Status Quo is Your Biggest Competitor

When CEB reported that 57% of the buyer’s journey was happening without the engagement of sales, it led to the mistaken assumption that sales had no role in the early part of the buying decision. Similarly, when SiriusDecisions reported that 67% of the buyer’s decision-making journey happens digitally, once again the assumption was that sales had no role in the process. Yes, buyers do leverage online tools to do their early stage due diligence and research when they believe they have a business problem that needs addressing. How that became translated into buyers never talk to sellers at that stage is interesting.Stand out of a crowd

I never viewed either of these statistics as something to be afraid of, instead, I saw it as an opportunity for salespeople to find ways to be out in plain sight when buyers were in that early education and research phase. How to engage buyers online whether through content or direct interaction has been the subject of many of my blog posts and that of many others in the sales profession. When it comes to improving sales pipeline or what to do to move deals along to close, what isn’t talked about enough is that your most challenging competitor is the status quo.

Planning for status quo.

Status quo is Latin for existing state. Typically when buyers decide to maintain the status quo, they are often resistant to the risk associated with doing something differently than they do today. If your deals are stalling out because buyers do nothing and stick with the status quo, one reason this is happening is that the risk they associate with making a major change to a new solution was not mitigated. That’s where you have an opportunity to help them. If the perceived risk of making a change is greater than staying with what they’ve got, you won’t close the business. If you want to stand out from the crowd, you will help buyers assuage their fears with data to back you up, which then positions you more strongly for moving a sales opportunity along to close.

Let’s talk about ROI.

A key theme that emerged from Demand Gen’s 2016 B2B Buyer’s Survey Report was the subject of ROI. That’s an important hurdle that salespeople have to help buyers get over. Overwhelmingly respondents said they are feeling the pressure of financial scrutiny from corporate.  And when asked how their purchase process had changed over the past year, the survey revealed that 61% said they “conduct a more detailed ROI analysis before making a final decision.” Now that company leadership has increased scrutiny on the financial side to justify purchase decisions; it is easy to see why buyers proceed with caution.

More decision makers also increase the odds of status quo winning.

Another contributing factor to overcoming status quo is the number of decision makers now involved in buying decisions. This new reality is especially true if you are selling into a complex B2B environment. CEB has said their research indicates that 6.8 people are involved in the decision-making process these days. I would say that those numbers are conservative because there are far more people inside an organization who have influence into the ultimate decision than you may realize. The stakeholders involved in these buying decisions are in a variety of roles, work in multiple geographies or regions, each with a unique perspective on the challenges and pains that a particular business problem may be causing. They also have their unique opinion on what will be the right solution to correct the situation.

There is good news.

The challenges of beating your toughest competitor in any deal situation – status quo – provides an opportunity for salespeople who understand this challenge and plan for ways to overcome it.

In Demand Gen’s Report, there were four top reasons why buyers ultimately choose a winning vendor. They are:

98% – Timeliness of a vendor’s response to inquiries

97% – Demonstrated a stronger knowledge of the solution area and business landscape

94% – Demonstrated a stronger knowledge of our company and its needs

90% – Provided content that made it easier to show ROI and build a business case for purchase

Notice that these buyers didn’t say, we choose a winning vendor because of their product pitch! The salespeople who “ditch the pitch” and focus on demonstrating their consultative business value to buyers have a greater shot at kicking status quo out the door to win deals more often.

Create Winning Sales Experiences

Two Female Runners Finishing Race TogetherAccess to decision makers is tough. An IDC study reported that inundated with data and sales pitches, buyers return only 10.5% of phone calls and 9% of emails from new vendors. Yet, pressured by management KPI’s, every day salespeople use the same tactics – cold calls and cold emails – in an effort to convince a prospective customer to agree to a sales meeting.

Activity is NOT the same as effectiveness.

Using technology to cast a wider net has given rise to the delusion that if you just broadcast your message to more people you are bound to land more meetings. If sales people expect to make quota, they need to remember that it’s all a numbers game, right? Wrong. The theory that simply increasing the number of “people” you contact means you’ll get more business is outdated.  Buyer expectations have changed.

In IDC’s Social Buying Meets Social Selling whitepaper they concluded that “While time is scarce, trust and confidence can be even rarer. Buyers making high-impact decisions will gravitate toward methods that make confidence building easier.”

Spray and pray selling isn’t going to instill confidence in a buyer any time soon.

Spamcasting the same email message to 100, 500 or 1,000 people is not an effective prospecting strategy. Moreover, you put yourself at serious risk of creating a negative impression in the mind of your potential customer. Competition is stiff and buyers have choices. If your goal is to fill the pipeline with qualified leads and secure sales meetings, you need a different strategy.

Two things need to change:

  1. Sales approach
  2. Message

Chasing anyone with a pulse is a costly waste of time and energy.

Though it may seem counter intuitive, you actually have a higher likelihood of securing meetings and closing deals more quickly when you focus your attention on a targeted list of decision makers to pursue.

Now that you’ve narrowed your focus, it is time to personalize your message. The Internet and social media in particular, is full of insights that can help craft a message that is relevant to the buyer you’ve targeted. That means you need to do some homework prior to crafting your message, and yes, it does take more time but aren’t positive results worth the effort?

Don’t fall into the 90% of communications that are deleted without a second thought.

Follow these tips:

  • It is not about you. Prospects don’t care about your company history, the latest infusion of VC cash or the fact that you won an industry award. Tell them what is in it for them!
  • Create a compelling subject line that captures interest.
  • Keep the message brief and to the point.
  • Check your facts. If you sell services to staffing agencies then be sure you are emailing staffing companies.
  • Stop asking people to visit your website to learn more. Lazy and presumes your buyer has the time to do your sales job.
  • Make sure the customer examples you use are relevant. Don’t tout examples of enterprise organizations if you are emailing a small business.
  • Provide the social proof and include specific metrics that clearly show how results were achieved by the companies you are referencing.
  • Don’t try to be a comedian. One email I received said that perhaps one of the reasons I didn’t get back to him is because a file cabinet fell on me and I couldn’t reach the keyboard to contact him. Delete.

Buyers expect more.

They want to work with people who can help them solve their business challenges. Order takers aren’t needed or wanted.

When you earn the right to a 30-minute meeting, use your time wisely. Don’t pitch. Focus on bringing insights to the meeting that will benefit the buyer in some way. It could be information on the latest industry trends or data related to their competitors.

Ask great questions to guide the sales conversation.

  • Why should my target buyer care about what I offer?
  • What happens to their business if they do nothing?
  • Why should they trust me versus my competitors?
  • How are their peers solving the same challenges they face now?
  • What expertise will I need to move this ahead to a successful win?
  • What do I need to know about their competition or their industry?
  • How do I gain their commitment? What’s really important to them?

The sellers who succeed are those that swim in the blue ocean. Let your competitors continue to do what they’ve always done. Let them pitch features and fight it out on price.

CEI discovered when they surveyed decision makers that 86% said that they would pay more for a great customer experience but felt that only 1% actually delivered.

Creating a sales experience that sets you apart from everyone else is your competitive advantage. Go make it happen!

Telling Isn’t Selling

Businessman sleeping at the presentationAt lunch with a colleague last week, we chatted about how the sales people at his client account operate. Not surprisingly, it is standard practice during a sales meeting to walk prospects through 44-slides of yada, yada, yada that begins with extensive detail about the long, successful history of the company. Mind you, this is a company that is well known. The history lesson is unnecessary! Even when it becomes obvious during a presentation that the decision maker is bored out of their mind, the sales rep will simply keep plugging along. After all, they have been trained to “tell” not sell.

  • Let me tell you about our history.
  • Let me tell you about the awards we’ve won.
  • Let me tell you about the features of our products.
  • Let me tell you how we can solve your problem.
  • Let me tell you about our pricing model.
  • Let me tell you why other customers love us.
  • Let me tell you how we are better than the competition.

It isn’t that these things are unimportant. Well, maybe the awards and history, but the fact is that this information is no doubt already listed on the corporate website. Prospects don’t need sales people to tell them what they already know.

What kills me is that even in companies that have trained their sales people in a solution selling program, their sales people still show up in buyer’s offices and tell. Sure, they may ask a few questions about the prospects business but then they roll right into the pitch they’ve been taught to deliver. Seems strange, right? Even those sales people trained to sell solutions still talk AT prospects not WITH them. Why?

Because…

  • More time is invested in training sales people about the features of products.
  • An investment in training great sales skills is viewed as a one time event and not a process that is continually reinforced.
  • It is easier than learning about the prospects business, industry and challenges.

Instead of using meeting time to tell, imagine your roles are reversed and YOU are the customer. As the customer, what is important to you? What business initiatives are you expected to execute upon? What will happen if you don’t? Are you struggling to out pace the competition? What is happening in your industry that will impact your business today and tomorrow? The point is that unless you think like your prospect, you’ve done some digging or ask the right questions, it is going to be tough to know what is really important to them.

Here is a story to illustrate what I’m getting at. About 20 years ago, I was in the market for a new car. I’d first visited the local Nissan dealership and the conversation with the sales person was a disaster. Right up front, I detailed exactly what I wanted. In classic form, he didn’t listen. He took me over to a specific model and started “telling” me why this would be a great car for me. As if he knew, right? Immediately, I say that I’m not interested. Undeterred, he keeps pushing all the features he believes to be awesome. Again, I say, I don’t like the car and there is NO WAY that I would drive it. To which he replies, “What’s not to like, my wife drives this same car.” I couldn’t run away fast enough.

Contrast that with the experience I had at the Infinity dealership right next door. The sales person was courteous, professional and asked about me. He asked about my work, what I was most interested in, any features important to me in a car… you get the picture. Learning that I was a sales rep who supported accounts in Tucson, he knew the drive between Phoenix and Tucson was a 2-hour long stretch of highway with practically nothing out there. He also learned that I’m a music lover. Rather than talking about the vanity mirror, he focused on safety and security by highlighting the roadside assistance program that came included with a car purchase. He had me try out the awesome stereo system. I already loved the car – a G20 – because it was sporty, looked upscale and was a dream to drive. And because this sales person had learned about Barb, he tailored his message to focus on what I cared about. Guess what – car sold. Most pleasant car purchase experience ever!!!!

The irony is that Nissan owns Infinity. What gives? Why a horrible experience with the Nissan rep but a stellar one with the Infinity rep? I asked my Infinity rep and he told me that the company invested many hours of training and constantly stressed (and reinforced) the importance of selling a solution based on the needs of the car buyer. Listening and asking good questions was a huge part of their training programs.

Stop telling your prospects (and customers) what YOU think they want to know, ought to know or should know and begin with the end in mind. If your goal is to win business, then begin by getting into the head and heart of your prospect. Buyers want to you care about them and when you don’t… they simply look elsewhere.

Are We Progressing or Regressing?

In the three years since my book, The New Handshake: Sales Meets Social Media was published, much has changed in the world of sales and social media.

Many of the biggest changes have happened on the technology front. Technology platforms have come and gone. Some have exploded in size and popularity.

Arguably the top B2B social networking platform used by sellers today, LinkedIn is now more than 225 million members strong. To give you some perspective on the skyrocketing growth, at the time the book went to press, member numbers hovered around 40 million. In terms of usability, LinkedIn has undergone numerous changes and many of them revolve around the utilization of content, streamlined navigation and a more unified way of searching for information. And while you can build lead lists using the free version of LinkedIn, the Sales Navigator premium offering provides sales people with a more advanced tool for building lead lists and sourcing sales opportunities. From a management point of view, Navigator provides insight into the adoption and usage of the tool among sales team members.

As Twitter has increased in size, the last three years have demonstrated that Twitter should not be overlooked as one of several tools that social sellers need to leverage as part of their B2B sales arsenal.  Sellers can use Twitter to source real-time information about prospects, competitors, influencers, customers and market trends. With that knowledge, you can build credibility with extended networks and engage with people in new ways.

CRM platforms have been evolving into what’s known as Social CRM. Traditionally giving sales people the ability to input leads and track their progress from nurture to close, Social CRM systems can now help sales people leverage the power of the web as part of their selling process.

Finally, business intelligence has never been more important. Prospects block sellers at every turn, but they will pay attention to any seller who has demonstrated that they’ve done their homework before attempting to engage. As a raving fan of InsideView, I use their sales tool – combined with LinkedIn – to research prospects before attempting to engage a prospect in a sales conversation, and I use “alerts” to watch for triggers that signify a potential sales opportunity. Of course, I use both tools to do extensive research before each and every sales meeting.

Technology that enables the selling process continues to advance, but what about selling skills?

Have they improved now that we have tools like LinkedIn and Twitter to leverage as part of our sales process?

Or, has an over reliance on technology coupled with unrealistic expectations of technology’s role in the selling process caused a serious decline in great selling skills?

Personally, I believe it is the latter. Sales skills among many sellers seem to be regressing – not progressing.

The ability to cast a wider net to larger networks has led to more broadcasting and less targeting and customization. Sales people (and sometimes marketers on their behalf) crank out random, boilerplate emails that do more pitching than demonstrating any real sort of value. Sorry folks, but that’s not great selling. Activity continues to be confused with actual sales effectiveness. If the goal is to secure a sales meeting, then it makes sense to take the time to:

Ensure that the prospect is qualified to buy what you sell. You can definitely uncover some of those basics using the web. Do it before wasting time with emails and phone calls.

Stop pitching and start engaging. Learn the language of what is important to the prospect. Generic  messaging hurts you. It does not help you. YES, you will need to do a little up front work, but if that time investment leads to the meeting you want and a sales opportunity closing more quickly, isn’t it worth it?

Follow a sales process consistently. One phone call or email isn’t going to cut it. Most sales reps give up after one or two tries. Don’t let that be you. And remember to be patient. Sales remains a relationship driven business. You have to prove yourself first.

Brush up on your communication skills, which include written and verbal communication and listening. It doesn’t hurt to get familiar with behavioral assessments like DiSC, because prospects with different styles expect different things in sales interactions.

Finally, stop expecting LinkedIn, Twitter, a blog, Facebook or any other social tool to do the selling for you! Social platforms have a specific role in the selling process, but at the end of the day, the sale is transacted by people. If you don’t have the skills, you won’t close deals. It is pretty much that simple!

Social Media Does Impact Revenue!

Social Media and Sales Quota” report is now available and packed with great highlights about how sales people use social media to sell.

When working with sales organizations in the business-to-business (B2B), space we are constantly asked if using social media as part of the sales process actually generates a measurable return.

Jim Keenan of A Sales Guy Consulting and I decided to find out if social selling truly impacted sales. With all the hype that surrounds social media and the term “social selling”, we wanted to know if social made a difference where it mattered…in quota.
With that in mind, we conducted a random, anonymous survey to find out what sales people had to say.

Our “Social Media and Sales Quota” survey report is packed with great highlights about how sales people use social media to sell.

You will discover that 78.3% of our survey respondents do use social media in their selling process and that 72.6% of sales people using social media outperformed their sales peers in 2012!

Here are just a few of our key findings…

  • Quota attainment and sales performance. In 2012, 72.6% of sales people using social media as part of their sales process outperformed their sales peers and exceeded quota 23% more often.
  • There is a direct correlation between closed deals and social media usage. Sales leaders want to know where the Return-on-Investment (ROI) is if their sales people spend time on social media sites. 54% of our survey respondents have tracked their social media usage back to closed deals.
  • The time investment in using social media to sell. A common concern among sales leaders is that their sales people will spend more time on social media sites then they will actually spend selling. It turns out that their concern is unwarranted. 50.1% of sales people told us that their time spent using social media ranged from less than 5% to up to 10%.
  • The report includes other eye openings insights and clearly shows that those sales people using social media significantly outperform their peers when it comes to achieving/exceeding quota and closing deals!

Help Us Get the Word Out!

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FREE Social Media and Sales Quota Survey Report. Find out how savvy sales people use social media to achieve quota and close deals! Get the results from our 2013 survey.

Sign Up on the Home Page RIGHT NOW to Download Your Copy!

Put the Social into Selling: A Sales Mastery Interview with Ago Cluytens

As I’ve been writing and speaking for the last 7 years about Social Selling and why salespeople need to adapt to changed buyer behavior, it still comes back to one key point:

If you keep trying to sell the way that you’ve always sold, you lose most of the time!

I have a number of kindred spirits who think as I do regarding this changed world of selling, so it was with great delight that I sat down with Ago Cluytens to talk about his views on what salespeople need to do to succeed in today’s complex B2B sales environment.

Ago shared some practical tips that salespeople can put into practical application now. One of my favorites is Ago’s three golden rules for sales success using social channels to sell. It all breaks down to:

  • 40% sharing
  • 40% listening
  • 20% talking

Given that I’m observing a lot of sales (and marketing) people spend 80%-90% of their time talking about themselves and what they want to sell – and I am being kind with my percentages – I want people to take Ago’s advice to heart. Using social channels to crank out generic sales pitches just do more harm than good and people WILL turn you off. Another time, I’ll tell you about the person I had to shut off on Facebook, because I had finally had enough of the constant self-promotion.

Anyway, as I always say, it is great interview with a sales thought leader who has amassed years of experience on both the marketing and sales side of the house. I know that you are going to enjoy my conversation with Ago, as much as I did!

Let me tell you about Ago…

As Practice Director EMEA at RAIN Group, Ago Cluytens specializes in helping clients sell complex, high-end professional, financial, and technology services to senior decision makers and C-level executives in the Fortune 500.

His early track record as a management consultant with “Big 4″ professional services firms Ernst & Young and Arthur Andersen (now Deloitte) made him intimately familiar with “selling to the C-suite.” Spending over a decade as an executive with Fortune 50 financial services firm ING helped Ago develop a unique insider’s perspective of how corporations really buy and make decisions.

As former Global Head of Marketing (CMO) for the Private Banking division, Ago is a former CxO – with a deep understanding of what other CxOs look for when evaluating providers.

He has worked with corporations such as Ernst & Young, Toyota, Telenet, Arthur Andersen, Deloitte, ING, Keytrade, JP Morgan, Accenture, Procter & Gamble and Firmenich, as well as dozens of smaller firms.

Ago is a regular contributor to industry research and a panelist and speaker at conferences hosted by organizations like Brits in Business, Executives International, Wealthbriefing, Dukascopy, Marcus Evans, Terrapinn, and the Financial Times (FT).

And to ensure his insights stay current, he hosts an online TV series called the Coaching Master Series – learn more at www.coachingmasters.tv.

When you listen to my conversation with Ago, you’ll learn:

  • What buyers are really thinking about during the buying process and how they determine who gets the meeting and who doesn’t.
  • How social fits when selling in complex B2B sales situations.
  • Why Ago made the leap to social selling.
  • About several great social selling tools.
  • What a former marketer who has now crossed over into sales has to say about the difference between social selling and social media marketing.
  • Ago’s tips for getting started.

And more…

Enjoy the interview!

Leads, Leads, Leads

Generating leads is a key element to creating a pipeline of sales opportunities that
ultimately results (well, if you do your job well that is) in closed revenue. Without leads there are no sales. Without sales, you don’t have a business.

Buyers start the sales process without your salespeople 70-80% of the time, which makes it clear that today’s buyer has changed. Cold calling and spam emails have diminished in effectiveness, because 92% of buyers say that they merely “hit delete” when the email or call comes from someone that they do not know.

In a Digital Marketing Digest released by Silverpop, they say that “Buyers, fed up with crowded inboxes and irrelevant advertising noise, are shutting out content that isn’t relevant to them and using search and social to control their own buyer journeys.”

When seeking information, buyers today have unprecedented alternatives. The Internet and social networks afford them the freedom to search for options – without salespeople being involved, compare alternatives and ask for recommendations when seeking the products and solutions that will solve their business problems.

What’s a salesperson to do?

If you are looking to engage with prospects in today’s selling environment, you need to do two things: Leverage multiple channels and engage often, as well as answer the core questions that will tell you if you are speaking to a qualified buyer or not.

When you think about a multi- touch, multi-channel approach for prospecting and lead generation to create visibility, demonstrate credibility and provide value – how are you using email, the telephone, webinars, podcasts, curated content, LinkedIn groups, your referral network, Twitter or blogs to reach a broader base? Sales opportunities can flow to you in numerous ways.

And once you have that prospect in your sights, have you answered the core questions that determine if your buyer is truly motivated to buy or just kicking the tires?

If you haven’t answered the questions that follow, you’ll likely end up spinning your wheels:

  • Is there some burning initiative inside the company that is driving this opportunity forward?
  • Have they budgeted for the project?
  • Where are they in the buying cycle?
  • Are you sure they will decide in 30 days and not 3 months or more?
  • How many people will be involved in the decision?

In the end, we all want more leads. Smart sellers will become more creative at generating them and faster at qualifying (or disqualifying) them. Your ability to do both will lead to less time spent with those prospects not ready to buy and more time focused on those that are!

Generating Revenue and Pipeline

Three common sales priorities I hear being discussed among salespeople is the pressure to increase pipeline and revenue, improve their win rates and get deals to close more quickly. To attack the challenge, I believe salespeople really need to focus their attention on finding better qualified prospects and then taking the time to better qualify possible sales opportunities. When sales deals are dragging on or eventually lead to a loss, it often can be attributed to these two things.

Time is a precious commodity that salespeople largely waste.

Let’s start with prospecting. The importance of this one aspect of the sales process cannot be overstated. Even if your company provides leads to you, it is still your job to be on the lookout for new sales opportunities each and every day. Pipeline is what drives revenue and ultimately your commission check. If you have no pipeline, you have a serious problem.

How you network to find more qualified prospects and opportunities is a sales skill that  is really important for you as a salesperson to get right. It isn’t about the number of networking events you attend, it is about the quality of that event and the real potential for meeting a targeted buyer. Why would you go otherwise?

It is time to take a close look at how you network. Are you leveraging social media as part of your mix to get to more of your targeted prospects faster? Buyers start a majority of the buying process without salespeople, so you need to be visible online. If not, you are missing sales opportunities. And what about those in-person events? Think about the recent networking events you invested time in. Did they lead to a measureable sales result?

How well are you qualifying opportunities?

Are you using the face-to-face meeting time to qualify the opportunity instead of using the telephone or other means first? You should only agree to an in-person meeting once you have confirmed that this is a qualified sales opportunity worthy of investing time. Have you answered core questions that determine if your buyer is truly motivated to buy or just kicking the tires? Is there some burning initiative inside the company that is driving this opportunity forward? Have they budgeted for the project? Are you sure they will decide in 30 days and not 3-months or more? A quick phone call can reveal the answers to these questions quickly enabling you to determine whether face time is warranted.

And about that face time.

Are you using in-person meetings to demonstrate your products or talk about your services when there are more cost efficient ways to achieve the same result? Today, you can create and share your product demos on YouTube. Meetings can be hosted using Go-to-Webinar or maintain that face-to-face connection using iMeet from PGi.

If you really are serious about building pipeline and revenue, you need to get serious about making sure that you are strategic about your prospecting and that you have strong qualification skills. Every minute you spend with people who aren’t going to buy quickly is time you could have been spending on the people who can!

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Become a Social Selling Rockstar with our new coaching program. A 7-step program, Sales Meets Social Media is aimed at professional sales people. You will take away an understanding of how to use social media correctly and own a social selling process for engaging with buyers at the right time with the right message. Learn More

Help Buyers Buy from You!

Another random sales pitch hit my inbox today. That’s pretty much the norm these days, unfortunately. What bugged me more than the fact that the email wasn’t personalized, it was that the email starts with a lie.  “You and I spoke recently” this sales guy says, but here’s the problem…we have never talked, and I’ve never heard of you.

Every business person I know is sick to death of these cold, boring, untargeted, irrelevant emails. Why do salespeople keep sending them? Buyers have said that they don’t work, but salespeople don’t seem to be listening.

If you sell, it is time for you to wake up to one critical point.

How you sell is more important than what you sell!

What this means is that your focus needs to be on how buyers want to buy NOT how you, as the salesperson wants to sell.

Change is tough. I get that. What I don’t understand is why so many salespeople and their managers keep their heads buried in the sand. Frankly, there is a reason why at least 48% of reps will not make their quota. Again.

What about that buying cycle?

Let’s assume that the buying cycle (what the buyer is thinking about) looks like this:

  • Understand the internal business issues
  • Establish our business objectives
  • Set a strategy for addressing the challenges
  • Time to explore options
  • We need to set vendor criteria
  • Let’s examine alternatives
  • What’s the implementation plan?
  • How will we measure the results?

It is not unusual for salespeople to enter the buy cycle when the customer is examining alternatives.

How do you know?

You know when you’ve had a brief conversation that typically ends with the prospect asking you to submit a proposal. Contrary to common sales wisdom though, someone asking you for a proposal is not a signal that you have a shot at winning the business. At this stage, your competitors probably already have the upper hand. That’s why the ability to qualify or disqualify opportunities at this stage is critical to making sure that you are spending time with the right people.

The ideal point of entry into the buying cycle is when your prospect is grappling with understanding the issues that they face internally. To earn that right, you need to have done the work – in advance – to establish a trusted relationship with your prospect. And that’s where social networking yields big results when done well. It takes a strategy, a process and consistency. It takes work, but the work is worth it.

Now that you’ve established yourself and are engaged at the front end, your goal now is to help your prospect see things that they can’t and become part of establishing the objectives and strategy while helping them to understand options. Doing so allows you to be part of guiding the buying process in your favor.

Keep sending email spam…well, good luck with that.

Solve the Right Sales Problem!

Sales executives are feeling the pressure to ensure that sales quotas are met and that pressure often leads to fear, desperation and a focus on short-term sales results.

Don’t get me wrong…achieving monthly sales objectives are important. If there are no sales then ultimately there is no business to run. I’ve been a sales professional for close to 30-years and a business owner for almost 10, so I get it. Consistent revenue flowing in the door month after month is a must. Here’s what worries me though. This short-term focus leads many sales reps to ignore some of the basic fundamentals of selling in a social sales world. I know this because of the steady stream of unsolicited sales pitches I receive on a daily basis.

Don’t Abuse the Medium

A phrase that I’m fond of using is “Just because you can, that doesn’t mean that you should.” As the world of sales continues to evolve and transform as a result of the widespread use of social media, many sales professionals need to take a crash course in online etiquette. Sending potential buyers a spam sales pitch is akin to a cold call only worse. With voice mail, your message leaving time is typically pretty short, but when you send email you can go on forever about how grand your product is service is and believe me…many do.

Relationship First, Selling Second

If sales teams aren’t producing consistently, perhaps the answer isn’t in pushing them to “work harder”. Let’s face it folks… activity should never be confused with sales effectiveness. Insisting that your sales reps make 100 cold calls per day is activity, but is it truly effective? Though many old school sales folks will respond with a resounding – yes, cold calling works – the reality is that cold calling doesn’t work and adds expense to the sales cycle to boot. To me, it seems a bit delusional to think that calling 100 strangers whose business you know nothing about will lead to anything meaningful from a sales perspective. The same goes for sending your peeps out into the world telling them to “go bang on doors”. Seriously?

Social media provides a unique opportunity for today’s social sales professional. Instead of banging on doors, sending spam email or calling 100 strangers, why not put that time to better use? To improve your sales close ratio, what if..

  • You created a target list of the top 50 companies that you want to do business with and you used tools like LinkedIn or InsideView to learn more about their people and their business BEFORE making that first connection.
  • You looked for ways to do something of benefit for the prospects that you are targeting without asking for anything in return? Use LinkedIn to share industry presentations, articles, white papers or perhaps send a sales lead their way.
  • You understood that you get ONE chance to make a solid connection and a great impression. Don’t blow it by sending people the same old boring sales spam email that you just sent to everyone else.

Fix the Right Thing

When sales are off, please avoid the temptation to insist that your sales people just “do more”. Doing more of what already isn’t working will not lead to different results. Einstein defined that as insanity.

If you want different results – do something differently!