The Future of Business is Change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SocialTech Tuesday: Content Captures Interest

Unless this is the first post you’ve ever read of mine, you already know that I believe social selling success breaks down into 3 buckets:

  • Strategy
  • Skills
  • Execution

Basically, you need a plan, sales and technology skills, the right technology to support your goals, consistent execution and a commitment to measure and track your results.

With buyers starting the journey without sales people initially, you need a way to create a sense of authority and influence, and anyone who sells anything certainly needs to be visible and easily found.

A cornerstone of your social selling strategy is having great content to share. And your first tip today, is that the content should not always be yours and it most definitely cannot be a sales pitch!

If you work for a company that is sizable enough to have marketers creating content for you to share…awesome. A word of caution though…the content being served up cannot be perceived by your prospects as your own personal love fest. In other words, provide value in the case studies, white papers, video’s, blog posts or recorded webinars. If all you do is talk about what you sell and how great you are, you just missed the entire point of what social selling is all about.

If you have no content to work with here are 15 ways to serve some up:

  1.  Write a blog and/or comment on other top blogs in your industry.
  2. Conduct podcast interviews with industry leaders.
  3. Curate the content from key influencers (not competitors) or websites you like – Forbes, Mashable, TechCrunch, Top Sales World…whoever is important to you in your field… via RSS feeds and using a dashboard tool like Hootsuite.
  4. Follow influencers in your field on Twitter and on LinkedIn. Share their posts.
  5. Reach out to other influencers and ask about guest blogging on their site. If they do podcast or video interviews, ask to be considered for an interview.
  6. Share content from the people you respect and follow on LinkedIn. Use the new mention feature to give them a shout-out.
  7. Conduct a webinar. Deliver your own content or set it up panel style and moderate. Record the session for post follow up and use in sharing content later.
  8. Create a kick-butt presentation and post via Slideshare and then share it with you minions and encourage them to share with theirs.
  9. Curate a newspaper using Paper.li. Add 25 of the top people you like and include their blog posts, tweets, etc. It will post automatically through your Twitter account, and you can also share it with others via email or LinkedIn.
  10. Speak at an event – could be as a featured speaker or a panelist and have it videotaped. Share the video on your LinkedIn profile.
  11. Create a video of your tip of the week. Get really good at it and do it daily.
  12. Host a live tweet chat, capture key points from the discussion and turn that into blog posts, interviews or presentations.
  13. Get to know editors at various online sites who publish blog posts or magazines. Offer to guest write an article.
  14. Host and record a Google hangout session focused on an educational topic that your prospects would be interested in.
  15. Conduct a survey and share the results with prospects and others in your network. For example, I co-authored our Social Media and Sales Quota report, which you can download from our website.

Don’t become overwhelmed with these suggestions, you only need to choose a few of them to get you started!

If you have content to work with that’s cool. Mix in any corporate content that has been created for you and also integrate a few of the suggestions that I’ve shared with you.

Don’t forget that sharing only your content is boring and will appear self-serving. Make the content you share a nice mix of yours and that of others who offer fresh insights and perspectives.

Once you create content, you have to get really good at sharing it. That takes an organized approach and scheduling, which I will talk about next week. Until then, happy selling!

 

NEW – Get LinkedIn Not Locked Out online class – SocialTech Tuesday – DETAILS and REGISTRATION HERE

Want the meeting? Fix your message.

Today’s sales people have a variety of communication channels available to help them reach prospects. Unfortunately, some sellers haven’t gotten the memo that we are long past the days of simply broadcasting a generic pitch.

Technology has given rise to laziness. Sending 100 emails to the wrong people with the wrong message is not an effective prospecting strategy. Leaving random phone messages isn’t either.

A few tips for sellers in how to engage their prospects more effectively to secure meetings:

  • Target the message to the right buyer and focus on what they care about, not what you want to sell.
  • Check your facts. I don’t run an entertainment company, as one sales email suggested and the sales rep should know that.
  • Check the grammar and spelling. Starting the first sentence of the email with “anyways” is not the way to make a positive impression.
  • Don’t use jargon that only people in your company understand.
  • Get the person’s name right.
  • Stop asking people to visit your website to learn more and “get back to me if I can answer any questions”. Lazy and presumes your prospect has the time to do your sales job.
  • Make sure the customer examples used are relevant. One sales pitch to me mentioned that “there is a reason why McKesson and Bain Capital” use our product. Well, that may be, but I run a small business. Using McKesson as a customer example isn’t relevant, so I conclude you know nothing about my business, and that I can’t afford what you sell anyway.

Here’s what a Sales Manager at one of our clients just told me… “I have to say that since you instructed us not to send out generic messages and invites (without personalizing), my meeting acceptance rates and speed has drastically improved.”

Remember…

Poorly written emails and inarticulate voicemail messages are killing your sales opportunities, and you probably don’t even know it. Put these tips into action and see your meeting acceptance rates increase.

 

NEW – Get LinkedIn Not Locked Out online class – SocialTech Tuesday – DETAILS and REGISTRATION HERE

Does Cold Calling Still Work?

In this day and age, many unsolicited sales calls go unanswered. Modern sales and marketing professionals are up against savvy buyers who have easy access to detailed product information on the Web and through Social Networks.

Everyone is connected to the latest information. Buyers today are pretty good at blocking your calls and emails, through Caller ID, email spam filters and they can easily send your email to its grave with a simple click on the delete button. But since so many sales people continue to follow this old school approach, it makes me wonder if in their minds they are saying to themselves…”I just know that I can get through all these defense mechanisms and land that one magical deal.”

Can they? Based on what clients are telling me, I believe the answer is no.

This question was the subject of online consultancy Software Advice’s latest Google+ Debate, “Does Cold Calling Still Work?” The panel, moderated by Derek Singleton, brought together inbound marketing and inside sales experts to debate three questions:

  • Given how the Web has empowered B2B buyers, is cold calling still relevant in the Internet Age — and are companies still generating a return on investment (ROI) on it?
  • With other lead generation activities on the rise, like paid search and content marketing, can cold calling help marketers stand out from the noise?
  • Can inbound marketing and analytics help us better decide who to cold call and when?

Here are the takeaways from the discussion, and I’m pleased to say that they jive with what I have been evangelizing for several years now.

Cold Calling is Shifting to Warm Calling

Understandably, every panelist agreed that cold calling (in its original form) is decreasing significantly in effectiveness. Furthermore, there is no excuse for business calls to be random and unsolicited anymore. In the words of Anneke Seley, Founder and CEO of Reality Works Group, “in this day and age, there’s no excuse for a call to be cold anymore.” Anneke – you are right on!

I recently read a Selling Power poll in which 47.76% of sales reps said that they were never prepared for the initial conversation with a prospect and 2.81% said that they were rarely well prepared. That, my friends means that 50% of the sales reps out there either can’t or won’t take the time to do a little homework before engaging with their prospect. And that should be enough motivation for companies to expect their salespeople to approach prospects differently. When you can turn to LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook, and it is SO very easy to find out information about your prospect before you pick up a phone, why aren’t more sales reps doing it? Your prospects, by the way, are using similar channels to learn about you before committing to a call.

The group described the process of doing your homework in advance of calling prospects “warm calling.”

Only Call the People that Come to You

But Mike Volpe, CMO of HubSpot, thinks that marketers can take it one step further and not even waste time reaching out in this manner. Volpe believes that the world is shifting away from any type of outbound marketing – I respectfully disagree Mike – and that your inside sales team should only reply to inbound inquiries because you already know that they have an interest in your product or service.

Meanwhile, Volpe explains that inbound marketing tactics like SEO and PPC that are significantly cheaper than doing things like employing a great sales rep to make outbound calls. And he says it’s also a much less invasive approach to contacting buyers.

Sounds good but are all inbound inquiries created equal? I’m probably not the only one who likes to benefit from all the free informational content out there. I may have downloaded a white paper on your website, which many marketers would term an “inquiry” but that does not mean that I’m a qualified buyer. In defense of Hubspot, they are pretty savvy in terms of knowing when salespeople should engage with someone who proactively entered their world, but I would say that a lot of companies still are not at Hubspot’s level of sophistication.

Find a Happy Medium by Employing Both Tactics

Of course, there’s usually room for middle ground. And that’s where Ken Krogue, President of InsideSales.com, sided on the debate. According to Krogue, InsideSales.com relies very heavily on inbound marketing tactics but the leads they generate by purely inbound means just aren’t high enough value. So he turns to very targeted outbound calling after warming up contacts. To quote Krogue:

“If we [at InsideSales.com] just rely on the Internet to bring us leads, it’s like a fish sitting in a pond waiting for the river to bring whatever it brings them. What we’ve found is that if you look at a typical bell curve, 70 percent of all the leads that come in are small. For example, we’re moving up to enterprise class companies and we have to forget about the Web bringing us those leads and have to reach out to initialize the conversation (usually through calling), then we move to a Web-based type of nurturing.”

In any Case, Marketing is Becoming Permission-Based

One point each panelist could agree on was that lead generation is shifting toward a permission-based model of marketing. This means marketing will need to evolve into being about showing buyers the value to them in doing business together, and ultimately getting them to come to you. If you aren’t demonstrating your value in a tangible way, then buyers will increasingly overlook your company; ignore your marketing efforts and move onto the competition.

It was a great discussion from thought leaders that I admire and follow. I’m curious. What are your thoughts on the evolution of outbound and inbound selling and marketing? Share your thoughts and comment below.

If you’d like to read the full article, visit the B2B Marketing Mentor

Making Marketing Work: A Sales Mastery Interview with Keith Finger

I recently wrapped another great interview with Marketing Master, Keith Finger. You might be asking yourself why I’m interviewing a marketing guy on my Sales Mastery Series, and it is because of my firm belief that Sales and Marketing must stop taking about how critical it is that they align their business strategies and actually do it.

As Keith told me, it’s not your father’s marketing anymore.  Salespeople often complain about marketing, but the fact is that effective marketing plays an important role in a company’s success.  But companies must understand today’s marketing and the balance of power in the prospect/vendor relationship. During our interview, Keith and I talked how marketing has changed, what that means for salespeople, and things companies should do to improve their marketing function.

Let me tell you about Keith…

He is the founder of TransformCMO, which helps B2B companies that are in a revenue rut unstick what’s stuck and get on the road to revenue generation success.  The firm takes a holistic approach to marketing, looking at all factors within a company and in the marketplace that can affect revenue generation and retention. His work has brought him to around the world, to more than 20 countries in Europe and Asia.

When you listen to the interview, you’ll learn:

  • How Keith defines today’s marketing, because it means lots of different things depending on who you ask.
  • How marketing has changed and why marketers need to adapt like never before.
  • Sales and marketing alignment and bridging the gap that has long existed in many companies.
  • About agile marketing and what that means for your business.
  • What companies can do to improve their marketing to better meet the needs of a changed customer and buying process.

And more…

Enjoy the interview!

Becoming a Content Curator

Today, in addition to being a brand, we are all now publishers of content. Every tweet, blog entry, Facebook post, LinkedIn status update…it is all content that you want to leverage as elements of your sales and marketing strategy.

Over on Beth Kantor’s blog, she says the three threes of content curation are: Seek, Sense, Share. It is important to think about the process in this way because each are integral to your overall strategy of gathering and sharing content that is relevant to your network. In the graphic that Beth created, she does a nice job of breaking down what the elements of the process at each stage are.

 

First, you need to find great information to support the personal brand objectives you’ve set for yourself. What I mean by that is to make sure that the information you choose to share is consistent with how you want to represent yourself.

Curating content that will provide value to the prospects you are targeting is a great way to demonstrate credibility in your role. You don’t have to write everything yourself to be viewed as credible. You can surround yourself with industry experts and their content. Of course, it is important that it compliments yours. Learning to curate content well helps you to position yourself as a go-to business resource. That gets you noticed!

Next, you want to make sense of the information. How can you add your unique twist to a tweet or a blog post? What sources will you use to create a blog post based on the information you’ve uncovered? For example, I searched out sources on content curation so that the post would have more depth.

Finally, you need to share the information. To help to streamline the time investment you need to make to get your content out there, you’ll want to choose tools and put a process in place to help you. I’ll talk more about that in just a moment.

Content is both Queen and King. As content is refreshed, it keeps you more visible to your networks, increases search engine rankings to your website or blog and positions you as someone staying on top of news, trends and people in the minds of your prospects.

Where do you find the right type of content to curate?

That’s a great question and it leads me to talk about tools that you can use to kick your content curation activities into gear.

First, start by creating a list of the most important business topics that you want to be known for. For me, it is sales, social media, technology and business. Then you want to create a list of the people that you admire, who would also lend credibility to what you are doing, so that you can share their content also. By the way, some people only want to share their own content and that’s fine. It’s also only one perspective. When you surround yourself with other known thought leaders, your credibility is elevated.

Now to the fun part…here are several technology tools to help you pull all of this together.

Twitter lists – According to Twitter, “A list is a curated group of Twitter users. You can create a list or subscribe to lists created by others. Viewing a list’s timeline will show you a stream of Tweets from only the users on that list.” I can create a list of the top women in sales and once my list is created, I can easily scan to determine what tweets I’d like to share of theirs with my network.

Paper.li – have some real fun and create your own newspaper(s). This is a project that has been on my list for some time, and I yesterday, I finally set mine up. You can add news sources, people and RSS feeds from blogs you like. Paper.li does the work laying out the content in a magazine format that is appealing to the eye. The free version is pretty cool but you do have ads on your pages. I decided to spring for the $9 a month to remove the ads. Check out my newspaper:  Social Sales Talk

Storify – nifty tool for creating summaries, such as the recap of the Sales 2.0 conference. Here’s the morning recap from the conference. You can summarize your thoughts and then include supporting tweets or video to your story. I just started working with it. Pretty cool stuff!

Hootsuite – I’ve used the Hootsuite dashboard to manage my social accounts for quite some time and love it. With the free version, you can track and manage five social networking accounts and or RSS feeds. I manage my Twitter accounts, Facebook pages and LinkedIn profile and our company page all from within Hootsuite. Because I also like to share content from other popular bloggers, I have an upgraded account to accommodate more RSS feeds.

Pinterest – this is a great tool for curating your visual communication. You create boards based on interest or business products and services. After a board has been established, you simply begin adding pictures to your boards. I have boards that are for business, and I share information about social media, technology, business tools we use, etc. I also mix up the fun with some personal boards about food and wine, animals and travel.

Facebook fan page – You fan page content shouldn’t just be all about you. Sorry, but that begins to feel like a thinly veiled sales pitch and it gets boring fast. Mix it up with relevant business information that you community of followers can benefit from reading. We mix in other bloggers content, news articles, videos, pictures and more. As noted earlier in the post, who you surround yourself can also elevate your credibility.

When I think of all the technology changes during my past 29 years in business, it is amazing how far we have come. Our ability to provide value to prospects in advance of sales opportunities in such amazing ways blows my mind. If you want to stand out in the mind of your prospects and crush your competition, learn to be a curator of information. Content curation gives you the ability to let your creativity and inner publisher break free while solidifying your position as a thought leader in your field.

So…

What’s stopping you?

 

P.S. no sooner had I published the post, I came across another tool that looks cool. http://www.curate.me  I’m setting up a page now.

A Small Medium Biz Sales Strategy

A few days ago, Dan Greenfield asked for a few of my thoughts regarding what companies selling to small/medium sized businesses need to know. Today, I returned the favor. Big business doesn’t understand the SMB space as you’ll see from reading today’s post.

We are supporting this event later this year in Atlanta. Registration begins in July. Check out www.B2smbonference.com  for updates. We will offer an early bird special and discounts for multiple ticket purchases.

1) Dan – you’ve successfully brought your Social Media makeover events to market. What prompted you to want to focus big companies attention on the SMB space with your October 2012 event in Atlanta?

I think there is a real need for the B-2-smb Social Media Conference.It has been my observation that social media teams at the corporate level have succeeded in making brand building, corporate communications and customer support top priorities.

On the other hand, I have talked to many enterprise companies at various stages in launching SMB initiatives, and interestingly, a lot of them have not fully factored the role of social media into the equation.

SMB sales teams in the field often lack the resources, expertise or mandate to tap the power of social media to engage customers where purchase decisions are being made. Meanwhile, data shows that small companies are increasingly relying on social media to aid in making purchasing decisions.

So this conference is a real opportunity to help give sales teams and channels partners the action plans they need to gain a competitive advantage through social media.

2) What is the number one problem that SMB’s have cited about how brands market to them?

A recent Inc Magazine survey revealed that more than half of the small business owners (SBOs) who responded don’t feel that big brands know how to market to them.

Many of these SBOs feel that companies fail to reach them on a personal level, the very level that is the psychological engine, motivation driver and competitive differentiator for this group.

This lack of personal interaction plays right into social media’s strength.

Social media is all about the power of engagement. It’s my belief that social media’s reliance on trust and sharing can help enterprise sales team forge stronger relationships with small companies and ultimately generate more sales.

3) Social media usage is on the rise, but are enterprise organizations using social media effectively to reach SMB’s? If not, why not?

Many of the enterprise organizations that I have spoken to are struggling with their overall SMB strategy, let alone their SMB social media strategy.

Enterprise organizations are entering the second phase of social media adoption. The first phase was using social to build a national, corporate presence. The next wave is to localize social media efforts to reach smaller customers. The problem is that the sale teams servicing local accounts are not prepared to take advantage of these efforts.

The problems vary from company to company, but some issues stand out:  Enterprise organizations:

  • want to manage social media efforts at the top and don’t want to give control of the brand to the local sales team.
  • lack expertise to train local sales teams and channel partners.
  • don’t have the budget to do so.
  • don’t have the culture, systems and people in place to manage the process.
  • don’t understand the extent that social media is being used by their customers and are therefore reluctant to expend resources.

Another challenge is “old school” members of the local sales team are still resistant to social media – skeptical of its usefulness and believing that traditional efforts continue to work just fine. Of course, this will change as a new generation of small business owners and salespeople emerge who are more accustomed to using social media.

4) Are SMB’s using social media to make their purchasing decisions? What are key factors that enterprise marketers need to keep in mind when marketing to the businesses in this space?

While still in its infancy, social media is becoming increasingly more important for SMBs who are understaffed and operate under the mandate of “doing more with less.”

SMB decision-makers are utilizing the social media’s low cost tools and channels to help make purchase decisions – relying on online discussions with peers, customers and key influencers for valuable advice and content.

For future success, sales and marketing teams need to supplement traditional sales channels with social media efforts that include online forums, blogs and discussion groups.

Social media is accelerating the purchase decision making of SMBs and enabling them to purchase more technology faster. The growing level of trust in social media peer groups is now certainly a factor in many B2B business arenas.

AMI Partners found that an estimated 4.8 million SMBs in the U.S. and 76 percent use some form of social media for business use. This represents $180 billion in information technology spend and 48 percent used some form of social media in the purchase decision-making process.

One study I found showed that 41 percent of respondents are more likely to think favorably of vendors who provide business management advice, 39 percent are more likely to visit that vendor’s site, and 32 percent are more likely to do business with that vendor.

Another study found that search engines remain the primary resource for SMBs to find information about products and services. However, once most SMBs have search results in hand, many rely on word-of-mouth referrals when making their purchasing decisions. The main word-of-mouth referrals come from blogs and forums (34 percent) and third-party reviews (35 percent).

All of which leads to a second point: When using these channels, the enterprise organizations need to understand the rules of engagement. The goal is not to sell and advertise; it is to share information and be perceived as a partner trying to help with useful information.

The “non-selling” sales approach is very different, but if done correctly will provide enterprise organizations a new point of entry to prospects.  As you said Barb“, “While it sounds a little counterintuitive, you don’t use these tools to spit out sales spam. That only annoys people and harms you rather than helps you. In this world, you are judged by the value you give before expecting an immediate return. Be relevant and share valuable content related to your industry and people will take notice.”

5) With so many conferences to choose from, especially those that have a social media focus, what is different about The B-2-smb Social Media Conference?

In coming up with the idea for the B-2-smb Social Media Conference, I discovered that there are plenty of events that broadly address the latest and greatest in social media from a technical and marketing perspective. There are also many others that focus on helping small businesses with social media. But I have come across very few that specifically target ways to help the enterprise use social media reach the SMB market.

In many ways, the SMB market is a new frontier. The fruit is higher on the tree, but businesses with fewer than 500 employees make up 99.7 percent of all employer firms. The SMB market provides a great opportunity to those that understand how to engage and sell to it. In time, social media will only continue to grow in influence.

6) Give us a hint…what topics are on the agenda?

The agenda is pretty straightforward and intended to meet two goals:

  • Helping attendees understand how SMBs are using social media to make purchasing decisions (including how they find the right technology solutions and how they identify and interact with online influencers to validate those solutions)
  • Helping attendees increase the impact of their social media efforts to identify leads, engage small and mid-market businesses with relevant information and track and measure results

The morning is devoted to getting into the mindset of a SMB and understanding how enterprise companies are successfully using social media to reach their target customer.

The second half of the day begins by getting down to helping attendees understand how to reach prospects which is your specialty area, Barb. I appreciate your willingness to moderate a panel and share your expertise in social selling.  We will then explore  ways to help the enterprise understand the social media habits of existing customers to reveal what they are doing online and why.  We conclude by building an action plan a successful social media strategy.

7) Who benefits from attending the conference and what are the key learning’s they can expect to take with them at the end of the day?

This conference is ideal for:

Sales and marketing teams and channel partners at mid and enterprise level companies who want to:

  • Better connect with the SMB market via social media
  • Integrate social media into an overall marketing and sales strategy
  • Localize corporate social media efforts
  • Enterprise level companies who want to exhibit their social media thought leadership
  • Consultants and vendors trying to identify and market their social media tools and services to the SMB market
  • Mid-sized businesses that want to make connections with big businesses

8) I know you are looking for sponsors, who in particular will benefit from sponsoring the event?

This conference is a great sponsorship opportunity for:

  • Corporations with social media tools, technologies and platforms that help enterprise-level companies reach and serve the SMB market
  • Vendors, consulting firms or agencies with social media expertise and/or SMB experience that helps enterprise-level companies market to SMBs, manage the process, and measure the results
  • Companies wanting to build your presence in the SMB market
  • Companies wanting to showcase your social media prowess with SMB customers

9) What’s the event date, the cost and how do people register?

Registration begins in July. Check out www.B2smbonference.com  for updates. We will offer an early bird special and discounts for multiple ticket purchases.

 ************************************************************************************************

The producer of the B2SMB Social Media Conference is Dan Greenfield, president of
LISTEN Interactive – a social marketing and PR consultancy. A veteran communications
executive, Greenfield has extensive experience working with corporate and political
leaders, senior management and teams charged with executing strategy and delivering
results in the Internet, telecommunications, environmental and health care fields.

Greenfield is creator of the SMB Social Media Makeover Forum where small businesses
receive expert social media advice from successful brands. Previously he produced a
series of PR+MKTG Camps around the country working with hundreds of PR and
marketing professionals to help them better understand how to market, manage and
measure the social engagement process.

Selling to Small Medium Business

On October 30th in Atlanta, I’ll be moderating a panel at the The Big2smb Social Media Conference produced by Dan Greenfield, President at LISTEN Interactive. The session is titled, “Leveraging Social Selling to Identify New Business Customers”. I’m really looking forward to attending the conference because I believe that the SMB (small/medium business) space is a grossly under served market.

Don’t believe me? Consider this…

“Businesses with fewer than 500 employees make up 99.7 percent of all employer firms. Yet despite the market opportunity, big businesses are not always familiar with the rules of SMB engagement. A recent Inc Magazine survey revealed that more than half of small business owners felt that big business doesn’t know how to market to them.” –Dan Greenfield, Listening Points Blog

SMB’s revealed in the survey that they felt…

  • 43% said that brands/companies do not understand my needs;
  • 45% said that companies do not make the effort to understand my business;
  • 46% said that companies try to sell to me versus talking to me.

Dan reached out to me recently to ask me my thoughts on how enterprise companies and their sales and marketing teams could do a better job of reaching, connecting and selling to SMB’s.

Here’s what I had to say:

Dan: What do you see as the top challenge that enterprise companies face in reaching (marketing/selling to) today’s SMB market?

Barb: Understanding what drives them, the challenges that they face, what literally keeps them awake at night. Most small business owners do not have huge budgets, so every decision that is made when selecting a product or service is critical to get right. For those enterprise companies selling to small business, I’d like to suggest that they consider hiring salespeople who either have the experience successfully selling to small companies or have been a small business owner themselves.

Dan: How critical a role is social media playing in reaching the SMB market? How do you see that role changing in the future?

Barb: Research confirms that 80% of the buying cycle begins without the initial engagement of a sales person. For that reason, every sales rep needs to have great online presence. Before the buyer takes a meeting with you, they will Google you, look you up on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.  Since LinkedIn is the B2B networking site, your professional profile should be 100% complete and provide compelling content and information about you and your company. Share value packed, relevant white papers, case studies, presentations, video or industry articles.

As far as the role of social media going forward is concerned… InsideView recently reported that 92% of buyers do not respond to cold calls or cold emails. That means that your ability as a salesperson to create value in advance of sales opportunities becomes more important than ever. Social media gives you huge sales leverage when done right.

Dan: What advice would you give sales teams in using social media to reach SMB prospects and opportunities?

Barb: Use social networking tools like LinkedIn on a daily basis. If you hope to have a shot at new sales opportunities, your visibility matters. Next, ditch the pitch. Don’t use these tools to spit out sales spam. That only annoys people and harms you rather than helps you. Be relevant and share valuable content related to your industry and people will take notice. Finally, do your homework. The days of walking in blind asking questions you should already know the answers to are over! Leverage social media to learn about your prospect and their business before your first phone call or face-to-face meeting.

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SOCIAL SALES SURVEY – take this quick, 3-minute (I promise) survey to help us understand how salespeople are using social media. You will receive a copy of the results. Click here to complete the survey.

 

 

What will it take to make social media a serious business tool?

Today, on Focus.com, I took a moment to weigh in on the question that is the title of this blog post. It’s a good question but the question, I believe, was answered long ago. Social media is being taken seriously by plenty of professionals. However, it isn’t so much that social media doesn’t serve business well, the problem is in how people are approaching how they use social platforms. This is what I had to say in response to the question. I’d love to hear what you think!

“Great question, Bill.

I think Michael started off the conversation right by reminding us of the biggest problem that I see with regard to how business views social media. They are looking for the “magic wand”, the quick fix and it just doesn’t exist. Technology merely enables a well thought out process. Every single failure that I’ve seen all leads back to this point. People jump onto the technology, they have no idea what they are doing or what they want to accomplish, they haven’t targeted their message, they don’t know how to leverage the tool and then when it flops, they proclaim social media a failure.

What will it take to see some real success?

First, let’s start by separating the discussion, because how companies use social media for marketing versus how they need to use it drive sales opportunities is different! The referenced GM article is a good example of the marketing side of it.

Two, you can’t slap traditional marketing or sales approaches onto social media platforms and expect it to work differently. In other words, don’t use social media to “cold call” or mass broadcast spam. That’s no better than spam email (which I hate by the way). And, don’t think of social media return in the same way you think about print advertising return. To succeed – you have to THINK differently! This world is about giving value first. Most companies on both the sales and marketing sides of the house have it backwards.

Three, people need to reset their expectations, which gets back to Michael’s point. I saw this with CRM systems. They were to be the panacea and generate all kinds of “revenue”. Really? My salesforce.com account doesn’t close business for me, I do. The system is designed to help you capture information that you utilize as part of your sales process, but it doesn’t do the work for you. Likewise, people complain that LinkedIn doesn’t work in terms of generating new business opportunities. Not true at all, but if you thought you just needed to set up a profile and the money would come pouring in, well, you are mistaken.

Four, from a sales perspective, salespeople and their management need to get real. Buyer behavior has changed, so sales approaches and process need to adapt also. This is largely not happening. Gartner says that about 80% of the buying process happens before a prospect ever interacts with sales. So why are so many reps still using the outdated “dog and pony feature benefit” pitches over email or cold calling or worse when they get the meeting? Understanding what’s important to the prospect counts and you can find the information online. Not doing your research is inexcusable. Visible and compelling online presence counts. Offering up value in advance of sales opportunities counts. Recommendations count. The reality is that if you don’t leverage social media to your advantage, your competitor who is will kick your butt.

Five, needs to be buy-in and support from upper management and upper management needs to be visibly engaged in social themselves. Social business success requires a shift in mindset…it is a process and not an event.

Six, understand the technology. Not everyone needs Twitter. If you sell B2B, you should be rocking LinkedIn with referral building, lead generation, sales research, etc., but you may not need anything else. Just because someone says it’s cool (think Pinterest) that doesn’t mean it is the right tool for what you want to accomplish.

Seven, invest in training for your employees. If you don’t give your people the proper training on the tools, what they are designed to do and how to use them, how do you expect them to get any sort of successful result? After all this time, I am still surprised at the number of salespeople who don’t do anything more with LinkedIn than invite people to connect. My gosh, there is so much more to it. But, unfortunately, people just don’t know what they don’t know.

Eight, and my biggest pet peeve, by the way…have a plan! It all starts with a plan, you then clearly define your target (applies to sales and marketing), choose the RIGHT tools, implement consistently and then measure and track.

Social media isn’t broken but how most people and companies are approaching the use of the platforms…is!”

Social Media Marketing is Not Selling

On a conference call recently, I was reminded of how often people confuse social media marketing with how to use social media over on the sales side of the business. I can understand why this happens. Just yesterday, I received an email from a company who is selling social media training and their blurb says that they can help you to increase revenue. But when you look more closely, the program focuses on helping you put a social media marketing plan together. That kind of messaging has confused people. Make no mistake about it, marketing and sales are different disciplines and how you apply social media to each of those disciplines is also different! Before you assume that you’ve got social media covered because someone in your company is responsible for social media management, be sure to look carefully at what they are doing. I’ll make a big bet that the focus is on marketing and not selling.

The American Marketing Association defines marketing in this way…

“Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”

Wikipedia defines sales in this way…

“A sale is the act of selling a product or service in return for money or other compensation.”

While sales and marketing should have the same goal of generating sales, revenue and profit, the two departments are approaching the goal in very different ways. As a salesperson, I’m the one who meets with prospects, crafts an actual solution to their business problem and negotiates and closes deals. Marketing is doing none of that. Their efforts are largely campaign driven and while their role is vitally important to the process of generating revenue, they are not actually selling anything.

Social media can be applied to the sales process on the front-end of the sales cycle. Using tools like LinkedIn and InsideView, the focus is on network and referral building, prospecting for new opportunities, conducting research that leads to identifying key business initiatives (or drivers) that may be the trigger for why your prospect should by from you, better pre-sales call research and more. In other words, using social media to drive sales opportunities is not marketing to build broad awareness, it is being used specifically to get to the right person with the right message at the right time, thus shrinking the sales cycle and moving more quickly to close.

On the sales side, I’m not giving away an iPad to generate “likes” on the company Fan Page. That’s marketing. As a salesperson, I’m using social tools to:

-Create a targeted list of potential prospects to pursue

-Dig into my prospects LinkedIn and InsideView profiles to learn more about them. I’m looking for the best point of connection. Who do I know that they know? What have learned about their company or their industry that might lead to securing that first meeting?

-Participate in groups where my prospect is likely to be and then contributing to discussions to create visibility for myself and demonstrate my expertise in my field.

-Do detailed homework before the first meeting. I’m learning as much about their company as I can, which will demonstrate to my prospect that I understand their business.

As you think about how to put social media to work for your company, remember that you need to focus attention on both the sales and marketing side of the business. And always keep in mind that the goals and practical applications of social media for sales versus marketing should compliment each other, but the “how” you use the tools will be different and serve vastly different purposes.