SocialTech Tuesday: Solving the Social Selling Puzzle

Sales leaders are often quite puzzled when it comes to making social selling work for their sales organization. Who can blame them? Ask 10 people who promote their expertise in social selling, and it is highly likely that you will hear 10 different definitions of the term. Listen closely and many of the pundits are simply telling you that all your people need is to use LinkedIn. Not the entire story!

I have defined “social selling” as the process of using social media to network, prospect, research, engage, collaborate, educate and close all with the purpose of attaining quota and increasing revenue.

Notice that I mention that social selling is a process that incorporates the effective use of the right technology to achieve some very specific sales objectives. It certainly seems pretty straightforward, right? Then why are sales people struggling to make it work for them? For starters…

It Is a Brand New Ball Game Folks

1. Gaining access to prospects is much harder these days. Buyers just tune out your cold calls and broadcast emails. Even a recognized brand name doesn’t guarantee a sales meeting these days.

2. The decision making process in most companies is much more complex. I read somewhere that on average there will be 12-15 people involved in the purchase decision. Sales people need to build relationships with multiple influencers and sometimes it isn’t easy to tell who those key influencers actually are.

3. Getting a meeting at the C-level doesn’t necessarily move your solution to the front of the line. Yes, you should definitely set your sights on securing a meeting with the right decision maker at the highest level that you can, but you are fooling yourself if you think that the gal at the top isn’t going to involve her people in the process.

4. Social networking tools like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and more have entered the mix. Sales people need to understand how social fits the sales process, but they also need to learn the nuances of participating in a social environment where there are unspoken rules and generally accepted best practices when trying to engage someone in the socialsphere. If you don’t know what they are, you will make a misstep that could be costly.

There Are No Short Cuts

Adopting a social selling approach is about change and change just isn’t easy. It also takes time. It takes setting a STRATEGY, ensuring that sales people have the right sales and technology SKILLS and that EXECUTION of the strategy is happening consistently.

On Thursday, July 25 @ 1pm Eastern, join me over at Top Sales World Academy for a FREE educational session about what it really takes to Solve the Social Selling Puzzle. REGISTER HERE!  By the way, there are other educational sessions being conducted by some of the best in the field of sales!

 

 

SocialTech Tuesday: Have You Been SWAM’d?

For important reasons, today’s post is longer than normal, and I hope you will take time to read through to the end. Your comments are also appreciated!

Since today is SocialTech Tuesday, it seems appropriate to jump into a controversy that has ignited a firestorm of angry discussion among LinkedIn members. Many people are incensed over a new LinkedIn policy introduced (very quietly) in January. The policy relates to groups and is called Sitewide Auto Moderation dubbed SWAM.

Though I am a LinkedIn power user and am pretty well versed in the platform, I had no idea that this policy had been introduced. Chances are that as a group member or a group manager/moderator, you didn’t know about it either. In fact, it seems the only way that people found out about the policy change is if they personally became affected by it. I found out about it a few days ago when a colleague of mine was SWAM’d and asked me if I knew anything about what was going on. That’s when I started digging.

In essence here’s what the policy is all about.

In an effort to reduce spam in the discussion area of groups, which I support by the way, LinkedIn made it possible to force an automatic moderation of posts and comments across “all groups” by any member who had been blocked in just one of the groups that they belonged to. The assumption is that if a Group Manager deemed you a spammer in their group, then all your posts and comments were suspect in other groups as well. While I appreciate the spirit and intent of the new policy, I believe it is pretty far reaching and perhaps pushes the boundaries of censorship.

The official policy is this…

“If a group manager blocks you from their group, your posts to other groups are automatically subject to moderator approval. Your postings to other groups are still submitted, but they are now pending until a member of the group’s management team approves it for posting.”

That means that those messages sit in a cue waiting for a group manager or their team of moderators to approve the comments.

Why is this needed?

That’s the million dollar question, and I am wondering what is the REAL why behind this decision? Group managers have always had the ability to block someone in their group that they felt were spamming versus participating in group conversations. Why is Big Brother stepping in? Is there some reason that decisions cannot be left to the individual group managers? Why is LinkedIn arbitrarily deciding that an infraction in one group means the member is an offender in every other group?

Stop Drinking Your Own Kool-Aid

Is this yet another example of how companies become too internally focused when it comes to their decision making? Not only does it seem like the far reaching effects were not considered by asking tougher questions internally, it doesn’t appear that LinkedIn bothered to seek out external feedback either.

Here are other questions that I believe needed to be asked and answered before plowing ahead with this decision:

What is the ramification to the member if we put this policy/technology change into effect? LinkedIn will tell you that if you fall victim to being SWAM’d you only need to approach each Group Manager and ask them to reinstate you. Imagine you belong to 50 groups. Does LinkedIn really think that forcing someone to reach out to each group manager individually will be an easy task? Can you imagine the time it takes? What if those group managers aren’t actively managing their group and never bother to respond? It happens all the time and now the individual is sort of screwed if no one pays attention to their reinstatement request.

How will this affect revenue we earn from premium subscriptions? I will say up front that I do not believe premium members deserve special consideration per se, although you could argue that maybe new features should be rolled out to them first. What I do believe is that somebody should have done a little analysis to see what it means if premium members are being kicked to the curb by Group Managers with no notice, warning or explanation. As of this writing, I can’t give you numbers, but I can say that several hundred people affected have publicly said they reverted back to the “free” version. That lost revenue will start adding up.

Does each group clearly communicate guidelines with respect to what content is appropriate for posting in the “discussion” area? It is very easy to create group rules and remind members to read them. If there are no group guidelines, is it really fair to ban someone who chooses to post self-promotions? How can you be accused of breaking the rules if there are none?

What will be the administrative impact on Group Managers? One Group Manager told me that this new policy has placed an impossible burden on him. His group is quite large – 30,000+ – and overnight he started having upwards of 500 posts DAILY to have to moderate. Manually. The policy was intended to help deal with SPAM. Didn’t anyone ask the question about whether or not these group leaders would have the bandwidth to deal with the outcome of this decision?

Is it possible that Group Managers with an act to grind will use the ability to block people unfairly? In other words, is there a chance that knowing a member could be blocked in all groups, would they use that as an opportunity to retaliate for a perceived infraction, the fact that they didn’t like the individual’s comments, or worse, use it as an opportunity to put their competitors at a disadvantage? In the course of researching the situation, it does appear that there are instances of this happening.

What will this decision mean for the power that participating in groups has represented? Being able to contribute to conversations or start discussions gives a group member the ability to demonstrate their thought leadership and capabilities. Done smartly, that visibility leads to sales opportunities. But if members know that a Group Manager could get pissed off at them, cut them off because they didn’t like what they said or posted, or accidentally clicked on the wrong button, why would anyone waste time participating in groups at all?

Aren’t we obligated to clearly communicate this change to all members? For me, this is the most important question that LinkedIn should have asked. If you believe in the decision, why hide? Why not clearly communicate what you are doing and why and ask for feedback before actually putting it into application. It seems to be common practice for social sites to makes changes without bothering to tell anyone. When it comes to policy though, I think the company should be obligated to make a public statement. As a member of the platform, I’m bound by the terms of use, but if you keep slipping in whammies like this one, how is that really being transparent?

What will be the impact on our Customer Service team? My point above might have mitigated many of the support tickets and complaints being filed. Without having any knowledge of the change or what happened if a group member was blocked, hundreds of support tickets have been filed. That is a heck of a lot of manpower to waste.

I plan to keep watch with respect to this policy, so expect more posts to come.

For now I will close with the following…

After 29 years working in technology, I’ve seen a lot of big players come and go. Arrogance slowly creeps in as people think, we are big, bad and no one can touch us. LinkedIn is not immune to this insidious disease, which may be a small crack today, but a chasm in the not too distant future. Guaranteed, a band of super smart tech nerds are out there somewhere working away in their garage to create the next best thing.

When a social networking company forgets that it is the members that got them where they are now, the fall may be slow but it certainly will be imminent.

SocialTech Tuesday: Another Kind of Handshake

As the co-author of the second book about social selling to hit bookshelves in August 2010, I am delighted to see that a philosophical approach to selling that I began evangelizing as early as 2006 is gathering steam.

At the time that The New Handshake: Sales Meets Social Media was published individual sales contributors were testing the waters on their own. Their managers, however, snubbed their noses at the idea that using social media as part of selling could help to generate revenue. More sales leaders get it today, but we still have far to go.

Part of the social selling process relies on sales people creating a perception of expert credibility and that’s where content comes in. Largely misunderstood, I want you to think about content in the context of helping the buyer make their decision to buy from you and your company and not someone else.

Recently, I sat down with Jason Wesbecher CEO and Co-Founder of Handshakez to talk about content and a unique platform that he and his team have developed to help sales people use content to close deals. Jason is a seasoned sales leader, so I know that you’ll benefit from his perspective as much as I have.

By the way, on Thursday, June 27 at 12N Eastern, I’m hosting a complimentary webinar with Jason that you need to attend. You’ll want to see for yourself what Handshakez can do for your teams sales results!

BG: Jason, why is content such an important part of the sales process?

JW: So much of the sales process unfolds these days outside the presence of an actual salesperson.  Because of this, it has never been more important to produce and share compelling content that can help provoke your customer to ask a question, start a dialogue… to engage with you.

BG: Isn’t interacting with our prospects and sending information back and forth sort of boring and wasting time? How does Handshakez overcome that challenge?

JW: The challenge with information exchange in today’s B2B environment is that it’s done much in the same way it was 15 years ago – via email.  What’s changed, though, is the sheer amount of email customers receive these days – as much as 600 new emails per week.  That is a tremendous amount of noise that sales reps now need to cut through.  Moreover, unlike 15 years ago, there just isn’t the same social obligation associated with responding to emails today.  Customers will easily delete dozens of external emails per week without thinking twice.

BG: Sales people often spend a lot of time chasing opportunities that really aren’t opportunities. How does your platform help sales people with that?

JW: As a former technology salesperson for 17 years, I can tell you with certainty that the next best thing to a “yes” is a “fast no.”  Quickly disqualifying opportunities is a valuable skill, as it reduces the time and cost of chasing conversations that will likely never come to fruition.  Our platform is focused on fostering engaging and transparent conversations between sales teams and buying teams.  When a salesperson using Handshakez starts to see declining engagement levels during a sales cycle – or worse yet, no engagement at all – it can inform next steps, sales stage and forecastability.

BG: Why did you start the company in the first place?

JW: I have been in enterprise software for 68 quarters and flown 2 million miles, selling to some of the toughest clients in the world.  What I learned is that oftentimes it’s a dance between a sales team that has an immature or undifferentiated product and a buyer who has multiple alternatives and very complex requirements.  In other words, selling is really, really hard and only getting harder. 

BG: We all know that the length of time to close deals has only gotten longer because multiple stakeholders are involved and some have more influence than others. What are some of the benefits of using your platform to address this reality?

JW: For today’s sales professionals to be successful, they must navigate the complex politics of committees staffed with informed and frugal buyers. Successful reps in this environment tend to engage customers rather than manage them.  And they differentiate their sales process as much as their products & services.  The best reps may already do this very well, but they only account for 10-20% of your sales force.  What about the rest? 

BG: Jason, you’ve told me that the buying and selling of B2B products is one of the most opaque and adversarial processes in the world.  Does it really have to be that way?

JW: No, it doesn’t.  I started Handshakez to make the B2B sales process incrementally easier and more enjoyable for all involved by humanizing it and taking it out of email.

BG: Humanizing it. I like that a lot, Jason. I rant quite often about how I think that sales people are using technology as a substitute for great selling skills. What are your top 3 pet peeves about the way people are selling today?

JW: As CEO of a company, I am now both a salesperson and a buyer.  We have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars building out our infrastructure, oftentimes with 3rd party tools and services from vendors.  My 3 pet peeves in working with these vendors have been:

  • Long PowerPoint presentations that emphasize the history and values of the vendor rather than my specific business challenge and how they can help address it.
  • Lack of awareness as to who the buyer actually is.  While I may be CEO, I generally outsource all technology decisions to my partner & CTO.  You would be surprised by how many vendors lack an appreciation for the differences between a buyer and an influencer.
  • Providing me with boilerplate vendor slicks as opposed to 3rd party content (HBR blog entries, industry best practices, etc) that can help influence my thinking.

BG: We definitely share the same pet peeves. As you know, I have strong opinions about why I believe sales people need to change their approach to selling. Why do you think it is important?

JW: Research by CSO insights suggests that only 46% of forecasted deals close.

BG: Ouch, only 46%? That’s a lot of lost revenue sitting out there. What’s the problem?

JW: After the countless hours of training and millions of dollars spent on tools, today’s B2B salesperson still has better odds at a Las Vegas craps table.  The definition of insanity is to repeat the same behaviors while expecting different results.  Handshakez helps sales reps redefine their approach, grow closer to the customer, and differentiate themselves.  We help clients close this forecast gap.

BG: Everybody talks about their ability to deliver ROI, but often they really can’t. What kind of ROI can sales leaders expect to see when their teams use your social selling platform?

JW: We help our customers realize a 10% increase in renewal rates and a 10 hour reduction per week in time each sales rep spends doing manual and administrative tasks within CRM.

BG: That’s what I would call ROI. And just think what could happen if each member of the sales team was spending 10 more hours per week on selling.

BG: Jason, I have enjoyed our conversation today, and I’m looking forward to our webinar on Thursday, June 27 at 12N Eastern.

SocialTech Tuesday: Sharing the Content Love

Last week, I shared 15 ideas for creating content that captures interest. It would be lovely if everyone we talked to or had on our target list was ready to buy now, but let’s face it, that’s just not realistic.

Things have changed pretty dramatically since back in the day when I first started selling. Frankly, I think selling is much tougher these days. I say that because…

  • Decision making seems to take longer than ever with multiple stakeholders involved. Some of these stakeholders don’t even hold real influence, but you have to talk to them anyway (or you think you do).
  • Buyers have unprecedented access to information. Your feature/benefit dump is wasted effort.
  • The market is crowded. In pretty much every industry that I can think there is a ton of competition. The trick is to rise above the noise and stand out.
  • Buyers block calls and delete emails.
  • Your prospects don’t care about what you want (they never did actually), they care about what they want and what you, your product or your service can do for them. Hint: features aren’t it!

Your ultimate goal with selling is to get IN FRONT of sales opportunities. My goal is to help you become a Content Concierge, because you want to be seen as someone who stays ahead of the curve bringing fresh insights forward and gets prospects thinking about business problems they probably don’t realize they have yet.

That’s where content comes in. Visibility is key and your ability to create, curate and share great content needs to be an integral part of your Strategic Social Selling Plan.

But from talking to and training thousands of people who sell, the idea of becoming a content concierge is a little daunting for these reasons:

  • Who will create the content?
  • How will I manage and share the content?
  • How will I benefit if I do all of this work?

My last post covered creation, so now, let’s talk about the management and sharing of content.

Hootsuite is my content management platform, and I want you to check it out. HootSuite is a social media management system for individuals, businesses and organizations that lets you share content across multiple social networks like Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook from one secure, web or mobile-based dashboard. Want to get a bit more sophisticated? You can also leverage a suite of social content apps for Instagram, SlideShare, YouTube, Tumblr and more.

Here is a picture of my Hootsuite Dashboard

Here are some of the super cool things that you can do:

Schedule content in advance. This is the secret sauce, which allows you to schedule messages to post through the day, week or month while you are off doing your job…selling.

  • Even with the FREE version, they have this nifty feature called “autoschedule”. You create your message and then let Hootsuite determine the best time to send it to your networks.
  • You can also click on the “calendar” icon and pick a specific date and time to send your message. The free version allows you to do this for individual emails only.
  • Buy the premium version and schedule up to 350 messages across your social networks. Talk about making life more efficient. Plan your calendar and cue up relevant content to share at on specific days and times. CAREFUL though… you don’t want to be perceived as a bot, so remember to go back in and engage in conversation with people.

Use RSS to set up your blog/company feed so that messages post automatically when a new post is published. The FREE version lets you establish 5 social sites and/or 3 sites and 2 RSS feeds. The premium gives you an unlimited ability add a mashup of social networks and RSS feeds of the Influencer blogs your follow and whose content you trust.

Use streams to track what your competitors, prospects, customers or influencers are posting about. I mean really, did you actually think you could follow over 250 million tweets daily without the ability to do something like this?

Monitor conversations – cue up messages to social sites like LinkedIn and monitor conversations from within the dashboard.

Share images/files easily with your posts.

Bottom line – to share content consistently, you need the tools and an organized approach to get you there.

If you’d like to learn HOW to put Hootsuite to work you in your social selling activities, you should REGISTER for my session next Tuesday, June 25. I’m going to show you exactly what and how to use Hootsuite to your advantage!

BTW – I a very SPECIAL webinar coming up on June 27. My guest is Jason Wesbescher of Handshakez. Sales people can have their own “room” for sharing visually compelling content and information with their prospects. I promise you – you won’t go back to wasting time with email ever again!

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!

 

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SocialTech Tuesday: Be a Go-Giver

In a recent sales interview, I was asked to share my number one sales tip. Without hesitation, I said that it was to be a “go-giver”.  That has been a philosophy that has guided me throughout a successful corporate sales career, and as I run my own business today. The moniker itself comes from Bob Burg’s book, The Go-Giver, and at about 100 pages in length, it is a must read for anyone striving to be a superstar seller and knows that giving is the way to get there!

If you stop and think about it, common training and tips shared regarding social selling often focus on helping sales people use the technology to “get something”. Get more people to your profile, get in front of more prospects, get more people connect, get more prospects to notice you, get more leads in the pipeline, get more meetings, get recommendations, get referrals…get, get, get.

Of course, these things are important. After all, we all have something to sell. We teach these things in our trainings also, and we put a big emphasis on the giving. When the sole focus is on the getting and not the giving too, the pendulum swings widely out of balance. Many sellers are neglecting this important aspect of the selling process. Don’t you be one of them!

The funny thing about giving is that when your attitude is more about giving than it is about the getting, you better prepare yourself for the floodgate of opportunities that will come rushing your way.

Here goes, a 23 ways that you can give to others – prospects, influencers, customers. I steered clear of things that might seem too personal and my suggestions are in no particular order.

  1. Referrals
  2. Introductions
  3. A ride to the airport
  4. A book – I’ve given several copies of The Go-Giver to people
  5. Presentations or white papers that aren’t yours
  6. Birthday cards
  7. Share news of their new book launch, wesite, product or service
  8. Complimentary tickets to a ball game, movie or play
  9. Thank you’s
  10. Mention in your blog post and a link back to their website
  11. An invite to a webinar you think they will enjoy
  12. Connect them to speaking opportunities
  13. Recommendation
  14. A compliment
  15. Connection to a press opportunity
  16. Ticket to an industry conference
  17. 15-minutes of your time to help them with something
  18. Invite to be interviewed about their area of expertise
  19. Shout out on Twitter
  20. Ticket to a networking lunch as your guest
  21. Gift card to their favorite anything…restaurant, bookstore, music store
  22. A donation of time or money to a charity they support
  23. Subscription to an inspirational magazine like Success.

These are 23 things that I came up with in the giving category. My point in making this weeks topic about giving is that selling always has been and, I believe, always will be a relationship business. After all, for the foreseeable future at least, people buy from people!

Bring it on. What about you? What is on your giving list?