Very exciting to sign my very first book – The New Handshake: Sales Meets Social Media – at an executive retreat. Jimmy has traveled from China to join his management peers. Since he traveled the farthest, I gave him a copy of the book as a gift. Jimmy was excited to receive the book; I was thrilled to give it to him. He tells me he’ll read it on the plane home next week. I expect that Jimmy will be a social sales ready before long. An Amazon review is on the horizon. More to come…
In the rush, rush, rush that defines most businesses today, we are trained to cram every possible activity we can onto our calendars. The fine art of saying “no” is a masterful technique in and of itself, IF, you can pull it off that is. Often, we are at the mercy of others who have requests that demand our time, which we cannot ignore. Still, with all of this so-called multi-tasking going on, I wonder, are we really any more effective?
For years, we have been seduced into thinking that multi-tasking is a good thing. Sales people are given atta-boys for their ability to juggle multiple priorities at once. Sales managers praise their people for being able to take customer calls, do email and text all while taking a potty break. Nothing is more disconcerting than listening to someone take a business call from the bathroom stall next to you by the way. The reinforcement of this multi-tasking mania has now led to people texting and answering email on their iPhones and Blackberry’s while driving! Absolute madness.
Quite an industry has sprung up around this notion of “managing time”. The myth is that multi-tasking isn’t managing time, it is only wasting it. An August 2009 research report from Stanford University shows that so-called high achieving multi-taskers are only frying their brain. Guru’s far more experienced than me will tell you that time management has always been a myth. All of us have the same 24 hours in the day. The #1 key to social selling success comes from a single minded focus on the “right” priorities. Your objective is to focus on the one thing – the big rock – that you complete before moving on to the next. This is especially important as you integrate social media into your sales process. The idea is to save time not waste it!
As I talk to groups about social media and how to integrate it into their sales/networking approach, I always ask, “What are your top two or three concerns about using social media?” Predictably, someone always says, “I don’t have the time.” That attitude springs from the belief that you are “adding on” to what you already do now. In reality, you need to let something else go. Everyone has time wasters disguised as results driven activities hidden somewhere on their calendar. Many are hidden in plain sight.
Try this exercise. Write down how many face-to-face networking events you attended in the past month. Even if it’s 1 per week, you probably spent at least 3 hours when you include drive time plus the event time itself. That’s 12 hours – more than a full business day each month. Now consider your hourly billable rate and ask yourself if you secured enough clients from those activities to make it worth it. The answer – based on experience and the answers I receive from every group that I poll – will likely be a resounding no! Not even close. That’s why the effective use of social networking tools like LinkedIn is such a beautiful thing. Done right, you spend “less time” actually getting better results.
How we view time is in direct proportion to our attitude about time. Your peers, your competitors and your friends don’t have any more hours in the day than you do. It is all about how you use them. If you ever want to invest in finding out how you prioritize, I encourage you to check out our Time Mastery assessment. For as little as $31 and the investment of a 10-15 minutes, you will discover just how well you work with your daily 24 hour allotment.
Time management is a myth. How you choose to spend your time moment to moment is what counts!
A common myth is that social media doesn’t actually work; in terms of driving the sales process forward. It does, IF, you have an open mind, you know what you are doing while participating online and you are very clear about the results you want to achieve.
That’s the rub. Too many sales people get started with LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Plaxo or any other social tool because someone else invited them or suggested that they should. Maybe that happened to you. Or, one of your bosses heard social media was cool, so they told you to get going. So, you dutifully went and signed up. You probably then said to yourself, “OK, I’m here. Now what?”
To make the most of your investment in the social sales space, here are 6 behaviors to avoid if you want to achieve sales success.
- Failure to begin with a social sales strategy. Yes, I know, planning is sometimes about the last thing you want to sit down to think about, but it’s critical if you expect to see an ROI. Failing to plan how you will use social tools is a recipe for failing altogether. If you don’t have a plan, how can you measure success? Would you really hit the highways expecting to get from Atlanta to Los Angeles without a map? Sure, you would probably end up there eventually (well, maybe not), but doesn’t it make a lot more sense to first determine where you are headed? Of course it does. Same thing with social media.
- Solution: 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 are participating 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.
- Lack of buy-in from top management. Many sales executives (and their bosses) 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.
- Solution: Education. And, I don’t mean a Twitter training class. Bring in outside help to properly educate your management teams on the business value and benefits to using social media. Recently, Dell announced that they’d sold an estimated $6.5 million in products and services using Twitter. LinkedIn has 70 million+ users with 66% of them listed as “key decision makers”. Are your sales people in front of them?
- Lack of adequate training. Sales managers often assume that understanding and learning how to use social media tools is easy as learning email. Not so. Most of the tools themselves are fairly easy to figure out, but do your sales people understand how to create dashboards to “link” their various social sites, instead of having to visit them individually? 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? Inadequate training is guaranteed to deliver lackluster results. Make the investment. It’s worth it.
- Solution: Provide the team with webinar training, classroom sessions, accountability telecalls and team coaching. The tendency is to go cheap, but the investment in proper usage training on the front end will give you a huge leg up in achieving your objectives. You may need to bring in outside help, and it would be a good idea to hire someone who has extensive sales and technology background. Anyone can teach your sales people to click on buttons, but I’m pretty sure you need them to understand more than that.
- Expecting immediate results. This, very unrealistic, expectation will bite your sales people in the backside fast. Using social networking to further your sales efforts takes time. By the way, this isn’t all that different from traditional offline selling. The likelihood that one of your sales people meets that next million dollar customer at the one networking meeting they just attended is pretty slim. Not to mention that sales people often attend meetings that probably will NEVER produce a sales result.
- Solution: Keep your focus on the bigger picture. More than ever, a sale is about building a relationship with someone that advances the sale forward. The more expensive your product or service, the longer the sales cycle is. You already know this, so why insist that if you use social media it must deliver a result today? Here’s the good news though. Using social sales tools effectively will SHRINK the sales cycle, because your sales people will be reaching the right decision makers faster without driving all over town. Isn’t that what every sales organization wants…to close sales faster?
- Sales people are supposed to sell not hang out on Facebook.
- Solution: Change your ‘tude. If your attitude is that your sales people are just “hanging out” then you either never helped them create their plan for being there, or you believe that this social media stuff is just dribble. Here’s the thing. If your ideal customer isn’t likely to be on Facebook then, of course, your sales people shouldn’t be spending time there. But, what if your perfect client does participate on Facebook? Shouldn’t your sales people be engaged where their buyer is likely to be? The answer is easy – yes! It is time to accept that integrating social tools into your sales process not only makes sense, but is critical.
- No time. This is a common complaint. The reason that people get hung up on the time thing is that they consider the use of social media 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.
- Solution: Put all your sales people through a time tracking exercise. Have them track every activity on a daily basis for one week. Each activity should note the length of time it took to complete. At the end of one week, I think you will be surprised by the results. If, at that point, your sales people haven’t found at least 30 minutes a day of wasted time that they can instead use for online networking – it would be a first. But, just in case it ends up being true for your sales team, please drop me a note. I’ll need to award you a prize to celebrateJ.
There is fair amount of buzz about a concept called “social selling” (often used synonymously with Sales 2.0, a term coined and trademarked by Nigel Edelshain). Certainly some people will argue that sales, particularly B2B sales, has always depended on a sales reps ability to build a relationship with their potential buyer, which could be viewed as a social activity. Since successful selling has always revolved around relationships – who you know – it isn’t surprising that sales people focused on networking, establishing as many connections as they could, and leveraging existing relationships to close sales opportunities. Networks were generally cultivated through face-to-face business meetings, attendance at industry conferences, business association meetings, or through social and business clubs.
Along with the adoption of Web 2.0 and social media, comes a dramatic change in the notion of social sales. The first huge change for sales to get their head around is that social media has significantly increased the scale and reach of our relationship networks. Using tools like LinkedIn, Gist, Facebook, Foursquare and Twitter, the number of people that we maintain some degree of one-to-one contact and connect with via peer networks and groups has dramatically increased in the past few years. But something even more important has happened with respect to how sales are transacted these days. With the advent of Web 2.0 technologies, the buying process has changed. Most B2B buying decisions now start; move forward and very often are closed online without a single face-to-face meeting.
Social Sales and Customer 2.0
This new technology enabled sales trend is sometimes thought to be merely the adoption of social media and online collaboration tools by sales organizations. Adopting social tools is simply one facet of the equation, because below the surface of this trend is a bigger, more fundamental change that has occurred in customer behavior and their buying process. Far too many sales organizations continue to employ sales strategies that worked for Customer 1.0. But now, Customer 2.0 has access to unlimited information about you personally, your company, your products, and those of your competitors.
Whether you like it or not, Customer 2.0 can and will ignore your marketing messages, because they prefer to rely on people that they know and trust and their peer networks to educate themselves, keep on top of news and trends, evaluate vendors independently, and make buying decisions. Conversations occurring on social sites have become more influential to the buying decision than your traditional sales and marketing tactics. Customers are controlling the conversation; they form their opinions about working with you without your involvement. Although you may be resisting, it is time to accept that this is the new reality of social selling.
What You Know About Who You Know
A better educated and more connected customer is driving the social selling process. The savvy social sales person recognizes and embraces the opportunity that this presents. Sales will always remain a relationship-driven business. Social sales people understand and leverage the power of “what you know about who you know.”
Remember that the new social customer demands a new approach from sales organizations. The need for comprehensive, real time data is imperative to sales professionals who must leverage the social web to actively listen, add value to the customer conversation and create sales relationships in new ways. Tools like Gist (integrates with Outlook) provides sales professionals with a way to quickly aggregate and view real time information about people in their network or people that they follow.
Your customer – customer 2.0 – expects your sales team to know at least as much about them as they already know about you. Do they?
I wrote in my last post about ways to gain executive buy-in for the integration of social media into a sound sales strategy. Rather than replace the tried and true, social tools can augment great sales efforts today. Used effectively they can also help your sales folks reduce sales cycle time by building relationships early and quickly through social communities. Yes, you can still attend in-person networking functions and you should – provided you are attending the right ones. Easy enough to burn hours of time that get you nowhere for the right events, much less attending the wrong ones. Instead invest some of your sales time each day to participate in online spaces, like LikedIn to connect, source business opportunities and prepare for your sales calls. Welcome to the world of social selling.
As I’ve observed companies considering how social media applies to them, I’ve also seen a tendency to want to short-cut the process. This is a big change and you need to prepare yourself up front for success. Asking and answering these types of questions should be the first step.
- Are your sales leaders prepared to adopt new sales communication approaches and tools?
- Will your current processes support a smooth integration to using new technologies?
- Have you established sales communication guidelines and social usage policies?
- What kind of training will your sales people need to make the shift?
- How will you hold people accountable to using new media as part of their sales day?
- Is your IT organization prepared to assist you in integrating the right social tools with your sales goals?
- Do you use customer data, survey’s and focus group feedback to update services, policies and processes on the fly?
- How well is your team “listening” to online conversations happening on the various social sites?
- How ready is your sales team to respond to negative commentary?
- What does your competition’s social media presence look like?
Don’t be seduced by the promise of number of followers = sales. Twitter isn’t for everyone and neither is Facebook for that matter. Think carefully about your strategy. It will make the difference between floundering around and achieving sales results.
A series of recent events has me thinking about how “stuck” people seem to be in their approaches to situations of all kinds. As human beings, I suppose its part of our hard wiring to resist change, even when presented with information suggesting we move in another direction would be wise. Reminds me of the movie – Groundhog Day. Bill Murray portrays Phil Connors an egotistical TV weatherman faced with living one day in his life over and over again. Connors is presented with the rare opportunity to take a different path when faced with the same circumstances. It is a clever film about do over’s and the challenges of changing our ways.
That brings me to the topic of sales.
Personally, I think it is about time for a serious shake up in traditional thinking about the sales process. Business is anything but traditional these days. Sales must adapt.
Some 78% of buyers consistently say that they go to the web to do research on something they plan to purchase according to Anderson Analytics.
Buying behavior has changed. These buyers are not interested in meeting with you personally to learn about your products and services. They can research you more quickly online. Further, they have more faith in the feedback from the social community than they do from vendors and advertisers who are clearly biased in their opinion of their capabilities. You can’t blame them.
Sales behavior and the approach to the sales process need to adapt to attract this new breed of buyer. A social sales strategy is required.
This statement usually draws some strong reactions from those sales professionals locked into their own methodology. They firmly, but politely reject the idea that using tools like LinkedIn to generate sales works. To them networking in a virtual world doesn’t have the same oomph as meeting people face to face. What they miss is that you do not need to ditch the tried and true, but it does mean that the effective use of social systems to create sales relationships must now be integrated into the sales process.
You won’t make money overnight!
Another area of resistance that often surfaces is an attitude that if it doesn’t make you money overnight then there can’t be much to it. Such an odd attitude really, because seasoned sales professionals know that it takes time to build a book of business. Starting a corporate sales job today would not mean I’d close a sale the next day. You get to know the customer base, you plan your introduction strategy, make calls and set appointments to meet with core clients…all of these tasks and more go into kicking off a new sales relationship. So like the building of a new sales territory, your investment in moving to a social selling approach will take time and patience.
Back to Groundhog Day…
Murray’s character has the opportunity to relive one pivotal day in his life…over and over again. The idea is that he learns from mistakes made in the prior 24 hours, which hopefully means better decisions and choices moving forward.
Given the choice, what about you?
Will you reboot your sales system and start with a fresh eye? Or, will you chose to remain caught in an endless cycle of doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different sales result?