create. I’m thinking white papers, research reports, informative blog posts, interviews with industry leaders, etc. Be careful, though. If the content isn’t much more than dressed up sales pitches, I’d rethink how much company produced content you share. If the content is simply pitching products or services, that will turn buyers off.

Make a point to share relevant content once a day through the network of your choice. The platform where your prospective buyers are most likely to see it. Add a comment before sharing to bring attention to why your buyer should read the article. Tell them what you believe will be valuable to them.

Posting once a day doesn’t take a lot of time. What it requires though is knowing where the content is so that you get to it easily. Could be your company’s LinkedIn page, a content sharing portal that your marketing team has created and so on.

Produce Your Own Content

This one is tricky because there are only so many hours in the day. The main job of those of us in sales is to, well, you know, sell. The zealots will insist that no matter what, you have to make time to create content. Well, I don’t know about that. If you have a family you go home to that includes a spouse and kids; I’m not sure how much they’d appreciate you getting right to work on content once they finally have time with you. Okay, sure, you can get up an hour earlier. Maybe stay up after the kiddos have gone to bed. The point is you have to figure out what rhythm you can commit yourself to in this area.

If you don’t have a lot of experience creating content, it won’t be quite as easy as some experts would have you believe. You’ll need a content plan that includes topics, what type of content you will create, and where and how you’ll distribute the content. Questions have to be answered. If you blindly jump in, you will likely flounder and feel frustrated.

I know a few folks in the social selling space who INSIST salespeople WRITE their own content. I vehemently disagree! This is just another example of trying to force a one-size-fits-all approach onto everyone.

First, you must like writing. It isn’t easy.

Second, the goal is to create content that backs up your professional brand promise, demonstrates your expertise, and paints a picture of how you think and what working with you might be like. You want your words to lead buyers to think – hey, I want to talk to that person, I think they can help us.

Third, you need to do it well. I’ve read some of the most poorly written posts on LinkedIn ever. Words missing, capitalizing every word in a sentence, grammar way off, run on sentences and the like. Same goes for blog posts. Everyone makes mistakes but it is clear that some folks are writing stream of consciousness and don’t go back to edit themselves. Did I say that the content is representing you? If it looks like you are unable to string a few sentences together coherently, what message are you communicating to a potential buyer?

Writing is only one way to create content. There are many great ways to create content that is yours and here are 17 ideas to get those juices flowing. Maybe it is a presentation you create. How about conducting podcast interviews. What about a webinar you host with a panel of leaders in your industry that you invite prospects to attend, which you record and repurpose later. You might like creating short little video clips.

What I’m saying is that you need to figure out what you are most comfortable creating on your own and start there.

About that original question.

The answer isn’t yes or no. Most things are not black and white.

The answer is that salespeople need a content strategy that works for them. That much is true, and I believe it will be a mashup of the three approaches I shared in this post. It is probably a mix of 70% (other), 20% (company), and 10% (yours) in the beginning. You have to determine for yourself what will work best for you. Don’t listen to anyone insisting it has to be one way – as in you must write your own content – just because they said so. This is about your brand – not theirs! Never forget that!

Status Quo is Your Biggest Competitor

When CEB reported that 57% of the buyer’s journey was happening without the engagement of sales, it led to the mistaken assumption that sales had no role in the early part of the buying decision. Similarly, when SiriusDecisions reported that 67% of the buyer’s decision-making journey happens digitally, once again the assumption was that sales had no role in the process. Yes, buyers do leverage online tools to do their early stage due diligence and research when they believe they have a business problem that needs addressing. How that became translated into buyers never talk to sellers at that stage is interesting.Stand out of a crowd

I never viewed either of these statistics as something to be afraid of, instead, I saw it as an opportunity for salespeople to find ways to be out in plain sight when buyers were in that early education and research phase. How to engage buyers online whether through content or direct interaction has been the subject of many of my blog posts and that of many others in the sales profession. When it comes to improving sales pipeline or what to do to move deals along to close, what isn’t talked about enough is that your most challenging competitor is the status quo.

Planning for status quo.

Status quo is Latin for existing state. Typically when buyers decide to maintain the status quo, they are often resistant to the risk associated with doing something differently than they do today. If your deals are stalling out because buyers do nothing and stick with the status quo, one reason this is happening is that the risk they associate with making a major change to a new solution was not mitigated. That’s where you have an opportunity to help them. If the perceived risk of making a change is greater than staying with what they’ve got, you won’t close the business. If you want to stand out from the crowd, you will help buyers assuage their fears with data to back you up, which then positions you more strongly for moving a sales opportunity along to close.

Let’s talk about ROI.

A key theme that emerged from Demand Gen’s 2016 B2B Buyer’s Survey Report was the subject of ROI. That’s an important hurdle that salespeople have to help buyers get over. Overwhelmingly respondents said they are feeling the pressure of financial scrutiny from corporate.  And when asked how their purchase process had changed over the past year, the survey revealed that 61% said they “conduct a more detailed ROI analysis before making a final decision.” Now that company leadership has increased scrutiny on the financial side to justify purchase decisions; it is easy to see why buyers proceed with caution.

More decision makers also increase the odds of status quo winning.

Another contributing factor to overcoming status quo is the number of decision makers now involved in buying decisions. This new reality is especially true if you are selling into a complex B2B environment. CEB has said their research indicates that 6.8 people are involved in the decision-making process these days. I would say that those numbers are conservative because there are far more people inside an organization who have influence into the ultimate decision than you may realize. The stakeholders involved in these buying decisions are in a variety of roles, work in multiple geographies or regions, each with a unique perspective on the challenges and pains that a particular business problem may be causing. They also have their unique opinion on what will be the right solution to correct the situation.

There is good news.

The challenges of beating your toughest competitor in any deal situation – status quo – provides an opportunity for salespeople who understand this challenge and plan for ways to overcome it.

In Demand Gen’s Report, there were four top reasons why buyers ultimately choose a winning vendor. They are:

98% – Timeliness of a vendor’s response to inquiries

97% – Demonstrated a stronger knowledge of the solution area and business landscape

94% – Demonstrated a stronger knowledge of our company and its needs

90% – Provided content that made it easier to show ROI and build a business case for purchase

Notice that these buyers didn’t say, we choose a winning vendor because of their product pitch! The salespeople who “ditch the pitch” and focus on demonstrating their consultative business value to buyers have a greater shot at kicking status quo out the door to win deals more often.

The Disconnect Between Social Media Spend and Business Impact

Disconnect Words Broken Chain Links Separation ApartWith spend on social media channels expected to increase to a 20.9 percent share of marketing budgets in the next five years, according to a recent CMO Survey, the big question is if that spend investment is translating into an increase in overall business performance? The answer appears to be not so much. In a C-Suite Study conducted by IBM, they reported that almost half of Chief Marketing Officers feel that they – and their teams – still aren’t fully prepared to meet the challenges of operating in social media channels.

If CMO’s aren’t feeling that their teams are fully prepared to deliver on corporate objectives, what could be getting in the way?

There is no clearly defined social media strategy that aligns with core business objectives. With no formalized social media strategy in place, you leave your social media teams flying solo without a clear connection back to overall corporate business goals. In the Harvard Business Review article, Fix Your Social Media Strategy by Taking It Back to Basics, they mention that a Google search provides 140 million results for “social media marketing tips,” but no matter how many headlines promise it, there is no one-size-fits-all social media strategy. Tips, instead of a clearly defined strategy, won’t cut it if you want to see real results.Though the marketing team may be taking the lead on the creation of the social media strategy, the company’s social media efforts need to impact sales opportunities and revenue also. Don’t leave this important business strategy to marketing alone.

There is a gap between social media activity and business performance. It is important to link your sales and marketing goals to social media KPIs. Buzz, clicks, likes and followers are good initial gauges of social media marketing success, but long-term success requires that you go much deeper. Ultimately, social media activity needs to demonstrate how the effort led to improvement in revenue outcomes, either in qualified leads to nurture, new customer acquisition or retention.

The team doesn’t have the right balance of expertise. Don’t assume that young 20 something is the right person to drive your social media strategy. They may understand the inner workings of Twitter or Snapchat, but that doesn’t mean they understand how to apply social activity to core business objectives. Make sure your team includes people who understand the technology and have solid business experience. You need both!

All data sources are not being integrated. Be sure that you’ve built a plan that includes the seamless integration of social media data with other types of customer information, such as the data that comes from sales, purchasing, social media, and other communication channels. Though you might be able to source potential sales leads via Twitter, how is that information then integrated back into marketing’s lead nurture process or the sales CRM system for follow-up and tracking?

Lack of cross-functional skill and leadership stymies success. Today’s marketing leaders must be adept at traditional marketing strategies, and they also need to be proficient in the use and understanding of how new technologies impact their efforts. I believe this applies to sales leaders as well. Reaching buyers through the traditional avenues of phone calls (rarely answered) and emails (often ignored) mean that everyone in sales is using the appropriate social media channels to engage buyers in advance of clearly defined sales opportunities.

Investing in social media marketing and social selling strategies is important and must continue. Buyer behavior is the key factor driving the importance of engaging prospects and customers on multiple channels. To justify that investment, though, also means that your social media/social selling strategy goes beyond the surface indicators of success and aligns to key business drivers like new customer acquisition, revenue growth, and customer retention.

3 Reasons to Use Video in Selling

Incorporating video into our social selling content mix makes sense on many levels, although I’m the first to admit that I didn’t do much with video until last year. Prior to that I was involved in several Google hangouts that were recorded, which I shared with my network, but I really didn’t get more serious about creating video content that I could use in a more intentional way.

I had my reasons for not making video content creation more of a priority. One of those reasons was most certainly ego. Not a big fan of how I look on video, I used that as an excuse not to get going. Perhaps that true for you too?video camera

Finally, I got over myself.

My colleague and good friend, Doug Lehman (@douglehman on Twitter) has been in the Video Brand Ambassador game longer than most. A very early evangelist and practitioner, Doug has honed his craft and now works with clients to pull together video content that helps salespeople best represent their personal brand and topic expertise.

Watch a series that Doug and I created together called the Sales Accelerators. Sales Accelerators Video Series Watch for more videos coming soon.

Naturally, when thinking about writing this post, I wanted to interview Doug to get his take on the role that video content plays in sales and social selling. But before I turn you loose on part 1 of the interview, here are 3 reasons that Doug shared with me regarding why salespeople need to get involved:

-Use video to educate, demonstrate your credibility and expertise, provide social proof and promote your products and services. When buyers are doing their solutions research, they turn to video for quick, informative answers to their questions.

-Reduce travel costs and other expenses. Unlike back in the day, sales interactions don’t always happen face-to-face, which explains the rapid growth of video technology being used in sales and marketing and incorporated into CRM processes.

-A sales video can be used as follow up after a sales call or meeting. Guaranteed to be more engaging than a static follow-up email.

Bonus reason: Video is great for capturing user-generated content (UGC), referrals and testimonials that build on the social proof that buyers consider during the decision making process.

Now, let’s hear from Doug.

BG: How important is the use of video in selling today?

DL: I think video is important today but will more important tomorrow. Today, buyers and customers do their own research and look for immediate answers. Using video to educate, train and promote your products and service is powerful. Most buyers would rather watch a one to two minute video versus spending time reading a full text column or whitepaper. Video is not a substitute for face-to-face meetings, but it is the next best thing to being there.

Video itself can expedite the sales cycle. We now live in the age of information at your fingertips with buyers and customers researching solutions online and using mobile devices to access quick answers to their questions. Simply put your buyers are influenced by video and sales and marketing needs to be using video to their advantage. The rapid growth of video technology in sales, marketing and CRM is on the rise and demonstrates how important video is to your content strategy. Just look at all the new video technology providers. The simple fact is that your potential customers are using video to evaluate people, products, services and companies. Proactive engagement is paramount.

From a sales point of view, video that is compelling and engaging with the correct call to action will assist increasing revenue and expanding exposure and reach. Video works well with email, which is still a very popular form of communication. Cut through the email noise that customers and prospects receive daily, capture their attention and improve your click-through rates.

Leveraging video can reduce travel costs and other sales expenses. Video helps accelerate the sales cycle on all levels. Educational, explainer videos, product-training videos will provide buyers with more clarity about what you offer, but these videos also demonstrate advanced credibility and social proof about your capabilities. It has direct impact on the buyer’s journey. Leveraging video content for lead generation with educational and explainer videos will allow for customer clarity in answering questions in the buyer’s discovery and evaluation phase. Your customer will be further along in their decision process and closer to making a purchase decision. Video can shorter the sales cycle time for complex and transactional sales.

Video works well in post sales meeting follow up. Leveraging user-generated content, referrals and testimonials can be extremely powerful as buyers look to peers from recommendations. A simple sales video follow up after a call or meeting speaks volumes. It will stand out and personalize the sales process.

From a research point of view, video is a great tool. As salespeople, we can look for trigger points and reasons to engage with buyers. Though we call it social listening, why not perform social watching. Look at your customers videos and SEE what they are talking about in a more personalized format.

Finally, customer advocacy, repeat business, referrals, references and testimonials are powerful for influencing customers. Authentic Video Marketing resonates well with customers at the highest engagement level.

BG: What are the top 3 ways to get started?

DL: Before you get started, your first order of business is establishing your plan. Watch other video examples. Replicate and test out those concepts. Spend some time evaluating what works in the business world. Do your own research by looking at video production agencies. Use YouTube as a training research tool watch videos to get your planning down.

Start with a small video project first and get comfortable. Produce shorter videos with tips and simple calls to action (CTA’s). Rehearse your project and practice before live video shooting commences. If you have someone that is more comfortable on camera, let them do the first video project or start with having your customers do a video testimonial.

Be natural and authentic and let your personality shine through. You want viewers to connect with you, which happens when your video is focused on something that is of value to the buyer. If you just make your video a sales pitch, you’ve wasted an opportunity. User generation content goes a long way too. Encourage your current customers to film a short-clip talking about why they decided to buy from you and what they liked about the process.

Using pictures for slideshows or screen casts are another way to get started. Interview style videos, live streaming and panel video chats like Skype, Google Hangout, Blab or Skype are great video tools to get started. The more experience you have on camera the better. The key to starting video is to start small, build and practice.

Breaking it down…in Lehman’s terms, as Doug would say.

By now, I hope you can see that video is a compelling way for you, as a salesperson, to stand apart from your competitors. Don’t keep waiting. It’s time to get started!

Find part 2, where you’ll learn about common video mistakes, the best platforms to host your videos and how to build your audience, here.

Make sure you connect with Doug. Talk to him about his services. He can help you get over the getting started hurdles. Reach Doug at:

Social Selling Video

Create Winning Sales Experiences

Two Female Runners Finishing Race TogetherAccess to decision makers is tough. An IDC study reported that inundated with data and sales pitches, buyers return only 10.5% of phone calls and 9% of emails from new vendors. Yet, pressured by management KPI’s, every day salespeople use the same tactics – cold calls and cold emails – in an effort to convince a prospective customer to agree to a sales meeting.

Activity is NOT the same as effectiveness.

Using technology to cast a wider net has given rise to the delusion that if you just broadcast your message to more people you are bound to land more meetings. If sales people expect to make quota, they need to remember that it’s all a numbers game, right? Wrong. The theory that simply increasing the number of “people” you contact means you’ll get more business is outdated.  Buyer expectations have changed.

In IDC’s Social Buying Meets Social Selling whitepaper they concluded that “While time is scarce, trust and confidence can be even rarer. Buyers making high-impact decisions will gravitate toward methods that make confidence building easier.”

Spray and pray selling isn’t going to instill confidence in a buyer any time soon.

Spamcasting the same email message to 100, 500 or 1,000 people is not an effective prospecting strategy. Moreover, you put yourself at serious risk of creating a negative impression in the mind of your potential customer. Competition is stiff and buyers have choices. If your goal is to fill the pipeline with qualified leads and secure sales meetings, you need a different strategy.

Two things need to change:

  1. Sales approach
  2. Message

Chasing anyone with a pulse is a costly waste of time and energy.

Though it may seem counter intuitive, you actually have a higher likelihood of securing meetings and closing deals more quickly when you focus your attention on a targeted list of decision makers to pursue.

Now that you’ve narrowed your focus, it is time to personalize your message. The Internet and social media in particular, is full of insights that can help craft a message that is relevant to the buyer you’ve targeted. That means you need to do some homework prior to crafting your message, and yes, it does take more time but aren’t positive results worth the effort?

Don’t fall into the 90% of communications that are deleted without a second thought.

Follow these tips:

  • It is not about you. Prospects don’t care about your company history, the latest infusion of VC cash or the fact that you won an industry award. Tell them what is in it for them!
  • Create a compelling subject line that captures interest.
  • Keep the message brief and to the point.
  • Check your facts. If you sell services to staffing agencies then be sure you are emailing staffing companies.
  • Stop asking people to visit your website to learn more. Lazy and presumes your buyer has the time to do your sales job.
  • Make sure the customer examples you use are relevant. Don’t tout examples of enterprise organizations if you are emailing a small business.
  • Provide the social proof and include specific metrics that clearly show how results were achieved by the companies you are referencing.
  • Don’t try to be a comedian. One email I received said that perhaps one of the reasons I didn’t get back to him is because a file cabinet fell on me and I couldn’t reach the keyboard to contact him. Delete.

Buyers expect more.

They want to work with people who can help them solve their business challenges. Order takers aren’t needed or wanted.

When you earn the right to a 30-minute meeting, use your time wisely. Don’t pitch. Focus on bringing insights to the meeting that will benefit the buyer in some way. It could be information on the latest industry trends or data related to their competitors.

Ask great questions to guide the sales conversation.

  • Why should my target buyer care about what I offer?
  • What happens to their business if they do nothing?
  • Why should they trust me versus my competitors?
  • How are their peers solving the same challenges they face now?
  • What expertise will I need to move this ahead to a successful win?
  • What do I need to know about their competition or their industry?
  • How do I gain their commitment? What’s really important to them?

The sellers who succeed are those that swim in the blue ocean. Let your competitors continue to do what they’ve always done. Let them pitch features and fight it out on price.

CEI discovered when they surveyed decision makers that 86% said that they would pay more for a great customer experience but felt that only 1% actually delivered.

Creating a sales experience that sets you apart from everyone else is your competitive advantage. Go make it happen!

Sales Blunder #1: Selling Features Not Value

In the early days of my sales career, I was taught to sell features and benefits. Later, Solution Selling, Consultative Selling, Precision Questions, Spin Selling and other sales methodologies like them espoused the importance of red number one sign isolated on white backgroundasking the right questions to understand buyer pain in order to sell your solution.

For there to be pain, a problem had to be identified. Once identified, you then draw the correlation between the buyer’s pain and how your product or service is the buyer’s cure. Taking it further, if you are doing your job well, you also have to break through the inertia of what is likely your toughest competitor – the status quo. Your prospect may have identified a problem that is causing them business pain, but is the pain acute or chronic? In other words, is the pain something that they’ve lived with long enough that they will continue to allow it to go on, OR has the problem become so acutely painful that they absolutely must make a change?

Recently, I’ve had conversations with Judy Mod and Matt Rosenhaft, Principals at Social Gastronomy. They work with technology companies to overcome what they call the “buyer adoption” problem. Turns out that companies are getting in their own way. They very often hinder the buying process rather than further it along. In an April 2014 blog post, Chuck Carey had this to say, “Buyers measure success based on how well you resolved their problem, not how well you met their expectations.”

When it comes to problems, there are two things happening.

1. Your prospect thinks they have identified a business problem that they need to fix. Is it the right problem? Are you sure?

Doubtful that your buyer is sure. According to Matt and Judy, the challenge sellers (and marketers) face is that it is darn difficult for internal teams to all agree on what the acute problem is much less agree on how to fix it. As with so many things in life, most folks simply focus their attention on symptoms without delving deeper into the root cause of the pain the organization suffers from.

I think of countless sales situations I’ve found myself in where the buyer tells me the problem is X, and after I ask more questions, I find out that on surface X looks to be correct, but the deeper digging uncovered something more revealing.

In one sales meeting, the buyer tells me that the “problem” is that their salespeople are having trouble getting access to decision makers. They reached out to me thinking that social selling was the way to go. Maybe.  During the conversation, the buyer assured me that once a salesperson secured the meeting, they “always closed the deal”. When I hear that, I’m suspicious. I don’t care how good a salesperson you are, you never win them all. Curious, I ask them to tell me the percentage ratio of meetings to closed deals. Guess what. They can’t. Why? Because by their own admission, their salespeople are notoriously bad about entering sales opportunities and communication into their CRM system. They just don’t do it most of the time. If there is very little data regarding the sales pipeline and funnel progression stages, how do they know salespeople always close the deal? The discussion went on from there but you get the idea. They were not close to being clear about the real problem.

2. Do you know what problem your solution solves and can you clearly articulate that message?

Given how many sales presentations I’ve listened to, I’d say that the answer is no. If you, as the salesperson, don’t know what problem your solution solves, do you really think your prospect can simply connect the random dots and figure it out on their own? When it comes to marketing and selling your products and services, your potential customers DO NOT CARE about the process of how you get things done. Nor do they really care about the technical details. Sure, if it is a technology solution the IT guys might, but that comes later. In the initial stages of determining what product or service to purchase, your prospect cares about one thing – finding the right solution to solve their problem.

Forget the Features

I cannot say this enough. Though I know this is sooooo difficult for sellers to hear. They’ve been brainwashed to think that buyers make decisions based on features. They don’t.

Consider this basic recipe:

1. Understand the problem your solution solves. If you can’t speak to that, you’re sunk.

2. Get to the core of the problem that the buyer you are talking with needs to solve.

3. Determine if there is a match.

4. If so, help the buyer connect the dots by mapping your solution to their problem. Again, it isn’t the features that will win the deal!

The feature dance leads nowhere, and if you keep selling that way, you’ll be dancing all alone! That sounds kinda lonely to me.

You Got My Attention

Or did you?

What you really did is interrupt me. I don’t know who you are, but you think you are special enough that I’ll stop everything just to meet with you, talk to you or respond to you.interrupt

You don’t really care if the initiative that I am responsible for rolling out is a success. You certainly don’t care about what is at stake if I fail. All you care about is getting your sale.

Even if I meet with you, you hear nothing that I say. Actually, I didn’t have much chance to say anything, because you can’t stop talking about how great you, your product and your company are.

You know absolutely nothing about my business. What’s worse, it is obvious you haven’t even bothered to try to find out what’s important to me. That’s insulting. There’s this thing called the Internet and social networks. You may have heard of them. Do you use them? Don’t think so. All you care about is getting your sale.

You think all you need to do to bond with me is to ask a few outdated questions like “what keeps you up at night”. If you really want to know what keeps me up at night, I’ll tell you. It’s you.

In your desperation to sell me something, you are not thinking about the bigger problems that I am facing. Revenue keeps declining, leads are drying up, my sales people don’t follow up on the leads that marketing gives them, or they waste time with people not qualified to buy from us. Senior management is on my back, and I may not have a job in 6-months if I don’t find a way to stop the bleeding. I know we need more than a quick fix but that’s what you are peddling.

Even if your product or service fixes one part of the problem, how do you help me solve the rest of it? I know, I know. That’s not really your job is it? I think it should be.

You should care, but you don’t. You’ll protest, of course. You’ll say that you do care, but we both know that you just want the sale.

I know you complain about me. You whine to your buddies that I just don’t get it. You think it’s rude not to return your phone call or answer your email. You can’t fathom that the reason for my silence is that you’ve said nothing that tells me you are different. You are as bland, selfish, lazy and vanilla as every other sales person who approaches me. It soothes your ego to point the finger at me and proclaim it is my fault. You believe that if I just took the meeting, sat through your demo and listened to your company story, I’d understand.

The problem is that YOU don’t understand.

You refuse to listen to me. You can’t accept that everything you thought you knew is useless now. I want something more from you. You need to tell me something that I don’t already know; otherwise, what’s the point?

I don’t need sales people. I need trusted advisors. People that I can count on to tell me the truth, present fresh ideas, look at the problem holistically, work seamlessly with other providers and challenge me to think differently.

When the day comes that what keeps YOU UP AT NIGHT is that I might lose my job if what you sell me doesn’t work out, that’s when I will know it is time to welcome you with open arms.

Turning Blah Blah Blah Into Bling

Sales activity today appears to place far more emphasis on scrambling to get a deal with that next new client than it does on nurturing existing customers. Frankly, that puzzles me. It doesn’t matter what industry you serve, retention of your existing customer base should always be your number one priority.Money

When I think about a seller’s role, it is to develop and cultivate new sales opportunities while continuing to mine for new gold within existing accounts.

Depending on the size of your organization, you may have strategically decided that some of your sales people will focus on the hunting and other will focus on the nurturing. But whether you are hunting new business or selling deeper into existing accounts, you have to keep in mind that your message matters.

Lose the Pitch

One of the more egregious mistakes often made is pitching a customer with a message that clearly shows that you have no idea that they are, in fact, a customer. Last week, I received such a sales pitch from a CRM provider pitching me on a new service. For 3 years, I have been their customer, but it was clear that this sales rep didn’t know it.

Other pitches come in the form of unsolicited sales spam that are poorly written, generic and focused on the seller not the buyer. For an Oscar winning example of the worst piece of spam ever, click here and be amazed.

In various forms, thousands of sales messages are being sent to potential prospects each day. How much thought is being put into the core content of those messages? In my opinion, not much thought at all.

Blah Blah Blah

That is exactly what your prospects and probably your customers are saying to themselves as they read your pitch. It doesn’t matter if it is print, phone calls, email, LinkedIn InMails, newsletters, Tweets or Facebook posts, you have to be asking yourself – from the perspective of the prospect or customer – does your message convey that you know something about them and the troubles they face? If the goal is to increase leads and secure more sales meetings, you lose every chance of making that happen if you are not viewed as a credible resource worthy of having a buying conversation.

Time is tight and competition is fierce in most industries. Why waste effort sending out messages that land in the trash bin rather than as a meeting on the prospects calendar? The problem is that activity is being confused with sales effectiveness, which only creates a perception that what is being done will lead to sales results.

If you want the bling, you have to do away with the blah blah blah. Your customers and your prospects will thank you!

Did Infusionsoft Make it Right? You Decide.

Customer experience and back-end service support have always been hot buttons for me. When you work your backside off to close sales deals, the last thing you want to find out is that a customer bailed because excellence in another part of the customer experience broke down. iStock_000016225393Medium

In the “old” model, you sold something and everything was fine – until it wasn’t. When something went awry, fingers crossed, your service team handled it. But waiting to react is not consistent with the world we now find ourselves doing business in.

Companies remain too internally focused. Most do not stop to consider what their policies feel like to the prospect or customer. Policies are almost always focused on what’s best for the company not for the people who will choose to interact and do business with them.

An Update to a Recent Post About Service

Twenty days ago, I wrote a post called Just Cancel My Account – Part 1 In the post, I shared my personal story of what happened when I decided to end my business relationship with Infusionsoft. I did my best to be professional in my post, but I was ticked off. You can read the original post to understand all the details, but I was not happy to be billed for another month when I believed I was canceling my account ahead of the billing cycle.

Monday, I was surprised to receive an email from a senior manager at Infusionsoft (I’ll name the company but not the individual) telling me that Infusionsoft was aware of the situation, apparently management had a conversation about it and had decided to refund my money. OK. Nice. Unexpected. Thank you. It shows that they are trying. I give them credit for that.


Read my correlating tale of Kick Butt Service delivered by Zappos when something went wrong. You’ll understand why Infusionsoft, well meaning as they may be, has work to do.

Stop Justifying…Get Outside Your Company Walls

I originally planned to post the entire email, but decided to pull key statements from it instead. Here is my reaction to the email.

1. I do appreciate the refund. Though to me it felt like 3-days into the cycle didn’t justify keeping my entire monthly fee, I now understand that the timing of “their systems” didn’t quite jive with my understanding of when billing actually happened. More importantly, and to be fair to Infusionsoft, I did agree to their terms and conditions when I initially became a customer.

The refund is a nice gesture and…

2. I received the email 18 days after I wrote my blog post. The post was circulated widely through Twitter, LinkedIn and by my blog followers but I’m hearing from someone 18 days later? Though I didn’t expect a response at all, the fact that this wasn’t picked up sooner is surprising. Are Infusionsoft folks not monitoring the net and social networks for mention of them? Or did they pick the post up within a day or so and then spent 2-weeks deliberating what to do?

3. My colleague, Jonathan Farrington would argue that Infusionsoft wouldn’t have done anything if I had not written a blog post that cast their company in a negative light. That’s probably true. The question is…should you wait until someone calls you out online before you decide to do something? I did ask the billing folks to refund my money given I was barely 3-days into the billing cycle. Aren’t their employees empowered to “do the right thing” immediately?

Then there is the justification…

4. Is the “justification” for Infusionsoft policies and their behind the scenes reasoning warranted when sending me the conciliatory email? Probably not. It always bugs me when a company (or person) says, “We value your feedback.” and then goes on to tell you all the reasons why they do what they do.

“We don’t have online cancellations for several reasons, one of which is we have customers that we talk with every day that needed extra help, or specific consulting that have actually stayed with us and been very successful in using the application.”

Perhaps Infusionsoft does have customers who don’t know the difference between contacting tech support for help and canceling their account. I don’t know. But I am still asking why I had to call, talk to someone, tell them what I wanted and why, and then be forced to wait for a call back from another employee to spend more time going over it again? The process needs to be revisited.

5. What are your thoughts about being asked to “remove” or “rewrite” your blog post, because a company now tries to do the right thing?

“I would also ask that you consider removing, or rewriting the post to share that while we might have been slow to do the right thing, we did strive to get there.”

Infusionsoft made an attempt, and I do give them credit for it. But no, I won’t remove my original post or rewrite history; the story happened as I told it. Thanks for the refund though.

Measuring the ROI of Social Selling

How do you measure the ROI of social selling, especially against traditional selling activities, techniques or tactics?

I always find the preoccupation with social selling ROI interesting. Why such an emphasis on whether or not using social networks as part of the selling process is working when typically, sales leaders NEVER evaluate what their sales people are doing when they are not in the office. In other words, do they question the ROI or evaluate the effectiveness of the phone calls, lunch meetings, networking events or conferences that their reps attend?

I know sales people who meet with anyone who has a pulse. Where is the ROI in that?sellersusingsocial

But, of course, I agree that measuring activity – all sales activity and that includes the use of social media for selling – is very important. I also know that social selling actually can lead to sales people achieving their quota’s more often.

Measuring ROI doesn’t have to be challenging. If you read my work or have heard me speak, you know that I advocate strategy, skills and execution as the recipe for success. Your strategy – or call it a plan – also includes the things you want to track.

 Activities to Track

I’m just going to assume that your sales people have decked out their LinkedIn profile. At this point, that should be the obvious first step, but you might want to thereafter track how often they change up white papers, case studies or topical presentations on their profiles. At a minimum, I suggest changing out that content once a month.

Other activities to measure, which most sellers are usually most interested in are:

  • Size and quality of LinkedIn connections that are a mix of people who can refer business and/or can buy from your company. This is NOT simply a numbers game. If you are not connected to potential buyers or people who can refer business to you and you to them, the power of using LinkedIn has been missed.
  • Number of referrals received and from whom. Nothing gets you in the door more quickly than a referral from someone trusted and respected. As much as 44% f the time, you can secure that meeting. Sponsored by a trusted insider at the prospect company? The meeting acceptance rate jumps to 84% based on cited statistics in Selling to the C-Suite.
  • Number of net/new meetings – discovered and cultivated via social – with qualified prospects conducted each week, month, quarter. This can be tough because there is generally not a “straight line” between the actual activity and the ability to secure a meeting. Sooo…your sales people need to get in the habit of asking – then writing down- how a prospect proactively reached out to them or how the process of securing that meeting happened.

Speaking on webinars, conferences or participating on panels is an excellent way to gain visibility, but choose wisely. Even if I speak to 60 people, I can’t necessarily draw a straight line to a sale. It is a combination of things that lead to visibility.

Influence Counts Too

Driving revenue is obviously a sellers job, but that should not be to only measure of your effectiveness using social media. What about influence? You can use Klout to determine how well you influence your network.

Or, use TweetReach to judge the effectiveness of your tweets.

You should pay attention to the people commenting on your status updates on LinkedIn or how many people started to connect with you because they like what you post in groups.

And, continue the practice of giving things away that you can track. Presentations or webcasts shared via Slideshare, “how to” guides, ebook or white paper that be downloaded off the web, shared after speaking at an event or posted on your LinkedIn profile.

Focus on the Important

Don’t believe the hype that using social selling strategies leads to an immediate explosion of leads in the pipeline or revenue closing by itself over night. Like anything else, sales success takes consistent hard work and with buyers connected to multiple communication platforms, your sales people need to be ready.

But the most important thing to keep in mind… determining real ROI is about focus on the right activity not just the fluffy stuff.