7 Strategic Social Selling Hunting Skills

 

New business development has always required finesse and the ability to strategize, prepare and plan before making contact with the right people at the right time. The way we sell is more important that what we sell and that's because, in the minds of buyers, you're solution looks pretty much the same as your competitors. Buyers have never been busier but they have also never been more empowered with 'social buying'. Their ability to research and run a reverse auction process with the selected few is potentially very dis-empowering for sellers.

Social buying is the other side of social selling. The smart buyers do their research online before engaging with the selling organization or sales person. You only have one chance to make a first impression and this includes your online presence where you can build trust and establish your value before you ever meet with your prospective new client.  Here are 7 tips for effective modern selling.

1. Transform your LinkedIn profile to provide 'social proof' of the business value to offer and the values by which you operate. That way, when people check you out before agreeing to engaging with you or before a meeting; they'll see someone worthy of their time and trust. What do buyer's see when they look at your LinkedIn profile?... quota crushing sales predator ready to pounce or insigtful expert who can assist them?

2. Become a high value content creator and content curator to attract your prospective customers. What do buyers look for online before they would ever look for you, your company or your product? The answer to this should drive your content publishing strategy. LinkedIn Publisher is ideal if your in the B2B world and Facebook is perfect for B2C. Importantly, be where your customers are rather than expecting them to come to you on your website.

3. Hone your social listening / monitoring skills. Meet with your marketing team and ask for their active assistance in this regard. Talk with them about the types of trigger events that indicate downstream opportunity well before any feeding frenzy leads appear on your website. These could include scandals, mergers and acquisitions, new executives being appointed, changes in regulations, competitor announcements, etc.

4. Change your settings in LinkedIn to 'go dark' and be anonymous when you engage in a sting of research. But also go 'lights on' when you want your potential customers to know that you're taking the time and making the effort in doing your research to prepare and make the best use of their time.

5. Join all the dots and triangulate multiple sources to turn information into validated intelligence. Invest time on the target company's website, individual LinkedIn profiles and Twitter accounts. Analyze their connections, determine your social proximity and position for a warm introduction rather than a cold call. Most importantly, do all you can to map the power base and political structure beyond the organizational chart. The point of entry is vitally important otherwise you couldbe aligned with a losing agenda or blocked by someone without real clout.

6. Connect in context and with relevance. Never send generic connection requests so send the message from within their actual profile so you can change the automated text. Join the groups that they are part of and then read, listen and monitor. Feel free to 'like' but only weight-in when you have something worthwhile and constructive add. Think like a business person, not a sales rep, and work to become a valued hub amongst the spokes over time.

7. Engage with insight provide value. The cardinal sin of social selling is to 'connect and sell'... don't do it! Instead, always connect and engage with good manners and then send interesting articles, blog posts or other information that they will value. The time will come when you can naturally ask for a meeting or for information.

Here is an overview of strategic social selling with links to posts on the 5 pillars. I was recently ranked in the Top 50 Influencers worldwide in professional selling by Top Sales Magazine and then interviewed by Kelly Riggs for Biz Locker Room Radio where all of this is discussed.

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: Spreng Ben Color Key Week – The Eye Of The Tiger

How Fear Sells. Be Very Afraid with Steve Hall

Steve Hall is co-founding member of Sales Masterminds Australasia. Here is a brilliant piece from him on the role of fear in how people buy. He highlights that while some sellers seek to manipulate, those with integrity operate with a genuinely positive mindset. The rest here is from Steve with thanks.

You’re going to die. But before you do you’re going to grow old and infirm, you’ll probably lose your marbles and the uncertain tides of the future will wash away your savings. You’re small and insignificant and can’t be trusted to manage your own money without frittering it away.

But don’t worry, we’ll look after you. Just give us all your money and we’ll take care of it until you pop your clogs.

That’s the unspoken, but very unsubtly implied, message of a current marketing campaign for a large financial institution.

Fear sells everything from annuities to vitamins, pharmaceuticals to politics. There’s no doubt that it works, although the current government is discovering that you use the budget bogeyman at your peril.

But is it ethical? Are advertisers being duplicitous in whipping up the fear of aging and illness to sell financial products? In scaring people to take unnecessary medications to ward off invented conditions, or exaggerating hordes of malignant germs to sell toxic cleaning products?

Whatever the answer, it happens all too often and will no doubt continue until the end of days. As a sales consultant who is not a fan of this practice I’m strongly against using fear as a weapon - but what can I do to guard myself as a consumer?

As a consumer my defences are awareness and thought. Does it really matter if a cleaning product reduces the number of germs in my toilet from 1% to 0.1%? That's still several billion germs crawling about - just as we have crawling all over our bodies.

If I have no family history of heart attack, am not overweight and don’t smoke, do I really need to take a drug with potentially significant side effects to reduce my cholesterol to some artificially low number? If I have $1 million in savings, should I hand it over to a financial institution in exchange for a paltry annual income?

Fear works because it preys on both our conscious and unconscious worries. To counteract it we need to stop, think and weigh up the options before we act.

Perhaps annuities are right for you. Perhaps you do need to be on statins and use excessive amounts of toxic cleaning products. But don’t buy whatever they’re selling just because some advertiser uses fear to manipulate your emotions. Think, consider, seek different opinions and avoid knee jerk reactions to fear based advertising.

And if you’re in sales, find ways to help your customers that make their lives better, don’t exploit them by drumming up unreasonable fears.

Steve Hall is an author, speaker and founding member of Sales Masterminds Australasia. He is also a trusted source of insight and advice to improve the way anyone sells. Follow him here in LinkedIn and on Twitter. Also see his website sales blog at salesloser.com.

Steve is also regularly featured on the Strategic Selling Group website created by John Smibert.

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: Darius Gransbergis Abbey Clancy zombie

6 Social Selling Fears of CEOs That Must Be Embraced

I work with CEOs helping with their company's social selling strategies and I regularly encounter resistance. Before I share the 6 fears of CEOs, let me state why social selling matters: Social buying is a reality and those sellers who embrace social engagement platforms masterfully increase the likelihood of achieving their sales target by 51% (LinkedIn research). Here are some additional research points...

The above infographic is from Jamie Shanks and highlights important statistics (please note that the second stat of 54% is a typo... it should be 5.4 people now involved in the average B2B buying decision) but I believe there is another even more compelling reason that sales and marketing teams must embrace social selling: Sales people need to become micro-marketers to build their own credentials and also create opportunity pipelines. They need to engage earlier and at senior levels to create the necessary value for both the buying and selling organizations to fund their role. Strategic Social Selling is how they can effectively achieve all this... seems compelling, right?

We must also acknowledge and then embrace fears stemming from the dark side to social Here are the six fears of CEOs concerning Social Selling:

  1. "I don't want my sales people building their personal brands, only to have them leave the company and take our customers with them." Every CEO is seeking to build the company's brand but we now live in the age of personal brands... people buy from those they like and trust and 75% of buyers research the seller before engaging. What will they see online before the meeting or decide whether to respond to an e-mail or return a call? Do they see 'Porsche driving, quota crushing uber sales person' or do they see someone online of integrity and value who can bring insight to their business? Seriously, people in business have always had personal brands... get over it and embrace the fact that social media merely amplifies an existing reality.
  2. "I don't want my staff building their social profiles only to then be poached by our competitors." LinkedIn in the #1 research platform for people in business and it has severely disrupted the recruitment industry. Many employers are bringing the head-hunting function in-house and powered by LinkedIn. Sales people have LinkedIn profiles and no CEO can change that fact. What can be done however is to work with the sales team to help them transform their profiles to move away from being an online CV (targeting new employers) to instead serve as personal brand interactive micro-sites evidencing the business value they offer clients and the values by which they operate. Their LinkedIn profiles can dramatically assist in business development through 'social validation' evidencing credible 'social proximity' and credentials for relevant insight to positively influence potential customers.
  3. "I don't want my competitors tracking the social activity of my staff enabling them to intercept prospects or engage our customers." LinkedIn settings can be managed to ensure that only those you wish to see your connections can do so. Educate your own sales and marketing teams to take advantage of ignorant competition in this regard.
  4. "I don't want my sales people to be distracted, wasting time in social when it doesn't monetize for the company." Being strategic means doing the appropriate research and connecting with influential people and buyers on the basis of value. Understand how to measure and manage the right activities and inputs that create social selling success. Intelligent use of social tools absolutely creates revenue and enables the best to be truly strategic.
  5. "I don't want my sales people damaging our brand by posting inappropriate comments in social." Sales people have always had the power to damage their employer's brand so this is already a risk. Social media does however give everyone a megaphone. It's never been more important to create a positive culture and employ people with positive values and integrity. Manage people out of the business who are a liability due to incompetence or poor values.
  6. "I don't trust what I don't understand... surely there's a dark side to social with our data being used in ways we don't approve. Yes,dark social is real but the best way to manage risk is to embrace it yourself... that's what leadership is all about. Be guided by experts and trusted advisers who have already executed successfully. The interweb is now, cloud computing is changing businesses, technology is enabling disruption of long-standing business models, social is transforming sales and marketing channels and creating mega-empowered buyers. It cannot be ignored; the risks can only be managed.

Importantly, we must all embrace the things that we fear and here are my tips for managing the risk of embracing social selling:

  • The CEO must change their job descriptionThe leader must accept responsibility for creating best Customer eXperience (CX) with a truly customer centric culture that listens through social monitoring tools. Did you know that when customers leave, more than 65% of the time it is because they feel you just don't care. Richard de Crespigny delivered exception CX aboard an Airbus A380 and on the ground to transform a near disaster into legendary customer service.
  • Transform LinkedIn profiles away from being an online CV targeting the next job to instead be powerful 'social proof' micro-sites positively linked to the employer's products, services and solutions. Once the sales person is evangelically promoting the transformation delivered for clients through the company's solutions, it makes it very difficult for them to go to a competitor and still maintain their credibility. They will also be more loyal knowing that you want to help them build their personal brand and advance their career.
  • Have a social media and social selling policy. Be clear about what people can and cannot do on social platforms, especially when it comes to expressing opinions. Distinguish between content curation (posting other people's content) and social publishing (original thought leadership). Offer training and support while providing access to best practice tools such as LinkedIn Sales Navigator
  • Identify individual brand champions. Think of Richard Branson, Michael Dell, Joel Manby and others. In your own way, who will you build personal brand campaigns around? Which loyal long-term team members can deliver insightful thought leadership content that others within your company can amplify through their own social platforms?
  • Go and be where your customers are online. Constantly ask yourself this question: What are my prospective customers looking for online before they look for me, our product, our service or our solution? Where are they searching online and what cyber-communities are they part of? I moved away from my own website for blogging to write here in LinkedIn Publisher for this very reason... it's hugely powerful.
  • Be brave and set your people free. But provide training to enable them to intelligently execute. Hold people accountable but also empower them to make decisions that create delighted customer advocates.

It won't be very long before 75% of the workforce will be Gen-Y or Millennials. The new generations of executives and workers have experienced theconsumerization of IT which means that people increasingly expect to be able to execute their workday in a similar manner to how they engage in their social lives. Do these phrases sound familiar? Surely there's an app for that? Why do we need training... isn't it intuitive? Why can't I use my own device at work?

Make the decision to adapt to the way people now research, engage and buy. Adopt modern selling techniques, bring sales and marketing together, create customer eXperience (CX) models and build the right attitudes and skills into your teams. If you'd like more, browse the hundreds of posts in my LinkedIn profile and start with this one explaining exactly how to apply strategic social selling techniques in the enterprise.

If you enjoyed this post, listen here to my interview with Kelly Riggs on Biz Locker Room Radio where we discuss Strategic Social Selling.

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: Chris Devers Banksy in Boston

Yo-yo Prospecting Destroys Sales Performance

Dan Symons is co-founding member of Sales Masterminds Australasia. Here is an article from him on the role of consistent sales inputs for those who are committed to predicable success. He highlights that horrors of the roll-a-coaster syndrome self created by most sales people. The rest here is from Dan with thanks.

We've all heard of Yo Yo Dieting. You realize you've put on more weight than you want. You starve yourself to get to your goal weight and, once there, go back to your old habits only to regain the weight. So you diet again - a cycle doomed to repeat itself.

What yo-yo'ers endeavor to do is crash-diet rather than make subtle long lasting changes to their approach to losing weight. Eating less, eating healthy, exercising more. Prevention is better than cure.

A similar thing manifests itself in business development. People are comfortable with a normal pipeline - they have work to do, things to focus on, they're busy. It's comfortable. Prospecting is a low priority...

"Why focus on the birds in the bush when you have some in your hand"

It's hard and the pay offs are often not immediate. Then, deal slippage or their pipeline dries up to create a serious hole. Panic sets in - they start the Yo Yo Prospecting cycle. Starved of business, they are forced to prospect, and quickly.

Their pipeline eventually normalizes (hopefully) and prospecting again goes on the back burner. And thus the cycle begins to repeat.

What good sales people realise is prospecting is activity you do all the time. The only thing that varies is how much you do based on your pipeline. They know their sales cycle and how far ahead they need to be initiating prospecting contacts before they have a chance of securing the business. If it takes you 6 months from initial contact to securing a new client - what chance do you have if you are sitting in a hole in your pipeline today?

You prospect to fill the gaps in your pipeline, not because you're in one! It is too late then.  Only a small change is required - set aside time each week to focus on this activity. Treat it like an appointment. Make those subtle long lasting changes today!

Dan Symons sells in the real world for his employer in New Zealand and is a founding member of Sales Masterminds Australasia. He is a trusted source of insight and advice to improve the way anyone sells. Follow his LinkedIn blog here and also on Twitter. Dan is also regularly featured on the Strategic Selling Group website created by John Smibert.

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: Adriano Agulló tomi yoyo

Sell With Purpose, On Purpose with Dan Symons

Dan Symons is co-founding member of Sales Masterminds Australasia. Here is an article from him on the importance of elevating the way we sell. In the article below, he highlights that being responsive and transactional is not enough today. We need to understand what we are seeking to achieve. I love Dan's drill analogy and I go even one step further.

People don't really want a drill... or a hole... they want the feeling they get from looking at the certificate, photo or beautiful art hanging on their wall.

Masterful sales people help the customer focus on causes rather than symptoms and outcomes rather than activities. The very best help customers achieve important outcomes and manage any of the associated risks. The rest here is from Dan with thanks.

There is an old marketing adage – don’t sell drills, sell holes.  Focusing not on your product, but on what your product does given this is what your client purchases.

But is this right?  Does it go far enough?

If you’re in retail and a customer comes in to your store, selects a drill and walks to your counter, pays and leaves – you’ve made a sale, but have you sold anything?

If, instead, that same customer engages with one of your staff members and asks about which is the best to drill through 1” ply – you would hope your staff member has the product knowledge to guide them to the correct drill (and bits!).  Again, you’ve made a sale and, in this instance, your customer this time leaves with some knowledge the drill and bits will work properly.  You also have the comfort in knowing what you’ve sold is ‘fit for purpose’ don't you?

Is the advice you gave fit for purpose?  Sure, it will drill the hole in 1” ply – but what was your customer’s real purpose?

Now - what if you staff member approaches your customer in the aisle and asks ‘What is your project?’  Your customer may then tell them they’re building a Wendy house for their daughter.

This is the reason that customer is standing in your business.  Not because they want a drill.  Not because they want to drill a hole.  Not simply because they want to build a Wendy House.  But because they want to see the joy on their daughters face once it’s complete. 

Your staff member can now really help your customer.   They will ask if they have plans.  They will advise them they may not need that drill as you can pre-cut and pre-drill all the timber off the plans so it will fit perfectly .  Have they thought about weather protection as they will want it to last and be safe?  What about the foundations so it’s stable?  All manner of advice can be given to improve the outcome for your customer and, importantly, their daughter. 

The adage of ‘don’t sell drills, sell holes’ is correct though only goes part of the way to the truth.  In today’s era of readily available information on our products and services – clients can quickly assess what ‘drill’ they need to make their ‘hole’.  Where sales people need to focus is not just the hole rather than the drill, but the reason they need the hole in the first place.  Your clients purpose.

The first example where the customer walks in and walks out is an example of a sale – but not selling.  That sale happens by accident.  You’re open, you have drills, they need a drill and just happened to come in to your store for one.  You don’t know why that customer was in your store and, other than having the product on the shelf at an acceptable price, the sale wasn’t controlled by your business. 

Success could easily be seen in the first example as the client has purchased a drill from you – you made a sale.  But, extrapolate this out.   Let’s assume that drill wasn’t fit for purpose, that it didn’t have enough torque to drill the hole they needed. 

Now, you could assume it isn’t your fault because the client made their own decision and purchased without your consultation.  They had all the product information from the web.  But is this fair?  You had the opportunity to help them when they walked in to your store.  You even hire staff to be on the floor to help clients. Ask yourself whether you had the obligation to help them.  That customer buying the wrong drill was your fault, not theirs.  

Even if the drill was perfect for the task – do you have any enduring relationship with the customer?  Do they feel better for having purchased the drill from you?  Do they feel you and your staff contributed to the successful outcome of their project simply because you sold them a drill.

Your clients will always have a purpose behind their interactions with you.  However, they won’t always freely tell you what these are.  It isn’t your client’s responsibility to tell you – you are the professional sales person.  It is your purpose to find out theirs and help them achieve it.  This is the simple rule of selling.

In this example, the purpose was to build a Wendy house, not to drill holes or buy a drill.  Knowing this, you can radically change your clients experience with you and your store.  By not taking the time to understand this, you simply sell a drill.  

Success is about conscious selling.  About selling with purpose, on purpose. 

With Purpose being selling with the aim of helping your client.  Not about selling to meet quota’s, earn commission or other selfish reasons – but about helping your clients meet their goals. 

On Purpose being to sell in a considered manner.  Not about clients buying, but about intentionally selling to those that need it.  It is about being an advisor, not a transactor.  Not someone standing at the till waiting for clients to walk up, but about proactively seeking them out to help them. 

Selling isn’t about drills or holes.  It is about Wendy House’s.  It is about daughter’s smiling. 

dan simmons.jpg

Dan Symons sells in the real world for his employer in New Zealand and is a founding member of Sales Masterminds Australasia. He is a trusted source of insight and advice to improve the way anyone sells. Follow his LinkedIn blog here and also on Twitter. Dan is also regularly featured on the Strategic Selling Group website created by John Smibert.

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 Flick: viZZZual.com On Target

 

Why Win Reviews Beat Loss Reviews To Improve Sales

We all want to now know why we lost an important deal and we need to learn and improve for the next opportunity. Loss reviews help us compete more effectively and if you spend your life swimming in 'red ocean' then that's important. But they don't help us build pipeline. The smartest businesses create blue ocean strategies where they have clear water and they do it through win reviews with their best customers.

How do you get upsteam to engage earlier with the right prospects earlier in their sales cycle? Win reviews are a surprising technique to ensure that this is done masterfully and it's achieved by working with your best customers to identify the triggers that caused them to invest in a solution. There is a very important distinction here – it is NOT about discovering why they bought from you over the competition; it's instead about identifying trigger events that caused them to decide they had a serious problem or opportunity in the first place. The best sellers seek alignment with the ideal prospective customer rather than attempting to raise the dead through extreme evangelism.

The other reasons that win reviews are so powerful are they validate the benefits promised to customers and create case studies. If there are project services involved in implementing your solution, call the win review a ‘Post Implementation Review’ where you assess benefits realization to present back to the customer concerning whether the business case is on track to be delivered with benefits realization. Out of this process you can create a case study, whether the client is willing to allow it to be published or not. This is how to enable sales people to create a powerful narrative about the business benefits they deliver their customers. Sales people should be part of the process… it’s the best training they can receive because it equips them to tell powerful true stories to the prospective new customers.

This is a practical way for sales people to begin the journey of becoming micro-marketers by creating content they can publish in LinkedIn Publisher within their profile. It is incredibly powerful for people in sales, professional services, project management or other customer facing roles because it shows the value they bring clients and the values by which they operate. It provides social proof and credibility and it can be done without mentioning the name of the customer but it shows the value the person brings and it evidences their credibility.

Social publishing is critically important because, according to IDC research, 75% of buyers research the seller before meeting or agreeing to engage in conversation. What do they see when they click on the sales person’s profile? Quota crushing, Porsche driving, uber-sales dominator; or do they see a person of insight with a consultative approach and a track record of delivering transformative results for their customers?

The illustration below speaks a thousand words and shows what strategic selling looks likes. It's my model for complex enterprise solution selling and it can be turbo powered by leveraging social platforms and tools masterfully, and the concept of trigger events combined with insight [Challenger style] techniques to earn conversations at senior levels to set the agenda around tangible business value.

Embrace win reviews as a catalyst for sales people creating their value narrative and improving the LinkedIn profiles as they write case studies (even without stating the name of the customer). Management and the marketing team can help them.

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: Kevin T. Houle Success

How To Double First Appointments with Mike Scher

There’s been much written about how cold calling is dead and that social selling is the new black. But I recently caught-up with Mike Scher, CEO of FRONTLINE Selling, when he was in Sydney and we discussed how it’s never been tougher for business people to secure initial meetings with their new potential customers.

His company developed what I call ‘a relationship establishment methodology’ following a study of 1.8 million outreach efforts from a range of companies across multiple industries. Mike believes they’ve removed the guesswork that sales people go through about who to contact, when, how and how often. Mike knows that cold calling alone isn't enough and I ask him to explain his Staccato Methodology.

“Staccato is actually quite simple. It’s a multi-touch approach that makes sense because it’s well defined, very specific and manically precise. We know that the sequence, frequency and interval of touches makes a real difference in how effective the effort is. “

We all know that the way we execute is just as important as the strategy of what we are doing and Mike went on to talk about how they execute the touches to deliver appointments with the right people.

“We embed our methodology in technology to playbook what the sales person needs to do. In essence we combine ‘know what’ with ‘know how’. People need to know what to do which is the touch points (voicemails, e-mails, etc.) to deliver and also when to send them. ‘Know how’ is knowing the best way to execute those touches. For example, our research revealed that sending e-mails with permission versus not, yields dramatically higher responses.   Our methodology is best practice for how to execute. For example, we enable sales and marketing teams to inspire the key player to give permission for sending an e-mail.”

Mike is masterful at bringing sales methodology, process and technology together for creating initial contact with target prospects an achieving this is the Holy Grail of Sales Enablement which I’ve defined here. But what about the role of the most powerful social selling tool ever invented… it’s not LinkedIn or Facebook, nor is it Google – it’s the telephone. Human to human (H2H) interaction is what complex business-to-business selling requires to begin the process of meeting face to face and building relationship of trust and value.

We all know that cold calling is tough and with less than 3% success rate but what about warm calling? I asked Mike about how does that fits into his methodology and the role of phone calls generally.

“There are a number of reasons why the phone is critical to your outreach effort. First is that the prospect lists you're using are not 100% accurate. Most are not even 80% accurate which means using the phone enables you to navigate and close the gap inherent in the list by uncovering new prospects within an account. Second; the phone is critical because we all consume messages differently. Some us are visual learners, some kinesthetic.  Many of us are auditory learners and hearing is the best way to communicate, hence the phone and voicemails are proven to be effective tools. The goal is person to person connection and hearing someone's voice is the next best thing to meeting them in person."

The take-away message here is that an integrated approach to outreach is key; sales leadership must bring methodology, process and technology together to playbook and coach sales people to be more effective.

Mike knows what he’s talking about with 18 years in enterprise software sales and was a frequent President’s Club winner. He started FRONTLINE selling about 12 years ago to help sales people secure more first appointments with the right people. Their software solution called Staccato™ software works seamlessly with popular CRM applications such as Salesforce.com and enables a sales leader to manage their own prospecting process and pursuit models. Mike Scher’s methodology doubles the number of first appointments with the right people. His worst performing clients only experience a 50% increase which is still dramatic.

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: Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier YES!

B2B vs B2C Selling – Why Content Publishing Reigns Supreme

On average in business-to-business (B2B) selling there are more than 5 people within the customer organization involved in the buying decision (CSO Insights research) . Business-to-consumer (B2C) selling differs in that there are less people making the buying decision; the basis of decision is simpler and the decision time is shorter. Often the transaction is a one-off or very infrequent sale without an ongoing relationship to manage.

We live in an age of empowered consumers and their buying journey starts online rather than in a showroom. They seek the informed by the opinions of others online who have gone before them. Savvy consumers are skeptical of spin and the hyperbole of marketing messages and sales people. They look to their network, in the physical world and online to gather opinion and wisdom before engaging with the seller.

The illustration below shows the buyer’s journey in retail or consumer context. This is what B2C sellers need to align with as they seek to sell and market strategically. There is a huge role for quality content marketing to attract buyers. To illustrate this, let me share a true story from my own experience when buying recently.

Like all other consumers who decide to buy something, I experienced a trigger event. My son secured his probationary driver’s license and with it came the standard restrictions concerning high powered sports cars. Do we buy a third car or replace mine with something more practical. My wife and I decided that we did not need a third car yet so I sold my sports car through carsales.com and started researching something we could all drive that was both very safe and I would not worry about minor damage. My first car many years ago was a Mini and the brand holds positive nostalgic value for me. My daughter is next in line to get her drivers license and she loves them. If my family and I had gone to a Mini showroom, it would have been like shooting fish in a barrel for the sales person. But rather than visiting a dealer I was instead doing research online, and not on the Mini website.

After having experienced a trigger event (son gets drivers license and cannot drive my over-powered car) and considering change (sensible wife says we’re not buying a third car) I was researching online and in social concerning the car I thought I wanted. It didn't take long before I had experienced the shock and awe of unhappy owners on social platforms… the Mini was clearly a nightmare. Catastrophic transmission problems were a risk with replacement transmissions costing a fortune. I considered a manual but discovered it’s more than a 10 hour job to replace a clutch… ouch; and they are also known to fail. Then there was the timing chain problem (‘Mini diesel death rattle’ caused by the auto-tensioner failing and the timing chain slapping the housing). YouTube videos were most enlightening for all these issues. I also read about excessive engine oil consumption exacerbated by a small sump reservoir and tortuous dipstick path that wipes to oil away making it difficult to see what the engine oil levels really are.

I decided to take one for a test drive but not from a dealer. I hired one on my next interstate business trip and the Mini provided had 35,000klms on the clock. In my opinion it however drove like a car with a 100,000klms and was very noisy and uncomfortable. I didn’t like the driving position or where switches were located. BMW are doing a fine job improving Mini quality since acquiring the car maker but the best Mini sales person in the world could not have sold me their product and nor did they ever have the chance. This is because the buyer’s journey usually starts for online where they research within the networks and forums that don't seek to sell.

Then I searched for ‘Japanese Mini’ and the Suzuki Swift came up. After 6 hours searching for anything negative of the next few weeks, the only thing I could find was that when the rear seats were folded forward there was no single flat surface in the rear boot. Nothing mechanical seemed to ever go wrong. I then spent hours on carsales.com to establish price points. I talked to my friends in the car industry about the best time to buy. When I walked into my local dealer who had a new manual Swift Sport in stock, I was there to negotiate. I bought it at the price I wanted to pay with a 5 year warranty and low fixed price service costs.

When I looked in the boot I discovered that Suzuki had listened to their customers online and already fitted a false floor in the boot to create a secondary storage area and seamless flat surface when the seats are down! On top of all this, the customer experience the Suzuki dealer delivered to me when I serviced the car is better than some luxury brands I’ve owned. Here is the main point; the Suzuki salesman added almost no value, I had already bought and he couldn't negotiate – I had to do that with his boss.

In the next 9 months we’ll buy a third car, my sports car I hope, and I’m already doing all by research online, especially in social. When a dealer meets me it will only be to negotiate, not sell. Most companies focus their online marketing efforts around website Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) using keywords and Google AdWords which is all very well for when buyers know they want what you’re selling and are seeking to select and negotiate. But the savvy online sales and marketing professionals create content to attract buyers much earlier in their journey… when they’re considering change and doing research. Content publishing is hugely powerful and the essential ingredient for online success.

For both B2B and B2C companies, here is the important question you must ask yourself: “What do my buyers look for online before they look for me?”

Here is another personal purchasing example. I'm a wakeboarder and when I wanted to buy a new vehicle to tow our new boat, there wasn't a lot to choose from that was rated to pull the weight of our rig at over 3,000kgs. Our Mitsubishi Pajero was only rated for 2,500kg towing capacity so I began my search online for the replacement. I didn’t search for particular brands but instead entered ‘4WD 3500kg towing’. I found review sites with lots of useful information and to my surprise, Jeep was rated highly by consumers on value for money and towing. I quickly gravitated to the Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited but I had two concerns from my research: product quality and handling in an emergency.

As I continued to click I found an empowered Aussie consumer who created a way to get his money back on a Jeep with 20 defects and 4 years of consumer hell. He created a Facebook page and got busy raising money and awareness of big gaps in consumer rights under Australian legislation. He highlighted that consumers now have a powerful voice on social platforms. Mainstream media picked-up the story and the result was global coverage and worldwide brand damage that has cost Jeep millions of dollars in lost sales. But all manufacturers produce some lemons and this particular consumer experience was an exception, not the norm, for Jeep owners.

There are thousands of examples out there of how consumers can create massive negative impact on a brand without spending a cent. Just do a Google search on 'Uber' and you'll see the disruptive player in the Taxi industry has some real brand issues.

Next I found the Jeep Moose Avoidance Test video on YouTube showing potential roll-over danger. But I knew that American cars are typically made with softer suspension and the recommended tire pressures are designed for a comfortable 'floating' ride for a trip around the block at the dealership. Running higher tire pressures would deal with the problem combined with my philosophy on never swerving to miss a kangaroo. There was plenty of positivity about the vehicle in social and online, and the Fiat diesel that powers it received brilliant reviews. I loved the look, features and compelling value. A friend already owned one and I borrowed it for a test drive and I was sold.

By the time I contacted a Jeep salesperson it was by phone to negotiate and I only walked into a dealership to sign the paperwork. Bought it, loved it.

Here is second big question that B2B and B2C companies must ask: “Both on and off my website, what do buyers see online when they find me?”

Do they see transparency and genuine commitment to integrity and service or do they see a facade, easy to penetrate. In research by Corporate Visions, 74% of buyers choose to buy from the seller who first provides value and insight. This is why every sales person on the planet should build a LinkedIn profile that serves as their personal brand website. It is critically important to avoid having a profile that reads like an online CV seeking to attract the next employer. Instead it needs to show the value they provide customers and the values by which they operate.

When buyers research sellers they look for social proof that the person is worthy of their time and trust. They seek proof that the person has integrity, insight and is well connected and respected within their industry. Employers themselves are now facing this same problem with websites such as Glassdoor that enables past and present employees to anonymously rate the company.

Everyone today can peel back the façade of websites and social media pages to discover the real state of an individual’s credentials, product reputation and corporate brand. Content publishing is essential for both B2B and B2C sellers, so be the one online that provides insight and value. Manage any brand negativity online with empathy through social listening and demonstrate that you're listening and improving.

If you enjoyed this post, listen here to my interview with Kelly Riggs on Biz Locker Room Radio where we discuss Strategic Social Selling.

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: David Geller Steve and Bill at All Things DB2B vs B2C Selling – Why Content Publishing Reigns Supreme

12 Ways to Make Sales Fly With Content Publishing

Most companies focus their online marketing efforts around website Search Engine Optimization (SEO) using keywords and Google AdWords which is all very well for when buyers know they want what you’re selling. But the savvy online sales and marketing professionals create content to attract buyers much earlier in their journey… when they experience a trigger event, consider change and then conduct online research.

Content publishing is hugely powerful and strategically essential for online success. Yet, according to Peter Strohkorb, 75% of content created by marketing is not used by sales people... what a staggering waste of resources! Sales people should work closely with marketing to create content to be published in their LinkedIn profiles because:

  • Buyers research sellers before they engage. Rather than seeing an uber sales person, they need to see someone with credibility and insight. Their profile must show the business value the offer and the values by which they operate.
  • Writing is a fundamental skill that today's sales people need to possess. Writing about a topic is the best way to learn. Sales people should write blogs that proactively deal with potential objections, and also that set an agenda around insight and value.

Social publishing can also attract buyers if the content is good but potential customers certainly don't want a product pitch or marketing spin. So how do you identify what content to write?

Here is the important question to ask: “What do my buyers look for online before they look for me?”

It is so very important today for all sellers to adapt to the way people now research, engage and buy. We must all adopt modern selling techniques, bringing sales and marketing together, creating customer eXperience (CX) models and building the right attitudes and skills into our teams. Social selling is a catch-all phrase that Idefined with five pillars. The following 12 recommendations address the CEO's 6 social selling fears and can transform sales and marketing efforts to turbo power the revenue engine of your business.

1. Lead your sales and marketing teams to collaborate in identifying the trigger events that cause people to consider change and begin their research.

Relentlessly ask: “What starts a potential customer down the path that leads to us?”

2. Provide training for staff to write content and then implement incentives to measure, recognize and reward those who shine. Identify the content topics that will attract buyers early in the buying cycle by asking: “What do customers look for online before they look for us?” Marketing people or sales managers can be editors and approvers of content for publishing.

3. Transform staff LinkedIn profiles away from being online CVs.Everyone who interacts with customers needs a profile that provides 'social proof' of their integrity and value, positively linked to their employer's products, services and solutions. Once the sales person is evangelically promoting the transformation delivered for clients through the company's solutions, it makes it very difficult for them to go to a competitor and still maintain their credibility. They will also be more loyal knowing that their company wants to help them build their personal brand and advance their career.

4. Identify individual brand champions. Think of Richard Branson, Michael Dell, Joel Manby and others. In your own way, who will you build personal brand campaigns around? Which loyal long-term team members can deliver insightful thought leadership content that others within your company can amplify through their own social platforms? These other people can post updates, like and Tweet the ‘hub’ content with additional commentary.

5. Implement a social listening/monitoring tool and identify where your customers are in social media and what’s important to them. Identify how you can assist and engage anyone who is unhappy but do so with empathy rather than defensiveness. Social listening is a key strategy and defined here.

6. Create a content calendar around monthly or quarterly content campaigns with high value thought leadership or insight publishing to attract buyers and be amplified by as many people as possible in your company and the marketplace.

7. Go and be where your customers are online. Constantly ask yourself this question: What are my prospective customers looking for online before they look our product, our service or our solution? Where are they searching online and what cyber-communities are they part of? I moved away from my own website for blogging to write here in LinkedIn Publisher for this very reason... it's hugely powerful.

8. Create incentives for customers to write positive content and create their own mini case studies and testimonials on social sites. Your customers are the ones that your prospects will believe. Customers who advocate for you are the more influential than the best sales people.

9. Integrate with your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system so that you can create a ticket/case for unhappy customers. Your CRM software is where you should be enabling sales processes and creating a single source of the truth about prospects and customers to manage their entire life-cycle with you.

10. Implement an effective web to lead system to automate website traffic into opportunities within your CRM and with a marketing automation toolto execute lead nurturing / drip marketing with valuable content rather than sales and marketing collateral alone.

11. Have a social media and social selling policy. Be clear about what people can and cannot do on social platforms, especially when it comes to expressing opinions. Distinguish between content curation (posting other people's content) and social publishing (original thought leadership). Offer training and support while providing access to best practice tools such as LinkedIn Sales Navigator

12. Be brave and set your people free. Provide training to enable them to intelligently execute. Hold people accountable but also empower them to make decisions that create delighted customer advocates.

It won't be long before 75% of the workforce will be Gen-Y or Millennials. The new generations of executives and workers have experienced the consumerization of IT which means that people increasingly expect to be able to execute their workday in a similar manner to how they engage in their social lives. They believe there should be an app for everything and that social platforms are a normal way to research, communicate and collaborate.

The CEO must change their job description to accept responsibility for creating best Customer eXperience (CX) with a genuine customer centric culture that listens through social monitoring tools. Did you know that when customers leave, more than 65% of the time it is because they feel you just don't care. Richard de Crespigny delivered exception CX aboard an Airbus A380 and on the ground to transform a near disaster into legendary customer service.

If you enjoyed this post, listen here to my interview with Kelly Riggs on Biz Locker Room Radio where we discuss Strategic Social Selling.

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: Gray Lensman QX! SR-71 Blackbird

How To Rise Above The Competition With Content Publishing

I define Strategic Social Selling as the strategy and process of building quality networks online that attract clients and accelerate the speed of business. People and technology work together to drive efficiency in personal human engagement through social listening, social publishing, social research, social engagement, and social collaboration. These are the 5 pillars of B2B Social selling for sales enablement.

After social listening, social publishing is the most important pillar for those who are seeking to build their pipeline and create a narrative that earns conversations at the right level. Publishing also has other benefits... it evidences our credibility when buyer's research us before meeting or purchasing, and having sellers write is the best sales training they'll ever experience. Anyone who doesn't constantly read to remain current in their industry cannot honestly call themselves a professional, and anyone who can't write can't sell in complex B2B selling today.

According to Corporate Executive Board (CEB) Research, 95% of buyers expect insight from the seller. Yet Forrester Research highlights that 85% of sellers fail to meet buyer expectations while CEB research found that 86% of sellers fail to differentiate in the mind of the buyer. We clearly have a problem but it can be solved when sales people embrace imperative to write within the guidelines of their company and with management and marketing serving as editors.

Constantly ask yourself what do people see when the find me online? ... uber sales person? ... job seeker? ... or do they see a person of credibility, insight and integrity who can help them transform or improve their business?

What should sales people write about? The first thing I encourage my client's sales people to proactively write about is the objections they encounter. For example, my recruitment industry clients hear a common objection of "I'm too busy to meet so just send me CVs if you have any candidates", I therefore help them write a Publisher post in their LinkedIn profile about how much time is wasted by poor filtering of candidates caused by not understanding what defines cultural fit (beyond qualifications, skills and experience). I also encourage them to write about the real costs associated with hiring the wrong people. All of this reinforces the value of a recruitment consultant who takes the time to understand what defines a successful employee beyond the obvious things in a job description.

Social content publishing is powerful on so many different levels. Some believe that sales people should not be content creators but I disagree and here is why. Done well, it can achieve the following:

  • Evidence credibility, insight and domain knowledge when buyers research us
  • Set the agenda about the value we offer and the values by which we operate
  • Proactively deal with objections and position ourselves
  • Attract audience and even leads. Don't believe this is possible? This screenshot is from a blog post I published about why Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software must evolve to Customer eXperience Management (CXM) and Peter posted a comment which was a lead for any CRM provider.

Here are my tips for standing our from the crowd and rising above the wall of white noise in social media.

  1. Ensure you have a strategy for themes, brand champions, publishing channels and content amplifiers.
  2. Identify your audience and then write for the one person or role you are seeking to influence. This makes it targeted, personal and on point.
  3. Be clear in your own mind about why your message is important and what you want them to do about. But avoid any call to action that overtly seeks to sell or paints you as a salesperson.
  4. Create a catchy headline (think like a newspaper editor).
  5. Use an eye-catching picture that has an abstract relationship to your topic. This post is a good example (it's a real photo and always provide attribution) Flickr creative commons is an excellent source of pictures that don;t breach copyright.
  6. Have an opening that hooks, a body that informs and a close that motivates or inspires. Deliver insight rather than mere information.
  7. Aim for 700 words and don't ramble. Longer is okay and some of my best posts with more than 200,000 reads were well over 1500 words long).
  8. Create back-links to other content but never use click-bate to take people to another site where they have to complete forms or register to view content.

If you're the leader of a business, bring sales and marketing together to create a social content publishing strategy to amplify corporate initiatives and enhance personal brands in a manner consistent with the corporate image and message. People buy from those they like and trust; then they focus on best value and lowest risk. The buyers journey begins online so ensure they find you and your people, and they they are attracted by what they see. Content publishing really is the best social strategy to stand out from the crowd. Be inspired by the 3 minute video below showing how Mobula Rays soar.

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: www.bbusinessinsider.com - Octavio Aburto / iLCP

How To Operate With Gravitas Even If Young

Every career has a sweet spot where you're living in the Goldilocks Zone. Before and after this period you're battling prejudice... 'too young or inexperienced' or 'too old and past it'. I recently wrote about how to avoid age discrimination for those who are older and now we'll cover the topic for those at the front-end of their careers.

As I write this I'm speaking at an annual 4 day international leadership conference that's been running for two decades. It's been a privilege to share the stage with Michael McQueen who is 20 years my junior but in my opinion was the best speaker by far at the exclusive event. He delivers with genuine insight, gravitas and humility and I invested some time with him to understand how he operates beyond his years both on and off the stage.

Some people have 10 years of experience, others have 2 years repeated 5 times, but Michael has learned timeless lessons of embracing the wisdom of those who have gone before him.

He is an avid reader and student of success. He's worked hard on himself to become a masterful consultant and presenter. The main picture in this post is not a baby photo of Michael but here is what he told me he has embraced in his life form an early age to operate at the highest levels.

Remember your manners - it may not be sexy, but old fashioned good manners are a powerful way of achieving credibility and gravitas with older generations. remember, good manners will always open doors that a good education or great talent can not.

Be present - the danger of always looking for the next opportunity, the next key conversation at the networking function, your Facebook newsfeed or emails is huge. Make eye contact. Focus on the person you are speaking to and stay in the moment to build trust.

Aim to be interested rather than interesting - while you may been keen to show how capable you are, being a good listener rather will earn massive respect. Ask for questions, ask for advice, then listen. You will learn heaps but make the other person feel valuable.

Be humble - avoid the trap of appearing arrogant in your desire to seem knowledgeable and competent.

Don't take yourself too seriously - laugh at yourself and be willing to take some risks. And remember, you won't get it right every time.

Slow down - there is something disarming and attractive about a young person who can remain calm. It engenders strength without toughness and certainty without arrogance

As much as we may like to believe that it's not about age but instead about ability, you need gravitas and wisdom to succeed. Here is Michael in action talking about the next generation coming into the workplace. Book him for your next event if you're focused on generational change or market disruption and need an inspiring and brilliant speaker.

And now a brilliant piece of bonus content... these kids operate way beyond their years! There really are some brilliant ads out there.

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: Chris Madeley Evil baby!

Catching The Right Technology Wave

Everyone is seeking brand cut-through yet automation usually results in people being bombarded and blasted rather than being provided with relevant insight and assistance. Amidst all the tools for sales and marketing, which ones are right for you? The most important thing to focus on is social listening and social engagement but this migraine inducing infographic from Scott Brinker at chiefmartec.com shows the overwhelming scale of choice that befuddles many.

I believe that the key to delivering best Customer eXperience (CX) is to adopt a mash-up of technologies to listen and engage with potential and existing customers but the choice is bewildering. There are 43 categories in the infographic above and they include social media, mobile marketing, video marketing, content marketing, CRM, sales enablement, e-mail, SEO... all offering a cornucopia of choice.

I recently sat down and discussed the importance of technology tools for social engagement with Adam Fraser, founder of social media technology specialist EchoJunction, and he told me which five he uses to great effect with his clients. His wisdom will help you navigate the sea of choice to decide what's right for your social sales and marketing efforts. Here is Adam's opinion about the plethora of sales and marketing tools and how they can be harnessed.

There are a few issues worthy of note about the MarTech landscape report:

  • We now live in the world of the API and web services – all software companies now pretty much have to “play nicely” with partners/potential competitors alike, hence opening up their platforms for integration and development purposes.
  • A number of niche, specialist tools now exist across a wide range of marketing technology areas.
  • One tool is unlikely to be suffice for all of your marketing software needs; integration between a variety of tools is a likely outcome – think “mash-up” not ‘marketing ERP’ when developing the technology solution that is right for your business.
  • Maintaining “one version of the truth” and “one view of the customer” are key over-arching objectives – don’t allow data silos to form, meaning different departments would be acting on different data pools/views of the customer
  • Strategic planning your technology architecture is critical: don’t rush out to procure a range of tools without thinking about your overarching data integrity, security and governance needs.
  • No question – the worlds of the CMO and CIO are converging. The marketer of today needs to be familiar with blueprints, roadmaps, cloud solutions and data architecture. Familiarity with technology and analytics are now table stakes for marketers.

Even within the social media marketing sector (a single sub-sector in the visual above) a broad and deep range of options exists. To help make some sense of this, I segment the enterprise social media software market (at a high level) along functional lines as follows:

  • Social listening tools such as Brandwatch, Netbase, Radian 6 and Sysomos.
  • Social customer service tools such as Conversocial, Lithium and SparkCentral.
  • Social reporting and analytics tools such as Simply Measured and Social Bakers.
  • Social publishing tools such as Buffer, CoSchedule and Postplanner.
  • End to end social media technology platforms (which can perform all of the above) such as Tracx, Spinklr, Sendible and Hootsuite.

Of course there are many more segments, particularly in the tactical social media marketing execution area. Yes, even the social media software sector arguably needs its own segmentation and infographic! At a high level the choice comes down to ‘best of breed’ verticals connected to each other via API integration and an ‘end-to-end’ platform for all of your social media needs. With either approach, integration to a CRM system is likely to make sense to ensure that critical one view of the customer is facilitated.

Which approach and software solutions are right for your business? That of course depends. Start with the business problem you are trying to solve, develop your marketing strategy, and create specific IT requirements; then (and only then) think about the technology solutions you need to facilitate your strategic plan. Too often I see people jumping to a “shiny new toy” before they know what business or marketing objective they are trying to achieve. This is cart before the horse.

The choice can certainly seem over-whelming for digital marketers but with the right approach and strategic planning, these marketing software tools can be a great facilitator and accelerator for your business and marketing operational needs.

Useful insights above from Adam Fraser and I also asked him about which social tools he prefers. Here's his answer: Brandwatch for social listening; Conversocial for customer service; Simply Measured for social analytics; and Marketo for for lead scoring, nurturing and drip marketing. As an end-to-end tool he likes Tracx which does a bit of everything and also content scheduling to multiple social platforms. There are many other excellent tools other than these but after much research these are the ones Adam has identified as enterprise capable, high quality offerings in this space which cover the vast majority of use cases.

Adam also does a weekly podcast which makes for great listening where he recently interviewed me on the misnomer of 'social selling'.

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: Jeff Rowley Jaws

Snatching Defeat From The Jaws of Victory

If you didn't see this recent video, be awed by the majesty of the Great White and the quick thinking of the diver and boat crew. A wise teacher once said to me: "Confidence is the feeling you have just before you understand the situation...

True story. One of the people I coach was recently in a meeting with their reseller and the room was filled with all the stakeholders and decision-makers for a huge enterprise opportunity they had been working with a large government department for 15 months. Toward the end of the meeting the CIO (who owns the budget and signs-off on a purchasing decision) asked; "How long will it take to stand this up for us?" The channel partner sales person didn't miss a beat and jumped-in; "That's an interesting question... the really good thing about what we're offering here is ..." He went on to talk about the joys and wonders of the features they were offering. I kid you not – it really happened.

The best response would have been to ask; "When do you need to have it up and running?" Then follow-up a little later with; "Why is that date important and what happens if it's missed for some reason?"

We need to really listen rather than simply wait for our next opportunity to speak. So many sales people are not really engaged in listening and instead focus on projecting their message or pitch. No matter what the situation – counselling, resolving conflict, interviewing, consulting or selling – we need to lead by being fully immersed in the conversation and ask insightful open questions. It's always a mistake to use clumsy outdated questioning techniques to attempt manipulation. Transparent sincerity and a genuine interest in the other person is the best way to build trust and positive influence.

So, how do sales people manage to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory after they've done so much good work to develop an opportunity and establish value? 

A lack of situational awareness causes failure in business and other areas of life. Here are other things that sales people must avoid:

  • Being distracted and failing to be fully there. A sure-fire turn-off for anyone you are seeking to influence.
  • Acting without first thinking. Every action can have unintended consequences and all tactics should be executed within a well conceived strategy.
  • Failing to plan a meeting or leaving without creating progression. You're not a professional visitor; instead you need to be an engineer of value, process and tangible business outcomes.
  • Failing to understand the customer's internal processes for evaluation, selection and procurement process. What date matters to them and why is it important? What's their process and who needs to approve?
  • Introducing unnecessary new information or people. Beware your chest beating boss who wants you to take them out there to close the deal.
  • Allowing lawyers to hijack the process. Lawyers need to be instructed rather than be allowed to engage in esoteric ego-fests. Especially beware external lawyers who make more money the longer it takes and the more complex it becomes

Join the conversation... what are some other common pitfalls you've seen? Let me know by commenting within this post and I'll add them to the list.

In line with the shark theme here... did you know that more people died this year from selfie mishaps (taking daring pictures of themselves in precarious situations) that by shark attack? We have seen a record number of shark attacks here in Australia recently where we breed them to be very big. I'm a wakeboarder and every time I jump in the water here in Sydney I have flash-backs of the movie Jaws which I saw as a young teenager at the movies.

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: Flickr: Bristol ridin: pete Great-White-Shark-ride

10.9 Reasons Selling Is Easy

Like any other science, selling is easy – all you’ve got to do is be good with people and know how to read personalities. Are they a driver, expressive, analytic or amiable? Are they Type A, Type B or type-casted? It doesn’t matter... just nail their learning style – auditory, visual or kinaesthetic – adapt how you communicate.

The latest thinking in NLP and Challenger domination enables you to inject insight through ideation to completely change the game. All you need to do is ensure that you don’t offend them with any cultural gaffs; which means always keep your eyes up, never mention anything to do with The Middle East, the age of the Earth or L. Ron Hubbard. 

Once you’ve established rapport, all you have to do is understand their business; engineer value, navigate the political power-base, discover their evaluation, selection and procurement process... while also creating a bias for your solution. It’s just like shelling peas – simple!

But never mention the competition… except the “do nothing” competitor, the one of apathy or the status quo... that competitor needs to be hammered relentlessly with your outrageous ROI claims.

Now, you might need a few tools to help you execute, but they’re all straightforward too. CRM integrates with ERP to deliver SFA. Do a few courses to ensure you understand SPIN, Efox selling, Tareget Account Selling (TAS), blue sheets, gold sheets, green sheets, RSVPselling, BATTLEPLAN, and The New Solution Selling. Mash them all up into your own epiphany of sales process enlightenment, then use data analytics to provide gazillion reports to while away the day – it will help you avoid rejection on the phone.

The big winner among all of this is "qualify deals properly", and do it so that you know all of the acronyms.

Then book-end qualification with the hammer-time of closing techniques, like the alternative choice close, the assumptive close, the stutterer’s close, the Arnie close... "I'll be back... if you don't sign."But the best one is the “I’ve got pictures of you with a goat!” close. Be creative, as creative as you like!

Mash them all up – your boss will have no idea what’s going on, and he’ll be throwing resources at you for deal pursuit like you’re about to get acquired! But always sell the future in mind by using design thinking to create optimal customer experience.

Embrace question-based selling, it’s just like numbers-based accounting

Support the entire customer life cycle through territory analysis, segmentation, targeting, micro-marketing, lead nurturing, events, research, account and opportunity planning, qualification – just like we talked about – discovery, core planning, collaboration, bid management, close plans, negotiation techniques, customer on-boarding, service and renewals, bring them all together with complaints, get reference – everything! Are you seeing how easy selling really is? On top of the basics, which we’ve just covered, you simply need to manage up – always look busy and stressed all the time! Tell your boss you’re dominating the white space! By the way, that’s the part of the market that will never buy anything from you, but don’t tell him that. 

Learn how to say, “It’s strategic,” and say it with gravitas every time you’re challenged about wanting resources for something that is a long-shot.

Lastly, embrace the paradigm of social selling; the new ABC of selling is always be connecting. LinkedIn is the new publishing, introduction, referral platform, Google+ is the new Google Juice, Twitter is the megaphone of amplification. Facebook? Well, it’s for old people. Monitor all the social platforms that matter and be where your customers are, but make sure that you jump in with relevance and context! Get upstream through social listening 56.8789643% of the way through the buyer’s process!

Well, that’s it really, plain and simple. You can do it – I believe in you!

Ooops! I forgot to mention how important it is to be masterful with 100-slide PowerPoint to bedazzle your audience, using your melodic NLP droning to tune their alpha brain waves into the subconscious need to purchase something from you. Great tips here from Don McMillan. Pay special attention to where the term 'bullet point' came from.

If you're a sales manager, then the last thing to know is that it's super important to innovate in the way you train the team. This is a cutting edge mash-up of Wizard of Oz meets Jeff Slutsky Sales Magic... strap yourself in to be entertained and educated all at the same time. Imagine the impact of immersing your team in this assault on their senses on day three of your sales kick-off. The awards night was the night before and they'll be even more receptive in their hung-over state.

Hope you laughed and as Zig Ziglar used to say, “See you at the top!”

The truth is that selling is far from easy. 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.

 

What Do You Do... Guaranteed!?

Wow... and now backwards... WOW! I just discovered Joel Bauer on YouTube. He is a sales trainer extrordanairre. I wouldn't dare reject his business card after seeing the video embedded here. It has received 2.5 millions views and if this video doesn't make you smile... you're working too hard.

"My business card is THE tool! It took me 25 years to design and it won't fit in your rolodex... because I don't belong in your rolodex!!!" Joel Bauer

I can't say that I relate to Joel's style of delivery but maybe he could team-up with Grant Cardone to 10X the opening of every sales call with the next big thing in business cards... maybe an Adobe Flash 'pop-up' integrated within a LinkedIn profile?

 

A good friend of mine, John McInerney, sent me the business card of Dick Burley, aka Justin Wright. He is someone who also guarantees a whole bunch of outcomes... I certainly hope that Dick doesn't combine all of these pursuits in the one client engagement... he would make a hell of a mess.

But back to the amazing Joel Bauer... here is another one of his videos with indispensable wisdom on how to pack a suitcase for uber-effective business travel. I must now buy a jacket just like his that fits my laptop and pop-up business cards in the inside pocket... along with my hair drier, pillow and travel blanket... so handy when you're on the road. I dare you to watch this all the way to the end and then send me your top 60 travel tips.

But amidst the 'over the top' approach and advice from these sales legends, there is actually an important point to be made. Have you stopped laughing? (I laughed so hard my socks got wet). Are you ready for something serious here?

We need to be clear about 'our promise of value'. What outcomes do we deliver for those we serve?

Everyone in sales and marketing needs to stop talking about themselves, what they do and how they do it; to instead transform the approach to lead with why a conversation should matter to the buyer.

This 'why' narrative needs to be front and centre in your LinkedIn profile because 75% of buyers research the seller online and the #1 place that they find us is in LinkedIn. Is your LinkedIn profile at the standard that it needs to be to support the agenda you want to set by sharing insights that are relevant to your market? Do you show the right kind of values to attract and engage new clients? This guy has the right kind of approach.

Finally, here are the world's top 30 most innovative business cards... but none of these come close to the sheer mastery of Joe Bauer. How are you innovating your LinkedIn profile to make it stand out from the crowd?

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: Flickr

Microsoft's LinkedIn Acquisition - What It Means

Microsoft purchased LinkedIn for a record US$26.2 billion which makes it the biggest deal Microsoft has ever done. In my view there is no product or 'solution' overlap which makes it look like a good fit but only if Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, allows LinkedIn to operate as a stand-alone business unit just as they've done with Skype.

Acquiring LinkedIn is Satya Nadella's first big play to reinvigorate Microsoft's growth but although LinkedIn's shares rose more than 45% on the news, Microsoft dropped almost 3% (Image courtesy of Bloomberg).

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This is probably because Microsoft acquisitions have a mixed track record in recent times with both Nokia and Yammer (business instant messaging collaboration) failing to deliver the intended results. Skype, on the other hand, has been largely left alone to continue as the video conferencing giant... LinkedIn should be managed the same way.

Microsoft's heritage and core value offering is integrated office productivity tools and LinkedIn fits the bill while also being a mature and elegant suite of cloud applications. Approximately 420 million professionals (including recruiters, sales professionals, entrepreneurs and marketers) all use LinkedIn to manage their professional networks and careers. But where is the potential benefit for the huge number of joint LinkedIn and Microsoft customers?

Value Driver #1: Microsoft CRM (Dynamics) and LinkedIn Integration. The roles of LinkedIn versus Dynamics (Microsoft Customer Relationship Management) are fundamentally different and this is because one enables people to build both their network and opportunity pipeline, and the other manages qualified opportunities and provides the database for executing lead-nurturing and customer experience.

LinkedIn has the hearts and minds of salespeople because it helps them find the people they need to build pipeline and also the next employer to progress their career.

CRM should be the engine for managing sales process and with real-time LinkedIn data, Dynamics has the capability to do this as the 'single source of truth' about prospects and clients to manage the entire customer lifecycle for marketing, sales, services, support and finance. The very best implement CRM as a coaching platform for sales managers with their people to review opportunity qualification and discovery, call plans, relationship mapping, sales stage progression with action tracking, close/win plans, and much more... all integrated within the CRM.

LinkedIn helps build opportunity pipeline and CRM manages sales process. Integrating the two creates an accurate real-time platform to deliver game-changing customer experience for the entire interaction lifecycle.

LinkedIn and Microsoft CRM create value in their own right but together there are genuine synergies. Could LinkedIn replace CRM? This video discussed that very question and here is the transcript.

Value Driver #2: Integrated Cloud Office Productivity: Google will be watching very closely as this acquisition could enable LinkedIn's InMail adoption to skyrocket if Microsoft intelligently leverages Office365 against Gmail's cloud mail dominance. Salesforce and other CRM vendors will also be worried about this acquisition and what it means for them competitively. Real-time data within CRM is massively important. Microsoft have other cloud application capabilities that start to bring everything together. These include cloud collaboration, messaging and mail.

Image courtesy of LinkedIn.

Value Driver #3: Customer Experience Platform. Outstanding 'customer experience' (CX) is what CRM, marketing automation, business intelligence, process automation, mobile, social engagement and other technologies are meant to enable. Microsoft has assured its relevance in the CRM arena with this acquisition and also brings and new dimension to professional 'productivity', in the office and working mobile. If Microsoft 'does no harm' to LinkedIn while they carefully create a strategy to become the world's leading customer experience platform, then the result will be good for shareholders and customers alike.

The verdict. Although Microsoft is paying top price, this acquisition makes sense if they can deliver the world's leading suite of solutions for creating customer experience. CX is more important CRM... it's already the next big thing. The biggest negative for LinkedIn members is that the acquisition almost certainly means there will be more advertising on the platform as they seek to recoup their investment... let's hope that LinkedIn does not become as cluttered with ads as Facebook.

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: Source: CNBC screenshot

A.I. Salesbots Driving Sales Extinction?

This post is a reprint of an article I recently wrote for Sales Mastery Magazine and thanks Mary Poul for allowing me to reproduce here!

Advances in social media platforms and the ubiquity of mobile devices are creating disembodied engagement like never before. You only have to observe the digitally distracted herds of people wandering down the street like Brown's cows, gazing into their devices, meandering across the paths of others, clicking away in their narcissistic pursuits to see that society has changed.

Harold Diculous, Adjunct Professor of Social Anthropology and Special Assistant to Australia’s Science Minister, recently quoted a USL report highlighting that the brainwaves of pedestrians engaging in social media platforms on their smartphones are remarkably similar to sleep-walkers with both being open to suggestive behavioral stimulation. “PDSP [Physically Disengaged by Social Platform] consumers are highly susceptible to sales messages delivered in social”, said professor Diculous, “and that’s what’s driving the acceleration of advertising in Facebook and now linkedIn... which is very concerning.” Messages from social platforms bypass all filters nature has designed into human reasoning functions, implanting directly to the belief system.

While governments are considering how to legislate against the unintended consequences of social engagement platforms, tech-savvy entrepreneurs are harnessing the hypnotic power of social for commercial advantage to rid their companies of unnecessary sales overhead. the rise of ‘Dark Social’ combined with the rapid evolution of Artificial Intelligence (AI) may be signaling the decline of the sales profession. Dark Social is the unintended consequence of interconnected social platform metadata and APIs.

In a world where most products, services and solutions are increasingly seen as commodities, differentiation has been desperately pursued by business through the ability of sales people to create relationships of trust. But even trust has become a commodity with the recent advances in Siri, Cortana and Google Now which leverage back- end AI algorithms fed by social proximity beacons, wearable devices, the Internet of things, metadata harvesting and predictive big data analytics.

According to Professor Diculous, “By linking all social platforms together through APIs and metadata tags, dark social can power AI cyber- selling.” When asked what it will mean for the selling profession, Diculous responded, “All the elements are now in place and I predict 65% of inside sales roles with be replaced by AI Cyber Sellers (AICS) by 2018. Many sales people will have to turn to burger-flipping to make a living.”

Field sellers are next in the line-of-fire. Just last month a humanoid robot named Ham drew breathtaking reactions at the Asia World Expo in Hong Kong with its lively eyebrows, wrinkled cheeks, and eyes that could follow a person around the room. Amazingly, Ham speaks in tweets that create a hypnotic trance with anyone within a three-meter radius. the robot can be programmed to leverage Dark Social influence to program listeners to buy.

Ham is designed to be an exceptional closer in sales applications and according to a discredited unnamed source, “More than half of the Fortune 500 are set to place orders this year, meaning Hanson Robotics could outsell the iWatch.”

The second generation robot will become a complete AI salesbot, traveling to customers using a Google Car to deliver Challenger insights. the bot will effectively build rapport during presentations where the audience is handicapped by PDSP (Physically Disengaged by Social Platforms), which is spreading at epidemic proportions. Customers are wide open to the salesbot’s dulcet tones that auto-suggest volume purchase orders and high Net Promoter Scores.

The article above is satire and here is the original article on the Sales Mastery website. The thing you may not know is that Ham is real! Have a look at him interacting with visitors at the Hong Kong show in early 2015.

I encourage you to subscribe to Sales Mastery Magazine and if you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' button and also share via your Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook social media platforms. I encourage you to join the conversation or ask questions so feel free to add a comment on this post. Pleasefollow my LinkedIn post page for all my articles.

Bonus content! Here is one in a series of interviews that I conducted with Professor Diculous. To see more, search his name in YouTube or click here.

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: 'Aye, Ham!': Presentan un insólito humanoide que sabe dialogar

Your Personal LinkedIn SSI Ranking Revealed!

If you want to dramatically increase pipeline and revenue then you must invest in social selling strategies, tools and techniques. Here's the proof. Independent researcher C9 Incsurveyed 36 companies and 9,000 sellers, finding that those who embraced LinkedIn's Sales Navigator tool created 7 times more pipeline and 11 times more revenue. LinkedIn themselves analyzed a cross section of new and existing sellers who increased pipeline by 45% and the probability of achieving their sales targets by 51% simply by improving their social selling index (SSI) scores using both free and paid editions of LinkedIn.

"For sales management and sales leaders; ignoring the power of social selling amounts to professional negligence."

I will provide you with a link for you to obtain your own Social Selling Index (SSI) score, where you'll receive a report just like mine in the screenshot below, but please allow me to first briefly state the case for why social selling matters.

Sales people need to become micro-marketers to build their own credentials and create opportunity pipelines. They need to engage earlier and at senior levels to create the necessary value for both the buying and selling organizations to fund their roles. Social selling techniques that focus on listening for trigger events and content publishing for attraction, education and credibility are all important but consider these points:

  • Social listen dramatically reduces customer churn. 68% of the reason that customers leave is because they think you don't care (Forrester). Listening and having empathy has always been the key to resolving customer satisfaction issues. Failure to monitor where customers are communicating almost guarantees substantial brand damage with unnecessarily high churn and low Net Promoter Scores (NPS).
  • Social strategies enable sellers to research and engage early in the buyer’s journey which is essential because purchasers are progressed somewhere between 57% (CEB) and 70% (Forrester) of the way through their own buying process before they invite non-preferred sellers to the table. It’s impossible to execute strategically in sales today without embracing social selling.
  • Social buying is a reality with 75% of buyers doing their research online before engaging sellers (for significant purchases as published by IDC). We must be where our prospective customers are and also attract them as early as possible in order to have the opportunity to influence.
  • When sales people use social well they dramatically increase their pipeline and revenue performance. Using social engagement platforms masterfully increases pipeline by 45% and the likelihood of a sales person achieving their sales target by 51% (C9 LinkedIn research). It’s not overstating the situation to say that it’s negligent for sales management not to invest in LinkedIn for their B2B sellers.
  • Social publishing transforms the way people sell.  Sales people need to learn to engage earlier and more senior levels by leading with insight. Publishing blogs is the key to them honing their narrative to move away from talking about who they are, what they do and how they do it; to instead lead with why a conversation is important for the buyer and how they can assist through insight and value in delivering the client’s most important outcomes and managing the client’s risks.

Achieving a strong SSI score is about a holistic approach and content publishing contributes only 12.5% of the overall SSI score (including updates and Publisher posts).

To see how you rank in the use of LinkedIn for social selling,click here and your own report will appear.

If that does not work, ensure you are logged-in to LinkedIn and past this into a new tab: https://www.linkedin.com/sales/ssi

To understand how the SSI algorithm works and how to improve you ranking, click here. Also, this post by LinkedIn explains more. This infographic from LinkedIn reminds you why it's important.

If you've achieved a SSI score of 90 or above please let me know in the comments of this post as I am creating a honor board.

The highest SSI score I've seen is by John Dougan with 99 and he is a brilliant writer. Follow John Dougan's LinkedIn Blog here. Congratulations also to these other SSI leaders!

  • Ryan Rathwell... 90
  • Larry Levine... 90
  • Robert Chandler... 90
  • George Bronten... 91
  • Thijs van der Acker... 91
  • Tim Grosvenor-Jones... 91
  • Joe Sienkiewicz... 91
  • Tudor Saitoc... 92
  • Nick Ogle... 92
  • Anthony Margo... 93
  • John Dougan... 99

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 : LinkedIn

 

Action vs. Reaction Culture

What does it mean to be truly proactive? As Elvis put it: "A little less conversation, a little more action." Are you guilty of waiting around for the phone to ring? Is it your start-up culture? Are you leaning far too much on Marketing and Demand Generation or are you going out and proactively hunting in named accounts?

Leonardo da Vinci said: "I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do."

Ask yourself, are you doing enough? Or, just chatting about it at the water cooler. This is the most insidious threat to the success of the modern sales practitioner. It goes beyond GTD or 'getting things done'. Timing is the X factor of the elite sales hunter.

Each day when you come to work, grab a pen and paper and write down the top 3 actions you will take before lunch to move the needle. Go confirm them with your manager. She will be very impressed, especially after you've done this a few days and achieved many milestones by 9am while your contemporaries are still reactively chasing e-mails.

Excessively over-planning is a cancer. One imperious executive stopped his Board in its track to build a "plan for the plan." I can't make these stories up! We don't need a deeper Gantt chart. One wrote about one CEO who doesn't believe in business plans... 90 days action plans instead. We don't need reporting on the reporting. We need brass tacks action: face time with dream clients. Call the switch, charm the EA, get to their neighborhood. Spend time with your clients understanding their pains and its implications.

The behavior of your leader is the culture. Do you work for someone that works as hard as you do. Are they phoning it in or using delegation as a proxy for action? Leaders that act decisively succeed in battle. Delegation is an action, make no mistake, but as Marissa Mayer says in interviews, she makes a list every day and if she gets to the very bottom something went wrong.

Effective action is a constant process of 80/20 prioritization. The rocks and the sand, I've written about it before. Don't spend all day with happy ears working on speculative proposals to make them letter perfect. Act now. Strategize after hours, come to work with your A game ready to execute. You can accomplish more in 3 hours than most sellers do in a day. After all, the average seller sells for about 1.5 hours per day. Why not crush it and go out to lunch! Never Eat Alone I might add: great book!

Before you go home, always make one last call. Make sure you always hit that 5 to 12 touches sweet spot in social selling or otherwise. Blend your channels together. The law of convergence holds in modern prospecting, it holds true at every aspect of the 2015 funnel – even closing. Test, tune and optimize. Ready, fire, aim!

Write your LinkedIn update and Publisher blog content at night after dinner... shoot the television just like Joshua Peters did. Blogs are not like books, publish then edit. Set 20 minutes to plan, then call. But don't waste time. Connect and set the appointment – then deep dive! The main thing is to actually know why meeting you should be important to them... can you answer these questions: Why meet with you? The follow-up is just like it: What can you do for them at a business level?

Is your culture active or reactive? What are you doing to change it? What strategies do you personally use to manage your day so that you're optimizing your output and effort? How are you proactive as a manager of other people? Please answer 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.

Main image photo by Flickr: Yun Huang Yong

 

Value Quadrant for Sales People

All sales people rate themselves highly in relationships and many regard themselves as being strategic. In truth, few operate strategically and even fewer interact at the most senior levels of power. The Value Quadrant for Professional Sales Agents is designed to highlight the four possible modes of operation and all sales people move between the quadrants during their career.

The bottom left quadrant — Transactional — represents the lowest value for all concerned. A transactional sales person can be likened to a professional visitor offering only marginal value due to their inability to differentiate or exert influence. The Transactional quadrant is the realm of commodity products or services where sales success is usually dependent on representing a strong brand. Transactional selling is most subject to price sensitivity as customers seek to drive down price for what they perceive as commodity products and services. Buyers want responsiveness to their procurement process and expect sales people to assist them in transacting with best commercial value. But because, in the Transactional quadrant, the seller is responding to client demand and participating in the buyer’s disempowering (for the seller) process of reducing price, the sales person’s role represents limited value and pays accordingly.

As a sales person progresses in their career they tend to move out of the bottom left quadrant to become either an Account Manager focused on incremental business through maintaining and developing customer relationships or they become a Business Development Manager seeking to generate new business in more competitive environments. But transactional sales people usually struggle to evolve and attempts by them to position ‘solutions’ are often perceived merely as the bundling together of products and services. More worrying is that there is often a lack of understanding from both buyer and seller concerning genuine value in the delivery of outcomes and management of associated risks. Instead there is myopic focus on features, functions and price. Although the transactional sales person may seek to use tactics and relationships to position their value or outmaneuver the competition, their limiting characteristic is dependence on recommendations from technical and middle management people well below those who set the agenda and hold real economic power.

Relationship selling (the bottom right quadrant) is important because people buy from those they like and trust; positive relationships are therefore prerequisite for success at any level. However, relationships must be built with the right people in the buying organization and as already stated, transactional/relationship sales people are usually limited by relationships with lower level and mid-tier operatives. All sales people leverage relationship skills in the role of Account Manager (bottom right quadrant) or Business Development Manager (top left quadrant) but the level of genuine influence is what actually defines the value of a relationship for the seller. On the other hand, for lower level buyers, they define relationship value by the perceived level of responsiveness and trustworthiness of the seller.

The top left Tactical quadrant is populated by Sales Executives or Business Development Managers seeking to influence the buyer’s process and requirements. Here the sales person employs tactics to differentiate and overcome the buyer’s efforts to drive down price through commoditization and competition. Sales people operating in this quadrant are usually assertive and competitive; positioning unique solutions and helping purchasers identify differentiating value. Tactical sales people also tend to suffer from being stuck with mid-tier relationships and they easily focus wrongly on features and functions.

A sales person makes a significant jump in the value they offer an employer when they move from responding to transactional demand (bottom left) to influencing the buyer (bottom right) or tactically competing (top left). The giant leap however in value for both employer and customer is achieved when the sales person operates in the top right quadrant strategically creating value for all parties. This quadrant is where buyer and seller value is balanced and where the return on investment is high for both parties. Value is maximized and price becomes less important as the focus moves to managing risks in realizing the business benefits of delivering high value outcomes.

Moving away from transactional selling into any other quadrant is often labelled ‘solution selling’. Beware of this cliché term however as ‘solution selling’ can manifest as the sales person acting like the cure looking for a disease — when you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail. The concept of solution selling is valid but only if it is preceded by a consultative approach to understanding the actual problem that needs to be solved. Solutions are an integral part of strategic selling but no strategy can be effective without trust, value and excellence in execution.

The top right quadrant is therefore populated by the very few who operate strategically with excellence in the execution of tactics and management of senior relationships. The very best sales executives masterfully engineer business value through alignment to the seat of genuine political and commercial power within the customer organization. They recognize that demand creation is achieved through early engagement and by understanding and aligning with serious problems or opportunities. They also know that differentiation is achieved through becoming a trusted adviser with intimate understanding of the customer’s operational constraints and potential risks — internal and external — in the delivery of business value.

Being strategic is therefore evidenced by proactive demand generation with effective strategy to defeat the competition while building compelling business value.

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: Seongbin Im