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 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.

Traits of a Social Selling Rockstar

As I’m on my way to Seattle to work with a client, I have been having a most interesting conversation with my seat mate. It is always refreshing to talk with like minded people in the world of selling. Both of us have been in the business for quite some time and both agree that the more things change, the more they always seem to stay the same. iStock_000014779452Medium

Social selling aside, in other words the ability to use social technology to support your sales activities, there are core traits that define top Sales Rockstars. I don’t think that will ever change.

1. They are chameleons. My colleagues over at CEB might disagree with me, but I think the ability to adapt to different personality styles makes a big difference in successful selling. Years ago, I sold the same way to everyone. Miss optimistic. Suzy cheerleader, I would discover didn’t work for everyone. If I was meeting with a decision maker who had a high need for details, my “we can do it” attitude didn’t exactly win them over. Later, I would become certified in DiSC and learned that different personality styles have different needs. The extremely detailed person wants detailed answers to their questions. Cheerleading won’t cut it.

2. They listen. Too many sales people these days are enamored with the sound of their own voice. They talk and talk and talk and talk and… OMG, they bore their prospects to death. Listening is not about pretending to be interested while waiting for your moment to pounce with your pitch. Listening is being present. Listening with all of your senses to learn about what is important to your prospect and gain greater connection with them.

3. They care. Once in a management meeting, a peer of mine accursed me of being too touchy feeley because I had the audacity to believe that caring about what was important to others meant something. Call me old school, but I believe Ziglar, Carnegie and other greats who remind us that when you care enough to help others get what they want, you win too.

4. They are learners. I believe that sales people who put a high priority on learning have the ability to relate to people at all levels. I realize that the ability to create great “relationships” is not the only factor in winning deals. Still, people buy from people, and if you can’t connect with them, it will be tough to secure the meeting and advance the deal. Avid learners, however, position themselves who as someone bringing fresh insight to the table and being able to challenge the status quo based on their breadth and depth of knowledge and experience.

5. They have vast networks and cultivate referrals constantly. I am a huge fan of Joanne Black of No More Cold Calling fame. She is one of the most ardent proponents for referral selling, and guess what, she’s right. Yes, I’m a huge supporter of using social media to augment your sales process AND cultivating a reputable referral network should always top your priority list. When I have been introduced by someone trusted and respected by the decision maker…I got the appointment. Hard to beat how a referral introduction can get you in the door…fast. After that you are on your own.

What do the super star social sellers do in addition to the 5 traits above?

  • They know they are simultaneously a brand and representing one at the same time.
  • They accept that buyer behavior has absolutely changed. They merge the tried and true with what works now.
  • They understand that pitching is dead. Sharing educational and informative content is what demonstrates credibility and  brings prospects to their doorstep.
  • They don’t live in the past. What worked back in the day has lost effectiveness. Adapt, adjust, thrive.
  • They know that “social” isn’t for the kids. Anyone interested in keeping their skills fresh will up their game day in and day out.

Rockstars evolve and only get better. Will you differentiate or stagnate? Up to you…

 

 

 

 

 

Decide

Ever wonder why you haven’t lost the 20 pounds you keep saying you want gone?iStock_000014153112Small

You haven’t decided to do what it takes to lose them.

Still talking about that book you have inside you but it just never seems to get written?

The decision to get your ideas on paper hasn’t been made.

Not hitting sales quota?

Maybe you’ve decided to blame the economy instead of deciding that people are still buying.

Are you dreaming about becoming your own boss while you slog it out 9-5 for someone else?

Dreaming won’t get you there; a decision to follow your heart will.

In Napoleon Hill’s classic work, Think and Grow Rich, he reminds us that the starting point of all personal achievement is desire. We decide that we want something so badly that our desire becomes a definite purpose, which we then put all of our energy into achieving. Sounds simple enough. Yet there is ample evidence that far too many people fall short of living their ideal life. Is that you?

Maybe it’s fear. After all, change is scary. Even if you know that moving in a different direction in your life or career will lead to something better, old habits die hard.

It’s possible that you’ve been running on autopilot so long that you really don’t know what would more fulfill you in your life or work.

Perhaps you talk yourself out of grabbing for the brass ring because from your current perspective, you just cannot fathom how it can be achieved.

Maybe you waste time blaming others for what isn’t working in your life today, and if that’s the case, you’ll never move forward. Think Occupy Wall Street.

English poet W.E. Henley wrote “I am the Master of my Fate; I am the Captain of my Soul”. Bottom line, no one else stands in your way but you.

Decide. Do. Have faith.

What’s in a Name?

Of all the books that I’ve read through the years, none has had more of an impact on me than Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. I have never forgotten the importance of remembering people’s names. Today’s post comes from colleague and guest blogger, Renee Walkup who shares some great tips for capitalizing on the power of a name.

As salespeople, it’s critical that we constantly are on top of our game–whether we are networking, prospecting over the phone, booking appointments or presenting to a group. The bottom line is that at least 60% of our customer engagement involves building relationships and at least 80% involves trust.

One surefire way to put a roadblock up in a relationship is to either:

1. Forget someone ‘s name, or

2. Mispronounce the customer’s name

Since we don’t all have John and Jane Smith’s to deal with (remember the movie, “Mr. and Mrs. Smith”? And look what happened to Brad and Angelina), the reality is, we need to be better prepared for the unexpected names and use a few tricks that can get us through possible embarrassment.

Since salespeople often ask me about this, and since I recently have had a variety of first-hand experience with my name, I thought I’d share a few tips for you on how to remember names and what to do if you are unsure as to the pronunciation of your customer’s name. Here you go…

1. Seems simple enough, but look at all the letters in the person’s name. This will give you a clue if there’s an extra vowel of syllable that would be different from what you are accustomed to seeing regularly. An example is my name. “Walker” is very recognizable “WalkUP” is less familiar.

2. Listen to the prospect’s voice mail before leaving a message. When you truly listen to the name, especially if there is an accent in the prospect’s voice, immediately write it down phonetically to YOUR eyes. That’s what I do, which helps tremendously (I just make sure my English Professor husband doesn’t see my notes since my particular form of phonetics is vastly different from the academically acceptable).

3. Call someone at the company (not the prospect) and AFTER identifying yourself, ask for his/her help in pronouncing the prospect’s name. THEN write in down using my advice in #2.

4. If you are prospecting and are unclear as to how to pronounce either the first name or the last name, pick one. It’s better to know that you are calling “Ms. Williams” than try and mispronounce her first name as “Quintel” when it’s not that. Make it easy on yourself.

5. When you return a call or are going to meet the customer in person, have your phonetic pronunciation written down in front of you. The more you say the name the more skilled you will be at using it correctly (and customers like that).

6. If attending a trade show, make sure you look at the prospect’s name tag or business card for a visual reminder of the person’s name. This will help you retain the information, especially if you use the prospect’s name 3 times over the period of your conversation.

7. Lastly, use visual cues and memory links to remind you of the person’s name. For example, if the dark-headed guy looks a bit like Michael Scott from “The Office”, and his name is “Scott”, that should be a mental reminder for you.

About Renee…

Internationally recognized professional speaker, author, and phone sales expert, Renee Walkup has influenced thousands of professionals at companies including: CNN, The Coca-Cola Company, Panasonic, ING Financial, Charles Schwab & Co., AT&T, Pearson Education, Genzyme,  LaFarge, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, and Nestle USA. A guest on numerous radio and TV programs, Renee is often quoted in national publications.  She is the co-author of six books, and her latest book, “Selling to Anyone Over the Phone” is a business best seller with over 30,000 copies sold.

(C)Renee Walkup, All Rights Reserved, http://www.salespeak.com

Hey Sales Leaders…It’s Time for an Upgrade

Yesterday, I talked about social selling. What it is and why it is important for sales executives to pay attention. Given the confusion around the meaning of Sales 2.0, I thought it would be a good idea to clarify the dialog, because the terms Sales 2.0 and social selling are often used interchangeably.

Often described as the use of better, technology-enabled sales practices to improve speed to close, team collaboration, strategic accountability and customer engagement, Sales 2.0 signifies an evolution in the approach to the sales process. Today’s buyer can circumvent your company’s fancy marketing programs and advertising to find out anything they want to about you through their social networks.

Yes, technology can increase the gains in sales-to-close conversion, but technology is only a portion of the equation. There is an attitude that must be cultivated and adopted in companies – and specifically sales organizations – of all sizes and industries, which recognize that Sales 2.0 is – at its core – is about helping sales people spend more time with their customers.

Isn’t that what every company wants? [Read more...]

NextGen Sales: Understanding Social Selling

There is fair amount of buzz about a concept called “social selling” (often used synonymously with Sales 2.0, a term coined and trademarked by Nigel Edelshain). Certainly some people will argue that sales, particularly B2B sales, has always depended on a sales reps ability to build a relationship with their potential buyer, which could be viewed as a social activity. Since successful selling has always revolved around relationships – who you know – it isn’t surprising that sales people focused on networking, establishing as many connections as they could, and leveraging existing relationships to close sales opportunities. Networks were generally cultivated through face-to-face business meetings, attendance at industry conferences, business association meetings, or through social and business clubs.

Along with the adoption of Web 2.0 and social media, comes a dramatic change in the notion of social sales. The first huge change for sales to get their head around is that social media has significantly increased the scale and reach of our relationship networks. Using tools like LinkedIn, Gist, Facebook, Foursquare and Twitter, the number of people that we maintain some degree of one-to-one contact and connect with via peer networks and groups has dramatically increased in the past few years. But something even more important has happened with respect to how sales are transacted these days. With the advent of Web 2.0 technologies, the buying process has changed. Most B2B buying decisions now start; move forward and very often are closed online without a single face-to-face meeting.

Social Sales and Customer 2.0

This new technology enabled sales trend is sometimes thought to be merely the adoption of social media and online collaboration tools by sales organizations. Adopting social tools is simply one facet of the equation, because below the surface of this trend is a bigger, more fundamental change that has occurred in customer behavior and their buying process. Far too many sales organizations continue to employ sales strategies that worked for Customer 1.0. But now, Customer 2.0 has access to unlimited information about you personally, your company, your products, and those of your competitors.

Whether you like it or not, Customer 2.0 can and will ignore your marketing messages, because they prefer to rely on people that they know and trust and their peer networks to educate themselves, keep on top of news and trends, evaluate vendors independently, and make buying decisions. Conversations occurring on social sites have become more influential to the buying decision than your traditional sales and marketing tactics. Customers are controlling the conversation; they form their opinions about working with you without your involvement. Although you may be resisting, it is time to accept that this is the new reality of social selling.

What You Know About Who You Know

A better educated and more connected customer is driving the social selling process. The savvy social sales person recognizes and embraces the opportunity that this presents. Sales will always remain a relationship-driven business. Social sales people understand and leverage the power of “what you know about who you know.”

Remember that the new social customer demands a new approach from sales organizations. The need for comprehensive, real time data is imperative to sales professionals who must leverage the social web to actively listen, add value to the customer conversation and create sales relationships in new ways. Tools like Gist (integrates with Outlook) provides sales professionals with a way to quickly aggregate and view real time information about people in their network or people that they follow.

Your customer – customer 2.0 – expects your sales team to know at least as much about them as they already know about you. Do they?

Blogging from Word is a Snap

Last week, I decided to upgrade to Office 2010. A former Microsoft colleague of mine had mentioned the recent release, so I scurried on over to my Microsoft alumni account to make my purchase. I hadn’t gotten around to making my Windows 7 purchase yet and took the opportunity to do that at the same time.

The upgrade journey for both products was actually pretty smooth. If you are planning to upgrade, I recommend you set aside several hours for the process. And don’t plan on working on your computer while you are trying to upgrade. Forget it. While my upgrade project was underway, I took that opportunity to make phone calls, file stuff away, catch up on my reading of several industry periodicals and do some business planning.

I’m impressed with the new features in both products, which I’ll talk about in a series of subsequent posts, but one big disappointment is that Office 2010 does not synch with my Google calendar. Evidently there won’t be a fix for that issue until possibly September. Though I’ve been in the technology world for years, I still have to wonder how these sorts of things happen. Both Office and Google applications are pretty much a mainstay for most computer users. It seems to me that Google should have been ready when Microsoft rolled out the new release. Hey, but what do I know about anything?

This particular post is being written via Word, which will then be posted to my blog account. I think you could do this in Office 2007, but I somehow never got around to it. In my quest for efficiency and effectiveness, I figured that I better set this up now.

Setting up the blogging feature in Word wasn’t actually a snap. It took me a few tries to get it right. Because I use a WordPress hosted site via GoDaddy, I had a few extra gyrations to go through to get myself logged in. I included a picture within Word, but when I clicked to publish the post I discovered that the photo couldn’t be uploaded. So while I was able to write and publish from within Word, the post still required a few tweaks. Overall, I give a big thumbs up!

Yes – Sometimes You Need to Hire a Lawyer

As business owners, it is easy to think that we can “get by” without ever needing the services of an attorney. And while there may be instances where you really can DIY, attorney and guest blogger, Traci Ellis also reminds of us that there are times when you definitely should seek legal counsel. Read on to hear what Traci has to stay.

Turnabout is fair play, as the saying goes.  Last month, I gave tips on when NOT to hire an attorney.  So, when should you hire one?

1.  Before You Launch Your Business. Before you form your business, to discuss which legal entity is right for you.  It’s important that you understand the legal implications of choosing one entity over another.  Also, you need to know which two business formations you should always avoid.  A good small business attorney can discuss your choices and help you make the right choice–from the beginning.  It is always cheaper to do it right up front, than to try to change it later.

2.  Before You Sign Contracts (or Pay Someone a Large Sum of Money with NO Written Contract). I know a lot of business folks who get their contracts off of the internet or from a buddy and then “tailor” them to fit their needs.  That’s one way to get contracts drafted.  But, it’s not even close to being the best way to ensure that your business and legal interests are protected.  No matter how many contracts you’ve seen or negotiated, just know that chances are slim that you know enough about contract law, best drafting practices, case law on certain issues, contract drafting nuances, etc., to adequately protect yourself and flush out the “gotchas” in a contract.  If the business deal is worthy of doing, it’s worthy of spending the time and money to have it documented correctly.

Additionally, you should absolutely, positively STOP downloading contracts off the internet and using them in your business! If you’ve been following my blog, then you know why.  This is Why Google Can’t Be Your Small Business Attorney.

3.  Big Disputes. When you are in a serious business dispute that has substantial business implications, don’t wait until you are sued or you’re ready to sue someone to consult with an attorney.  Involving an attorney early on in a dispute can often head off bigger problems later.  It will be infinitely more expensive to call in an attorney later on in the dispute when there’s lots of history than it is to get an attorney involved early on.

4.  Major Transactions. When you are considering any major transaction such as buying or selling a company, do not, I repeat, do not begin these types of negotiations without legal counsel.  You are asking for trouble.  I once had a client that began negotiations with her largest competitor to sell her company to the competitor.  By the time she called me, she had already turned over reams of confidential company documentation, including some important intellectual property information, without a non-disclosure agreement in place!  Sometimes, it is easy to forget what seems like the obvious when you are intimately involved in the deal and when the “obvious” is not your expertise.

5.  Trademarks. Unless you really know how to use the USPTO website to search for trademarks, it’s easy to miss a trademark.  Also, you need to understand how trademark examiners think and what the case law says to understand why you can’t trademark a certain mark that is not the same as someone else’s.  There are nuances there that are not obvious to the layperson.

The risk is that you miss a registered mark (or fail to understand that someone with a similar mark can keep you from using your intended mark), start branding your company, and then get a “cease and desist” letter from someone on the other side of the country demanding that you stop using your mark.  If it turns out the person is right, you will have to re-brand your company…and all the money spent on logos, graphics, business cards and any other business “paraphanalia” will be wasted. You may even have to change the website URL that you’ve undoubtedly worked so hard to get noticed in cyberspace.

Author, speaker, business “therapist”, practicing attorney, and passionate promoter of women entrepreneurs, Traci Ellis is not your typical business lawyer.  Known for telling it like it is, she likes to “keep it real” with new business owners while sharing practical wisdom and refreshing insight on legal and business issues related to starting, running and growing small businesses.  Whether you are thinking about starting a business or have already stepped into the exciting world of entrepreneurship, Traci brings her nineteen years of practicing law and “baptism by fire” entrepreneurship experience to teach, humor, and challenge you, but most importantly to help you be a better business owner.

Visit http://launchtherapy.com for more information.