Great Social Sales Skills Are Required

Today, I’ve got my social sales evangelism hat on, because I sometimes forget that not everyone sees the value in using new technology to augment their sales process. Though by now it’s pretty obvious that social media is here to stay, there continues to be debate about whether or not the use of social media can actually have any impact on your sales. Many sales professionals still view the use of social media as either something that “the kids” are using, or they believe that the use of social media has no real role to play in the sales process. Unfortunately, these attitudes cause many folks to completely ignore the opportunity that social technologies offer them. That, in my opinion, is a shame.

Let’s do away with the first myth right now…that social media is just a kid’s thing.

As you might expect, this sentiment is most often expressed by the boomer generation who’ve not quite accepted that social goes way beyond their kid’s texting about the concert they attended last night. Yes, the younger set has grown up digital, so it’s more natural for them to use Facebook or Twitter to keep up with their social networks. But as evidenced by the skyrocketing growth of LinkedIn, more than 90 million business professionals are using LinkedIn as a viable medium for networking with potential buyers, referral partners and current customers. In fact, did you know that roughly 70% of those LinkedIn users are decision makers? In other words, these are the people who can buy your products and services. Now, it is true that far too many LinkedIn users aren’t using the technology as effectively as they could be, but that’s a subject for another post.

What about the mistaken belief that social media has no role to play in sales?

After hundreds of conversations with business owners and sales executives, I think one main reason many sales people resist using social technology is because they have unrealistic expectations about what social media can do for them. A LinkedIn profile today doesn’t mean an immediate sale tomorrow. Frankly, that’s just as unrealistic as thinking you’ll meet someone tonight at a networking event and by morning will have a deal. The value of social media is about increased exposure with a wider audience of people who can buy from you. I like to say that just because you have something to sell, it doesn’t mean that your prospect is ready to buy. If you aren’t visible in the social space, it’s not likely that your name will rise to the top of potential vendors when the time comes.


Your prospects have far more options than ever before. They also spend a fair amount of time gathering information online. It’s cool if you don’t feel the need to have presence in the social space, but your savvy competitors are no doubt there. Are you sure that’s a risk you are willing to take?

A Framework for Measuring Social ROI

Today, I spent lunchtime listening to a very informative webinar hosted by the folks at Marketing Profs. I signed up because I was intrigued by the title: How to Be a Social Media Strategist, Not the Social Help Desk. It was 90-minutes well spent. Jeremiah Owyang was the guest presenter, and I learned quite a lot from his session, as I always do.

Frankly, there was enough great information in today’s session to keep me busy blogging for several days, and what really caught my attention was when Jeremiah talked about a framework for social media measurement. I have often said that you can get started with tracking by setting specific and measureable objectives – upfront - as a component of your social media strategy. Truth be told, this works as a starting point, but the larger the organization the more important it is to have a measurement framework in place. In other words, companies need something more formal with which to evaluate their social media success.  In fact, Altimeter’s report on the Career Path of the Corporate Social Strategist, notes that 48% of corporations said that their top priority is in creating a solid measurement process for evaluating social ROI.

Cool…how do you do it?

“The novice provide executives with engagement data -causing themselves to be stuck in the churn of obtaining more followers and fans -without a clear business goal.” –Jeremiah Owyang

While Altimeter’s research underscores the importance of measurement, the question businesses executives need to be asking is are you measuring the right things? Too much emphasis these days is placed on number of followers and fans and Altimeter’s own research discovered that some 65% of companies are measuring “engagement” with only 22% using “product revenue” as a metric. Hum. From a sales perspective it seems to me that you want to be tracking product and services sales and not just “engagement”.  Ironically, the focus on engagement means that it’s darn hard to tie the effects of “awareness” to physical sales, so it’s probably time to think about how to move beyond strictly looking at followers and fans and what nice (or not so nice) things they have to say about your brand.

The Social ROI Pyramid

“The seasoned professional provides executives with business metrics first. They know fans and followers aren’t a business goal, but what you do with them is.” –Jeremiah Owyang

5 Elements were referenced in Jeremiah’s presentation with respect to “standardizing” an approach for measuring social success across the organization. They are:

  1. Start with a business goal in mind. No argument here, because it is something that I whole heartedly believe in and preach.
  2. Provide the right data to the right people. Not everyone in your org needs the same information. Take the time to break it down and make it applicable to the respective roles within the company.
  3. Vary the frequency and quantity of the data that you provide. As an example, top execs don’t need to be subjected to nauseating levels of detail that some social strategist’s feel compelled to provide. Similar to public speaking – know your audience and provide the information to them accordingly.
  4. Customize your formulas. Industry standards don’t exist at this point and they might not for some time. You don’t need to wait though. Create the analytics that best support your business goals now and plan to adapt and refine them as you move forward.
  5. Benchmark over time. According to Jeremiah, specific numbers are not as important as watching for the trend lines over time. In order to determine those monthly, quarterly and annual trends, you must start measuring now in order to gain the insight that you and your social media teams will need going forward.

The message that came through loud and clear today is that anyone responsible for social media strategy must have an organized process and measurement approach nailed down before they dive head first into that next glitzy Facebook campaign! To do otherwise means you’ll probably bomb out.

6 Tips for Creating Social Sales Success

As technology continues to influence the way in which we do business, social selling can be thought of as a model that allows sellers to attract, interact and close business with buyers online by tapping the conversational power of the web. This new approach – when done right - leads to higher sales velocity, volume and profits.

Getting Started

As with any business initiative, it is important that you don’t shortcut the process. Utilizing the appropriate social media tools to improve sales performance represents an investment of time and money. Though many of the social technologies you might choose to implement are largely free, people will need the proper training to ensure their success.

1. Begin with a strategy and tactical plan.

This doesn’t need to be a long drawn out process, but it does require slowing down long enough to think through:

  • What do you want to accomplish?
  • What will be the best technology to support what we want to accomplish?
  • What type of training will be needed on both the technology and new communication approach?

Sales executives should schedule a social media planning session with their teams. Make sure that everyone on the team has the same understanding of what and why you want to participate online. Discuss how you will measure and track results. Following that initial planning, discuss progress, lessons learned and share best practices during regular team meetings. This will help to keep everyone on track.

2. Secure management buy-in, at all levels, from the beginning.

Many sales executives are unfortunately, still living in yesterday’s business world. They either see social media as a passing fad or a threat to their view of how the sales process works. Fear of what they do not understand keeps them rooted in outdated approaches to acquiring new customers and serving the ones that they already have. Bring in outside help to properly educate your management teams on the business value and benefits to using social media.

3. Invest in training.

The old saying “you get what you pay for” applies here. Don’t assume that your sales people can figure out the technology on their own. Rather than clicking buttons, do they know how to use the tools to drive a specific sales result; i.e. lead generation? Your sales team members probably understand how to invite colleagues to join them on LinkedIn, but do they know how to create dynamic lead generation lists that they can use for their prospecting efforts? Do they understand how to create a compelling profile? Inadequate training is guaranteed to deliver lackluster results. Make the investment. It’s worth it.

4. Do not expect immediate results.

There is no quick fix! You need to put a plan of action into place that is followed regularly and tracked along the way. Expecting an immediate ROI is highly unrealistic and will lead to sales people rushing the process. Sales management needs to maintain a focus on the bigger picture. Building a solid brand reputation online takes time, participation and patience. By the way, the same philosophy holds true with traditional offline networking too!

5. Train, Track, Monitor.

Give your sales people the proper technology training, educate them on your social media usage guidelines and help them set goals that are then tracked and measured. Remember that ROI can be measured in many ways. It might be measuring sales revenue, number of new leads in the pipeline, shortened time from lead to sales close or increased sales percentages with existing accounts. Monitor the progress of your people by the results they achieve.

6. Invest the time.

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is your social sales success. Not having time for social media is a common sales complaint, because to often the perception is that using social media is an “add-on” to an already packed day. The reality is that there is wasted time on the calendar of every sales person in your organization. Meetings with non-decision makers. Networking events that fall flat. Chasing down leads that are poorly qualified. Too many internal meetings. The question to ask is “What can I let go of that will bring me a greater sales return if I used that time for social media instead?”

The world of sales has changed.  If you are not integrating social media into your sales and marketing plans, you are setting yourself up for decreasing sales and increased competitive pressure.

How long can you afford to wait before you get started?

The Price of Sales Admission to the C-Suite

It’s common in the world of sales to talk about “calling high” in the organization. The idea being that getting to the higher levels means access to bigger budgets, as the execs at the top have the view from the top so to speak. At lower levels of the organization, budgets are smaller and competition can be tight for those dollars. But at the executive level, budgets can be moved around and combined for the right types of opportunities.

This is the new world of social sales where it should be much easier to get to the right decision makers at the right time. So I find it curious that most sales reps still tend to start their sales activities at the lower levels of the company versus getting to the relevant senior executive. I wondered why and decided to ask members of my favorite LinkedIn group - Sales Playbook - this question, “What are the top reasons that most sales people can’t seem to get a foot in the door to the C-Suite?” Reasons like fear, feeling “less than” and inexperience showed up. I happen to like how fellow Sales Playbook member @JerryVoltero summed it up. He said…

1. Lack of preparation to know who the true decision maker is that they should be talking to.

2. They do a lousy job of building rapport with the gatekeeper and don’t give them a strong enough argument for them to be the one who gets to come in and utilize some of that exec’s valuable time. Remember the gatekeeper’s job is to not waste the exec’s time.

3. If you are using a bottom up approach to get there, you have to get your champion to advocate with both the exec and the gatekeeper to get that proverbial foot in the door.

4. And once you get there, you better know what to ask them to figure out whether or not what you are selling will solve the business problem he/she has. Preparation is the key for sure.

And to Jerry’s point #4, preparation is not only key, it is critical! You may have a great product, perhaps even the best in your field, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore preparation. You may have the best product or service, but if you enter the sales process at the wrong time OR you don’t have the buy-in from the relevant senior executive, you have a big problem.

In today’s world of instantaneous access to information there is no excuse for lack of planning. Authors Nicholas Read and Stephen Bistritz remind us that…

“If you don’ take the time to stay current on your customers and prospects, the information won’t pop into your head by itself.” -Selling to the C-Suite.

I think that about sums it up!

You want to get married? We haven’t had a date yet.

At Selling Power, Founder and Publisher Gerhard Gschwandtner penned a brief online article about meeting buyers at the right time. He suggests an ideal scenario in which our sales hero enters a coffee shop and just happens to start up a conversation with a buyer who needs exactly what he has to sell. It got me thinking about the importance of timing in the sales process.

It is the dream sales situation, isn’t it? You meet a buyer at the exact moment that they have a thorny problem to solve. You just happen to have the ideal solution. You get along instantly; they want to hear more. There’s no haggling over price. This buyer is desperate to eradicate the pain and solve the problem. He’ll pay practically anything. You zip on over to the buyer’s office to complete an agreement that is approved by legal in minutes. Oh, and they cut you a check in advance to get the process started. A few short hours after that fateful coffee shop meeting, you walk away with a six figure deal.

Uh huh…let’s get real.

It rarely works this way in the real world. In the real world, we meet people all the time that would benefit from using our products and services. The problem is that we know it, but they don’t yet. It’s tempting to want to convince them, right now, that a problem is looming on their horizon. But timing is a tricky thing. Jump to fast, push too hard and too soon…bye, bye sales opportunity. When it comes to using social networking tools to expand their sales reach, I’m certain that this is a lesson that many sales people are destined to learn the hard way. Some, no doubt, already have.

Stay visible.

Technology provides limitless opportunities for the sales people who recognize that timing is everything in sales. When the buyer is ready to buy, these savvy social sales people want that buyer to think of them first! That’s why they remain focused on the bigger picture. Core elements of their process include building strong networks and cultivating sales opportunities by providing “value” in advance of the sale. That value can be anything from targeted information that benefits the buyer in their job, white papers about trends in their industry, relevant blog posts or connections to peers in their field.

To succeed in the social sales world, sales people (and their management!) need to accept that no one gets married without being courted first. Be patient and take the time to court your prospective buyer until they are ready to walk down the aisle. How you approach the courtship will say volumes about what happens after you both say, “I do”.

Social Sales One Year Later

“Social media is becoming ingrained in current business practices; therefore, progressive organizations embrace the use of this technology to propel their sales forward. More than a passing fad, social media is a worldwide revolution. The intersection of sales and social media is here.”

Exactly one year ago, I wrote those words. They are as true today - if not more so - then they were 365 days ago. If you haven’t noticed, buyer behavior has changed. Sales scripts and canned speeches fall on deaf ears. Buyers are on social sites asking for recommendations and references from colleagues and friends, because quite frankly, they don’t trust vendors. Your job as sales professionals and marketers is to build trust. That takes time and patience. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Enter social media…

Nirvana, right? Wrong!

Technology does make it easier to reach the masses quickly, but I urge you to resist the temptation to start slinging your sales messages out on Twitter the day you first arrive. Would you walk into a networking event and sling your marketing brochures across the room hoping they might hit your target buyer in the head? I certainly hope not. The online world is no different. Your focus is on the relationship not the sales transaction. You need a strategy coupled with the right tools and training on their effective use, which includes the nuances of communication in the online space.

The intersection of sales and social media IS HERE. The big question is…are you ready?

The ROI of Social Selling

As I’ve been working with sales organizations to help them learn to use and effectively integrate social media into their sales process, the inevitable question of “where’s the ROI in using social media” comes up.

It isn’t that there is anything wrong with asking the question. Measurement is not only important; it’s a critical element of your strategy. What strikes me as odd though, is the insistence that social media activities deliver an immediate return on investment, but the effectiveness of current traditional sales prospecting methods, such as attending in-person networking events, are rarely (if ever) measured.

The term ROI is only mysterious to those who practice social media through a “create a profile and let’s go go go” initiative. –Brian Solis

Brian is spot on. There is no magic to creating measurable outcomes, but the ROI of any social sales initiative is only difficult if:

  1. You jumped into using the technology, but never stopped to create an organized plan.
  2. You’ve never stopped to think about what you wanted to measure in the first place.
  3. Your sales people haven’t been “trained” in how to use the technology in a way that supports the sales process.

Success in the social sales world relies on you putting together a purpose and plan that incorporate measurable outcomes that you want to track. You need to ask yourself what specifically you can measure by engaging prospective buyers online. Do you want to track an increase in leads, sales, number of new presentations, event registrations? Once you’ve determined what you want social media to do for you, and you invest in making sure that your sales people are well trained in how to use social tools, you will find that it’s much easier to demonstrate a return on your social sales effort.

Tic Toc: Social Sales Train Has Left the Station

At this point in the evolution of social media, small and mid-sized companies are recognizing the value and potential that social tools like LinkedInTwitter,GistHootsuiteFacebookYouTube and others bring to the table. Yet, when I ask business owners about their social sales and marketing strategy, they sheepishly admit that they really don’t have one. They know they need one, but…

Tic Toc

If you are not integrating social media into your sales and marketing plans, you are setting yourself up for decreasing sales and increased competitive pressure. Think of social media as the proverbial train that’s left the station. While you can’t hop on the train that’s already chugging on down the track, you can grab the next one coming along and catch up. The point is that the clock is ticking and you need to get moving!

I Don’t Have Time

Let’s face it, “I don’t have time.” is a pretty common excuse, because people can relate to it, right? Who can’t empathize with jam-packed schedules, lengthy to-do list’s and a cell phone that never stops ringing? “Tight schedule already and you want me to create a social sales and marketing plan, Barb?” Yes. I do. You need it. “Even if I have it, who has time for blog posting, tweets, status updates, answering questions in groups, Barb?” The answer is that you make the time. Or, you delegate the activity. We can talk about options in a future blog post.

What’s really behind the excuse?

1) These are smart business people and they know that they need to use social tools like TwitterLinkedIn and Facebook to drive their marketing and sales activities, but they don’t know where to start. It’s easier to avoid what feels a little overwhelming to tackle.

Hint: You begin with a strategy and tactical plan. This requires slowing down long enough to think through what you need and how you’ll use the technology. Hire help! Jumping on Twitter without having a clear idea how micro-blogging fits into your sales and marketing strategy will no doubt cause frustration. As Covey said, success begins with the end in mind. If you don’t know where you are going, I can pretty much guarantee it’ll be tough to get there.

2) Taking time to answer questions on LinkedIn, post a tweet, contribute to a blog post or respond to Facebook fan comments is seen as an ”add-on” to an already jammed packed calendar.

Hint: Some of the activities you and your people spend time on today will never net you sales. That’s the truth and you know it. An honest appraisal of your calendar will no doubt reveal time wasters - people, places, events - that can be eliminated. Once those wasters are eliminated you can put that “found” time toward social sales activities instead.

3) Won’t my employees just waste time all day yakking with their friends on Facebook?

Hint: You need to establish social media usage communication policies and invest in training your people from the beginning. Most businesses already have a communication policy, so you can augment what you currently have to address social media usage. Invest in training your people to use the technology correctly and make sure that they understand the rules of netiquette in the online space. Your investment in training will minimize wasted time and pay dividends down the road.

All aboard!

Sure Fire Brand Killer

Here we go again…more sales spam in my LinkedIn inbox.

On 11/16/10 2:59 PM, XYZ social sales clueless wrote:  Since you are a member of the Inside Sales Buzz group, I wanted to take a moment of your time to alert you to a fantastic sales tool that will improve your outbound calling capability by 300% (no kidding).

XYZ product is a power dialing software package that enables you to call up to four lines at a time and meets all FCC compliance rules. Its integrated voice and email capabilities can also greatly increase your INBOUND calls too. You don’t need a land line or long distance service. All you need is a computer and access to the internet.

If you are in sales, and haven’t looked into XYZ product, you owe it to yourself to investigate. It is the least expensive and easiest to use power dialing solution available anywhere. Let me know and I can set up a demo with one of our technical staff. No cost and no obligation, just a FREE DEMO.

XYZ social sales clueless
VP Business Development


Dear Clueless and Desperate,
I don’t know you, and I don’t take kindly to unsolicited sales pitches. It’s akin to cold calling. Just because we are members of a group doesn’t mean I gave you my permission to spam me. -BG

Apparently, there are some sales professionals who just do not get it. Please, don’t let that be you!

Farewell to Mr. Super Fantastic

For as long as I can remember, I have been drawn to the study of success and of successful people. I have read, researched and pondered what it means to be a “success”.

What is it?

Is it the 6-figure income and the beautifully appointed mansion in an exclusive neighborhood? Or, for you, does success look like the “fix it up” lake house with your weathered jeep parked in the driveway? It’s a personal question that each of us must define for ourselves, and that’s not always easy when so many outside influences rush to tell us what’s best for us.

How do you achieve it? Why do some lucky few seem to come by it so easily, while other people just cannot ever seem to get there?

Growing up in a family who neither helped me to plan for my success, nor expected me to succeed, a passionate desire was sparked in me to find a way to succeed on my own.  That powerful desire led to a series of serendipitous events that would lead to a very successful career. Along the journey, I’ve encountered many wise teachers who impacted me with the message that they shared. One such teacher was Keith Harrell, who I will forever remember as “Mr. Super Fantastic”. Keith passed away on October 18th. He was only 54.

Some years ago, while working in Microsoft’s Atlanta office, I was asked by my boss to secure a motivational speaker for our upcoming district meeting. Among the names suggested I check out was Keith Harrell. We ultimately signed Keith for the gig, and I will never forget how he just took over that room. Sure, being 6ft 7’ had something to do with it, but this man had presence. His message of a focused, positive attitude and the importance of speaking positively forever impacted me and my thinking about success. It might well have been one of the few times that all of my sales compadres actually listened attentively to the guest speakers every word.

Keith encouraged us to use big words to express positive feelings that promoted harmony, goodwill and success for everyone. He reminded us that our success in sales (and in life) was totally an inside job. And, that’s where Mr. Super Fantastic comes in. When asked any day of the week how he was doing, Keith would respond with a rousing “superfantastic” in reply. I adopted the word immediately and used two versions in my voicemail message.  Sometimes, it was thanks for calling; it’s a Super Fantastic day here at Microsoft. Or, I’d conclude my message with an upbeat… Have a Super Fantastic day! Oh, the wonderful comments people would share with me about how my message made their day. As I did then, and as I do now, all the credit goes to Keith!!!

Success in any undertaking is always dependant on how successful we decide that we want to be. It truly is an inside job. Keith was right about the power of powerful, positive language. When you are smiling and using upbeat words, it’s pretty darn hard to be griping and complaining. So, in honor of Mr. Keith Harrell, here’s to your superfantastical sales success now and forevermore!