Will LinkedIn become the next Google for professionals?

Ask yourself, don't you start your day in Linkedin? Maybe you check your email but isn't that just notifications from LinkedIn or notifications of InMails and LinkedIn emails? What about group digests and alerts or updates from Sales Navigator of important triggers?

Is it possible that reactive company email will be a batch process function and secondary to first logging into a tool like LinkedIn which becomes your uber-dashboard to the world of selling and business?

Growing empirical evidence that this reality could soon emerge includes:

  • Sellers are performing the majority of searches in a given business day within LinkedIn.
  • InMails are the new cold call. Targeted, they have exponential response rates.
  • Referrals and studying the interrelationships of our own employees via TeamLink gives us a distinctive edge to understand how our internal networks overlay with that of our dream prospects.
  • Traditional databases are less accurate as they often take time to update whereas the community on LinkedIn self updates in near real-time.
  • When salespeople are studying organizational charts for account planning or whale hunting (power-base analysis), they literally check LinkedIn first.
  • Trigger events are easier to track than ever before because you can perform advance searches to understand the relationship of where prospects came from. You can even track down prospects that left that company for intel on the best way to get back in.
  • Alumni networks are thriving inside LinkedIn and connecting in via alums has an astoundingly high acceptance rate.
  • Groups are becoming the chat rooms of the future where your contemporaries hang out in the field exchanging advanced knowledge and debating the finer points of cutting edge solutions. Customer-facing groups where executives hang out are accessible to the modern business developer.
  • Pulse is now so deeply embedded in SEO and engagement so off the charts, that many Pulse stories hit the front page of Google News. To my knowledge, LinkedIn Publish gets crawled by the spiders and provides tremendous SEO value as there is so much interlinking, commenting and interactivity that sends key signals back to the [Google] Panda machine learning algorithm.
  • LinkedIn is at the heart and epicenter of the social selling movement more as the hub than the spoke. (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, YouTube all duke it out there.)
  • Passive candidate searches have never been easier so it's possible to now acquire top talent. This makes the entire paradigm of staffing a more efficient marketplace which is fundamentally a democratizing force in society and engenders meritocracy. [This could even have a profound positive impact on ameliorating gender inequality via it's mere technology approach].
  • LinkedIn Navigator allows a second mailbox for business development to preserve personal privacy in one's own inbox so if you're un-engaged and unhappy like 80% of the workforce... go do something about it right now!
  • The analytics engine behind LinkedIn is the ultimate matchmaking resource from a recruitment perspective. The better this big data crunching machine becomes, the more tailored the applicants it will serve up. This just makes LinkedIn even more fundamentally sticky and core to every startup and enterprise in the world.
  • CRMs could literally melt away were Navigator to allow for just a few extra features like: Sorting of lead lists, designation of current contacts and opportunity management with minimal stage creation.
  • Just a few basic classic CRM functions could help LinkedIn Sales Navigator be an end-to-end enterprise selling tool. Small startup companies will definitely begin to leverage LinkedIn as a complete replacement for CRM this year and with great results, I might add.
  • There's a growing number of people that just connect LinkedIn to Twitter, Facebook & Google+ but only utilize LinkedIn as their core network. Just like TV, I'm trying to minimize time-wasting platforms so I curtail my usage of the internet to where the most additive value to developing my consultancy can be derived.
  • According to Business Insider: "For the full year [2014], LinkedIn reported revenue of $2.219 million, an increase of 45% compared to 2013. Non-GAAP net income in 2014 was $254 million, compared to $192 million in 2013." Translation: They've cracked the code on making a social network into a profitable business model.
  • They've essentially transcended the restrictions of "social networking" nomenclature / classification and become something entirely new: a human-centric virtual world mapping the economic graph.
  • Who else is mapping the global economic graph? I'd be hard-pressed to answer that question [maybe ask BranchOut?] which further highlights the level of blue ocean strategy and divergent, focused and memorable value curves they've effectively exploited.

We can almost make the argument that the internet itself, Google searching and email are all secondary and tertiary channels. For many of the top performers on terra firma, they're a necessary evil and afterthought.

My challenge would be to see what would happen if a salesperson for just one quarter, had no email and simply utilized the full functionality of LinkedIn on desktop and mobile, without even having a traditional phone. Behold the transformative power of the entire suite of LinkedIn applications. How much business would it be possible to develop?

A lion share.

Like any system, we are only as effective as the quality of the data. That's what makes LinkedIn so unusual in how it's innovating the way we do business globally with a data driven approach at the fore. The fact that people are by and large who they say they are, in many industries all relevant companies are represented, and most core business functions from a recruiting, sales, marketing, business development and R & D perspective are achievable on here; would suggest a brave new world is upon us.

That's not to say the greater web or search engines will ever go away completely but for a variety of industry verticals, much of the utility represented by those past paradigms will simply live inside the LinkedIn system or ones like it. This is disconcerting for those that tend to perform Google searches religiously. I think the thing to remember is that 92% of all traffic is on the first page. So in essence, most of Google's function is to serve paid or semi-paid (lest we forget organic SEO strategy still costs a fortune when done properly) to the first page above the fold on a laptop.

I've had major warnings about blogging exclusively in here. What if they close and own your I.P. or go down and your blog is gone. My response is, the architects of this infrastructure are a) much smarter than I am; b) have a redundant system for a back-end technology stack; and c) run a reverse pyramid where my content in the system is the most valuable player. The more bestselling authors who migrate all their I.P. open source into the Publisher blogosphere, the more traction LinkedIn has as the leading publishing platform. And I'm OK with that... I get 15 to 50 inbound LinkedIn invites per week, sometimes even per day when a great article hits Channels like Leadership & Management or Sales Strategies. Many of these inbound touches have translated into training, speaking or consulting gigs. It's worth the risk but I do not believe that risk exists.

Weiner and Hoffman are in this for 100 years from my lens.

What do you think the possibilities and limitations are for LinkedIn? Could it replace CRMs? Could it replace Google? How about email? Will new forms of email be developed that run inside professional networks like this which render emailing and Googling on the open web, less necessary? Could the salespeople of the future get by solely with LinkedIn running on their smartphone and desktop, [perhaps in a smart contact lens] leveraging SlideShare for presentations and making cell phone or conference calls natively on the phone, or even with a simple edition of chat functionality they could add. They could add video-conferencing or partner with a Citrix or Skype to do so, fairly easily. Will traditional and cutting edge CRM vendors respond by supplying feature functionality parity?

One of the glaring things missing from LinkedIn which I've been talking about for years as the Magic Bullet for the entire system is LIVE Chat. Google+ has hangouts, Facebook has real-time 'always on' live chat interfaces. Now maybe there's a fear this is too obtrusive but if you were able to 'knock' just like on Join.Me – now that would be the killer app! Imagine knocking on a profile, spinning up a video chat and accelerating the deal.

LinkedIn is powerful in how it focuses and based on the many things it doesn't do but as it's expanded it's product and services offering, I truly believe the sky's the limit and every competitive tech company needs to be constantly vigilant.

Last feature I'll recommend, is around LinkedIn Publisher. Building out a vanity link to the corpus (or compendium) of posts would be excellent so someone could type in http://www.linkedin.com/tonyjhughespublish < or any customization here. The other side of this is building in more of a WordPress blog like index instead of a series of scrollable tiles. [Teaser copy would be great here too to attract relevant clicks and capture intent.] This would allow someone to search posts by month or search them by keyword.

Granted, few are getting near the 200 posting mark but some of the more advanced blog organization features would be great in the product roadmap. I actually like how responsive and tight the CMS is because it just looks so much cleaner than a traditional blog by maintaining one consisting format / theme across the entire ecosystem.

RSS is critical and many have adapted to Feed.ly so it's important for LinkedIn to enable RSS and feature it prominently for those of us that have pioneered a full blogging strategy within here.

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

Main image photo by Flickr: TechCrunch

The One Anomalistic Trait to Scout Out When Hiring Sales Falcons

Courage? Sticktoitiveness? Testicularity? Tenacity? Empathy? Resiliency? Amiability? Challengery? Strategery? Positivity? Attitudidinality? And the winner is...

D. None of the above.

Now before I answer this 64 million dollar question, I will quote Calvin Coolidge and Theodore Roosevelt:

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."
It is not the critic who counts; not the [hu]man who points out how the strong [hu]man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the [hu]man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if (s)he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his/her place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

My answer in 2015 with the axis of evil being commoditization, complexity and infinite cloud-based competition is... Survey says!:

The ability to develop sound business acumen in order to analyze businesses effectively and generate profound new insights that help customers reframe and visualize critical aspects of their business in novel, new and disruptive ways.
In a word: Insightfulness

Let's unpack this bold statement. No matter how much of a winning personality, positive attitude, team player and willingness to work hard would traditionally give a field salesperson an edge prior to 2010, it's unlikely to even land a meeting circa 2020. Why? Without a provocative insight to crowbar open the door against 300 extremely similar messages in a CXOs inbox, you're toast! The days of Dale Carnegie are a given. This is like touch-typing skills, it's no longer a profession unto itself, a certain level of computer literacy is simply expected as table stakes. Placing Microsoft Excel or Word on your CV is expected and frankly, not even necessary.

If you master insightfulness, which is defined as the ability to analyze business models from an analytical financial level, to a strategic level and even a technology cusp level and synthesize these crystalline insights into tangible actions in a plan that a client can take to improve even incrementally, you will have a Herculean edge.

Even if you've ever been a victim of agism, or patently you are competing in this still discriminatory world of gender and cultural bias, even if you are a self-described Luddite, or introvert: this quality of insightfulness alone will ensure that you not only land opportunities, but that you rapidly transition to meeting with clients and riding the light beam of trusted advisor status.

You don't need an MBA to accomplish this level of insight. Remarkably, books on insight selling and challenger methods can often simply reaffirm the importance of this skill-set over and over again without necessarily giving you a concrete set of steps to actually do it. You need a treasure map to the fishing rod which is the insight generator and creativity within your own head. Don't discount a mastermind group that meets weekly just to brainstorm unique insights in an industry grown stale with cacophonous white papers declaring the winners and losers in quadrants.

To develop this acumen I would recommend books like Blue Ocean Strategy and Bottom-Line Selling by Jack Malcolm where Jack stresses reading the balance sheet, gleaning insight from an annual report and ways to understand the true business situations customer's are facing from the corner office vantage point. Blue Ocean is a great way to leverage a strategic process called a strategy canvas to start thinking differently about unique and compelling value that is completely differentiated from the competition.

From a military strategy perspective, this is called outflanking. From a branding or Al Ries perspective, it's declaring a new market and being the self-proclaimed leader.

Other methods include First Principles thinking which Elon Musk is famous for and Design Centred Thinking. One great way to get here is to ask yourself consistently, "If placed in my customers shoes, how would I revolutionize their business model knowing what I know and extrapolating around the bend based on my unique experience in the channel?"

Studying disruptive innovation from Harvard Business Review, Geoffrey Moore of Crossing the Chasm, Steve Blank and Clayton Christensen essays may seem like the fodder of pedantic entrepreneurs but they're very much applicable to tuning your ability to see the world differently.

Building your insight acumen is not something that is typically trained on in a sales workshop where processes, scripts and question sets are drilled and rehearsed. How you sell, how you look at the world, how you approach business is your unique footprint on the ecosystem. This is the snowflake or prism of your mind that truly becomes your calling card over a long career inside an industry or even if you're brand new to a market or the market is white hot, it's the genesis of your personal brand.

The generally held idea is to assess your marketplace, become a subject matter expert (again, no advice as to how) and bring back insights to your prospects and clients in this way to in effect, chum the waters so the sharks bite. This is a traditional view but risks commoditization of even these insights. The top salespeople, the Falcons that are soaring past quota year after year, are actually advising clients at a high level on positive risks worth taking: hardware to the cloud, opex from costly capex, open source from closed, manual to automated, mobile computing paradigms, Internet of Things. Tectonic shifts. These technology megatrends that are rendering B2B environments a great deal more like B2C cannot be neglected.

I may be debated on this point. I think persistence is the old world standard. It's a given. Dale Carnegie to a tee is a must. It's the essence of beguiling, as Guy Kawasaki encourages.

But what's going to get you into the meeting? What's going to preference you in the RFI? As Ago Cluytens state: "Lead with value." I would say a heat-seeking key insight will stop them in their tracks.

If you can generate one unique insight, you can become a font of insights and become a resource for not just sound great ideas to satisfy the conservative spectrum of the audience, but big bold hairy moonshot ideas for those mobilizers and disruptors in the accounts.

Everyone is looking to be inspired and many are looking for a magic bullet. Strategic sales has become a collaborative process where those that lead with insight, help their prospects and clients unlock insight and build synergistic masterminds that spawn new realms of knowledge and innovation will rule the new world.

The modern sales falcon is indeed an anomaly. A merchant of insight, she alights on the air currents of fractal levels of technology singularity driven by insights only she can create and share.

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: Stefan Groen

50 Shades of Social Selling

Social selling is the latest craze and the world is having a global love affair with it. OK, so maybe for many it's a love hate relationship but it all depends how you look at it: War of the Roses or Princess Bride!

I knew this post would get a million clicks just like a million buyers of the latest airport novel so I lured you in with good intentions. I wanted to speak briefly to the global movement that is both a technology progression and strategic evolution called 'social selling.' The term is everywhere you want to be in 2015 and many places... well, you don't!

I think this is a tectonic shift and I believe it's truly here to stay. I actually believe that the term 'social selling' will fall away and selling will simply be known as good ol' sales again.

We're reaching a saturation point with social selling however. We could look at this like 'social selling' has crossed the chasm or we're in the middle of that bell curve. It will be interesting to see how CRM and CXM respond to this by fully integrating these channels into their ecosystems or reaching feature parity.

Who will disrupt the disruptors?

My predictions for social selling fall within the realm of wearables. I have predicted that mobile phones as we know them will go away. Device based smart computing, contact lenses and Heads Up Display, holography of everything will replace the restrictive appendage that is mobile: social will simply be a fabric of how we interact in an increasing virtual society toward Singularity.

There have been some interesting shifts that have happened as a result of social selling that I want to call out:

  • Twitter is almost primarily auto-responders. Any time somebody actually DMs me I'm almost shocked. Many times it's really an auto-DM in disguise.
  • InMails have limited efficacy when everyone is now using them as email. It's buzzing a smartphone in pocket but the EA is now monitoring the CEO's LinkedIn account. Is this progress?
  • We've reached full blown social selling meltdown just like we did with social media: This is the condition where there are more social media experts than those using social media. There are more LinkedIn and Twitter trainers than consumers can even transact with. I'm all for expanding the pie but it's getting way out of control.
  • I've found a massive gap in the marketplace for the combination of traditional enterprise, and strategic selling with B2B methodologies with the social selling tools. There are a group of experts with decades in the field that are thinking differently about power-base driven methods of navigating enterprise accounts with social media like LinkedIn.
  • Two camps have developed: The Social Selling Mafia (I accidentally inducted myself by dint of a spectrum of posts) and the Phone Slingers. Like the Wild West they are the old Sheriff in town combating the new and a bit ruffled that the social sellers are getting such great results. They even believe the results aren't real. Having tested life in both camps I can say that tools of any kind work with a strategic operator at the helm.
  • The referral camp seems to love social for its power in referrals.
  • Then there are the blended multi-channel folks that are looking to integrate all the channels together.
  • Google+ is actually not a graveyard, it's where really smart people share things that would truly blow most business people's mind. Anytime I stumble in there, I find truly next-level content.
  • There seems to be an issue with the quality of user generated content on LinkedIn. I'm learning by posting and asking for feedback. It appears that a greater degree of editing could be helpful to add to machine-based filtration schemes. I'm very curious how LinkedIn will solve this or if it's just growing pains. As Pulse and LinkedIn Publisher grow-up, will there be an algorithmic and human touch approach to improving the quality of the content.
  • It might make sense to build a Pulse Channel or balance a certain amount of posts in the system, let's say 10%, that are brought forward by professional writers from publications like Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, Inc., The New Yorker and The Economist. I think Publisher needs more balance. I know the Writers on here and they contribute but others who do 300 identical articles on Big Data can be a bit vexing to the average reader. What was so cool about Pulse originally was how it was similar to Flipboard in one's ability to monitor super high quality content that was shared.
  • I say this tongue in cheek but there is a certain a subset of the population that should really never be on any social media whatsoever. It's a cry for help! They get sucked in and productivity goes to an all time low. This 'unfortunately frequently' LION crowd is REAL busy posting big cat pictures into LinkedIn's stream right now as we speak.

There's another extreme of hyper-productive folks that somehow are able to do it all. It would be cool to build in time management tools within LinkedIn - like a timer to regulate use - or some form of batch processing.

  • From empirical observation and feedback from my readers, there's been great success in reverse looking up B2B emails and sending micro-targeted campaigns. Maybe even more so than InMail?
  • I'm curious about Sponsored LinkedIn InMails. Are any of you finding them valuable? Are you running targeted LinkedIn advertising? How has your ROI been there? What about paid options in Twitter and Facebook? How are those working out for you?
  • Let's talk about Facebook? Can it really sustain with the level of ads? Are you having a relevant experience in there? What about your Facebook Fan Page: have you seen a drop in reach with the latest changes of the sorting algorithm?
  • There's been a cadre of folks that feel 'social media' ROI is purely faith based but it also seems that it's always been tricky to properly tie attribution toward it. I look forward to futuristic technology platforms that can track this.
  • Since the latest UI refresh, I've been noticing more sponsored ads in the mainstream and actually let LinkedIn know because a few were completely taking up all the available space above the fold. Amazingly, they seemed to have adjusted this within weeks. There must have been a chorus of feedback on this issue.
  • There's been an argument that sales reps should not be permitted to publish content every day. That's the camp that's in it for curation.
  • There is fear and consternation about giving up brand control and conformity to social media policy and corporate governance. I've advocated a VP of Sales given Managing Editor status. I've also posited that with the shrinkage of traditional media models there will be a hyper-talented pool of journalists available to hold down this function in the enterprise.
  • LinkedIn might revamp the Group functionality with allowing a Live Chat experience. This could be similar to a TweetUp or Twitter Chat. This is a very intriguing idea because the level of engagement would be off the charts. It could be like a big Google Hang Out hosted by Questlove.

I'm extremely interested in your experiences with basic social selling and advanced strategic social selling memes. I seemed to have stirred the pot by insinuating that LinkedIn could be the next Google but then many wrote in that they do indeed perform hundreds (if not thousands of searches) within LinkedIn each week.

Is there snake oil around? Is it all what it's cracked up to be? If you hate the social selling movement, what's the fundamental problem with it in your opinion and how could it be improved?

Where do you think the paradigms of social, mobility and selling are going toward 2020? Predictions perform outrageously well out here in LinkedInville. If I find any very prescient ones in the comments below, I will re-integrate them back into the post above.

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: r: Turinboy

 

How many salespeople will be left by 2020?

Pundits and analysts have predicted the demise of all sellers by 2020. With 18MM sellers this is a bit of a Nostradamus hubris causing some serious cognitive dissonance. One CEO actually declared he'd never hire a salesperson again but then a second glance revealed almost comically that all his customer service reps are actually already doing some pseudo transactional selling. It's been posited that 30% of field selling will be going away very soon.

Would you agree? Is Sales as we know it going away to be replaced by AI or is it just morphing into something that is going to look a great deal more like a combination of sales and marketing?

Phil Fernandez, the founder of Marketo, talks about the rise of the Director of Demand Generation in his prescient book "Revenue Disruption." These futuristic specialists take a bold, data-driven approach to driving leads into the business. Perhaps the new roles that emerge toward 2020 will be something more towards this side of the spectrum and top of the funnel.

I unleashed a furious debate on this topic in the Strategic Selling Group so I wanted to bubble it up to the LinkedIn Publishing Gods. There are two camps that seem to be emerging on this topic:

Camp ONE: Let's just automate the blazes out of everything and run it all through a big dashboard! Spreadsheet jockeys rejoice in exaltation!

Camp TWO: Complexity and commoditization may actually render the field seller even more relevant than ever before. After all, who's going to navigate the prospect through the morass of data and confusing solution sets?

There's an executive management viewpoint of lowering cost of sales but we don't want to rob Peter to pay Paul here. It's critical that core high-touch functions within enterprise customer accounts not be eroded by short term gain.

I would posit a Camp THREE: The sales people of the future that win must be ninjas with Social Selling, analytics, consultative methods meet insight selling and have tremendous amounts of EQ meets business acumen.

Simon Gibbard describes the sales leader of the future as follows: "You get marketing. Marketing is the new sales, and you’ve got your arms around it. You write copy. You get SEO, paid and earned media. You know how to promote a post on Facebook and LinkedIn. You’ve got a Slideshare account and you use Buffer. Google alerts flag up opportunities to have new conversations. You speak the language of marketing and it makes you a better salesperson. The us and them days are over."

Do you agree that Marketing is the new Sales? Or, as Peter Strohkorb has coined in his stirring manifesto, the age of "SMARKETING!" has arrived.

One thing is for certain, it's a battle royale to stay relevant: relevant to your own CEO with SVP of Sales attrition at an all-time high.

Air Ross declared in his latest e-newsletter: "Studies have said the average B2B sales team loses 27% of its members per year – whether they quit or are fired. That is INSANE!"

So even before the Singularity emerges knocking us all out, we're already seeing enterprises hemorrhaging talent. Some of this could be chalked up to poor management and stratospheric targets coupled with an insidious lack of specialization, to be sure. It seems to be pre-quake jitters.

The modern sales practitioner must not risk becoming too specialized. Futurist Jacob Morgan extolls the learning worker over the knowledge worker as the knowledge worker gets paid for what he knows but the learning worker? She has the agility to adapt and constantly learn how to learn. That's what's so sensational about Jill Konrath's clairvoyant book Agile Selling, it truly allows a holistic approach to life-long learning and up-skilling in organizations.

Ability to learn is the meta-skillset of the perma-employed, ever-adapting sales lion of 2050. I have no doubt!

I've pulled some quotes from this debate for your reading pleasure. Please join the rousing global chorus in the comments below.

Michael Bonner sounds off: "Here's the problem. It turns out that the world does not actually get simpler over time. Marketing has no way to automatically assist someone with a complex decision. Even if they can come up with docs for every possible objection, the majority of people don't want to have to do all the study. How would they ever know when they knew enough. Complex decisions need discussion with experts. Review the studies that show that the quality of the selling experience was a major factor in many B2B and big-ticket sales. That probably won't change by 2020. Computers are a lot of things. Many of them wonderful. They are also cold, heartless, achingly stupid and insensitive (Okay, so it can replace some salespeople)."

John Smibert's contribution: "The sales profession won't die (although many sales roles may). It will change and adapt as the world, and buyers in particular, change and adapt. The profession will find new (or modified) ways to create value for the buyer - to enable a fair exchange of value in ways that cannot be done without human interaction. I believe the sales profession has an exciting and changing future. I predict there will be wonderful new opportunities for salespeople in 2020. As always, those who change and adapt will survive and grow - and those that don't won't."

Shelly Revivo believes: "Nonsense. Automation will innovate but the human element will always be critical. Automation simply helps with profitability and loss elimination of the 80/20 rule."

Adam Thorp explains: "The cost of sales is very very high. So what do you do – you automate. You automate to give sellers more time to sell and you automate to reduce the reliance on a large sales team. Using the 80/20 rule, in theory you can retain those top 20% or performers, still retain 80% of your revenue and see a significant increase in profitability due to the reduction in head count and cost of sale. Change in inevitable. You only have to look at the major players in sales performance management (ie CallidusCloud), sales enablement (ie SAVO), and sales automation (Insidesales.com) to see where the market is going. I remember less than 3 or 4 years ago people saying marketing automation was a just a fad and couldn’t be effective – just look at that space now.

Tracey Preston Cook's mind blowing contribution: "65% of all new careers that will be in existence 10 years from now, have not even been fully identified and many are not currently understood. Most are based on technology either emerging now, or disruptive technologies that are yet to be developed. The question we are asking about sales is one that taps into the fear of our selling futures (I've felt it too - it's normal to fear). It's why we pay attention to predictive statements...positive or negative. What you are selling will change many many many times...that's why you should learn everything you can about sales. Read everything not nailed down. Watch everything not obscured. Listen and observe the best. Learn. Learn. Then learn some more."

Ivonne Teoh reads the tea leaves: "With longer lifespans of 140+ (ask your insurance agent), I wonder what the governments have in mind with new advances of technology and AI for the population. Less people working (displaced by robots), how to support that lifestyle. Gschwandtner may be wrong about the exact year, but it is still on the cards? I don't like telemarketers! They ring at the wrong time, some even selling funeral insurance! Being forced to make a decision where I'm not given enough time to check the info, is a big turn off."

Now it's your turn: Is it just a little history repeating or will sales fall away? Do you believe field sales is toast to be replaced by holo-conferencing? Is the field of sales stronger than ever? What's your message to the CEO of tomorrow as she's looking to make the call on hiring sales leaders? What mix of live salespeople and sales automation is ideal?

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: DDW Fotografia

Is SPIN still the best book on sales ever written?

Wherever I go around the world, speaking and training, the term 'spin' is ubiquitous. Granted, Challenger came along but salespeople in as diverse fields as electronics, manufacturing and even speculative verticals like high technology, still swear by it! It works in both B2C and B2B.

So what are your thoughts on this? Is the SPIN methodology still all you really need to know, the Holy Grail of selling and applicable in complex enterprise selling? Could it be that the level of real research that went into Neil Rackham's study is what made it withstand the test of time? There have been lots of shallow surveys, anecdotal observations, and manipulated 'research' that masquerades as 'empirical data and insightful findings' since, but in my opinion nothing has ever matched the integrity and depth of Rackham's ground-breaking work.

Neil Rackham is The Professor of Professional Selling, and his prescient methods fit into the DNA of Challenger Selling. His SAFE vs BOLD framework is included on page 82 of The Challenger Sale book and he writes the foreword. Is Challenger merely an offshoot of Rackham's thought leadership over decades? If you continue to study sales executives, won't the same patterns continue to re-emerge?

Has the sales cycle truly changed that much? Many argue that with increasing complexity and commoditization, and the difficulty in making a considered purchase, it's actually a preference of many senior level executives to seek out trusted advisors to shepherd them through the maelstrom of options.

I would define the SPIN acronym for you but I'm sure you're all very familiar. The book is about the quality of the questions we ask to uncover the deeper pain's implications and need-payoff scenarios as we peel the onion to the real root causes of problems. According to the data 'the result of millions in painstaking research,' that ability – which can be coached and trained on, thankfully – separates the winners in any sales arena from those that came in 2nd place or below. Unfortunately only one company gets to close.

I was pretty impressed that I can actually tag this post as 'spin selling' because it's that big. So this is a bit of a short punchy post:

  1. Would you agree that SPIN Selling is the best book ever written on strategic selling? Why?

  2. How has it impacted your life and career?

  3. How are you using SPIN to manage, train and get world class results out of your team?

  4. If not SPIN, what are you using instead?

  5. If you were to go to a desert island, is there really any other book that you would need?

  6. Is anyone having success applying SPIN methods to social selling? Sales management?

Now it's your turn. Please answer any of the above questions that inspire you and in regards to sales writings – What's your top 5 of all time? I have a big announcement coming concerning Neil Rackham but that's a post for a few days from now. More about Neil, please by all his books. He was gracious enough to review The Joshua Principle, Leadership Secrets of Selling:

"There are millions of sales jobs around the world today, but a large number of those are disappearing every year. As technology advances and consumer demands increase, the idea of a salesperson as a 'talking brochure' is no longer valid. World class sales forces understand this and are making every effort to adapt and maintain their positions of leadership in the marketplace. There is no greater authority than Neil Rackham on where the selling profession is headed and what individuals and organizations must do to distinguish themselves from their fierce competitors.

Having conducted the largest-ever study of professional selling – observing more than 35,000 sales calls in over 20 countries, at a cost of $40 million in today’s dollars – Neil presents objective, quantitative insights in a dynamic, interactive fashion that brings true learning to the audience. (The effectiveness of his teaching and training methods earned him the Instructional Systems Association’s lifetime award for Innovation in Training and Instruction.)

Many of of the Fortune 100′s largest companies in the United States, including IBM, Xerox, AT&T and Citicorp, have engaged Neil Rackham as an advisor on sales performance. More than half the Fortune 500 train their salespeople using sales models derived from his research. As a sought-after conference speaker, Neil has shared the platform with notable leaders such as Tom Peters, General Colin Powell, Philip Kotler and many others. Using his signature combination of humor, passion and group interaction, he stimulates and challenges his audiences to reach new heights in the world of professional selling."

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

Main image photo by Flickr:  Simon & His Camera

 

Could you function without your CRM?

Garbage in, garbage out. GIGO. The modern Customer Relationship Management system or 'CRM' is all too often a repository for the inaccurate. There is little way to enforce a culture where sales people are reformed citizens and tidy record keepers. The customer data is always changing. Here are some bold ideas:

  • What if LinkedIn opened up its API to synchronize with all CRM systems so that the data is almost always accurate, up to the minute? Wouldn't this move alone revolutionize the space?
  • What if LinkedIn launched its own CRM product. How many more features does Sales Navigator actually need to be an effective catch-all solution in this way?
  • We're seeing more and more autofill via LinkedIn, so couldn't prospects just hit a single button from your front-of-site to download a white paper by filling in pre-populated, accurate LinkedIn credentials that transition seamlessly into your database of record?
  • Is all the clicking and syncing and searching in CRM shredding our collective productivity? How many hours are we actually wasting on manual processes inside antiquated UIs?
  • Could you theoretically function more effectively with just a white board, phone and email du jour? How about an airplane and a cup of coffee?
  • Is there sufficiently advanced technology being built that will disrupt CRMas we know it?
  • Could Social Selling, Web 3.0 – the web of Context, Big Data, Predictive Analytics and Automation play a far greater role out-of-the-box to help solve the above issues?
  • When are marketing automation, drip campaigns and B2B lead gen actually going to get smarter and more sophisticated with personalization beyond the first name andfirmographic telegraphing to present key insights to each type of executive stakeholder?
  • What if wearable technology could play a role? Google Glass could pull in real-time data to keep the CRM accurate. A snapshot with a smart contact lens of a business card could serve to update that file automatically after or even 'during' a meeting?
  • Will wearables and machine learning technology take voice recognition and Siri to a level of an always-on, executive assistant keeping all our data straight?
  • Is there a bright future for CRM or will the sector continue to decay behind the scenes while savvier marketing teams continue to put lipstick on a pig, shellacking an advanced-looking coating on a shell of an ancient engine?
  • What is the role of social proximity to serve up networked intelligence based on geolocation, network node overlays and prescience about who we 'should be talking to?' We have the data, now how do we get to it?

These questions are mere icing on the iceberg cake of perplexing issues, no doubt. It will take bold, antifragile, resilient and innovative entrepreneurs within the legacy systems to disrupt themselves in skunk works-like divisions that crop up.

Or, a new breed of CRM and CXM will appear that starts to erode their grip on market share. We've seen these tectonic shifts in so many industries as of late. It's never been easier to launch a startup company and challenge incumbents because of the cloud, CapEx can be virtually eliminated with a controlled OpEx burn.

Who will be the next disruptors in CRM? There's one thing we can never doubt. Ideas are powerful and one big bold idea has the power to change the world and uproot industries in inexplicable ways.

How can CRM be re-imagined from the ground up, with First Principles Elon Musk Physics Thinking. Which portion of the features does your organization actually use? What is the 20% generating 80% of the results? What is glaringly missing? How can we tie back all the ROI of our finest social selling efforts and reflect this within a holistic picture of multi-channel outreach in the modern Full Funnel Marketing 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: Roland Tanglao

 

3 Lessons Business Can Learn From Sporting Winners

I was recently interviewed by Kelly Riggs on his BizLocker radio program and afterwards we had a great conversation where I asked him what he thought business can learn from sport. Kelly was himself an elite athlete and he has published two acclaimed books. In the Quit Whining and Start Selling book he provides a sales acceleration formula which is brilliant.

So, from someone who really knows; what can business learn from elite sport? Here is his insightful response with three very specific things.

First: Just like sports, business is a competition.

Since we compete for business, it is always in our best interests to hire competitors who want to win and bristle at the very thought of mediocrity. Sure, there is a line one can cross (in sports as well) when it comes to competition, but employers are often guilty of hiring resumes rather than competitors. The problem is that it is too easy to make a resume look good, and most companies have very poor hiring processes. As a result, they hire reactively, screen poorly, and consistently justify bad hiring decisions with the worst of excuses: "It's hard to find good people." 

In fact, there are only four ways to play a game on the field, on the court, or on the pitch: 1) Play to win, 2) Play to win at all costs, 3) Play not to lose, or, 4) Just show up and play. The only real option for long-term success is to consistently play to win - legally, ethically, and morally. Sadly, however, the vast majority of companies just show up and play. It's reflected in their attitudes about business, their lack of planning, and their approach to hiring and managing employees. Lesson No. 1: Hire better. Hire attitude and character first, skills second.

Second: To win consistently, you need an effective game plan.

Winning in sports is a function of leadership, game plan, and talent. Take any one of those out of the mix and your sports performance will suffer - and so it is in business. The thing is, all three are interconnected. Take any two and toss out the third and you have a serious problem.

The bridge between leadership and talent is the game plan, and it is amazing how often businesses today lack an effective, well-communicated strategic plan. In my experience, only 10-15% of companies have a working strategic plan that guides decision making and is consistently reviewed and evaluated.Consider the sports coach whose team was just handed a crushing defeat. Now imagine him or her standing in front of the press and responding to this question: "Coach, it was tough out there today. What was your game plan going in?" Now imagine this response: "Well, guys, to be frank, we didn't have a plan. I just told the team to play hard." Lesson No. 2: Create a strong game plan. Communicate it clearly. Review it consistently. Make sure everyone on the team knows the role they play in executing that plan.

Third: You will not win consistently without a great culture.

It is a truism that great players want to play on great teams. High-performance players, regardless of personality type, are driven to be their best. They won't play (for long) on a losing team or for a mediocre coach. If a coach is a weak leader and/or can't create a winning culture, great players just won't stay. Worse, if a coach can't or won't deal effectively with under-performers, great players won't stay. All of this is especially true in business. 70% of the time, when an employee quits an organization, he or she leaves because of the actions (or lack of action) of their immediate manager or supervisor.

High turnover is like giving away money, and the vast majority of the time it is created by poor leadership. Ineffective performance management is also a major contributor to disengagement and poor morale. Who is responsible? The leader, whether we are talking sports or business. Lesson No. 3: Invest in your leaders, especially at the mid-management level. You can have a great company and a single under-performing manager can ruin your culture.

Wow... Kelly is someone who can both inspire and enable sales teams with both strategy and execution. His radio program is on Mondays at 3pm CST (7am on Tuesdays, Sydney time, for those here in Australia). Here is the podcast library and his interview with me is episode 49. My interview starts about half way through the program (after Suzanne's interview).

Finally, here is an article about why cricket has a great culture... the response following an elite player's death (Phil Hughes) after being struck by fast ball delivery was incredible. Kelly is right on the money when he links the sporting elite to business 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 image photo @ Kelly Riggs 2015.

Landing Your Dream Job Is Easy With LinkedIn If You Do This...

The old adage, it's all about who you know holds true. Some of the best roles that I've ever landed came through a trusted friend who had personally witnessed my exceptional execution in roles. You can pay it forward and be that person for someone else by giving an authentic recommendation.

But you can also be bold and do something in the spirit of massive action that is truly extraordinary.

Submit your CV to over 100 jobs.

That sounds completely bat-guano insane, doesn't it? The truth is, that you are the value and you can explode onto the scene of the gainfully employed like a bat out of hell! Why not put out a velvet rope and let employers line up to get to your contribution. You can lead the reverse auction, you can up your stock. At the end of the day, there are just too many companies that need high quality strategic selling talent.

So the caveat to this, is you must be phenomenal at what you do. I've written a multitude of posts to help you get there. So does it appear that I am advocating quantity over quality? No. There are hundreds of top roles that you can submit to in merely a few clicks. Is quality and quantity possible: Yes, here's how it's viable with LinkedIn.

Customize your resume and cover letter and really take the time to think about each role and write from the hip. I know one executive that literally took the time to apply to hundreds of jobs over a six month passive search and 5X'd her income. It requires radical openness and willingness to change, move anywhere in the world and wait until the match is made. Just like finding the perfect mate, you must wait until there is a mutual understanding of potential and value. They need to see your intrinsic and extrinsic value resplendently differentiated. Simply put: the feeling must be mutual.

Careers are a like a marriage, hopefully yours will be a good one. Needless to say, the divorce rate is pretty high. My philosophy is: Raise your standards and go after exactly what you want. Always play in a band or on a team where your contemporaries inspire you to be markedly better. There are several paradoxes at work here that are worth laying out in bullet points for job seekers interested in landing the 'perfect role.'

1. You must slow way down to speed up.

2. You must break out of your existing networks because even the ones you know who can recommend you in – it's all about who you know like politics and Tinsel Town – really will just limit you to what's come before. You must break the cycle!

3. Very few candidates will reach up beyond mediocrity. Stretch to fill the role that will accelerate you rather than being a huge fish in a small pond of your limitations.

4. Treat yourself like a product and service offering and literally hold dozens of qualified discovery calls with the recruiting organizations filling the buyer role.

5. You only get one chance to build a first impression so the irony here is that if you sound like everyone else, you risk being forgotten.

6. Non-traditional candidates who have struggled stand out, some of the top recruiters are looking for a mix of flexibility, agility and the indomitable human spirit.

7. Don't just apply to open requisitions on LinkedIn: find out who is doing the recruiting, study which team you'll be on and craft bespoke InMails to reach out with 30-60-90 day strategic attack plans. Study the company like a prospect that you will partner with and build a compelling, insight driven mission statement for how you'll move the needle once you come on board.

8. The enemy you know is better than the enemy you don't know is cowardice. There are great people out there and great cultures – believe it and make it real for you. It's worth daily fulfillment, believe me.

We underestimate what we can achieve in ten years and over-estimate what we can do in one. We need to choose a profession that aligns our passions with growth opportunities to be challenged and excel.

Breaking the fourth wall is a term I frequently use derived from the Shakespearean theater ethos which is the moment an actor turns and shares their inner thoughts with the audience. This goes back to the fundamentals of Dale Carnegie and how to influence others effectively. Your comfort zone is not the fourth wall. Five companies that auto-reject you because of some peccadilloes in your background where a machine read your CV, is not going to get you into the winner's circle. Honestly, you'll just never be happy if you don't go big. Just like prospecting, 3 precise accounts won't necessarily guarantee closing a million dollar deal, no matter what compelling the business insight you bring to the table: the status quo is just too gaping like a black hole with inescapable gravity toward nothingness. Deepen your bench with a cornucopia of opportunities that excite you to leap out of your bed and yell 'charge!' before the first bird tweets!

Organizations are often looking to play it safe, to not make a mistake, to fit a symmetrical piece in place of another in the machinery. You need to break the fourth wall, take massive action and build your own role in the organization where you land. Position yourself as a change agent and attract those to you in companies looking for your specific brand of awesome.

Your turn: What are your thoughts on the above paradoxes and strategies? Have you taken the easy route of who you know or built on the strength of weak ties within LinkedIn to transcend the limitations of your own network, however large? What do you agree or disagree with in this article? What additional value, tactics or strategies can you add that have helped you land your dream role, rocket your income and break the fourth wall?

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: bradfordst219

Are remote employees as effective?

Only time will tell... or can effective hiring practices trump the inherent risks of a lack of supervision?

If you are proficient in hiring competent, trustworthy employees they will be so wherever they log-in from. There is a fallacy of an ineffective remote employee and a myth that increased collaboration automagically occurs when all workers are bundled together in an open office space. As august management consultant Ichak Adizes states, "MT & R" is the great secret to creating thriving organizations. This is a culture of Mutual Trust and Respect. This culture can be built in an office or in the cloud, across oceans or purely virtually.

There are countless tools to foster collaboration but nothing that will inspire a lone wolf to find synergy with peers. Jealous and manipulative people smile outwardly while creating toxicity in the ecosystem of companies of any size.

I believe we are asking the wrong question. What are the criteria that you can effectively use to bring the right talent into your organization so that it will thrive? Period. Anywhere, in any composition.

I believe the behavior and values of leader is the culture so you don't have to look too far from the corner office, to understand what you're getting into when joining the ranks of the up and coming hot tech start-up or legacy stalwart.

Flexible hours are supportive of equality and meritocracy, and fly in the face of top-grading / stack ranking and various other Draconian systems that require issuing demerits on a quota system to even your A players to appease the 'maximization of shareholder value', ego or just plain unwillingness to confront a downsizing masked as 'rightsizing'.

Ask yourself: Is the company you're creating a dictatorship, benevolent republic or democratic and open in nature? Really... ask yourself as a leader? Shouldn't leadership and power be a reverse pyramid where the employees come first, your customers and their experience forming the bedrock on which all else stands? The beauty of fundamental truths like these is that they tend to set us free.

E-learning, teleconferencing, collaboration and real-time communication have progressed so thoroughly that a vast amount of traditional person-to-person required roles can now be achieved remotely.

That's not to say there aren't exceptions across various vertical industries. It's unlikely you'll remotely build a battleship (or Collins Class submarine for those in Australia) but some parts can be assembled in various locations, granted.

There is a camp that rallies for coaching weakness out of people and a camp that rallies for playing to your team members' inherent strengths. A gifted introvert may be comfortable in a less social selling as an extrovert may seek camaraderie.

In sales, I'd prefer to see the time with customers prioritized and optimized. Regulating productivity is very difficult either way, unless you can build out an honor system and regular coaching so that the KPIs that you are measuring allow for various learning styles and paths of execution to achieve them.

Preceding revenue, there are various ways to gauge the progress of and contribution of personnel, sub-goals and sub-deliverables that can be celebrated and managed. "What gets measured gets managed" professed the late great Peter F. Drucker but we must manage the right things. There are not many human conceived systems where that doesn't hold-up in business and in life.

In some cases, remote employees may be even more effective. Proactive managers who are out in the field executing, may find it refreshing to get up and walk around in Jobsian stroll meetings or be with their families.

They may even decide to put in extra effort or be more efficient with their time. The top sales people you hire will ideally maximize face time in front of dream clients especially in a B2B complex selling world.

Inside Sales can even be revolutionized by localizing territories with remote reps dialing in from those regions. You can build a virtual calling team that spans the globe and can be responsive and time-zone aware.

These ideas are obviously not set in stone and there are iterations galore. There are unlimited edge cases like working on the next secret quantum computer, self driving car or aerospace marvel. It's 2015, wait, why are we still building cars? I thought they were supposed to fly? I'll save that diatribe for another post!

Humanity fears change. Maybe fear of remote working is just a sign of the times. Someday there may be interplanetary inside sales forces: GoToMeeting Astral Edition?

Now it's your turn: What is your opinion on this often controversial topic? How have you been effective managing people and teams remotely or being incentivized and motivated as you execute your job in the field? Are there gaps in training or communication? How would you improve this and which style of work do you honestly think is most effective overall?

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: Pic Basement

Falling in love with helping customers and transforming their business

To many, sales is monotonous, an endless cadence of block and tackle, kick and punt; or ruck and maul if you're into rugby. This to me is the allure of strategic selling because you can fall in love with your customers. You can fall in love with the challenge of solving complex problems that actually require collaboration.

The solution provider no longer has all the answers. The journey is mutual. 

It requires a back and forth, meeting of the minds, and brainstorming of visionary ideas.

The modern enterprise deal requires executive sponsors on both sides to get done. 

A great secret to avoiding burnout and a tenured run in complex B2B selling is to simply fall in love with helping people. Consider the sale made when the solution has been stood up and you've executed with excellence. Consider your sales process complete not at closing, not at contract signed but at phase two of the implementation. When you're live and the customer is seeing return on investment, that's when the deal is really just beginning, isn't it? 

Thinking in terms of up-sells, cross-sells and down-sells is to bleed out organic growth into something sterile. It's what you'll do as a bi-product of continuing to add value. I call this a virtuous cycle of value creation. 

Love is a very strong word but if you love what you do, you'll absolutely never work another day in your life. All the mechanics, updating of CRM, note taking, strategic thinking, planning things out, brainstorming - all these mechanics and machine constructs just melt away when your prevailing focus is to...

TRANSFORM THEIR BUSINESS

Does that mean simply impacting the top and bottom line or is it something more than that? Is it beautiful destruction? Is it a controlled burn to open up the possibility of recurring, scalable and predictable new streams of revenue from various new and exciting key business lines? Is it penetrating new markets or capturing market share from legacy incumbents? Perhaps you're expanding the pie...

Loving people and being gregarious is not enough. This is the folly of the relationship builder of old. We earn friends by driving new insight. We want to be stewards of transformation rather than the status quo. We gain meetings by being respectfully disruptive and we close sales because there is truly a belief that doing something in a new and innovative way can revolutionize a system, making it hyper-efficient, building a flywheel toward revenue generation. 

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” - Buckminster Fuller

Help your clients to see this and do this. Fight with all your intention to help them see the world differently and you will prevail with a much greater trusted advisor relationship than you could ever bargain for. Challenge yourself to see around corners and bring insights that you synthesize from research you yourself do. As you fall in love with helping them, they will fall in love with your personal brand and thus your organization will flourish as a subtext to your deeds, integrity, delivery and ongoing results. 

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: Ralf P

Tony Robbins' Ultimate Success Formula Applied To Strategic Sales

  1. Know precisely the desired outcome.
  2. Take massive action to achieve the outcome.
  3. Notice quickly whether the action is working.
  4. Change the approach as required to attain the outcome.

I would imagine this post will find many a Tony Robbins fan. The above is excerpted from Unlimited Power and Awaken the Giant Within. Applied to strategic sales, it's fairly remarkable how rapidly it can produce results. Let's take a quick look at the ramifications of each step on complex B2B selling.

  1. Is the goal of what we are doing to close the deal, earn commission or toproduce transformational results in the client prospect's business? What's really your desired outcome? Visualize this clearly in your mind and ensure you have a close plan in place that includes the start gate, how you'll collaborate with internal stakeholders on your side and you understand the procurement process of the buying organization. At a macro level, take yourself mentally to the end result and play the event sequence back in your mind recalling it to ensure you've thoroughly accounted for every step.
  2. Massive action is a theme we've seen with Google 10X moonshots, Grant Cardone's 10X rule and even Nike 'just do it.' Everywhere in natural systems, we see abundance manifested in massive actions, seeds on the wind, explosive schools of fish around the great barrier reef, infinite expanses of space energy and stars. You have to balance this with the risk of busy fool syndrome and boiling that ocean of greenfield opportunity. So how can you take, laser-focused, effective action? The answer is to think strategically and execute the strategy that will be most effective informed by wisdom of experience, common sense, and a willingness to do an uncommon level of research. To do this, it requires being in the now: full there... aware. 
  3. This is where we start to get feedback in real time from the strategy that we are implementing. In a strategic sale, it's often high risk and there can be land mines in the deal, frenemies in the account, smiling forces that are secretly aligned with competition. You may take the wrong massive action and trip the wires. Over time, you'll start to be able to discern with pattern recognition and read these signals better. Keep focused on the goal, take massive action and then start to get feedback on what's working in a single deal or as you look back over your last year of selling.
  4. Adjusting the approach can take various forms: Perhaps you just keep going after the CMO and they've been totally unresponsive so you leverage a referral to the CEO, or a friend of yours in-network is on their board. Perhaps you leverage an InMail or a strategically placed cold call, maybe even a neighborhood technique to call the meeting on their home turf. Perhaps you're going to build a consensus to get sponsored up into the account. Maybe it's generating that one piece of provocative insight based on a trigger event like a new advocate in the account or something a CXO alluded to in the trades. Sellers that win pivot, they adjust, like Tony Robbins and Jack Canfield say they 'ready, fire and aim.' It's important to note you are never 100% in control. Man makes plans, God laughs. You can exert an effective process to provide prediction and give guidance but the obsidian rock of the status quo will break a diamond drill bit. You're going to have to sufficiently reduce friction via brilliant communication of risk mitigation and cement home clear articulation of a value creation scenario that inspires trust and fosters long term business results. 

So let's run one of these complex B2B scenarios through the basic formula: 

  1. Goal: Close a $1,000,000 sale this year. 
  2. Take massive action: Work collaboratively to build out a transformative solution across multiple business units and collaborate with teams on both sides to locate the suite of solutions that will have the greatest impact on the clients business (revenue generation, operational efficiency, outcomes and risk). Work to get the right people in the room in the right sequence, adding value each time, ensuring clients are talking 75% of the time. Massive action could mean getting training on this or training up your people. It could mean reading the top 5 books on strategic selling and applying them. It could mean simplifying your effete umpteen-stage sales process into a meta-framework like my RSVPselling: •Relationships •Strategy •Value Creation •Process 
  3. Has the account gone cold? Did you land the meeting? Are you tapping into the right insight? Are you getting the signals back that you have a shot at breaking through in this account at the highest level? Are you getting delegated down or is the CXO assembling her generals to meet seriously on the matter? Are you blocked, talked into oblivion or is this a Challenger mobilizer, cynical but continuing to grill you (indicating interest and latent buying intent)? Work with your team to understand the signal flares of desire to be able to properly qualify where this account is really sitting and turn off addictive, collective happy ears and cognitive bias. 
  4. You're not going to throw all the paint at the wall and see what sticks with Jackson Pollock Selling. By this time you have a scalable, repeatable sales process, understand the sales cycle, have a thorough SPIN based qualification methodology and have worked to win the technical and business sale. You've built out a value hypothesis and proved it out with your client both quantitatively and qualitatively (perhaps by utilizing an ROI calculator that factors in conservative estimates for lift or cost reduction). You've set traps for competitors and budget has been opened up to do this. Always focus here on reorienting clients and prospects to the state of full implementation and success. Ultimately, they'll endure quite a bit of a roller coaster to get through all the red tape and growing pains to have a fully customized CRM system, ERP configuration or new piece of cutting edge software starting to solve problems and create efficiency.

There are probably a million iterations of this four step formula. I will say, if the phone isn't ringing, there's no way you're calling enough clients. If the deals aren't closing, you aren't qualifying properly. If you're not building 5X pipeline, you're underestimating the level of action required in highly competitive markets where buyer's perceive all solutions at relative parity. Are you the best of the best? Welcome to commodotization where the only difference is you and HOW you sell it.

If your deal size isn't approaching six and seven figures you must work with product marketing on product-market fit but if it can be sold and others on your team are selling gobs of it, your own personal sales process is most likely broken or overcomplicated. Are you listening enough? Are you patiently peeling the onion with Implication and Need Pay-Off questions, what some call Tier 2 and 3 lines of questioning. There are many things that can go wrong but with massive action that is applied strategically and the above considerations, most results you seek in business and in life are possible.

Tony has proved anything is possible. Will power may be a myth; one has to establish new habits and routines to ritualize success. Mike Weinberg puts it eloquently as, "nobody ever defaulted to prospecting mode." The daily path of least resistance or high levels of 'easy' action is just more of the 'busy fool syndrome.' Taking a few challenging, hard actions before lunch that take quite a bit of effort and strategic thinking spiked with focus in execution is where the rubber truly meets the road. Crave the challenge and when it gets hard push through with massive focus. Massive action can even be ONE action with total force of effort and intent.

Now it's your turn: What has your experience been with the above Ultimate Success Formula? Has Tony Robbins played a role in your selling and motivation? What other systems do you use to break through?

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: Randy Stewart

Closing Time! Waterboarding Your Prospects For Commitment

If only we could invite prospects and clients to the office and then whisk them into the interrogation room for some water-boarding and fingernail therapy on the last day of the quarter. That would get results... surely more effective than discounting and begging.

I've seen it all and it's not pretty. The boss, two levels above and based overseas, issues the edict: 'Get the deal closed, discount but tell them it's time-bombed and the price goes up if they jerk us around, lean on the relationship, go sit in their reception area until they bring you the signed contract, phone them at home, winners find a way, use the goat close if you have to, coffee is for closers... 'selling is easy'.... yeah, right.

All that does is annoy your client, damage relationships and hammer a stake in the ground concerning the cheapest price they can get at the end of your next quarter. Here's the truth about closing in large enterprise sales environments: If you didn't set-up the deal right in the first place, all you're going to do is cause damage if you push for the order when the customer is not ready to buy.

Understand the customer's process and timing. Build a project alignment plan to validate every step through to them being live and implemented, deriving the business benefits of your solution. Hope is not a strategy so instead act as if you are a project manager... a real professional.

Everyone wants to hire 'closers' but closing is a process that starts from the very first interaction... it's not a roll of the dice, apply the blow-torch, kneel in prayer kind of event at the end of a roller-coaster ride with the prospect. Professional selling is all about relationships of trust focused on the creation of value, navigating politics and processes to deliver outcomes that are good for all concerned... except your competition! The very best sales people and sales manager understand that opening is more important closing because it sets the agenda.

I've written previously about why you deserve to be fired in sales. Almost all the stress in closing is caused by not being across the detail of your deal, or not having real understanding of their timing and process. Maybe you're oblivious as to who is really making the decision and who needs to sign-off. And now for your viewing pleasure, and to put you in mood.... it's closing time.

Not really... focus on opening time instead, close early for commitment and mutual actions... it's a dance in which both buyer and seller need to engage and where both take turns leading. Waltz together creating mutual trust and compelling value and also understand the politics and processes on both sides to make win/win a reality instead of a cliche. Is your coach in the deal someone who has real power? The biggest mistake sales people make is that they build relationship with the wrong people.

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: Andres Rodriguez

5 Musical Secrets For Sales. Billy Idol Meets Pharrell Williams

We're all fighting for cut-through in a world where buyers have become masterful at positioning all sellers as mere commodities. This is why the way we sell, and our ability to build relationships of trust and value, will always remain the most powerful form of lasting differentiation.

I've been mentoring a sales person who was once a professional musician; and he has applied the lessons of musical performance to strategic B2B and social selling like no-one I've ever come across before. I never had any real musical talent which is why I became a drummer in my youth [joke but true] and we were discussing the nuances of musicianship and how it relates to professional selling. He wants to remain anonymous but here is his wisdom:

How do you become a rock star performer in professional selling?

1. Be a masterful technician. Know your stuff and be a master of your craft. It can take 10,000 hours to hone it so fall in love with the growth mindset versus fixed, curiosity and the challenge which is the journey itself. To improvise, you must first learn the fundamentals in order to break the rules. Don't distract with gaffes rather be thoroughly competent in using the tools of the trade. Remove distraction in the way you play – no bum notes, minimal fret noise, no popping in the vocals, and no feedback.

2. Be all about your audience. I went and saw the Eagles a few years ago with my teenage son and they were incredible. Vocals were pristine, musicianship impeccable, production mind-blowing... but they made sure they gave the audience what they wanted with lots of their hits from the 70's and 80's. I've seen resurrection bands focus too much on their new stuff which is interesting for them but not what the audience wants. Needless to say, John Cougar Mellencamp's greatest burden is "Jack & Diane" as Billy Joel's is "Piano Man" but as savvy business people, they almost always play them!  

3. Transfer emotion and give yourself fully to those you serve. Never just go through the motions; every song needs to be sold and to do so you need to 'be the real deal' – committed and passionate. Don't fall into the trap of allowing 'production values' (slides and slick collateral) to get in the way. You must be a true believer in your own message if you are to have any change of transferring enthusiasm and confidence to others. At the end of the day, you need to look the entire audience in the eye as if you're singing to just one person in the room. Just like transfixing all the stakeholders at the board room table, they each need to believe you.

4. Less is more. It's so easy for musicians to overplay. As Sinatra and Mile Davis remarked on, the most powerful note is often the silence. This equates to listening and reading your audience - the modern enabled buyer. Create space for the important points to sit. But also create context and ask powerful open questions... not to manipulate but to facilitate their epiphany – people are best convinced for reasons they themselves discover.

5. Shine though with humility. Be a Billy Idol screaming, "give me more, more, more"... prospecting and rejection; snarling at defeat. Also sing with joy likePharrell Williams being "happy, happy" but avoid the trap of hearing what you hope for. Be true to yourself in how you operate and sing a song of insight while also asking your customer to show you the way rather than assuming you have the answers before you even really understand their situation. Challenger, I'm afraid to say, in the hands of the inept and short-cut merchants, has done as much damage. Make sure they like you before you shake the snow globe of their world view! We need to go deep in our quest to serve our markets and clients. A little humility with passion goes a long way.

The greatest musicians of all time have often explained it as a higher power moving through them. So allow yourself as a salesperson to be inspired by those you seek to bring to an understanding of a new paradigm. Allow yourself to be constantly curious with the mystery of where the technology could go. Move it from a one way flow to complete collaboration over time where you grow together. Is that not the essence of great live music? 

Zig Ziglar famously said: "Information makes people think; emotion makes people act." We need touch people's hearts as well as their minds by understanding why our message is important and then deliver with integrity, harnessing everything we've got within us.

Last week, my good friend Joel Phillips delivered a solo performance to more than 8,000 people of a song he had written. He held people spellbound, alone on stage with his guitar. People wept and were blown away because of the genuine emotion he gave. Here's a shot of him taken by someone in the audience... the real deal.

Be an artist in how you operate with a song in your heart as you transfer emotion rather than mere information. Also be willing to fail... have the courage of an emerging artist authentically laying it all out there. Don't be afraid to bend the genre, although there are umpteen selling systems and methodologies, blaze a trail by changing the approach until you've customized one that cracks the code for your solution and works best for your company and experience in the field.

Now it's over to you, what 'performance' tips do you have for truly connecting with an audience?

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: Billy Idol by Dena Flows

How To Master The Art & Science of Strategic Social Selling

The secret to mastering social selling is to study what came before. The future is just a little history repeating. Have you thoroughly studied all the below listed or just Challenger? There are strategies and there are tactics. Social selling unto itself is simply a tactic. You're pushing on a rope. Dig deeper into this post to unlock decades of learning, quantum leaping you into a focused syllabus for powerhouse sales acceleration. 

You must read Challenger but what about everything that informed that method? Sink your teeth into these, infuse your social selling efforts with both art and science – the combination will be lethal: 

  • TAS
  • SPIN
  • Miller Heiman
  • Huthwaite
  • RSVPselling
  • Battle Plan
  • Solution Selling
  • Consultative Selling
  • Insight Selling
  • Strategic Selling
  • Power Base Selling
  • Diagnostic Business Development
  • Trigger Event Selling

People buy from those they know, like and trust. You can't start the relationship by bombastic disrespect. Lead with insight but build rapport before you challenge. I truly love the Rain Group's, "Connect, Convince, Collaborate" trifecta for a modern Sales Eagle approach.

Now go back into the new methodologies and mash them together with SOCIAL. Ask yourself, why the Challenger craze? Well, the SPIN craze preceded it. Why? But what preceded that?

History repeats in all human systems and ignorance is bliss as simpleton social sellers pummel through the bowling pins like a bull in a China shop without understanding the ramifications on the political system that's in play. 

If you seek to close the CMO of Coca-Cola and all your competitors seek them out too, going in and adding every executive in the company will simply stall the deal, trigger a frenemy and tip off the enemy. You've got to be a great deal smarter than that. 

I supply a summary of the evolution and history of modern sales in my first book,The Joshua Principle, so please leverage it as a resource to understand where I believe sales is going. In a phrase:

Strategic Social Selling WITH the phone

The basics and fundamentals won't work in navigating complex enterprise deal cycles in social media. The tools and tactics in LinkedIn Navigator alone need to be informed by an overarching and comprehensive attack strategy with lucid close plans that take many subtle factors into account. 

You can gain these nuances with 30 years in the field or simply read the history of sales, the memoirs of complex sales lions. Study them as the Pantheon, the greats and take a Socratic approach. Ask why? Implement them in the field, A/B test them as a sales scientist and devise your own hermetically sealed strategy. 

It boils down to this... You've been sold to your whole life and for big ticket purchases what were you thinking? Put yourself in their shoes. Understand their viewpoint. That's the simplicity and code crack of all strategic selling. The above methods will simply help you to understand a gestalt almost anthropomorphic in nature that is the beast of the modern bureaucratic government or large enterprise so it's navigable at long last. You must understand the motivations, intentions and ebbs and flows in the strongholds of power. 

What are they really thinking? Riddle me that! 

Now it's your turn: How are you elevating social selling? How are you truly making it strategic? What system or systems did you leverage before that are giving you cut-through in the new channels? Are you executing a cohesive close plan that takes into account the correct consensus or ultimate decision maker? Are you leveraging a mixture of strategies triangulated at both technical and business oriented groups? 

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: Christopher Michel

Top 10 Flagrant Social Selling Mistakes Reaching Pandemic Proportions

1) Blasting InMail as a form letter template equates to worthless spam.Don't do it. Innovate on the subject line, customize and personalize the messaging, point out something that exhibits diagnosis and research of their business. Reference an actual common connection you both know, event you attended or relevant subject you admire, so that when they back-channel to corroborate your mere existence, it comes back sterling. 

2) If you share 20 articles per day, even if you schedule it with Buffer, you could run the risk of losing some of your finest, top connections.CEO's especially, won't put up with your firehose. They'll just think you're in the camp of the fun-employed or work-life balance is totally out of whack. Find a posting frequency that makes sense. Thought leaders who provide value with every post and keep a super high quality bar, get away with much higher posting frequency into the streams. But they've earned that mouth piece by building a solid platform over many years. Don't assume that just because a subject matter expert Tweets 20+ times a day, that you can suddenly emulate that. It may create scorched earth. 

3) Mass adding C-Level executives even if you do write a personal message to get away with it. Just because you don't use the generic LinkedIn invitation text, doesn't mean you have carte blanche to add everyone who fogs a mirror and could be sold to. Scott Britton was the first I've seen to suggest never sending LinkedIn invites. There is a spectrum of thinking along these lines but again, seek to find your sweet spot based on the golden rule of how your communication is being received. Perhaps interact with your prospect in a LinkedIn group comment thread or chat before sending a request at all.

Just because you presented on-site and got business cards, still think twice about looking "too interested" by thinking that "connecting" is a given. The Principle of Non-Hunger is your friend. Use caution in whimsically adding people. Prune back your network to the essential and start to value each connection like they're worth $10,000 just to meet with. Imagine how powerful 1,000 connections that you know are (or are relevant to your mutual business) versus LION status. Reid Hoffman speaks of the strength of weak ties but keep in mind, they're still actual ties. A total stranger is not helpful unless they are a thought leader which does give context. If you're in mobile technology and they run the mobile marketing association, they'll see you as part of their tribe albeit ambient and be less apt to dismiss networking requests.

4) Duplicate content. Posting exactly the same blog in multiple places is perilous from a Google search perspective. Ultimately, post different content on your WordPress blog from your Navigator, from your guest company post, from your Google+, Twitter and Facebook. Understand that SEO optimization speaks to highly relevant, unique content because Google uses the Panda machine learning, natural language advanced algorithm ingesting your content that it crawls and taking in over 300 signals for rank based on more sophisticated constructs than just backlinks. Be original everywhere and take the time to customize everything. It's fascinating to me how few social sellers are avoiding this mistake. It's subtle and does take a great deal of extra work! You want to put your solution content, case studies, benchmark reports and white papers into your own words. If it's going up in 3 places and spread into social, customize the content in three different ways. 

5) Tactics without strategy. Social media is just one medium. It's one channel to sell with bifurcated into various tacks to the target. The truth is that all tactics fail in and of themselves. They're just tools. Without a coherent strategy that is multi-channel including analog and the phone, you're toast. Radiating that you spend all your waking hours in social media, makes prospects extrapolate that you may not have any clients or you may not close any deals, so you're almost putting out this desperate anathema, over-the-top, "needy" brand. If you look larger than life because you have no life: stop!

Why not batch process, schedule an hour (if you're a heavy user) at the beginning and end of your day. Use Buffer to schedule your content. The converse and caveat of this mistake is balancing it with a need to still operate in real-time. You have to strike a balance. What I've seen the most successful, deft social sellers do is be always on but share case studies from their day about deals they're closing, reviews on their blogs, results clients are driving and quality conversations that they're having with prospects (obviously respectfully leaving the names out). They're basically bringing in their audience to the constructive actions of their day and the results they're driving via execution. This shows a go-getter who wishes to interact. It's a very key distinction which fosters collaboration and intimacy as opposed to a constant sales pitch of "look at me" and "features, functions and benefits." 

6) Failing to leverage trigger events which is another way of saying, pre-call due diligence. Navigator will allow you to passively track target prospects, take note when they move around in organizations, get promoted and look at mega trends like funding, M & A, news and new product releases. Being able to see what a prospect is sharing, liking and caring about along with what groups they're participating in, is a pivotal value add for Navigator that pays for itself in rewards. There's honestly no better way to accelerate traditionally long, arduous enterprise deals, then being armed with the edge of quality, up-to-date information. NOT reaching out until you've pinpointed the correct trigger event, compelling event or data to support the outreach, is a discipline that can pay dividends. Cultivate it! Imagine if a very close connection suddenly goes to that company, or someone your investors know, joins their board. You can be researching these movements and place a hyper-targeted InMail, warm call or referral – perhaps all three in combination. You can watch how your alumni network is moving within your territory and use this as a basis for increased connectivity. 

7) Building a LinkedIn profile to get hired to sell rather than expressing to clients how you can execute for them. Some companies don't even tout the title 'sales' because they'd rather employ wolves in sheep's clothing. Personally, I'm proud to restore the dignity of complex B2B selling when stigmas of the used car pusher prevail. Let's look at a profile where the seller lists quota attainment or how far they crushed and exceeded it. Great, if they're looking passively to get hired but how does that make a potential prospect feel that's researching their company listed as anonymous, to see if they're credible. They may see this and feel like an object, a number or an "it" to be crushed. It's a fail.

The best way to structure your profile is to talk about how you've delivered unexpected value for dream clients in all your previous roles and why it matters to you. What are your mission, vision and values in the startup of one. What drives excellence and how do you solve difficult problems that yield tangible outcomes and mitigate risk? Why not talk about how your solution and your collaboration with customers around crafting it, transforms their businesses and that of your customers' customers for the better.

If you state hard metrics, talk about actual ROI you drove for key clients in revenue driven you or operational efficiencies driven. Make it all about the potential decision maker reading it and existing clients coming back for more. I can't tell you how many times a customer renewed or increased their buy after viewing my profile. It's building brand credibility and trust. Keep your CV, your social media presence and especially your LinkedIn profile a testament of transformational value creation. Sophisticated hiring managers will get this nuance (and feel free to clarify it to them) if they wonder why you didn't release your client list or bonus plan fundamentals especially when much of this info is sensitive anyway. You've probably signed an NDA, frankly. Recently, a less seasoned departing salesperson, released their entire former employer's client list when going to their competitor! Brick to forehead moment and actionable, I may add. Just makes them look amateur and embarrassing for all involved. 

8) Using LinkedIn like it's Facebook. I'm hoping that the powers that be rein in all the cats with snorkels, sunsets, quote memes and Facebook-like fodder that's clogging up the news feeds as of late. Recently, a major Digerati celebrity posted a newborn baby photo into the LinkedIn feed. Beautiful, inspiring and personal. But a contact in his network, commented that it may not have been appropriate for LinkedIn. Honestly, they're pretty liberal about allowing any positive content on LinkedIn but do this at your own peril, as collateral damage and being tuned out is a likely result. Professionals networking with you are looking for unique business value, opportunities and to learn, grow and be challenged by your content. They're looking for utility and insight, not necessarily what Michelangelo said, a dream mansion or sweet ride. 

9) Don't assume just because an executive is connected to you, they know you, like you, remember you or will do something for you. A CEO was approached recently for permission to "use their name" in reaching out to someone else on LinkedIn. Why? Flaunting, leveraging and dropping names or asking for permission to do so wouldn't fly at an analog cocktail party, a networking event and certainly won't in a virtual space like a social network. Sending referral requests to random people that don't know you is similar to blanketing every single person in your network with a request for a personal recommendation or endorsing people you don't know. It's lazy and callous, it turns off the people that really matter and lowers your stock. It trivializes the value of the network itself. Elevate social by making your actions count. There are ramifications of behaving badly in social so be aware that things like endorsing a programmer on C++, Java and Node.js when you've never taken a computer science class, may be perceived as a bit disingenuous. One very august technology executive recently wrote an email requesting that the person not 'flaunt his name' because he'd only ever met him once and had heard back through various channels he was constantly mentioning it. 

10) Narcissism and egotistical behavior in general which manifested in Facebook as notorious 'Humblebrag.' It's not humble and is definitely a brag. Don't be fooled... If you just made a million dollar bonus, flew on the private jet share or bought a spanking new Tesla, maybe that's a Facebook post to just the family or friends (or Path). Tamp down your gloating overconfidence flirting on the border line of arrogance. Flaunting your success may turn off customers who are spending six or seven figures with your company and could have a technical problem or are in the midst of a fire with your fulfillment team. Practice humility and a focus on the client. Always remember like a mantra that our customers and prospects are the heroes, the lifeblood powering our business. Keep your broadcasting of accolades, acquisitions, materialism, self-aggrandizement, political and religious rants and name dropping out of the stream.

From Emily Post to Nelson Mandela, humility is a great secret to likability. Be willing to make fun of yourself with self deprecating wit. Play yourself down as a level V servant leader and always seek to move the spotlight onto your direct reports, colleagues and especially the client. Fly the Bat Signal when they're struggling and help them save the day! Building customers for life is about moving away from transactional promiscuity developed by even labeling a strategic seller a "hunter." It's not a meal, it's a trusted advisor relationship that could last years so treat it with care. Every deal you close creates a legacy. 

Amidst all the social activity; don't forget that the goal is to generate a conversation on the phone!

Bonuses: 

11) Hide your connections so competitors can't poach them outright. This one was disputed but let me tell you how rapidly I can pinpoint the exact buyer of a competitor's solutions with just 3 mouse clicks. Why invite direct poaching? Competitive point solutions are going to apply enough pressure to your existing clients no matter what you do!  

12) Don't post a profile photo of clubbing in Ibiza with a hot date. Nor of you underwater waving at sharks or crushing it on the golf course.

13) If you're in some profession where you get a new title every month, consider turning off public sharing settings momentarily because it's confusing, even jarring to your network. It's exhausting to congratulate Bob once per month! Go Bob! 

14) If you are passively hunting for a job, avoid showing that you're job hunting. Hiding feed updates will keep all the recruiters you added from filling your stream, and even endorsing them and sharing their content. If you work for the top ERP company in the world, and are suddenly sharing sensational insight-driven content from the senior recruiter of your competitor, it looks very bad. You may not even be aware you're doing it.

Winning in social is fairly easy. It's all about manners and good taste, really. Imagine everything you do being pushed to the screen in Times Square or prime time television and you'll do just fine. Happy closing!  

I am no one to call the kettle aubergine or throw stones at glass houses so I'm obviously working to constantly refine my own approach. Now it's your turn: What are the most flagrant mistakes that you're seeing in social selling? Please comment below as a public service announcement.  

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:  B Rosen

Who'll Save Your Brand From Catastrophic Social Exposure?

We live in an age of empowered consumers and their buying journey starts online, not in a showroom; and it's informed by the opinions of others who have gone before them, not with marketing spin and the hyperbole of sales people. They listen to social channels and when they look online at your brand, what will they find?

There are thousands of examples out there of how consumers can create massivenegative impact on a brand without spending a cent. Just do a Google search on 'Uber' and you'll see the disruptive player in the the Taxi industry has some real issues. Here is a case study from personal experience... yes, I bought a Jeep.

I'm a wakeboarder and when I wanted to buy a new vehicle to tow our boat, there wasn't a lot to choose from that was rated to pull the weight of our rig. When I began my search online I quickly gravitated to the Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited but I had two concerns: product quality and handling in an emergency.

As I clicked, I quickly found an empowered Aussie consumer who created a way to get his money back on a lemon with 20 defects and 4 years of consumer hell. He created a Facebook page and got busy on Twitter raising money and awareness of big gaps in consumer rights under Australian legislation. He highlighted that consumers now have a powerful voice on social platforms. Mainstream media picked-up the story and the result was global coverage and worldwide brand damage that has cost Jeep millions of dollars in lost sales.

But all car makers produce lemons and this one consumer experience story was an exception, not the norm. Next I found the Jeep Moose Avoidance Test video on YouTube (main picture). American cars are typically made with softer suspension and the recommended tire pressures are designed for a comfortable 'floating' ride for a trip around the block at the dealership. I knew that running higher tire pressures would deal with the problem combined with my philosophy on never swerving to miss a kangaroo. There was lots of positivity about the vehicle and the Fiat diesel received brilliant reviews. I loved the look, features and compelling value for money. A friend already owned one which I borrowed for a test drive and I was sold. By the time I contacted a Jeep salesperson it was by phone to negotiate and I only walked into a dealership to sign the paperwork. Bought it, loved it.

But all this leads me to the real point of this story. Last year my son had his first car accident driving the Jeep when it was just 14 months old. No-one was hurt but he did $43k damage to our car and the insurance company did the normal things well in procesing the claim and taking the car away for assessment and then allocation to their chosen repairer. But the work was a disaster with the vehicle being handled by two different smash repairers. The communication and service was below standard but after more than 4 months we finally got the vehicle back but there were a number of things not working (I won't bore you with the list). I was frustrated and sent it back for rectification... more inconvenience. I then received a call from their loss assessor, Albert Wilson (pictured below) who shocked me by saying that he had identified more problems than I had listed, most importantly that the paint job was unacceptable... I had not complained about the paint.

Albert went on to say that he had organized for a free rental car this time around and that he didn't want our Jeep going back to us until it was right. I later discovered that Albert had once owned his own smash repair business, so he knew what 'acceptable' looked like. Wow, someone who cares and is thoroughly professional and capable, I thought. Albert works for AAMI (insurer) which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Suncorp (financial institution). These companies invest fortunes in brand building through television, radio, print and social advertising; yet without Albert and the people he trusted to do the job right (Ian MacKenzie the mechanic and Allan Alouf at ABS Smash Repairs), the insurance company was exposed to massive brand damage.

I've only gone negative in social once and it's was the results of decades of frustration... Microsoft hell contrasted by Apple heaven. It was nothing to do with technology and everything to do with poor customer service. Investing in legendary Customer eXperience (CX) is far more powerful than pouring money into a marketing facade. Imagine the brand damage to the insurance company if I'd gone negative in this instance with my Jeep (this post about Qantas has been read by 200,000 people) ... I was without the vehicle for 6 months but legendary CX was delivered by a grey haired artisan who truly cares about his employer and customers. Albert secured approval for a free loan vehicle and made sure the car was like new. This included working with Jeep dealers to get a number of things fixed under warranty which were not Albert's responsibility. When my Jeep was finally returned to me this week, it felt like I was again taking delivery of a new vehicle. Albert (below) turned a negative into a positive.

Think about that. I was without my Jeep for 6 months and couldn't tow my boat over summer on several planned vacations; two repairers, poor workmanship requiring   rectification, massive inconvenience and frustration. Yet I'm writing an unsolicited endorsement about wonderful service. I've also sent an e-mail of thanks to Albert's boss.

Here is the big lesson for those entrusted with a precious corporate brand: Deliver exceptional customer experience through outstanding service with empowered staff who truly care.

Create a culture and systems in your business where you provide a platform for customers, and rewards for staff, where people can become honest brand advocates. You don't need to provide perfect service, but you do need to show that you truly care when things go wrong and that you're committed to constant improvement.

Here's my recommended strategy for protecting and managing you brand with customer who are unhappy:

  1. Intercept issues before they turn caustic
  2. Listen via ALL [social] channels (Hootsuite and other tools are very useful in this regard)
  3. Make sure they know you really care. (70% of the time customer leave or go therm-nuclear negative, it's because they think you don't care rather than because there were problems
  4. Demonstrate genuine empathy
  5. Never argue with someone online or in the real world. If you argue with an an idiot it becomes difficult for observers to distinguish who is who. It doesn’t matter who’s right; what matters is that you have a happy customer
  6. Communicate, communicate, communicate
  7. Deliver on every small commitment

Jeep listened to their market and they fixed the roll-over weaknesses and the short video below shows the results. Kudos to the producers for their balance and objectivity throughout the Jeep Moose Avoidance Test journey!  They provided a valuable community service and although Jeep did not like it, they responded and now have an even better product.

If you ever go negative in social, make sure you never cross the line to become a troll. Here is a post I wrote about social media negativity and dealing with personal attacks. If Microsoft had bothered to contact me to improve my experience or their service, then I would have written positively about it.

Suncorp and AAMI: Thanks for standing by your insurance product and for employing great employees such as Albert Wilson! Now it's over to you... who are the heroes you've seen save a brand from social media damage?

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:

Main image photo by Flickr: Jeep Moose Avoidance Test by Teknikens Värld

Social Research: Pillar Three of Strategic B2B Social Selling

Intelligent social research allows you to effectively target the right organizations and engage people at the right time with insight and context.

Social research enables you to create a hypothesis of value and an engagement strategy to overcome the competition (including 'do nothing' / status quo competition). Research and planning is how you build the foundation of efficient and effective engagement.

Research has always been important for strategic sellers and the internet, especially LinkedIn, has transformed the way it's done. Anyone who fails to prepare for a meeting deserves a bad outcome. These are the research areas to focus on for B2B sellers:

  • Research the organization you are targeting.
  • Research your buyer's industry trends, threats and opportunities.
  • Research the buyer roles who will need to be engaged and influenced.
  • Research individuals and their connections.

When it comes to researching individual people and their relevance to a sales campaign, we can almost make the argument that the internet itself, Google searching and email are all secondary and tertiary channels to LinkedIn. The fact that we can transparently see an individual's social proximity is massively powerful. Success leaves clues and here are common practices and techniques used by the best sellers today:

  • They are masterful in the use of search engine tools for refining and creating 'saved searches.'
  • They read daily about their customer's industry in newspapers and online forums.
  • They actively seek conversations with those who understand the trends, challenges and opportunities within the industries they serve.
  • They embrace the concepts of Challenger Selling to earn high value conversations with the most senior people.
  • The majority of their searches in a given business day are performed within LinkedIn to map the political power base and understand connections.
  • They study the interrelationships of their own company via TeamLink to understand how their internal networks overlay with that of prospects.
  • They create mash-up organizational charts for account planning and mapping the power base, buying center and competitor threats.
  • They contribute to and leverage internal CRM systems as a single source of the truth about a current customer's status. This is critical to understanding who are the best references for supporting selling efforts to new named accounts.

Research can easily become overwhelming or paralyzing. It is therefore essential to have purpose and pragmatism in our research efforts. Here is what I recommend concerning your focus and priority in research.

  1. Create your value conversation with the potential customer. Read The Challenger Sale and obsess about how you can create game changing value for the customer. Value as they define it, not a value proposition from your marketing department
  2. Understand the political power base and create a winning relationship strategy to both 'sell to power' and help them gain consensus within their teams.
  3. Decide which competitive engagement strategy is best for defeating the competition and also ensuring that they actually go ahead with purchase and implementation

Jamie Shanks has provided this list of social research tools that can make you hyper-efficient. Glassdoor is especially powerful for understanding the real culture of an organization.

In all of this, don't neglect your CRM. It's where you should be creating the single source of truth about your accounts and opportunities. It's where your strategy documents should live and be shared with your team. Having said that, the rocket fuel of B2B selling is LinkedIn Sales Navigator and here's why LinkedIn is the quintessential sales dashboard:

  • There's a growing number of people that just connect LinkedIn to Twitter, Facebook & Google+ but only utilize LinkedIn as their core network. 
  • LinkedIn has cracked the code on making a social network into a profitable business model with 2.21B in revenue in 2014. 
  • They've essentially transcended the restrictions of "social networking" nomenclature / classification and become something entirely new: a human-centric virtual world mapping the economic graph.
  • Who else is mapping the global economic graph? I'd be hard-pressed to answer that question which further highlights the level of blue ocean strategy and divergent, focused and memorable value curves they've effectively exploited.
  • The majority of executive buyers are looking for sales people to teach them new insights. LinkedIn has become the global hub for subject matter expertise as it flexes into both Publishing 3.0 and Learning 3.0. 

CRM could literally melt away were Navigator to allow for just a few extra features like: Sorting of lead lists, designation of current contacts and opportunity management with minimal stage creation. Just a few basic classic CRM functions could help LinkedIn Sales Navigator be an end-to-end enterprise selling tool. Unlike CRM, LinkedIn has self-healing data.

Research and prepare before charging in. Now it's over to you; how do you leverage social to hit the sweet spot for effective research? How do you make your social research matter? 

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: Marc Smith NodeXL Twitter Network Graphs: Social CRM

B2B Social Selling Demystified – Five Strategic Pillars

We live in the age of personal brands. This article will provide you with a framework for creating your own personal social strategy in the world of complex business-to-business (B2B) selling.

It’s important because the vast majority of buyers do research before a meeting. What will they see when they look at your LinkedIn profile or blog? We all need to show our value online before we’re invited to have a conversation.

This is the first of a series of posts where I define strategic social selling and the 5 pillars that enable the best results.

Before we begin, NEVER FORGET THAT A HUMAN CONVERSATION ON THE PHONE IS THE INITIAL GOAL WITH ALL SOCIAL SELLING INITIATIVES!

Understand that the term ‘Social Selling’ is a misnomer. Those who spam, push, annoy, narcissistically drone or aggressively sell are unfollowed and disconnected as quick as a click. Here’s my definition of ‘Social Selling’ for B2B:

The strategy and process of building quality networks online that accelerate the speed of business and efficiency of selling. It is achieved with human engagement through social listeningsocial publishingsocial researchsocial engagement, and social collaboration.

In this definition, technology is merely an enabler but can be leveraged to create truly incredible results with the right strategy. As an example, here is my own case study with the results from just 90 days of intelligent effort. Obviously, social engagement is supported by technology and social platforms but it’s really all about human interaction and providing real value through insight or assistance with relevant content.

Social platforms, especially LinkedIn have driven the era of personal brands and the reality that we now sell naked. The days of being able to project a manufactured persona are gone… people can quickly uncover the reality of who you are, how you operate, how well you’re connected, and the value you offer… all before you ever get to say a single word on the phone or face-to-face. Social proximity is a real factor that enhances or undermines potential connection, often without the seller ever discovering how their network (or lack thereof) helped or hindered their efforts.

Your social strategy will depend on what you’re seeking to achieve and where your market is but don't fall into the trap of becoming busy in social without having a strategy for both connection and content. As an example, think about the reasons for posting in LinkedIn Publisher. Are you seeking to attract and build an audience platform? Are you wanting to provide insights and credibility to support your new business meeting requests? Are you wanting to proactively deal with potential objections you could encounter? Are you seeking to associate yourself with admired brands and thought leaders? Are you perhaps chipping away at commonly held myths about your disruptive solution set to cause a sea change? 

Social selling is a strategy, not a set of technologies. Once you know what you’re seeking to achieve and have defined goals and metrics, then you can design your strategy and action plan to cascade down to the five pillars. I will cover these in detail with subsequent posts but here’s an overview.

Social Listening: The process of proactively searching and monitoring for trigger events that provide potential opportunities to improve your own customer service, intercept competitors' customers, or engage potential clients early in their own buying process. Hootsuite and TweetDeck are just two examples of tools that could be used. Salesforce Radian6 is an excellent tool for Analysis in enterprise environments. Oracle and others also have excellent tools.

Social Publishing: Publishing insights, opinions and valuable information to attract audience or evidence credibility and value. Here is a brutal truth for sellers today: If you can't write, then you can’t sell. You need to impress with both your business value (what you do for your clients) and the values by which you operate (your ethos and the way you engage and deliver). LinkedIn Publisher is the number one blogging platform on the planet based on mathematical network effects, propensity for virality and it integrates with your personal brand. Some pundits have named this "networked blogging." Twitter can be used to amplify your publishing efforts as the spokes to your LinkedIn economic graph hub. What are your potential customers looking for online before they look for you? You need to publish in a way that leverages search engines (SEO) so they find you as a source of insight and education early in their buying cycle. It's rare that a single meeting occurs in the software technology space, without a thorough scouting of LinkedIn profiles. Aren't you employing this type of research? 

Social Research: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe” – Abraham Lincoln. Anyone who initiates contact or arrives at a meeting having failed to do their homework is an amateur. Social research allows you to identify social proximity, background, financial performance, industry trends, competitor relationships, common interests and much more. The amount of information freely available online to research individuals, corporations and industries is staggering.

Social Engagement: By listening for relevance, attracting interest and establishing credibility through publishing, and by doing your research – you’re now ready to engage. Social enables you to be where your clients are in forums, blogs and special interest groups. The best social sellers engage with context and relevance and their success rate being above 90% for securing meetings. LinkedIn’s own research has found that those who use their platform extensively before initiating contact are 50% more likely to achieve their sales targets/quotas.

Social Collaboration: We live in a world of mash-ups for creating best of breed solutions for sales, marketing and project management. The best sales people execute flexibly and collaborate online using tools such as Skype, go-to-meeting, Drop Box, Google Docs and many others. They also utilize their own CRM software and other tools to rally internal resources and manage expectations. The very best sellers are engineers of outcomes rather than mere warriors of persuasion. Research from the Rain Group unearthed that "collaboration" is one of the rarest experiences for executive buyers. They crave this and social allows you to do it. Further, it transfers the psychology of ownership of the ideas to buy from seller to buyer. 

Have a strategy for engaging in a personal, human way before you jump into social media platforms and technologies. Where are your customers online and what are they looking for before they search for you? Forget push marketing and interrupt selling; instead engage buyers early in their online journey by attracting them to you with useful information, insights and value.

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

Main image photo by Flickr: Brian, Revelation in Blue

Social Listening: Pillar One of Strategic B2B Social Selling

Social Listening: The process of proactively searching for trigger events that provide potential opportunities to improve your own customer service, intercept competitors' customers, or engage a potential client early in their own buying process.

Selling has always been about being a great listener... social selling is no different. But in modern selling there are many tools that can be used to automate the listening process; Hootsuite and TweetDeck are two examples. But before you start configuring your listening tools you need to have a clear understanding of what you're listening for.

Have you segmented your markets and identified the various buyer roles that you can target effectively? Who are the competitors where you have a track record of switching their customers over to your solutions? What events create awareness of need or that amplify perceptions of pain?

What negative events motivate people to take action to change the status quo? Is it scandal, legislative changes, new compliance obligations, suppliers being acquired or dropping the ball, competitor reps moving on or retiring? The list is endless but the point here is that you need to know what you're listening for. I'm surprised at how few sellers are creating basic Google Alerts or Twitter lists to listen by segments.

Stephen Covey said, "seek first to understand than be understood." You must first open your ears, heart and mind.

Practice social listening with a trigger event oriented focal point. In the past, organizations have focused on the territory or target list without ranking the accounts by propensity to buy based on the most compelling triggers. In the old days of solution selling, questioning was leveraged to uncover the "compelling event." Now that's just table stakes. The compelling event should be self evident through effective listening. You should know that going in. Now it's up to you to meet that golden opportunity with disruptive insight to open this account and gain preferred status upstream educating and enabling your prospects along the buyer's journey collaborative. Develop trust and help them to realize that business transformation is possible by implementing your solution. They'll also get a flavor for what the working relationship will be like.  

Beyond the obvious Google Alerts, make sure that you have a dashboard set up to glean every aspect of what your dream prospects are putting out into the social ether: press releases, white papers, reflections on the annual report, balance sheet, interviews, YouTube videos (subscribe to their channel), Tweets, Facebook shares, Google+ updates, Pinterest boards, Instagram, SlideShare and even search the first 15 pages of search results of Google with a fine toothed comb. Successful strategic selling starts with a keen interest and insatiable curiosity. 

Create you own social listening headphones! Or even better, a social selling war room. The main picture in this post is of the Dell Social Listening and Social Media Command Center.

LinkedIn Sales Navigator now compiles all these updates in one place so you can track leads and accounts, the updates their sharing, news related to the companies, and it even suggests leads to you and how you're connected via your overlapping networks. Owler.com is a phenomenal free tool I'd recommend for competitive analysis and triggers invented by Jim Fowler, the founder of Jigsaw, that became Data.com. Also consider tools such as insideview and techwalkeralerts. All of these products below are excellent social listening and monitoring tools.

Also read the old world newspaper (an oldie buy a goodie) online. Subscribe to services such as Meltwater. Listen by tuning search engines, subscribing to RSS feeds or content aggregation services. Here are the big social platforms to monitor if you are committed to strategic social selling.

LinkedIn is ideal for monitoring buyer roles changing in target organizations or listening to issues, trends, hot topics, opinions and opportunities in special interest groups. Those who actively use LinkedIn are 50% more likely to achieve their sales targets! failure to use LinkedIn in B2B selling is negligence!

Facebook if you're in the world of B2C. Two-thirds of social happens in Facebook and there 1 billions searches every day! Facebook continues to be giant in social.

Twitter is the megaphone of social amplification and the most rapid notification system on the planet. Use tools such as TweetDeck to build you listening lists.

Here is a post on why listening is the timeless skill we all need to master.  Now it's over to you... Where do you get the best results in social listening? What are your tips for others?

Here's how to get back to my Social Selling overview.

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: Geoff Livingston; Dell's Social Media Command Center

Social Publishing: Pillar Two of Strategic B2B Social Selling

Social Publishing: Writing original content and publishing insights, opinions and valuable information to attract customers and evidence credibility and value.

Whether you’re looking for your next role or seeking an appointment with the CXO of a target prospect; you need to show your value online to earn a conversation. This is because the majority of buyers research before a meeting; so what will they see when they look at your LinkedIn profile or blog? You need to impress with both your business value (what you do for your clients) and the values by which you operate.

I recommend that you publish where your audience is and LinkedIn Publisher is therefore the ideal platform; not just because it's connected to your professional profile but because the reach is staggering:

  • LinkedIn Publisher is the number one blogging platform on the planet
  • LinkedIn has 350,000,000 members and 2 people join per second
  • LinkedIn has 200,000,000 unique views of pages per day
  • 40% of LinkedIn members use it daily
  • 60% of B2B buyers research before engaging

Don't just blog - that's Web 2.0. Take the plunge on LinkedIn Publisher into Web 3.0 - the web of context and social proximity. Understand the inter-relationships of your networks and network's networks. Share your subject matter expertise and thought leadership on here daily. The network effects and engagement are without parallel. I controversially advocate moving your blog to LinkedIn where you'll get exponential views, reads, likes, shares and comments.

Here is real case study example. In December 2012 I wrote a paper and published it on my website... over nearly two years I had less than 100 downloads. During that time I also re-purposed it into a website blog and over 14 months I had less than 300 reads. Here is a screenshot of the white paper.

In November 2014 I re-purposed it into two blog posts in LinkedIn publisher (two bottom left posts in screenshot below) and the results have been staggering with well over 200,000 reads and incredible engagement. The screenshot below provides an example of the results I was achieving within 30 days of switching my content publishing to LinkedIn.

I've adopted a strategy of quality content publishing to show both my value and my values... and I've been astounded by the results after just 90 days. Since adopting a content publishing strategy, business is coming to me and the conversations are completely different. Instead of me being asked to justify why I am the best person to deliver keynotes, consulting and training workshops; I'm instead being asked if I'm available and what I charge. Don't let anyone tell you that social selling does not monetize!

If you're a sales person, I recommend that you write your own original content as it adds credibility to your LinkedIn profile and it's the best way to learn about what you want to talk about with customers. At the very least, use LinkedIn Updates and Twitter to be a content aggregator and curator, making yourself a valued hub of other people's relevant content enhanced with your insights. Importantly, never plagiarize other people's content and always attribute source where ever possible. If you're the leader within a business, be intentional about your writing strategy to build following around a personal employee brand you trust.

The fastest way to build compelling topical posts is to newsjack current events(President Obama) and here is an example from when Harrison Ford crashed is WWII aircraft on a golf course. I've written other detailed posts that provide many tips and advice for social publishing and all of these are essential reading:

Now it's over to you... I believe that in today's world, if you can't write, you can't sell and that sales people should be content creators and content curators. Feel free to weigh-in. How do you achieve the best results with publishing to attract clients? What are your tips for others?

Here is how to go back to my Social Selling overview.

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: redspotte