Selling is Social in a 2.0 World

Recently, I attended the Sales 2.0 conference. As a first-timer at the conference, I wasn’t completely sure what to expect, but I have to say that it was one of the best run, most  informative conferences that I’ve attended in some time.

The overall theme of the conference was sales and marketing alignment, in addition to social selling. What I find curious is all the time spent talking about the need for sales and marketing alignment (it has been a topic of conversation for years), but somehow the problem has yet to be resolved in most organizations. Now that social media has entered the scene, I believe that alignment between these two departments is even more critical.

Social marketing campaigns must be tied to current sales processes and CRM systems but I don’t see that happening in most instances. Case in point. I met a Marketing Manager recently from a sizable organization who became defensive when I asked if her company had a social media strategy. “Yes, of course, she huffily replied. I handle all of that.” I said, “Cool. How are you tying your marketing campaigns and social lead generation activities to your sales teams CRM system and sales process?” She didn’t even know what a CRM system was much less understand how social sales leads should be tied it. Folks, social media marketing success is more than putting up a Facebook fan page and it certainly requires more than hiring the young 20 or 30-something who knows how to tweet, but I digress.

Personally, I don’t think the sales and marketing alignment problem is that tough to solve. Am I just naive? Why doesn’t the CEO put both sales and marketing on the same revenue goals and bonus them on the same objectives; i.e. hitting quota. Don’t bonus marketing on cheap leads, bonus them on the right leads! On the flip side, tie a piece of every reps sales commission to following up on the “right leads” provided by marketing. To be fair, we all know that salespeople often ignore the leads handed off to them by their marketing team and that’s generally because the leads are not adequately qualified. Salespeople want to talk to qualified, motivated buyers. Give them the right leads and they will follow up! By the way, signing up for a free whitepaper – often called “raising your hand” – doesn’t mean that the lead is qualified or that the potential buyer even cares about what you sell. Maybe they just thought that the whitepaper sounded interesting.

Here are a few of my other thoughts as a result of attending the conference:

    •  The right conferences are still an incredible way to expand your network. Yes, I love the power of social media, but let’s face it, people do not buy from companies, people buy from people. I went to learn, speak, to meet people and to make connections, but I didn’t go to “sell”. Take note sales folks…the best sales come from the investment in building relationships that lead to opportunity over time.
    • Your online conversations can move offline. I had such fun meeting people like Joanne Black and Anneke Seley that I’ve been talking to or following online for quite some time. Joanne and I have connected again since the conference and have decided that we are twin sisters of different mothers. We both agree that there are lots of opportunities for us to support each other with referral business. And sometimes, you have to travel 2200 miles to meet a local colleague from your own community. That was the case with Judy Yi of Silverpop who works about 10 miles away from my office and wouldn’t you know…we are also members of the Atlanta Women in Social Facebook group. Small world! Online conversation is great, but taking it offline can be even better!
    • Don’t forget the social in social selling. There were a handful of conference vendors who just couldn’t resist tweets full of selling. The me, me, me got a bit old. If you’ve been sharing valuable information with conference attendees and then mix in a pitch here and there..ok, but tweets simply focused on you and what you sell are a big turn off.
    • Keep presentations focused on delivering value to your audience. This is a nice way of saying…don’t sell from the podium. One vendor in particular spent their entire presentation time selling, selling and more…well…selling. Not only nauseating, but they were the subject of numerous conversations throughout the conference and the comments were not positive. Honestly, is that really how you want your company to be remembered? Just sayin.
    • Bold moves sometimes backfire. During one of the presentations, I applauded the move to do a “live demo” of the sales approach being sold. At the same time, I felt like I was witnessing a car wreck in slow motion. The approach was slightly better than cold calling and the techniques used to get things like email nomenclature from the receptionist were a bit lame. Not to mention the rep went back to her several times asking the same questions she had just answered. Listening skills were lacking. As for the voicemail message being left for the targeted prospect…what a waste. It was focused only on what the vendor wanted – an appointment. Nothing in it for the exec at all!  If I was the exec on the receiving end of that message I would have hit the delete button in 2 seconds flat. Lesson… do  your homework before picking up the phone, so that when you need to leave your voicemail message, you’ll be able to leave one that is compelling enough for your prospect to want to call you back.

I’ll close by saying that aside from a few presentation missteps; I was inspired and energized by the sheer number of smart people with great ideas and approaches to their business. I engaged in many great conversations and appreciated the willingness of so many pros to share best practices.  It can be easy to coast along comfortably in our day-to-day lives without remembering the importance of investing in our professional development. I say thank you to all the people that I talked with who so generously shared their perspectives.

Hats off to the entire Sales 2.0 conference team for creating and delivering a conference experience that raised the bar and puts other conference organizers on notice! Seriously, Selling Power, you rock!

p.s. I’m attending the Sales Strategies in a Social and Mobile World. Why don’t you join me for a meet-up?

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