Access the C-Suite - 7 Sage Secrets

I've read the Challenger Sale – now what? I've heard I need to get upstream, past the gatekeeper, before my buyer hits the search engines and starts the reverse aggregation arms race. But how do I get there? I've got my frameworks queued up: TAS, Blue Sheets, Green Sheets, Gold Sheets, Battleplan.... oh my! I want to unleash the holy grail of all sales process, challenge the founders and part the ephemeral waters of the status quo. SPIN baby spin, I need to get in... come-on Tony, show me how! What is the killer insight I need to create and how can I deftly leverage it to reach the CXO, as an account executive? How can I reach the key decision maker as the CEO of a new start-up where I lack the clout to crowbar in via brand recognition alone?

Here are seven proven ways and means that actually work with some caveats and bonus material woven in for good measure. They are born from the pavement, the street, coffee shop, hotel lobby, the field, the airplane, the jetway and the corridor. After thirty years of hard knocks, here they go. The world is your oyster but with great power comes great responsibility. I open-source them for you now knowing that the knowledge is in good hands with my LinkedIn reader-base.

  1. The Friendly Ghost - This one may be controversial. Gain access to your own CEO's social accounts or work with their EA to tee-up a coordinated C to C communique. I can't change the way the world is but sometimes the only way to impinge is a transmission from the top to the top.
  2. The Thrilla from Manila - I touched on this strategy in another post. It may take a bit of investment of time and resources. It requires finesse and care. You'll want to implement the design thinking process to ideate with your manager on exactly the key insight. You'll have a plain Manila envelope delivered to the executive assistant of the CFO, CSO, CTO, CIO or CEO. The key is to lead with the difference you can make to their business and offer genuine insight, supported by a relevant case study, testimonial or reference letter. It must be one page and punchy but factual. Show you've done your homework, catch the imagination and then leverage the hand signed document to land the meeting.
  3. Exclusive Industry Analysis - Take the time to do your own survey of executives, run your own tests, collect your own data in the field or create your own White Paper and then leverage it. Release it at a private CXO dinner where you'll reveal the insights and brief on the data with a celebrity guest [could even be a thought leader in your own company... but no selling!] Exclusivity is a powerful weapon; it's how the stickiest social networks have always thrived - virtual and analog.
  4. A sense of humor, courage and fearlessness - Bransonian: "Screw it, let's do it!" People in power seldom get an email that makes them laugh while still being to the point. I've seen quite a bit of research about sales people that hail mary 10X thinking, audacious e-mails to celebrities that seem unreachable. Many breakthrough via persistence, creativity or passion.
  5. Stealth Aerospace Technology - There are stealth start-ups creating C-Suite access technologies right now that I have seen open business even from existing accounts penetrating divisions previously closed.
  6. TeamLink Referral - Recently I've seen e-mails that reference three connections in common, a shared networking event, content and quotes cited while also mentioning a specific need. This takes time and research but for a key target, they'll be impressed enough to respond.
  7. Pull versus Push - Exactly what I'm doing in here everyday. Build the garden that attracts the butterflies. Instead of building a bigger better faster net, let the key executives land on your compelling content.

Now on the flip side, here are some things that don't work so well:

  1. LinkedIn spam InMail - Generic templates that look personal will get deleted faster than a gaffe in a prerecorded award show speech. Assuming just because you have a connection in common gives you carte blanche and casual access – fail.
  2. Sheer persistence - Yes, 5 to 12 touches will work if there is initial interactivity or latent interest. Feel free to call an uninterested contact with no compelling event all twelve times in a row to prove my point. You can't always knock down the door with sheer will alone. That used to work in a bygone era but you've gotta be smarter than that today.
  3. Templated e-mail blasts and newsletters: We love them, whole industries are built on them. But the metrics just aren't there! 10% open rate doesn't equate to read rate. Most read the title and skip on. That's why blogging inside LinkedIn makes a profound impact. I'm stunned by the level of engagement and how deeply people read, often every word. An acclaimed e-mail template with the same subject line that everyone uses is not going to work for you. I know a President who got that same template from 3 vendors in one week. His unamused direct response? "Nice template."
  4. Shotgunning your business cards at conferences. If you treat people like a number they'll erase your info.
  5. Generic outreach. – Anything plain vanilla is forgotten instantly. Work to stand out as a beacon of enlightenment with humor and insight. The point of this post is to swim upstream against all the status quo methods of business development itself.
  6. Mistakenly believing senior executives will attend conferences at all: A sales person reached out to an SVP, excited to connect with her team and letting them know they had a booth at XYZ Muckety Muck 4.0, and was she going to be there? Her response after speedreading a 3 paragraph thought-to-be-tailored email: "No."

And here are some bonus thoughts:

  • Do you know any other 'nice people' who I could call? This is so shockingly simple. I met a top sales person who set records with this strategy and tried to teach it to his team. Most couldn't fathom how easy it was but a few tried it and racked up enviable sales souvenirs. Here's the entire technique. If you speak to a nice person, genuinely ask in the moment – fully there: "Before I say goodbye, do you know of any other nice people like you that maybe also have a similar problem we could help them with?" This is completely counter-intuitive and defies logic, reason and especially The Challenger Sale. People buy from those they know, like and trust. To be liked, like someone first – genuinely take an interest in them. Nice people do nice things. It's painful to write this down, you'll probably see it as an urban legend. Secretly try it and you'll be stunned.
  • Leverage the principle of Non-Hunger: Prospects smell despair on your lips. Remember the last time you needed to write up a proposal and had no time. In a rush a customer called, tried to buy, you were super urgent and you felt them bite like crazy. The principle of non-hunger was at work. How can you train yourself to listen intently while being interested and disinterested at the same time? Confidence – you don't need the business. Radiate this: Although you'd like their business, you're bringing in a ton of key deals and this customer is not a make or break.
  • Walk up to someone extremely powerful and you've got a ten second virtual elevator: A friend of mine walked up to one of the Sharks from the US Shark Tank program in San Francisco recently, shook his hand, struck up a conversation and talked for awhile. He owned it, was natural and was relevant. He opened with admiration – it was sincere and genuine. Now that's a connection. I have another friend who's never missed an opportunity to meet someone well known. They approach confidently and met with admiration the leaders they actually aspire to be. That same philosophy created a connection with Richard Branson for my friend in the USA.
  • Be involved in good causes: Being passionate about solving world problems is a universal theme. You could join a board of directors and suddenly be on a committee with bank presidents. You're expanding your network. It's not a way to directly connect; it places you among a rare group of people doing something tangible to improve the world, invoking good karma.
  • Put out good energy, smile: Seems simple but I can't tell you how many times I smiled big at a massive conference or networking event and someone wonderful approached. We get back what we put out into this world, it's all reciprocal. The law of reciprocity is very real. Practice random acts of kindness daily, pay it forward and help strangers.
  • Embrace the Ziglar Factor: "You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want." Zig Ziglar hit the nail on the head with this quote, he passed away a few years ago and was legend. Find leaders and people you admire; don't propitiate but do everything you can to help them reach their dreams. Just doing this selflessly, wholeheartedly, truly wanting that dream more for them than for yourself, opens magical doors.

Notice I didn't mention very much about social selling. There's a cacophony and high roar there. To combat that there's a rising chorus of a return to the phone. What I'm looking to share in this article are some unusual methods for getting into the inner circle of people that can change your stars. Here are a few other things I've seen that deserve honorable mention to get your creative juices flowing: SlideShares or Videos in e-mails. QR codes on cupcakes triggering a custom multimedia message for a prospect. Extremely creative conference swag. Laser printed logos on things or laser cut metal business cards (makes you careful with who you meet as it costs a fortune to give someone your card... LOL). Completely customized white papers created for just one targeted customer. Private boxes at sporting events. Hold your own conferences featuring top rock bands and world leaders. Build conferences with extremely advanced sessions only, rather than anything entry level. Build a CXO council or alliance. Corporate Executive Board has done this very well.

Now it's your turn: How do you reach the unreachable? What unique techniques have you found most helpful in accessing powerful decision makers? Who do you truly admire whom you'd like to connect with that could change your life? Since you know you're worthy of their time, what's holding back? Do you feel like it's impossible? When would be a better time than right now, to lob a B2B e-mail into the interwebs abyss of first name @ company and see what you get back? It should not exceed 5 sentences or contain any links whatsoever, not even in the signature. You can always reach me at tony@rsvpselling and see if I respond, I welcome your candor. OK, I'll always respond – just wanted to see if you're paying close attention here at the end. ;-)

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Steve Jurvetson

Innovate Or Die – The Sigmoid Curve Defines Your Future

In my lifetime the average age of a Fortune 500 corporation has gone from 80 years down to just 18 years! Combine this shocking statistic with the fact that even the best corporations such as Google and Amazon have average employee tenure of barely 1 year, and I think you’ll agree we have a problem. Professor Richard Foster from Yale University estimates that by 2020 more than three-quarters of the S&P 500 will be companies that we haven’t heard of yet. Problems and opportunities all fused together – it all depends how you look at it.

There was a time when incumbency in a market or entrenchment in a customer account represented a huge advantage; but now it can appear to be a legacy millstone around your neck. Some are predicting [wrongly] the extinction of sales people, to be steadily replaced by AI social selling autobots [not]. The barrier to entry for new competitors has never been lower; and the process of switching suppliers for customers has never been easier. Web services make integration to ‘best of breed’ cloud application easy. Access to low cost labor, combined with advances in technology and engagement platforms are changing everything. Just have a look at the staggering results of Jack Ma with Alibaba! The numbers of this eCommerce giant are staggering: 100 million buyers shop on the Alibaba site every day with 60 million actual transactions daily. They’ve created 14 million jobs in China and have gown from 18 people to 30,000 staff in just 15 years. Yahoo invested $1 billion in the business. 800 million people use the associated financial transaction system. Alibaba has a bigger market capitalization than Wallmart and IBM… wow! The average age of their staff is 28.

Change is coming to your local area too but the light at the end of the tunnel need not be your near death experience or a train coming the other way. What’s the secret to prosperity in rapidly changing markets and a globally competitive economy? It’s the same as it always been – innovation and great customer service combined with flawless execution of well-conceived strategy, driven by leaders with good values. We will always live in a human world where real connection matters – people will always invest with and buy from those they like and trust. Social platforms are merely another way of engaging. Technology will never replace those who provide leadership, insight and value in every interaction.

In one of my posts I stated that any buffoon can cut costs to temporarily create profit; but cost-cutting is almost always a tactic, not a strategy. You cannot cost cut your way to sustained success because sooner or later a business must provide value and differentiate through innovation, value and service. The world needs builders, not destroyers, but building businesses organically (not just through acquisition) is tough work. It requires real leadership, commitment and passionate sales and marketing people to execute. All this raises a daunting question: How do you escape commoditization and avoid extinction – how do you lead?

There is something staggeringly difficult that every business must do to both survive and prosper. It’s the Mount Everest of personal development and business transformation – we must all innovate and reinvent ourselves... but how? The world is filled with advice on what to do… tell me how!

I am blessed with amazing people in my life. One of my mentors, Anthony Howard, answers the question in the most profound way. He does it with the ‘must read’ leadership book of 2015 which is being published by Wiley in just a few weeks. The title is: Humanise: Why Human-Centred Leadership is the Key to the 21st Century. Anthony Howard is a leadership luminary and I’ve been fortunate to read an advance copy.

He writes about the Sigmoid Curve as it relates to leadership – it’s an ideal framework for innovation and reinvention. The Sigmoid curve is usually used to visualize product lifecycle and manufacturers know all about this curve and use it to refresh products, create upgraded models and then plan for end of life and next generation releases.

But companies need to think in the same terms and Anthony goes on to write the following in his upcoming book:

“In order to avoid the inevitable decline, you need to rethink what you are doing — that is, innovate — as you approach the top of the curve, when everything appears to be going fabulously well. Doing this can sometimes lead to a temporary dip, for instance as profits decline due to increased R&D investment, although success will launch a new curve. This new upswing motion forms an inflexion point and creates the sigmoid curve.

“Changing direction when things are going well is not easy. In business sales are booming, profits are up, people enjoy working for a market leader, customers love you... In government the economy is strong, debt is being paid down, unemployment is low... In your personal life relationships are flourishing, communication is honest and frequent, the world seems radiant ... This is often the calm before the storm, the comfort before the seven-year itch, the illusory satisfaction of supportive polls or market research.

“Wise leaders take steps to prepare for the future, just as navigators know the sun does not shine forever and always keep a close eye on weather and water. They know a storm will roll in at some point and always maintain a state of readiness.

“Looking away from what is successful at the moment to what could be successful in the future requires strong leadership. It requires courage to confront the chaos and confusion that marks inflexion points and to navigate the fog of uncertainty.”

Anthony is a practical man and was a merchant seaman in his youth. He went on to lead at the highest levels on business. He goes on later in his book to explain how to navigate the Sigmoid curve.

“The transition from one cycle to the next starts with an initial dip, which can feel like a loss of direction and be financially and emotionally draining. Living in and through the chaos and confusion of inflexion points and disruption is hard work …

“Sometimes the inflexion point is forced on you by an event such as a global financial crisis. Suddenly what was clear becomes murky, what was straightforward becomes confused. Strategic plans are binned before they can gather dust. Employees are not sure how to act or what to do. The firm is facing a crisis, and you are the leader at the helm. What do you do?

“Only one strategy works in times of chaos and confusion: Lead by purpose. Ensure people know the reason why. You have no idea how long it will take to work through the inflexion point, nor any great clarity about how things will look on the other side. In times of clear weather and steady-as-she-goes navigation you can make three- and five-year plans. In times of confusion and chaos you can focus only on longer-term purpose, since only it remains clear. Purpose stands like the North Star, or a distant lighthouse, toward which you can steer through the storm.”

The above text in italics is an extract from Humanise. Why Human-Centred Leadership is the key to the 21st century, copyright (c) Anthony Howard, 2015, John Wiley & Sons Australia Ltd. If you aspire to leadership then this book is essential reading; I promise you that it has the power to change your business and your life. If you would like to download a sample chapter, go to Anthony Howard’s LinkedIn profile and download from the Summary section.

Here are some parting thoughts from me. Markets change and competitors are constantly seeking to out-fox and out-manoeuvre you. Whether it be from disruptive technologies, new market entrants, political and economic change, demographic shifts, whatever… you must be able to innovate, change and reinvent yourself for the people and markets you serve. This does not mean that you abandon timeless values and principles of ethics; but it does mean you must embrace change as you lead. There is no such thing as steady-state or the status quo in business, politics, or personal life for that matter – feelings of certainly are illusionary. The reality is that your business is either growing or withering. Grow it must or it will fade and die.

The secrets to re-booting your Sigmoid curve include being visionary because the best way to predict the future is to invent it! You must also have customer intimacy in your chosen markets and obsessively listen to your clients and anticipate their needs. You also need a killer team of passionate people; everywhere within the organization (except maybe the accounting department). Finally, have a massive bias toward action and be willing to fail (but fail fast and get off dead horses immediately) while passing the credit on to your team for every success. The leader is the culture of any organization so be the change you need in your people. Be the best CEO you can be, even if you are just CEO of your department or team. CEO stands for: Chief Example Officer and Chief Encouragement Officer.

What is the true meaning of leadership to you? Please comment below.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

 

Government Sues IBM – Blind Leading The Deaf?

The Queensland Government in Australia is again instigating legal action against IBM over a failed SAP payroll implementation with integration to a third-party HR solution. The failed project was high profile – think The Sixth Sense movie... ‘I pay dead people’. It allegedly cost the government $1.25 billion and without commenting on the case itself, allow me to provide some insights concerning lessons to be learned for anyone selling to government.

I will declare up-front that I have a tortured relationship with this very government department, Queensland Health, as I’ve previously won two very large software contracts in years past that never got banked. One was with a North American vendor where I was regional Managing Director and the other with an Australian public company where I was Sales Director. Between both of these opportunities, the government issued onerous tenders. We responded, answered clarifications, conducted demos, entered into negotiations, made contract concessions, and even conducted a paid pilot… then silence. On both occasions there were huge investments from us and competitors within the software industry; but everyone’s time, resources and money were wasted. The cost to industry was enormous. We later discovered that it was the failed payroll/HR project that had subsumed the funding.

The salient lesson being that the biggest competitor in every enterprise opportunity is ‘do nothing’ – the status quo. Even if that’s not the case, always act as if it is because this drives you to business value, which will strongly differentiate you from your competitors who tend to lead with what they do and how they do it.

I wrote a recent article (The Six Risks Sales people Must Manage) and in it I say that inertia, apathy and status quo are our biggest enemy in selling. Despite a customer’s desire to improve their business or department by implementing change, many projects go nowhere. Amazingly, no one on the client side seems to damage their career – they instead see benefits in gathering lots of valuable information. This is especially the case in State and Federal government entities.

Over the years I’ve adopted a saying for what it’s like doing business with government: “The blind leading the deaf.” Lots of nice people with good intentions but the politics and machinery are wired for dysfunction. I’ve won massive deals selling to government at all levels and I’ve paid sales people single individual commission checks of up to $400,000. What I’m about to share with you is not theory; everything comes from the real world. In addition to having absolute integrity, here are my ten tips for succeeding with government (more commentary on the IBM case at the end):

  1. Be willing to invest. The ticket to the dance is insanely expensive. Are you really up for the investment of time and resources to merely earn the right to pitch? Panel contracts, onerous terms and conditions including liquidated damages, consequential losses, guarantees, indemnities, erosion of your own intellectual property rights – yes, it’s all part of the ‘privilege’ of potentiallydoing business. Then the individual departments or agencies want to use the ‘contract’ as the baseline for them running their own additional process with variations because they are ‘different’.
  2. You must have relevant reference customers. Government markets are not the place to pioneer; you’ll be old and wrinkly by the time you succeed – not really, your employer will have lost patience and fired you by then. Seriously, government is very risk-averse so don’t agree to pioneer in government verticals unless you have relevant and solid reference customers and case studies. Also ensure that you have a compensation plan that acknowledges the long sales-cycles and long-term investment of time.
  3. Sell high and then also gain consensus. Strategic selling, by definition, means early engagement at senior levels. But you cannot breach probity once a tender has been issued by seeking to go around their process or bypass the chain of command. If you want to sell strategically, then invest early to set an agenda and help build a business case with a bias toward your unique value. But whether you’re early or late, you must gain broad support – government is the land of consensus-based decision-making. Cover everyone, all of the people who can say ‘no’ as well as those who say ‘yes’.
  4. Identify and engage the eco-system of consultants and influencers.Within government, a successful career depends on managing risk and having someone to blame when things go wrong. God forbid that the cause of failure be from within the department with poor leadership or bad project management, ill-defined requirements, inadequate funding, crappy change management, or non-qualified staff. No, it’s always important to have both an external consultant and vendor to blame. So, who are the consultants in your world who engage early to build their business case, develop their requirements and assist them in going to market with a tender? You need relationships with these external influencers because they can make sure you’re invited to participate and provide you with informal support. Often they understand the power-base and politics and are invaluable strategic allies. Failure to foster these relationships is a big mistake.
  5. Beware unfriendly consultants and external lawyers embedded within their team. The more difficult it becomes and the longer it takes, the more money the consultants and lawyers make. The ‘law of self-interest’ works against the government and you as the supplier. Lawyers are to be instructed, rather than drive a negotiation. I’ve had to nicely confront senior government officials about this on a number of occasions by exhorting them to step-up and take control. I once visited a lawyer and said: “I only have $150 but can I ask you three questions?” He took my money and said “Sure, what’s your second question?” One university is doing experiments using lawyers instead of rats… there are just some things that even rats won’t do. LOL... those last two examples aren’t true and no offense intended to my friends in the legal profession. There is a software salesman joke at the end of this post to provide balance.
  6. Manage their bullying demands to stretch the truth. I’ve seen many tenders where some requirements are contradictory, yet the conflicting specification nominates both as ‘mandatory’. Government regularly compiles massive lists of ‘mandatory’ technical and functional requirements that are an aggregation of various supplier’s product specifications. Then they state that if you do not tick ‘fully complies’ with all mandatory requirements, you’re out. It’s tough; you know your product or solution can meet their needs, yet they insist on nonsensical and unreasonable compliance within their specification. Very importantly, work with your product people and legal team to ensure you are being truthful and accurate in providing words that satisfy the tender. Your internal legal people are your friends, work with them and heed their advice – never breach their trust. Also never sell vaporware and never underestimate the difficulty of integration.
  7. Understand their process. The tender will have a weighted evaluation criteria that you need to understand. Use your cunning and guile to figure it out. If you have to do a formal presentation, demonstration or reference site visits; then make sure you understand the scoring criteria. Stop at every stage and ask their team: “Have you seen everything you need to see here in order to accurately score your sheets?” Never assume, always ask – they will think you are a professional for doing so.
  8. Understand how they assess value for money and define risk.Government people tend to talk about delivering outcomes and value for money while managing government’s risk. The reality is that they tend to rely on contracts as the primary tool – what a blunt Neanderthal weapon a contract is if you need an ongoing relationship. Once anyone is quoting clauses in a contract as a way of resolving problems, the project and relationship is almost certainly terminally doomed. More on value for money after this top ten list.
  9. Use risk as a weapon. Price is never the main issue when selling to government. They care about risk and they will pay a premium to be perceived as managing it well. How can you position as best value and lowest risk – the solution provider in ‘the Goldilocks zone’? You must be seen to be big enough to deliver, yet small enough for them to be an important customer (in their eyes, capable of being strong-armed or pushed by them). Make them fall in love with the expertise of your people and methodology, rather than your product or service. Make it all about cultural alignment and the ability to work as a team. Ask them where they see the risks and then sell to those factors. Here is a real example of using risk to win a $100 million contract.
  10. Be patient when negotiating. I once walked into a meeting following notification that we were the ‘preferred supplier’ for a whole of government contract. It was a massive deal and to our horror, an external consultant sat there with government officials in the meeting and told us that although we had won, they were now changing the basis of the tender. I was requested to cut-out my channel partner / systems integrator and go direct even though we had bid on the basis that they were the ‘prime’ solution provider with us in behind them. We instantly requested an adjournment and I insisted everyone remain silent as we left and in the elevator. Once outside, I assured the three other companies with me in the consortium that we were 100% solid in our integrity and we would ‘stay the course’. It was just a few weeks before Christmas and government was banking on our desperation with end of year or end of quarter, and hoping for cannibalism on our side. I suggested we all call our bosses to say: “The deal cannot contract this quarter, take it out of the forecast.” We all made the unhappy calls and then reconvened with government. We patiently worked together and contracted seven weeks later in a manner that met everyone’s needs. There is a postscript here but that’s a story for another time – the ineptitude and naivety of government can be breath-taking.

A few of the points above warrant further explanation.

First; how do you manage the risk of ‘do nothing?' Constantly ask yourself: Are they really committed? Do they know why they are doing this? Is their senior executive commitment beyond a mere sponsor? Is there either a compelling business case or compelling event driving the project or initiative? Is their level of dissatisfaction strong enough or can the incumbent salvage their situation? Why will they change? Is the funding adequate and is it truly secured and committed for the project?

Second; what is the formula for Value For Money that governments use? It is always derivation of my illustration below.

Fit For Purpose is easy to determine because it’s what the bulk of the tender document is about. The difficult part of the equation, the way you truly differentiate and win, is with Lowest Risk Profile. How do they define and assess risk? In a recent article I provide a real example of how a customer defined risk in the exact opposite way that the vendor did. The vendor is one of the biggest software companies on the planet and they said: “Hey, look at how massively big we are. That means we’re the logical choice and lowest risk.” The case study is here – the customer saw it very differently. The last part of the formula is Total Cost of Ownership but do not make assumptions, especially if cloud solutions are being compared with on-premise, or capital purchase versus off balance sheet mechanisms. Take the time to ask the right questions and then truly listen to understand.

A senior government executive once said to me: “Your prices are too high.” I responded instantly with a smile and said: “We’d love to be able to reduce our prices but the cost of doing business with you is crippling. It took us three years of investment to get on the panel, then we had to respond to your department’s additional tender process because you’re different and did not trust what central government put in place. Then we had to invest in a proof of concept that ran for six weeks. On top of all that, we then had to engage external lawyers, pay for additional insurances and organize escrow of source code. All just to be here in your office and after nearly four years we haven't been paid anything yet.” He didn’t ask for price reductions again.

I really don’t understand why Queensland Government is wasting more taxpayer money on their failed payroll/HR project by again attacking IBM – maybe it’s because there is a State election in just under two weeks. Politician magicians are good with diversion. But governments at all levels in Australia have appalling failure rates with shared services initiatives and also tend to underestimate the complexity and cost of integration. On top of this, their ability to drive change is hopeless with passive management, strongly unionised and aging workforces and a shortage of real leaders.

I’ve dealt with Queensland Health on multiple occasions with separate tenders and companies, and the experiences were painful. They’ve cost themselves and industry huge amounts with ill-conceived tenders, poorly run processes and inadequate project management; yet we never considered suing them – it was never in our DNA and also because you never get to business with them again if you play that card.

Queensland Government has attempted litigation previously with IBM over the failed payroll/HR project and they allegedly reached some form of settlement in 2010. But now they have fired their own Solicitor General and gone to external lawyers to resurrect the smelly corpse. This is despite the fact that SAP has been successfully implemented for HR and payroll in Queensland, elsewhere in Australia (at both State and Federal levels), and all over the world. IBM is a formidable opponent – an IT giant with real integrity and massive resources. It will be interesting to see how this pans-out. The lawyers from legal firms, Minter Ellison and Jones Day, are now set to reap huge profits from the continuing stoush.

For background and summary coverage by Paris Cowan from IT News, there is an excellent overview here. If you need guidance on selling to government in Australia, contact Judy Hurditch at Intermedium – they’re the experts.

I promised to balance the derogatory jokes about lawyers. Maybe Queensland Government can use the following in their battle with IBM? What’s the difference between the software system and the software salesman? You only have to punch information into the software once.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Martin Bowling

10 Leadership Insights From A Serial Millennial Entrepreneur

By 2020, 50% of the workforce will be millennials. A millennial is usually defined as someone born between 1980 and 2005. We older people look down upon them and judge their sense of entitlement, narcissism, gadgetry fuelled ADD, and constant need for positive reinforcement. Like the Gen-Y crowd before them, they burst into the workplace saying: “I’ve been here for ten minutes, when are you promoting me? What’s wrong with you, can't you recognise real talent when it’s staring you in the face?”

But Caleb Hong breaks the stereotype and is not someone you discover on LinkedIn… well you will but he has no photo and almost no detail in his profile. He doesn’t blog – he’s not seeking anyone and prefers to stay under the radar. Sorry Caleb! He is however a millennial serial entrepreneur who is very successful and incredibly complex; shy and thoughtful with a razor sharp mind and sense of purpose in his life. He and I were recently part of a business leadership panel in Sydney and we got to know each other. While he was speaking on stage I was wishing that I was in the audience so I could take notes.

When I got home, I furiously wrote down what I could remember and then had a coffee with him a few days later. He has even turned a business into a franchise that went national and sold others for healthy profits. At one point he was operating four businesses at once, overseeing a hundred staff and coping with being on anti-depressants. He figured-out how to function effectively with just the 2-3 hours each day where he could positively interact with people and make good decisions. Here is the real world wisdom from Caleb – the rest of this post is essentially from him.

Insight #1: Listen to the market to find problems you then solve for them.

I think businesses shy away because they feel they are too small or don’t have enough experience. They have a picture in their mind about what they need to become or achieve before they can approach that potential client or investor. This timidity comes from looking at ourselves rather than looking at what companies and individuals need in the marketplace. It’s got nothing to do with you. One thing about remarkable companies is that they are customer-centric. I think it’s important to adopt that focus early on.

Here’s a simple process I’ve used often in the past twelve months. Create an approach that can get you directly in front of the right people. Listen to the market, find problems you can solve, Figure out what people want & need. Package it; then sell it back to them. The companies giving you initial feedback can become your first customers.

I’ve closed 6-figure deals, pre-selling services without a business card or a business logo, because I found what businesses desperately needed and gave it to them. Two months ago I did a similar thing; I reached out to a $6 billion financial company. I had a look at their marketing and extracted 14 key areas where they were leaving money on the table. Then I got in touch with them and gave them a comprehensive run-down on what they needed to do. The exercise was simple, but the impact was huge. When it’s not about you, and you make it about helping and solving problems that businesses or individuals have, you’re able to cut through the noise and gain traction very quickly.

There are two reasons why I think this might resonate with businesses. What’s changed over recent years is that the marketplace expects businesses to add value – not just communicate value.

And you want the shortest pathway to cash-flow and at the same time create a proof of concept as quickly as possible.

Insight #2: Your ability to sell your ideas is crucial.

Whether it’s a product, a proposal or a project; nobody is going to believe in your idea more than you. But it is critically important that you don’t just rely on the idea to sell itself, even if it’s good. This may seem obvious but so many make this mistake.

Ideally, you want to have a great idea and be great at presenting and selling that idea, which leads me to the first point.

A) When selling your idea, work on optimising both the sales process of your idea and the idea itself. Sometimes, we can focus on one at the expense of the other. If you address both, you’re doubling the rate of your success.

B) If you were the buyer, would you buy your own product? The reason why this question is so important is because people buy into you before they buy into your idea. While you’re selling the idea, investors and potential clients are first looking at you.

Steve Jobs believed in his company and products so much, it created a reality distortion for the rest of us, including his own team. We talked about the man as much as we talked about the products.

When we believe in our idea, we’re helping our investors, potential clients and employees close the gap between ‘what is’ and ‘what could be’. That gap becomes smaller and smaller. And that’s exactly what we need to move fast and pivot, as our products and business are growing & improving while it gets closer to what it ‘could be’. The most forward thinking companies live in this gap. The businesses that are left behind predominantly live in the ‘what is’ or worse, ‘what was’.

C) Integrate context with content. Your idea is the content. The industry and the businesses you are applying the idea is context.

Selling your idea becomes so much more effective and persuasive when you understand the context as much as your content. Your product, proposal or project becomes an obvious solution to a much needed problem or need. A simple exercise is to rate out of 10 how much you understand your product, project or proposal and then do the same for your context – the niche that you are trying to reach, the business that you are speaking to, the markets you are seeking to reach. Then work to improve the content or context based on your score.

Insight #3: Most of your time is wasted.

For about 24 months while I was battling through depression, I had a mere 2-3 good hours to get anything done. That taught me a lot. If you only had two hours to achieve results each day, you wouldn’t waste time on trivial things. Rather, you’d be doing things that give you the biggest returns. It’s actually a really powerful exercise – just ask yourself: “If I had 2-3 hours in a day to build my business, what would I be doing? More importantly, what would I stop doing?”

As you apply resourcefulness to your time, your efforts, your money, something happens… resourcefulness not only makes your resources go further, it actually attracts more resources.

These are the things I did during that period of forced time-poverty. In the few hours I had each day, I focused on the most critical activities and projects and reduced or eliminated low value activities. I automated or delegated the rest. But that’s not enough. I also created a better process to make decisions fast. I used a simpler but more intuitive set of metrics to drive my businesses – going from whole spread-sheets to just looking at 3-5 numbers a day. Instead of training my best people, I mentored them. It was one of the best ways of taking myself out of the equation while empowering people to achieve bigger results. It’s like training an Olympian. At that level, you become a trainer, a coach and a mentor.

I love Michael Gerber’s work on repeatable systems, but building systems without the right spirit and heart, without the trust of your best people; is a recipe for sub-optimal results. Connecting people to what you’re doing with mission and purpose is key and I love what Tony has written on this topic (I read his LinkedIn blog).

Insight #4: Business is about people.

The quality of the people you work with inevitably changes the quality of your business. And with that said, it’s important to work with the best people, whether they are employees, business partners or other businesses that support your growth – law firm, accountant, HR services, etc. Even if you can’t afford them now, there’s no reason why you can’t meet them now. Here is an example: I’ve worked with law firms that I selected because they were cheaper to begin with and eventually charged me double as I grew and could afford their fees… but they were the best. And I’ve worked with top consultants and accountants in this way too. The best people will also introduce you to other top professionals that you need in your ‘virtual’ team. They will also connect you with potential clients. But what’s even more important is who you become by working with the best people. Quality people make a massive difference in the success of a business – only work with the best; find a way to afford them.

How do you bring the best people into your world? To do that, here are two practical things I can think of. First you must be the very best you can be, personally and with your business. Great people attract similar people and the fastest way to better yourself is to find mentors.

The second point builds on the first: You want to create a framework that creates ‘pull’ and attracts the right people. I use what I call the 7C framework – your Core Mission, Character, Chemistry, Competence, Culture, Connection & Contribution.

I use the 7C framework to better myself and I’ve created a training program using this framework for my team. I use the framework when hiring people and it serves as a compass that helps me identify the right organisations and individuals to build relationships. And using the 7C framework across different areas of the business creates congruency, which is a key ingredient in building a great brand. So the cycle perpetuates.

Insight #5: You don't need more information – you need more action.

So many people believe that they need more information before they can decide and execute. I think that’s a misconception because the focus is on learning, rather than execution. The fact of the matter is that we do not lack information – we have information overload! We’re especially running into that problem head-on in 2015 because there’s so much information out there, rather than being compelling, it paralyses. We become overwhelmed with information and it causes confusion & bottlenecks, so we look to learn more to resolve it, and it becomes a negative cycle.

The key to success is learning the right thing, not learning more. It’s learning the right thing that empowers execution. My guess is that most of us already know enough. We know far more than we are implementing. What is needed is insight and less information.

Insight #6: Business plans are a waste of time.

Business plans are slow and they become out-dated quickly, before they’re even finished. The more time your spend on your plan, the longer you are out of the market. It’s all downtime because there’s no cash coming in and by the time you’re ready, the market most likely will have changed and you’re once again out of tune.

It’s better to plan as you go. When you start a business or a project within an existing business, 80% of your efforts should be focused on selling and marketing, generating revenue as fast as possible. That’s your business lifeline and it’s your proof of concept. Let’s take it from there and just simplify it. If you want to market and sell something, you just need three things to get started. 1) You need to know who your target audience is; 2) You need an offer; and 3) You must choose one customer channel that you’ll leverage to reach them. That’s it. It’s not 100 moving parts – complexity can come later. We are planning as we go and pivoting based on what we learn. This cuts enormous time and energy.

Insight #7: Ditch the 12 month calendar and instead work with 12 week cycles.

Many businesses tend to have their biggest months towards the end of the year. That’s because a year gives you at least 10 months where you can procrastinate until it’s crunch time. I treat 12 weeks like a year. I’ve been doing this for my businesses and my client’s businesses and found it makes execution more predictable. The challenge with a 12 month calendar is that there is a lot of assumptions built into it. The further we plan, the more assumptions we’re making. Making decisions and allocating resources on assumptions and theory in a cut-throat market is risky business. Short cycles create urgency, action and accountability – no time to wait or procrastinate.

Insight #8: It’s all about rapid momentum.

I was speaking to a billionaire once and there was one thing he said that struck a deep chord. In fact, after that conversation I realised it was something I did very consistently. He said: “It’s not about how big or small a business is, it’s more about how fast or slow a business moves”. This is now more relevant than ever.

Everything becomes easier with momentum. And to create momentum, you need speed. To create speed, it’s important to make execution easier. Remove complexity. A complex plan is harder to implement.

One of the metrics I measure daily in my business is doing one thing per day that simplifies something in my business – whether that’s creating a checklist, an SOP, taking out a step in a process, replacing technology, etc.

The simpler your business becomes, the more likely it’s going to build rapid momentum. Don’t make things more complicated than it needs to be.

Insight #9: Your life partner is your life-line.

Something that I learnt was about valuing people for who they are, and not for what they can necessarily do for you. I learnt that from my wife. I’ve never met anyone with so much authenticity. One big factor of life-balance is having the right people around you. They help you do it better through instruction, imitation but most importantly, through inspiration.

I think life-balance is actually a product of our perspective. The perspective of the life we desire does dictate whether we create balance and how we choose to create that balance.

One perspective that I love thinking about is seeing myself and a whole bunch of people that I love still doing life together until our last breathe in wheel chairs. That would be cool. And that perspective drives my balance today.

Insight #10: Instill a multiplier into the DNA of your work

We’ve been accustomed with the idea that good is not good enough, and that to be good you want to be excellent at what you do. It’s a fantastic idea except today most people in the marketplace are thinking the same.

It’s hard to stand out in today’s market but I have a hack that could make you dangerous. There are hundreds of articles talking about why you need to upload blog posts regularly. But what if I told you that you can actually pick up 1-2 clients per blog post you create. Would this be of interest to you?

And what if I then laid it out, step-by-step, thoroughly and as specifically as possible. What if all you had to do was to implement the process again and again whenever you needed more clients. This would very quickly create a list of businesses waiting to speak to you.

I know this works because I’ve run this for a handful of my clients. One company in Sydney in particular achieved an account penetration by ten-folds using this approach.

You can apply this in many different scenarios and foresee the outcome of your activities. When you do what you do -- whether that’s marketing, product expansion, sales, strategy meetings, client delivery, etc. – is it going to cause people to beat down your door for more? Or will it cause people to simply say “that was good.”

For example, we can ask ourselves: “What needs to happen in order to publish one blog post and have a list of businesses waiting to speak to me?” And what would happen if you could find application for this again and again in the more critical parts of your business?

Every activity has an innate DNA. Some are designed to produce average results, some negative, some are great and others are so revolutionary or meet the deepest need in the most practical way possible that it commands the attention of many people immediately. The speed of cut-through depends on a value equation.

Is your activity designed with the DNA of additions or multiplication? For one speaking engagement, you get three more. What would you have to do for that to happen? Now you’re designing your business to multiply with each small act.

This last insight, number 10, is one big thing that separated Apple from its competition. Here is a great video by Guy Kawasaki who worked with Steve Jobs.

And also great wisdom from Steve Jobs himself.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

Main image photo by Flickr: meridican

CRM Failure – The Dirty Secret That’s Holding You Back

In my last corporate role, I ran the Australian region for one of world’s biggest CRM software companies. It was my final role in a twenty-five year career working in the technology sector. Everywhere I worked I was always a ‘true believer’ in what I was selling – you have to be, to be successful. But now, with two years under my belt on the outside of the corporate world as a management consultant, I’ve got a different perspective.

I’m seeing a common theme working with clients … CRM is a dirty word. That’s because CRM failure rates are high – as bad, if not worse, than that of ERP back in the Y2K stampede. It’s also because sales people tend not to embrace the technology (regarding it as an overhead that doesn’t directly help them sell) and management doesn’t trust the reports it generates. I remember when Siebel was all the rage… the next big thing after ERP in 2000. Tom Siebel ran his company very much with a command and control philosophy; and that was how the software worked. The results were less than ideal – massive enterprise software license deals that were implemented as ‘manage-up’ reporting tools and the majority of licenses languishing as unused shelf-ware.

CRM software has evolved since the client/server era where Siebel exploded onto the scene. Oracle acquired Siebel and have done a great job in modernizing and moving CRM into the cloud along with other leading providers including Salesforce, Microsoft, SugarCRM and many others. Cloud computing means that the vendor shares in the risk of successful deployment. This shared-risk / shared-reward business model has transformed many software segments. If you want a CRM initiative to be successful, I’ve got some important rules to follow, but first, why does CRM fail and where are the risks in implementation? How do you overcome the negativity and also secure the right level of funding from the CEO?

I’m not a CRM basher. I passionately believe that you have absolutely no chance of being customer-centric and creating a single source of the truth about prospects and customers without one. CRM software is the best platform to manage customer life-cycle and automate customer processes – every business should have one, but no more than one.

But here is the first big problem. The term, Customer Relationship Management has been hijacked by CRM software technology and success or failure has little to do with the tech and everything to do with how it’s implemented. Customer Relationship Management should be a strategy, then a process, then a suite of enabling technologies that place customers at the heart of everything you do.

Dr Michael Hammer coined the term, ‘business process re-engineering’, and he says: “The technology stuff is the easy stuff.” He researched why ERP implementations failed but that’s a topic for another time. Selecting the wrong CRM technology guarantees failure but choosing the right products and solutions does not guarantee success – change management is key. Here are the main reasons CRM implementations fail:

  • Failure to define your customer experience strategy
  • Failure to design with sales, service and support staff being the primary internal ‘customers’ and users
  • Failure to integrate social selling and marketing automation
  • Failure to embed sales methodology and sales process.
  • Failure to configure to be a deal management and sales coaching platform.
  • Failure to integrate as the single source of truth for the entire customer lifecycle

The antithesis of this list obviously gets you on the path to CRM success but how do you secure the essential support of the CEO for the right level of funding and executive commitment? You must be able to answer his or her three big questions: 1) What is this about? 2) Why is it important? 3) What will this do for us? In talking with my clients, here are my recommendations for framing the conversation with the board, CEO, or executive leadership team.

Never use the term 'CRM'. Instead talk about ‘customer experience’, ‘customer lifecycle’, and ‘single source of the truth’. Executives understand these three terms and like them.

Focus on customer relationship management as a strategy and then a process. Define a sales methodology that drives your specific sales process so that reps can be coached to ensure that tactics and actions are linked to strategy. This approach delivers best practice and accountability in the sales team.

It’s important because it costs up to five times more to acquire a new customer than to upsell an existing one, and increasing customer value (upsell) is the best retention strategy. Yet placing customers at the heart of a business is just a cliche for most who allow finance systems to reign supreme. To be customer-centric you must have an effective CRM strategy supported by the right (Customer Relationship Management) system.

In response to the question of, what will it do for us? ‘It will help us to be customer-centric, grow revenues, reduce customer churn, improve renewals, enable better sales execution, create transparency in pipeline and deal coaching, and improve forecasting accuracy and revenue predictability; and it will provide us with a single source of the truth with a 360 degree view of the customer to support the entire customer lifecycle across all departments interacting with and supporting clients. Now what kind of ‘asleep at the wheel’ manager wouldn't want these things?

If you’re leading a CRM initiative, remember that it must be implemented to serve users rather than as a database for management. CRM should be a strategy and a process, rather than a product and reporting tool. The system should be designed to enable customer experience and support the entire customer lifecycle. The best CRM implementations therefore incorporate sales methodology integrated within an organization's specific sales process so that reps can be coached to ensure that tactics and actions are linked to strategy. This approach delivers best practice and accountability in the sales team. Importantly, ensure you measure the right things – you can't manage revenue in CRM.

Constantly ask the right questions. How can we make ourselves customer-centric and enable our sales and support people to be more efficient and effective? Does this place our customers at the heart of everything we do? When selecting CRM technology, here are some considerations for sorting the wheat from the chaff.

Select software technologies that are easy to use and also offer flexibility for cloud deployment, include strong process workflow, integrate easily and affordably with social media platforms (LinkedIn, etc.), marketing automation and finance systems; include mobility capabilities and integrate with collaboration, enabling you to maintain control of your data. Implementation services also need to be from an expert who understands how to link features and functions to business value to drive increased revenue and reduced costs.

Most importantly, the implemented CRM should serve the users and improve sales productivity by enabling sales processes and deal coaching. This instead of being an imposition on them or merely serving as a database reporting tool. Finally, it must be easy to use and provide a single 360 degree view of each customer (integrated with marketing, finance and other systems) to support the entire customer lifecycle.

So, don't let CRM failure be a dirty secret; make it a risk that needs to be managed. Ensure the proper level of investment and executive commitment rather than mere support.

Dave Stein from ES Research has great insights concerning CRM success and here is a two minute clip from an interview he did with me for Sales and Marketing Management Magazine.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Jordi Sanchez Teruel

Chase Your Passion

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life. – Confucius

Many of you know what you love to do in life. Many of you are still searching for it. If you can monetize your passion, time will fly by. Another route to enjoying your career and life more is finding a silver lining in your daily routine that brings you joy and do more of that.

One of the quickest ways to improve your job is to take an active interest in other people, your customers, managers and colleagues. The move from interesting to interested is a profound step. It may take discipline at first in this selfish world where we're often just struggling to survive and keep up with information overload.

Winning is an addictive process. Being part of a team is really about finding a way to help your colleagues win. When incentive structures are put in place that reward the right behaviors a sense of purpose and unity is possible.

So what is work ethic? How can some seemingly work endlessly and maintain high intensity? Is it really just type-A innate capability or upbringing? I think it has a great deal to do with the ability to be present and in the moment – 'being fully there'. Mindfulness is key to enjoying the journey. If you're constantly thinking of the future or past it can stunt your growth; you'll be less effective in the present moment.

In analyzing what makes the most successful people tick, I would make a strong case for passion. Drive, ambition and inner fire all stem from a place of joy in the doing. Action based people are resilient. We have a high pain threshold, rejection tolerance and get back up after the twelfth round with a grin. As an entrepreneur, it quickly becomes clear that ideas are cheap; real success is in the details and it's all about execution.

I've met successful sales people who love people. I've met many attorneys that excelled in new business development because they simply loved to debate and endlessly negotiate or challenge conventional wisdom! It's going to take some growing pains but continuing to improvise until you're at last in a position of reinvention in your career where all the pieces fit into the puzzle of an organization, render you a cornerstone.

There are many ways you can increase your passion but one is a mantra of asking oneself: 'What truly makes me happy?' Curiosity and hunger to know, unlock an inner power. It's a huge piece of what makes great people likable: genuine caring, empathy and attention toward others.

I was inspired to write this post because I often see what we do as business people, be it marketing, sales or business development, as an art form. Life itself can be lived as a composer free-composing a symphony, as the impressionist casting the stars over Monet's garden.

The data driven approach has sucked much of the artfulness out of telling stories and all the technology has anesthetized our hearts from the warmth of true connection. Find something about your company, your product, your service, your story or your industry to become passionate about. Passion will open a doorway into knowing and from that pathway, expertise will develop rapidly. Like a sponge, you will take in knowledge as sure as the sun rises.

Whether you've been innately born with work ethic and drive, or a raw hand of cards has been dealt to you circumstantially, passion alone can illuminate your path. There is a path for everyone to do what they love. There is a higher self to aspire to that we find in beauty, art, music and love. Ultimately, our work is a vehicle to provide for the ones we love. Tying our material dreams and goals to deeper values of people, planet plus profit allows ourselves to be made whole.

Call me an idealist, but I do believe it's possible to operate with integrity at all times. It's possible to live one's life with integrity and a pure heart, as if everything we do is being broadcast in Time Square.

I was recently asked about the benefit of hiring aggressive sales people to dominate the industry? My reply was: "I rely on cunning rather than aggression." I would certainly rather be the fox in the fable but there are no sour grapes in this story. You can never have regrets because friction creates the pearl. Learn from your mistakes; move fast and break things. Inaction and timidity are the silent killers. Roar like a lion and hunt. Go boldly after your objectives and figure it out along the way. But be kind and tolerant with others – they're human too.

The best organizations are agile and ever evolving. Passionate people set the tone and the culture. They are the lightning rods igniting new industries, fostering innovation and making vision a reality. It only takes one person in a company to make a major vibration and change the entire business. If you're reading this, that's probably you.

What are you truly passionate about? Have you found it yet? Do you love what you do? Did you always? How do you find that inner light so that you can let it shine and touch others?

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au

Main image photo by Flickr: Joe Bielawa

Microsoft Hell – Betrayal From An Insider Who Went To Apple

Okay, I get it – it’s like religion... Microsoft worshippers versus Apple zealots. I’ll be hated by many and this post is commercial suicide as I’m sure it will result in me never being engaged by the world’s largest software company. Will they 'black list' and sue me; or will they seek to save me? If only I had the passion of Steve Ballmer; maybe I could keep the faith.

If you've ever wondered about the relevance and power of social media in business to business selling, then read on. Bill Gates is a wonderful human being, a genuine philanthropist, and he has changed the world in many ways through computing along with Thomas Watson, Tim Berners-Lee and Steve Jobs. But much of Microsoft’s software is, for me, from the pits of CX (Customer eXperience) hell. It’s not just that they beta test their software on their customers and endlessly change the user interface for no good reason [in my view]; it’s their inability to provide an acceptable customer experience that is killing them. At the end of this case study I will contrast their hell with my unbelievably consistently spectacular heavenly experience with Apple. What a contrast – ‘Dumb and Dumber customer service’ vs ‘Ninja Samurai customer experience’. Have a laugh with this video before I have my rant and go dark.

I worked for decades at senior levels in the software industry and I know some of its secrets. If you knew the complexity of software coding, the different standards and programming languages, operating system inter-dependencies, the madness of managing the different types of memory, the massive numbers of bugs in all code – you would be in awe of the way your computer actually works when you turn it on. This is why I was so concerned about the Airbus ‘software rules the skies’ philosophy of flight control law and this is why I wrote about what the Air Crash Investigations did not reveal about Flight QF32.

Back to Microsoft. Up until August 2012 I was always supported by an array of IT people working for me in the companies I led. I could log a ticket or phone the internal help desk and they would turn-up at my office door to then tap away working their magic to resolve my problems. I never ran much software or downloaded any non-approved applications – just the SOE (Standard Operating Environment). But when I would ask them about what caused the problem, they would inevitably scratch their head and say: “Not really sure – I haven’t seen that problem before. You’re barely utilizing the machines resources. It should be okay now.’

For most of my life, I begrudgingly endured the 37 minutes of waiting to close down as 43 updates were downloaded when I tried to leave work to go home and see my family. I would tolerate the same crap turning-off and restarting at airports as I traveled for business. I would pay hundreds of dollars to support people to come to my home and reinstall my printer drivers or get my wireless connectivity going again when everything crapped itself after some auto-update ran without me even knowing, mysteriously blowing away the drivers. I would spend hours trying to deal with the insanity of never being able to properly disable Track Changes in Word and the endless alterations to menu structures for everyday office productivity applications such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint. I’ve endured losing hours of work because I stupidly did not save before Windows shat itself. I lived with the frustrations of e-mail crashing constantly because of the size of my PST file – no archiving capabilities and good luck easily finding anything later if you did. I even put up with Clippy with his annoying prompts in Office 97.

As the regional leader of software companies that integrated with Microsoft products, I would receive calls and e-mails from furious customers (law firms, massive enterprises and government departments) who would have our integration break due to ‘changes’ within new releases of Microsoft products. We would be expected to fix the problem even though we did not cause it and nothing had changed within the code on our side. I lived through the insanity of Vista and over-empty hype of early releases of SharePoint. Even when Microsoft bought my beloved Skype they managed to introduce mysterious back-end hacks where people’s accounts were compromised and they were forced to lose their credits and create a new Skype ID; all because they could not remember the date they first created their Skype account.

I could have made a long list of bullet-points in PowerPoint… but using bullet-points might have made me want to put a gun in my mouth – it triggers such negative emotion. Microsoft spends so much on marketing, yet customer service [experience] has been resurrected as the new sales strategy. Providing a consistently great customer experience is the most powerful lead generation model. An inability to get it right is the reason for any leaky funnel. Microsoft themselves are the demand generation engine for their competitors and social media is empowering everyday customers in terrifying ways for monolithic brands that are unable to be agile and responsive.

I’m about to tell you why I switched to a competitor and this is free advertising for them. Just in the last 8 weeks I’ve had more than 300,000 reads of my LinkedIn blog and more than 5,000 people follow me in LinkedIn who regularly feature me in Pulse feeds to millions. I have people constantly ask me whether social selling is relevant… if you read this and don't understand; I’m not sure what else to tell you.

The promise of software and IT is so alluring yet the experience often plunges us into the trough of disillusionment. Thank goodness the industry is changing with cloud and software as a service! No wonder Gmail and Google Docs are doing so well. Yes, I tried to download Office 365… that did not work for me either – I must just be stupid. Maybe it was the fact that in this region a telco was the exclusive sales channel – a telco trying to provide a good online experience; think 'the blind leading the deaf'.

Back in 2008 Microsoft ran a global marketing campaign asking: “Where do you want to go today?” When I went out on my own in business in late 2012 I decided to answer the question – straight to an Apple store!

I banished Microsoft from my life wherever possible, my business and household, phones – everything. All I retained was Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

So, what sparked this rant? I’ll give you the short version. My son starts university this year and he bought a new MacBook Pro after I convinced him to ditch the old Windows laptop his school had provided. He wants to Use Word, Excel and PowerPoint in university and we own properly purchased licensing of Office for Mac. But his MacBook Pro does not have a CD drive and I decided to download Office from Microsoft’s website and use the valid license key on the box. It was massively difficult to find a download page on Microsoft’s website because all they seem to cater for is selling to you. But I eventually found support and by some miracle ended-up in live chat with a very good support person. Fast, helpful, brilliant. Wow, Microsoft has changed, I thought. I gave him my license key and he quickly confirmed it was valid and then gave me a link to the download page. I tried to download but the license key was rejected (yes, I triple checked I was keying the correct numbers). Back to support and another chat session. On this occasion it was incredibly frustrating – a dead-end with every request for assistance. Instead of resolution, I was told to phone the support number in business hours the next day or click online and agree to pay almost $50. I’ve had many experiences phoning Microsoft support previously and on every occasion it’s made my head explode.

90 minutes later and with much higher blood pressure, I gave up in disgust after advising the support person that I would be writing this post (don't blame her Microsoft – she did her best). But then I thought: I wonder if I can use the CD drive in our family iMac computer to install the software over wifi to my son’s machine? I turned the iMac on and it booted within seconds. I clicked on Finder in my son’s machine… “Yes!” There was our family iMac appearing in my son’s Macbook. I clicked the icon, then clicked the button to request to use its drive. That request appeared instantly on the iMac screen on the machine beside – I clicked to approve. I then loaded the ‘Office for Mac’ CD and the install happened wirelessly as easily as an Apple product. The license key was accepted and then, as with all Microsoft installs, it did the usual 20 minutes of patches and updates from the Microsoft site. All done.

Microsoft seem committed to repelling me as a customer with poor software design, constantly changing the user interface for no good reason (in my mind), and providing appallingly poor service at every level.

I converted my IT religion in August 2012 after an entire lifetime attending Microsoft church. Incumbency can be powerful for creating loyalty – habits die hard and change is usually avoided. But Microsoft still managed to lose me after decades of loyalty. I was finished with praying to the IT gods for the ‘angel of blue screen death’ to pass over and descend on someone else.

Change always brings fear and uncertainty and before the switch I remember asking a colleague: “I’m thinking of making the switch. I think I’ve had enough of the endless productivity-destroying frustrations of Windows. Can you give me six reasons why the pain of change is worth it – why should I switch?” He said: “You only need one reason, not six.” He closed the lid of his MacBook, lifted it off the desk, the magnetic power connection fell away elegantly and he then said: “I’m ready to go home.” Then he sat back down and opened the lid: “I’m ready to work. You only need one reason mate and that’s it – no endless rebooting and it always just works. The operating system is bullet proof. The better screen and performance is a bonus. You’ll get used to the different navigation.” Thanks Adrian Rudman.

I love being an Apple customer. Any time I’ve had an issue (which is rare) they’ve provide rapid, intelligent, friendly and effective support – online, on the phone, or at a Genius Bar in a store. As an example, I bought a new MacBook Air last year and while I was in Vietnam recently the power supply developed a fault and would not allow me to charge my computer. Yesterday, I walked into the Apple Store in Sydney without an appointment and it was packed – the busiest I’ve seen them. I walked up to level two and was served within 20 seconds. The person directed me up to level 3 where 7 people were lined-up waiting to be directed to the appropriate area. 4 minutes later I was asked to stand in a line. 2 minutes later I was being served. I explained the situation and produced my receipt. The person checked that the unit was indeed not working, completed a simple form on their iPad and spun it around for me to sign on screen. No tricky warranty caveats about chords or power adaptors. 3 minutes later I was walking out of the store and down the street with a brand new free charging unit. Even in the busiest of times I received outstanding customer service – friendly, efficient, superb. The receipt from today is below to show this is a true story.

I wonder if Microsoft will contact me as a result of this post. Will they seek to bring the apostate back into the fold – or will they threaten me for damaging their brand? Will it be a lawyer or a customer experience empathiser who contacts me? My bet is that nobody will bother. I’ll let you know but if it’s a lawyer, I’ll be sending them an invoice for all the hours of my time they’ve wasted over the years with software problems and crappy support.

Lastly, a special mention to Adobe for being second-worst experience on the planet with their software… I swear someone there has a big annual bonus attached to a KPI metric for: Most number of software updates per customer per month. Their annual bonus must be huge! If you write software, please obsess about customer experience rather than jam-packing as many features as possible into every screen and menu. At least watching this video made me smile again.

How can Microsoft save themselves from self-immolation with their loyal customers? Now it’s over to you. 

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au

Main Image Photo by Flickr: simonbarsinister

Cadel Evans – Lessons For Winning

I’m a cycling fan and have been since Lance dragged me into the sport with his incredible work ethic and 'never say die' attitude combined with his drug-fueled, iron-fisted ruthlessness and cunning to ‘miraculously’ come back from near death cancer and ignite the imagination of hundreds of millions.

I cheered, bought a bike and learned to love suffering on a bike, exhorting everyone I knew to join the cycling cult – the new golf for business networking. I read every book Lance wrote and ignored all those who saw me as a lycra-coated speed impediment – I was obsessed.

Then the sport was relentlessly plagued by drug scandals. The truth is that’s it’s always been mired in drugs. Nothing new in the Lance era except for a giant leap in medical science with EPO, blood doping, testosterone, micro-dosing and the necessary technology to stay one step ahead of testers. I started reading books about Lance including Tour de Force by Daniel Coyle and my doubts grew. Then the truth about Lance became overwhelming and he broke my heart with how he dealt with it – no remorse; no redemption; just denials and arrogance until the end. I binned my yellow wrist-band. If only he had followed Tyler Hamilton he could have salvaged so much.

But Cadel Evans maintained my hope in cycling. During the drug era of the Tour de France he could never win. He never had any ‘unbelievable’ leaps in performance or super-human comebacks mere hours after appearing completely shattered. He simply had innate talent, unbreakable work-ethic and a stoic ability to suffer. That’s what winning a grand tour (3 week race) is all about – your teammate's capabilities and unity combined with your ability and luck to avoid a crash is the name of game. Oh, and one most big thing... your ability to suffer more than anyone else in the peloton.

Cadel is Australia’s greatest cyclist. He won the world cup (mountain biking) in 1998 and 1999 before switching to road racing. He was also the first Australian to win the UCI Pro Tour in 2007 and the UCI Road World Championships in 2009. He finally won the prestigious Tour de France in 2011. He has always been willing to turn himself inside-out and suffer more than anyone else but he was never a great leader of men. He is instead an introvert, complex, hyper determined and smart; but he does have a genetic gift – a VO2 max that is unrivaled. His VO2 max is 86 (Lance Armstrong was 84). VO2 max is a measure of the body’s ability to convert oxygen into energy and is often used to compare the performance of endurance sports athletes.

I believe Cadel won clean in his career and he's been a great ambassador for the sport. As proof of his 2011 Tour de France win being clean, he won with a time-trial up a mountain stage that would have placed him nearly halfway down the pack in previous drug-fueled years. His winning time was substantially slower than exactly the same mounting climbing time-trial stage winners had achieved years earlier.

in 2015, Cadel completed his very last professional race competing in the one day classic named after him, The Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race in Victoria, Australia. He finished in the leading sprint group in 5th place. Cadel is the only cyclist in history to achieve the number one ranking worldwide in both mountain biking and road racing. He is the greatest cyclist Australia has produced.

We farewell Cadel as a professional rider and thank him for his integrity, commitment and all the wonderful memories. He made a difference in the sport. For those in leadership and the business world, there are parallels and lessons t be learned from cycling:

  • Be part of a great team. You use 30% less energy when you’re drafting behind riders in front of you. Your team can help pull you back to the peloton when you’re dropped or have a mechanical problem. You can’t win on your own. Choose your team carefully and make sure you can rely on everyone when times are tough. Do they have real commitment and work ethic?
  • Conserve energy and work smart. Use the efforts of your competitors to pull you along in the market. Pick your time to jump out into the wind to sprint and win the deal. Never peak too early. Be cunning and smart as well a brave and committed.
  • Learn to suffer more than anyone else. Don't wish it were easier to win, instead work to make yourself better. It's all the unseen hours of practice and training that enable you to ‘burst onto the scene from nowhere’ to beat the competition.
  • Headwinds and mountains are what enable you to escape the pack. The word for crisis and also opportunity is exactly the same in Chinese. When it becomes difficult, it’s your opportunity to dig deep and put distance between you and your competition.
  • Maintain your poker face. Unlike Cadel, never let anyone see that you are suffering. Be the duck – going like hell beneath the surface and completely calm above the water.
  • Know the difference between a moral dilemma and a temptation. Cheating is cheating and no amount of justification cuts it. I recently heard Lance say that if he had his time over again that he would cheat again. I guess in his mind, it was a level playing field of cheating. Being able to look yourself in the mirror is however one of the most important things in life. Cadel can stare into the mirror with pride.

There is only one cyclist in the modern era of professional cycling who could suffer more than Cadel and I respect them both enormously even though I know he was a cheat. It’s Tyler Hamilton and he suffered so badly in a race he ground his own teeth down to the expose nerves. But he redeemed himself with honesty and contrition. The Secret Race by Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle is the best sporting book I’ve ever read. It explains the ugly psychology of 'winning at any cost' and the dark seductiveness of 'rotten inner circles' and the way we can be lured deeper into compromise to become locked-in to a life of lies, only truly realizing once it is too late.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Michiel Jelijs

Winning Big Deals - Everything You Need to Know

Back in 2005, Tiger Woods was the biggest winner in the world and he cracked more than $10 million in prize-money earnings alone for the first time in a single year. In 2005 I was running the Australian region of a global software company and we did three of the four biggest deals globally for the corporation. Here is the inside scoop on how we did it.

We were targeting large enterprises and the sales people that worked for me understood that sales success is largely derived from having the right relationships with people, and they also talked about strategy; but when I quizzed any of them about what 'strategy' actually meant in the real world, each was like a deer in the headlights.

I don’t know about you, but if a salesperson comes to me and says: “This deal’s strategic." That’s code to me for: ‘We need to discount the hell out of this or we’re not going to sell anything for 18 months but I want the organization to invest heavily in pursuing it.' That’s usually what strategic means for them and they don’t really know what strategic selling looks like. Most sales people just know adirect head-to-head strategy where they’re going to behave on the basis that: ‘We have best brand, best technology, best reputation, best price, best service, best support and we can just duke it out with the competition based on our superiority'.

They don’t understand that there are other strategies that you can employ, strategies of changing the rules, strategies of containment, different things that you can do politically and around insight and value. When I coach and mentor salespeople in executing well, the first thing I do is to get them to use their tools well; to be a professional tradesman rather than 'a tool with a tool'. But just having a tool and processes doesn’t mean the person is going to execute well. Just having a discovery or qualification process doesn’t mean that the information in the tool is going to be able to deliver insight because often that information is inaccurate, untested and not validated.

Often you pressure people to do account plans and use the tools and you assemble groups of people to have meetings and do peer reviews and yet, when you turn your back, things just return back to how they were and the tools gather dust. So I believe in all methodologies whether it’s TAS, Huthwaite’s Value Selling, Miller Heiman’s Blue Sheets, Green Sheets, Gold Sheets, Art Jacob's Battleplan... they’re all great. The trick is to get people to use something; anything, well.

The view that I’ve formed is that it’s the way a salesperson thinks and operates that determines their success, not the tools they use. They need a way of generating insight and managing complex process with low overhead. What I came up with was a framework for professional selling that actually solved this problem. It addresses the universal problem with strategy. Here's my analogy: Strategy is like a person standing on the tee of a golf hole; they masterfully plan out what they’re going to do... but they can’t actually hit the ball. That's the real problem – execution! You’ve gotta have a strategy that’s executable.

We need sales people to function in that top right quadrant. We use terms such as ‘hunter’ in the top left quadrant and ‘farmer’ or 'relationship manager' in the bottom right. 'Transactional' people are more common in the retail and fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) industries.

But what really defines 'being strategic'? When I interview salespeople and ask them, I rarely get a good answer. To me, being strategic is first and foremost about engaging early at the most senior levels possible. It means being 'first in' and having conversations about business problems and then embedding yourself in a compelling business case in a way that creates disadvantage for the competition and sets the agenda with a bias toward your strengths. This is all consistent with Challenger Selling and I published my book before The Challenger Sale. Consensus building is possible but remains a slippery slope when you're late to the party with all your competitors in the deal.

You need to wire a bias for yourself into their requirements so that the document that eventually comes to market, in the form of tender or RFP/RFQ, favors you 'between the lines'. The two or three competitors you're up against are just there to make up the numbers to serve the client's need for a competitive process. That's being masterfully strategic and better still, you'll avoid the competitive bid process all together.

Yet being strategic also requires us to set an agenda around business value. The reason it’s important to focus on business value is because we all need to behave as if our biggest competitor is not our traditional competition; our biggest competitor is ‘do nothing’, the status quo and apathy.

We need to think, what happens if the customer has other funding priorities, if things change within their business? How can I be absolutely confident that they will go ahead because as much as buyers want their ROI and it’s expensive for them to go to market and buy things; in big, complex sales environments where there’s 9 month or 18 month sales cycles, it’s also very expensive for us to sell to them. We need our ROI as well.

So what I came up with was the concept of RSVPselling. It works with your existing tools and it's not really a sales methodology but instead a meta-framework for managing complex selling. One of the things I hear regularly is that coaching is dying. Sales managers are increasingly becoming administrators and spreadsheet jockeys and fall victim to a lack of time for field coaching. But we really need to mentor people and get them thinking and acting the right way. The RSVPselling framework achieves exactly this and in the most simple manner possible.

What I did to win massive opportunities is simply this. Every time I sat down with a salesperson, whether with their account plan, with one of their sales tools or whether writing notes on the back of a napkin in a coffee shop; I would say to them: “Tell me about the relationships that you’ve got in this account. And tell me about the relationships our competitors have there. The reason I do that is because relationships with the right people are the foundation of any sales success. The cardinal sin of selling is that people are often selling to the wrong person or at the wrong level inside the organization. They’re selling to the people that can say 'no' but not to the people that can say 'yes.'

When you’re selling at a lower level in the organization, the people you’re talking to want to talk about your product. When you go and sell at the right level, when you have relationships with genuine power in an organization, you can challenge them and they care about delivering outcomes and managing risk. It bears repeating: When engaging at the CXO level, the conversation must be about achieving business outcomes and managing risk. This is how to get traction in the account and achieve alignment and support.

When coaching a salesperson on relationships I say: "Tell me about the relationships you have in this account and are they relationships that are going to cause us to win? Are they relationships of integrity? Do the people we have relationships with do what they say they will do? Do they deliver us genuine insight and influence? Do they provide intelligence about what’s going on?" That’s the measure of relationships.

The next thing is strategy and here are the questions I ask: "Do you [the salesperson] have a strategy for managing these relationships? How are you going to avoid getting blocked? Are there external consultants that have got relationships that will be influential? What’s your strategy in managing relationships and what’s your strategy for dealing with the competition? The number one competition is… do nothing; so do you have a strategy around business case value?"

That leads into this concept of unique value; not are you projecting a unique value proposition – that’s very 'old world'. That’s what marketing departments in the 80’s taught sales people to do: feature, function, advantage, benefit – keep projecting all of this value out there. Rather than projecting value, do you know how we can uniquely create value for the customer? First and foremost by having a better understanding of their business and their operating environment than anybody else that’s going to turn up and try to sell them.

But there is another problem with trying to project value to somebody by talking about all of your features and functions. Features and functions can create price concerns because people think: Well that’s probably over-engineered for what I need or it’s going to take a lot of effort and complexity to implement. The other problem with features and functions is they don’t win you deals, they exclude you from deals because when you start focusing on features and functions you can often reveal something you don’t have – you can highlight weakness so it’s a mistake.

The key with value is to allow the customer to define it and then get yourself embedded in a compelling business case and as the lowest risk option.

The fourth thing that I focus on is the biggest blind-spot for most salespeople – process alignment. The reason most sales people miss their forecast numbers is that they don’t understand the buyer’s process. Men forecast based often on their own testosterone fueled needs to hit a number at the end of the financial year or the end of the quarter. Or, people forecast based on when they think they’re going to get a decision but they don’t understand that after the decision there needs to be a procurement process or a legal department involved in a contract review. Maybe it needs to go to a board 'as a formality' [not; never]. There’s all kinds of other processes that can be poorly understood by the people we're working with inside the customer organization.

Often the lower down the people are in customer organization, the more likely they will inadvertently mislead our own sales people because they themselves don’t understand the internal politics, agendas and process gates. They may not know that the funding is not really secured. Maybe they’ve only got the go-ahead to actually investigate rather than procure. I always ask salespeople: "Do you have strong process alignment with the buyer? Are we aligned with the way that they evaluate and select? Do we understand the approval and procurement process?"

If all elements of RSVP are covered and the deal is progressed to a reasonable point, I then raise the issue of a 'close plan' because that’s how you ensure process alignment and forecast accuracy. You sit down with your buyer, the senior person in the organization, but you don’t talk about the date they’re going to place an order with you, that’s transparently self-serving and it’s not the end-game anyway. Instead, you talk about the date that your customer is going to be live and realizing the benefits of the solution you’re delivering to solve their problem.

I teach salespeople to ask: "What date do you have to be live by and what happens if that date is missed?" I encourage them to explore whether someone very important won't receive an annual bonus, or whether someone could lose their job.

If there is a close plan that's been validated by the customer as a 'Project Alignment Plan', then we can start to forecast with confidence because the customer is telling us why it’s important to have everything in place by a certain date. It's their date, not ours, and once we’ve got that date we can start to go backwards to all of the interdependent events that precede it. When do they need to assemble a project team? When will they need to have contracts signed? There is much more but now what we’ve got is a date where we are going to get a purchase order based on the customer’s need, timing and process; not based upon our needs and hopes as the seller. We ensure forecast accuracy and remove a huge point of stress and friction within the sales organization. This concept of close plans can be done very simply in a spreadsheet. There are a lot of simple tools for doing that.

In summary, this is the conversation you need to habitually have with your salespeople: "Tell me about the relationships you’ve got. What’s your strategy? How are we uniquely creating value? Show me you understand their evaluation, selection and procurement process – prove it all to me." We need to have that conversation over and over again regardless of which tool or methodology is in play... or no tool. The RSVP concept works so well because it is very low overhead; it's a conversational way to keep mentoring your people relentlessly so that they start to think as they need to and remove the blind-spots in execution.

I had the managing director of a technology company phone me from Hong Kong once, and he was very excited. He'd read my book three months earlier but didn't seem to have any kind of epiphany... but the concepts had seeped-in. He had been in a coffee shop meeting with his number one rep in Asia and he had unconsciously used the RSVP questioning framework. As he walked away, it had just dawned on him and he called me. He had uncovered some serious areas of vulnerability in the quarter's most important sale, one in which the salesperson thought that they were home and hosed.

If you need assistance with sales execution, or are wondering how to generate insights for salespeople to go upstream like Challenger exhorts, feel free to e-mail me at tony@RSVPselling.com. 

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Keith Allison

      Why Finding Mentors Is Like Finding Love - 7 Unicorn Qualities

      Mentorship is a lot like love. To find the perfect mentor, you need to let them come to you. One of the best ways to find the ideal mentor, is to become a mentor yourself. To learn we must teach. There is a reciprocal nature to all cycles of life.

      I believe that in order to reap the greatest benefits from mentorship, seek to pay your wisdom forward either with your own mentees or in a reverse-mentorship capacity where you can turn the camera 360 degrees and teach someone much more experienced than you, something that you specialize in and are super passionate about.

      I've been blessed with an exceptional wife and two beautiful children of my own who teach me a master class every day on every aspect of my life. I've also been blessed with an august leadership mentor in Anthony Howard. We learn from each other all the time. In many respects I have many mentors, I receive insight from my students all over the world, executives that I coach and train.

      You might be asking as you read my portfolio of posts on here, how does this guy over 50 years old, know so much about how Millennials think and all the cutting edge paradigms of Social Selling and B2B content strategy? The answer is simple: I am being consistently reverse-mentored by those that seek me out globally to learn the timeless principles of strategic selling and big deal closing.

      They know I've gone through the excruciating pain of selling to government, 22 month procurement cycles and consulting on rigorous eight (and even 9 figure) engagements to win. I've also had the rare privilege to be a country manager, run sales teams and have relationships at the top of global software conglomerates. I've gone up against incumbents David versus Goliath and unseated them in the 11th hour by deftly applying strategic thinking. Sheer will and failing forward got me here so giving back daily is in my DNA and I encourage you to do the same. That's one of the true gifts to humanity that social media brings – the ability to have a positive value exchange of good ideas across oceans.

      Beyond the karmic elements of serendipity and happenstance, here are some key things to look for in securing a lifelong bond with a leader that embodies everything you stand for, someone who can help you learn and grow, pushing you beyond your bounds and self-limiting beliefs. Feel the fear and do it anyway, get beyond your comfort zone and realize your higher self. A great mentorship should never feel like an obligation or something that helps you look good on a resume or for school credit. If you're lucky, you'll find one or two great mentors in your lifetime much like great loves and you'll never forget them. The truth is, they'll never forget you. Making an impact on another life, reaching out and touching someone's very existence is just like beauty, as profound in the eye of the beholder as those that radiate it.

      1. Do they have real world experience? There's much to be said for composing sonnets from the ivory tower but living the dream amongst the people is a whole other level. Personally, I find that real people who have endured through real world crises and challenges emerging triumphant are most able to teach us the 'why' and 'how.' Inspired action is a million times more valuable than theory. At the end of the day, I'm asking myself: 'Have they actually done it? Have they slayed the dragon, hot air ballooned around the world in 80 days or saved the princess?'
      2. Do they possess a genuine optimism, compassion and zest for life?People that do well in life love people. I suppose there are plenty of stations in life that would elevate the misanthrope but it's been my experience that helping other people on this planet is the true meaning of life. I derive so much intrinsic fulfillment out of leading someone I'm mentoring on a journey of discovery and watching their sphere of knowledge and influence expand. I'm the spark and they are the light in a chained lightning reaction back and forth, as the world illuminates around compelling subjects new and old that we share and evolve.
      3. Do they believe in your vision and hold you accountable to it? I can't tell you how many times I've met successful entrepreneurs furiously driven by a parent or teacher that never believed in them or maybe pushed them too much. They seek to fill this void in their life with a mentor who will believes in them. Lost, they seek to pull forth their mission from within and need a guide. A theme in my writings is that all it takes is one person to truly believe in you, to make you successful. That's all it takes and you can be that person for someone, many someones. When you scout out a mentor, watch the way you feel after you've interacted. Are you bursting with ideas, new insight and enthusiasm to go attack your life with gusto? These are good signs that you've found the right one. Be ignited and ignite. The coolest part about a great mentor is how they stay in touch, check up on you, make sure you're on track for your goals and even the most granular details are interesting to them.
      4. Do they embrace self-education and lifelong learning? Never stop learning, never stop humbling yourself. We could never learn it all in infinite lifetimes so we must fall in love with learning everyday. Phenomenal mentors are multi-disciplinary students of life. They ask the greater questions and their thirst for knowledge is palpable. Their rooms are overflowing with memories, and their studies are overflowing with books, maps, pictures and ideas hitting them like tidal waves in endless flashes of brilliance. You think of someone like Leonardo da Vinci spurring a Renaissance, well these are the Renaissance men and women in your life.
      5. Are they resilient? I find that true character is exhibited in times of strife and crisis. Mentors bounce back, they're anti-fragile and accustomed to challenge. The pressure-cooker of a frontier life has built a heart full of diamonds. They tell stories of conquering unimaginable obstacles and how they did it again and again. Failure, pain, suffering and bad luck are no stranger to them but it was their attitude of gratitude, fire and tenacity alloyed with iron will that saw them through. I strive to approach every situation from the viewpoint of advantage and see the duality in all things. I look for this quality in mentors and mentees alike.
      6. Have they embarked on the Hero's Journey? Joseph Campbell writes, “We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us."

      The Hero with a Thousand Faces:

      A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

      7. Do they truly embody wisdom? Wisdom is something that is earned. I have met some of the wisest people in the world and paradoxically they are often the most humble. Perhaps they've seen everything and they find the divine comedy and tragedy of humankind amusing. It's all just a little history repeating so they have somehow managed to have never lost their childlike innocence. They see the world with new eyes. Someone wise can impart things to you beyond knowledge. They can counsel you in incredibly difficult situations to make moves that may be outside the scope of your awareness. A phenomenal mentor will challenge you to think about every aspect of your life and business in new ways. She may even encourage you to get out of the nest of your comfort zone and take flight. They lead with wisdom of experience, intuition and can see through walls and around corners.

      I started this article with the metaphor of love. Finding the right mentor is almost like finding a soul mate: we have to believe they're out there in order to attract the unicorn to us. If you don't allow yourself to believe, it's near impossible for the magic of mentorship to happen for you. Step one is to keep an eye out for those rare individuals in whose lives you believe that you can make a profound difference... now. I'll close with a couple quotes that may help you think about this entire mentorship subject and process in a new way: “That's the thing with magic. You've got to know it's still here, all around us, or it just stays invisible for you.” Charles de Lint; and “Magic is believing in yourself, if you can do that, you can make anything happen.” - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

      Great mentors believe in you, and that my friends... is proof of magic. From that transference of belief, all things are possible.

      Now it's your turn: Who are your mentors, the most influential people on your success, your life and your happiness? What do you look for in a mentor? Which one of these qualities do you feel was most important or unusual? What's the most magical aspect of your life and who inspired it? Who are your heroes? Who's had the biggest impact on your future?

      If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au

      Main Image Photo by Flickr: Ted Eytan

      The Future of CRM Is Not CRM - It's A Mashup

      Depending on which statistics you choose to believe, up to 70% of CRM implementations fail. I wrote a post titled 'Simplify sales before we reimagine it' and in it I discusses the need to simplify all we do including CRM. The days of monolithic legacy architectures for most software systems are coming to an end.

      Yes, we need a single source of the truth about customers and a large enterprise has no chance of being trusted and customer centric without a well conceived CRM strategy underpinned with the right technology. But the term ‘Customer Relationship Management’ has been hijacked by software companies.

      Without doubt we are entering the era of mash-ups as savvy leaders obsessively focus on creating compelling customer experience, both on-line, mobile and in the physical world with real human selling and service. I asked some people I respect about what’s wrong with CRM today and where the future is going. I received some interesting opinions. Buckle-up and then let me know what you think.

      Grace Schroeder is CEO of idea2 and she’s an expert in working with Application Program Interfaces (APIs) to bring systems together for awesome user experience. Here are her thoughts on what’s broken with the way people decide and buy, as well with the current approach of CRM solutions.

      Technology decision-making is broken. All over the world, IT executives are making poor decisions wrapped in comfortable RFP processes, consensus, and default thinking. Unknown to themselves and their CEO’s, they are signing away their companies' souls by locking them into legacy technologies that will not support the changing business dynamics already underway and locking them OUT of technology innovations that could accelerate and transform them.

      Kill the Traditional Software Deployment Model. Technology innovation is creating a wake of capital destruction with the power to capsize entire markets. Established software companies, sense that something strange is happening, and too many of them are reacting instead of acting. They are playing it safe. They are forgetting how to take the risks that brought them their power in the first place, and their best hope is that they regain some courage before their revenues run straight over a cliff.

      Naturally aggregating the cloud. Cloud services are like potato chips. No one eats just one. Since it became possible to log into a software solution, decision making has gradually transitioned from IT to (mostly departmental) users. A group of people decide amongst themselves that certain online subscription services make work lives easier and deliver better results to the company. This is great. However, in order to see the results of these efforts, people need a login. No login - no access to the brilliance that is enjoyed by the users. Someone is making reports, someone is asking for reports, things stop being real time. If people could only KNOW the glory of what is happening in these silos, sales would happen faster, better customer profiles would exist, decisions would be made around real time facts and customer interactions.

      A sane approach to software decision making. There’s a better way, an adaptive team-based model that brings stakeholders together as partners. Together, we will study the problems you need to solve and work with you to form a technology vision to support the knowns, unknowns, and even the unknown unknowns of your business. The sane approach solves problems quickly, iteratively, with minimal disruption. It doesn’t just “control risks” - it turns problems into possibilities, in real time. Your product will be better. Your costs will be lower. Your grandchildren will admire you.

      The sane approach involves deep, clear discussions about trade-offs to make sure that short term and long term objectives are prioritized against business impact. You’ll understand when and why requirements change. You’ll disentangle yourself. Decisions should be ongoing and ever-evolving discussions – not a list of assumptions made by someone who doesn’t know your users, long-term business goals, competitors, or technical competency.

      Consider these executive personas and how they drive the dysfunction.

      Chief Suspicion Officer. Despite respectable financial results, they feel the gap between their leadership using the right words and the existence of a rational technology strategy. They see the same processes, the same vendors, and the same contracts sprinkled with cloud words. They don’t have the words to challenge it. They keep hearing that their company needs an integration strategy, but they don’t know what that means.

      Canary in the Coal Mine. You’re working in a company of great people. The business is growing. You have not been getting support from internal IT, because your projects aren’t deemed core to the business, and IT is too busy for you. Luckily, being a cloud guru, you have organized your department with some great technologies that your people have found. You are making it all work together. Problem is, you can’t get the data to others in the organization without adding a new role: Captain of the Swivel Chair Department. Now, you’re right popular – everyone wants to know what you know. So the company decides that it needs a comprehensive cloud strategy. They gave a guy in another department the title, and he’s going to figure it out for the entire company. He’s been going to conferences for a year, and submitting white papers till hell won’t have it any more. Meanwhile, you’re getting more and more steeped in the tools that you are using, and you’re afraid that you will be forced to rip them out and start over.

      The Ostrich. ‘It will all go away – security is a problem and we have spreadsheets’. They ask lots of red herring questions to fend-off discussions about cloud:

      • ‘My mentor told me to always buy out of the box and that’s the rule I follow’.
      • ‘My guys tell me we have all that covered’.
      • ‘Do you know where we can get a Microsoft Access developer do you?’
      • ‘Have you heard of FoxPro?’
      • ‘Do you have something I can read?’

      The Hero: He wants to save the day but he doesn’t know how. Who will listen anyway? Who should be the cloud decider? This is a major dilemma in many companies. There are people with titles to suggest that they are the deciders. However, the very nature of the word decision is challenged when it comes to working with differing technology solutions. Almost every business process in the company (including the RFP process) leads to poor decision-making.

      The truth of the matter is the perfect human(s) to make these decisions do not exist in every company. The proliferation of solutions has done a great thing – there are point solutions for many more business functions, and they’re easier to use than ever. The nature of the solutions add transparency, visibility and accountability into results, and should guide people toward more effective work products.

      That said, how do you take an organization that isn’t technologically savvy, and begin to introduce solutions in a way that can be easily consumed? If not easily, at least in a way that does not cause people to stick a fork in their leg when they log into their new platform.

      Customers have needed trusted advisors more; to help them navigate the conflicting messages and complexity of technology. But customers must themselves also appoint leaders who can bring it all together internally when designing the customer experience they’re seeking to create. These people must care the most about success and possess technical curiosity and skills and to enable them to understand the world of the possible. Finally, they must help the best people in their teams be part of the decision process and implementation.

      Certainly Grace sees CRM is part of the answer but not the panacea. She is very much all about integration and knows that the best customer experience is created by bringing data and systems together. This approach uses the right tool for the right job and is agile in its approach. Technology today offers low cost web services and modern Application Program Interfaces (APIs) to bring mash-ups to life in an affordable way.

      Michael Bonner from Pipeline Manager is someone I respect enormously. He is one of the smartest people I’ve met and has many years of CRM experience in making systems both usable and valuable in enabling process efficiently and effectively.

      First I asked Michael: “What’s wrong with CRM?” CRM was designed by IT people. Sales never took a leadership role in designing CRM. Then Marketing and Inside Selling got thrown into the mix – again by a department that was never trained in those professions and with no accountability for outcomes. We see years of research pointing to customers engaging with sales later and later in the cycle. And yet we see no improvements from CRM offering ways to understand that big-picture cycle, let alone view it or proactively control it or the customer’s journey. Instead, department silos are reinforced.

      Next I asked: “Where do you see the future for CRM?” “First we have to ask: Why would this situation change any time soon? Improved sales has no effect on IT compensation or reviews. Whether a rep takes a minute or quarter of an hour filling out a CRM form, IT has no real reason to care. This problem plays out in countless minor inconveniences, overloaded forms and counterintuitive workflows. The problem compounds itself across inefficiencies throughout the lead-to-repeat-business sales cycle.”

      The easy way to fix this: put IT/CRM admins as well as everyone involved in generating business on a strict, generous commission. That will keep all the silos laser-focused on coordinated activities that speed up a sale. The entire organization will get very smart about how a rep uses his/her 2000 hours per year. Long IT projects will become a lot shorter. Admins will be anxious to know every best practice out there and will then align CRM to support those practices. Marketing will add to the CRM only those things that are truly critical to driving revenue.

      CRM of the future could look like a single source of information that tracks the entire lifecycle of the customer, with emphasis on the processes that make a sale, rather than petabytes of low-value forensic data. The hard truth is that technology can support almost anything that sales can imagine.

      Looking at the future of CRM I see a big disconnect between all that CRM could be and the more likely outcome of people protecting turf, undermining change and training, passive resistance to anything that says that people could be doing better.

      Despite the phenomenal payoff that any organization would have with a CRM that actually helped them make more money, there may be too many entrenched shibboleths to allow that change to happen. The bigger the organization the more entrenched the old silos and blame games seem to be.

      So - CRM as an industry can keep growing at double-digit rates without having to fix any of its systemic nightmares. IT can stay in control of tools that they never have to use while ensuring that user confusion translates to greater job security. Until top management starts feeling some pain, there’s no reason to expect a shift that results in a change in the culture, the silos or the software that supports them.

      Michael Bonner has delivered many CRM implementations in the real world to transform sales execution but now it's your turn: What’s the future of CRM in your eyes. Are mash-ups the future for user experience with CRM the underlying database?

      If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

      Main Image Photo by Flickr: Steve Jurvetson Jeff Koons' "Michael Jackson and Bubbles" 1988 chilling in front of Hua Yan's summer gatherings in mountain villas 1738.

      4 Fiercely Ferocious Pay It Forward Principles

      It requires strength and self-assurance to help others. You can't be insecure because you're instead choosing to take yourself out of competition with everyone. To do that, you have to believe and know that you've already succeeded. Ultimately, it's one unified team, not a feeding frenzy. Paying it forward is the ultimate expression of self-esteem because you're placing yourself on a different plane. It's very challenging to be kind to people that you feel are infringing on your territory.

      If you're helping to build people up even when thy operate in the same space, you clearly feel confident that you own the space that you're in. Here are some ways to help 'pay it forward' in your marketplace:

      1. Teaching your success principles to other people. Not only do you learn them better, it cements your own knowledge and it's a nice thing to do. If I'm buying something and I notice the person selling it to me says they're new at their job – if they ask for my help – I always enjoy helping them. After I get the deal that I want, it only takes a few moments of my time to tell them some of the things that have helped me along the way. It's wonderful to know that I can leave a transaction with what I want and they got something positive out of it as well. Too frequently in beginning sales jobs, nobody is teaching you, so every bit of advice is useful. Good advice is incredibly rare. Trying to be thoughtful about the advice you give is a very kind thing to do. It shouldn't be all sales people against each other. It should be all sales people building each other up – professional selling is a tough game. Why would you want to climb over each other when you can just walk next to each other? If everyone is elevated, it doesn't mean that the pyramid's getting smaller. And if it is, you might be in a pyramid scheme...
      2. Trusting other people enough to delegate to them. If you're not micromanaging someone, you're showing that you believe in them and you're giving them a chance to succeed on their own. This allows you to believe in your own leadership enough to believe in them. You have to be an excellent communicator to tell someone something once and be able to get that thing done. Not only is it draining for you to ride someone, it doesn't inspire anyone to be their best if you're assuming they're being their worst. John W. Nordstrom only has one rule in the employee handbook: 'Use good judgment in all situations.' You don't want to be the one person who's judgment doesn't fit into that category. Having such a broad sweeping rule encourages people to be their best.
      3. Praise other people randomly and genuinely - This practice is nice and good for morale. It helps build self-esteem and that feeds on itself energetically; something highly undervalued that doesn't happen very often in modern society. Acknowledge others without expectation of return. If you notice someone putting out a lot of effort on a project that isn't being acknowledged, praise their effort. It doesn't have to be a huge sale to have been a ton of work. How about a co-worker who is wonderful to her family? Colleagues take time to make their desk space look nice, with pictures and flair. People have weird hobbies, so never hesitate to ask, especially in interviews when they ask if you have any final questions: "What do you do for fun?" Take the time to be genuinely interested in others. Everyone is so accustomed to having no one be interested – it's a treat when someone really cares. A lot of people are lonely, so genuinely caring about their well-being is a kind thing to do. You might be the only one that is interested. There's so much rejection in sales that just being generally kind to those around you might be the one light in their day. Kindness is very important. If you can be that for one person, wouldn't it be nice if that happened for you as well. I think eventually if you do that enough, being thoughtful toward other people can feel as good as people being thoughtful toward you. You can generate this any time. The Dalai Lama can sit in front of a vast audience and still take an active interest in every single person. His listeners truly feel that he cares about them as human beings... because he does!
      4. Genuinely care for the success of people that are frequently overlooked. To empower people who are disenfranchised breathes new life into situations that have grown old and stale. You're all of a sudden able to see something that you've only seen from one perspective in an entirely new one. Take the CEO interacting with people at all levels of her organization which allows her to see things that she may have overlooked from the top. Rather than be frustrated with team members who aren't winning sales awards, why not help them find their area where they'll shine within the organization? Especially if they're genuinely trying to contribute. Someone who cares about the success of your business is extremely hard to find, so working to place them in the optimal role in your organization will ultimately bring your team more value.

      One of the most important things is that you're wholeheartedly enjoying helping others. If it doesn't come from a pure place, it just feels like mandatory community service. No one wants to feel like they're participating in forced charity on either end. The purity of your heart makes it kind and tolerant. You could do something very small and if it means a lot to you and that person, it can be much bigger than an empty grand gesture.

      I began that 'pay it forward' became trendy a long time ago and people want to feel like the kid in the movie but don't actually care about what they're doing. It's a paradox. If you don't care about someone you're helping, you're not helping them. It takes a lot of maturity to care about someone you might not know very well. If you really allow yourself to care about others, then they're not random acts of kindness, it's just about how you live your life.

      You shouldn't be patting yourself on the back because you're helping someone less fortunate. You should just want to be kind to everyone who's around you. Rather than seeing people around you as less fortunate, just see that they are in a different situation than you are, because nobody wants to be looked down on. In the words of Ian MacLaren: "Be kind. Everyone you meet is carrying a heavy burden."

      If your world-view is healthy; you won't judge people's stations in life, you won't walk around feeling better than others but you also won't walk around feeling worse than others. It will allow you to interact with everyone that you meet more purely which is something people really appreciate when it happens to them. In this day and age, there's so much tooting of each others horns but rarely done with sincerity.

      The idea of only calling back the important people is very belittling to pretty much everyone. How do you really know who's important when you barely know them? When you take everyone's perspective in, you can learn a great deal more. When you're trying to do a deal, taking in feedback from someone on a lower organizational level can still help you. No one knows more or less than anyone else; they just know different things. Everyone's wise in their own way. Education and 'station in life' don't dictate knowledge or value.

      If you treat everyone with authentic kindness, not only will it be returned to you ten fold but you'll have a much better perspective on the world around you. When most get into power, they're suddenly around people that kiss-up to them and it's so easy to lose perspective on the world that way. If you value everyone's opinion, you won't get stuck in a glass house with the people you love outside wanting to throw rocks at you. It's better to build the house together with all those rocks into a nice, sturdy stone castle.

      The technology industry has such a reputation of being soulless. It would be nice to change that. Wouldn't it be nice if it was computers and humans not just humans trying to be like computers? They are both part of the equation. The main thing that humans have that computers don't is empathy; why try and lose that? Why not embrace how we're different than computers?

      Social media has such a reputation for being tragically soulless. Why not spend that time and our brain power encouraging each other? It takes less energy to do something positive than to do something negative. Stating this the opposite is a cop out. I personally think that refueling to build-up those around you rather than to tear them down is less exhausting. If you have the option to feel better or worse by using the internet, why not choose to feel better? Sometimes it can be easier to participate in slanderous gossip but it's never going to make you actually feel like a better person. Do you really want to be following everyone that's jumping off the gossip cliff? Lemmings don't generally have the best life expectancy.

      When Tony Hsieh would interview new hires, he'd keep in touch with the driver that picked them up at the airport in Vegas. He would ask the driver how he was treated by the candidate. I think the message is: It doesn't matter how you act when you think you're being watched. It matters who you are all the time. Everyone's well behaved when they think that their livelihood is on the line. If how you treat those around you matters enough to dictate hiring, it clearly should be valued as much as how you appear on paper in your curriculum vitae. Needless to say that Tony Hsieh did not hire anyone who was arrogant or rude to the driver.

      No matter how well you think you're presenting yourself, if your whole life is self involved, you'll never truly succeed. The thing that shows through and wins in the end is that you care a lot about yourself and others. Let's face it, Mother Teresa is probably much more likely to get hired anywhere over Kim Kardashian. The wicked queen in Snow White probably didn't have a lot of Twitter followers.

      If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

      Main Image Photo by Flickr: Mikael Tigerström

      Top 25 Incendiary Social Selling Secrets

      Can you close million dollar deals with social selling fully inside? Yes. Here are the top 25 ways how you can actually do it. It's being done right now in the field by a sales team near you [perhaps a competitor], it's remarkable and it's not for the faint of heart. Get a good night of sleep and unleash your inner advanced strategic social selling 'beast mode' tomorrow. I'm sure the naysayers will come out in full force over this content but I can attest, a new era of selling is upon us. It's a pastiche of panache par excellence, a mashup of the highest order.

      To win in 2015 you're going to have to go so old school and new school at the same time, applying a dizzying array of multi-disciplinary principles that will give you an invincible edge. Just reading Jonathan Farrington's statistic that, 'the average quota attainment in B2B sales is below 60%,' prompts me to lay out a blueprint on how to fix it. If you're a sales person, sales manager or CEO that aspires to greatness this year and leveraging the new channels to book major revenue, remember that it's not just about social selling – it's about advanced strategic social selling! Tactics without strategy are a fool's errand. Don't heed those spam emails you get promising you impossible results on LinkedIn. There is no quick fix in social selling just like there never was in analog enterprise selling and never will be. It's a strong supplement not substitute and it's all about daily heavy lifting. The right strategies and tactics applied consistently will help you break through. The devil's in the details so you will win or lose in the execution phase. These 25 solutions form the bedrock to proven sustainable results with advanced social selling injected as a force multiplier:

      1. Move from push to pull marketing. While the whole world is blasting out white noise, start to leverage 'attraction' marketing and pull your dream customers to you. Launching your own LinkedIn Group below is 'pull.' Publishing edgy subject matter expertise content driven by insight with a strong polarizing opinion stands out: it's 'pull.' The name of the game is to create a garden for the butterflies to land on you rather than relying on bigger, better, faster nets. Trillions of dollars are spent annually on interruption-based push marketing. Flip the script. Be an expert and start to radiate out insights, solutions and your personality from your blog, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, an Infographic Pinterest board (design the infographics yourself), get quoted in the media via deft press releases, speak at conferences and become omnipresent everywhere a customer in your industry would go on LinkedIn. This mind shift of mind share alone will work wonders for your personal brand, company brand and make the biggest impact on filling your funnel with qualified opportunities. Remember, you're now creating demand upstream prior to "trigger events" leveraging this strategy. This is pre-Challenger, before they've gone into RFP mode, before they've hit up the first page of Google to run the reverse auction on you and your closest 5 competitors. May the 'first in' win! Entice, beguile, enchant and extoll...
      2. Challenger Sales marketing and sales alignment. You're going to need to get your Sales and Marketing teams in the same room every week. Build one-pagers, white papers, brand collateral and an array of enticing sales material. Step one: study your competitors. Do not release the same exact material as them. If there's a magic quadrant report, figure out a way to package those statistics in Domo to inject some dashboard beauty and bring it to life uniquely before you go to market. Build out concise case studies with testimonials from your happiest reference customers. Build out a YouTube channel of customer testimonials. Bring a camera crew to the next conference your company hosts and interview the participants. Interview one hundred clients and prospects about the challenges they face in the sector where your solutions [be they product or services] are most relevant. Turning the camera on to the customers to garner their insight is a great way to align sales and marketing. Everyone in marketing should get trained on Challenger Sales and everyone in sales should study The New Rules of Marketing and PR. Understand each others' pain and come to the center with insight generation which leads to demand generation rather than reactive servicing of demand. You'll quantum leapfrog right past competitors with a few white boarding sessions here to build synergy.
      3. Go ballistic in LinkedIn Groups. You can join a maximum of 50 groups and consistently drop groups and add others. You never want to sell or link-bomb in groups. Don't spam, don't shamelessly self promote: at all, ever. The top group ninjas drop into dozens off groups every day and interact provocatively in the comment sections. Take Fresh Sales Strategies or Strategic Selling in the sales world. There are amazing threads in here that stretch to hundreds of comments. Why not put in your authentic two cents on every single one that grabs you? Chances are these topics are grabbing others by the lapels too. There are dozens of CXO groups and Marketing groups, some with hundreds of thousand of members. Yes, you can try to send a bunch of LinkedIn invites until your profile locks up into 'LinkedIn jail,' or perhaps try to start intriguing conversation in there. That's a limited strategy that could get your LinkedIn shut off. The strongest 'unlimited' strategy is to take interest in what your customers and the industry insiders are posting in there. You'll be amazed how many people add you based on awesome commentary you provide. Again, you're moving to 'pull.' Put thought into what you say but 'foster' discussion by asking open ended questions. Remember this is a 10X strategy. I recommend interacting with 25 to 50 comments every day in relevant groups where you have expertise and where your customers live. You'll be amazed at how this trail of bread crumbs can lead to a juggernaut of visibility in just a short time.
      4. Launch your own LinkedIn Group. If you're selling software and there are already twenty five groups on mobile marketing applications, still launch your own group. Seek to make the topics you share interesting. Take the time to thoroughly explain the nature of the group and why you've launched it. Invite in your entire network as painstaking as clicking that button over two thousand times is, it's worth it. When you post a question in your group, push that link to your stream and push it out to Twitter. This will help you massively expand the group. Be stringent about pushing articles and spam to the promotions tab. I would say, open source the group. Less rules are better but curate based on relevance so that clients, prospects and colleagues get a bunch out of it. To grow it faster, make all your inner circle admins on it. Your colleagues or sales team can add major value by posting relevant articles to it, questions and commenting in it daily. I've argued consistently every top seller should host their own group and every company that is serious about social selling should not only create a company page but also host their own conferences, executive dinners, thought leader lunches or Google Hangouts / webinars.
      5. Use up all your InMails every month. I can't tell you how rare this is that I've even advocated incentivizing sales people who do this as a KPI. In premium accounts or Navigator there are 25 InMails per month. Imagine, your sales people can reach whomever they please 25 times and they aren't using it? It boggles my mind. But change is hard and change management can take time and aligning incentives is a must. These are not spam template blasts, these are researched touches with the understanding that the ones that get responded to, now open up additional credits. When you succeed, LinkedIn gives you more so that's definitely incenting the right behaviors! What are the best messages? Reference a shared connection, a provocative insight, a compelling business case or a time you met someone at their company at a conference. Include multiple bullet points on your solutions and how they moved the needle, either make or save money for which similar companies. Leverage social proof or mash up all of the above factors. Short and sweet but as an acid test, send the message to a colleague and ask them if they'd honestly respond. One cool technique is to go talk to your own CEO's EA and see if he would respond. [They get dozens of these every day and have great insights. EA's are your best friend!]
      6. Leverage LinkedIn Sales Navigator for better segmenting and targeting. There's a ton of buzz building on this super-premium sales module for LinkedIn. I'm a proponent of it because it allows for passive tracking of executive prospect's streams. Again, this is 'pull' selling because you're not awkwardly collecting business cards at conferences and power adding. You're not risking going to 'LinkedIn Jail.' Start to build out accounts and lead lists in here and then become the sales analyst of the mega-stream that Navigator serves up. You'll see job changes, company news, news from your key leads, trigger events galore and just start to become a sponge for what's happening in the world of your prospects. When you have a valid reason to hop into the conversation, you now can and tailor a LinkedIn invite like never before possible. The biggest reason to use Navigator is efficiency! This software will save you hours of clicks based on daily lead recommendations from key accounts that it serves up to you on a silver platter. It's an efficiency machine! You need to drive deeper into the right accounts. Less accounts, far higher engagement is the name of the game.
      7. Track and harness trigger events. Craig Elias and Tibor Shanto wrote the bible on trigger events. Inside sales hunters are constantly calling the companies that get funding. In the book Shift, they posit that 'changes and transitions' are the strongest trigger event. CXOs in the first 90 days are change agents and frequently spend millions of dollars on new solutions disrupting the status quo and displacing legacy incumbents. With Sales Navigator, you can track these moves easier and interject yourself and your solution prior to the trigger event which is the most powerful thing you can do, in my honest opinion. There's never been more data on your customers readily available in social channels. Build lists in Twitter, listen closely to what your customer's care about and start to build out insight-driven marketing materials around those issues. Engage with them meaningfully in a pay it forward capacity. Be watchful of what really matters to them.
      8. Get warm referrals. I get generic referral requests constantly from people I don't even know on LinkedIn. Prune your network from your 9,000+ LION profile down to only the people you actually know. 1,000 connections that you've actually met or would know who you are is drastically more potent. Let me explain...As you reach out for a referral, if they've never even heard your name, that's never going to get forwarded. Refine your network with a 'deleting party' and start to rebuild with warm referrals from folks that will help you. It's reciprocal and you can help them too by offering to refer in return. Always help anyone you believe in reach their targets. I am constantly writing recommendations, facilitating warm referrals and asking for them successfully on here daily.
      9. Ghost drive your C-Levels profiles to connect. In fast moving startups, the C-Suite will often allow top sellers to power their profiles or if you email them to send a message to the key VITO contact in a target prospect on your behalf, they'll often acquiesce. A CEO reaching out to a CEO is the only way to get in on many occasions. If you're breaking disruptive technology in a new market, C-Level outreach can be mission critical. Leverage LinkedIn to 'neighborhood' your way into an on-site meeting or set an executive meeting request to give a demo. Your goal is visibility, so work on the key insight to bring to that outreach. You get five seconds to make the point on why she should be talking with your company so make them count. I know a company where the Chief Financial Officer has a Social Selling Index score of over 70 (out of 100) and even has a seat in LinkedIn Sales Navigator because he is such a super networker. He's constantly bringing in warm introductions for the sales execs. Very cutting edge!
      10. Publish SME B2B content daily. What does it mean to you to be a subject matter expert? Are you ready? You'd be amazed because you are. If you've been selling in a vertical for five to ten years, you absolutely have a combination of stories, real world experience and tribal knowledge that renders you an expert in some aspect of the business. What if you're just starting out? Well you're probably an expert in some facet of your life so mash-up insights based on that in your posting? I recently did a post oncycling and sales leadership on here that was well received. The goal is to break out of your comfort zone, apply some elbow grease and business acumen, roll up your sleeves and dive headlong into the deep end of massive action. Every strategy in this post is yours for the taking. Inaction can paralyze forward momentum and stunt your sales growth. Build a list of a hundred topics you know the most about. Build those topics into Publisher posts, tweets and questions to pose for your LinkedIn group. Remember, interactivity is the One Key Metric (OKM) of it all. Interactivity leads to sales, plain and simple. Remix other post topics that are trending in Publisher. A great example is a CEO who had sworn off ever hiring a salesperson again (gaining 500K views in three days of glorious link bat), so I crafted a series of patriotic responses as I feel selling is the backbone of the free market system and even our economic engine of democracy itself.
      11. Combine LinkedIn with top flight selling modules. TAS Dealmaker, Pipeline Manager, HootSuite, Marketo, InsideView, Avention, HubSpot. The sky's the limit in the Salesforce AppExchange. Turbo-charge your Salesforce instance with leading third party plug-ins such as Pipeline Manager, TAS Dealmaker, Pipeliner CRM or others to dominate Account Planning and Opportunity Management. Invest in front of funnel marketing automation to fill your pipeline with qualified prospects 24/7. There is an inside sales and social selling, front-end technology stack emerging that definitely includes auto-dialers and calling optimization technologies like InsideSales.com to provide advanced analytics. Engaging with your inbound leads in any channel in the first five minutes is everything. Real time selling is something both David Meerman Scott and Andy Paul expand on their seminal work. You need to be listening to respond and engage. There are still longer sales cycles for closing six and seven figure deals fully inside in social. The accelerator is going to be leveraging a suite of technologies to streamline the pipeline, be ultra-responsive and get upstream, past the gatekeeper to be the preferred vendor going into the crucible of the decision. You want to have driven the key insight for change in order to win if the deal goes to RFP stages.
      12. Multi-step email and outreach campaigns. The biggest mistake I see even seasoned sales people making, is a lack of persistence. Calls, emails, InMails, Likes, Shares and Retweets are useless when done one to three times. You need to create a calendar or set alerts in Salesforce so that you have a cadence of outreach. As a gifted sales manager, you rise and fall based on the cadence of accountability that you set as a baseline benchmark for these behaviors. Focus your organization on the daily sales activities that are leading measures and will actually move the needle on sales results. Marketing automation and drip programs can be effective but they need to be tuned and A/B tested. Reduce your target list to just a couple dozen dream clients. Figure out where they interact the most: which social networks are they most active in? What is the highest value use of your sales team's time? Build calendar alerts for strategically reaching out to them. Go deeper not wider. Personalize and be consultative even in content generation. Unlock the pain points that will drive demand rather than servicing the obvious initial pain with a point solution. Ultimately, you'll close the most business by crafting a complex solution comprised of multiple products and services you sell rather than getting commoditized. Single solution social selling squeezes out the margin your disruptive business model so badly needs to grow and secure investment. Your competitors are spam blasting and boiling the ocean. Don't you be the one. Customize, tailor and drive to the target in a variety of media with contextually relevant outreach driven by key insights.
      13. The rule of 5 to 12 touches. Think social cross-training. Treat LinkedIn just like any other communications medium: telephone, face-to-face or otherwise. 80% of sales close on the fifth to twelfth interaction. Add value every single time: an article, white paper, screen shot of a tweet, retweet, comment on their blog, reflect thoughtfully on their annual report, a speech they gave and provide sound advice based on pattern recognition as you scour the landscape for trends and new ideas that work.
      14. Sell the meeting not your product or service. The holy grail is the opportunity to present on-site. It is possible to close a million dollar deal without ever seeing a customer but why not meet them with that much on the line? You can make this presentation effectively over Skype GoTo, Join.me or Webex especially if you operate intercontinentally. The sleeper hit is that this presentation is going to be a 10,000 foot Challenger insight opener and then an active listening session where your prospect is doing almost all the talking. As Neil Rackham loves to say, the more you're listening the more their propensity to buy increases. Show up and throw up presentations are fatally flawed in person and in social. "Look at me, look at me, now what do you think about me?" Snore, delete, yawn... Next! The word presentation should really connote prospect therapy. Peel the onion, get to the underlying problems under the symptoms, back out to 10,000 feet so your prospects are taking a hard look at the systemic problems affecting their divisions. Change management is hard. The risk of any initial call is getting too far into the weeds. The devil's in the details but detail orientation can stall a deal forever into a quagmire of inaction and "do nothing." What happens if they don't change? What are the outcomes and risks that decision makers seek? Focus there, air out the grievances.
      15. Curate over 200 items per day on LinkedIn and leverage TweetDeck or Hootsuite to filter the Twitter fire hose. Read ten to twenty publisher posts and authentically comment. Follow pertinent channels and add / follow thought leaders. OK, so you're thinking this is a ton of work. Well you'll flare up. Watch Timothy Hughes in the UK or Jill Konrath. The level of sharing, interacting and posting with some of the top social sellers is astounding. They are hyper focused on what matters most to their clients and the quality and quantity is staggering. You can preference quality over quality but with automated tools like InfusionSoft and Buffer, ubiquitous outreach is possible. Still take time to hand curate and respond personally. Turn the knobs up and down until you find the sweet spot of interactivity. It's not always bad when people complain you're sharing too much. I've turned up my content generation to 11 but kept the insight level very high, and received an overwhelmingly positive response. The demands of a bestselling author promoting a book versus a seasoned sales rep going to market are very similar, actually. Your enemy is obscurity. Your competitors are legion.
      16. Purple cow "Power of Wow" content. You're driving along the road and you see a bright purple cow. You stop the car and take pictures! So much of B2B content is hum drum, flat and boring. Spice it up with stories, humor, pop cultural references and hyperbole. Catchy, cinematic and over the top subject lines, post titles, tweet quotes or cartoons keep it light and fun and get noticed. Do something bold and original! Seth Godin only blogs, he doesn't even have a Twitter but his fans are so ardent they repost everything for him. Tell amazing true war stories. Remember that time when... Share the challenges of your customers and how you've solved them in the context of mashups, YouTube videos, Pinterest boards, infographics and data visualizations. Be as creative as possible to get multiple 'aha' moments and reactions in your presentations. Light up your social media streams!
      17. Polarize your audience by taking an authentic extreme stance. The truth is that you probably do have an extreme opinion that is still HR compliant and fully in bounds, wherever you work. If you're in virtualization of private clouds you've taken the stance that hardware for hardware's sake is a dinosaur. If you're selling high technology CRM systems, you're probably of the mind that CRM may be broken and the sector must innovate. Whatever massive problem you're solving in your industry, there's a polarizing stance. Shock and awe campaigning is just insight driven or challenger driven sales and marketing on steroids. Sometimes we need to shout a bit in social to be heard but this can be done artfully. It's a bit unusual to see corporations allowing their top sales people to share authentic opinions but I actually see this evolving in LinkedIn and Twitter in 2015. Don't be afraid to make a splash and express how you really feel. When I lecture, I talk about how corporations are lower and lower in the top 100 Twitter profile totem pole. Sales people need to become B2B micro-marketers. The vast majority of the top Twitter profiles in Australia now are the personal brands, it's the faces and names. It's real people, the faces of the corporation. The advantage is this humanizes brands. The risk is brand reputation so it's critical to train globally on social selling best practices and get the sales team trained on the advanced meta-strategies and strategic techniques. As a seller you have a responsibility to be a thought leader, a subject matter expert and open hearts, minds and eventually wallets. Bland, safe and cliched content won't get you to the finish line of exceeding quota. You can absolutely implement this strategy and maintain 100% integrity.
      18. Newsjacking. David Meerman Scott coined this term in his brilliant books. When you're building out Publisher content on LinkedIn, tweet it out at reporters covering a current event. Watch the Google Trends and Twitter Trending Topics. Watch the Pulse top searched keywords. Study the titles of what the highest ranking Pulse 25 are posting about. Integrate in a real-time newsjacking aspect of your social media strategy at least weekly. If it's the World Cup, write an article on how soccer relates to marketing. Newsjacking and mashups together are an unstoppable cocktail of awesome. You've gotta think of hashtags as landing pads and pepper your posts with them. Tweet at people who have written similar material or share your viewpoints. Tweet at people that disagree with you. Boldly go forth and just tweet! Showing up is 90% of the battle in social selling.
      19. Ghostjacking. Ghost-jacking is this idea of the LinkedIn War Room where you take a team approach driving each other's LinkedIn profiles to gain intel and turbo charge LinkedIn due diligence, outreach and referrals. It's also the concept of leveraging your own internal C-Suites social profiles to land key meetings and deals. The reason this is authentic is that many C-Level executives are now having their social profiles powered by an Executive Assistant. LinkedIn is the new cold call. And referrals without follow through die on the vine. If you know someone who knows someone one step from the target, start to message around them triangulating your way in, leverage your internal networks with TeamLink. Make your way in and do everything it takes to garner a meaningful introduction. It only takes one yes to succeed!
      20. Thunderclapping. This needs to be optional but is a huge part of a go-to-market strategy. Let's say you have hundreds even thousands of sales reps out in the field. Your CMO and marketing team should be distributing collateral in the form of suggested tweets, infographics and white papers, one-pagers, customer testimonials, sound bites and YouTube videos. Create an internal email distribution, Chatter feed or Yammer list daily or weekly with suggested tweets, shares and always, always, always ensure anyone who shares injects there own opinion. Hundreds of people sharing the same exact piece of content is a thunderclap but hundreds of people all putting an authentic spin on why it matters for them and their dream customers, is world's more powerful. This has an exponential ripple effect; tens of thousands of people will see it and you'll 10X your brand exposure in the marketplace.
      21. Endorsements at scale. I know we all love to hate it, those insincere endorsements we get. It seems like everybody is hitting the plus sign. It's a genius tactic on LinkedIn's part for increasing stickiness and adoption. Great job LinkedIn, we're bombarded by somewhat meaningless notifications from people we really don't know endorsing our skills all day every day. I am constantly endorsed by people who may only know me in a very specific 'weak ties' way. Hey, I'll take the endorsements, no complaints. You know what's more powerful than clicking those plus signs all day? Go through your LinkedIn connections list and write five authentic recommendations every day this year about people you've actually interacted with and worked with: could be direct customers, colleagues, channel partners, managers or speakers at a conference. They'll reciprocate! Don't be afraid to ask your entire network to recommend you. See earlier, where we 'pruned' the network to make every connection count.
      22. Provocative comment interaction. After you've published a blog or published to LinkedIn there are two ways to engage. Just hit the like button when people comment. Or, take the time to backlink to their name, write an authentic gratitude-based comment and ask more questions or tell more stories. Foment deep discussions. Debate and put yourself out there. Comment boards are for massive interactivity. Some of my threads have hundreds of comments and I do my best to engage in every one within 24 hours. I've gotten a slew of inbound LinkedIn invites this way and built my Publisher follower base from 1,600 to over 5,500 followers in under three months. Interactivity, authentically, consistently and daily. Any questions? BE fully there and enter the fray. LinkedIn and Twitter are the platform, all the world is a stage and they are the greatest modern pulpit of all. It's a bit of a soapbox here but I try to get off the high horse, humble myself, make fun of myself and genuinely seek outside opinions. I want to learn from dozens of disparate viewpoints and expand my horizons.
      23. Integrated YouTube strategies. YouTube is the second biggest search engine on Earth. Of course it is, it was acquired by Google. Take all your posts and repurpose them as YouTube videos behind a green screen. Interview a bunch of best selling authors on there. You can always take the risk of asking them to be interviewed. Launch your own mini Selling Power TV concept if you're a seller but focus on customer challenges and strategic objectives. Be like the CNET for your industry trends. This is time consuming but affordable investing in some basic equipment. Jamie Shanks and Sales for Life do a ton of selfie style 60 seconds of selling clips which is very effective. It drives Google Juice, super high SEO value and these videos are powerfully shared back into LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and blogs. YouTube is typically the biggest gap in the strategy for advanced social sellers. How do I do it? Grab a cell phone camera and start getting on there real and raw talking about how you're helping your best customers solve their biggest challenges. A thriving company that is selling the lights out should have a YouTube channel pumping out dozens of videos every month. There are a ton of formats to release them in. The star of this channel? Your satisfied customers!
      24. Hub and spokes - Metcalfe's law. The fishing is the best where the most fish are. Social selling is not rocket science. B2B prospects are living in LinkedIn. Take your LinkedIn activity levels and put them on 10X in here. Anything you are doing that is working, literally multiply by 10. Pick one or two social networks and spend all your time there; cut out the rest. Your fans will ensure you are amplified, trust them to do this well. I stopped blogging all together at my traditional website and moved my core blog focus here. As a result, I've had deeper levels of engagement, more lucrative speaking opportunities, am working on a new book [networked with a bunch of new editors and publisher executives] and have literally opened the flood gates of opportunity. I got that idea from Tim Ferriss and Seth Godin. You can do this too but make it authentic for you. Make one network the hub and the rest the spokes. When you share out to the others, don't just duplicate the exact post: pull quotes. When you tweet the posts out, pull 4 or 5 quotes to re-share it throughout the ensuing days in under 140 characters and link out with a bitly. I remember when I started on here, I was averaging two to three posts per day and I literally got warnings. Recently a top author was asked about cadence of posting in LinkedIn Publisher and they responded "daily!" It's a sea change and the tide is turning. The most is not the best but if you build the topic lists, mashup the content and share all of your intellectual property freely, lo and behold! – more connections, more book sales, more interest, more speaking gigs, more sales and more pipeline. That sounds pretty good to me, so I thank each and every one of you for joining me in this magical, bizarre journey down this rabbit hole in the last 90 days. You've put up with a Jackson Pollacking of my best extemporaneous and evergreen content.
      25. Old school meets new school techniques = Advanced Strategic Social Selling 3.0. It takes courage to reach for the top. Go find mentors in here and study the old school. Read the pantheon on SPIN, Solution Selling, New Power Base, Insight Selling, Consultative Selling. Study it all and become a student of sales. I'm coming out with a book on advance social selling with content I haven't seen anywhere. Make sure you have a stable of Millennials in your corner teaching you how they sell, too. Reverse mentorship will give you tidal waves of new social media game. I'll end this post with the strongest possible insight I could bring you. The most powerful social sellers are applying timeless strategic selling principles in an amalgamation or hybrid synergy with new school techniques and tactics. Selling in 2015 is more noisy and ultra competitive than ever before. This is because customers have near unlimited options. Point solutions are growing like Gremlins eroding marketshare from the market makers of yore. But understanding strategy, mapping political power bases, 18 month sales cycles on million dollar opportunities transposed into social selling environs for acceleration, the impact of trigger events and the concepts of Challenger Sale mixed with my battle tested framework RSVP, have made a massive difference to the sales executives that I coach and the global companies that I train. I have people I'm mentoring that have reduced their sales teams to just a few who get these concepts. They're leveraging full blown marketing automation to do the work of 3 years in 3 months. Their pipelines are full. They're closing consistent six and seven figure deals, many inside without ever meeting with their customer. I've seen a short cycled seven figure opportunity now close in one quarter with pure social selling leveraging the methods in this post. It can be done. The mythical strategic social selling beast has breached the surface. Check out this post I wrote on the mostAdvanced Enterprise Social Selling methods, as I hadn't seen much content on enterprise roll-out or how to do this at scale with a team of 25 or 100 account executives. It's a whole new era and it's alive and well. Please let me know if you have questions or I can help you in any capacity. I'm traveling now consistently to present on this subject matter and can train / enable your people: tony@rsvpselling.com

      Now it's your turn. Did I miss any? How are you nurturing and closing massive deals leverage social selling platforms like LinkedIn? I want to hear from you to complete the brainstorm. I've seen these methods working in the field all over the world. How do you tie this all together? What's driving the highest degree of results for you?

      If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

      Main Image Photo by: NEC Corporation of America

      Whale Hunting Part II - Anchoring The Deal

      Budget. Timeline. Compelling Event. Success Criteria. Together these form the basis of anchoring a deal so that it does not drift away from you. The stem is success criteria. An enterprise deal cannot be anchored without these four points.

      Psychologically, numerous studies show that when we present a client with the unit economics in a deal, we risk self-commoditization. In protracted negotiations, starting high and making limited concessions is the strongest approach. Mark Hunter and Chester Karass have written extensively on this. So anchoring the deal is also setting an expectation around deal size and volume required.

      It's paramount to think and express only in terms of annual commitments, minimum thresholds and visionary partnerships. Assess these four factors in the crucible of high interest preceding decay rate and thereby accelerate the propensity to close. This combination in its simplicity 'anchors the sale.' It is just that simple.

      Qualifying the pipeline is where most sales organizations shipwreck on the rocks of missed expectation. This is why their pipe is chalk full of barnacles and detritus. If you use the anchor above effectively, it's very hard to let garbage float into the ecosystem and miss your targets. If you get these questions handled up front, you'll psychologically anchor the prospect and the deal. Notwithstanding deft application of SPIN, TAS, RSVP tried-and-true frameworks / methodologies, a boat without its anchor is listless and susceptible to the fickle tides. You can easily lose control of deals without knowing these points and inserting them carefully into your sales process. Selling to the customer in their own words requires them explaining these to you.

      In an effective discovery call, these four elements are ascertained but only in a ratio of 25% seller speaking to 75% customer revealing pain. I'm a staunch proponent of peeling the onion with Situation, Problem, Implication and Need-Payoff lines of questioning. The greatest wisdom shared with me early in my career, is that often the pain is seldom the true pain. We often diagnose mere symptoms to underlying problems. Great sellers get to the root. Great sellers dive 10,000 feet deep to the bottom of the ocean to understand their customer's business as well, if not even better, than their own in order to truly begin to solve the 'real' underlying problem(s). What is the risk of not adopting the new solution? Economically? Politically? Quantify the risk of inaction.

      We have the ability to literally transform our customers' business, make them look like heroes and help them get promoted. That's how powerful a strategic seller's role is. So 'the anchor' benefits both parties, buyers and sellers. It's transparent and creates efficiency. No more circumlocution, equivocation and cluttered pipe. No more 'happy ears.' I will get push back that this is an old school tactic but the ocean is wide and deep, so boiling it is imprudent.

      Never present without proper discovery and due diligence performed first. All presentations should be interactive with the customer fully engaged. This is a vast challenge in that studies revealed 92% of those listening in on a virtual meeting are disengaged: checking blackberry, calendar, doing email or simply drifting off. Since the entire world is moving virtual [inside] and pundits are prognosticating that the end of field selling draws nigh, here are the critical success factors for mastering virtual meetings.

      Before you look at a customer's plans, data or roadmap, get a mutual non-disclosure agreement in place. Inspire clients to pile everything they can on you. Encourage them to drown you in data from their email, Dropbox or FTP. Why? Because that's how interested you must be in them and scouring 25 files which include marketing calendars, technical specifications, requirements or notes will allow you to tailor your meeting agendas, presentations and navigate how you'll chart your course to the stars. The compass is truth, the north star is value creation. The momentum of mutually executing an NDA triggers the reciprocity, the give and take and back and forth. You want to consistently add value with every email, call, follow-up and outreach.

      The Earth is flat for many software companies. They sell seats and licenses and don't care much for customisation. They've frequently grown so large the presentation is mistakenly about their size and omnipotence: there is little need to fully understand the customer's specific challenges because they've provided 50 case studies of customers 'just like them.' Huge mistake, yes? Not only do we all love to feel like we are different but companies are indeed much like snowflakes. There is no one-size fits all solution-set, especially at the level of a six, seven - even eight figure deal. You must transcend the requirements, meet with various stakeholders in the account and map the political power base. Understanding the forces moving in the account, is like predicting currents. Wade out with your wits about you, always cognizant of the rip tides: competitive threats, status quo, 'do nothing,' point solutions and the homegrown, 'we'll just build it ourselves' approach.

      I'm often amused by the number of books on Amazon still touting one-call closing or even two call. I'm afraid the 80s are gone and this isn't a door-to-door steak knife or vacuum cleaner route. The height of folly is to deliver a generic proposal. Being consultative and tailoring your deck will make the biggest impact. I know a CEO who approaches every possible opportunity as if the entire funding and future of her company rose and fell on whether this single deal went through. The result is a relentless focus on strategy, listening, seeking first to understand and then be understood and a pristine, crystalline proposal that's so well developed and nurtured, it's essentially written in the prospect's own words. She never crafts the proposal after the second call. A sequence of calls with various teams over weeks occurs as the customisations are refined. By the time the contracts are drafted up, there are no surprises. No more waiting on pins and needles and endlessly checking in or touching base...

      When you present a complex solution to the client, paint the entire picture of transformation. If it requires presenting a million dollar suite of solutions in order to break off the first $250,000, have you not succeeded in closing that handsome piece of business in, as the relationship will grow? Contrast this with endless requests for pilots if you attempt to close solely the $250K? Always close 'sell the dream' with a valid, full menu of application. Prioritize together – land and expand.

      The world has become enamored with the social selling craze and so I am releasing an eccentric book on this subject shortly. I have recognized a global gap in training and enablement. Old school folks like me who have sold for 30 years in the field, blend strategic selling with social selling. Thus I have dubbed this Strategic Social Selling or potentially Social Selling 3.0. My thesis is that social selling will be relegated to an oversimplified transactional 'slam and jam' medium, if we do not return to the fundamentals that govern the psychology of influence and the timeless principles that govern value exchange. A deal is a deal is a deal... And an enterprise deal is a wild and wooly animal, unwieldy and untamable.

      We buy when we feel the solution has value. It's human nature. We seek out the premium and we actually are loathe not to feel 'exclusive.' Apple captures this ethos as does BMW. Even Starbucks is selling coffee at a premium. Virgin is an experience. Qantas in a safe flight. Ultimately, there are value differentiators that cause elasticity of demand, allowing us to defend price and margin. I recently debated with a junior sales rep, that all vendor solutions being exactly equal, I could sell at a higher price. His argument was that the way to win the deal would be to lower the price to be competitive. Our customers understand healthy profit margins as they too seek them. I created a program to sell that service based on the intangibles: value creation, service levels and by being the differentiator my self in how it was sold as a trusted advisor as opposed to features, functions, advantages and benefits that placed him into a commoditization downward spiral.

      Beyond all other elements of anchoring a large enterprise deal is the chain of the anchor itself: Confidence. Believe in your solution. Be fully sold yourself. Communicate with your shoulders back, stand upright in a confident loud tone and speak in full sentences. End those sentences. I was recently listening to a candidate be interviewed for a client I was consulting and we had a "rattler" on the phone. He hemmed and hawed, droned and prattled on. Confidence will always sell and this is another achilles heel of social. How can a computer sound confident? Will AI ever convey true confidence won by experience imputed from inflection? Artificial Intelligence will always be logical indeed although ever confident in a synthetic way. The flaw of computers is they're only ever as smart as the humans that programmed them...

      So that's a collection of my thoughts on the anchor. You've got the technology to be first in. You've 'opened' in social and you've generated the deal with your dream prospect. But now you must move faster than the decay rate before the status quo overtakes everyone involved. Anchor the deal! Be honest, forthright and confidently express what this will take. Align your incentives so that the strategic outcomes are a mutual win-win. Reduce the risk right out of the equation. Fear or pleasure may drive the close so take the temperature of your stakeholders early on. Which of the following will be your litmus test? Focus on the outcomes and management of risk. You will be delegated down to who you sound like. Have you ever seen a CEO's email? She rarely includes a salutation or signature. She communicates tersely, in economy of movement and time. She's powerful in what she does not do. Learn the language of strategy and carry this counterweight.

      • Do they have a budget sufficient enough for this exclusive opportunity? Yes, it's exclusive. Not every company has the need, solution fit or will innovate to the degree to apply the disruptive technology you extoll.
      • What is the precise timeline? Is this a realistic priority or something to be left for Q4 or 2016? Entire industries can come and go in the time it takes for a company that's 'just looking.' Remember the finish line is not the signature, it's the go-live date of production when your solution is adding value.
      • Is there a bonafide compelling event? What is the 500 lb. Gorilla of a reason to do this now? Mutually define a compelling business case. Uncover demand or create it. If there is any ambivalence in this regard, it's wasted time to continue.
      • What is their success criteria? How will your prospect measure their success? Are there systems in place, analytics and reporting to measure the ROI? How are they currently solving the problem with their existing team or vendor(s)? Remember a great way to land and expand in these accounts is to encourage multi-vendor approach for diversification.

      Now it's your turn: How do you anchor your deals? What elements of influence are most effective for you during the sales cycle? How do you prevent junk from clogging your funnel?

      If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

      Main Image Photo by Flickr: Christian Jensen and Mario Antonio Pena Zapatería

      Whale Hunting Part I - The Rate of Decay

      What do complex sales and the radioactive decay rate of atoms have in common? "The rate at which these unstable isotopes [deals] undergo decay varies greatly between the different isotopes [customers]. The process is random for each atom [customer]. However there is a fixed probability that an atom [deal] will disintegrate over a fixed time scale [quarter(s)].The time it takes for the radiation to decay to half of what it was previously is constant and is called the half life [closed lost]."

      Believe it or not, I always think of these decay rate charts, a phenomenon occurring in many natural systems, when I'm looking at enterprise selling. What is the said radiation? It's the emotion of senior decision makers and their propensity to overcome the status quo and make a change. It's the heat of the moment and the inspiration to take risk. Draw a graph like this on the white board and map Deal Size and Propensity to Close on the Y axis and time on the X axis. Then draw another horizontal line or watermark halfway up the Y axis to express the status quo. When a customer gets excited about the possibility of change, you've touched a nerve or uncovered pain; emotion flares up and just like a whale tail breaches the water line of the status quo. The fear of not changing outweighs the fear of changing for only a very short amount of time. If you do not get on site, Skype or meaningfully connect in that timeframe (actively listening) to help them make the case with the appropriate deciding stakeholders in the account, the deal will fall back down into the water and decay rapidly to the half life of 'close lost.' Ask yourself this question, how many opportunities have hit the "half life" and are hiding, decaying in your pipeline? It's time to Spring clean out your customer relationship management closet, observe the following universal truths and start to win.

      Although enterprise deals ($250K+) on average can often take anywhere from 6 to 16 months to close, if you haven't made a major impact in a quarter or two, you're talking about a massive pull of inertia catapulting deals with whales back down into the dark ocean of "do nothing." Your likelihood of closing the deal is exponentially smaller with every month that goes buy from the original point of high interest. Customers buy on emotion and close on pure logic. Many call this striking while the iron is hot when opportunity knocks, before dying on the vine. Andy Paul has taken this to an even further level of real-time selling or zero-time selling as others like Craig Elias have dubbed the concept as 'first in.' This is a tricky expression and I'll uncover a new way to look at time and engagement in this post as well as a follow-up. There are nuances here that I feel could be more thoroughly explored. I wanted to share some of my unique thoughts about this concept as it relates to the natural world and how I see the ramifications of decay rates and how they're impacting enterprise deals and influencing sales cycle stagnation, or acceleration. It seems like a big mystery until you just look at any system in nature.

      Simplicity emerges...

      First off, are you currently even hunting whales? With all due respect to these beautiful, mysterious and regal creatures of the undersea kingdom which I do seek to protect, in sales, as a metaphor whale hunting is defined as going full bore after your largest dream clients. Why relegate your team to mediocrity and tire-kickers? I would argue it takes an equal amount of time, money and resources to go after bad deals as it does to target the right ones. Time is money and you're in business to produce dramatic results for clients that are a key fit for your solution. Think as big as you can, then think bigger. Imagine the most incredible deal you could put together with the biggest client with the most complete suite of your solutions. Write this down on paper to memorialize it. What truly constitutes an ideal prospect? Understand every facet of the whale almost like a marine biologist. You are Jacques Cousteau! Which company could your firm foster a strategic partnership with and completely transform their business as well as yours? That's step one: defining the whale and not limiting yourself to that definition. If you can't spot it, how can you hunt it? OK, you may not feel ready but I guarantee you're more ready than you think.

      So that leads to the next major question? How do I combat that rate of decay? How can I reconcile enterprise sales cycles with my lack of time, capacity or resources? I need to go raise a round of funding... I need to close in business now. My startup company is at risk... or, as an account executive, I have to make my number, right?

      Check out this second graph. Now I can go find thousands of these charts but what we see here is a similarity of diametric motions in competing energy systems. There's the downward pressure of decay and then the acceleration up and to the right of growth and the confluence or crossroads of both. You have a chance to literally insert yourself into deal cycles other competitors have started for you. You can come in out of nowhere (or below from the depths if we stick to this analogy) with more power, force, insight and passion and completely disrupt another decay rate already in play causing your deal to accelerate back up to growth. I would relate this to a block in the game of billiards when you knock the opponents ball off course or position your ball to block the target.

      This is why social selling and social networks are so powerful. You can literally generate demand rather than servicing it. The whole traditional idea of web leads, inbound phone calls and the reactive nature of whales coming to you is a recipe for RFP, stalls and low average deal size. Generally, CXO whales deploy and delegate to have several vendors spelunked at once. So waiting for the sector to come to you is a red herring. I've opined ad nauseam about the power of content marketing to create an octopus's garden to attract whales and that's an ongoing Challenge endeavor that Marketing and B2B salespeople should undertake together but that does not forego, the proactive whale hunting mentality each day. The boulder versus the sand is going after at least five whales per day before doing anything else. Don't answer your email, construct an RFP response, work the web leads or build that 55 slide presentation with your NASCAR slide. Don't do anything until you've identified, targeted, followed up with, cold-called or connected with on LinkedIn – at least 5 dream customers before lunch. Every single day. After all, you still have the name "sales" in your title. And if that title disappears industry-wide someone is still going to be responsible for bringing in the revenue of the company. I'd challenge any robot to close a six or seven figure deal. If we get there in my lifetime, I'll eat my shoe. Please hold me to it!

      Recently, a CEO argued for the end of selling and how customer service agents could handle it all. He whined about how unfortunate commission plans are. Even if all that were true, somebody in the companies of the future will understand this post and hop on a plane, even go door to door again, and do all this old school analog hunting completely eclipsing the techy folks waiting around for $250,000 self-serve orders to come into the website. I don't know about you but I've never been more suspicious in my life in making a major purchase than right now. In 2015 everything including Ferraris can be purchased on a mobile phone with one click and how on Earth do I know it's not a scam? Is the engine full of sawdust? Am I sending a money order to Dubai? How do I get into the car and test drive it... I'd be shocked to hear of one Fortune 2,000 CEO spending $1MM without face time and even walking the facilities of the vendor. If you're a CXO reading this or you know one that has purchased million dollar enterprise software sight unseen, please comment. I would love a case study, perhaps I'm wrong (but I doubt it.)

      You can set off the chain reactions in both charts and be there first, early. I think the thing that Corporate Executive Board research misses and Challenger Sale for that matter, is the goal of insight selling in a real-time ecosystem is to bypass the entire decision making process all together. The entire buyer's decision journey is reactive: they've already started and you're inserting yourself anywhere between 57% to 90%. So it's all focused on engaging early upstream. But who is teaching, don't even compete in an existing buying cycle that has a decay rate. What about the novel idea of triggering the buying cycle yourself? Right, the entire cacophony of "it's not a sales cycle," it's a "buying cycle" is juxtaposed to the sales people I coach actually closing six and seven figure deals with LinkedIn. They're generating demand not servicing it. I would counteract this with the Jobsian thought, "What customer ever knew what they want? We need to show them what they never knew they always wanted." Paraphrasing...

      On Monday, hold a meeting with your sales team. Write down the top 10 companies you need to close and what exact deal you want to do: size, solution, stakeholders, etc. Who are you not closing you need to be? I'm sure it's on the tip of your tongue or in the back of your mind. What are the solutions you'll sell and the problems you'll solve? Chances are, you're no longer up periscope searching for whales; you're reactively dealing with a school of fish of smaller accounts - just as high touch, high maintenance - and they're reactively consuming all your time. Have you given up? Recalibrate! Now that you've pinpointed these whales it's time to share your team's knowledge of everything in the accounts: what were the past attempts, do you have paper with any of them, were there past proposals? Have stakeholders you've sold to from other accounts moved into them? Where are the people that signed the POs or SOWs now? All of this is very much a group trigger event tracking exercise and will serve as the wind in your sails to build momentum in this quarter and the next. You are simply getting to know the whales, identifying them before you go after them again.

      Reinvigorated by this article? I certainly am. I do this every day and train groups and CXOs to look at their book of business and territory mapping in this novel way. So what now? Go look at the graphs again. Nobody is ever satisfied with what they're using, especially in software. Most people have creeping doubts. Ask someone if they're happy? 99% will mention they could be happier in this area of that. So essentially the flare of change, the breach of the surface of the ocean, the whale tail's rise if you will is happening right as we speak all over the ocean of our sector and customer base. You only need to get out a pair of binoculars, open your eyes from your CRM spreadsheet jockey repose and get out the S.S. Minnow. All you have to do is intercept the decay rate or better yet, CREATE IT! Waves, ebbs and flows - watch them. If you live by a major body of water, go study right now... It holds thousands of years of secrets in its movements. Enterprise sales cycles ebb and flow the exact same way. It's all right there!

      When I call on a major customer and I have a cutting edge solution that is superior in many ways I focus on the outcomes and risk. I keep the conversation strategic with the business folks to win the business sale and technical/tactical with the operational technical folks to win the technical sale in tandem. I make a compelling and provocative business case that my competitor is not using. It's unique and data driven. I'm not parroting the magic quadrant report: I tell the story in my own way to deeply engage. It's about them, their quote in the annual report, the media, the blog, the conference. I also realize there's a 3% chance they're actively looking and 40% chance they're open to looking. That 40% is my ocean where I'll create the breach. Jumping dolphins are cool too, fast nimble high growth companies that I can sell into that will create the budget and still have the scaled need. The minute I get customers excited emotionally about improving the state of their business, the risk of change decreases, the system is frictionless and now I have a customer advocate and champion to go cause a Renaissance in the account. Value creation is easy. It's not a one time propositions. It's an upward spiral of how we're working together to either drive revenue or increase operational efficiency on an ongoing basis. Then the decay rate begins...

      Let me simplify this for you: If you've got deals over $250,000 in your pipe and you are not actively engaging and moving them through your funnel with enough velocity they will [I repeat]: drown into the status quo of the Doldroms. No doubt about it. The minute something goes white hot in your pipe, you have mere weeks, maybe a quarter to accelerate it so you can be that red sine wave graph up and to the right. You must catch the egg of interest and intent or it will break. These are simple diagrams pulled right out of isotope and atomic decay rate research. But all these decay rates look eerily similar against infinite human systems, as they are fractal. The expenditure of emotion, energy and enthusiasm like echoes into a canyon, is guided by the limitation of Earth time. We all know the greatest enemy of quota is time. That's why we must ferociously protect our calendars against the forces of evil in our own companies masquerading as good. Endless admin, enablement and days of internal meetings does not a top seller make. It's just a law. Companies exist to block their sellers. That may be the greatest paradox of all. Often in an early stage startup I consult, the first step is to pinpoint the sellers who are literally "blocking revenue." Once a shift is made and the able folks are in the right location, a team of 2 can drive more revenue than 10. I've seen it happen too many times it's like some parable in Greek myth. Deal Blockers Anonymous. The anti-sellers reckoning!

      Time is of the essence. Identify the whales. Think bigger. Build a sustainable, repeatable [demand gen] mechanism to engage them early before they "die on the vine" and decay and when you see the tail flare up, realize they're most likely engaged with all your competitors. In the enterprise, this is definitely always the case. To prove it, think of your own behaviour? When's the last time you bought a pricey piece of software? Did you not go to Google, submit to multiple web forms and request demos from at least three companies. I recently did this with GoToMeeting, Join.Me and WebEx and had reps from all three selling me, slide-decking me and romancing me for a few months. But if you're first, if you're the one to cause the flare up with a key insight, by helping them see their business or business model in a dramatically new way, you then have this shining moment to accelerate the deal. Is it audacious to think you can revolutionize someone's business who may be very senior to you? Not if you build enough industry expertise by assessing what the leading edge companies are doing you interface with. You generate insight by living it, being out in the field, walking the halls of dream clients and reading like a fiend.

      Is it possible to close deals without an inside sales team, field sales team and solely as a CEO founder leveraging marketing automation and LinkedIn alone? Yes. I know of several using stealth social gen technologies now. I know of companies having success with companies like Frontline Selling and Carb.io. There's an inside phalanx of Predictable Revenue sellers too applying the Henry Ford Silicon Valley specialization models. The sales people of the future will understand this and form a strategic alliance with their internal C-Suite. By leveraging stealth B2B social lead gen technology to set unlimited meetings, bonding and having a close knit relationship with the leadership of their own company, and being more proactive than ever, they can pick from a grab bag like bobbing for apples. It will be possible to steal deals right out of the hands of competitors.

      We've all had this happen to us. All's fair in love, war and business. And when I say steal, it's like stealing the ball in sports; it's a fair play. If you outsmart your competitors by thinking more strategically, being quicker and more cunning as the fox, it's still counts when you bank it. Technology levels the playing field but technology mixed with strategy is unstoppable. Study military strategy, study the classic strategic selling books you think are collecting dust on the shelf. Don't get too enamored with the Social Selling craze because many of these principles lack the foundation of strategic selling in complex matrixed organizations. You need to garner a very thorough understanding of SPIN selling, TAS, Solution, Strategic, Insight and Power Base before you attempt to do this in social. You will walk right into a hornest nest as you trigger multiple land mines with out a complete and thorough training in the Pantheon.

      After all, until they 'sign on the line that is dotted,' it's a free country, free market and the customer or "whale" is in charge. We'd never harpoon the whale, we'd let them harpoon us into a meaningful business relationship of trust that lasts and strengthens itself in an anti-fragile manner where we're providing so much recurring value creation that they'd never sever that tie in the chaos of high growth technology acceleration. We're out ahead innovating in permanent beta. Maybe this post should have been called Whale Rider because I've featured a picture of a photographer capturing the stately mysterious whale shark. You truly want to co-exist with your best customers and forge alliances of trust. It's a simbiotic give and take after all. That's why I love the book Go-Givers Sell More!

      If you're limiting yourself on the size of deal you can close, speed you can close it and level of dream customer, you're wasting precious time in your career and taking commission money out of your family's pocket. Go big! Dream bigger and think bigger. There is a ton of great information on trigger events that Tibor Shanto and Craig Elias put out so I must tip my hat to that in this article. I'm going to write a follow up post to this all about "anchoring the sale." This will cover the psychological components and where Cialdini's influence factors in when you do get in "early" and chase the rainbow to find that mythical pot of gold. Don't get bitten by the procurement leprechaun!

      Once you spot a prospect that is "whale size" and has embarked on the decay rate journey there are ways to anchor the deal before it falls off that are critical to bringing the revenue home and booking it. The role of social media, LinkedIn, Twitter and persistent cold-calling techniques coupled with them as well as how to leverage on-site and interactivity become key here. Look for Part II.

      Happy hunting and closing! Once you catch the whale, psyche! realize they caught you and coexist with them. Admire their beauty. Go for a swim in the ocean of healthy profit margins, recurring revenue and a virtuous cycles of mutual growth!

      Now it's your turn: What makes deals die? Why do some accelerate and others stall? How are you leveraging strategic selling systems, processes and technology to compete in big deals or accelerate your sales cycle? Curious...

      If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

      Main Image Photo by Flickr: Marcel Ekkel

      17 Peculiar Paradoxes of Social Selling

      Every area of our lives is rife with paradox. Social Selling has engendered many of its own but I've yet to see anyone take on the subject as the topic is so new. I began to write a post on business paradoxes. That opened my mind to somemind-boggling ones like this. The overarching takeaway that I can share is the best practices most commonly held and shared are often the ones hurting your strategy the most. Social Selling is about 'word of mouse.' Good is the enemy of great. When your writing transcends symbols on the page to becoming a Youtility that engenders rapid actionable results, you've matriculated into the realm of viral. When you're applying the exact same tactics as everyone else, you add to the white noise. The below will help you stand way out and be the signal. I learned these lessons over 125+ posts on LinkedIn Publisher in the last 90 days:

      1. The more you try to sell in social, the less likely you are to close.There is a ladder of engagement that can honestly take dozens and dozens of touch points. Building connectivity from a simmer to a boil over months closes deals. You can't go after the immediate and anything you close that way is on shifty ground. Is it possible to show up in the middle of a decision and take the deal right out of the jaws of a competitor? Because of social? Yes. You can literally create demand before the customer even knows what she is looking for or goes to the search engine. With consistent awareness building, story telling and a focus on remarkable ways that you solve common pain points, you can move from servicing demand to generating it upstream. This is pre-triggerpre-Challenger and taps into the 3% of people actively looking but more importantly that 40% who would be open to looking, according toVorsight.
      2. The more social networks you utilize, the less powerful the amplification. Seth Godin only does short, pithy blog posts. He manages to be one of the most shared [if not the top blog] on the entire internet. His fan base handles the amplification and yours should too. In business to business, you need to think of LinkedIn as the hub for publishing because it's where the largest engaged audience lives. I literally received concerned emails when I shut my blog off on my RSVPselling site and started to solely blog in here. Several of my posts have received hundreds of retweets and my followers tripled within months. What is more exciting, is that I started to get a steady flow of friend requests so my network on Twitter and LinkedIn began to grow purely organically.
      3. Consistent B+ content frequently performs better than sporadic A+ content but outrageously good content - off the richter scale - could perform better than anything, even posted just once. Ideationis the massive hurdle as a writer. How do you bring brand new content to the space that no one has heard of? Einstein said it best, 'Imagination is more important than knowledge.' Consistent strong content will start to rank in Google and you'll be seen as a trusted publisher source. If you push yourself to newsjack, share something from the heart that is a personal story or push the envelope with ideas no one has ever seen before: it flares up. Spend hours obsessing on the content and topic lists: push your ideation 10X. Unique ideas cause word of mouse and will be 'sneazed' [Godin] more than anything else. I loved Seth's book Unleashing the Ideavirus which addresses these themes. He was ahead of his time to freely release it rendering it the most downloaded eBook ever then. Coin new terms, invent ideas, leverage hybrid synergy, mash-up the old and the new and tell unusual stories. Creativity and imagination stick out like a sore thumb; they help people remember the underlying lessons and read between the lines.
      4. You will be hated before you're loved no matter what you post.First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and thenyou win. Gandhi got this right. When you put yourself out there and express your truth, it's simply the nature of the human condition to walk through these flaming hoops to the promise land. When I first started to blog at high volume in here I was an early adopter [3 months ago]. LinkedIn had only opened up their Publisher capability to a limited group for long form posts, perhaps I got in because I'm an author. I received multiple letters of concern about the volume of my posts. Now I receive daily praise about the consistent quality. The majority of authors I'm connected to, even global sales thought leaders like Donal Daly are frequently blogging now, many even daily. It's my mandate to always dive in to new social mediums in order to bring those findings back to my reader base, fitting in how they could be useful in a strategic social selling context.
      5. If you get big enough on LinkedIn, LinkedIn breaks. Luckily you can email them to get your profile turned back on. They literally can't handle the capacity of over 200 interactions per day. Some algorithmic gate shuts you off. This may not always be the case but the amount of clicks it requires to keep the pace of interactivity once you have thousands of friends in your stream at a 10 to 1 ratio [10 things about them, only 1 about you] causes capacity issues to rise. Apparently, there is a finite limit on the amount of clicks that you can make in a 24 hour period on here. So if you go on a writing tear or liking tear, watch out! Has anyone else experienced this? This is different than LinkedIn Jail for those that mass add. I'm talking about authentically managing your stream, liking, commenting and engaging and suddenly poof! down the profile goes and out comes the Customer Support Ticket...I will give the powers that be at LinkedIn a great deal of credit for policing the community so it doesn't become the endless commercial free for all that is Facebook. [Note I barely use FB, less then 10% of my followers see my updates there unless I'd like to pay for them to.]
      6. The best connections and opportunities are still busier then you are so often what seeks you out first, is not trustworthy. When you break through the rainforest canopy of social prowess and start to soar with the eagles above, you become beautiful. Be careful, because the flood gates of people you'll never want to meet or talk to will immediately swarm you. Protect your calendar and be very selective of who you link in with. There are many spam profiles but there are also a million speakers, authors, strange publishing entities, spurious business dealers and just bizarre things occurring in social networks looking to take their pound of flesh.
      7. If you take the 10X moonshot it's just as easy as mediocrity. The fishing is best where the fewest go and the collective insecurity of the world makes it easy for people to hit home runs while everyone is aiming for base hits. Tim Ferriss believes this and has lived by it. Just look at the outrageous global success of the 4-Hour book series... I took my 3 year plan for social media and compressed it into 3 months. The result has been meeting all of you. I'm very grateful and humbled by the response. It forced me to encapsulate my thoughts, actions and push beyond creative boundaries. I have an entirely new idea for the most advanced strategic social selling [3.0] book ever written that I'll be releasing soon. Social media is the epitome ofParkinson's law which is best summed up by the adage that 'work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.' Set goals that scare you; big, bold, wild, hairy and audacious. Then take that time and compress it. You'll break the fourth wall and find new goals, summiting Everest only to find K2 laughing in your face. That's been my experience on power-using LinkedIn. The main thing to remember, is that social networks are quite useless in and of themselves. It's all about HOW you use them, that makes them powerful. Seek innovation in utilization.
      8. Blogging only in LinkedIn is more effective within months than years of traditional blogging. Personally, I sold more books and had more (and higher quality) response in 3 months of blogging on here than 3 years of hosting a traditional web blog. Becoming a bestselling author in Australia happened by word of mouth but online, the front of my funnel is consistent interactivity with a brand new reader-base and as a byproduct, my eBooks and Audio books began to break loose.
      9. Longer posts of 1,900 words outrank everything else (that's about a 9 minute read). Paradoxically, the world is starving for useful, meaty content; a little less sizzle and a lot more steak! I talk about executive ADD but that's because they're shining a bright light looking for one decent piece of useful content to immediately apply to their business for outstanding growth results. This is why Copyblogger crushes it, they build out in depth useful concept. I've realized that I must become a Jay Baer 'youtility' with myMichael Hyatt 'platform.' In essence, once the title is useful, each bullet is an action a sales person can take TODAY. The 1,900 word article is the full picture of this utility: every aspect of how sales people can apply that success principle. My longer articles on LinkedIn often get massively shared but sometimes they don't get much engagement online. Ironically, if the quality is A+ on youtility, I do get folks writing in who print them out and apply them in the field. If what you write in social media helps your base get tangible, real-world results, remarkable outcomes are possible. In sales blogging, if those results equate to concrete revenue: it's the holy grail of service-based thought leadership.
      10. Pictures are not only worth a thousand words, they make or break posts. The human face; even in studies of indigenous people in the rainforests who have little to no exposure to the outside world, holds the same countenance. The human face can make over 10,000 expressions which unites everyone on the planet. Faces make an amazing impact so preference them over all other pictures. David Meerman Scott talked about having real and raw photographs leading your social posts in lieu of stock photography. I think that's true. I also like super vibrant, remarkable looking pictures that are just very well photographed. A/B test like crazy. I've found that non sequitur completely oblique or bizarre mixes of pictures and copy rank very well. The ultimate hilarious mash-ups in my mind are a 'a row of well dressed people walking intently,' anything involving 'babies or puppies' and 'executives looking perplexed.' Business writing can be fun if you see the humor in the mundane. I certainly do.
      11. How To and List Titles outperform even the most outrageous shocking title as they give readers subconscious permission to "snack" some key takeaways in your content. Titles should still feature hyperbole. Take your content and turn it on 11. But the snacking factor is a real thing. Use bold headings and make it easy to skim. Be open to the fact that 80% of the people who like your posts on LinkedIn won't read the whole way through. 20% will read all of it and very few will comment. Likes are a strong leading indicator for success. Youtility content is huge. Imagine, someone can click a button, read a bullet and go make a sale. This is the magic of social selling 3.0 in the web of context.
      12. The harder you try to convince major publishers and editors in the system to promote your content, the more you're repelled but it's relatively easy to attract them to you if you have the platform built.
      13. You're better off with 1,000 of the right connections than 10,000 who seldom engage. Read and practice the axiom of the Thousand True Fan. There are needles in this haystack called social selling. There are million dollar dream customers looking for you, frantically. They're doing anything they can to find a trustworthy seller and truly cutting edge solution for their problem that actually works. There are so many empty promises, it's an uncontrollable ecosystem of hype and fluff. There are people on LinkedIn right now out of hundreds of millions that can mentor you, change your life and bring you that one key connection or insight that literally alters the future of your entire career. Seek out that Thousandth Man or Woman [Rudyard Kipling]
      14. There is strength in weak ties. Your net worth is the size of your network. You're also most likely to advance your career via the weaker ties you don't know. That being said, I've made the case for an annual pruning of your friend list [Deleting Party!]. There are probably hundreds of completely superfluous connections that you have that are "feed clogging" your stream. Don't be afraid to press delete. The biggest thing I noticed in spending more time on LinkedIn than I'd like to admit [I stopped watching TV all together, could you imagine!!] is that the same constraints that govern analog human networks like the Dunbar Number as well as cliques and exclusivity are prevalent and govern LinkedIn. Here's an earth-shattering idea: reach out and touch someone right now. Go to your profile, pick a dream customer you're already connected to and write them an InMail. Find someone who is interesting you are connected to on LinkedIn that you've never interacted with and send them a message. Become interested! The basic coolest thing about LinkedIn has stopped happening. If I hear from a stranger, it's typically a spam blast form template selling me something useless or group they want me to join. It's serving their interests not mine. Be fully there, pick an intriguing person that is likable where you share something in common and ping them simply to admire them. Who does that anymore? Has LinkedIn become one of the least social, most transactional environs on the planet now? Yes. We can change that. If you want to blow someone's mind? Send an authentic DM on Twitter. When's the last time you actually received a message on there that wasn't an auto-responder?
      15. Twitter will explode with retweets of your greatest content whether you participate in it at all. If you post a big, bold, controversial or brilliant enough idea anywhere on the internet, Twitter will erupt. It's just how it is. I posted about a courageous pilot that saved over four hundred lives with the leadership lessons translatable to business and it went on to garner 200,000 views. The harder you work in social selling, the luckier you will get. Within a few months, I was ranked 87 on Onalytica's report of top social sellers and in the top 5 of my network of over 2,000 professionals. I showed up every day and sought to inspire someone and make sure I was inspired, too. I sought to understand what was in my stream: like, comment, share and give authentic feedback prior to building the platform and looking for you to understand me. And I'm just getting started...
      16. Play it safe with your content and risk being forgotten. Outrageous mashups get remembered where hard hitting insight driven 'dry' white paper content is often appreciated but forgotten. Dry content that is brochure-like is skimmed and low value.
      17. The power of a brand is inversely proportionate to its scope. [Al Ries] Hyper-specialization is a content laser. Keep a very tight focus on subject matter expertise. For me, it's the evolution and adaptation of leadership and B2B strategic selling applied to social memes. What do you know the most about? In what areas do you have a bizarre amount of tribal knowledge? What are you most passionate about? What could you write a book about? Blog there, post there... go deeper there. Create there. Innovate there. Mash that up in new ways. Make that new by blending it, deconstructing it to first principles and rebuilding it. That's the rub!

      Now it's your turn: What bizarre, quixotic or paradoxical phenomena have you witnessed in social selling? What seems to be a prevailing belief that actually doesn't work? Is there misinformation or conflicting information out there? What techniques work like magic for you that fly in the teeth of commonly held beliefs and best practices? Are you truly getting value out of social selling? Where are you stuck?

      If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

      Main image photo by: Flickr: Omarukai

      Top 7 Utopian & Dystopian Shocking Sales Predictions

      It's the end of the sales world as we know it... and I feel fine? GerhardHuthwaite and many other sci-fi fans have prognosticated that sales itself may face an existential threat from artificial intelligence (AI) as we move further and further toward the COMPLETE buying cycle. "Gartner predicts that by 2020, 85% of interactions between businesses will be executed without human intervention. It is likely that of the 18 million salespeople in the United States, there will be only about 4 million left."

      Could human-based selling disappear all together? Are we at war with the machines?

      Tibor Shanto wasn't sold that the death of the salesman 2.0 could really be upon us: it may be an inherently flawed argument as sales people paradoxically could actually become more of a necessary 'evil' than ever before with increased sector complexity. Andreessen put it best: "Software is eating the world." Soon the capital of Earth will be Silicon Valley as no industry is immune: complete and utter global disruption of 'everything' is predicted! But what if sales peoples' ranks explode in line with the population and Moore's law meets Sensor-Driven Cambrian Explosion of solution complexity?

      Technology acceleration creates massive confusion that only a hand held by human guidance can weather. Aren't we going to need guidance for installing the Internet of Everything into our homes and workplaces? Won't human intervention always be needed to simplify a path forward from current state to future state – ever so Jetson?

      It's a brave new world. In honor of Miles Davis' 8th studio album 7 Steps to Heaven 'featuring the Miles Davis Quintet in transition - this is the last of Davis' studio albums with standards rather than band originals' which I listened to while I wrote this in an iconoclastic mood - here are my 7 top predictions of how sales could either undergo a Singularity-driven Renaissance or 7 steps to hell where it could plunge into Orwellian medieval darkness like Van Damme's Cyborg (yes, a truly bad B action movie, if you know about this, I seriously hope it produced a belly laugh!).

      Which camp are you in? Pray tell!

      The Case for Dystopia

      1. Advances in Robotics allow for Android sales people in the field to deliver insights like Watson at Jeopardy.

      2. Drones drop off customized white papers and contracts are signed by drone. Sales drones are an amusing but eerie concept to me. Robots could suddenly be everywhere eliminating field sales. Would they wear suits or have them spray painted on metallic? If you get sticker shock on that million dollar price tag could the defibrillator drone be close at hand?

      3. Machine learning generates the key insights to help drive the self-serve funnel. Big data may at last become useful in selling if a technology allows a machine to become smarter than the human brain to parse it all. What paradigm shifting, curve jumping key insight could live in that big data meta-cloud to give your organization the razor's edge against the competition? If everyone is fed these insights won't there be an arms race for insight or insight parity reached to commoditize even the highest level of solutions at some dizzyingly outrageous higher level? Boggles my mind just thinking about it.

      4. Search engines like Wolfram Alpha become so smart they can fully educate the prospect so they go 100% of the way through the sales process before ever needing to talk to a human. Again, the case for 100% decision and buying cycle complete. No humans needed???!!! But then again, who has the time? It's unclear if ERP firms even understand ERP and it's 2015.

      5. Stealth B2B social lead-gen technologies chop off the top of the funnel so one able Chief Strategy Officer or Chief Customer Officer can automate all inbound marketing, traditional marketing and PR and move the entire sector in real time with a magic wand of DOMO-like beautiful #tech, uncovering and generating demand 24/7. With advanced stealth B2B technologies I'm aware of right now, essentially one person can do the work of an entire traditional inside sales team of 50 and the CEO can just fly in and seal the deal. No joke! Predictive analytics makes the sales process prescient and we can literally select our target in a Minority Report style dashboard that then triggers a proactive series of events. The perfect provocative insight is generated, deployed and brings her to us: convinced, converted and ready to collaborate.

      6. Holography enables virtual reality walk-throughs and Go To Meetings on steroids where the executives float in the center of the conference room. This is very Minority Report meets Princess Leia! Help me Obiwan Kenobi You're my only hope.

      7. Virtual reality allows for a company to solely operate remotely, a headquarters is not even needed. The entire technology stack front and back-end sits in the cloud elastically - burstable and on-demand, the entire team is distributed and all meetings are held in a virtual world. Security becomes a major concern as your competitors could be imposters impersonating clients to obtain secrets. Ooh goodie!

      The Case for Utopia

      1. The Singularity occurs fusing our brains with machines allowing us to divine what people need by being able to use a larger percentage of our brains. Maybe not quite the level of Scarlett Johansson schooling Morgan Freeman in Luc Besson's Lucy. [Definitely see this movie if you haven't already!] A new era in consultative sales emerges in which we are able to perform the most advanced aspects of technology diagnosis and well as understand the strategic business factors with access to all human knowledge from smart chips in our brains or an up-link to the web via the neocortex - #instantaneously.
      2. Cambrian Explosion of specialized, qualified Sales People follows the exponential logarithmic curves of technology acceleration and Moore's Law to service new demand flying in the face of pundits. The law of divergence prevails over convergence. The complexity of solutions creates downward pressure on commodity and transactional selling below a certain dollar threshold of comfort and the anything over that watermark still requires meeting with sellers. Since these deals are less common, there is more competition for them which causes enterprise sales people to be even more valuable. Perhaps an Ender's Game like selling environment could train up the world's greatest sales people from birth. Will the Russians launch sales training schools like future ballerinas or Olympians? This leads me to my next outrageous prediction...
      3. Accreditation and training programs at a University Level spring up so sales folks can get Master and PhDs in their craft. There is a universal code of conduct and standards drafted; could you imagine? The argument I get is that's why we all love sales – people with non-traditional backgrounds can thrive. We don't need a college degree! Fun but becoming a sales person requires an interdisciplinary skill-set including technical factors such as coding, agile development and project management as we move toward 2020.

      As Jason Jordan predicts: "There needs to be a meaningful body of knowledge about the profession of sales. Obviously there is not. Neil Rackham and a handful of others have done amazingly insightful research into best practices and frameworks for selling, but not many. Mostly we get anecdotal sales books that contain faint research and contribute little to our understanding of how it all works. And unfortunately, it's a bit of the chicken-or-the-egg thing here with regard to credible research... University researchers don't do much work in this space, so sales doesn't appear to be an academic discipline... So there is very little research done in this space. Mercifully, the universities that do teach sales are discovering that their sales graduates get amazing jobs... And give back. Which is raising visibility within business schools." Check out his work with The Sales Education Foundation and he notes optimistically, "All in all, we are making progress on all of these fronts. We're seeing more specialization in sales forces, more universities are integrating sales into their curricula, and researchers are starting to push into the space with enthusiasm. It will be interesting to ask this question a generation from now."

      4. Specialization of sales functions transformed it into a bonafide 'profession.' Again Jason Jordan from a lively discussion in Smibert's Strategic Selling group on LinkedIn, "First, a profession needs to have specializations. Lawyers, doctors, accountants, engineers, and other 'professions' all have sub-specialties where they focus and hone their talents. For sales, there needs to be an acknowledgement that there are different types of sellers – inside salespeople, key account managers, territory salespeople, and other specialties that have unique skill sets. AND it's okay to remain in one role for an entire career. Inside sales doesn't have to be a career path to outside sales... Different skill sets, different professional paths." There are approximately 100 universities around the world now offering sales qualifications. Only about 80 of the 4,000 universities in the United States offer a dedicated sales curriculum.

      5. Wearable technologies like smart contact lenses, HaloLens and Google Glass Part Deux [the fashion forward one!] simply make us that much more effective in the field. It's much like Terminator 2 with his heads-up display (HUD).

      We could have readouts appearing in the distance with key vital signs on the account, LinkedIn profile identification and big data tying it all together to generate insights in real time - even as we're speaking with senior executives [sadly, the male brain can only do one thing at a time so this could drive a female domination of professional field selling]. The fusion of woman and machine even at a higher level of the Singularity could foster a renaissance in which real time big-data-driven insight is suddenly possible. This will allow for effortless translation of all languages [including code bases, Linux & GitHub] if both buyer and seller are hooked into the matrix. With stratospheric travel beyond the sound barrier or hyperloops, suddenly a small tiger team of sales reps could effortlessly cover an entire continent and correspond in 50 languages. I'm sure if Elon Musk gets his druthers we will have well-colonized Mars by then which will be the coolest territory to cover as Account Executives of 2030! The Sales Engineers could be replaced by virtual AI living in our ear, whispering the answer and the insight. CRM could at last penetrate every country in the world uprooting industries as technology adoption curves are kicked off simultaneously everywhere. With trillions of sensors in everything including your toothbrush, door locks, every system in a high-rise, who will service them, sell the configurations of them and tune them? Maybe the drone bot AI cyborg Watsons can pick that up too! Mobile phones will disappear as the clunky feaux-appendage that they are. Our chiropractors will thank us. Typing will not exist either as dictation occurs with SIRI-like impulses of the mind into word and picture concepts we can transmit over fiber optics.

      6. Nostalgia itself could play a role almost like the vinyl LP of Miles playing that ascerbic bittersweet biting horn I'm listening to right now. I don't think a machine will ever produce that sound – even in the year 3,000! There could be a check-box on the site to have a romantic 'human experience' in the sales holodeck? A Sales Preservation Historical society might crop up almost like a museum with books from the 1980's and photographs of big hair and big deals! Slogans like, "Make a firm handshake" could wow visitors as they float in on hover boards...

      7. Millennials decide to banish the machines and go old school like a tribe of Doomsday Preppers living like ewoks in tree houses. Will the young executives of 2020 insist on 10% machine time and hang out in the woods sipping Chai to have long philosophic discussions about strategy and present human centered solutions, waxing poetically into each others eyes about how it was better in the days of Willie Loman? Maybe the Eloctromagnetic Pulse will destroy all the circuits and suddenly Arthur Miller's classic will be discovered along with a screenplay of Glengarry Glen Ross and the madness will all start over again in the Mad Max (Road Warrior) of some faraway planet. Don't hold your breath!

      Now it's your turn? What did I miss? What do you predict selling will look like in 2020? How 'bout 2050? Will the bots revolt and take our jobs? One CEO recently declared he'd never hire a sales person again? Is he Galileo or the inventor of Betamax?

      If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

      Main Image Photo by Flickr: Tomás Fano

      What Air Crash Investigations Didn't Tell You About QF32 (Airbus A380)

      This is an unlikely but true story about iconic brands being protected by an amazing airline captain, the power of social media, and how to create customer-centric culture. Every enterprise can learn much from this story as it exemplifies the incredible benefits of empowering and trusting employees to not only do their job but also represent the brand – in this case, also save lives. The QF32 incident occurred in November 4th, 2010. The ATSB (Australian Transport Safety Bureau) published their final report in June 2013, and Air Crash Investigations released their documentary in February 2014.

      But before both of these, in late 2012 I was fortunate enough to interview Captain Richard de Crespigny in his home. As we discussed the incident, it became very apparent to me that Richard is not only a talented and seasoned pilot, in both military and commercial aviation, but also an exceptional leader. Richard de Crespigny is an example of what Jim Collins calls ‘Level 5 Leadership’. There is much to learn from the culture he imbues on any flight he commands. Richard is more than a professional pilot, he is committed to giving his passengers the best possible experience and being a positive representative of the Qantas, Airbus and Rolls-Royce brands.

      On November 4th, 2010, Captain de Crespigny was in command of QF32 flying from Singapore to Sydney. I’ve been on this flight a number of times but not on this occasion. At 7,400 feet during climb-out there was a catastrophic failure of an inboard Rolls-Royce engine resulting in a very rare uncontained explosion. Shrapnel flew out at supersonic speed crippling control systems running along the Q380’s left wing leading edge, peppering the fuselage, invading the underbelly, puncturing two wing fuel tanks in at least ten locations and wreaking havoc with 21 of the 22 aircraft’s systems. In my opinion it was far more serious, and far closer to being a disaster, than anyone has been willing to acknowledge – there was a fire that fortunately self-extinguished in the wind. Jet aviation fuel is kerosene, not petrol, and it burns with low thermal properties.

      Miraculously, no passengers were injured and, due to the low altitude, the passenger cabin was not compromised by decompression. But exploding shrapnel had penetrated the underbelly, slicing through both of the two main electrical trunk lines – the backbone of the aircraft’s central nervous system. There are many electrical wiring looms within the A380 for inbuilt redundancy but it was incredibly unlucky, and potentially fatal, for two primary looms to be taken out at the same time. Passengers heard several loud ‘bangs’ and could see obvious wing punctures and the fuel vapour trail, but there was far more damage than the eye could see. The largest passenger airliner in the world was severely degraded and had probably lost 50% of system networks and 65% of the aircraft’s roll control. It was set-up for catastrophic cascading events unless the flight deck had the right leadership culture.

      On the ground in Indonesia, the engine cowling with the Qantas logo, along with other debris, had rained down over the populated town of Batam, including onto school grounds. No-one had been injured but the Twitter-sphere and Internet were abuzz. The Qantas CEO, Alan Joyce, was travelling in a car with his head of Corporate Communications when they received a phone call asking why Qantas’ share price was falling dramatically. For them this was the first sign of a problem and highlights the instant speed of social media and its power to impact a brand in real-time.

      Back up at 7,400 feet there was calm on the flight deck as the world’s most experienced A380 flight crew [literally] dealt with the situation. Qantas has the well-deserved reputation of being the safest airline in the world – it is the oldest continually operating commercial airline globally and no passenger on a Qantas jet aircraft has ever been killed as a result of an incident. All pilots are hired to become captains and this means that they only hire the best. On top of this, Qantas invests heavily in training and every captain is checked-out seven times a year. Just as in the military, there are full and frank peer reviews any time there is an incident. Safety, transparency and accountability are dominant cultural elements for all Qantas pilots – not something that exists in all airlines.

      On this particular flight, Captain de Crespigny was being checked by another senior pilot who was himself being trained as a checking captain. This meant that there were five on the flight deck instead of the normal three – the Second Officer (Mark Johnson), First Officer (Co-Pilot Matt Hicks) and three captains – but all had no doubt that there was only one person in command. Before take-off, Captain de Crespigny had ensured that there would be no confusion concerning the chain of command and that everyone’s roles were crystal clear. He discussed these issues at the pre-flight briefing, during the drive to the airport and again before the A380 pushed back from the aerobridge in Singapore.

      During the incident everyone knew their roles, and every issue and task was dealt with calmly and professionally. The First Officer, Matt Hicks, dealt with well over one hundred alarms and checklists while Captain de Crespigny concentrated on flying the aircraft, monitoring his First Officer, keeping his situation awareness, weighing his options and laying strategies to complete the flight. The second officer visited the cabin to investigate the damage and to communicate with the Customer Service Manager, Michael von Reth.

      Multiple failures had severely degraded the already leaking fuel system. They had lost all ability to transfer fuel between the eleven different tanks creating dangerous imbalances that became worse with time. They had also lost all the wing slats, which provide greater lift and enable the aircraft to fly slower for landing. Back in the passenger cabin, Michael von Reth and his team were calmly assuring passengers while watching for any signs of panic in individuals and then quietly addressing problems with empathy and reassurance.

      Everyone on the flight deck and the cabin crew had trained for just this emergency and they instinctively knew what to do. The flight deck team trusted their leader to lead. The leader trusted his team to perform every standard operating procedure and delegated task. The A380 was the most technologically advanced and robust (redundant systems) passenger aircraft in history. They were flying safely and just had to figure out how to mitigate the extensive failures and to get down safely at Changi Airport back in Singapore. Captain de Crespigny knew that height gave them more time and options so he told the flight deck team he was initiating a climb. “No!” they all said in unison. It was the only time in the entire flight that there was any discord – teamwork in action. They were in stable level flight and they did not have all the information about what was wrong… leave everything as it is. No ego, just teamwork. Captain de Crespigny simply said, “okay."

      With less than a 3% margin for error in landing airspeed to pull-up on the available runway they managed an incredibly difficult landing. Way faster than normal and with badly degraded brakes, no reverse thrusters, they came to halt with a mere 100 meters of runway left. But they were not out of danger – 3 tonnes of fuel poured onto the tarmac, pooling around white-hot brakes. The fire crew held back because the outboard engine on the damaged wing would not shut down. Eventually foam was sprayed all over the fuel and Captain de Crespigny decided that the passengers were safer on board than executing an emergency evacuation. Eventually the outboard engine was stopped and everyone walked away safely.

      Captain de Crespigny led his team faultlessly and harnessed all the resources available to him. Despite all the damage caused by the Rolls-Royce engine explosion, and despite the potential problems with having too many cooks on the flight deck, Captain de Crespigny maintained a calm atmosphere where everyone knew and performed their roles. At one point in the crisis he re-set the flight deck team to focus on what systems were working rather being focussed on the endless alarms and lists of things that had failed. He communicated clearly and dealt with the realities but focused on the positives. He managed the risks by making sure they didn’t rush and that they triple-checked all calculations. He also quietly prepared for a glide landing (Armstrong Spiral) in the event that all engines failed. Most importantly, he didn’t make assumptions but instead tested the aircraft’s handling characteristics while he had the safety of height before the final approach. This is not standard operating procedure but was a master stroke on his part.

      The QF32 incident made headlines around the world but beyond the airmanship, leadership and teamwork on the flight deck, Captain de Crespigny then instinctively continued to lead when back in the terminal with his passengers (customers). Despite his emotional and physical exhaustion from piloting and managing the crisis over four hours in the air and on the ground, he then assumed the role of customer service and Public Relations (PR) representative for Qantas, Airbus and Rolls-Royce.

      He didn’t need to refer to a manual to do a masterful job because the culture within Qantas empowered him with shared values of transparency and service excellence. Rather than leave it to PR and customer service people, he took charge and when every passenger was safely in the terminal he went and spoke to them saying: “When you fly Qantas you’re flying with a premium airline and you have every right to expect more. An army of Qantas staff are right now finding you hotel rooms and working out how to get you to Sydney as soon as possible. But right now I want you to write down this number – it’s my personal mobile phone and I want you to call me if you think Qantas is not looking after you or if you think that Qantas does not care.” Then he explained what had happened, why, what would happen next and disclosed everything he knew. He answered every possible question in multiple passenger lounges for over two hours. He prepared everyone for the media circus that would ensue and stayed in the lounge with passengers until there were no more questions – eventually he was standing on his own.

      Later, when the media shoved microphones in the faces of passengers asking: ‘Did you think you were going to die?’ – they responded: ‘No, the captain and crew were fantastic; they kept us fully informed at all times.’ When someone else in the press asked: ‘Did the crew or passengers panic?’ – they responded with: ‘Everyone was calm. The captain explained that the fire trucks sprayed water to cool the brakes, laid foam on the leaking fuel and tried to snuff an engine that wouldn’t shut down.’ Captain de Crespigny’s full and open disclosure and personal guarantee had transformed 440 passengers into the best PR and brand agents that Qantas management could have ever hoped for.

      1,000 Qantas staff had leapt into action, looking after their customers by organising buses, finding hotel rooms, communicating and meeting individual needs until all 440 passengers were returned safely home. Everyone was deeply grateful to Captain de Crespigny, the flight crews and ground crews for keeping them safe.

      None of the passengers ever called Captain de Crespigny’s mobile phone to complain or to ask for help. Richard explained to me that this is his audit process, proving that the entire Qantas organisation performed brilliantly during this extended crisis. Qantas, to their credit, never reprimanded him for overstepping the boundaries of his responsibilities on the ground in the terminal with passengers – they were grateful to have a leader step-up when needed, technically and commercially.

      Captain de Crespigny is a shining example of the fact that the leader determines the culture … no, the leader is the culture. He believed that he was not just responsible for flying the aircraft safely but he represented his employer’s and suppliers’ (Airbus and Rolls-Royce) brands. In the days, months and years that followed he neutralized sensationalist media and highlighted that the safety and training culture within Qantas combined with the safety and robustness of the Airbus A380 were the reasons why the incident ended without loss of life.

      Richard shies away from individual praise and continually states that it was a team effort – he is right. But make no mistake, had QF32 ended in disaster, and it very easily could have, then he would have accepted sole responsible for the loss of life. That’s the burden of leadership – you don’t get to blame others.

      Captain de Crespigny is a classic example of a Jim Collins Level 5 leader and he continues to fly A380s for Qantas. Just as he’s done his entire career, he walks the cabin on long haul flights and talks with passengers. He believes that a good leader has to be seen and nothing reinforces a culture of friendly service more than leaders exposing themselves to customers. Richard de Crespigny’s also knows that no cabin crew want to see passengers complaining about service to the Captain. He has behaved this way his entire career because he is committed to giving passengers their best possible experience. He even built an online community for all the passengers to connect and help deal with their fears or need for additional information.

      After reading the book QF32 and also after interviewing him for several hours, I formed the view that Captain de Crespigny embodies the following philosophies to which every leader should aspire:

      • Be an unrivalled expert and passionate about what you do. Richard’s intimate knowledge of the A380 helped him manage its systems in a crisis and lead the team with clarity.
      • The job is to provide a great experience for customers [passengers], not fulfill the role technically [fly the plane safely].
      • Avoid complacency and don’t make assumptions. It is the things you do not know that can get you. Be positively paranoid and manage every conceivable risk.
      • Teamwork is everything. Communicate clearly and ensure that everyone knows their role and is empowered to perform it.

      The Qantas A380, Nancy-Bird Walton, which was operating as QF32 on November 4th, 2010 is now back in the air after what was reportedly the longest and most expensive aircraft repair in aviation history. Fly with Airbus, Qantas and Rolls-Royce with confidence – companies that have great cultures.

      My advice for every business is to build a great customer-centric culture and empower your people to passionately represent your brand in all channels, especially social.

      While I’m on the topic of aviation, here’s what I learned from my own plane crash when flying an aerobatic biplane many years ago.

      Below is a keynote I did in 2012 talking about QF32. I have since been converted by Richard to now be a huge fan of Airbus! Also, not all Qantas pilots prefer Boeing – certainly not Richard. Both are brilliant designers and impeccable manufacturers but the philosophy of flight control software laws are different.

      Follow-up post by me here with additional commentary. Follow the QF32 community blog here. Buy and read Richard’s book, QF32, here. See Air Crash Investigations documentary here. Read the Transport Safety Bureau report here. Link to my full white paper: Everyone Represents the Brand - How to Create a Customer Centric Culture.

      If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website: www.TonyHughes.com.au.

      Main Image Photo Cover to ATSB report.