What’s the Purpose?

A simple question, I thought.  I was wrong. I made a mistake. I apologized.

Mistakes happen. It is inevitable. How you handle the gaffe, I believe, is what makes the difference between winners and losers.

Passionately believing in doing right by others, I’m pained to know that someone had a business experience with me today that was anything but wow. And the unfortunate irony is that I had just finished an article for the October issue of Top Sales World. The topic focused on customer experience and the importance of considering what the experience is like for people who will interact with you and  your employees – sales, marketing, service, finance, HR, operations – on behalf of your company brand.

Here’s how I screwed up.

I use a scheduling tool called TimeTrade. Hours of wasted time and hassle when scheduling meetings are mostly a thing of the past. When I agree to meet with someone, I simply send them a link to my calendar. They find an opening that works for us both and book the time. My calendar is automatically updated and all is right with the world. That is until it isn’t.

As a general rule, I do not share the calendar link publicly. A few months back though, the link was included at the bottom of a newsletter with a little blurb that said if you’d like to have a conversation about our social selling services you can use the link to book a meeting. What ensued was some temporary chaos. More than one sales person used that as an opportunity to book time on my calendar. Their objective wasn’t to learn about our services however. Their goal was to try and sell me on theirs. The lack of integrity some sales people display still surprises me.

I learned from that lesson, and honestly, it has been about 5 months since it happened. I had forgotten all about it.

Which leads me to my goof…

Looking at my calendar this morning, I notice that I am scheduled to have a meeting with someone I do not recognize at all. Not a personal contact, we are not connected on LinkedIn, and I do not recall ever meeting the individual. Then again, I meet thousands of people each year and there are thousands more in our database and my social networks. I see so many examples of what sellers should not do that I think my judgment was clouded.  And the message in the schedule confirmation seemed suspicious. Perhaps a classic example of seeing what you expect to see.

What to do?

I didn’t want to be a jerk, but I didn’t want to waste my time either. Been there, done that. I sent a message to the person and asked them to clarify for me the purpose of the call. Without thinking, I went on to say that I typically know the people that I am meeting with.

I offended.

In the moment, asking for clarity about the call’s purpose made sense. After all, it did not say that the meeting was to discuss social selling services. But that is irrelevant. Forgetting that we were the ones who sent the public link in the first place was certainly my first mistake. I compounded my mistake when I assumed that this individual’s intentions were less than honorable. As a result, I did not think more carefully about the words I used, nor did I consider what the question would feel like to the person reading my message.

When you screw up, offer a sincere apology. And, offer to make it right. I did both. We will see what happens.

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.

LinkedIn Keeps Changing it Up

You’ve probably noticed that LinkedIn continues to make changes to the platform. There are so many rolling out – and at various times with no real warning (except if you read their blog) – that you might be having trouble keeping up.

In an earlier post, I talked about changes to the navigation structure, which you can read about here.

In this brief guide to what’s changed, learn about these feature changes and additions:

  • Who’s Viewed Your Updates
  • Unified Search
  • Groups
  • Company Page Analystics
  • Sponsored Updates
  • Education

Who’s Viewed Your Updates

The sharing of content is a core component of today’s social selling strategy. Visibility counts, as does being able to demonstrate that you are a thought leader in your field. But how do you know if anyone is actually paying attention to what you are sharing? Well, now you can.

LinkedIn provides you with the ability to monitor how well the content you share resonates with your audience. On the home page, you find the feature in the right sidebar beneath Who’s Viewed Your Profile. Quickly, you will be able to see the number of people who Viewed what you shared, who Liked the content or who added their Comment. Pretty cool insights to help you determine quickly what content works and what doesn’t. You can also scroll back through prior updates to compare numbers against prior topics.

Search

Unified search is the term used for a streamlined way to search the information on LinkedIn whether it is People, Companies, Groups, Jobs or your Inbox. You don’t even need to select the drop down arrow to the left to select your topic. As you can see in the picture, I typed in the word “sales” and those things that are related to sales pop up in an ordered list.

As happens when changes are made, some features are gone that you may have liked. If you were a fan of searching Updates AKA Signal to find content that others were sharing quickly, you’ll be disappointed to know that – for now anyway – that feature is gone. I’ll keep you posted if that changes.

To see more details on the rest of the changes – CLICK HERE!

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!

I AM a Customer But You Don’t Know It

I am breaking my rule today. Typically, I keep ineptness anonymous. Today, in good conscience I cannot.

I have continuously railed against the sad state of selling, which bothers me in a big way. Poor messaging. Lack of relevance for the buyer. No understanding of the buyers business. These things gnaw at me and then some.

But I can think of no more serious grievousness  than sending messages to CUSTOMERS that make it clear that YOU have no clue that they ARE a customer.

It isn’t Matt’s fault. Someone may have cued up the email for him. You could argue, however, that he should have double checked who he was emailing.

I have been a Salesforce customer for the past 3 years, but clearly Matt doesn’t know that. If he does, that sure does not come across in his sales pitch.

Matt knows nothing about me. He hasn’t bothered to try and figure out what is important to me. His sales answer is that I “click” on a link to learn more.

He wants a demo appointment. He has no idea that I’m a customer or what is important to me. He just wants to sell something.

Game over.

Sales leaders must get engaged. This type of messaging and “spray and pray” broadcast approach is killing your sales! Schedule 30 minutes with me…I’ll help you understand why.

In the meantime…sorry Matt…a little homework goes a long way!

“Hi Barbara,

My name is Matt (insert last name here) with Saleforce.com — cloud-based marketing automation software powered by Pardot.

We provide over 1,500 companies like yours with software that helps them manage all of their online marketing programs to deliver qualified leads to sales, shorten sales cycles and track campaign ROI. According to Gartner, companies that automate their lead management process experience a 10% or greater lift in revenue within 6-9 months while reducing costs by 33%.  Click here for more information on Pardot’s platform.

Do you have time for a quick conversation or web demo this week or next?  If so, what day/time works for you?

I look forward to talking with you soon!

Thanks,

Matt”

SocialTech Tuesday: Solving the Social Selling Puzzle

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

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

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

It Is a Brand New Ball Game Folks

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

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

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

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

There Are No Short Cuts

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

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

 

 

SocialTech Tuesday: Have You Been SWAM’d?

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

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

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

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

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

The official policy is this…

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

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

Why is this needed?

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

Stop Drinking Your Own Kool-Aid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For now I will close with the following…

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

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

I’ll Be Honest, This Isn’t Another Sales Pitch

Another laughable piece of email spam hit my inbox today. As a result, I feel compelled to get right back up on my soap box. I’m begging all sales and marketing folks to listen up, but more importantly, I am appealing to sales management. Random content and poorly constructed messaging is NOT helping you achieve your numbers.

Sooo…let’s start with the email I received and go from there. By the way, I don’t call people out so names and video link were removed.

“Hi Barbara,

I’ll be honest, this is not “another sales pitch” from Sales :) Instead, I’d like to send you a 2-minute demo video of XYZ’s Customer Success Management solution.

We are VC backed ($9M Series A) by Battery Ventures and our key customers include Marketo, DocuSign, Xactly, Jive, Informatica, YouSendIt, etc.

One of our core value props is “Success for All” and we would like to offer everyone a 1-on-1 with our Customer Success experts to simply discuss best practices (reducing churn, structuring your customer-focused team, increasing up-sells, etc).

Who is the best person to speak with about Customer Success? Let us know if there’s someone else who heads up those efforts.

-Signed…Clueless Account Development Manager”

WAKE UP!

As a sales leader it is time to start addressing what I consider to be a pretty serious sales problem. Intentions don’t matter, but your prospects perception does. This spam email approach doesn’t further a sales opportunity, it cuts it off at the knees.

Let me break down the problem for you by assuming that this account development manager works for you.

Not another sales pitch from sales? Really? This is a pitch even if it did not come from sales. Prospects see through this kind of communication. They are not going to drop what they are doing to watch a demo video that came from a stranger. Why should they? They merely hit delete without giving it a second thought. As for the smiley face…uh, I just can’t go there.

Clever girl says that your company is backed by VC money. That is important because…??  Is that an attempt to convince someone that the company is stable? Lots of companies backed by VC money fold. I don’t think I’d use that as a benefit statement.

Key customers are mentioned. Are you sure they helping your sales cause? Are they even relevant to the receiver of the email?

One of your core value props is “success for all”…what the heck does that mean? Why in the world would your prospect even care?

You want to give your prospect the gift of a 1-1 call with an “expert” to discuss best practices and that’s it? Your prospect isn’t stupid. They know your rep is trying to book a sales call. At least be honest and admit it. If you are serious about educating without expecting anything then host a webinar. Bring a panel of experts together that educate and challenge your prospects to think differently about their business. Wow them and earn the right to move to the next step.

Who is the best person to talk to? If you don’t know who the right person is then why send the email in the first place? I know why. It is a fishing expedition. Nobody is taking the time to properly target the messaging. Confusing activity with effectively driving a sales result is a big mistake and costing you time and money.

I am an ardent supporter of using social media and other technologies as part of the sales process. It is the people behind the technology that worries me. When your prospects can tune you out faster than you can say boo, shouldn’t that suggest to you that some changes are in order?

Wake up…fix your messaging…your revenue and pipeline is suffering!

Strategy + Skills + Execution = Social Selling

In a mad rush to achieve short-term sales objectives and with many experts proclaiming that “social selling” is the panacea to get there, important points about what constitutes sales success is noticeably absent from most social selling conversations. It takes more than a well written social profile or a few connections, clicks and likes to achieve sales objectives.

There is MORE to Social Selling

There is a lot of yammer related to social selling, but most of it centers primarily on execution – the tactics, techniques or technology. Tactics on their own won’t lead to sustainable sales results.

If you are a sales leader who is serious about adopting social selling in your organization, these are the three steps I recommend that you take:

Strategy – It is tempting to want to skip right over this important first step. You may be thinking that there isn’t time to create a strategy; you need more sales now. Make time. If you want different sales results, you need to do things differently.

Do not assume that your marketing team has this covered. Even if they have a plan for using social media on behalf of the business, it probably does not address the specific needs of the sales organization.

Skills – Sellers today need a combination of great sales skills and the ability to use technology effectively to support their goals.

Unfortunately, the over reliance on technology is replacing the basic principles of great selling and the gap is only getting wider. Does it really matter if sales people can use technology to reach prospects more quickly if what is said in the phone call or email lands with a thud? Second chances are rare.

Execution – This isn’t the first step toward successful social selling, it is the step that brings everything else together. Execution is about disciplined behavior – sales people engaging in the right activities consistently and using technology in the right way.

Sales leaders need to diligently monitor and measure the effective execution of sales activities, which includes constantly evaluating the sales and technology skills of their people and providing the ongoing training, coaching and support that they need to succeed.

Create a Winning Social Selling Team

Think of social selling as you might a winning sports team. You need a strategic play book, sales people with the right skills who execute well at all phases of the game. Would you send a football team out on the field with players in no particular order, hand them a ball and expect them to win the Super Bowl?

Without the trinity of Strategy, Skills and Execution, sales people may be seen by more prospects or bring in a few new leads, but they won’t win the big game over time!