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.

 

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.

An Author’s Plan for Social Media

If you’ve written a book (like I have with co-author, Joan Curtis), congratulations, because you’ve crossed a major hurdle. Now that I’ve gone through the process myself, I truly understand why writing a book can seem like such a daunting proposition. But, you’ve done it. Now what?

Writing the book is one thing, but how you will market and sell your masterpiece is another. The following is a guest post from top blogger and best selling author, Chris Brogan

Read on to learn how Chris suggests you prepare for your book launch utilizing the power of social media.

  1. Set up a URL for the book, and/or maybe one for your name. Need help finding a URL? I use Ajaxwhois.com for simple effort in searching.
  2. Set up a blog. If you want it free and super fast, WordPress or Tumblr. I’d recommend getting hosting like Bloghost.me.
  3. On the blog, write about interesting things that pertain to the book, but don’t just promote the book over and over again. In fact, blow people away by promoting their blogs and their books, if they’re related a bit.
  4. Start an email newsletter. It’s amazing how much MORE responsive email lists are than any other online medium.
  5. Have a blog post that’s a list of all the places one might buy your book. I did this for both Trust Agents and Social Media 101.
  6. Make any really important links trackable with a URL shortener. I know exactly how many people click my links.
  7. Start listening for your name, your book’s name. ( Covered in this post about building blocks.)
  8. Consider recording a video trailer for your book. Here’s one from Scott Sigler (YouTube), for his horror thriller, Contagious. And here’s one from Dallas Clayton for his Awesome Book. (Thanks Naomi for pointing this out).
  9. Build a Facebook fan page for the book or for bonus points, build one around the topic the book covers, and only lightly promote the book via the page.
  10. Join Twitter under your name, not your book’s name, and use Twitter Search to find people who talk about the subjects your book covers.
  11. When people talk about your book, good or bad, thank them with a reply. Connect to people frequently. It’s amazing how many authors I rave about on Twitter and how few actually respond. Mind you, the BIGGEST authors always respond (paradox?)
  12. Use Google Blogsearch and Alltop to find the people who’d likely write about the subject matter your book covers. Get commenting on their blog posts but NOT mentioning your book. Get to know them. Leave USEFUL comments, with no blatant URL back to your book.
  13. Work with your publisher for a blogger outreach project. See if you can do a giveaway project with a few bloggers (here’s a book giveaway project I did for Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years book).
  14. Offer to write guest posts on blogs that make sense as places where potential buyers might be. Do everything you can to make the post match the content of the person’s site and not your goals. But do link to your book.
  15. Ask around for radio or TV contacts via the social web and LinkedIn. You never know.
  16. Come up with interesting reasons to get people to buy bulk orders. If you’re a speaker, waive your fee (or part of it) in exchange for sales of hundreds of books. (And spread those purchases around to more than one bookselling company.) In those giveaways, do something to promote links back to your site and/or your post. Giveaways are one time: Google Juice is much longer lasting.
  17. Whenever someone writes a review on their blog, thank them with a comment, and maybe 1 tweet, but don’t drown them in tweets pointing people to the review. It just never comes off as useful.
  18. Ask gently for Amazon and other distribution site reviews. They certainly do help the buying process. And don’t ask often.
  19. Do everything you can to be gracious and thankful to your readers. Your audience is so much more important than you in this equation, as there are more of them than there are of you.
  20. Start showing up at face to face events, where it makes sense, including tweetups. If there’s not a local tweetup, start one.
  21. And with all things, treat people like you’d want them to treat your parents (provided you had a great relationship with at least one of them).

This sounds like a lot of steps. It is. But this is how people are finding success. Should this be the publicist’s job? Not even a little bit. The publicist has his or her own methodology. The author will always be the best advocate for his or her own work. Never put your marketing success in the hands of someone else. Always bring your best efforts into the mix and you’ll find your best reward on your time and effort.

You might have found other ways to be successful with various online and social media tools. By all means, please share with us here. What’s your experience been with promoting your work using the social web?

Chris Brogan is the New York Times bestselling author of the NEW book, Social Media 101. He is president of New Marketing Labs, LLC, and blogs at [chrisbrogan.com].

Social Revolution Marches On

I am a huge fan of the Did You Know Video’s that have now been carried forward by Erik Qualman at Socialnomics. Social Media Revolution 2 is a refresh of the original video with new and updated social media & mobile statistics that are hard to ignore. Based on the book Socialnomics by Erik Qualman.

If you watch this and still think that social media is merely a fad, there is just no hope for you, as you are still stuck in the land of what was, but not what actually now is!