Don't Be A Face Sucking Alien

The Principle of Non-Hunger is one of the most critical strategic axioms for winning in enterprise sales cycles. Always, always maintain your cool. This is much like the relationship dynamics of dating. You can't be too interested! Just like Miles Davis reflected profoundly that the silence is often even more important than the music being played, mastering strategic pauses is a powerful sales weapon to fortify your arsenal.

You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away and especially know when to run – aka qualify out that garbage in the pipeline. Remember, GIGO = Garbage in garbage out. Inflated pipelines and sales person 'happy ears' are almost a proverb in modern selling where technology is the crutch and hence why only 60% of salespeople make quota.

But this post is about something rather specific. This is about a grossly negligent group of salespeople that inadvertently snap the marlin on the line by acting too 'needy' in the crucible of the deal. Close confidently and lead the delicate dance with your business partner.

We all remember the scene in Alien when Sigourney Weaver gets trapped in the room with the baby alien that jumps up to suck her face and she narrowly escapes. This is not the tone you would ever want to set with a customer. Here are the greatest Face-Sucking Alien Violations:

  • Endless checking in or touching base via email
  • Constantly calling customers' cell phones and leaving messages that provide no accretive value
  • Over-confirming meetings
  • Sending an email every time they open the last outreach – you move from data driven business development to desperate
  • Status update or status check type communication
  • Hard-negotiating the close and then being sweet and unctuous – this reeks used car salesman and snaps the line
To be consultative, be assumptive. - Jill Konrath's Antidote

Sometimes being the most venomous snake in the outback is actually about knowing when to lay in wait versus when to strike. Once the deal is closed, knowing it has and holding a united front is paramount. Sales trainers in seminars in the olden days used to literally yell at the audience to 'Shut up!' Why? Because the sale has closed and the cardinal sin of strategic selling is a Yogi Berraism: 'Don't over-close the close.' Once they've made up their mind, don't unmake it or introduce creeping doubt by being overly urgent or smarmy. Pestering key decision makers blows deals. We get delegated down to who we sound like but we especially get delegated down to whom we act like. Leverage finesse, gravitas and oblique approaches to drive even greater value to unstick your reps' deals. If you are in the hot seat looking for that signature – command respect and act as an executive would with economy of effort, speech and veracity in your actions. Make each action count and hold them accountable to the process.

non-hunger (n.) Confidence, security and faith in your solution. Patience and sales swagger that breeds and sets the tone. Showing strength in strategic negotiations. Knowing your value and creating warranted exclusivity.

Here's how you build confidence and close elegantly:

  • Enunciate and open up your body language
  • Get the deal signed in person sitting at the board table
  • Make it easy to do business with you
  • Radiant confidence in everything that you do. It's better to fake it before you make it then to quaver. Customers smell fear and will balk.
  • Listen to audio programs on negotiation like Getting To Yes from the Harvard Negotiation Project so that you can master the art of debate.
  • Assume the sale and own the responsibility of what this is really about: execution and solving the customer's pain.
  • Always create value at every touch point!

Now it's your turn: What's your strategy for closing major deals? How do you maintain confidence? Have you put a policy in place to only touch the customer Nth times once the deal is closed to ensure you bring it in over the line?

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: Pug 50

The Best Man For The Job Is Probably A Wo-man

'Women are too emotional and soft – they lack the killer instinct. Women are not linear thinkers; they circle around the topic for too long before getting to the point.' I’ve heard all these sexist comments during my career, and others that are not fit for publication. I come from Australia which is the land of political incorrectness.

Here is one example from the edge. I was in a meeting years ago when a senior male manager said this about a woman not present: “She needs to grow a pair of balls.” My boss, an awesomely intelligent and strong female was there and she retorted instantly – deadpan, staring him in the eye: “And you should stop thinking about your genitals. Are we done with sexist stereotypes?” I swear this is true. I was the only person in room who laughed – very briefly. He never did it again. She handled the situation masterfully. No feigning offense; no protestations about sexism, no storming off to the Human Remains department. Just straight back at the sexist bully with calm conviction. It was beautiful to watch.

But here's the thing: The world is crying out for great leaders; authentic people who are the real deal at every level. Building great teams demands that we harness the power of diversity in every area – experience, skills, personality, cultural, and gender. But men and women are different in ways that are difficult to see. In so many areas, the female brain is super-woman superior to the myopic male counterpart. Before you throw rocks, let me share some interesting facts about the female brain.

  • Women have significantly more connective tissue between the two hemispheres of the brain. This ‘bridge’ is the corpus collosum and, in computer-speak, it’s the bus between the two CPUs. Imagine the superior performance of a supercomputer where one configuration had substantially faster data exchange between CPUs.
  • The female brain also distributes processing of key functions to more areas of the brain. Combined with the better connected corpus collosum, and you can see how women can naturally multi-task better than men.
  • Women are also wired to communicate with stronger ‘verbal ability’. We’ve all seen the statistics and it’s true that women have an innate need to speak almost 3 times more than a men (20,000 versus 7,000 words per day).
  • Women have more connector rods in their eyes. They literally have greater peripheral vision. If, as a man, you’ve ever thought that women have eyes in the back of their heads… you’re not imagining it. Women also have greater skin sensitivity and a superior sense of touch… not that there should be any of that going on in business!
  • A women’s brain is better connected to emotions and women have a stronger natural sense of morality and justice.
  • Women have a better memory for faces and pick-up on non-verbal cues more easily.

For more details about male and female brain wiring see my earlier post, Why Men Are Great Listeners. Men and women complement each other beautifully in family, business and all of life. Success is about valuing difference and leveraging strengths in the pursuit of a greater cause. Enjoy Mark Gungor explaining the differences.

Let's consider the gender strengths of women for leadership. The boy’s club boardroom is for companies heading for irrelevance. Did you know that in the lifetime of current baby-boomers, the average age of a Fortune 500 corporation in the USA has declined from approximately 80 years to just 18! Houston, we have a problem!

I’ve talked previously about the necessity to innovate and 'jack the Sigmoid curve or die', but sustained prosperity is really about leadership. Every enterprise therefore needs a balanced team of Level 5 leaders (Jim Collins) and this must include a proportional representation of women! Not for reasons of political correctness but for competitive advantage and to manage moral risk. Business is all about people; decisions are made emotionally and merely supported by logic. Staff, customers, shareholders and stakeholders are all driven emotionally. Make no mistake, emotional disconnection is a disease afflicting most enterprises.

If there are zero women in your leadership team or board… you have no chance of being your best as a team. But don't have a token quota female presence; instead balance the board and leadership with qualified women. Sheryl Sandberg is COO at Facebook and she highlights that only 5% of world leaders are female, just 13% in parliaments are women, and a mere 15% of board and CEO jobs are held by women. The highest representation of women in leadership roles is in the Not For Profit (NFP) sector with 20% of senior roles and board positions being held by them. Watch this TED video and hang-in there with the headset mic problems... they hand her a new one after a few minutes.

There remains a glass ceiling for women in the boardroom and it needs to be smashed by those who have the power – men who are willing to act on the strength of their convictions. The best person for the job should always be offered the role. In leadership and communication, women have distinct advantages, not disadvantages.

In modern sales there is a huge need for people to be multi-taskers in order to deal with the wall of white noise blasting at everyone online (apologies for being part of that). I believe that women have a huge genetic advantage in Social Selling 3.0. If you want anecdotal proof about male limitations, consider the reason that so few men die in their sleep... this is because the male brain cannot do two things at once. A man in one of my courses once retorted to that saying that female breasts are proof that men can actually think about two things at once… I replied by saying his example does not really count ;-)

Angela Merkel, Gemany's first female Chancellor is a beacon of leadership in Europe. Will Hillary run in the Presidential race? Just for your entertainment, the most famous political speech in recent Australian history hit the news worldwide and it was delivered by our first female Prime Minister. It was a bloody brilliant performance as she berated the male opposition leader accusing him of misogyny. Her accusations were without merit but all good politicians are magicians, masterful in the art of distraction. It was terribly caustic politics but she was masterful in her delivery.

Prime Minister Gillard took the high moral ground and it played well for a little while. But it was a façade – her values were appalling and her own political party replaced her as sitting Prime Minister with the very man, Kevin Rudd, that she had toppled in a game of thrones power play the previous year. This period in Australian politics was know as the Rudd–Gillard–Rudd government. Ironically, the man she attacked in her misogyny speech, Tony Abbott, won the next election to himself become Prime Minister.

The lesson in all of this? Prejudice and discrimination are realities no matter how deep they appear to be pushed beneath the surface. But don't seek to use gender to manipulate a situation. Yes, a woman usually needs to be better than the men she is competing with just to have any chance of 'a level playing field'. Step-up and lead despite the obstacles and find allies who are people of goodwill and positive values.

Now it's over to you. Who do you nominate as great female leaders today serving in academia, the military, business and politics? I'd like to create a role of honor – the beacons of global female leadership.

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 photo: The 2011 MHS Conference second annual “Building Stronger Female Physician Leaders” award winners and honorable mentions: (Front from left to right) Army Col. (Dr.) Kelly Murray, USPHS Cmdr. Meena Vythilingam, (Back from left to right) Air Force Lt. Col. (Dr.) Leslie Knight, Navy Cmdr. (Dr.) Ashley Schroeder and Coast Guard Cmdr. (Dr.) Erica Schwartz, in National Harbor, Maryland, Thursday, Jan. 27, 2011. Not pictured is Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) Mary Klote, the junior Army winner, was not able to attend. (MHS photo by Mike Olliver)

Top 10 Reasons Why Your Sales Reps SHOULD Be Creating Content

Every solid sales executive I know is telling me they want to see less social and more selling. - Matt Heinz from his Anti Social-Selling Manifesto

Really? Matt Heinz is by no means a Luddite. He's an amazing thought leader when it comes to sales and marketing on the bleeding edge of the industry so I respect his opinion greatly. I think it would be fun to make the devil's advocate case for why sales people should blog and leverage my platform to get the opinion of my tribe. What do you think about this? Does it lower productivity? I inadvertently got inducted into the Social Selling Mafia by walking my talk on these subjects.

Much of that can be done by curating good content vs. creating it, and you get basically the same external value for your sales reps at a fraction of the time.

Do you think curating is as effective as prosuming, creating, mashing up, remixing or writing your own content to build your position as a thought leader in the industry? Certainly LinkedIn's own Social Selling Index (SSI) algorithm very highly favors curation but also creating it seems to have a dramatic impact. I shot up to 82 on SSI while my mentee is at 72 after 7,000 friends and almost a decade on LinkedIn sharing and curating.

But what they really mean is that they want their reps to focus on selling. They want their best, highest-paid people focused on the activities that help them build relationships, rapport and velocity with targeted decision-makers at their best prospective accounts. I don’t really care whether you call it selling or sharing or helping or whatever. Your best reps should focus on sales.

Let me ask you this? Are you able to leverage LinkedIn Publisher at the core of your social selling strategy?

I outlined The Four Pillars of Strategic Social Selling in the post at this link. It's a new term which I believe I've coined with a brand new hashtag [#strategicsocialselling]. To innovate the practice, I've combined the best of battle-tested neoclassical strategic selling frameworks and methodologies from the trenches with the best of the best from the Strategic Social Selling Unicorns.

  • Pillar I - Strong personal brand
  • Pillar II - Social Listening
  • Pillar III - Social Publishing
  • Pillar IV - Social Research
  • Pillar V - Social engagement
  • Pillar VI - Social Collaboration

I'm currently training and coaching enterprise sales executives on these methods and they're consistently accelerating and closing six figure deals with this advanced, complex B2B format of #socialselling at the fore.

So let me unpack why I advocate for your top sales people unleashing a Social Selling 3.0 strategy. Here are two blog posts for background on exactly how to implement this to drive tangible revenue:

Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things. - Peter F. Drucker

Let's really think about this quote as it applies to strategic selling, strategic content marketing and strategic social media application in a modern context. What you're really trying to do is the precursor of Challenger Selling. You're trying to leverage provocative insight to access key decision makers upstream, pre-trigger event, so that you can be the emotional favorite™, as Craig Elias and Tibor Shanto put it eloquently. B2B rich content and thought leadership allow for a steady stream of enablement, helping to walk your prospects up the ladder of engagement.

Mark Roberge, the CRO of Hubspot speaks about how suddenly, CXOs would just reach out to grab dinner and sign their whole company up for HubSpot the next day. Why? The power of content marketing carving rock like water. The opportunity is as wide and deep as the Grand Canyon but it won't take a million years to carve that rock. Most people simply haven't taken a data driven approach, mixed in strategic selling frameworks of yore and turned the volume up high enough 10X to truly extract the value out of strategic social selling methods. I've also noticed that the basics are ubiquitous but the advanced methods that I teach are very rare in the marketplace of sales training. Any tactic that can be a force multiplier supplementally can be re-engineered from first principles to become the core of a go-to-market engine or deployment of a Weingbergian Sales Attack.

So without further ado, here are the ten top reasons:

  1. Customers buy from thought leaders they know, like and trust who challenge the status quo with provocative insight and help them to reimagine existing business models.

  2. Customers are 57% through the buying process, according to research from CEB, so the goal is to either get there before it begins or differentiate yourself online while they embark on the process.

  3. Rich, relevant content intercepts deals to close pre-trigger. You can snatch deals out of competitors mouths like a breaching apex predator!

4. Salespeople can move from servicing demand to creating it!

5. Imagine being so early in a sales cycle, it hasn't even started yet. Like Steve Jobs said, 'let's give the customer what they never knew she always wanted.'

6. The key differentiator in any enterprise deal? The sales rep aka you. Build your brand equity and powerful brand presence to differentiate in the marketplace.

7. 10X your reach to literally become omnipresent in the industry via your remarkable, heavily shared content. Hat tip to Grant Cardone on this point.

8. Just like becoming a millionaire, the person you'll become by blogging everyday, the effort and research it takes to generate compelling insight and the ability to communicate at the highest levels, will revolutionize the way you actively listen, present, pitch and close in the analog world too.

9. The best way to sell to a buyer is to empathize with what they go through. Show that you can see the world through their eyes and your content will convince and convert.

10. Book deals, speaking engagements, consulting gigs, guest posts, interviews and the opportunity to meet new and exciting people from every walk of life all over the world! Reverse mentorship by experts in your field abounds to help you step up your game (and theirs!).

Need I say more? Whether you vehemently agree or disagree please tweet this out or leave a comment below. So what about reps that aren't natural born Ernest Hemingways or Om Maliks?

Content is like a resume. You should constantly be trying to improve and add to it. Sellers should get a writer/mentor and gradually learn to write...and speak. - Joel Heffner

This all seems to reflect the modern insight selling funnel that is more collaborative and multi-channel than ever. Here's data from The Rain Groupwhich is "the result of a study which focused on more than 700 B2B purchases made by a broad sample of buyers. In aggregate, these buyers were responsible for $3.1 billion in annual purchases. Along with their survey research, they've now spoken to more than 150 corporate buyers about their recent purchasing experiences."

The top 3 factors separating winners from 2nd place finishers?According to this research, all 3 must be practiced in tandem...

"Level 1, connect, is the price of entry. When buyers perceive sellers don’t understand their needs and don’t have a solution that can help—and if the buyers don’t like them—sellers don’t win. Even when sellers succeed here, it’s simply table stakes. More needs to be done.

[What's a better way to connect meaningful in real-time with any thought leader? #social]

Level 2, convince, increases wins. When sellers don’t convince the buyers they’ll get a worthwhile return, the risks are acceptable, and they’re the right choice, the buyers simply might not buy at all, might buy much less than they should (or only be willing to pay less), or may select another provider.

[Big deals take a finesse close, enablement and education over time which typically means longer sales cycles. What's the best way to do this? #social]

Level 3, collaborate, is when the seller becomes a key component of buyer success. The sellers who are perceived as level 3 collaborators, bringing new ideas to the table, cocreating ideas and insights, and working with buyers as a team, will find themselves in the winner’s circle."

[What's more collaborative then starting your own industry forum or LinkedIn Group? You guessed it! #social]

Strategic social selling can be utilized at all three steps in the modern sales process that increases propensity to win in major deals: Connect, Convince & Collaborate.

It's time to secure your place in the Winner's Circle and embrace Publishing as a Top Sales Leader. Become a micro-marketer and embrace social media as your core strategy. I suggest a LinkedIn Publisher post each day sharing your expertise and unique insight, a case study, a personal story and incorporating in a selfie style YouTube video. Shoot for building 5,000 followers on LinkedIn Publish [hub] and watch the leads roll in. You'll need to do this consistently every single day with Twitter, Google+ and Facebook as the spokes to amplify this out. Consistency, persistence and patience pay off. Just dedicate a half hour to an hour each day.

Salespeople who take my advice on this will have a massive edge in 2015. They'll do this in addition to all the other great things they do like effective prospecting by phone, face to face meetings, thorough discovery and qualification. They'll simply be able to work more deeply down into the funnel or on an empty playing field so far upstream, there are few to no competitors. That serenity alone is worth it's weight in gold.

Now it's your turn: Do you agree with Matt Heinz that 'sales reps shouldn't create content' or are you on the fence? I would divulge how much revenue I've driven personally to my business in just 90 days but I guess you can imagine just how big a payoff it's been for me by looking at my 150+ posts, many long form to get to that coveted 1,900 word, 7-minute sweet spot. Why would I do this? I prefer my sizzle with some steak, mate! As a 30 year veteran, my time is money and I invest it where the most is made. Adapt or die. The content selling #strategicsocialselling revolution will not be televised. It's already happening and top enterprise sales teams [case studies] on several contents are executing on this powerful strategy!

Major Caveat – Managers please pump the breaks and proceed with caution:

I understand (mostly) what you say, but I think the consequences of individual corporate salespeople becoming content writers are far reaching & serious. There are focus issues, skill set issues, prioritization issues, brand alignment issues, writing competency issues, etc. My personal observations from consulting companies big and small in a variety is industries is that too many salespeople fail from lack of focused new biz dev activity. They look for reasons not to proactively sell. Asking them to become authors provides another wonderful excuse not to do their primary job. You, Matt and I are consultants with platforms; we should be writing. Salespeople should be selling! – Mike Weinberg

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: Mike Licht

13 Formulas To Generate Viral Content - Hint: Creation Trumps Curation

The selling cycle has become a buying cycle driven by content.

Once buyers can take 100% of the purchase journey online, social selling and even traditional selling could go away. How? If you're reading the world's foremost expert on cloud switching technologies' blog every day for a year, one day, you just may literally reach a tipping point and be ready to buy. Arguably we're really just accessing our customers lower in the funnel but the funnel is flipped on its head because they're accessing us. It's the delta between old school interruption selling and new school attraction business to business writing.

Rich subject matter expertise can literally fulfill the customer's demands in real time and generate qualified buyers.

I'm not saying that sellers are going away. I'm saying that the sellers of the future need to understand this paradox and this paradigm shift and run with it.

'Who's writing the best content on the internet about what I'm most interested in? I need to find out now, connect in with them, develop a personal relationship with them, buy their books and audio programs, attend their seminars and engage with them in any way that I can to step up my game!' This is the simplicity of how the content revolution currently occurring on the internet works. We are all desperately seeking the source – great ideas that are effective and actionable that will give us a business edge and help us win.

Ask yourself one question? Do you want to be a leader or a follower with how you use social media to evangelize your company or industry? Your audience is much smarter than you could ever imagine and will go to incredibly great lengths to seek you out if you can simply supply awesome ideas born of real world experience. How you reached your station in life is fascinating to other people, especially the techniques that helped you overcome obstacles and your spirit in getting up after you failed.

To dominate in social media, you need to be the butterfly flapping its wings causing a ripple effect that creates a hurricane of interest on the other side of the world. We must challenge ourselves to write powerful, compelling prose that move our public and inspire action. We must write things that help others, make them rethink their business and sharpen the sword of our own business acumen to supply an endless stream of new insight.

Water flows from the river to the sea. Our customers seek out that source of knowledge to establish a trusted advisor relationship with the content itself. I've read authors promoting various ratios. I tend to enjoy a 10:1 curation to creation. I've become a staunch advocate of daily LinkedIn publisher posting and now written extensively on how sales people can blog and publish daily while still adhering to social media policies and corporate governance.

Companies make the mistake of allowing a generic go-to-market strategy. Is it cohesive? Yes. But it's critical to allow reps to personalize and customize their sales story and materials. A final pause for a manager to look it over before going out to a key prospect is fine. The bigger risk is a cohesive, crystal clear brilliant set of approved collateral that looks exactly like the competitor. Sales people will differentiate by how they sell and the quality of the stories they tell. Dream clients are looking to find the best partner for them. They realize it's going to take a real investment to produce a dramatic result so savvy buyers are keenly interested in the ROI of similar customers. How did your solution help a similar client make or save money to justify the spend?

This is all fairly basic but where it gets fairly nuanced is what it takes to create content every day, bake in unique insight and balance it with a curation strategy. You want to give to get but you want to establish your credibility as a trusted source. You know more than you think you know.

  1. Mashups – I feel like I'm single-handedly bringing this concept back because it was en vogue at some point in Web 2.0. The reason this is so powerful, is one can simply take disparate elements and by putting them together, create some bizarre hybrid synergy which has a whole that is greater than the sum of it's parts. Let's take for example: MC Hammer, Search Engine Technology and The Wolf of Wall Street. How about: A circus, sales management and The Perfect Storm. What about: Putin, Potato Farming and Leadership Execution. Not only is this funny, outrageous and bizarre; this mixing and mashing provides an unique form of context that spices up flat B2B content and gives you a jumping off point almost like a radio show DJ. After all, your overarching goal is not to be 'boring.' You need to capture the hearts and minds of your readers who will invariably be potential customers. Make sure to still capture the core lesson in the message. Sticky, unique content is very rare in B2B so this technique will give you a tremendous edge in getting cut-through. Don't be afraid to stand out and embrace satire, humor and analogies to spheres of life that you're passionate about. For me, that's cycling, wake-boarding, aeronautics and Monty Python.
  2. Newsjacking – I consistently monitor Google Trends, Twitter Trending Hashtags and LinkedIn Pulse trending topics as well as Feed.ly (200 top sales and business bloggers) and leverage TweetDeck to listen as well. I also watch the Pulse Top 25 list and pay very close attention to what's going viral and by whom in my feed. Why? So that I can respond in a timely and meaningful way with my own opinion. An overarching theme to generating very interesting content that will have a higher propensity to go viral [potentially like this very article that you are reading] – is hyperbole. You probably actually have a pretty strong opinion about many things. Writers that are willing to put it out there and turn the knob to 11, resonate with those that share similar views. If you solely try to remain Swiss neutral on every topic and beat around the bush, you're not going to get much ardent support. Even people that disagree with you, will admire your writing much more if you speak from your heart and 'go big.' Watch the news each day? How does it relate to your company and your business? Granted, make sure you blog in line with a world class standard of how you'd communicate to a client but maybe some piece of it relates? Perhaps the news about Watson inspires you to reflect on whether sales people will go away and we'll have AI sellers? Maybe some technology trend about the rise of big data will inspire you to speak about how that could impact your industry or customer base? Blog about this, curate content adding your own comments to it and Tweet about this, getting into that hashtag stream. I could think of many funny ways to newsjack around themes like Kardashians and many serious and inspiring ones around world events! The options are actually limitless. Be creative!
  3. Threading – As you start to listen and monitor hundreds of thought leaders, it's critical to start a 'string.' Build out an Evernote file with a living, breathing list of topics that is constantly growing and changing. Sometimes, I'll pick 3 topics and build them into one. You'll also want to keep a running record of all the links you're browsing. You could do this from within feed.ly by bookmarking resources you'd like to come back to. I'm constantly drawing inspiration from what I'm reading all over the blogosphere. I sort and re-sort feeds not just by Top but also Recent so I'm not missing anything. In Feed.ly, I typically have 400 new blog posts per day from myriad thought leaders. I sort it like Google RSS to first scan a couple hundred that day. Are there recurring themes? Is newsjacking occurring there? It seemed to happen a whole bunch over this 'gold dress - blue dress controversy' yesterday? What reaches out and grabs me by the lapels? Perhaps I'll write about or reference that. Active listening requires taking a macro and micro view and then building up a phenomenal set of data points and references that can become the foundation of the article you'll build.
  4. Take downs – Frankly, sometimes posts just rile me up. I can't help but voice my opinion. We have quite a vibrant selling community in the blogosphere right now and especially erupting in LinkedIn Publisher. I'm often puzzled when experts tout a method that stopped working in 1992 and are still teaching it today. The big violator? Transactional methods being espoused for enterprise engagements. I'm sorry, complex B2B selling is not a one or two call close. It's a slow burn of building trust and collaboration. While you'd never want to make an ad hominem attack, it's completely fair to respectfully challenge another author's thesis and dismantle it by pulling out quotes. I'll first praise the argument and I do a couple things I find original: a) I pull out comments that disagree with me and republish the article with attribution to those writers. b) If there is a highly differing view, I'll often boldy go re-feature it back in the article to foment debate. LinkedIn Publisher is a majorly interactive forum. I often update my LinkedIn Publisher posts over 50 times. I add backlinks, references and quotes and edit them over and over as I read them. My reader base writes in to correct things, ask for sources and even just suggest things that I could add. I run this open source: fully – every day. In that spirit, please inbox me or send an email to tony@rsvpselling now with your feedback, questions, topic suggestions or just to say 'hello' so we can have a skype about this. (Especially, if you need to train your team to become content marketing ninjas and leverage this to increase pipeline and sell better.)
  5. Sacred cows – There are prevailing views that are held sacred. A big one that seems to never die is the 'phone as savior.' Also the discovery albatross question, 'What's keeping you up at night?' or the expression: 'Uncover the pain.' Hosts of salespeople in the 80's and 90's used a variety of manipulative high pressure tactics before the advent of the internet. They actually wielded specialized knowledge that customer prospects needed. It was still a combative sales process because buyers weren't in control running it yet. As Mark Roberge states in his regression analyses of how enterprise reps actually win post 2010: It's about Coachability, Adaptation, Intelligence and Will to Win. The fact is, selling has changed. There are so many sacred cows like this. For example: CRM has been broken and needs to become Customer Experience focused if it doesn't become a mere encumbrance as a back-end database. Every time I tell the truth about CRM I get a resounding yes from dozens of people who are working innovating in this field. Those posts garner over 1,000 unique views almost ever time – often hundreds of shares and retweets. Do you see something that is wrong in the world of business? Is your product or service disruptive and uniquely solving a real business problem in a new way? Are you taking on the establishment? Don't be afraid to write an open letter or truly highlight a prevailing set of myths. Chip away at the bad information out there. Just because there's a legacy incumbent that dominates market share doesn't mean they aren't the next Kodak pooh-poohing the rise of digital cameras!
  6. Interviews – My YouTube strategy has turned into an interview. I'll sit down in front of a camera and answer some questions that my readers have written in. Another great idea I recently read, is to have a journalist freelance for you. Get them to interview your CEO for a couple hours one Friday and they can turn this into a smashing white paper. Transcribing interviews is a great way to build fresh content because you can go to the thought leaders within your own organization and allow their ingenious ideas to bubble up.
  7. Contributors – As I network globally, I'm often deeply inspired by a thought leader I connect in with. I know they are the world's foremost expert on a subject so I'll often reach out and say, 'John, could you send me a few paragraphs about the future of where B2B lead gen automation is going?' And amazingly, they will. I'll feature that content in italics and bookmark it with my own writing. Jill Konrath is phenomenal with how she interviews bestselling authors about their books. I'll also dedicate some of my posts to books. I've done several on Cracking the Sales Management Code, SPIN and The Challenger Sale.
  8. Quote compilations – Some of the posts that I truly enjoy are quote compilations. Take your top 5 favorite business books and pop in your top 5 quotes with a link to tweet. Top book or audio program lists rank well. It's phenomenally 'useful' to list a bunch of quotes and then write in response to how you relate to them. This stagger-step quote and then paragraph of your thoughts is also the format I observe in a take-down post.
  9. Thematic – I wrote a whole series of posts called the Tao of Steve Jobs in Sales and the Tao of Frost in Sales. It was fun to create a recurring theme and compare their thinking to how they might have sold. Many would argue Jobs was the ultimately seller! If you find a recurring theme on a topic or lyrical writing style that very much works for you, build out a series of posts. I did this with Whale Hunting Part I and II and felt like this was very engaging. In one post I even wrote the world's first poem dedicated to LinkedIn Sales Navigator!
  10. Rankings – We all are familiar with Dave Letterman's classic Top 10 lists. Anytime you can simplify a complex system like the thousands of books on leadership and selling on Amazon into a ranked list to help curate for your crowd, it's excruciatingly valuable. What are the top sales books of 2014 from your lens? Which 25 books most influenced your career? What were the top 5 greatest sales you ever made? Who are the top 12 world leaders who influenced your career? Who were the weirdest reps you ever managed? What were the most offensive things a client ever emailed you and how did you deftly handle it? Lists get dismissed as cheesy by some but I think ranking lists where you really put time into a strong curation, are a powerful tool and help people. They also let crazy-busy executives 'snack' that content. My two cents!
  11. Real world advice – Think back to your best friend, most generous client and even a parent or coach that told it like it is. You know, sometimes the world is starving for content that is 'real.' The truth is powerful. Roll up your sleeves, lower the gauntlet and dispense some real-world advice. Have you been in an industry for 25 years? Even 25 days. It's more that you are sharing something that actually happened to you, your customer or in your industry. Content that is grounded in reality, developed from the school of hard knocks or the mean streets, resonates in social media tremendously well. There is so much perfectly constructed ivory tower, research based pabulum choking the airwaves.
  12. Highly personal stories – Your call if you want to go here – I shared a story about my dad and a plane crash that I survived. I wanted my readers to understand me, my life and my motivations. The journey is often more important than the destination and I think you'll find the 'truth is much stranger than fiction.' Becoming a top seller just like exceeding quota or getting rich, is much more about the person one becomes in the process that the summit of that mountaintop. There's always K2 staring you in the face at your Everest moment. What's the greatest way that you can differentiate yourself? Your story. Iannarino had a metal band! Many CEOs started in the mail room or going door to door as salespeople. We've all lead nine lives so once you reach comfort, be relatable and don't be afraid to share your personal story.
  13. Case Studies – QF32 was the most amazing virality I ever achieved. It is the true story of a pilot that saved over 400 lives. It's about a real world hero and humble Jim Collins Level 5 leader who graciously represented his brand and served Qantas customers. Testimonials from your clients (approved) and YouTube testimonials will sell your product better than anything else. Case studies about how your sales team won against a massive competitor, help readers divine concrete takeaways that they can go apply today to win in their businesses.

I could probably go on forever with ways to be creative with content. I'm often asked, 'How can I possibly generate this volume of quality content every day?' The above lucky 13 principles form the DNA of my process. It's not unlike writing for Seinfeld. Taking the minutia of a sale and breaking out atomized portions of the content like my recent admonition, 'Don't be a face sucking alien!' highlight one super annoying or funny thing and a valuable key lesson. From this periodic table of themes and elements, an entire universe of limitless rich, engaging content will materialize for you. As a bi-product of edutainment, sharing and creating you'll start to see a funnel build and over time, your public will seek out and buy your book. They'll be a standing room only at your next public speaking event. Thousands of people will research you and your company and start to move through the buying cycle on their own time 24/7 around the world. By the time I receive a message in my inbox on LinkedIn, it's an opportunity 9 times out 10. I average 25 LinkedIn invites per day from people I've never met because I have my email address included in my bio and ask that if you enjoy my content, please connect. So please connect with me now: tony@rsvpselling

Sophisticated content marketing creates a virtuous cycle. Curation alone will never get you there! You're just sending all your best relationships to competitors and others who they can buy from. Why tee up a buying cycle and diffuse your market share? Ensure that you are the trusted source. Ensure that your unique insights and your business is the hub and your spokes of insights that amplify out to every corner of the web always bread crumb back to you.

Open source your content and your life. If you have a very stringent policy for what you publish, make friends with your most senior manager and get buy-in for this strategy. Jack Kosakowski does! He's the Saas-a-Nova of Marketing Automation. He blogs up a storm in LinkedIn as a briliant Regional Sales Manager for Act-On Software. His blogs follow everything I shared above. They're funny, insightful, moving (he wrote a beautiful tribute to his grandfather) and rich with insight. He also hosts social hangouts and is hyperactive in social. Does he know how to sell? Yes. Is he monetizing his content? Is he active in the real world and in all other forms of quality selling. Don't doubt it! Social is his force multiplier and he evangelizes it, practicing what he preaches in the new guard.

Yes, he always providing value and creating content that has the capacity to go viral. Is he aligned with his companies policies? You bet and he still has a blast and readers like me do to just reading the stuff. Your audience will literally wait on the edge of their seat for the next riveting post. Sometimes I feel like Jerry Bruckheimer because I'm not afraid to feature a sexy ingenue saving the world on a motorcycles or pyrotechnic explosions. Other times, I feel a bit like John Cleese running rampant in here. Some of the most shared posts I've ever seen on here, come from folks like Jack who aren't afraid to be original and push the envelope. [H's frequently at the top of any top influencer list.

Be like Jack – sell to thousands of dream customers at a time one-to-one-to-many who are looking for your insight... right as we speak! They have a problem that you solve now and can't find you. They're finding Jack. Btw, if you are in the market for marketing automation, why not link in with him and see what he has to say?

Dare to be different. Think differently. Create something. Share what's in your head. Don't die with your music still inside you. Why would you work so incredibly hard one-to-one when the opportunity to move from interruption selling to attraction selling, from push to pull and walk your dream clients up the ladder of engagement every single day exists for you right here!? Naysayers of the old guard? Why not do both? Time management, reps not selling?

Well, social sellers are selling. The funnel is filling. The facts are the facts and the case studies are legion. The best reps still pound the phones but they do it lower in the funnel. They leverage LinkedIn to land more on-sites than their competitors and tee up triple the qualified discovery calls. While a phone only rep is gating EAs, the strategic social seller has landed multiple meetings. Phone rep reached 3 EAs in 10 tries. Strategic social seller buzzed 6 C-Levels iPhones in pocket.

No joke! Don't worry...No, I don't work for LinkedIn. I'm living these articles. Actually, I've started to call it 'living the corpus.' It's holographic as I apply the 150+ articles I've written in here, an upward spiral of ability unfolds and I become stronger in social selling daily.

Ask yourself this, "Is what I'm writing useful? If I read it, could I go out and leverage it to get powerful real-world results today?" If that answer's yes, the next step is always... to hit publish!

Social selling and phone selling, all the tactical selling is all going away. Sellers that win will continue to win. The selling of 2020 is paradoxically called: SELLING. The revolution will not be televised. It will be written by YOU.

If this post inspired you to write your first LinkedIn Publish or use these methods, please send that link back to me after you write it and I'll feature it to my stream with a shout out!

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: Maria Elena

Can't Write? Can't Sell!

The risk of harming your brand reputation with sloppy writing in social selling is very real. But here's a big secret! Your greatest sellers are already your best writers. This makes one of the current debates raging in social media right now regarding whether salespeople should write, for all intents and purposes... moot.

Syntax? Grammar? Spelling? Is anybody paying attention? Do you know how much sloppy writing distracts and even distances your customer from the message that you're trying to give them?

Clarity? Simplicity? Ingenuity? Must-haves if you want to get a compelling business insight across to your dream customer. Let's talk about 'writing'... a word almost as dirty as 'attrition' in the salesperson's lexicon.

If you really think that your salespeople are not writing when they are selling to your most important clients, what do you think they're doing? They have a keyboard in front of them. They're answering texts. They're shooting emails and most importantly, they're devising the concepts contained in them - hopefully 'strategically' - in their minds. Let's not let them sabotage their own best ideas with stupid errors or confused expression.

Do you want to improve your sales cycle both in time and substance? Do you want to raise the closing percentage of your soon to be world class sales organization? Make sure that each element of your sales team has the tools to communicate as clearly, succinctly and as effectively as possible. That means knowing how to write forcefully and clearly.

There has been some confusion on this subject due to the concern of executives that sales team members should be working on selling and don't necessarily have to know about copywriting. But since the line of communication between your company and its customers is mostly maintained through the writing of its salespeople during the sales cycle, what better investment than to improve the writing skills of those who are actually the interface between you and your customers.

My theory is the following. After having invested a very small amount of training into basic syntax, grammar and spelling, the sales team should have at its disposal what I call The 'Manager Editor' who not only reviews what goes out from the sales team to the blogosphere, not only encourages clarity and brevity, but now has a much more hands-on knowledge of what actually is occurring between his sales team and customer base.

This is, in itself, a characteristic of inbound marketing which should shorten the sales cycle, give sales people a greater sense of control, and provide management with a simple set of data points that they can use to evaluate the quality of the sales cycle and the quality of the salesperson.

Some have argued that giving salespeople this kind of freer rein may have the potential to erode the standardization of sales processes. However, there is a greater liability in sending every customer generic content when we know that the personalized, individualized, insight-driven communication is more likely to keep the customer engaged, so the cycle can come to a successful conclusion.

As confidence grows in the individual sales person's own ability to find their voice and be on the fast track toward more masterful writing, they will simultaneously fast track their ability to close sales. The power of you company's communication - verbally and in writing - is commensurate with your power to close business.

My experience shows that most salespeople have blocks when it comes to communicating in writing to their customers. Uncertainties about the right word, the right phrase, etc., abound, and cause delays in their efficiency. Thus, I see that a minimum of training about writing - helps them to clear up their own misgivings and concerns, which will ultimately be an investment that will pay back in spades with more time available for selling.

For any major executive who becomes white knuckled thinking about this concept, think of empowering your sales managers as editors, and you will find that conditions will improve immediately. By the way, believe it or not, many of these sales managers are already doing this... and it's working! The better you coach your writers, the more likely you could end up with a pool of quality public speakers for your next customer-centred event!

As executives, we have all experienced embarrassment at improper or weak outbound messaging from our staff. The 'Manager Editor' will shore up the levies that will ensure that garbage doesn't overflow toward a customer.

Sales and marketing must reach a detente. One of the greatest risks to a consistent corporate message is weak or incorrect verbiage. An executive, in a customer's firm, who receives sloppy writing will often dismiss the entire message, even a deal, even the entire company on the basis of that one fatal mistake. Am I overexaggerating? Not a bit. After all, there are a dozen competitors in every deal, so you can distinguish yourself on a positive basis or be cut out completely on the basis of something as simple as misspelling the executive's first name!

The editing function will dovetail perfectly with social media governance. This way, you allow for the greatest amount of creativity but still ensure the message is consistent, much like the traditional journalistic editor whose power to create clear content is legendary.

How are the largest and most successful companies solving this important problem now? They are NOT!...because they're overlooking the leverage they would gain in sales if they would just improve the quality of the output.

Clients ask, "What about the phone, Tony?" The answer is obvious. The better, the clearer, the more solid the writing, the more likely that every phone call will be more valuable. Engaging content that is not peppered with silly spelling, platitudes or grammatical errors will have the most dramatic effect on creating more face to face interviews and more efficient and qualified phone interaction. This will have a more dramatic impact on your pipeline than banal phone scripts and high pressure closing tactics that are relics from a bygone era.

The face of your brand includes the everyday content delivered by your brightest salespeople and unfortunately, the most lackadaisical. Are you reading it? I would argue that if you're generals are not reading it, editing it and injecting insight into it, you are leaving millions of dollars on the table. Incisive writing, coupled with editorial control, are the table stakes of the sales leaders of the next two decades. CEOs – your future and that of your salespeople depends on it! The extinction of the field sales function is not inevitable. Create indispensability. Create better writers.

There is a battlefield of wounded, highly qualified, editorial and copy experts who would rise from the dead for the opportunity to be hired to help achieve these goals. Just as we have sales engineers, why not deploy a phalanx of 'sales editors' as a consultants to your organization? Thus, hundreds of years of experience in getting a clear message out in the print media can now be used as a weapon for your sales team. Arm 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: John O'Nolan

Top 10 Most Egregious LinkedIn Violations

Are you guilty of any of these LinkedIn faux pas, indiscretions and bloopers? I've spent a fair amount of my life in social lately. Granted I've experimented wildly myself and no doubt lost one or two followers along the way. I actually had one fast enemy once but his bark was louder than his bite and he was frozen in his tracks by all of you. (Above Dracula profile credit to Celina Guerrero's brilliant blog)

I want to specifically call out the biggest mistakes in a shock-and-awe list for your viewing pleasure and overall amusement – write or comment and let me know what I've missed!

1) Profile picture of a dude with a hot date, Ferrari yacht or in a leisure suit. Embrace some decorum and panache - you could be doing real business on here as opposed to radiating Deuce Bigalow! Your LinkedIn CV is not a bragging contest or 'Rich Kids of Instagram.' Don't have shades on or snap a pic from a rager party!

2) Using LinkedIn like a dating social network. No – this is not Facebook! Recently some connection commented on my post, 'Wow, that woman is beautiful.'

3) QUOTA CRUSHER profile. If you claim to crush your clients at 300% you will repel clients like Dracula taking a holy water bath!

4) Feedclogging e.g. posting the same article in 20 groups to jam up the newsfeed. Motivational posters or kitschy cats with snorkles is again a bad idea.

5) Sharing pictures of sunsets, classic cars, celebrities and quote bombing. Again, it's not Facebook or the aisle of the grocery store. Post clean people!

6) Formulaic auto-response promoting your 5 latest books. This is almost worse than a Twitter DM.

7) Soliciting business as a formulaic chain letter spam to a dozen friends all openly CC'd. Any time I'm being asked to wire money to Cameroon.

8) Dubbing yourself a social media expert. Who isn't? Completely non-differentiated simplistic and generic Publisher posts that state the obvious make you Captain Obvious. Snore!

9) Spamming on comments. There are a couple profiles in here being powered offshore that take a contrarian tone (debating everything) or like every single comment on major posts. Broken English auto-bot spam or backlinks with phishing attempts.

10) Link Bait - Posts claims specialized knowledge and then is basic. Post gives you one paragraph and then forces a click to a gated site where email is required.

Bonus Round:

  • Why is LinkedIn Influencer closed? Even top authors around the world can't get in. But many who got in early have less reach. Seems unfair. I bet many of us have written them on this point. It's not a contest but I'd imagine I have more sales validity than a Kardashian... just maybe! [No, I've never asked LinkedIn to make me an Influencer]
  • Writing referral requests to people who have never met you? How on Earth could they possibly refer you?
  • Asking for endorsements from people who couldn't pick you out of a police line-up!
  • Endorsing someone who has no clue who you are. #creepy
  • Using InMail to reach me with an investment offer that looks sketchy.
  • No information on their profile. No profile picture. Scary up close selfie.
  • Wildly over-polished YouTube videos that look like an 80's self-help informercial.
  • Name dropping, grand standing and narcissism.
  • Whoever that business reporter is who wrote 25 identical posts about Marissa Mayer. Super irritating! Please vary the subject matter.
  • LinkedIn experts that consistently post the same SEO optimize or redo the writing on your profile but don't teach any advanced Group Strategy, Publishing or how to leverage LinkedIn with Twitter, Google+ and YouTube.
  • Haters, trolls, misanthropes and shock jocks.
  • Social Sellers who oversimplify what it's really going to take to monetize all this from both a time and effort perspective and in respect to methods that came before which must be firing on all cylinders too to stand a snowball's chance in hell of make strategic social selling work.
  • Outright plagiarism. Not quoting where statistics come from.
  • Spamming me with those unimaginative - Make Money with LinkedIn Courses. I recently got an ad for LinkedIn for Insurance Agents.
  • Stop liking and commenting on 'hot' people's profiles especially when I see it in my feed! This is a business network.
  • I don't doubt that there are many models who are active in career networks but let's face it, not everyone's a model. Not exactly a trust builder:
  • Fake profiles from lead gen companies that clearly aren't a real person. They usually feature a young looking model and no data on the company. They add in and spam you with 'generate 3 to 4 leads' per day until you must delete them.
  • LinkedIn LIONs that literally post a picture of a Siberian White Tiger on the hour saying, 'Let's connect!' I'm serious this actually happens.

Now it's your turn? What annoys the heck out of you on LinkedIn that I missed? How are people abusing the system or not getting it right?

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: David Blackwell

The Element Of Surprise

Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake. - Napoleon Bonaparte

Human brains are hard wired to react strongly to the sight of a cute baby. So would you designate the above image as baby link bait? I think not because I'm proving a point apropos to the subject above. You were probably a bit surprised that I unleashed a perfectly off-the-richter cute level of baby gloriousness in the haven of all things dry and B2B [LinkedIn] that got you to click. My point?

To succeed in complex B2B sales, we must utilize the timeless element of surprise!

Timing is the Z axis of any effective strategy. Timing is everything in comedy. Understanding this hidden component in big deal strategy will give you a phenomenal degree of pattern recognition in facing competitors. As Craig Elias states, understanding trigger events allows us the advantage to be 'first in'.

No-one seems to ever have enough time – especially flummoxed executives. So there are these mythical Gryphons of time management and work life balance. There's 'come back another time' moments when prospects decide to 'do nothing'and stick with the status quo. So it's about time I bring back an old standby...

The element of surprise.

It's critical to understand that every modern enterprise deal is a bizarre love triangle of sorts. Based on the anatomy of any Google search in that ZMOT (Zero Moment Of Truth), as customers ourselves we always land on multiple competitors. Our customers are rarely ever only seeking us. If we do reach them upstream with insight we have a chance to be given preference going into the crucible of the deal but that's about the best we can do.

Effective B2B email campaigns and effective automated drip campaigns with lead scoring allow us to bubble up and stay top of mind, until trigger events occur. If we truly understand what differentiates our value as a solutions provider in industries that have been decimated by the downward pressure of complexity and commoditization, we have a chance to leverage timing to win.

Timing and who we are is about all that's left. Frankly, many senior executives are incensed about how complex even outright goofy the technology ecosystem has become and will reward you for being a guide. Perhaps it's more like a Museum docent. You can make their lives much easier by preventing them from making a mistake and shortening the time to the correct data set.

There's something to be said for the Bransonian version of a leap frog in the context of an enterprise deal. In my book, I paint a fairly accurate and plausible scenario of a salesperson who goes after the coveted meeting with the CEO in order to secure buy in from the top to win a massive sale. This is a courageous, out-of-the-box, backflip of a move into the wild blue yonder but orchestrated properly, effectively marshals the correct resources and ends up winning him the deal.

Expect your competitors to be weak in places where you are phenomenally strong. Get in early and far upstream by connecting to the power-base in your top 50 to 200 dream accounts. Watch the still water in its serenity before the salmon breach. How can we be there before it happens? How can we get upstream and uncover latent demand or even create it? Timing with insight is a key piece of this.

One of these posts I'm going to unpack a tender bid with government where I was axed out and actually worked my way back in to win in the 11th hour by way of an independent consultant.

Another way I look at timing, is through the prism of the fundamental constructs of disruption. Customers are typically solving something currently in a haphazard and inefficient way. Your technology, be it a point solution or incumbent version 12, will systematize and invoke order into the chaos that is their hamstrung backward base of business practices from a bygone era.

I expect my biggest enemy to be do nothing.

I expect that I'll have several savvy competitors but they'll invariably make a mistake. These include but are not limited to: revealing too many requirements therefore causing fear that any solution is going to be too complex, paradoxically increasing friction in the deal as they've deluded themselves that they are adding value. Another peak offender is getting cocky in the deal. They're too big to fail and oh how the mighty can fall. They don't customize enough, tailor the use case and dig deep enough into the details of how the numbers work, running through delivery scenarios, personas of the buyers, etc. It's imperative to truly walk a mile in your customers' shoes. Never celebrate until the solution is live.

Your competitors will most likely only dive so deep. You need to dive 10,000 feet faster than you can say Jacques Cousteau. So what if they've read this and share your philosophy for the attack? What if they are embedded in the account higher up than you? There is actually always a way to win it. It's like a three dimensional chess board with one side that's chess and another that is backgammon. When you move your piece, the enemy flips the board and entices you to play backgammon; stay on the chess board!

Engineering a win into a deal regardless of all obstacles is usually possible. Just like in chess, unless it's checkmate, there's always another move. That's where tactics and strategy separate the sales arm chair philosopher from the artisan.

You may work your way into a meeting with the same CXO who holds the keys to the power-base. Perhaps there are several stakeholders to meet with individually. You may be able to grasp a set of political factors that are hidden in the deal and you can pull that string. For example, many executives are given the most leeway and budget in the first 90 days of their new position. CXOs often spend untold millions in the first 90 days of appointment. If you're working with an advocate who will literally get promoted if this works, leverage it. You have eyes and ears in the account so be aware of who can supply information and see every situation from the viewpoint of advantage.

Predicated upon this article is that you have a well rounded fireproofed solution, you can truly help this customer and all is square with your integrity. If your competitors outflank you with their sheer size, flying in a legion of blokes in suits, leverage the selling point that if they choose the competitor, they'll just be a face in the crowd. If you're the incumbent, you can crush the point solution like a cockroach by running an end-to-end angle.

The dawn of social selling has opened up a snow flurry of competitive advantages in enterprise deals. Your fondest wish is your competitor will go nuts adding all the executives in the account, inadvertently tripping the wires and tanking the deal.

One of the most sophisticated strategies I ever witnessed was two fold. First, this master salesperson who was a total natural created a Venn Diagram on the white board. He did this when he pitched any client; and for 10 minutes he filled out what the concentric circles were: let's make it data, software and security. You could leverage any three with the center being his solution. He basically built this matrix looking map on the white board and transfixed prospects. I asked him what research had inspired this highly unique style and what had triggered the idea. He confided in me that he'd leveraged zero power points to close millions of dollars in new business in enterprise software over the last decade. In fact, he used this same exact diagram every time for ten years.

You should see the look of consternation and paralysis when he goes into a room filled with blue tooth, a projector and laser pointer, turns up the lights and starts scribbling away, stopping at times to ask insight driven SPIN questions. I actually took a picture of his white board it was so phenomenal.

The second part is even more bizarre. After blowing their minds by actually interacting – riddle me that – he simply sends the customer an order form. The full SOW or PO. Not kidding! Stripped of all polish, the genuine article of a cogent set of collaborative ideas, how they synergistically overlap and then a clear explanation of implementation coupled with a concise order form literally helped him to transcend from order taker status to someone that was instantly extremely differentiated, unique and valuable to the organizational power-base. You're talking about C-Level executives who are drowning in the same generic vanilla PPTs with the slick slides and 'look-at-me' format with dis-related case studies and empty promises of return.

Million dollar deals in under 90 days. It's just what he did. What will be your element of surprise? Will you ask them to turn the projector off. Will you come prepared with a series of questions that are 15 steps ahead. Do you get multiple ahas per on-site? Do you frequently hear: 'Wow, we never thought of it that way before.' Well, you should.

In H2H social selling, the greatest single determinant of success is interactivity.

You've got to love the element of surprise. The competition shows up with a 140 slide PowerPoint and printouts of unimaginative dross to the point of droll case studies, with ROI calculators, color coded binders, poster boards in triplicate dressed in matching suits and this other random guy walks in casually in a blazer, never sits down and starts to draw a bunch of Winter Olympics looking circles on the board, interacting with the clients to confirm each concept and turning it all into this giant two way dialogue sketching out how the solution could actually work. This honestly allows him to sell to the customer in their own words. It jumps the shark of the traditional arduous sales process which sand blasts a square peg into a round hole.

Now, am I recommending to you that you should sneak up and surprise your customers? Not exactly. This isn't really a treatise to give you carte blanche, throw out the sales process and go commando. Ultimately, what I'm encouraging you to see is the metaphor in all this. If every competitor is going one way, how about driving the other. This reminds me of the classic parable:

Two guys are in the jungle when they see a lion running towards them. Frantically, one of the men starts putting on his running shoes.

Surprised, the other man says, 'What are you thinking, you can’t outrun a lion!'

'I don’t have to outrun the lion,' said the man, 'I just have to outrun you.”

The moral of this sales story is three fold. Realize you always have competition in the deal. Understand, there is always a next move. Remember, that if you outwit your competition with cunning and wiles, you can often win the deal by allowing them to make a painfully obvious mistake. The best part is, they often won't even realize they did!

Practice sales aikido. See every situation from the viewpoint of advantage.

In closing, I would just like to say that the extra mile is a place so lonely it's practically haunted. We all know that sales close on the fifth to twelfth touch. We also realize that so few reps (under 3%) reach the level of Trusted Advisor – truly. It's about going above and beyond with fewer, more qualified opportunities. In cricket, why wouldn't you only swing at the lollies? Knowledge is power and the more pattern recognition and deeper understanding of military strategy you can develop before going into big deals, the better the plays you can run – the stronger and more potent the tactics you can deploy.

Now it's your turn: How do you leverage the element of surprise in deals? Do you always have a clear sense of what the next move should be? Do you trust your gut or have a strategic compass born of a great deal of experience? Alternately, are you taking a more data driven approach?

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

Top 40 Most Infamous Sales Archetypes Of All Time

1. Rico Suave

2. The Schmoozer

3. Don Juan DeMarco

4. Pinocchio

5. Wolf of Wall Street

6. The Spreadsheet Jockey

7. The PowerPoint Princess

8. Social Media Boy

9. Dandruff Man

10. The Class Clown Comedian

11. The Orator

12. Nostradamus

13. Tony Robbins Jr.

14. The Prince of Procrastination

15. The Charlie Sheen

16. Jessica Rabbit

17. Don Draper

18. The Yes Man

19. Houdini

20. The Joan Rivers

21. The Baldwin

22. The Rudy

23. The Axe Body Spray Dude

24. George Costanza

25. The Book Worm

26. The Steve Jobs Wanna-Be

27. Captain Obvious

28. The Paris Hilton

29.

30. Machiavelli

31. The Emperor's New Clothes

32. Don Quixote

33. The Multi-Level Marketer

34. The Brogrammer

35. The Manager Who's Never Sold

36. The Gamer

37. The Scribbler

38. The Luddite

39. War & Peace

40. Extreme Energy Drinker

41. Bonus: The Highlander

Who did I miss on your list?! I'll add 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: Charlie Llewellin

Why Harrison Ford Survived Plane Crash

Harrison Ford executed a brilliant landing on Penmar Golf Course in Venice, California. The cause of the mishap is not yet known but he did exactly the right thing in the way he managed the landing in a highly populated area. He has been hospitalized with non life-threatening injuries and should make a full recovery.

The most likely cause of the accident is mechanical failure with his WWII aircraft but this is not the first plane crash he has experienced. He previously survived forced landings back in 1999 and 2000. The first was in Lincoln, Nebraska and the second also in California but well outside Los Angeles. Twitter is going nuts and we're all pulling for him. He is a brave man and obviously a talented pilot:

My flying instructor taught me that confidence is usually the feeling you have just before you understand the situation, and also that you start your flying career with a bag full of luck and an empty bag of experience... the trick is to fill the bag of experience before you empty the bag of luck. I think Harrison Ford now has a full bag of experience, especially when you combine all of his experience with a float plane crash in Six days and Seven Nights, biplane stunts in Indiana Jones, and death defying maneuvers in the Millennium Falcon.

Seriously, he knows that any landing you walk away from is a good one. That's what my father taught me when I went Hans Solo for first time in a single seat sports aircraft. Keep the aircraft flying all the way to the ground regardless of terrain; never let it stall. Harrison Ford's plane is probably a write-off but he walked away, just like I did on my plane crash pictured below. I had an engine failure above a pine forest and the link above will take you to the full account.

Here are 20 RULES OF THE AIR (also for leadership on the ground and in the boardroom) which I'm sure Harrison Ford would attest to:

  1. Learn from the mistakes of others. You won't live long enough to make all of them yourself.

  2. Good judgment comes from experience. Unfortunately, most experience usually comes from bad judgment.

  3. You start with a bag full of luck and an empty bag of experience. The trick is to fill the bag of experience before you empty the bag of luck.

  4. Confidence is usually the feeling you have just before you understand the situation.

  5. Keep looking around. There's always something you've missed – inside and outside.

  6. Every take-off is optional. Every landing is mandatory. It's always better to be down here wishing you were up there, than up there wishing you were down here. You cannot control prevailing conditions.

  7. Never let an aircraft take you somewhere your brain didn't get to five minutes earlier.

  8. The ONLY time you have too much fuel is when you're on fire.

  9. Both the altitude above you and the runway behind you are of no use at all.

  10. Stay out of clouds. The silver lining everyone keeps talking about might be another airplane. Reliable sources also report that mountains have been known to hide in clouds.

  11. When in doubt, maintain your altitude. No one has ever collided with the sky.

  12. The probability of survival is inversely proportional to the angle of arrival. Large angle of arrival, small probability of survival and vice-versa.

  13. A 'good' landing is one from which you can walk away. A 'great' landing is one after which they can use the plane again.

  14. There are three simple rules for making a smooth landing. Unfortunately no one knows what they are.

  15. Helicopters can't fly; they're just so ugly that the earth repels them. The dictionary should define the word ‘helicopter’ as ‘mechanical contradiction’.

  16. If all you can see out of the window is ground that's going round and round and all you can hear is commotion coming from the passenger compartment, things are not at all as they should be.

  17. Always try to keep the number of landings you make equal to the number of take offs you've made.

  18. In the ongoing battle between objects made of aluminum going hundreds of miles per hour and the ground going zero miles per hour, the ground has yet to lose.

  19. Remember, gravity is not just a good idea – it's the law, and not subject to repeal.

  20. There are old pilots and there are bold pilots. There are however no old bold pilots.

I’ve come to understand that the outcomes we experience in the air and in life are largely determined by the way we think, feel and act. Bad luck is often not that at all. Every profession has an ethos, a code; and a tried and true set of beliefs and values that drive it forward. There is no better example of leadership excellence in aviation than Captain Richard de Crespigny and the flight crew of QF32. They embodied the very best of leadership to save lives when things went wrong on the largest commercial airliner in the world.

In my own time as a private pilot, there were truisms I embraced: All the runway behind you is of no use at all (always take the time to taxi all the way to the end to provide as much runway in front of you as possible. If you have an engine problem, you’ll be able to abort or land more safely). You only have too much fuel on board if you’re on fire (always have maximum reserves in case you get lost, the head-wind is stronger than anticipated or the weather turns bad and you have to find an alternate field).

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: El Hormiguero

Workplace Value Is Defined by These Two Things

I’m going to let you in on a secret about your boss and the other people above you; the ones who are busy and successful. They do not come to work seeking to meet new people and make new friends. They instead see you as someone who needs to deliver results for them and be a 'force for good' with customers and other staff. They may never say this to you but trust me, it’s what they think.

The human condition is mainly something to be overcome or redeemed. We need to be saved from the worst of ourselves – from our self-obsession, selfishness, greed, fears, prejudice, laziness and cowardice. You'll see dysfunctional behavior all around you... and yes, sadly in those above you. Leadership is not a title, it's behavior; and that's why anyone can lead regardless of their station in life or position in the company.

Here is a framework for how to define your workplace value. It's a formula for your work, not your family and real world social network. Here it is:

Work Place Value = Degree of Positive Influence x Results Delivered

You’ll notice that qualifications, knowledge, skill, experience, intellect do not appear in this formula. That's because they are all prerequisites for you to be able to function in your role – they're just a ticket to the dance. Workplace value is instead defined by a person’s degree of positive influence and the results they deliver – plain and simple – that’s it; the awful truth.

But I want to dare you to be brave enough to be the change that’s needed in your workplace by embracing the fact that the things that make a real difference are your values and attitudes. You need to choose love instead of greed, courage instead of fear, praise instead of criticism... here is an incredible case studyexplaining the dramatic contrast from one corporation which crashed and burned and another that soared with Angels.

Do you understand the complexity of what really drives you? Here is my article that will help you understand the elements of personal success: Leadership Secrets From The Inside.

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: Giuliano Maiolini

The History and Future Of CRM According To Marco Formaggio

I am Switzerland when it comes to CRM (Customer Relationship Management) products and have spoken for vendors including Oracle, Sugar and SAP. CRM and sales enablement technologies are one of the four topics I write about, along with leadership, strategic selling and social selling.

I have known Marco Formaggio for years and he is one of the leading CRM consultants in the SAP arena. I respect him greatly and SAP is one of the powerhouses for enterprise software globally. Their approach to CRM has been different from Oracle, Salesforce, Microsoft, Sugar and others; yet the power of real-time data from a truly integrated enterprise.

I asked Marco to share his thoughts on the history and future of CRM. He was there during the birth of enterprise CRM back in 1997, back when it was merely a philosophy before Siebel burst onto the scene at the turn of the century. CRM became the next big thing following the ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) craze sweeping the enterprise world at the time. ERP was driven by hysterical fear of Y2K bringing computers around the world (and in the air) crashing down.

Marco believes that CRM is best executed as part of an integrated ERP strategy. He has seen ERP drive productivity, data integrity and systemisation of previously loosely coupled processes within organizations. ERP drove the era ofintegration which was the most commonly used buzzword in IT circles in the mid to late nineties.

Here are some of Marco’s other thoughts. “Customer Relationship Management is really a business philosophy espousing the idea that the enterprise needs to be customer centric. In other words, all process and functions should be designed with the customer at the centre. In this model, processes are viewed from the customer’s viewpoint and enable the customer to connect in every possible way to the enterprise. ERP did not do this! Thus tools were built to cater for this ‘One Face to the Customer’ approach. The best known tool was Siebel. This sought to address the need for a software tool that would allow sales, service and marketing functions to provide consistent data and experiences with their customers. CRM now became a tool!”

“Back when Siebel was gaining momentum, SAP decided to build a standalone system known as SAP CRM to address this need. This system would ‘integrate’ via middleware with the flagship R/3 Solution. In the early 2000’s a number of CRM implementations were carried out with varying levels of success. Needless to say the success for SAP was not as revolutionary as ERP. The success was also mixed for organisations who spent untold millions on integrating their standalone CRM systems with their integrated ERP systems. ‘CRM’ was now on the way to becoming a dirty word.”

“And then came Software as a Service. The advent of tools such as Salesforce.com sought to address the needs of sales and marketing by providing them tools that were not sold to IT but to the very people who were the ‘face’ to the customer. They addressed the needs of the disgruntled staff members who were not getting what they needed from IT to help them drive their customer centric objectives. These systems were implemented rapidly, generally not too focused on integration or process standardisation. They definitely filled a gap and raised the bar in terms of gathering customer related data in a single repository and assisting sales and marketing in the execution of their day to day to roles. ‘CRM’ was now a Sales Force Automation (SFA) tool but where was the customer!?”

“The advent of social media has now driven a wave of change where the customer is now in control whether suppliers like it or not. The challenge now is to provide ‘one face to the customer’ as a business imperative. Customers looking from the outside-in do not care about the businesses disparate systems and do not understand why the sales representative cannot tell them immediately what the progress of their delivery is in the warehouse or the when the imported service part that has been ordered will arrive in the country. For this required integration it requires a customer centric enterprise. This is CRM in the real world; beyond pretty user interfaces!”

Thanks Marco for sharing your experience! Here is a snippet of Dr Michael Hammer who created the term: Business Process Reengineering... enjoy hammer-time!

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 Dr Michael Hammer. Creator of Business Process Reengineering

Top 10 Most Eccentric Content Marketing Hacks For Total Web Domination

1. Ideation trumps creation trumps curation. I've shared a picture of Elon Musk because of his first principles Physics way of thinking. If you deconstruct systems into their fundamental parts and rebuild them from the ground up it's feasible to generate new ideas the world has never seen. He's never afraid to take moonshots and think bigger. Colonizing Mars? Unlimited energy? Hyperloop? I rest my case. “Today it costs over a billion dollars for a space shuttle flight. The cost… is fundamentally what's holding us back from becoming a space traveling civilization and ultimately a multi-planet species.” - Elon Musk

2. Long form content outperforms short form. The establishment will contest this point but I've received some of the most phenomenal traction with content that is over 2,000 words. Tell the entire story. Be willing to put some steak with the sizzle. There's just far too much click bait and flash in the pan on the internet. If you write an authentic long form story you may just break the internet. "I love when people underestimate me and then become pleasantly surprised." - Kim Kardashian

3. Writing passionately from the heart resonates. What matters most to you in your heart of hearts? What are you all about? What gets you fired-up and what do you truly believe in? Paradoxically, people are playing it safe in content marketing. You could write an op-ed or you could just shoot from the hip and express your truth. Manifestos, open letters and expressions of what we're all thinking but never say go viral. It's a unique portrait of your Beatles 'Day in the Life.' Extoll megalithic world changing ideas as well as the excruciatingly mundane. You'll be relatable. You might even get groupies! “You know, I'm not one of these people that just because I've done all that I now become Superman. You can't touch me. You know, you can touch me. I'm very, unfortunately, very reachable." - Sir James Paul McCartney

4. Believe it or not, we are all subject matter experts about something so celebrate the niche you know. Even if you are the world's Cricket encyclopedia and that's all you know, go with it. Relate cricket to business, to politics, to strategy. The analogies to what you know best are extremely interesting to readers. They give context and a deeper meaning. "Cricket is a most precarious profession; it is called a team game but, in fact, no one is so lonely as a batsman facing a bowler supported by ten fieldsmen and observed by two umpires to ensure that his error does not go unpunished." - John Arlott

5. Breaking all the rules yields unexpected outcomes so exercise your poetic license. I've made the case for grammar, syntax and writing expertise. I'll also make the case for freedom of expression, creativity and unexpected prose. Even the way you write, can be the key differentiator to making it unusual on the web. For those that read me, you're aware that I can write conservative B2B strategy content in an expository fashion with the best of them but I frequently tend to bend the rules of writing and defy gravity! If what you write lights up a room and puts a huge smile on your face, if you get calls after you've hit publish from concerned family and friends – you've won! “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” - Maya Angelou

6. Dry, safe and boring fails. You want to be Mac, not PC.

If you can wrap phenomenal Youtility content in a cloak of exciting analogy, metaphor, storytelling or hyperbole it's a sleeper hit, wolf in sheep's clothing and it will reach a far wider audience.

Messy sex hair content will outperform the buttoned up approach. “Why join the navy if you can be a pirate?” - Steve Jobs

7. Focus on making your content immediately useful. Can the reader apply your advice today and get tangible results? “Anything you cannot relinquish when it has outlived its usefulness possesses you, and in this materialistic age a great many of us are possessed by our possessions.” - Peace Pilgrim

8. Your truth is stranger than fiction. Tell true stories from your journey. It's filled with bizarre characters worth writing about. “The Edge... there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over.” - Hunter S. Thompson

9. Chances are, you're funnier than you think; certainly quirkier. Be unabashedly humorous, uninhibited and unrestrained. Audiences will find this incredibly refreshing. “I am so busy doing nothing... that the idea of doing anything - which as you know, always leads to something - cuts into the nothing and then forces me to have to drop everything.” - Jerry Seinfeld

10. Think of yourself as a content mixologist. Mix, mash and splice like Jackson Pollock. An impressionist beautiful mess resonates in contrast to the perfect symmetry of a white paper from the corporate marketing department. Remarkable imagery is worth thousands of words especially pictures that wouldn't ordinarily fit together like the ones in this post. Entice with a veritable cornucopia, feast for the eyes! “It doesn't make much difference how the paint is put on as long as something has been said. Technique is just a means of arriving at a statement.” - Jackson Pollock

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: martinak15

Top 5 Reasons To Fire A Top Sales Performer

I'm not a fan of 'stack ranking' which is the practice of creating a performance table and firing the bottom 10% to 15% every year. It's usually carried out summarily on a quarterly basis targeting the bottom 3-5% of sales non-performers. Think, Lord Of The Flies meets Celebrity Apprentice, for the right image in your mind.

Numbers never lie but numbers never tell the whole story either... real leaders dig deep and uncover root cause before firing-up the flame thrower. Sales performance is a partnership between the sales person, their manager and the company providing intrinsic value in the market offering. Getting up to speed takes time and sales success can be a complex equation.

Yet the biggest mistake I consistently made when leading companies and sales teams was holding on to the wrong people for too long. I deluded myself into thinking that my inaction was driven by good values (be patient and continue to help) but in hindsight, maybe my weakness was driven by fear. We all worry that if we fire sales people, then we won't have the resources to go get the revenue so desperately needed. We are almost always desperate because head office piles quota uplift upon quota uplift in their relentless pursuit of shareholder value! They compound the problem by fiddling while Rome burns withholding headcount approvals and nitpicking over recruitment fees. Mixed signals from on high seem commonplace.

Today I work with sales leaders and CEOs and I'm constantly exhorting them to make the tough decisions concerning their teams. Retaining the wrong people always turns caustic but before that, they consume endless amounts of energy and time. Jim Collins agrees with me and if you want proof, read his classic leadership tome, Good to Great. It's one of the first things that he nails: Get the wrong people off the bus and don't worry about having some empty seats... the right people will get on the bus and fill them.

At the end of this article I'll give you my 'Rule of 24' for deciding who needs to go and who should stay, but now here are my top 5 egregious traits that should cause you to target a sales person for negative attention.

1. Phil The Corporate Psychopath: Life is way too short to work with nasty politically motivated whack-jobs who spend most of their day plotting and scheming how to 'do people over' who are just trying to do their jobs. Their twisted evolutionary 'survival of the nastiest' ethos destroys a culture and leaves a trail of destruction. Yet all this is usually veiled behind a charming facade. The warning signs are that they're a control freak, emotionally manipulative narcissist who happily seeks to burn you out. They think nothing of telling lies and are masterful at managing-up, climbing the corporate ladder by using the knives they've wedged in the backs of others as their foot-holds. They have a very nasty side when challenged and are uber-competitive, casually stealing other peoples ideas and taking the credit, while masterfully positioning others for the fall when something they're working on goes badly.

If you work for one of these people, forget talking to the Human Remains department, just go find another job and leave as soon as you can. If one of these people works for you, regardless of their apparent high performance, manage them out as fast as you can. Nasty people don't belong in your team.

2. Mike The Network Marketer: Your customers belong to you, not the sales person. The employment contract they signed states it clearly and every relationship they build while on your dime is a corporate asset. Yes, people build personal relationships with clients, and customers sometimes choose to follow sales people when they move... that's their right. But for a sales person to be leaning on your customers to join their side business is wrong, plain and simple!

Back in the late 1980s I was in the Amway business for 6 years and did pretty well, earning the equivalent of an annual salary on the side and was front-line to one of the biggest couples globally today. But I built my network of well over 1,000 down-line without compromising my employer or my integrity. While I was at my MLM peak and a sales manager in the corporate world, I fired a sales person who worked for me when his customer complained about being invited under false pretenses for dinner only to be pitched 'the plan'. We had a clear understanding that neither of us would engage in this behavior... it was a sacrosanct rule.... fired.

3. Side Deal Sam The Slippery Snake: Overt corruption can bring a business to its knees, especially side agreement letters hidden in the drawer or commitments that no-one wants the auditors to see; these end careers and for good reason. People who sign business with zombie skeletons hiding in the closet have no place; neither do sales people who have corrupt arrangements with resellers or 'partners'. Transparency in dealings is essential. You cannot afford to be associated with an employee doing dodgy deals. Dishonest people must be terminated.

Here's a law of life – your reputation is everything. Integrity is a prerequisite for sustained success but 'integrity' goes beyond mere honesty. It is about being a person of your word and being someone who does everything possible to honor commitments. No weasel words, no wriggling out of what has been promised. No commitments that cannot be fulfilled. Make no mistake, being mercurial or duplicitous always comes home to fester.

4. Lester The Liar: Honesty is the foundation on which every successful career is built, so if trust has been broken, the person's career is effectively over. Lying through omission, cheating on expenses, lying about whether you're working or not, misleading people about the relationships you have or the meetings that have occurred... it's the kiss of death. Without trust at every level, there is nothing. If you don't trust your employee, don't keep them around.

5. Harry The Sexual Harasser: You have an obligation to protect everyone in your employment and also your customers. Slimy sexual predators have no place in your employ, and neither do bigots and racists. Your own team culture is a sub-set of the corporate values so be very clear about what you stand for. No preachy holier than thou Pollyanna persona... just you being the real deal about standing for what is right. Understand people's real values and beliefs... it is a real predictor of behavior.

I promised you that I would provide my framework for deciding who belongs in your team and who should go. Here it is: The Rule of 24.

Bonus list... not worthy of firing someone but notable mention:

Virgil The Victim: The very best sales people find a way to be successful despite their environment. They find a way to create success. Victims endlessly drain energy, time and resources. Everyone needs to be resourceful and show initiative.

Nelly The Nasty Gossip: Negativity is poison and gossip is the cancer of the workplace. Yet it's amazing how many nasty gossips package their toxin in pretty packages. 'I'm really concerned about...' If people are concerned, challenge them about what they are going to do to help.

Neville The Negative Naysayer: 'I don't want to be negative but... ' And then they go on to be wrist-slashingly negative. You've heard it many times. People with negative attitudes bring people around them down. Sales is difficult enough without attempting it with a defeatist attitude.

Bill The Empty Suit: Social selling means that we sell naked. If the emperor has no clothes then the whole world will know... all they have to do is look at the profile in LinkedIn or run a basic Google search. A person's social proximity reveals much about the company they keep. Does their social profile show substance and insight; and can they carry a conversation with some gravitas?

Liam The Luddite: Everyone in sales today must be technology savvy. This includes being able to leverage social platforms and conduct online research. Success in selling requires people to create mash-ups on methodology and technology to listen, engage, build brand, collaborate and sell effectively.

Sid the sloth: Work ethic is an essential element of sustained, predictable success. Anyone who does not work hard should have a big question mark above them. There is no room for sloppy in highly competitive markets. As the manager of a sloppy employee, you will inevitably be dragged into rewriting their proposals and salvaging your own brand.

Now it's over to you. What are the traits you see that destroy careers, or worst still, warrant dismissal?

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: Mike Poresky

4 Blue Ocean Strategies for Enduring Sales Model Transformation

Hat tip to Blue Ocean Strategy. If you haven't read it, you need to and go apply it to your sales process and product innovation lifecycle. It has applications for commanding a united front with your sales and marketing strategy. It contains the tea leaves on how to outflank your competitors by opening up new greenfield opportunities and totally outshining the competition by doing something that's Monty Python meets Steve Jobs, "And now for something completely different..."

I got to thinking about the above graph as it relates to Cirque Du Soleil, YellowTail, Apple, Southwest and many other strategic movers and shakers that maximized profit and market share seeming to arise out of nowhere and go straight to the top in a rapid period of time. What exactly was their Blue Ocean Strategy to optimize their value curve and unique value creation elements? I then related it to sales processes themselves and a great deal of the sameness in the strategy of today's incumbents and the disruptors who seek to challenge them, quite frankly, evidenced itself.

Value innovation requires companies to orient the whole system toward achieving a leap in value for both buyers and themselves.” ― W. Chan Kim, Blue Ocean Strategy: How To Create Uncontested Market Space And Make The Competition Irrelevant

To compete effectively in 2015, we must think outside the box. The paradox appears in generating a more profitable and cost effective sales organization while endeavoring to modernize your strategic selling or equation simultaneously. This is not a post about gimmicks or the next shiny object. Value creation and efficiency are no longer mutually exclusive with the new set of rules and tools. It's food for thought. Strip your sales thinking down to its bare boned essentials and look for peculiar areas of competitive advantage. Realize, based on a strategy graph, that your competitors (and you!) all look pretty much exactly the same in the eyes of your dream customer.

We differentiate ourselves most by how we sell. The following our some blue ocean ideas I've been toying with in various posts that get you out of the red ocean of competition by creating new paradigms for selling.

I. Running Extra Lean Has Never Been Easier – Imagine lowering your cost of sale to the quick without sacrificing quality or integrity. You could launch your company in the cloud. You could build your headquarters on an island and make it all happen remotely like Tim Ferriss. The trend of sales is moving from field to inside selling. Imagine hiring much fewer sales people that are truly stars in their own right and overpaying them.

Why not build incentives so phenomenal that that your best people will never leave you? Why does it have to be lemmings over the cliff? Challenge the challengers. One way to run an extra lean selling organization, is by leveraging stealth B2B lead gen technology to accelerate the funnel. The sales organization becomes the marketing organization becomes the sales organization in a flywheel motion. Challenger content is pushed out to Publisher via a Sales Manager Editor. B2B Lead Gen opens three to five meetings per day. All-star closers work lower in the funnel.

II. Automation Book Ends the New MKT Sales Funnel– Revenue Disruption by Phil Fernandez, the Founder of Marketo, is an appealing book in that it makes the case for moving away from traditional interruption selling to one of engagement, lead scoring and drip marketing in a nuanced fashion. Imagine if you could automate the top and bottom of the funnel. In essence, smart AI and machine learning algorithms moving in a natural way above the forest canopy to generate new business and continuing to educate, enable and walk existing business up the ladder of engagement beneath the trees where the jaguar roam. The traditional sales and marketing funnel has changed. Here's a great one from Steve Patrizi I agree with. The writing is on the wall in this diagram. Your sales team could solely work that key piece from 90% to 100% of the funnel.

There's a case to be made for generating demand and uncovering latent demand by running an extra wide automated funnel at the top that can literally catch deals out of the hands of competitors or inject ambivalence into an extant choice to play it safe with the status quo or internal solution. It takes sophisticated writing to cut through. It takes a powerful set of automated lifecycle marketing messages upstream to truly spur organic interest. Craig Elias speaks of 'selective awareness.' This is the concept that if you buy a Volkswagen you will see Volkswagens everywhere. It's critical to study Tibor Shanto and Craig's workbecause the 'window of dissatisfaction' is maximally powerful.

III. The CEO Can Be A Selling Sensation At The Helm – Marc Benioff is the ultimate example of this strategy. You'd think he'd hand off the PowerPoints and conference emcee duties to a talented delegate from his team. He cares that much. He flies in. He closes the big deals. Does your CEO micromanage you or is she pivotal in closing the deals that matter? Once you've put the previous strategies in place, theoretically (and I've seen this in practice), the result is CEO to CEO contact closing the final chapter of the deal. Marc Roberge [CRO HubSpot] talks about inbound marketing and content market strategy applied so effectively that after months of pushing out valuable, useful subject matter expertise, executives would simply book a dinner and sign up for HubSpot. True story! This could be you...

Many pundits argue that a CEO or executive sponsor should be brought in at the end of the sales process to consummate the deal. First impressions are everything so why wouldn't deft use of automation and pre-qualifying questions filter out a tight front of funnel sweet spot set of opportunities. Then bring the CXO on the first call to set the tone. It's like the maître d' of the finest Michelin 3 star restaurant.

If you are embedded into the right business case high enough and early enough within the organization's buying process, perhaps you can bring C-Levels into the mix on both sides? Have you ever thought of that? As executive prospects are farther in the buying process than ever, you can intercept an active deal cycle, interject yourself with validity (without hubris) and corral the usual suspects to the table. Despite the CEB research that speaks to 5.4 stakeholders in the average enterprise deal, there is still a weight and counterbalance of opinion. Averages are elusive. There is still the heavy who is going to make the final call. You and I both know that. [I can almost see a seasoned sales manager nodding her head right now...] Not much has changed in the decision making department in hundreds of years, I'm afraid. I'm not saying the boss doesn't get consensus but ultimately someone's job is on the line, make no mistake. Develop a strong bond with your own CEO and work together to align sales and marketing so that you do not waste her time. Be willing to insert C-Level participation cogently at various stages of a deal when it counts.

IV. Tiger Team Social Selling Models Transcend Into Synergy – Imagine removing the cumbersome nature of the telephone. Now replace that with Skype. Now preference face-to-face content. Prioritize Human to Human (H2H) interaction. Leverage Sales Navigator to book the on-site meetings. Leverage the Skype calls to lead with provocative insight to land the crucial meetings. Face to face interaction will always remain 10X more powerful and effective than any advanced technology. Even with utopian holo-conferencing, Artificial Intelligence and a minority report like Oculus Rift, HoloLens, sales society nothing can supplant the experience of gut checks, face to face interaction, thin-slicing and intuition from another executive.

If selling is truly facing an existential threat of going the way of the Dodo, wouldn't it make sense to preserve your best players and morph them into a futuristic outfit akin to Seal Team Six? This would mean being all over Sales Navigator, Trigger Event Selling Science, and building out a strategic social selling plan informed by the science of big deal closing that has been around for a much longer period of time. This would mean moving out of the red ocean of competition and into the wild blue yonder. Building upon everything cutting edge out there and everything that came before contains one primary risk. True innovation. As business models change, appearing the same as your competition, placing too heavy an emphasis on competing in the current marketplace [market forces, dynamics and technology features], pivoting on the exact same value drivers and sounding the same is the greater risk.

How are you driving wildly unexpected value? How are you selling in a way that differentiates you? Are you taking a data driven approach? Did the CEO shock the customer by being on the first call? Are you pre-trigger? Are you leveraging advanced technology that allows you to have clairvoyant levels of insight and predict market shifts with an eagle eye?

You will notice that I did not speak to compartmentalization of sales forces, cold calling and bull pens. These are unique concepts. But how will they be reimagined for the strategic social selling age? Isn't a shift from active to passive monitoring almost more aggressive based on a fly by night attack? The enemy doesn't even see you coming. You're so far upstream, the buyer hasn't even gone to market. Think about it...

What you're doing in selling doesn't need to look like another company or anything that you've read in a book, blog or post. What would you do if you had completely unlimited resources and you could reimagine it from the ground up? What if you were a one woman marketing, product development and sales department? What would the customer experience look like? How about your signature funnel? Flip the script. Imagine if you were your own dream customer. What's the optimal flow?

Now it's your turn: What unique selling models have you witnessed being effective in the enterprise? Do you believe it's possible to simultaneously raise revenue and the effectiveness, ingenuity and power of your sales team while at the same time lowering cost of sales? Is setting Everest high quota attainment goals the way to drive growth or engineering a sales strategy the world has seldom seen?

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 Dinkel

 

10 Crazy Cooky Concoctions To Step Up Your Motivation Game

1) Listen to motivational speakers on your way to work. The car is the ultimate classroom.

2) Read two hours a day, one hour sales related and the other non-sales. TV is a definite NO NO, YouTube has awesome sales channels.

3) Spend one hour a week with a mentor, perhaps from the other side of the world.

4) Exercise even if it's just walks around the office meeting new people.

5) Write daily and work on being interesting and quirky.

6) Flex your curiosity muscle. It will grow and you will become a cosmic filter of everything awesome!

7) Think positively, your attitude determines your altitude. This is the greatest discipline to habitualize and master.

8) Become a No-Limit person, think bigger and aim higher.

9) Network and reach out to your favorite sales thought leaders and authors.

10) Do at least one thing that scares you. Most likely this is picking up the phone and calling the client who could change your stars!

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: Jens karlsson

5 Lover's Quarrel Ends: Sales & Marketing Must Bury the Hatchet

This is no longer about chucking the 'good leads' over the wall only to have bitter enmity grow between the marketing team and sales. It goes beyond that. The entire organization needs to generate unique, compelling insight. It's not Marketing's fault Sales can't close their leads. It's not Sales fault that Marketing is so out of touch. Let's not even get to the impact this vicious cycle has on Client Services trying to fulfill on solutions sold that the company probably doesn't even deliver.

The lines between sales and marketing have inextricably blurred. It's time to get stakeholders from all sides into the same room weekly to get on the same page.

  1. Marketing and Sales must collaborate together to build an insight generating flywheel machine. If you think this will erode selling time, think again. Generic decks and off kilter personas from the marketing team that don't align with top seller's vision, clutter the pipeline and create busy work ad nauseam.
  2. Marketers work hard and often make great sellers. They're masters of lead gen and due diligence experts. Sellers needing marketing skills and marketers need selling skills. Exchange books, ideas and training programs. Build an interdisciplinary marketing and sales superpower.
  3. Content marketing has changed the game for inbound selling, marketing and PR. If you haven't embraced a culture of content generation, you are simply behind the times. Every person on your staff should be blogging about their expertise. The caveat is obviously strong social media policy but that's so ten years ago. Build in quality control via a series of editors, even if you bring in former journalists to your content team, as LinkedIn is does. Massive open source software companies can now scale to tens of millions of dollars through community learning centers alone, pumping out vibrant, lively user generated forum content that attracts the key B2B customers, incentivizing them with value added services.
  4. The costs of paid content and native advertising are astronomical in contrast to guerrilla efforts customer driven and amplified. You need to be paying for a portion as a catalyst but a strong organic strategy is sound for SEO juice to fill the funnel. Google is a cash machine and for good reason. Jason Miller of LinkedIn, recently made the case that paying to promote select content in a "bat out of hell" strategy for the "big rock" content like The Sophisticated Marketer's Guide to LinkedIn, is essential. Thisexclusive interview is insanely relevatory. ––– 'I’ve seen ‘Big Rock’ content drive millions of dollars in business…. The first ‘Big Rock’ piece of content we created at LinkedIn over a year ago was called The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide To LinkedIn and has driven more than $4.6 million in business in just the first 90 days- it’s still bringing in business to this day!'
  5. Seth Godin said that 'all marketers are liars' and then as a corollary to that hit book redefined them as 'storytellers.' Truth be it told, only a data driven approach, that benchmarks performance, highlights case studies and allows your best customers to generate new customers, will ever be trusted. Bottom line is both sellers and marketers are fighting a tarnished image and reputation. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link and there's just too much spam, scam and get-rich-quick empty promises reaching epidemic proportions in this modern incarnation of the internet.

These quotes from Jason Miller, Senior Manager, Content Marketing, Marketing Solutions at LinkedIn are just too phenomenal to pass up. Buy his stellar book: 'Welcome to the Funnel' to here and rock out with him! Underscore, double-underline, solar-flare high ninjitsu kick on these gemstones of quotes:

If you’re not using some kind of marketing automation… you’re behind the times!”
I’d rather one piece of content be viewed by 15 CMOs that I want to reach than a thousand-practioner types that we’re not trying to reach”
It’s 2015, folks: Native advertising – if you’re not paying to promote your best content then you’re missing opportunities."
At the end of the day, you don’t need to create more content you need to create morerelevant content”
I worry about our messaging being too forward-thinking…it’s no good if what you’re saying is not relevant to your audience or their current interests”
You have to repurpose the hell out of your content – make sure it’s optimized for every channel where your audience is.”
Marketers who use the right technology can now show their contribution to pipeline and prove that they’re a revenue-driver not a cost center.”
Don’t let your ego hijack your content strategy… I’m not concerned with the number of shares, I’m concerned with who is sharing it.”

It's time to break down the silos and competing methodologies and realize both groups are very much morphing into the same thing. The 'smarketing' of 2020 is about attraction. It's about building audiences and increasing engagement. The sales cycle on magnificent content can take up to 2 years to convert according to the prescient Tony Hsieh of Zappos. Here's a mind-blowing slideshare by Rand Fishkin of Moz that you should sit through explaining why your content marketing efforts are failing. It has massive implications on complex B2B marketing and sales alignment.

You have to ask yourself, whenever you are producing any type of content, Who will amplify this and why? ~ @randfishTechEmergence

Now it's your turn: Where do you see sales and marketing going? Will it become 'smarketing?' Will this battle du jour ever end? Do you agree with this article? I would love to hear your most outrageous or innovative thoughts about revolutionizing sales and marketing into something that works in a modern context 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: MGEARTWORKS

Why Listening Is The Master Key To Sales Excellence

God gave us two ears and one mouth. Why is active listening the meta skillset, the most obvious one to leverage, yet the hardest to develop? Rackham always talks about how if you're listening most of the time, the deal is likely to close.

Is your sales call so valuable that your client would write a check for your visit? - Rackham

I would challenge you to speak only 25% of the time. Buy the book Power Questions by Andrew Sobel. Come to the meeting prepared with the Who, What, Where and especially starting with Why. It's all about the quality of your informed questions coupled with your ability to peel the onion back to the root problems. This is why I've often tongue in cheek, compared question-based selling to numbers based accounting. I would argue they are mutually exclusive, even an oxymoron.

I've often wondered if I sent in a green salesperson who was an extraordinarily 'present' listener into a highly charged sales setting with the brass muckety-mucks and just encouraged her to interview the client, if she would literally perform better than a seasoned rep looking to take the high horse pulpit.

Listening is a muscle, mentally and physically because it requires will power and self control; and it becomes stronger the more you use it. I think the crux of this is being present in the moment; being fully there as I describe it within the context of my RSVPselling methodology. Excellence in execution and being there fully round out the wheel for complex B2B selling that is Relationships - Strategy - Value creation - Process alignment. Recently, a manager who had read my book was subconsciously applying this method in coaching one of his reps.

I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free. - Michaelangelo

Many would posit we were put on Earth to better ourselves in every way that we can. Sales is a game of infinite spirals where those that win, practice positive psychology to get in the 'flow' and then do the impossible – pulling revenue out of thin air. They make it look easy, what appears to be effortless mastery. The angel you are sculpting is really you, so if you were to look at 100 critical success factors that create the coveted sales eagle, mythical strategic selling Sphynx – listening would be the number one pick.

Master your ability to get to the root of problems, realizing that what clients mostly tell you at first, will be the symptoms masking the root problem.

We all recall the classic Dale Carnegie story where he takes the meeting, doesn't say a word and the executive later comments, 'You're the best conversationalist I've ever met!"

Brevity is the soul of wit. - Shakespeare

The best way to become a better listener is not to restrain yourself like Houdini but instead to work on the quality of your questions. SPIN is rife with great ideas as are books on consultative methods, as dismissed as consultative selling has become. Clients are intuitive and will sniff you out if you are disingenuous or do not truly care. There's been way too much emphasis placed on X or Y type of selling.

Relationships of trust, value creation, insight and interactive listening the entire way have always been the fundamentals. Even if the buyer is further along in the sales process, or we could argue the sales process has become a buying process, we must listen, 'seeking first to understand before attempting to be understood.' We now just have a leg up on our competition if they get lazy. We can listen before we even meet our dream prospects: to trigger events, to press releases, by reading an annual report and via myriad social platforms and filters.

Here's a formula that could double your income this year.

  1. Be fully there – present. (Cell phone off)
  2. Actually care. (Mean it!)
  3. Speak 25% of the time – only ask insight provoking questions. (The classic probing techniques only make them feel like it's an interrogation and will backfire!)

4. Show that you understand by asking a question to the corollary concept. (Peel the onion!)

5. Don't talk about yourself, your company, your product or solution... just focus on them.

6. Keep comfortable eye contact versus undressing them with your eyes...

I read many posts about whether or not sales executives should take notes. The bigger risk is missing the finer points of the problem which inhibits your ability to craft a more coherent solution. If this is Evernote, Moleskine or even recording the call on your iPhone, make the questions count. Go deeper than the next competitor because you will then be able to craft a proposal that sells to your customer in their own words. Collaborate with several meetings as you craft the value hypothesis and work to build a strong business case backed by hard numbers – conservative ROI estimates.

Insights are all the rage right now. There are 2 bestsellers on them! But how can an insight penetrate the account when your dream client can't get a word in edgewise. Collaboration is the great secret to the modern strategic sale. When we co-create the solution with multiple stakeholders we render ourselves indispensable as trusted advisors.

Whether you sell services, products or a SaaS blend, listening will separate you from the wolf pack of aggressive proposal pushers. The most confident data dumper, walking brochure can't touch a thoughtful introvert armed with insatiable curiosity.

Social selling also hinges upon listening and powerful questions – create content as your currency to speak to these questions – proactively. IMHO, 75% of what you share should be reflections on OPC, as Jill Rowley sagaciously calls it – Other People's Content. It's all about them, it always was and always will be. Any President's Club Winner who has been off to the islands many times will tell you that with Mai Tai in hand while between karaoke sessions.

BuzzSumo is a phenomenal tool for listening to trends to figure out what you're going to write about. Any type of Twitter filtration or listening technology is phenomenal too. I prefer to make lists of Savvy Tweeps in TweetDeck. In the Enterprise, a full blown scenario of Radian6 is fully worth it to allow brands to listen and respond with high levels of customer services, 24/7 on every continent.

Now it's your turn: What are your secrets to improving listening on calls, in face-to-face meetings and even board room presentations? What are some books and strategies you've found to improve the quality of questioning? Would you agree that collaboration is the new key to winning the enterprise sale? Which social listening tools do you use and in what ratio do you listen versus posting about yourself or your offering? – I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.

Ad as a bonus for reading all the way to the bottom of this post, here is the best sales training video ever made on how to really listen... Amy is masterful.

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: Beverly & Pack

Sales Forecasting To Within 1% Amidst Massive Complexity

This is not a theory... it just happened in one of the biggest and most complex companies on the planet... and the forecasting process has gone from a week to seconds.

During my corporate career, and more recently through my consulting clients, I've been on the inside of the sales automation and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) industry. CRM has always promised game-changing levels of efficiency and effectiveness yet so many companies who buy it just implement expensive contact databases and manage-up pipeline reporting tools.

Recently I've been engaged by Salesforce to speak at their upcoming World Tour Conference (topic: The rise of the silent sales floor is killing business) and also provide coaching with their sales teams. The experience has opened my eyes. It's rare to see a technology company drink their own campaign; usually it's a case of 'the builder's house never being finished'. But what I've seen with salesforce and some of their customers is breath-taking.

Nearly two decades of evolution has now been infused with artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to transform CRM as we know it. We have reached the tipping point where sales and marketing convergence is being powered by mature salesbots and Salesforce's Einstein is leading the way. Watch this one minute video...

A salesbot doing sales management and deal coaching... wow! But what if Einstein could also manage the single biggest problem in any sales operation... the forecast? I'm under NDA so I cannot reveal the name of the large enterprise who just piloted Einstein for forecasting but I can reveal the astonishing result. A quarterly global forecast was run with traditional means (CRM reports and data sucked into Excel, then massaged by layers of management and pushed up the line from dozens of countries to the senior executive to provide regional forecasts with 'commit' and 'best case'. Then a global number was rolled-up to the senior executive and board.

But in parallel, Einstein ran a forecast algorithm based upon myriad of factors that show probability of close based upon predictive scores assessing key win factors including whether key information has been obtained, if the right people have been covered, whether the amount of time in a particular deal stage has increased slippage risk, if frequency of deal updates is on track, whether number of calls made and received along with emails sent and received shows proof of active engagement, etc. All of this matters because the level of timely buyer/seller interaction absolutely determines the probability of winning a deal and the likelihood of closing on time. Michael Bonner calls this auto-generated score in his own salesforce add-on, Pipeline Manager,"proof of life."

Unlike a human sales manager, Einstein does not have 'happy ears', hope or fear. Nor does it seek to 'manage-up' ... it just tells you the truth and does not care what you think

So.. what was the result of man versus machine, of CRM extracts into Excel and layers of managers who massage and hedge versus the forecasting salesbot? Note that there were dozens of countries, thousands of sales people and massively complex products and services.

Humans +/- 20% (took a week and the data supporting the numbers was out of date when the report was tabled)
Einstein AI +/- 1% (took seconds, real-time)

Accurate data is the foundation on which accurate forecasting depends. Traditional approaches where people are 'held to account' for their number and told they will live or die based on their commit, drives either prayerful hope at one extreme and sand-bagging at the other. Having your feet in a freezer and your head in the oven does not mean that, on average, you'll be at the right temperature.

So often the business case for buying CRM is to improve forecast accuracy but the underlying data usually remains untrustworthy unless CRM actually enables sales process. If you want accurate forecasting it starts with CRM being an indispensable part of every salesperson's day. It must be where they receive their leads, how they make their calls, where they send their email from, where they create quotes and obtain approvals, etc.

CRM success is completely dependent on the leadership's commitment to transforming the way the business markets and sells, enables the sales process, and becomes the engine for delivering brilliant seller and customer 'sales experience'.

Successful sales transformation is available for those willing to invest and lead from the front with executive commitment to a customer-centric culture. The best focus on an integrated suite to manage the entire customer lifecycle with cloud platforms for marketing, lead nurturing, sales process automation, community portals and service/support for ticketing, complaints, etc.

CRM has come a long way since the days of silo databases and clunky interfaces on a PC. Game changing improvements have been achieved with workflow for process automation, integration to price books, configuration and quoting tools, content marketing with web-to-lead processes, lead nurturing programs, tailored dashboards and reports, forecasting and integrated qualification and opportunity management methodologies, close planners, organizational charts that also map the decision power-base. Add to this; quote-to-cash, customer lifecycle management with marketing, sales, service and support all being integrated. More recently, integration to social listening and pipeline creation platforms such as LinkedIn, along with widgets to sales productivity tools such as Lusha... you get my point.

Any corporate sales team that is not fully embracing sales and marketing automation is in the process of failing by design. AI is taking sales to a whole new level

In my opinion, Salesforce is its own best reference customer. They run and incredible sales and marketing machine, and they blend technology and the phone along with inside sales and the field very effectively. Leads are followed-up professionally and in a timely manner (I receive calls from their reps the same day I download any of the reports or white papers on their website), metrics are captured and managed, leads are nurtured intelligently with seamless marketing/sales team collaboration, and they provide free high-value content in the form of web collateral and high-quality events.

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: Google: Salesforce - World Tour Paris

CRM: Graveyards of Information or Powerhouses for Improvement?

George Brontén from Membrain has been following my posts and regularly provides insightful comments. LinkedIn is an amazing platform for building relevant connections with thought leaders around the world and we decided to catch-up on Skype.

Membrain is a specialist in B2B sales enablement and we ended-up discussing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) technology. I found George’s views provocatively interesting and very cogent. I eventually ask him this question: Is it possible that CRMs aren’t well suited to do everything that their makers claim they’re capable of doing? We recorded our chat and here is a paraphrase of George’s response.

CRM vendors would like sales leaders to believe their technology is a one-size-fits-all panacea but they have added so much functionality over the years that if you ask ten people what CRM is, you are likely to get ten different answers. In many companies, the CRM has become a graveyard of information, instead of a tool that helps improve sales performance.

More feature creep to come: Feature creep isn’t about to go away. The market pressures to grow top line revenue will continue to drive CRM vendors to constantly add new capabilities and acquire new technology. But when it comes to complex B2B sales and other specialized needs, a new wave of cloud-based applications are emerging. They add functionality not available in traditional CRM systems like Salesforce without a lot of hard work; i.e., custom programming and on-going maintenance. [I agree with George that the age of mash-ups is here to stay and that CRM must evolve]

One-size-fits-all or none? The concept of “one system to rule them all” is appealing but has turned sales professionals into data-entry clerks and sales managers into report-creators. Everyone spends too much time gathering information and not enough time on activities and skill enhancements that will help close more business. CRMs typically don’t help sales professionals improve, although that’s what was promised when the system was sold.

Different needs depending on the complexity of your sales efforts:Some may be surprised that CRMs are not well suited for complex B2B sales. Can’t CRMs do almost anything? With a lot of consulting and programming, this may be true. There are certainly many excellent add-ons available but how do you turn a transaction system like CRM into a visual guidance, learning and coaching platform needed in the complex sales environment?

CRM products are best for selling low-risk commodity products which can be transacted but high-risk solutions usually require the consensus of multiple stakeholders and take months, or even years, to come to fruition. The more complex your sale is, the more important each action of your sales people becomes. You need a system that supports complex process.

List, lists, lists or visual guidance and coaching? Sales improvement software should let you implement any sales process you want, and visually guide sales professionals, step-by-step through a sales process and preferably using a specific methodology and sales linguistic. In contrast, CRMs were designed to capture and display large amounts of information, and because most CRMs are developed to adapt to the needs of different user groups and business units within a company, the graphical interface often has a generic – and frankly, a quite ugly - design. The output is often lists of information that look very similar no matter where you are in the system. This type of user experience provides little contextual feedback and focus.

Studies by Sales Performance International, a leading sales development consulting firm, emphasize that a visual overview of the sales process produces significant improvements in sales performance. In general, people can digest visuals better than text, making the graphical design of sales improvement software much more than just points of vanity.

Manage information or drive the right behaviors? While CRMs were originally designed to manage customer relationships and interactions, sales improvement software is designed with one goal in mind – win more business. CRM promises the same focus but rarely delivers in implementation. Sales improvement or sales enablement software takes a different approach by focusing on the sales process itself so that sellers truly understand the prospect. The best systems become a real-time training and coaching platform to drive success throughout the sales process.

The premise behind this new breed of sales improvement software is that most sales professionals fail because they aren’t selling properly. Sales improvement software helps the sales professional know what to do with whom, when and how. This is where you need sales process, methodology, skills and professional coaching.

The future is in “meshing”: I believe that we’ll see more “meshing” in the future, where the concept of data sharing between modern best-of-breed systems removes much of the golden luster of using the same CRM vendor for everything. It will continue to be the system of record, but there will be a limit to how far CRMs can reach into new applications such as sales improvement. [I agree with George here also and I often write about the new world of mash-up methodologies and technology].

The race is on and it will be a fun one: CRM will not go away and we’ll see marketing technology merge with sales technology. It’s not so much about disrupting CRM as it is about evolving the sales profession by developing specific technologies to improve sales results by better supporting sales people, frontline sales managers and leaders. My bet is on technology that will encourage winning behaviors and win more complex B2B sales by growing people and making complex processes easy to navigate.

Wow… George is not alone in his views and I speak with many who are developing complementary and competitive technologies and cloud software offerings that can change the game for CRM adoption and success. I see an exciting future ahead for sales people who embrace technologies that improve their efficiency and effectiveness.

Now it's your turn. Do you agree with George? Where do you see the future of CRM?

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: Brian Smithson