My recent blog post about QF32 and Captain Richard de Crespigny has had more than 140,000 reads in the first week. The response has been phenomenal with comments, likes and thousands of shares from all over the world. The momentum has been difficult to fathom – I’ve been wondering why this post went ballistic.
I am relatively unknown outside of Australia and I’m just five weeks into a bold social strategy after being pushed by a good friend to do something unconventional. My big play was to stop blogging on my website and go exclusively to where my market is – the most powerful publishing platform in the world right now, LinkedIn. Every person who matters to me in business is on LinkedIn, and I decided to go to them with no ploys to lure them away to my website, nor capture their details, nor send them a newsletter. No selling to anyone, just a commitment to write original quality content that gifts my expertise and intellectual property to the world – no strings attached. If people buy-in to what I’m about and if they think I can help; they’ll contact me.
I had taken the unprecedented step of making LinkedIn the hub of my social strategy rather than just one of the channels. Every book you read says don't do this and instead recommends making one's own blog site the hub. But social is about affordable experimentation and open source. I publish in LinkedIn, source great pictures from Creative Commons in Flickr, spread the word with Twitter, and push to other channels like Google+ and Facebook to help with my search rankings. The next big initiative from me will be releasing video blogs published in YouTube. Throw in a few scheduling and automation tools such as Buffer, ManageFlitter and TweetDeck combined with Bitly for trackable shortened links… and I’m equipped to be a publisher! No production costs or PR agency charging a fortune for a ‘behind the curve’ strategy executed by junior staff who don't really understand my niche market of B2B sales leadership. Just less than $1k per annum in cloud software subscription licenses with free training from blogs by David Meerman Scott and others, YouTube clips galore and content on the websites of the technology providers – it’s a brave and empowering new world.
Some may see my strategy as controversial. Am I missing out on the holy grail of monetizing my blog? This was never my intent. My intent is to build the largest platform that I can to help business leaders everywhere flourish by giving away my I.P. If they'd like to read my book, they can, in fact many have gone to Amazon and picked it up as a byproduct of all this. Yet again, a testament to engaging and educating rather than selling on here. My bread and butter is speaking, consulting and mentoring so although I could go all in on a gated, blog monetization strategy (very Web 2.0 think), my primary hurdle is getting out of obscurity itself: discovery.
The biggest challenge however hasn't been the technology tools; it’s been the authoring tool… me! I’m 52 and am learning new tricks. I don't write fast but I do go for quality – it took me four years to write my first book part-time but it’s been an Australian bestseller. Recently, my wife and family have been kind allowing me to disappear every evening to write blog posts in the last 6 weeks and I’ve watched very little television in that time. I’m enjoying not being pumped full of negativity and instead rediscovering my love of research and writing. I'm becoming something of a mini news station, endeavoring to put out inspirational stories and empower people to excel in their chosen fields including sussing out this whole new realm of #SocialSelling. The comments and new connections alone have been worth their weight in gold.
As I write this, I’m at 30,000 feet leaving Australian airspace on my way to Vietnam with my family for a vacation. I’m cramped in an economy seat on a full flight with my laptop perched awkwardly on the tray table as I peck away. The person in front has slammed their seat back into the full recline position. The person two rows forward is incessantly making disgusting noises by snorting his adenoids into oblivion to avoid having to blow his nose; and the person behind keeps breaking wind (not my wife or children). Amidst all this, I was writing another post but being in an Airbus A330 caused me to think about Captain de Crespigny again… and then it hit me – something huge. I switched to write this post instead.
Here’s my epiphany. Social Selling 3.0 is to B2B selling, what Richard de Crespigny is to aviation. Old school meets new school; timeless proven practice meets new age technology, disciplined execution meets automation, leadership commitment meets service excellence, good manners meets instant social communication channels.
Richard de Crespigny is an amazing man. He’s old school military. The kind where you take full responsibility, assume nothing, maintain discipline, take no shortcuts, communicate clearly, work as a team – all the good things about "old school" we never want to lose. But I think he is also the David Meerman Scott of the aviation world. David was an old world traditional marketing executive who embraced social media and social networks to literally write the book on social. Richard is an [old world] impeccable pilot, trained by the military and transitioned to commercial with Qantas, but he also has a passion for software technology. When I interviewed Richard in 2012, I discovered that he had written his own CRM product and sold it in his own business (with his beautiful wife) in the early days of the dot-com era. He does both acronyms: Customer Relationship Management and Crew Resource Management!
Richard de Crespigny is an old dog who constantly learns new tricks. He was fascinated by software and he went far beyond the required levels of learning and certification to Captain the A380. He took the time and effort to understand the A380 system laws written into the software by Airbus. He did this because he is naturally curious and also because of the life-saving benefits of understanding system logic. He then applies human leadership, situational awareness, decision-making clarity and teamwork; supported by technology automation – not confused by it. This was what saved QF32.
Anyone who thinks that pilots merely ‘drive the plane’ doesn’t understand what really goes on. One pilot once said to me, “being a commercial aviation pilot is best described as thousands of hours of boredom, punctuated by moments of terror.” We need leadership in society like we need oxygen – lives depend on it. Pilots understand this and so does the military. Boat and ship captains understand; surgeons understand and so do many other professions. Business and political leaders need to step-up too – our way of life depends on how they lead.
Here are six things Richard de Crespigny did to lead magnificently on the flight deck and there are elegant lessons and linkages for all us seeking to execute Social Selling 3.0.
- Listening. He listened to lead. When his team said ‘no!’ to his statement that he was climbing to gain altitude, he listened. When someone in the team said: ‘That landing speed can’t be right’, he said: ‘Recalculate and have it cross-checked’. Social selling 3.0 is all about listening for trigger events and researching before engaging. Social listening and targeted publishing and engaging, replaces old world interruption marketing and push selling.
- Automation. Richard did not allow the technology to automate the chaos. He used technology as part of his toolkit and management resource. If it didn’t work for him, he jettisoned it (so to speak). A big social selling mistake is to allow spam-bots and other marketing automation tools to turn you into a spammer or push seller. Your personal brand is everything so beware the damage caused by blasting volumes of junk into the ether.
- Delegation. He did not delegate responsibility, only tasks. He maintained control at all times. There was always role clarity and he set it in place before they pushed-back from the aero-bridge even though there were members in his team on the flight deck more senior than him within the organization. Success in Social Selling may require an assistant or team but beware engaging anyone who is from a foreign culture without first doing your homework in healthy respect for communication variances. You'll recall in the Challenger sale how the methodology needed to be clarified in certain markets with the qualifying phrase "respectfully challenge." Perhaps they do not have your language as their first tongue, or do not understand your industry and what you’re all about. I see laughable engagement from virtual assistants with terribly mangled English and inane questions or comments. Not to say there aren't proficient ones to be found out there, yet you need to take control and invest the time yourself as much as possible. Don't lose control.
- Group-think. He harnessed the resources of his team and took all input and advice but it wasn’t a committee. Richard was the leader, he was born for this event; he stepped into the breach magnificently without doubting himself in any way. In social, crowdsourcing is a valid strategy but don't merely regurgitate the wisdom of others. Instead, have your own positive opinions and be an innovator and thought leader. The best way to predict the future is to create it.
- Stay on task. I’m a huge fan of Air Crash Investigations and it never ceases to amaze me how often the pilot forgets to focus on flying the plane as disaster unfolds! When all the alarms are going off or something quirky is happening with a reading or instrument, they become fixated and forget to fly the plane… not at Qantas and not with Richard. Success in Social Selling 3.0 also requires you to avoid distractions, so stay focused on what matters, filter the noise and stay on task. Who’s your audience and how can you help them? Provide new quality content and insights.
- Stay Positive. Richard stayed positive all the way through. He knew there was a way to succeed, even after the whole thing was over and he was struggling emotionally. He had the finest aircraft, technology, crew and employer that the world had ever seen for this kind of crisis. He never blamed anyone and just continually paid tribute to the aviation industry, and the people and brands he was associated with. Thank you Qantas and Airbus! Avoid the temptation to go negative in your social engagement activities.
The genius and robust design of the Airbus A380, combined with a flight-deck crew who understood both the human dynamics and computer systems, made a powerful team to thwart disaster. They brought the very best of old and new together. That’s what Social Selling 3.0 is – the timeless principles of strategic relationship selling (where trust is built on insight and value) accelerated and enabled by the mind-boggling reach and engagement capability of social media and social networks. Social disintermediates traditional power, it transcends title, bypasses gatekeepers and side-steps market-makers. Anyone with insight can now publish and engage based upon the value they offer their market.
In your Social Selling 3.0 initiatives, remember that technology is not the message, it is merely the medium. It’s just a suite of tools and engagement forums. Quality content remains king and value will always reign supreme. I’ve had a mentor for many years and he is one of the best. Values-driven, holds me to account, always challenging me about my purpose in what I do. Someone else who read my book also confronted me to step-up onto a bigger stage. They both challenged me to get serious about my social presence after resisting for so long. More importantly, they made sure I know why… but that's a story for another time.
P.S. While I’m on the topic of aviation, here’s a taste of what I learned from my own plane crash when flying an aerobatic biplane many years ago.
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: Angelo DeSantis