The High Cost of Poorly Qualified Sales Opportunities

As the awareness of social networking’s power grows, questions inevitably arise about how to use social media to increase sales.

It is a great question that I am asked often. The decision about which technology to use will vary from company to company. After all, each business will have their own specific set of objectives that they want to accomplish. But it seems to me that the question people really want answered is “can you” make money using social media? My answer is yes. And, it doesn’t happen overnight.

From experience I know that the blending of social networking tools like LinkedIn into a well thought out sales strategy has huge benefits for increasing revenue. Using the telephone and email doesn’t go away, but when you use social networking tools effectively, you can speed up the sales cycle.

Getting Started

Before embarking down the social media path, it first starts with getting clear about three things:

  • Purpose
  • Platform
  • Plan

You need to clarify these three things or your results will be lackluster at best. This is also an ideal time to assess what’s really working in your sales organization and what’s not. Technology is merely an enabler. The use of social media will not “fix” a sales process that is broken. It won’t do you much good if your people are not right for the role, or they lack the proper training to do their job.

Right now, people are curious to learn more about social media and they should. At the same time, I see many people taking a short-term, shot gun approach, because they are too focused on the “point and click” aspects of tools like LinkedIn and Twitter. In large part, they are not making time to ask the questions I’ve suggested. If you want to succeed with your online efforts - make the time!

An Opportunity for Driving Sales

Social networking tools like LinkedIn can and do play a huge role in the first few critical phases of the sales process: investigate and early qualify.

A rep’s ability to quickly identify, qualify and focus on the “right” opportunities remains a big challenge in most sales organizations for lots of reasons that can be discussed in another post. Why focus attention on the problem? In a word - dollars! It is very expensive. Many sales managers often don’t know what an “hour of selling” actually costs them. They know that money and time is wasted with their people chasing down phantom opportunities, but they don’t know exactly how much.

Rick McPartlin, President of The Revenue Game gave an example of the size of the problem at a recent conference I attended. Let’s say that you have a sales person with a $1,000,000 quota. After salary, commission, benefits, etc., the cost for your rep is $150,000 annually. Assuming 2400 hrs of annual sales time, your cost per sales hour is $62.50. That probably doesn’t sound so bad does it? It wouldn’t be if your rep was actually selling all 50 hrs each week.

How much time do you think your people actually spend doing their job? Consider the real hours spent “selling”, which for an average company with a decent strategy and pretty good business alignment; you may be getting 5 actual sales hours out of your people each week. At 5 hours a week, your $150,000 sales rep costs you $625 per hour, which means you need to generate slightly more than $4,100 of revenue per hour if you hope to reach your annual target.


What would it be worth to you if social networking used correctly could significantly shrink wasted money and time on the front end of the sales process?

By the way…

You should probably evaluate very carefully how much time is actually spent on the act of selling. Anything else means time is being spent on non-revenue producing activities and you should strip away anything getting in the way of sales people selling. And that’s a discussion for another day.

The Why of Social Media

The explosion of social media into mainstream consciousness has seemingly come from nowhere. Though it may be new to you, the social media groundswell has been building for some time, and it’s fair to say that the buzz right now is deafening.

While there is a growing familiarity with tools like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, blogs and YouTube, here are 5 questions being asked in companies large and small about the business reasons for using social media:

1. Why should we care?
2. Where do we start?
3. What technology should we be using?
4. How do we manage the information?
5. How will we measure effectiveness?

As with any new business undertaking, questions like these (and more) definitely need to be answered. Here are the reasons that I believe it is important to pay attention.

Why You Should Care

These days your prospects are surfing the net, reading blogs, participating in forums and group discussions, asking for product and services referrals from their social networks and joining on-line communities.

Even if you wanted to “opt out”, choosing instead to use outdated approaches to sales and marketing, your potential customers - and your savvy competitors - are most definitely going to be online.

Your prospects are tuned in to what they want, what’s available, where to purchase and how much to spend. The bigger the sale, the more educated they will be.

With 66% of the 38 million LinkedIn users deemed “key decision maker”,175+ million people on Facebook (31% over the age of 35), and millions more conversing over Twitter, you can’t ignore the opportunity. The name of the game then is visibility. If you aren’t participating online, you are missing huge opportunities to reach an audience you would otherwise not be able to connect with in an easy and cost effective way.

How to Get Started

If you are just getting your feet wet with regard to social media, you are most likely approaching it backwards, as most do. Companies are typically approaching the social computing world by looking first at the nifty, whiz bang technologies available. Could be a tweet here, a blog there, a LinkedIn profile, a Facebook fan page or a few YouTube video’s thrown up on the website- to achieve their sales and marketing goal. That is a mistake! People, purpose and plan first - technology last -should be the mantra of every business interested in succeeding with social media.


As with any hot trend, people are clamoring to get on board the social media gravy train. Yet as many have already discovered, having an online profile doesn’t mean you are using social media effectively to market your business or increase your sales. People are floundering in the online space for many of the same reasons they probably flounder around with their current sales and networking approach. They don’t have a plan!

Your plan starts with “narrowing” and “clearly defining” your target audience. Here’s a hint…your audience is NOT everyone with a pulse. Though it seems counterintuitive to some, the more you narrow your market, the faster you gain traction, which then leads to more sales of your products and services.

The key with choosing the right technology is making sure you know EXACTLY what results you want to achieve. You certainly need to understand what tools are available, but that’s the last thing you really need to focus your attention on. Once you know who your audience is, where they live online and what you want to happen once you get in front of them, you are then well positioned to use an online tool best suited for your purpose.

Managing the Flow

I’m known for saying that it is up to “you” to manage technology, not the other way around. Dashboard tools like Digsby help you watch your email, Facebook page, Twitter account, LinkedIn profile and more without having to web surf the individual sites. TweetDeck gives you the ability to keep on top of all that is happening in your Twitter world. And tools like Ping and HelloText let you create a post once that updates multiple sites of your choosing all at the same time. The point is that you shouldn’t let the “fear” of too much information stop you from getting on board. There are lots of great tools to help with the information management flow.

Measuring the ROI

Like anything else in business, you need to be sure that you are measuring effectiveness and results to ensure that you get the greatest return on your effort. In the March 23rd edition of Information Week, TransUnion reported as estimated $2.5 million in savings in less than five months. Did I mention that you first need a plan? In TransUnion’s case, their cost savings showed up in a reduction of software services purchases. Using an internal social networking platform, employees were able to brainstorm ways to more effectively utilize what they already had, thus reducing the need to buy more.

Companies of all sizes will benefit from having clearly defined objectives that you can then track your progress against. If one of your goals is to increase product sales on your website, you will want to track HOW people find you. Was it the blog, Twitter, LinkedIn, a Facebook ad, or that amazing sales article your sales manager just wrote? You can use tools like Google Analytics to help you track how many visitors visit your website, as well as give you clues as to what they focused on they got there.


Remember that social media and the world of social networking are here to stay. See it as a threat or an opportunity. It’s your choice!

Is Blogging For You?

As I started dipping my toe into the social media waters, I found myself intrigued by what I observed happening. The first few years I watched people blogging, I thought “what’s the point?” Why would anyone care about my personal life, and why would I want to post it out in cyberspace anyway?

Blogging for Business

Fast forward a few years, and I began to notice how people were using it for business. Sharing their thoughts, ideas and comments about…well…about anything you can imagine. So, I tried it myself. Honestly, it didn’t last long! Deciding I wasn’t good at it, I gave it up.

It nagged at me though. Using a blog for business was still a great idea, and I knew it. But I was uncomfortable with it. At the time, I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was bothering me about the whole thing. But after watching and observing others in the blogisphere, I landed on my answer.

Be Real

In the beginning, I tried to sanitize everything. Authenticity was lacking. My voice wasn’t coming through, because I kept worrying what other people would think.What if they didn’t like me? Would I be turning off potential clients by my comments? What if my writing sucked? How could I present my message without sounding like I was trying to “sell”? And then it finally dawned on me that the way to succeed with blogging is to just be who I am. Barb, plain and simple.

Build Relationships

I’m a people person, in that I really like people! Might seem funny to say, but there are people out there not too thrilled with having to interact with the rest of the human race. Not me.

People fascinate me. I love learning about them. What makes them tick? How did they come up with that amazing business idea? Where did they come from and how did they get to where they are now? I genuinely want to know. That’s probably why I’ve always loved sales, because being a great sales person is nothing more than building relationships with people. And the best way that I know to do that, is to sincerely care about who they are. Then, do your darnedest to help them solve whatever problem it is that they have. That’s it.

More than 25 years of consultative selling confirms for me that diversity is an awesome thing. So now when I blog, I try to keep in mind that I simply want to be who I am. Barb. Sharing ideas, making connections for others, forwarding on useful business information, expressing myself AND not worrying about being perfect. That’s the business blogger I strive to be today.

What’s Your Story?

What about you? Like me, are you worried about how you’ll be perceived? Come on…what’s your story? What holds you back from either kicking off your own blog or participating in the blogs that others are writing?

Tell me. I really want to know!

BTW - that’s me with one of my darling dogs, Murphy. He was helping me write this post:)