It’s All in the Details

As a new member of a non-profit board, the chair recently asked all of us to complete the Everything DiSC Work of Leaders assessment. Having completed a number ofbob the builderassessments through the years – Myers Briggs, DiSC, Hermann Brain Dominance, Strengths Finder, Emotional Intelligence 2.0 – the results were no big surprise. As Popeye would say, I am what I am. Still, I always find the data helpful in reminding me where I might have blind spots or where certain situations and people may challenge me.

Understanding personality and behavioral styles is a good thing. In business we deal with people. For sellers who understand style differences and how that plays out in sales meetings and communication, it can give them a real leg up when selling. When they adapt their style to give their buyers what they need, deals are won more often than lost. Sell the same way to everyone and the probability of missed opportunities increases.

Let’s say that your style is more high level thinker, optimistic and good at verbal communication but you tend to gloss over the details. If your buyer happens to have a style that requires details to make an informed decision, you need to be prepared to go there. If you try to reassure them through promises that you’ll do whatever it takes, that just will not be enough.

So assessments and understanding human behavior can be helpful in selling and in all interactions with other people.

Where assessments – and they are assessments not tests – become problematic is if other people try to box you in based on your style designation. This assumes that an assessment score is the sum total of who you are as an individual. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Assessments provide big clues as to a person’s dominant way of thinking, behaving or decision making, but even two people with the same style designation are not exactly the same. And, in the case of DiSC, which is based on four quadrants, you may be most dominant in two of them but that doesn’t mean you have no strength in the other areas.

If you don’t know DiSC, let me briefly break down the four quadrants.

  • D=Dominance. Priorities include Results, Action, Competency. Avoid the small talk and focus on demonstrating quick, confident action.
  • i= Influence. Priorities include Enthusiasm, Action, Relationships. Upbeat, outgoing, openness is important. Negativity, too many details or detached people are bothersome.
  • S=Steadiness. Priorities include Sincerity, Relationships, Dependability. Casual and low key, these folks like predictable, harmonious environments.
  • C=Conscientiousness. Priorities include Quality, Competency, Dependability. Quality and high standards is of utmost importance. Be prepared to present logical reasons for decisions.

Curious about my style?

My style is a balanced Di. These are my natural tendencies. Core priorities that shape my leader traits are:

  • Being Pioneering – strategic, big picture thinker, I often see trends ahead of others. Always willing to risk trying something new and untested.
  • Being Commanding – that’s the D in me. I will drive for results. Meeting after meeting but accomplishing very little or nothing at all… makes me nuts.
  • Being Energizing – positive, glass half full gal is who I am. I believe the best in others until they prove me wrong. I tend to focus on what we CAN DO not what someone thinks we can’t.
  • Being Affirming – seeking to include others comes naturally. Collaborative in nature, I like to share and acknowledge the good work of others.

And while these four descriptions are accurate, they are not the total picture of Barb. Though details can sometimes bore me, my style does not mean that I am not a detail oriented person. It means that you wouldn’t want to place me in a role that required detailed work 100% of the time. It drains my energy, and I’m the first to tell you that looking at detailed spreadsheets can make my head spin. But I’m pretty darn detailed when I need to be. If it is important, I do it. To assume otherwise strictly based on my personality type is incorrect and unfair.

What got me thinking about how people make assumptions about each other, especially when you complete assessments and share results among team members, is a comment made at recent meeting. The conversation related to a particular project that I am responsible for and jokingly someone said, its good that so & so is on your team because you aren’t much for details. It was a stupid thing to say. It is untrue and disrespectful. As a practitioner in the field of people development, that individual should know better.

Human beings have so much more depth than any assessment, regardless how detailed or scientifically validated it is, can ever fully describe. In team building, coaching or hiring, use assessments to provide insight about the styles of others, but never assume you know all there is to know about them.

It’s More Complicated Than That

“Become disenchanted with anything that takes complex subjects and breaks them down into “Top 10” lists.” – Brian SolisWell-known physical formula

Social media has changed business. Today’s buyer looks nothing like the buyers I first met when I began selling 25 years ago. Technology allows them to evade us, block us and downright ignore us if they so choose. It’s a new world, and if you don’t think so, I’m worried for your future in selling.

Anyone who reads my blog posts or articles knows that I am unwavering in my belief that WHAT you sell is less important than HOW you sell. For the sales reps who have, to this point, made a pretty good living selling through feature dumps or demos, understanding that the “what” is less relevant now is a tough transition to make.

That I keep seeing questions or conversations about how to better “cold call” tells me that we have a lot of sellers stuck in the past. A member in one my LinkedIn sales groups asked if you should leave a voice mail when calling someone you don’t know. Group members actually debated techniques…yes, no, phone number in the beginning, compelling pitch in the beginning, phone number at the end… really? Instead of trying to improve upon an outdated mousetrap, get a new one.

Change is needed and it isn’t simple.

I follow a number of highly regarded leaders in sales. One of those leaders is Tamara Schenk, who writes an excellent blog that you should follow. Her recent post on the difference between simplification and simplicity is brilliant. It crystallized for me what the problem is related to the thundering din that is social selling. In their attempts to make social selling sound simple, the usual suspects have created a loud, confusing mass of noise that leaves sales leaders either completely confused – OR – they mistakenly assume, because that’s what they’ve been told, that if their sales people just follow a prescribed set of steps, their sales challenges will dissipate.

There is NO one size fits all.

Are there tactical elements that typically lead to success when using social for selling? Of course. Will they work for every seller, in every industry the same way? No. Should you even start with tactics in the first place? Absolutely not.

You see, that’s the biggest gripe I have regarding the chatter that largely surrounds social selling. It is surface at best. The message has become… just deck out your LinkedIn profile, send InMail to the prospects on your search lists, Tweet the content of industry influencers – so that they will one day reciprocate – and share a few blog posts… boom, you are now a social seller. The top of your funnel will magically fill up, decision makers will scramble to clear their calendars to see you, and deals will close in no time. You wish.

If it were easy, everyone would be doing it and succeeding.

“As customers make their decisions differently, every time, because their situation is different – so do sales leaders. There are no silver bullets. Every sales organization’s challenges are specific. Every sales organization’s customers are different. The way that your specific customers want to engage with your sales organization is different as well.” –Tamara Schenk

Social selling is not simply about adopting a new set of “tools”. Success requires developing a new mindset related to selling entirely. A change is required in attitude, approach, process and skill set. Change is tough, it can be messy, and it is painful in the beginning. Leaders must think holistically about what needs to change, what they have to work with – people, tools, process – and what they need that is missing.

I’m not saying don’t give sales people LinkedIn training, but I am saying that isn’t the first place to start. And if that’s all you do, expect limited results.

No Christopher Here

“Telemarketing and fancy email marketing campaigns yield disappointing results.”no

Yes, because the sales message sucks. Just like the one you sent to me.

If I am tired of this kind of cheese, you know that other busy Sales Executives and Business Owners are too. You would welcome the opportunity to learn more about my sales process?

First, I’m not Christopher and Christopher has never worked here.

Second, I’m not available to waste my time educating you about my business.

Third, you assume that the people you are emailing struggle to find prospects.

Four, if you really “care” – take time to do your homework and tailor your message.

Five, the email is a pitch, and I don’t care that you are “excited” to share how you help others.

To all sellers, sales leaders and marketers…

Differentiation from the competition is a common sales goal, and it isn’t that hard to do. Guess what…don’t send messages like this one. Guaranteed, you will stand out! Why? Because it is RARE to receive a cold email that adds value or is compelling enough for buyers to want to know more.

PLEASE don’t send emails like this one.

“Hi Christopher,

Most business owners and sales people struggle to find prospects. Telemarketing and fancy email marketing campaigns yield disappointing results. I’m excited to share how I’m helping others have a constant stream of prospects with XYZ’s automated prospecting technology; the return on investment is typically less than 3 months. I provide sales expertise and can help in other areas too.

Benefits:
• 30%+ Response rates (personal & relevant content with multiple touches, totally automated & managed)

• Steady Stream of prospects=$ MORE SALES$

• Fewer missed opportunities: our clients are at the “Top of their prospects minds”

•Personal and professional attention from a sales professional with over 20 years of B2B sales success, I care.

I would welcome the opportunity to learn more about your sales process and share with how I can help add drive more revenue.. Do you have any availability for a brief call in the next few weeks?

Sincerely,
XYZ
Chief Salesologist”

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.

Traits of a Social Selling Rockstar

As I’m on my way to Seattle to work with a client, I have been having a most interesting conversation with my seat mate. It is always refreshing to talk with like minded people in the world of selling. Both of us have been in the business for quite some time and both agree that the more things change, the more they always seem to stay the same. iStock_000014779452Medium

Social selling aside, in other words the ability to use social technology to support your sales activities, there are core traits that define top Sales Rockstars. I don’t think that will ever change.

1. They are chameleons. My colleagues over at CEB might disagree with me, but I think the ability to adapt to different personality styles makes a big difference in successful selling. Years ago, I sold the same way to everyone. Miss optimistic. Suzy cheerleader, I would discover didn’t work for everyone. If I was meeting with a decision maker who had a high need for details, my “we can do it” attitude didn’t exactly win them over. Later, I would become certified in DiSC and learned that different personality styles have different needs. The extremely detailed person wants detailed answers to their questions. Cheerleading won’t cut it.

2. They listen. Too many sales people these days are enamored with the sound of their own voice. They talk and talk and talk and talk and… OMG, they bore their prospects to death. Listening is not about pretending to be interested while waiting for your moment to pounce with your pitch. Listening is being present. Listening with all of your senses to learn about what is important to your prospect and gain greater connection with them.

3. They care. Once in a management meeting, a peer of mine accursed me of being too touchy feeley because I had the audacity to believe that caring about what was important to others meant something. Call me old school, but I believe Ziglar, Carnegie and other greats who remind us that when you care enough to help others get what they want, you win too.

4. They are learners. I believe that sales people who put a high priority on learning have the ability to relate to people at all levels. I realize that the ability to create great “relationships” is not the only factor in winning deals. Still, people buy from people, and if you can’t connect with them, it will be tough to secure the meeting and advance the deal. Avid learners, however, position themselves as someone bringing fresh insight to the table and being able to challenge the status quo based on their breadth and depth of knowledge and experience.

5. They have vast networks and cultivate referrals constantly. I am a huge fan of Joanne Black of No More Cold Calling fame. She is one of the most ardent proponents for referral selling, and guess what, she’s right. Yes, I’m a huge supporter of using social media to augment your sales process AND cultivating a reputable referral network should always top your priority list. When I have been introduced by someone trusted and respected by the decision maker…I got the appointment. Hard to beat how a referral introduction can get you in the door…fast. After that you are on your own.

What do the super star social sellers do in addition to the 5 traits above?

  • They know they are simultaneously a brand and representing one at the same time.
  • They accept that buyer behavior has absolutely changed. They merge the tried and true with what works now.
  • They understand that pitching is dead. Sharing educational and informative content is what demonstrates credibility and  brings prospects to their doorstep.
  • They don’t live in the past. What worked back in the day has lost effectiveness. Adapt, adjust, thrive.
  • They know that “social” isn’t for the kids. Anyone interested in keeping their skills fresh will up their game day in and day out.

Rockstars evolve and only get better. Will you differentiate or stagnate? Up to you…

 

 

 

 

 

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.

The Road Ahead

In 2006, I began evangelizing what I would eventually call “social selling”. I can promise yousocial-selling1-300x2272 that at that time sales leaders thought I was nuts. They believed that social media might impact marketing’s role and that was about it. These leaders did not understand that what social media (in the collective) really meant was that buyer behavior was changing. Buyers were no longer relying on sales people for information about products and services. They were using the Internet and social networks to start the selling process by doing their own independent homework.

By 2009, it was absolutely crystal clear that sellers – B2B sellers in particular – needed to start taking the changes in buyer behavior a lot more seriously. It is why I felt compelled to write a book on the topic called The New Handshake: Sales Meets Social Media.

Moving into 2010, LinkedIn was definitely evolving into more than just a job seekers tool. Significant platform changes gave sellers ways to find prospects more quickly and to promote a brand impression of credibility and expertise through rich, dynamic profiles in which presentations, white papers and all manner of great content could be shared. Twitter was becoming more of a force in selling and blogging created new opportunities for sellers to create branded, educational platforms that helped them showcase their industry knowledge and perspectives.

And now we have entered a New Year. Before we look to what I believe lies ahead, let’s take a quick look in the 2013 rear view mirror.

This was a year when mass numbers of trainers, sales experts, marketers, software companies and even Joe the Plumber began pushing something brand new – to them – social selling. This is new, this is radical, you need to get on board, the experts shouted. This will make all your sales problems disappear. Social selling will fill the top of your sales funnel, increase revenue and pipeline, bring more prospects to your doorstep and qualify all your leads.

Heck, if you believe all the experts, social selling will make your breakfast, dress you, handle your outbound phone calls, book your appointments and conduct your sales meetings without you being required to attend. Frankly, you don’t actually need to show up at work anymore, because social selling is going to close those deals without you. Just expect your commission checks in the mail. WOW – sign me up!

Can we PLEASE dial down all the B.S.? It isn’t doing sellers or their leadership any favors.

By all accounts, 50% of sellers missed quota in 2013. This has been a continuing trend for years. In fact, 2013 saw more decline in quota attainment than during 2011, 2010 or 2009…all tougher economic years. Perhaps you could get away with blaming the economy then, but what about in 2013? Not so much.

Does social have a place in selling? YES. Does it work? YES. Does social selling solve every conceivable sales problem beginning with… sellers with abysmal sales skills? No. No. No. Did I say no?

I’m one of the first two people to begin using the term social selling in 2009. From the beginning, I never promoted the ridiculous idea that social selling was THE thing that would cure widespread sales problems. Social selling – as I defined it and promoted it (then and now) – was meant to represent the evolution of the buyer’s journey, which by necessity meant that sellers need to evolve their sales approaches right along with the changes in buyer behavior.

1. Buyers were/are leveraging alternative mediums to research and vet possible vendors.

Tired of pitches and sellers who don’t understand their business, they take to the net to do their own homework. In 2013, as much as 80% of buyers are researching business solutions before talking to sales. While buyers may not have all the information they need to make a purchase, they absolutely have enough information to determine which companies make their short list.

2. A social seller learns and integrates new technology (social media) into their overall sales process.

If buyers are shutting out sales people by deleting emails and unsolicited phone calls and doing their initial research online, using social networks provides alternative ways to be seen and demonstrate credibility and expertise, in order to earn the right to have a sales conversation. Using social media/social networks as part of a selling strategy creates opportunities to “proactively” give buyers reasons to talk to sellers.

Obviously, I’m a huge proponent of using social as part of selling, but using technology is a fraction of what great selling is all about. Where does social selling play a role in the sales process? Networking, prospecting, building referral relationships, lead gen, sales research and fostering ongoing customer relationships. But these are tactics and you don’t just sit at your desk all day long pounding away on social media. As Joanne Black would say…pick up the damn phone!

What I see happening in 2014 is…

More of the same dismal sales performance if sales leaders keep allowing themselves to be convinced that quick fixes exist or that technology does the selling. Suck it up! If 50% (or 40%, 30% or 20%) of your sales team didn’t make quota, it will take longer than 30-days and one or two training’s to move the needle in any significant way.

To all the self-proclaimed social selling experts I ask… how exactly does social technology solve any of these problems?

  • Sales people who cannot sell.
  • People who should not be in sales positions at all.
  • Selling like it is 1980. Feature dumps are useless.
  • Using technology to hammer prospects with pitches.
  • Measuring activity for activities sake.

Oh, I could create a much longer list about the problems plaguing sales organizations, but I’d rather have you read colleague, Jonathan Farrington’s excellent post underscoring what he believes went wrong for sellers in 2013. It will give you a lot to think about!

My passionate hope for 2014 is that sales leaders will stop believing the hype pandered by people who profit from promoting the quick fix. One or two training programs – I don’t care how good they are or who delivers them – will NOT resolve the systemic problems that have been building over time. It is time to wake up and face reality. I want to see sales leaders step up and create a bold new vision for what’s possible. And I want to see sales leaders go to the mat to ensure that widespread changes are undertaken, in order to support the new vision. Band aids fix nothing.

The real question is will sales performance in 2014 be any different than in the years gone by? Only time will tell.

Because I Said So

“Luddite: One who fears technology (or new technology, as they seem pleased with how things currently are…why can’t everything just be the same?)” – Urban Dictionary

I’ve never been the person who accepted the status quo. Not at work, not at home. Change is a natural part of the flow of life. I believe that change leads us forward and is something to embrace rather than fight. Go ahead, huff and puff, kick and scream, resist, resist, resist…like it or not, nothing in life or business EVER remains the same.

I have enough sales and business experience under my belt to comfortably say that these are times of extreme disruption. Nothing about selling in today’s wired world – or the future of what business is becoming – looks anything like what we have seen in the past. Rapid advances in social, mobile, cloud and digital technologies keep changing up the playbook.

This new reality scares the daylights out of many so-called sales experts who stubbornly cling to the past as the world collapses around them. These folks believe “knocking on doors”, “pounding the pavement”, “pressing the flesh” and “smiling and dialing” still work. They don’t. This same camp of experts argues that social media – and technology in general – has no place in the sales process. They insist that the growing trends related to buyer behavior, lead generation, inbound marketing and inside sales either is not happening, will not happen or not happen any time soon. Guess what – already happening. They claim that their way, their data, their approach; their vantage point makes their opinion the right one.

My data is better than your data.

Another pointless – mine is bigger than yours  – ego debate rages in the blogosphere started by a few of the “good ole boys” who clearly feel that their turf in the sales profession is being threatened. While screaming at the top of their lungs that social media and cloud computing is a waste of time, they are simultaneously bragging about their LinkedIn and Twitter followers (of which they don’t actually have many), using social channels – like blogs – to argue their case, attack the viewpoints of others and beat their chests like the outdated cavemen that they are. Pardon me, if social doesn’t work, why are YOU using it? And if you have to write an entire blog post to justify the ridiculous logic of an earlier blog post and then use 300 of those words to brag about how amazing you are, I have to wonder why you are so defensive. Shakespeare said it best when he wrote, “Me thinks thou dost protest too much.”

Sales performance and revenue continues to decline or merely remain stagnant. This has been a disappointing trend for some years now. On that point, maybe we can agree. There are numerous reasons why performance issues linger. Ignoring that technology is part of today’s selling equation is certainly one of them, and though I cannot name every other reason why sellers, as a whole have challenges, here are 9 reasons that come to mind for me:

  1. Sales people are not receiving decent training. That includes how to sell, how to think creatively, how to present, how to use social smartly or how to “walk in the shoes” of their prospect.
  2. A lack of consultative, communication and listening skills among sellers.
  3. Focus on short-term revenue goals – better said, selfishly motivated goals focused on what can I get rather than give –  at the expense of longer term gains; i.e. customer experience, loyalty and retention.
  4. A constant search for a quick fix to bigger problems.
  5. Too much administrative burden placed on sellers and too many internal meetings.
  6. Measuring raw activity instead of measuring the type and quality of the activity.
  7. Sales process – if there is one – is not followed consistently.
  8. Stuck in the past refusing to accept that buyer behavior and expectations have changed.
  9. Laziness. Newsflash…sending hundreds of boilerplate emails to people not even qualified to buy from you is not actual selling.

Lest anyone misconstrue my words, let me be perfectly clear. Tools are tools…period. You’ll get no argument from me there. And, I don’t know anyone who has more than five minutes of actual experience and credibility in implementing successful social selling strategies who made the promise that using social media would cure the pervasive problems – many of them people, process and behavior related – that plague sales teams.

Technology has a place in selling even if right now sellers are stumbling around trying to figure it all out. It has a place even if your “expert data” doesn’t match modern day reality. You may not like it or care to acknowledge it, but technology and social networks do play a role in the buyer’s journey. Sick of sales people who show up and throw up, decision makers (and their team members) do their own initial, independent research to determine if they want to engage in a sales conversation with a seller at all. If, as the seller, you are fortunate enough to land the meeting, heaven forbid you show up at that meeting completely unprepared and winging it. These same buyers will unceremoniously show you the door.

Contrary to what you believe, dear expert, I am not threatened in the least that your viewpoint is different than mine. I wonder why you feel the need to hide behind your data even when there is ample – and quite reputable data – that contradicts your point of view. Ah well, you and the other boys can keep your heads buried in the sand while bolstering each other’s egos. In my eyes, you are simply dinosaurs, and we all know what happened to them.

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook?

I have long believed that the way to succeed when selling products and solutions is to become someone that is counted on and trusted to do the right thing. In other words, your prospects believe that you, as the seller, actually care that what you sell does no harm to their business or their career. Perhaps I am old fashioned that way.

That’s why I am bothered – as I often am – when I read about someone with influence who espouses tactics that are self-serving and designed to ultimately “get something”. Maybe on the surface that’s ok if you are quite aware of what the person is doing, but what if you aren’t?

I have followed Gary Vaynerchuk for years, and I have always admired him, but today that admiration dimmed after reading an article about him called Riding the Hashtag in Social Media Marketing. Certainly nice press for Gary in the New York Times piece, but I fear that the approach Gary is peddling doesn’t bode well for those of us in sales.

Throughout my selling career, my “giving first” attitude has served me well. It is the way to creating trusting relationships that lead to sales opportunities (and other things in life). And I don’t disagree that at a certain point, when you’ve created enough equity, something Stephen Covey called making deposits to the emotional bank account of someone else, it is perfectly OK to ask for something. As a matter of fact, I just talked about the value there is in giving to receive in Monday’s keynote at the Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 launch party held at the Guggenheim in New York.

What I don’t like is the formula that Gary is promoting – to legions of followers who hang on his every word – which in his own words goes like this…. “Jab, jab, jab, right hook means give, give, give, ask.” On surface that seems pretty harmless until you come to know that what he really means and is quoted as saying often is… “A funny thing happens when you give value up front, you guilt people into buying stuff.”

Guilt people into buying stuff? Dear lord, sales people already have an image problem and there’s Gary out there telling people who sell – and the marketers that hire his company to promote their products and services – to follow a process of pretend giving so they can feel perfectly justified in making people feel guilty enough to buy something from them. This is as ridiculous to me as the promotion of the concept of Social Debt being pandered by Sales Benchmark Index.

Ok, sure it sounds cool to be able to ask Gary for something random that he will deliver; i.e. shipping a hamburger to the guy who asked for one, but in my humble opinion this entire philosophy is just one more selfishly motivated stunt.

On the other hand, Gary is rich and famous; I’m not. His business employs 290 employees, his revenues are pretty envious and he is being paid millions to write the ten books he’s under contract to produce. Hard to argue that his way hasn’t led to a great deal of business success for him.

But is there a price?

Perhaps not to Gary, but what about the companies that buy from him? Executives often hang on his every word of advice, and I wonder at what point his advice will actually be damaging to the brands that hire his team. If consumers don’t trust advertising now, what will happen when they realize that once again big business is simply out to manipulate them? That’s what Gary is selling and the only difference is the channels used.

Look, I’m no Pollyanna. I’m in business to make money too; otherwise, I wouldn’t be in business. But I’m not motivated by money, and I’ll sacrifice revenue in order to conduct business in a way that I think is honorable, credible and trustworthy. The day will never come when I resort to trying to manipulate people for personal gain, and I hope that day doesn’t come for you either!