The Disconnect Between Social Media Spend and Business Impact

Disconnect Words Broken Chain Links Separation ApartWith spend on social media channels expected to increase to a 20.9 percent share of marketing budgets in the next five years, according to a recent CMO Survey, the big question is if that spend investment is translating into an increase in overall business performance? The answer appears to be not so much. In a C-Suite Study conducted by IBM, they reported that almost half of Chief Marketing Officers feel that they – and their teams – still aren’t fully prepared to meet the challenges of operating in social media channels.

If CMO’s aren’t feeling that their teams are fully prepared to deliver on corporate objectives, what could be getting in the way?

There is no clearly defined social media strategy that aligns with core business objectives. With no formalized social media strategy in place, you leave your social media teams flying solo without a clear connection back to overall corporate business goals. In the Harvard Business Review article, Fix Your Social Media Strategy by Taking It Back to Basics, they mention that a Google search provides 140 million results for “social media marketing tips,” but no matter how many headlines promise it, there is no one-size-fits-all social media strategy. Tips, instead of a clearly defined strategy, won’t cut it if you want to see real results.Though the marketing team may be taking the lead on the creation of the social media strategy, the company’s social media efforts need to impact sales opportunities and revenue also. Don’t leave this important business strategy to marketing alone.

There is a gap between social media activity and business performance. It is important to link your sales and marketing goals to social media KPIs. Buzz, clicks, likes and followers are good initial gauges of social media marketing success, but long-term success requires that you go much deeper. Ultimately, social media activity needs to demonstrate how the effort led to improvement in revenue outcomes, either in qualified leads to nurture, new customer acquisition or retention.

The team doesn’t have the right balance of expertise. Don’t assume that young 20 something is the right person to drive your social media strategy. They may understand the inner workings of Twitter or Snapchat, but that doesn’t mean they understand how to apply social activity to core business objectives. Make sure your team includes people who understand the technology and have solid business experience. You need both!

All data sources are not being integrated. Be sure that you’ve built a plan that includes the seamless integration of social media data with other types of customer information, such as the data that comes from sales, purchasing, social media, and other communication channels. Though you might be able to source potential sales leads via Twitter, how is that information then integrated back into marketing’s lead nurture process or the sales CRM system for follow-up and tracking?

Lack of cross-functional skill and leadership stymies success. Today’s marketing leaders must be adept at traditional marketing strategies, and they also need to be proficient in the use and understanding of how new technologies impact their efforts. I believe this applies to sales leaders as well. Reaching buyers through the traditional avenues of phone calls (rarely answered) and emails (often ignored) mean that everyone in sales is using the appropriate social media channels to engage buyers in advance of clearly defined sales opportunities.

Investing in social media marketing and social selling strategies is important and must continue. Buyer behavior is the key factor driving the importance of engaging prospects and customers on multiple channels. To justify that investment, though, also means that your social media/social selling strategy goes beyond the surface indicators of success and aligns to key business drivers like new customer acquisition, revenue growth, and customer retention.

3 Reasons to Use Video in Selling

Incorporating video into our social selling content mix makes sense on many levels, although I’m the first to admit that I didn’t do much with video until last year. Prior to that I was involved in several Google hangouts that were recorded, which I shared with my network, but I really didn’t get more serious about creating video content that I could use in a more intentional way.

I had my reasons for not making video content creation more of a priority. One of those reasons was most certainly ego. Not a big fan of how I look on video, I used that as an excuse not to get going. Perhaps that true for you too?video camera

Finally, I got over myself.

My colleague and good friend, Doug Lehman (@douglehman on Twitter) has been in the Video Brand Ambassador game longer than most. A very early evangelist and practitioner, Doug has honed his craft and now works with clients to pull together video content that helps salespeople best represent their personal brand and topic expertise.

Watch a series that Doug and I created together called the Sales Accelerators. Sales Accelerators Video Series Watch for more videos coming soon.

Naturally, when thinking about writing this post, I wanted to interview Doug to get his take on the role that video content plays in sales and social selling. But before I turn you loose on part 1 of the interview, here are 3 reasons that Doug shared with me regarding why salespeople need to get involved:

-Use video to educate, demonstrate your credibility and expertise, provide social proof and promote your products and services. When buyers are doing their solutions research, they turn to video for quick, informative answers to their questions.

-Reduce travel costs and other expenses. Unlike back in the day, sales interactions don’t always happen face-to-face, which explains the rapid growth of video technology being used in sales and marketing and incorporated into CRM processes.

-A sales video can be used as follow up after a sales call or meeting. Guaranteed to be more engaging than a static follow-up email.

Bonus reason: Video is great for capturing user-generated content (UGC), referrals and testimonials that build on the social proof that buyers consider during the decision making process.

Now, let’s hear from Doug.

BG: How important is the use of video in selling today?

DL: I think video is important today but will more important tomorrow. Today, buyers and customers do their own research and look for immediate answers. Using video to educate, train and promote your products and service is powerful. Most buyers would rather watch a one to two minute video versus spending time reading a full text column or whitepaper. Video is not a substitute for face-to-face meetings, but it is the next best thing to being there.

Video itself can expedite the sales cycle. We now live in the age of information at your fingertips with buyers and customers researching solutions online and using mobile devices to access quick answers to their questions. Simply put your buyers are influenced by video and sales and marketing needs to be using video to their advantage. The rapid growth of video technology in sales, marketing and CRM is on the rise and demonstrates how important video is to your content strategy. Just look at all the new video technology providers. The simple fact is that your potential customers are using video to evaluate people, products, services and companies. Proactive engagement is paramount.

From a sales point of view, video that is compelling and engaging with the correct call to action will assist increasing revenue and expanding exposure and reach. Video works well with email, which is still a very popular form of communication. Cut through the email noise that customers and prospects receive daily, capture their attention and improve your click-through rates.

Leveraging video can reduce travel costs and other sales expenses. Video helps accelerate the sales cycle on all levels. Educational, explainer videos, product-training videos will provide buyers with more clarity about what you offer, but these videos also demonstrate advanced credibility and social proof about your capabilities. It has direct impact on the buyer’s journey. Leveraging video content for lead generation with educational and explainer videos will allow for customer clarity in answering questions in the buyer’s discovery and evaluation phase. Your customer will be further along in their decision process and closer to making a purchase decision. Video can shorter the sales cycle time for complex and transactional sales.

Video works well in post sales meeting follow up. Leveraging user-generated content, referrals and testimonials can be extremely powerful as buyers look to peers from recommendations. A simple sales video follow up after a call or meeting speaks volumes. It will stand out and personalize the sales process.

From a research point of view, video is a great tool. As salespeople, we can look for trigger points and reasons to engage with buyers. Though we call it social listening, why not perform social watching. Look at your customers videos and SEE what they are talking about in a more personalized format.

Finally, customer advocacy, repeat business, referrals, references and testimonials are powerful for influencing customers. Authentic Video Marketing resonates well with customers at the highest engagement level.

BG: What are the top 3 ways to get started?

DL: Before you get started, your first order of business is establishing your plan. Watch other video examples. Replicate and test out those concepts. Spend some time evaluating what works in the business world. Do your own research by looking at video production agencies. Use YouTube as a training research tool watch videos to get your planning down.

Start with a small video project first and get comfortable. Produce shorter videos with tips and simple calls to action (CTA’s). Rehearse your project and practice before live video shooting commences. If you have someone that is more comfortable on camera, let them do the first video project or start with having your customers do a video testimonial.

Be natural and authentic and let your personality shine through. You want viewers to connect with you, which happens when your video is focused on something that is of value to the buyer. If you just make your video a sales pitch, you’ve wasted an opportunity. User generation content goes a long way too. Encourage your current customers to film a short-clip talking about why they decided to buy from you and what they liked about the process.

Using pictures for slideshows or screen casts are another way to get started. Interview style videos, live streaming and panel video chats like Skype, Google Hangout, Blab or Skype are great video tools to get started. The more experience you have on camera the better. The key to starting video is to start small, build and practice.

Breaking it down…in Lehman’s terms, as Doug would say.

By now, I hope you can see that video is a compelling way for you, as a salesperson, to stand apart from your competitors. Don’t keep waiting. It’s time to get started!

Find part 2, where you’ll learn about common video mistakes, the best platforms to host your videos and how to build your audience, here.

Make sure you connect with Doug. Talk to him about his services. He can help you get over the getting started hurdles. Reach Doug at:

Website
LinkedIn
Twitter
YouTube
Social Selling Video

Expert: Leader, Follower or Copycat?

When it comes to social media, probably 4 in 5 people you meet these days are experts. A quick Internet search reveals there are 310Genius baby million “social media” experts with 166 million grabbing the “social selling” expert moniker. That’s a lot of experts.

The problem, as I see it, is that “social media” is so big, so broad and so misunderstood that it is tough to pinpoint what expert really means. How do you really know if you are talking to one? Are you talking to someone who leads, follows or just copycat’s the work of others?

It takes 10,000 Hours (or close to it) 

Just yesterday I was interviewed for an edition of Top Sales World’s HardTalk podcast series. While talking to Jonathan Farrington about what it means to be an expert, for grins, I had looked up the definition before we got started with the interview. With so much noise being created by self-proclaimed experts, potential customers need a way to determine who’s got the goods and who does not, which might be tough if they aren’t even sure of the questions to ask or what skills to vet.

As defined on Wikipedia, “Experts have a prolonged or intense experience through practice and education in a particular field.”

While some will argue that you don’t need the 10,000 hours of experience that Malcolm Gladwell talks about in Outliers, I happen to believe that demonstrable experience actually matters. Do you think someone with no athletic experience can take up figure skating and within a year be competing in the Olympics? Anything is possible, but I’ve  NEVER heard of it happening.

Gladwell said in his book that “the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours.” If you did nothing else but study, work with clients and practice your craft 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, you could get there in just over a year. Of course, we all know that isn’t realistic at all. More likely, we are talking in the neighborhood of five years at least. Expert status, I believe, takes time, it takes hard work and especially where social media is concerned, you must be constantly learning and adapting.

Tactics and One Trick Ponies

When it gets right down to it, you know you are talking to someone with social media chops when they demonstrate breadth and depth of knowledge of the various platforms and how they fit together. You may be a really good LinkedIn trainer, but that does not make you a social media (or social selling) expert. Someone who understands social media strategy and how it impacts Sales, Marketing and Service will have a clear sense of best practices, and they will also know where the potential for disaster or failure lies. They will be able to show you the strategic work that they’ve done.

Be wary of one proven process or one way of approaching things. What works for one customer won’t necessarily work for another one.  A truly experienced social media player knows that it all begins with strategy and that strategy is crafted after you invest the time to understand the core of a customers business. Tactics come after strategy and not the other way around.

Buyer Beware

At the end of the day, I suppose it is the way of the world. People latch onto hot ideas and hot terms and want to ride the wave without learning how to surf. But trusting your reputation, your sales and your business to “experts” could be dangerous. You may find out that all they are expert in is taking taking your money.

 

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.

Play Nice With the Other Kids

“It doesn’t matter what you say you believe – it only matters what you do.”  ― Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

As much as I love social networks, I am often surprised at how some people choose to behave when participating in them. On open forums or blogs, it is not difficult to create an anonymous persona that can be hidden behind. Some of these players then use anonymity to unleash their lunatic fringe style fury on anyone who dares to disagree with what they have to say. While I will never understand the need to be so vicious toward others who merely have a different point of view, it happens because these types feel there are no personal or professional repercussions. After all, no one actually knows who they are.

Now let’s switch gears and talk about LinkedIn. Unless you create a fake LinkedIn profile, people know who you are. For that reason alone, I’m even more surprised when I witness people behaving like idiots in discussions. After all, their picture (most of the time), their name and even the terms they use in their profile headline, which often includes the name of their company, is there for everyone to see.

I’m thinking about netiquette because of an exchange I watched play out in a LinkedIn group a few days ago. It is a classic example of what happens when people let their egos and ultimately their anger get the best of them.

It started with the questioner asking people in the group to share their 30-second elevator pitch. The individual asking the question needed to create a pitch and was trying to fire up their creative juices by hearing what others used in their own selling.

That’s when it started.

Another group member confused by the request or merely trying to be helpful, shared a pitch as an example of what the guy asking the question could use.

It didn’t go over well. That happened because:

  1. That wasn’t the request.
  2. The guy who started the discussion didn’t feel his company was represented correctly or fairly.

Then it began to get worse.

Member making the suggested pitch justifies his response. He went on to offer other elevator pitch possibilities. Trying to be funny – always dangerous if someone doesn’t know you – he includes this as one of his suggestions… “I lend money to people who can’t get it from normal sources. Kind of like the mafia. Most people choose me instead of them because they get to avoid the broken kneecaps.”

Another member jumps into the fray and likens pitches to “carnival barkers” and says that while the other guy was being funny, he was making a serious point.

Now question asker is really offended and says so. He feels, and I have to agree with him, that comedian wannabe should be more careful about how he jokes about someone else’s business, especially in an open forum. He goes on to remind both responders that he asked people to share their pitch. He did not ask for suggestions on how to write his. And he certainly wasn’t thrilled about the negative comments made about the industry he works in.

At which point, more justification and arguing and drama ensue. Not good for the reputation of anyone involved. Me, I wasn’t about to say a word, but I was certainly wondering where the group moderators were while this was going on.

The rules of social netiquette are quite basic.

Use common sense, be respectful, don’t attack people, don’t critique unless asked and for goodness sake, do not argue with each other in a public forum. In short, play nice with the other kids. Your brand and reputation depends on it.

P.S. this is group is “open” so there is no expectation that comments made remain private inside the group. Fair game to write about folks.

Influence the Customer Experience

My post about the Social Shake Up conference is getting a lot of play. That’s good. My goal was and is to shake up traditional thinking about what social media means to business. During the Day 2 kick-off session with Brian Solis, he said it best when he said…”You cannot slap something new onto what is comfortable.” In other words, you cannot do what you have always done – even if you use new tools – and expect a different result.

C-level executives have got to enter the discussion.

Social isn’t a fad! Executives must first accept this one fundamental truth. Your business is being disrupted. How people make buying decisions has changed. In order to adapt to this new reality, companies must create a social business strategy that considers the “new” customer lifecycle from beginning to end.  Sales, Marketing and Service folks must break out of their silos, trash traditional thinking and work together to create an experience that wows from beginning to end.

Let go of what you think you know.

As with the technologies that preceded them, social, digital and mobile have continued to further evolve. Some of you are too young to remember that there was actually a time when we didn’t text or communicate via email on our phones. We certainly didn’t surf the web or talk to our friends on Facebook. Nope, we actually just used the mobile phone to make phone calls. Weird, I know.

These days buyers use multiple devices to remain connected – laptops, smart phones, iPad’s, tablets and soon Google Glass. They can access news and information when and how they prefer to consume it. They do not rely on your marketing, PR or advertising to make their buying decisions. They gather information from multiple sources, and they rely on the peer reviews of others when making a decision to purchase or not. Why? Sorry, but they don’t trust your pitch.

Social, digital, heck, the web in general has completely changed expectations of what buyers want from the companies who seek to gain a share of their wallets. And I believe that the number one expectation today’s buyer has is that your company has to EARN the right to do business with them.

How do you earn that right?

By creating and delivering buying experiences that cultivate trust, loyalty and advocacy. Understand what your buyer cares about, speak to what is important to them, treat them with respect, honesty, transparency and fairness throughout the buying process, and they will reward you many times over. Keep talking at them or burn them when something goes wrong and in a nanosecond they will tell everyone they know to avoid you. This applies whether you touch the buyer as an executive, a marketer, sales person or customer service representative.

Though I have evangelized the importance of sellers using social media as part of their sales process, I have always believed that sales, marketing and service must be completely aligned when creating an overall experience that moves a prospect from interest to sale to happy customer. If any of the pieces are broken, you lose.

Do you know what it is like to try and do business with your company?

The irony is that most companies probably have no idea what it is like to be a potential customer. I think of one “big data” company who doesn’t even use the data to qualify buyers. Instead, they put sales resources into having reps call anyone who attended their webinar. How do I know? I know because I run a small business and am not their target client. It did not matter. They had sales reps calling and emailing me anyway. This is a classic example of a customer acquisition process that wasn’t thought through from beginning to end. I wish I could say that this was the exception rather than the norm.

If you are an executive, in marketing, sales or customer service, here is my challenge to you.

Pretend YOU are the potential customer. Go through every step of the buying process just as buyer would. Pick your website apart. Carefully review your social media marketing messages. Make a call to the sales department and experience what it feels like to have features, benefits and a product demo pushed on you. Reach out to customer service with a problem – phone, Twitter and Facebook. How was the problem handled? What was the response time?

Once you have done these things, rate the experience. Would you buy from your company? If your answer isn’t a resounding hell yeah, that was awesome, you need to stop, rethink whatever you think you know and roll up those sleeves… you have work to do!

Stirred Not Shaken

Earlier this week, I attended the Social Shake Up conference hosted by Robin Carey and the Social Media Today team. For a change, a major social media conference made its way to Atlanta.

Our city is often overlooked for reasons that I don’t understand. Some of the world’s largest and most respected corporate brands are headquartered here. Names you will recognize like Coca-Cola, The Home Depot, UPS, AFLAC and Newell Rubbermaid being just a few of them. Oh, and my company is based here too!

We also have a thriving technology community with many promising start-ups poised to do big things. Fortunately for Atlanta, Robin has vision and decided that the ATL was the destination for her conference. Thank you, Robin!

I’m contributing this post to the Sales Thought Leaders blog, but honestly, my thoughts, comments and observations are for business leaders at all levels.

I have to say that the biggest thrill of the conference was finally meeting a cadre of people that I’ve known online for some time. When I think about how social media has completely collapsed the world – in a good way – it is amazing how many people you develop personal and professional relationships with before you ever, if ever, meet them in person. I hung with a gang of rock stars (they know who they are!), and I learned from their perspectives and insights about social media’s impact on business.

Now the things that I would change…

  1. The promise of the conference agenda was to “shake up” thinking about social media and the impact on business. In fact, the conference promotions even said that content would focus on more than marketing. In large part, it did not. And even though the presentations were good, nothing earth shattering or ground breaking was presented. To be fair, with multiple sessions going on, I couldn’t attend them all. Maybe someone was gobsmacked in another room, but as I talked to colleagues it seemed the general impression was that the focus was marketing oriented.
  2. The opening keynote was weak and highlighted the good, the bad and the ugly about marketing in this new age of digital. I felt it set the wrong tone. Frankly, I would have led with Brian Solis, who keynoted Day 2. If you are going to shake it up, start with talking about Social Business as your strategy not social media marketing tactics.
  3. Content light on sales – 1 pre-workshop, which people paid extra to attend (I was on the panel) and 1-panel/case study with IBM’s inside sales team leaders. Out of 38 sessions, only 1 main session on the conference track for sales.
  4. Marketers largely don’t understand the sales side of the business. They should stop acting like they do. In one session on customer engagement, I asked how the speaker’s company was empowering sales people to use social to educate, influence, engage and develop potential customer relationships in new ways. The answer? We helped them clean up their LinkedIn profiles, and we cue up offers for them to share. Really? Offers? That’s it?
  5.  Yes, Dorothy, like most things in business, work is required. One somewhat arrogant panel marketer turned consultant expert said it was “hard work” and you shouldn’t expect sales to take that on. What? I don’t believe in being rude but I wanted to say, stick to marketing girlfriend; you have no idea what you are talking about. Sales people MUST learn to incorporate social networking strategies into their sales process or the competition will eat their lunch and prospects will pass them by.
  6. Content light on customer service. Even those sessions that purported to focus on the customer actually did not. The community sessions were good but the overarching focus was “marketing” and “content”. I thought the best customer session was the one entitled Throwing Open the Floodgates: Empowering Employees. The panel shared some great insights into how to turn employees into online advocates and brand ambassadors for their companies. The overriding message was to have a process, give employees training and support and let them go.
  7. More tactical than strategic. We have to stop talking about creating a “socially enabled enterprise” but then default to social media marketing tactics. The conversation is not happening at the right level in most organizations – the C-Suite. Social and digital media affects the “business”. Does your organization have a Social Business Strategy? Or have you simply put marketing in charge of driving the bus?

Leaders at all levels need to ask themselves, how are sales, marketing, service and even the finance department aligned to a Social Business Strategy that focuses on the customer experience? Marketing might crank out a great offer, but what happens when customer service is overwhelmed and cannot keep up with demand? How will you handle the ensuing backlash when customers feel they are not getting support through traditional channels – as happened to me this week with Comcast – and go online to seek out help but no one bothers to respond?

Next year, I want the conference to “shake it up” by targeting the C-Suite executives. In large majority, attendees were marketers mixed with some sales and service folks. If you consider that far too many executives still think social is a fad, or that social is merely a function of the marketing department, we have a widening gap between how customers buy and what they expect and what companies deliver. Until addressed at the highest level, the problem is only going to get bigger.

Executives need to get engaged. They need to attend next year’s conference, learn and have their outdated assumptions challenged. And we need sessions that walk these executives through the why and how of creating a Social Business Strategy that drives customer experience at every level. Until then, you can talk about shaking things up all you want but all you are really doing is slapping lipstick on a pig.

Don’t School Me!

After 29 years as a sales professional, I believe that there are some things that just do not change if you expect to be successful selling. 

  1. You need to follow a repeatable sales process consistently.
  2. You need excellent consultative selling and communication skills.
  3. You need to care more about your buyers needs than your own.

When it comes to developing new business, today’s sales process includes the use of technology to network, cultivate referrals, prospect, track opportunities, prepare for sales calls, educate, present solutions and communicate with prospects. And these same steps apply when you mine for new business with existing accounts.

Communication Matters

“If you are a B2B marketer, you’re no stranger to content marketing. It’s quickly risen to the top of every marketer’s to-do list. But it’s the way that you are performing content marketing that can be the difference between gaining and losing a customer.” –Nancy Pekala

Nancy’s observation is equally applicable to sellers. The message matters!

Don’t School Me

Here is an example of a marketing message that someone needed to think about a little more carefully. As a subscriber of a popular magazine, I evidently let my subscription lapse. The magazine is one I’ve long enjoyed reading, so I have no problem with being reminded to renew. However, the way the message was phrased speaks directly to my point about messaging. The email I received began with…

“Dear BARBARA GIAMANCO:

Your subscription to XYZ magazine has expired. We have sent several letters reminding you to renew but have not received a response.

We want to continue encouraging your success. To demonstrate our commitment, by renewing your XYZ subscription today, this is our gift to you…”

I take exception to the first line and first paragraph of the message.

First, don’t scream at me by putting my name in all caps. This is basic email etiquette.

Two, don’t chastise me for not responding to your reminder letters. So what? I’m busy; you are not owed a response! What they just told me, in a not so subtle way, is that they only care about the money.

A better approach would have been to simply start with something along the lines of the second paragraph. Why not say, “We value you as a past subscriber and to welcome you back, we want to give you…”

Sales People Are Doing This Too

Marketing isn’t the only culprit here. The smart use of content to engage prospects and create credibility in advance of sales opportunities is central to a social selling strategy.

How and what you communicate is vital to selling, whether it is email, phone, face-to-face, sales presentations, social networks, texting or webinars; it needs to be done well. Nothing is sold without communicating with others. Sales people need A+ verbal skill, and in a wired, socially connected world, they better have good writing skills and understand the nuances of communicating in social networks too.  Though I hesitate to make a sweeping generalization, I’m going out on a limb and suggesting that an extremely high percentage of sales people need a lot of work in these areas.

Stop Broadcasting, Target Your Message

Typical sales and marketing messages of the written kind, whether it is email or via social networks, are one way communication and nothing more than broadcast pitches. A lot of phone calls are that way too. At the end of the day, you may think that all that activity is netting you a return, but I can say with certainty that a one-size-fits-all approach does absolutely nothing to create any true sales impact.

For example, I’m a small business owner with less than 10 employees. Your message to me should look much different than the messaging you might use when communicating with a large enterprise. My needs and theirs are very different. And unless your product or service supports a small business, why are you even sending me email or cold calling me in the first place? Someone is being paid for that activity, and it is a complete waste of time, which translates into a complete waste of money. Yet, it happens every day.

What’s the Problem?

In my opinion, management is measuring the wrong things. Activity is being measured…number of phone calls made, events attended, webinar registrations, white paper downloads, connections made or emails sent. But the quality of the activity is what you should be measuring. How can it not be obvious that 50 calls made to the wrong people, people not qualified to buy from you, is a big fat waste of resources?

Simply measuring tactical activity is a throwback from the “good ole days” of selling when coffee was for closers. If more attention isn’t paid to quality versus quantity, you won’t have anything to close, except perhaps your doors!

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!

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!