Akbar Pasha

The 5 Most Unusual Daily Habits Of Highly Effective Social Sellers

They publish daily.

Believe it or not, top social sellers publish content to LinkedIn Publisher, their own blog or in Medium, everyday. They don't just publish what they think, they maintain a running 'string' of backlinks to mash up into the articles providing social proof of what other thought leaders think. This builds a content foundation of authenticity and veracity. They reference other articles, they newsjack current events and they respond to technology trends, world news and Google / Twitter trends. They are unabashedly utilitarian in helping their following with Youtility content; this is highly actionable content their dream customers can use to better their business and lives – right after reading it and in real-time.

  • Are you publishing daily on LinkedIn – yes you read that write – daily? Do you publish for others? In other words, is your work featured on other highly trafficked sites with author attribution?
  • Have you built a list of evergreen sources and a strategy for mashing up recent topics that matter?
  • Are you a trusted thought leader, subject matter expert and referenced source on the bleeding edge of your industry?
  • Do you have an active YouTube channel where you curate other amazing video content but also your own videos? Are they real raw and authentic or overly slick?
  • Do you participate in Twitter chats, Tweetups, Google Hangouts, Social Hangouts on YouTubes and interactive webinars? Are you a guest speaker on webinars for software companies?

If not, this is the number one habit I suggest and witness top enterprise sellers picking up in 2015 to rocket their success in #strategicsocialselling. Teach your customers with new insight in a public forum. Like Challenger says, teach with new and compelling insight that you've garnered from being active in your sector by listening to the common challenges and pain points that run rampant in the key verticals that you serve. Provide a channel: be the brand and face of that brand, channel and company. We are living in the age of the 'rise of personal brands' after all. Think edutainment! Share stories of customer success and case studies. Collaborate with other elite social sellers on content – very soon you'll be one. Even collaborate with your customers and friends, encouraging them to guest post on your blog.

They comment daily.

What's unusual about the most active sellers in your company on social media? They're frequently the top sales people too. Back in the day when social media was controversial, they studied top performing university students and found paradoxically that those most active in social media had the highest marks! Your top sellers frequently have a Social Selling Index Score of over 70 out of 100, which is quite rare. (It's humbling to see that mine has shot up to 82 after applying these methods.) Yes, they have a high Klout score too, a dizzying array of followers on Twitter and their stream is so jam packed with useful, wow content – you'd probably wonder, 'when are they actually working and how are they putting all this out to good use for our bottom line?'

But that's just how effective they are in social media, nurturing the funnel, edutaining and providing unexpected value daily. What's better for the bottom line than deeply satisfied customers and your customer's customers? What's better than a new customer that converted 90% of the way because they've been following your top reps blog for 9 months! As the face of your brand, they are proactive meets interactive. And commenting is a science and art form unto itself. Top sellers are actively participating in groups with provocative comments that foster deeper conversation and peel back the onion on commonly shared pain. They participate in the groups where your top customers go like CMOs or LinkedIn CXOs. They ask the questions that matter, effectively and frequently. When they read an article anywhere on the internet, they take the time to comment at the bottom with a track back to their blog or your companies site unlocking a landing page for a free white paper with game-changing insight. I've noticed an incredible delta between the interactivity levels of top social sellers versus those that are passively curating and monitoring.

  • How many comments do you post per day?
  • Are you solely hitting the like button or are you slowing down to fully read what's compelling in your stream?
  • Have you set up Lists and Filters for Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. so that you have a 'string' to cross reference when you write and comment?
  • Are you open sourcing everything to reduce friction and make it easy to buy from you (3.0) or gating everything to get backlash, increase bounce rates and negatively impact conversion rate optimization (2.0)?
  • Do you go share these social updates and push them out in non-duplicative ways to each social network or is it the same link inelegantly spammed everywhere hurting your SEO? Don't post the same link in every group you participate in, not even two? Never do this! Participate in groups by asking open questions and actively threading. It's a paradigm shift... trust me. I get many invites each week from this meta-tactic alone.

They courageously connect daily.

If you're not leveraging a Premium LinkedIn account, I would argue you're missing the full value of the system. It's incredibly affordable if you sell anything over $100. If you sell products and services over $250,000 into the enterprise, it's worth its weight in Inca Gold. Let me explain... Like any tool, it's how you use it – you'll get what you put in. Top social sellers exhaust their InMails... every single one. I use every InMail that I can and I'm courageous about it. I recently wrote a very senior executive at LinkedIn and was thrilled to get a warm response and some good strategic advice on improvising / improving content strategy. It's gratifying to see the team at LinkedIn 'dogfooding' their own product and practicing what they preach. People often ask if I 'work for LinkedIn?' No, I promote it like crazy because it works and the network effects are singular. I pay a premium for it because I would pay 10X more for the tangible revenue it drives into my consulting business and the power of the network alone that it's allowing me to build as a speaker, bestselling author and consultant who is well known in Australia but still breaking into international spheres:

  • Honestly, are you exhausting every InMail?
  • Are you courageously writing to the actual CEO, President or very important top officer (VITO) that can sign your contract?
  • Are you being courageous when you reach out maintaining relevance and respect or are you playing too small in social?

They listen, curate and share daily.

Top sellers don't just hit the 'like' button. They go further than that. When they read something in Publish that inspires them, they send a friend request with a tailored message. They take the time to study targets before connecting. They often have the luxury of an enterprise LinkedIn Sales Navigator subscription that allows them to passively monitor key contacts in major strategic accounts so they can stay alert for trigger events before reaching out. Top sellers are listening to the Crunchbase feed to see who gets funding and connect in with them – daily. Funding is a phenomenal trigger event as is M & A, as are job changes and transitions, promotions or a big initiative on the docket announced in the media. The biggest, baddest, boldest trigger events are often hiding in plain sight. It's all about how we look at our streams as highly effective social sales people of the new age. Train your team on all the mechanics of Trigger Event Selling and build in measurable KPIs, metrics and critical success factors into your CRM dashboards to track leading measure activity levels. Something like an SSI score can even be SPIFFed or bonused around. At a few leading enterprise technology companies I'm even aware of a special status for the highest ranking social sellers in the company. Hint, one of them is top top social seller on my strategic social selling unicorns list!

Top sellers are cross referencing Data.com with LinkedIn Premium Data, with Rapportive for reverse email lookups. They're calling into the switchboard to verify phone numbers, understand political power bases and mapping organizational charts. They're being hyperactive in how they combine all mediums of outreach: Social, Mobile, Calling, Research – Google+, Facebook, Twitter. Top sales people are tracking email w/ Yesware and watching in social – putting all of this together into a gestalt to generate intel and insight. As they listen, they share. As they curate they comment and 'prosume' which is the opposite of consume. They write blog posts in response to other blog posts. They remix and mashup. They stoke provocative comment threads and take those conversations off line or amplify them back online in their own groups. Yes, they start their own groups and frequently help to moderate the company's official Facebook Page, Twitter Account or LinkedIn group. (Which can have several admins by the way!)

  • As a manager are you bringing Sales and Marketing together weekly?
  • Are you encouraging your top sales people to become micro-marketers?
  • Are you just phoning it in with the like button?
  • If you had to meet the last 5 authors of Publisher Posts you liked in person, would you be able to honestly reflect on what they wrote? Just think, these could be your next dream customers!
  • Are you filtering with TweetDeck or HootSuite? Are you leveraging social filtration technology and tools to step up your game? Are you leveraging Buffer App to Tweet while you sleep to accommodate your base on different time zones? Are you building highly targeted Twitter Lists so that you can retweet with comment?
  • Here's a big one: Are you sharing your compelling sales story and you personal life story? Are you featuring customer wins and testimonials? More importantly than anything else in this article – are you making the content about them? For them! Is it immediately useful and applicable to their job today?
  • Are you writing passionately about the things you know best in life and tying these insight back to business? (Sports, music, philosophy, history, politics + your brand + your software + your UVP!)

They aim straight for the top daily.

This last point is a fascinating one. I was approached and am now coaching an executive who read my book that is consistently closing six figure deals in under a 90-day sales cycle fully inside, by applying my RSVPselling framework and this last point daily. I have been consulting companies on how to build a LinkedIn War Room to ramp revenue and dramatically lower cost of field sales, which is very different from a traditional Web 2.0 Social Media Command Center.

Don't be intimidated by the senior executives in social media. Every CXO was once just starting out. Richard Branson encourages a leapfrog strategy in which you go high courageously. LinkedIn InMails give you the ability to write to just about anyone in the system. Do not waste them. Do your research and reach out with a compelling business case. My book, The Joshua Principle, tells the story of how a fairly junior sales rep landed a key meeting with the CEO of his biggest target account to bring home the biggest deal of his career and jumpstart his trajectory into sales leadership. I recommend you read it as a blueprint for generating just what that key insight will be as you improve how to develop the acumen to connect at the very top.

Senior executives focus on outcomes and risk. They'll be more impressed if you understand their balance sheet, annual report and what they're sharing in social, at conferences and in the minutes of their quarterly call, then if you parrot puffery and cliches back to them or show up with static thoughts printed out. You can't be canned – you have to understand! You would be surprised how much subject matter expertise you already have and in many industries, how little exposure business leaders often get to technology acceleration and change from the corner office. If you're in a disruptive business or unit of a big company acting disruptively, you have a severe edge. The savviest CEOs I know are always looking to constantly converse and network to keep their skill set sharpened and their knowledge ahead of the curve. They want to meet with Millennials – they're looking to be reverse mentored. So many sales people will aim lower and be too intimidated. Reaching high will make all the difference in your ability to sell top-down as you beeswarm and build consensus with social connectivity across the organization. Be careful – not everyone in an account should be wantonly added in social media. There are always frenemies and competitors in every deal, the greatest of which is 'do nothing' aka the dread status quo!

  • Are you analyzing a company and aiming one level too low? Are you afraid to access the C-Suite? Are you just sending a passive friend request rather than researching for 15 minutes to a half an hour and writing an extremely targeted and customized message that is timely and relevant with your bespoke CXO LinkedIn invite or InMail?
  • Are you slowing down to connect with less people more meaningfully or mass adding off a conference attendee list?
  • When powerful people add you back on LinkedIn or Twitter are you sending a personalized message?
  • Are you tweeting at top thought leaders, bloggers and the tech media that covers your sector? Are you inserting yourself into the conversations that matter? Are you paying it forward - giving to get? Sharing to be shared?
  • Here's a really big one: Are you playing up to your audience's intelligence or dumbing yourself down? Why not write content to help leaders in your industry advance even further? That right there, is the yellow brick road to the emerald city of Trusted Advisor – digitally. Paradoxically, you'll get noticed if you cater to your audience's existing expertise and advance the knowledge base further rather than the constant drone of: basics, basics... basics.

Now it's your turn: What are the daily habits and routines of the most effective social sellers that you've noticed, that I may have forgotten to include on this list? What's your secret sauce in social? Are you willing to share it below in the comments for the Youtility of everyone reading? If so, thank you!

I'm endeavoring to live every principle in this post every day right 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: Mike Licht

Empowering The Next Generation Of Sellers

There's a new generation of sellers that are dipping their toe in the water but not sure that they're ready to dive into the deep end. Everywhere a Millennial looks, there's a mirage of a growth hacks, quick fixes or automation. Are we going to slow down and teach the next generation the back-to-basics approaches of the great sales masters who came before?

I want to strongly encourage the next generation to enter the field of sales. Nobody ever felt as good as a salesperson closing a deal that makes her quarter. The prism of emotional endorphin based experience is impossible to produce without the overlapping of three separate inputs:

1. Being useful to another person...making them proud of an accomplishment that couldn't have occurred without a successful sales experience (SSE).

2. Feeling that your value is holographically fractal, that what has begun in your deepest emotional core, is repeatable and drives you further to begin limitless new sales cycles.

3. Being acknowledged by superiors or opinion leaders that lead directly to the achievement of your financial goals.

This triumvirate effectively unmasks the current phony value of the proverbial college education...NO ONE LEARNS ANYTHING about how to create the SSE!! Get these kids selling!! That will produce a generation of spectacular capitalists, who have achieved the one thing that has been elusive since the beginning of time...HAPPINESS.

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: Andrea Rose

Top 15 Insidious Social Selling Myths

Not everything is a mermaid that dives into the water. - Russian Proverb

Don't be seduced by the siren song of social selling mermen and mermaids romanticizing you to wreck your strategic social selling vessel with sails for insights on the shoals of mediocrity... There will never be a magic bullet to closing deals, especially large complex B2B engagements with highly matrixed Fortune 2,000 enterprises. There have been a great deal of Do-It-Yourself programs and Easy Social Selling hot air Zeppelins being blown around on here, oversimplifying just how much of a science and art form professional selling represents.

Veiled attempts to placate and console us with oversimplification as a finger in the dike, won't fill the gaping hole that is the dearth of advanced strategic approaches infused into social. It still takes years to develop a sound sales process, business acumen and the wisdom of experience to successfully navigate strategic partnerships and big ticket closes. We face a constant threat of complexity and commoditization. If we are in the incumbent, we are being disrupted by point solutions. If we are a smart incumbent we are working to disrupt ourselves with Skunk Works groups like Google X within our own walls. If we're in a point solution, we are going up against legacy systems, David versus Goliath so we must be more cunning and strategic than ever to topple the Death Star.

Any way you slice it, selling is a full-contact sport and physical, mental and emotional challenge - not for the faint of heart. Here are the top myths I've seen promulgated that are truly misleading Millennials joining our ranks and giving seasoned pros who manage a team beginning to embrace 'social selling' a headache. There are many get-rich-quick social selling systems being sold that make money for their creators but simply won't work if you're aim is to be successful as an enterprise account executive, VP, SVP, or Managing Director of Sales; even as a founder or entrepreneur selling in social.

First, a great summary of where LinkedIn leveraged for sales is right now with a poker analogy in a thread with Peter Caddick, Co Founder at Sales Ammo & Social Ammo revealing critical new insight:

These myths of Social Selling apply to SMBs all the way up to major corporations. I'll unpack them now:

Myth #1 – Social media can replace the telephone completely. Social plays in at the top of the funnel for inbound lead generation, warm referrals, warm introductions and due diligence on the key stakeholders in accounts. It's ideal for trigger event tracking and now possible passively [thank you LinkedIn Navigator]. If you connect in there, immediately arrange a call, a skype, a coffee or an on-site for any qualified opportunity. Social works like magic in tandem with the phone, not irrespective of it. Blend all your communication channels together. As you move through your sales process (and you absolutely need to have one), leverage social to increase interactivity (the OKM - one key metric of social selling success). To do this, watch what prospects are doing in LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and comment on it thoughtfully, or send them an interesting article, case study or white paper that contains additional insights to make your case. Show that you're paying close attention! Your competitors aren't unlikely to be. Remember that 99% of the time, once a customer starts to seriously consider your solution they're going to hit the search engines, check out 3 to 5 other competitors, submit to their web forms, get demos and pricing and stack you up against them even in a value-flattening grid. In 2015, there are no more bilateral deals. The information economy has infected all of selling. Every deal is now a bizarre love triangle, trust me on this one. So you need to be interacting five to twelve times along the length of the sales cycle with friendlies in the account to help them preference you as a vendor and move into the trusted advisor status you seek by teaching with new insight and adding value: every step of the way. If you haven't studied military strategy or strategies to politically navigate accounts, good luck. You'll run screaming into a hornet's nest briar patch full of land mines. Yes, while your competitors rest happily like Brer Rabbit waiting to profit off of your mistakes.

Myth #2 –You can hard-sell in social media. Slowly chip away at the myths if you sell a disruptive solution. Leverage content marketing to build awareness. Think of social selling in terms of enablement, edutainment and a ladder of engagement. Hard selling will absolutely fail! Disruptive solutions are often very hard to differentiate outside looking in. Applying force or pressure, trying to hard close or run one of the 25 old-school Glengarry Glen Ross closes like the 'slick close,' 'intelligence close,' 'one-call close,' ad nauseum will fail.

That stuff was proffered up in the 80's during the feature, function, advantage, benefits (FFAB) era. You can't trick or collapse time on customers in social. You'll emit a foul smell and they'll see right through you. There's massive debate around whether 'helping' can 'replace' selling. To fully clarify, consultative and strategic selling are alive and well. Simply imagine how you'd apply these universal principles via this medium. Perform due diligence, actively listen, diagnose before you prescribe, focus on the quality of your questions, asking Implication and Need-Payoff questions to get to the heart of the matter [SPIN]. I literally receive hard pitches on LinkedIn daily and through auto-responder Twitter DMs. 'Tony, are you looking for lead generation? We have the best lead generation with the highest results.' So many apocryphal, disingenuous ROI claims, it's a cacophony. Delete.

Admire others, follow what they're doing and saying. What matters to their business? Engage meaningfully there. Present a compelling business case that highlights unexpected value and recurring value creation over time. Connect, convince and collaborate [Mike Schultz] the whole way. The real-time repartee is the luxury social has afforded us. We're closer to our dream customers than ever before so we're also under the microscope and bad etiquette will kill deals. Challenger selling does not mean to disrespectfully 'challenge' or be pushy. Being condescending toward senior executives by claiming you have more insights then them (even if you do as a specialist) only leaves them with a bad taste in their mouth. In fact, I hear many horror stories of 'overnight Challenger' sales people transferred to new key accounts and challenging with disruptive insight in the first meeting only to have the customer complain to a Regional Director that they don't like their new Account Manager - they are 'rude and snobby.' Can you imagine? Don't forget to set the tone by building a relationship where you're known, liked and trusted first before you lock bullhorns.

The Trusted Advisor by Charles H. Green is an important book for every budding Challenger sales person to read to help temper the cold steel of their insight blade.

Myth #3 – Enterprise sales cycles completely fall away with social making business development instant. You've got to understand my background includes the blood, sweat and tears of selling to government. The cost of engagement is high and one is often brought in only to help them go with the vendor they already like; often not you. Sales cycles for deals over a million dollars have traditionally been high. There is a case for leveraging stealth B2B lead generation automation to uncover latent need, effectively chopping off the top of the funnel. You're still going to need to adhere to the nature of the time it takes for senior executives to make a decision (often by committee or cast of thousands?!! ;-), the reality of corporate procurement divisions incentivized to cut costs and the heavy inexorable weight of 'do nothing' and the status quo. An executive I'm coaching, recently closed a seven figure deal in under 90 days by intercepting a massive compelling event... so it can be done! The land and expand tactic is very possible on here. Building out a multi-million dollar order with cross-functional technical and strategic teams may still take 9 to 16 months even with accelerants in social. Respect the timeline. Remember that silence, waiting a day or week can be highly strategic as it pertains to the timeless Principle of Non-Hunger. If you act too desperate you'll snap the 500 lb. marlin on the line. You'll violate exclusivity and you'll risk looking cheap. Timing is everything!

Myth #4 – Social selling is 'free.' Social selling trainers may claim they can reduce the cost per lead to under $50. Back into your FTE costs, keeping the lights on, utilities, rent, employment costs and the overhead of running the business not to mention taxes. Nothing is free in Water World!

Can it reduce the cost per lead generated? I believe it can. That doesn't mean that traditional lead gen channels like PPC and SEO aren't worthwhile. The blend creates the synergy. A comprehensive sales and marketing organization aligned in their go-to-market will produce a windmill effect of positive upside results. Social selling requires time, adaptation, research and consistency. It requires a great deal of patience and persistence in order to constantly tune for resonance of message with A/B testing. You're still a highly paid inside or field executive [emphasis on commission risk] who must hit or exceed a target quota number to achieve OTE. Social selling will lower cost of sales (COS) dramatically once you create a scalable, repeatable process mapped to the buying journey that minimizes air travel and maximizes revenue closed fully inside. This is why I believe Aaron Ross and Predictable Revenue coupled with Trigger Event Selling application and a LinkedIn Sales Navigator enterprise license is lethal in an internal Tiger Team of 5 broken into a Social Selling Command Center or LinkedIn War Room.

Myth #5 – The size of your LinkedIn network matters. It's not the size of your network, it's how you use it. Your net worth is determined by your network. True but one hundred of the right connections that are relevant to growing your business will trump a 5,000 LION any day. It's a game of quality and quantity. How can you reconcile these factors? It's a paradox, isn't it? In every system on Earth, the axiom of quality, not quantity holds up except mother nature was able to create the Great Barrier Reef: an absolute explosion of flaura meets fauna abundance.

But we have a science of the 'wisdom of crowds' and strength of weak ties that Reid Hoffman has written extensively about. If you only tap your closed silo of friends, you'll never really break the fourth wall and glass ceiling of your own career advancement. Just be choosy about who you let in, don't connect with everyone and make sure there is context. As an author, I cast a wide net and have a larger base. I encourage my clients to segment and target their LinkedIn networks, leveraging the tagging feature to place their friends in buckets and breaking out spreadsheets or a CRM designation for the accounts that matter most pulled from LinkedIn, is sound logic. You can rapidly download the connection lists of your top reps and then sort them with a VLOOKUP in Excel to level the playing field and understand the collective networking power. TeamLink is an advanced feature in Sales Navigator which shows the relationships of your sales team to the greater organization and how your network overlays over theres. Major time saver!

Myth #6 – You don't need a CRM anymore. Who knows where Navigator is going, could LinkedIn launch the most lethal Social CRM ever configured based on their treasure trove of data? Potentially. They've become the Bloomberg Terminal of the economic graph! They've recently closed the API and I can understand that tactic as it's similar to the Apple ecosystem. Navigator works in Salesforce and that's a great start. One holistic solution is always the holy grail but we all know front-end technology becomes a stack. Using InsideView with Navigator with Nimble CRM, with SFDC or Sugar, with Pipeliner and with Marketo or HubSpot is a good idea in the enterprise. You're going to have many competing interfaces but holistic capabilities and intel give you the ability to create a bespoke utility that is most tailored to your business, the sales cycle, the buying cycle and the way C-Level decisions makers specifically interact / engage with your brand. You still need a CRM and CRMs need to get smarter to synthesize in all the data so they can remain the single source of truth on the customer.

Myth #7 – It's easy to leverage social selling and takes little to no work. Set it and forget it, right? I frequently see YouTube videos with a case study on how X or Y salesperson drove a 200% number. Then they interview them and little is articulated. I'm not buying it. If you can't explain to me specifically how and what you did activity-wise to move the needle, it's really just 'hope' and 'positivity' misdirected. I've now gone ballistic in social for almost 90 days and I can tell you it's a slow burn, to a simmer to a boil. My reverse mentor Millennial counterparts warned me it would take a great investment of time, passion and enthusiasm and the results could hit 45 days out. Those that I coach say the same thing, it's a daily discipline - a marathon, not a sprint. Carve out thirty minutes to two hours per day, write out a strategy and select the tactics and specific social networks you will use. Be strategic in how you eat this elephant. You can be the conductor or the symphony. You'll need to keep all (yes all!) your core selling activities up to a maximum and add social in over the top to maximize the opportunity. I do not suggest replacing cold calling to set appointments, discovery calls, on-sites or taking the time to customize compelling presentations.

Myth #8 – All CXOs can be reached to set appoints on here. In some industries like manufacturing, there's still little adoption on LinkedIn. The majority of CEOs are still not actively on LinkedIn and the one's that are often have their accounts managed by an Executive Assistant. Welcome to the paradigm of cold calling taken to cold selling. Consensus-based selling and referrals into the power base are key. The right contact could give you a direct line or cell phone to that key SVP target or C-Level contact who holds the P & L and decision making power that you need to get ahold of to move the deal forward. LinkedIn holds the bread crumbs to the castle and a back grate into the moat so you can slip under the castle wall.

Myth #9 – Everyone is listening and paying attention to everything you say. Your best content is seldom ever being read in full. The majority of people are on a like-a-thon. They're not really reading what you say. That being said, don't shy away from posting in long form, emoting and pouring your heart and soul into daily LinkedIn Publisher posts on here. A bestselling author castigated me for frequent posts on here 90 days ago. Now that same author recommended to another friend to post daily. That's how fast the sector is changing. Being prolific won't hurt you. Your content is forever on here and evergreen. Be open to going back to the archives and sharing a post that did well last year - edit it with a revision or update in a new unit of time. I love reading the top 10 posts of 2014 synopsis from leading bloggers. Post in multimedia formats including YouTube, Infographics, Pinterest Boards, Cartoons, White Papers, Memes, Analyst Reports, Case Studies and SlideShare is going to be huge in 2015!

Myth #10 – You don't need paid accounts. If you're not using LinkedIn Premium, it's majorly limiting. It took me years to upgrade. It's a very small price to pay for the Advance searching capabilities to sort organizations in seconds by CXO contacts in them. Those that use all their InMails crush their quota. It's a statically proven fact. Stop trying to growth hack your way to the promise land in here. Most organizations are open to exploring premium versions of these tools. Sales Navigator is deceptively simple. Get your people trained on it and study the case studies for tactics that merge with your strategy. It's very powerful to be served leads to your smartphone daily. It takes all the manual guesswork out of the process.

Myth #11 – You don't need a sales process or to be strategic. Social selling methods make selling simple? Wrong! There is no need for advanced enterprise methodologies or frameworks? Dead wrong. I've become the poster child for the old school, greyed haired, way. My real goal is to introduce a brand new generation to SPIN, TAS, Power Base, Solution, Strategic, SNAP and my own method RSVP (Relationships - Strategy - Value Creation - Process). Why is this incredibly important? Smart millennials will study the past and apply it in the future. CEOs that proclaim sales is dead and move to a self-serve model will rapidly be outflanked and obsoleted by strategic social sellers who usurp their market share. I'm sorry, self-serve customer service cannot sell the intricacies of enterprise hardware, software, cloud, mobility, ERP, HCM, ITC, Security, Big Data, Predictive Analytics and Automation of Everything. You need a guide who can speak CXO, understand the ramifications to the top and bottom line, seek efficiencies and become a trusted partner in the journey of mutual growth and collaborative discovery.

Myth #12 – You'll lose followers if you post too often. Guy Kawasaki was the first to go nuts on Twitter. For every follower he lost he gained 100. If you don't find that I add value, please unfollow me - you have my express permission. I post once or twice a day when I'm inspired. After 30 years in selling, I feel like I have many things to say. Who knows? For every 200 positive comments I get, I might get one bizarre comment. I've only had one hater ever but oddly he attacked another leading author so that flamed out in a day after he attacked me unilaterally and summarily for no reason: it was amusing. The most prolific people I know blog daily. Who set the speed limit on LinkedIn to once a week? Post daily, share and provide value. You sell every day. Write every day! You probably send out 5 to 25 decks everyday if you're on the front of the funnel. Why wouldn't you put out quality content in short or long form daily bristling with provocative insight that could tip that customer into your funnel? It's a free form of proactive pull marketing and it's virtually unlimited!

Myth #13 – You can't host a blog solely in LinkedIn. It wasn't intended to be a shock-and-awe move when I shut down my blog and went fully blog native in LinkedIn Publisher as the hub. I have noticed that my least engaged post is exponential to the readers of my blog. My posts frequently reach over 1,000 unique views in 24 hours which is staggering and unusual to me. I even had one hit 200,000. As much as I wish they'd re-open LinkedIn Influencer because as a bestselling B2B business author in Australia I feel I have a platform to speak from, the standard mere-mortal Publisher capability is still more widely read and higher value than a blog, IMHO. Blogging is a 2.0 construct. LinkedIn has taken this to one thousand mobile screen types - mobile optimized - responsive - and features of a beautiful CMS and comment management - in platform. The fear that we must own our content and it's unsafe to center it in LinkedIn is just that, an unsupported fear. LinkedIn is not going anywhere [the other social networks are at risk] because it contains the economic graph, everyone's digital CV and is the recruiter-hub of business. It's the spine or nervous system of the global economy. LinkedIn has no desire to shut down the authors and take their IP. I'm not afraid in the slightest; I may relaunch a robust off-LinkedIn blog just for SEO value but it will only ever be a spoke as long as the hub of where my public is, resides within LinkedIn. Monetize a blog? Monetize your LinkedIn - that's what the founders created it for!

Myth #14 – You can engineer your content to go viral. There are several bestselling books now touting the ability to learn how to make content viral. Good luck! There is no rhyme or reason to what's going to take off. Hyperbole, list posts, how-tos - these rank well. But ultimately you have to be open to push the envelope on every quality of a post and create the art that honest, heartfelt communication represents. Providing real world advice to actually help someone, trumps everything. Utility or shall I say Youtility Jay Baer content with the intent to help the reader immediately improve their day, lives or career is a public service - it's the quintessence of knowledge sharing. As you can see, I mix it up, experiment like crazy and just try to have a blast producing this. The new wave of content strategy and content marketing is about 'engagement selling.' Below the list is a video from David Meerman Scott at the HubSpot Inbound 2014 conference that blew my mind. This is the future of sales and marketing alignment and content engagement selling. Stellar regions!

Myth #15 – Going negative like the media will give you the most attention. I've been surprised and completely impressed by the role of inspirational, positive content on LinkedIn. It goes viral and it moves people. Negative and shock jock material also blows up in here like the CEO who suggested 'never hiring a salesperson' again who garnered 500K unique views in a week and then his rebuttal to it [not apologizing] got another 500K. The collateral damage to the negative shock blast? Huge dissent. He had a free trial link on both posts so he was selling and embodying full blown hypocrisy. Collateral damage comes from going super negative. I've been brave to express freedom of speech like my thoughts about Microsoft versus Apple but I always maintain a constructive approach, positive attitude and keep the viewpoint of the golden rule. If your'e passionate about something, mash up your avocation with vocation. If you love cycling as much as I do, compare it to enterprise selling. If you are fired up about some current event in the world, newsjack it in a tweet but then talk about what you believe it should be - don't just slam it. Positive energy oddly reigns supreme in here. How unexpected! Should CNN take a page from this book? I wish.

Now it's your turn: What do you see as the biggest myths being propagated in the social selling movement or cottage industry of social selling thought leadership today? Have I missed any? Please comment below...

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

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Frank Kovalchek

Strategic Social Selling Defined... By Someone Actually Doing It.

There are so many people out there giving advice on strategic B2B and social selling yet so few have achieved consistently in the heat of battle, survived jungle guerrilla warfare, lived in the desert of selling into the white space and adapted to embrace social maneuverability with old school battleship clout.

Read this article with confidence. I've personally won hundreds of millions of dollars of deals over three decades in multiple industries. I sold to IBM themselves at 70% higher prices than the incumbent competition and it was the biggest deal ever in the industry. My record was never broken and even more than two decades they are still a customer. I've won President's Club in the telecommunications industry; earned Asia-Pacific Account Manager of the Year in the IT industry; sold the biggest deal in the world for a tier-one software company which earned hundreds of thousands of dollars in commission from a single deal. Just over two years ago I left the corner office as Managing Director and went out on my own to do consulting. Less than 90 days ago I truly embraced social and the results are shocking (case study by LinkedIn themselves in the next 30 days). Here it is now!

I want to help you define Strategic Social Selling, but first let's define it without social. Before we can understand what good looks like, let's look at the bad. This is reactive selling. The type of selling where you are disrespected and treated like a mere commodity, where they jerk your chain and bark orders to complete inane tender documents within unreasonable deadlines, to perform magical demonstrations with almost no time to prepare, where they won't tell you who will be in the audience or what their roles are.

The illustration below shows the buyer's journey in its varied forms but the defining element of reactive selling is that the customer is in the driver's seat from beginning to end. They decide when to invite you in to their process and on their rules. There is inevitably a focus on price, assessment of features and functions, ratings of risk versus bang for buck; and you are blocked from talking with the real decision makers, instead being forced to comply with their process and timing. It feels like you're flying blind. Many adhere to old adage: If you didn't influence their tender, don't bother responding... delete. But I have won business where we were late the party in government deals... it can be done.

REACTIVE SELLING IS FOR 'COMMODITY PROVIDERS'

Strategic selling, on the other hand, is defined by being proactive in researching, targeting and planning. The best sellers seek alignment with the ideal prospective customer rather than attempting to raise the dead through extreme evangelism. The way they achieve this is by focusing on win review with their best customers to identify the triggers that caused them to invest in a solution. There is a very important distinction here – it is NOT about discovering why they bought from you over the competition; it's instead about identifying trigger events that caused them to decide they had a serious problem or opportunity (before they decided who to invest with; you or your competitors).

Continue looking at the far right of the illustration below and notice that it is the completion of the customer experience. Sales people are wired to behave as if closing the sale is the end of what matters but in this model there is an entire group of new items extending to the right. For the customer, it's where the risk begins and they want to buy from someone who cares about their entire lifecycle to deliver the outcomes they are seeking. Customer eXperience (CX) is the new sales model for driving sustainable competitive advantage. Sellers who take the time to do post-implementation reviews with ROI validation are the ones who generate the most powerful case studies and testimonials.

But there is another magical thing to also focus on to create ultimate buyer empathy, insight and alignment... it is the power of thinking about your customer's customer. B2B2C is what you're really doing. The sellers who genuinely care about their customer's challenges and opportunities, to help them reduce costs, gain market share, reduce customer churn, improve customer satisfaction, and more; are the one's who change the rules on the competition through the way they sell. It demands that sales people go vertically deep in industry segments and it requires substantial investment... this is where insight selling or Challenger ideation occurs.

PROACTIVE STRATEGIC SELLING IS FOR WINNERS

Now look to the left and notice the first [upward] red arrow. Differentiation occurs in the way that selling occurs rather than in what is actually being sold. The way we sell has always been more important than what we sell and in social selling its never been more important. The sales person and how they sell is the single biggest differentiator and Corporate Executive Board research proved it. The very best prepare fully, arrive early and engage at the most senior levels. They challenge the status quo with evidenced business insights while setting an agenda with an inbuilt bias within requirements toward their strengths. Finally, they embed their unique value in a compelling business case to overcome apathy and the status quo. They use risk as a weapon and fear as a positive motivator to position as lowest risk and best value. They create a strong focus on business value creation and risk mitigation while aligning with those who have genuine power within the power-base political structure.

But there is more to #StrategicSocialSelling than an early engagement, proactive approach. Notice the second [downward] red arrow. This is where your activities in social result in you being invited to participate in the the most important part of the buyer's journey. It takes a serious investment of time and real skill to operate at this level. The very best sales people today embrace this role and become micro-marketers to drive their own demand-generation machines.

At any given time, only 3% of your market is actively buying. 56% are not ready, 40% are poised to begin. - Steve Richard, Vorsight

And now... lets add the X-factor to Strategic Selling which is Social Selling 3.0. The term 'Social Selling' is a misnomer because in the context of business-to-business (B2B), the best social sellers don't sell at all. They do not engage in digital spamming, interrupt marketing or push selling at any time. They instead use proven old school methods of selling on new school social platforms to deliver massive leverage, scale and amplification of their efforts. In the slide below I provide some examples. Yes, I know that the platforms referenced are not exhaustive but they are the most important in B2B. CRM encompasses social collaboration and there are many best of breed collaboration tools. The Holy Grail of sales enablement is in fact when it all comes together for deal coaching and this link provides my detailed blog on the topic. Let's explore the Pillars of Social Selling.

Social Listening: Are you segmenting and targeting your ideal buyers and putting feelers out to filter out their signal from the noise? This can be done with tools like HootSuite and TweetDeck. I'm surprised at how few sellers are creating basic Twitter Lists to listen by segments of 25 individuals or less that are actually practical to track. Stephen Covey said, 'seek first to understand than be understood.' You must first open your ears, heart and mind. Be present and 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.

Measure twice cut once — English Proverb

Social Publishing: 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. Basic math unveils this. Imagine you're a rockstar with 200,000 followers of a traditional blog. Now let's just say you've written the most compelling article ever and you manage to get a 5% open rate. That's just 10K people that read it. But the reality is more like 2% that will actually read it - not just open it, skim it or star it for later. At 2% we're at 4,000 people and that's the grim reality of the blogosphere in 2015. Blogs are often reliant upon an email list, auto-opened in gmail or ignored.

By moving my blog to LinkedIn I've had many posts reach over 10,000 views, another climbed to 200,000. It's rare to have a LinkedIn publish read over 1,000 times and what I notice on here is that engenders 400 shares in many cases and two dozen comments. I respond to them all thoughtfully. How do you become a subject matter expert in the vertical you're selling into overnight? Paradoxically, writing everyday on here will do it. Parkinson's Law states that 'work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.' I set the goal to produce the highest quality piece of content I could in LinkedIn Publisher every day for the last 90 days and many days the inspiration flooded me from following all of you, and I was able to put out more than that. Plant seeds and be curious...

The second huge way to amp up your social publishing, is to get in front of as many qualified buyers as you can and bring those insights and that pattern recognition back to what you write. As Andy Rudin calls it 'mind the string.' Start to compile a list of links as you peruse the internet so that you can cross-reference and backlink to them in your posts. I also keep an ever-growing Evernote file with thousands of topics; I'll often mash up a few to craft a post. Other than becoming a great B2B writer by traditional means and cutting your teeth at GigaOm, becoming a phenomenal social publisher is more so about overcoming fear. If you got into a career in sales because brevity is your strong suit, you love picking up the phone and talking with clients - well, you're probably already a top producer. I would suggest writing in LinkedIn as if you're writing a letter to your biggest client helping to explain how your solution solves their technology challenge. You'll notice you write volumes every day in email sharing your hard-won expertise and insight so carry that intensity and your authentic voice into social publishing. The fastest way to build compelling posts is mashups: newsjack a current event mixed with a sport you know about and mix in some business rules: bingo - an intriguing post based on your real world experience and strong opinions to polarize!

Here are the top four links that I've found that completely changed the game for me in LinkedIn Publisher. I've taken a wildly data-driven approach architecting my social publishing blueprint from these sources like Dave Kerpen who has had the highest read Publish of all time with over 2MM views:

Social Research and Social Engagement: Challenger Sale leaves most readers with this burning question: 'But how do I get upstream with insight?' I know I need to 'teach with new insight' but how do I generate it? The world is crying out for a prequel rather than a sequel to Challenger! Social research will allow you to understand the precise moment when to strike. Passively monitoring the leads in the top accounts in your territory will bear fruit. A) You'll start to notice patterns in what your prospects are posting that will influence the insights you can share. B) You'll start to notice a consensus (near ubiquity) of challenges and strategic objectives both harmonic and dissonant to competitors. The differentiators in your suite of solutions emerge to be shared and amplified. C) With a deep understanding of trigger events, you can be there during the most powerful one: changes and transitions. Read Craig Elias and Tibor Shanto's book 'Shift' for the blueprint on this.

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. - Abraham Lincoln

Awareness and bad supplier triggers are often not enough to impel a change from the status quo. The best type of research you can do is on previous signers, buyers or advocates in past or current accounts that have now either been promoted, switched into a new role where they have the ability to disrupt a new company's culture [and spend money - 7 figures - in the first 90 days] or are broadcasting a recent understanding of the emergent paradigm. Engagement is all about subtlety. Blasting updates at a Twitter handle can and will hurt you. Awkward connect requests or InMails that are super relevant but non sequitur out of left field will cause a 'crickets' response. Engagement has to be meaningful for them, not just formulaic and self-serving for you. My favorite email each week is the company leader that explains in the preamble how they are 'personally inviting me' or 'wrote to me personally.' Then I check the from address and it's been spit out by a mkt-auto drip campaign! I wrote an entire post about the subtleties and nuances of how to move from 'interesting to interested' here that very much speaks to the ladder of engagement and slowly warming up prospects from a simmer to a roaring boil in social media.

Social Collaboration: It's amazing what happens once you start to form digital bonds with a super network across the globe. You'll attract thought leaders with radio shows reaching out to interview you. Bloggers in vertical industries will look to feature your writings to a broader audience. You may be invited to mastermind groups, to contribute to white paper studies by software companies, guest blog on other highly read sites, participate in social hangouts and even new speaking, coaching and training opportunities will emerge. This is all social collaboration in its highest form as you're building a virtual network to brainstorm, become a master mind and push the entire industry forward. The best way to collaborate is to embrace open source - give your IP away freely (with attribution, of course) and co-create. Social collaboration is about an ongoing value exchange and creation of innovative ideas. Once you're writing daily, open up an email address so readers can provide feedback and request topics. When a reader leaves a candid comment, ask questions to draw the conversation out further. Why do they disagree or feel passionately on the subject?

Social collaboration is the concept of synergy, the result of many minds coming together creates the mastermind in stark contrast to the bureaucratic hive mind of the closed water cooler confines of the traditional organizational hierarchy and strict command and control. Social media plays a democratizing role flattening the Earth into a global village of a vibrant knowledge economy advancing all industries.

Let's say you're building out a white paper or report. Look how PureMatter asked the top 50 social sellers that Onalytica rated with their analytics process what they thought the biggest challenge organizations will face as they look to implement social selling. This is the quintessence of social collaboration because it creates a feedback loop of new insight and collective knowledge sharing and brainstorming in real-time. Corporations can do this with their customer base. Authors can collaborate with their readers to push their work even farther forward and closer to the customer's true reality. Sellers can collaborate with customers during the course of the decision phase of the buying process to further customise a solution that is bullet proofed against competitors. Further interacting with social to provide service and to garner and share key case studies is key. Nobody sells your product better than your satisfied customers and we must sell to our customers in their own words.

The key to success with strategic social selling is 'strategy.' If you're looking for a speaker and workshop leader at your conference to transform the way people sell and train your team on how they can deftly leverage strategic social selling at every aspect of the deal funnel to accelerate results, please contact me here on LinkedIn, and I can bring all of this to life for you.

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

Main Image Photo: US Air Force (USAF) Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Dirk Smith, Commander, 94th Fighter Squadron (FS), peels away from USAF Major (MAJ) Kevin Dolata, Assistant Director of Operations, 94th FS, during the delivery flight of the first F/A-22A Raptor fighters to the 94th FS at Langley Air Force Base (AFB), Virginia (VA). The 94th FS is the second squadron at Langley to receive the new stealth fighter.

 

10 Avant-garde Twitter + LinkedIn Tactics Leading Directly To Revenue

I listen to the space 24/7. The majority of social media advice covers the basics and that's great, because many in the enterprise are behind the eight ball in adoption. But the biggest questions I get are about how to use social media in more advanced ways to accelerate pipeline, close deals and make an impact on revenue? 'How do we push all this to 3.0?'

The fundamentals work very well, like optimizing a profile for a prospective customer, ensuring things are kosher for SEO, leveraging referrals, InMails and Groups. But the risk is a broken record of basics without speaking to those who are already driving revenue in social and instead looking to increase the velocity of attraction and engagement through advanced strategic social selling 3.0.

It's a bit different when you're managing a dynamic sales team or looking to accelerate an enterprise deal on a longer sales cycle with up to a dozen decision makers. I've found a huge gap in the knowledge-base around advanced guerrilla strategies and tactics for social media, content strategy and social selling so that will continue to be an enduring theme of my posts. If you're aware of any stealth companies, cutting edge or bizarre social selling techniques or technologies please, please forward them my way immediately – tony at rsvpselling dot com.

Many emerging social networks are fatally flawed and white noise. For B2B, it's my contention that the main two networks that matter for driving revenue areLinkedIn amplified by Twitter, especially applied in concert. In fact, it's possible to exponentially increase your reach by only participating with a LinkedIn Premium (Yes, invest in a $100 a month account or more!) and Twitter Account. You'll also need a listening tool like TweetDeck. What about blogging? The read rates are dwarfed by what's possible in here based on low email click-through risk of traditional blogs even powered by InfusionSoft or Aweber and the lack of network effects off social.

I advocate for a fully open source strategy. I think driving market qualified leads via gated white paper content and web to lead forms, is 2.0. David Meerman Scott talks about giving the content away for free, referencing the Grateful Dead's meteoric success. I advocate pushing your publishing on LinkedIn Publisher to 10X and then teaching, providing thought leadership and sharing SME content everyday. Result? It's been huge for my consulting business. No web forms were necessary – I'm actively pulling clients to me every week.

For those of you who have seen it all and read it all on social networking, content strategy, social media and social networking, here are 10 advanced methods you can use to improve your results today. The global audience is crying out for advanced tactics and strategy. Let's dig in!

Twitter: Implement these advanced techniques and you will enter the ranks of the Twitterati in no time.

  1. Unlimited Listing: Twitter has not gated your ability to build out as many lists as you want. So although Twitter has a reciprocal nature where someone must add you back in order to send a Direct Message (DM), the very open loophole to be exploited as a guerrilla marketer in Twitter right now, is you can go build a list of 1,000 thought leaders and buzz their smartphone – every single one of them can get your digital acknowledgment that you see them as a thought leader. Personally, I'm always jazzed when a thought leader adds me back to one of their lists and what that list is named like: Social Sellers or Social Ninjas – whatever that may be. This isn't about glad-handing or self inflation of ego – it's about building powerful social networks that increase your reach. It's like a secret handshake on Twitter right now. Then it's up to you to build out an authentic lists of verticals. Create a list for Social Sales, Social Media, Content Marketing, Enterprise B2B, Marketing Automation, Big Data and Predictive Analytics. Add 50 to 100 people to every list; access them as stock tickers in TweetDeck and begin to Retweet with comments, Follow and curate. Leverage this as the bedrock foundation for the content you'll create. Much of what I create is reactionary to other ingenious posts... Is it proactive to react? – yes! In the case of content, TweetDeck becomes a sounding board for what's taking off and you can spot patterns, go create a post in response or express a difference of opinion, linking back to the original post or Tweeting back at people participating in the conversation; frequently heated debate. This is what makes Twitter so incredibly powerful as an amplification system for B2B right now. I've had several articles retweeted hundreds of times. I go back and search Twitter under my handle so that I can star and thank many. The SEO implication is as you push out enough rich relevant content, your work starts to appear all over the greater blogosphere causing link backs and giving Google juice!
  2. Tweeting @Media: By now, it's my hope that I'm preaching to the choir and you're all publishing content to LinkedIn at least on a weekly basis. So how are you going to get that read and distributed? Follow the press in your industry and Tweet your best work at them. Just pop their handle into abit.ly link to shorten the LinkedIn post and add several reporters or influential bloggers at a time. You'll start to get quoted in the press, even interviewed on various topics. The same strategy can be leveraged with hashtags and hashtag clouds that influencers may be following. #socialselling is always a busy one as is #CXOtalk. In time, I'm confident I'll build #strategicsocialselling into a hashtag for a community of complex B2B sellers looking to innovate with social media driven 3.0 methods. 3.0 is simple, it's the web of context and social proximity, it's always on and mobile, responsive and optimized for any screen. It's the interest graph meets the social graph and with LinkedIn: literally the economic graph or backbone of the global economy is being mapped in real-time. The most advanced social seller of all time you never read about framed like that? Reid Hoffman – he's the architect of networked intelligence and his books tell the tale. He is the Wizard of Nodes. Read them...
  3. Newsjacking: There's an artful way to newsjack with integrity and it includes a mash-up. If you're about to write a blog post on any subject, think about integrating an angle from the news of the day. Maybe elections are happening and so you could compare a candidate to a rep on your sales team.Sporting events and holidays are good for this. Experimentation will bear fruit just stick with it. The virality we all seek is much like love or happiness; the more you seek it out the harder it is to find. I've substituted the word 'happiness' with virality in this famous quote:
    [Virality] is like a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you". - Nathaniel Hawthorne
    Be artful in how you push out articles at Twitter Trending Hashtags or Google Trending news. You just might hit page one. This is an advanced strategy in contrast to how often I see it done blatantly and it backfires. Several of my LinkedIn Publisher posts have made it all the way to Pulse News and started to trend in Google News. Go study David Meerman Scott's YouTubes on this intriguing subject and get a firm grip on the subtleties and nuances of this tactic as it applies to B2B. Hashtags are another common thing that I often see misused. It's not just a cool word with a pound symbol, and no you're not a model because you used #models or an expert because you hashtagged #thoughtleadership! The whole goal is to leverage newsjacking and hashtags as a flare gun to attract the listeners you want. Move from push to pull!
  4. Snippets: Once you post something (preferably in LinkedIn Publisher), pull out 3 to 5 of the best quotes. Take the URL string and bitly it. Then go into Twitter or TweetDeck and repost the article next to the five quotes with the shortlink, a couple of trending hashtags and a few influencers to encourage they read and share it. You're causing a mobile notification right there and making the social snowball roll. You need to think of a starburst, hub and spokes or firework. Make a joyful noise and get your content out there in front of the people who will appreciate it most. I frequently tweet snippets at Koka Sexton, Jill Rowley, Timothy Hughes, David Brock, Mike Weinberg, Jill Konrath, Anthony Iannarino and various other unwitting targets in the greater Australian press.
  5. Create your own Top 100 List of Influencers: Recently, I posted a LinkedIn Publish of my Top 100 Strategic Social Selling Unicorns. I then went to Twitter and tweeted thirty times in a row including the article, why they were mentioned, and why they should read it. I presented an empirical view that was unbiased by PageRank, Klout Facebook popularity (first mover advantage of building such networks) or Twitter gaming that occurred early back in the glory days where we could all get 30,000 followers in 2 weeks. I posited that a list needed to be constructed for B2B Social Sellers tipping their hat to old school frameworks, processes and methodologies like SPIN, TAS, etc. bringing this to social media. So I filtered out 500 people from top lists, went and discovered their content and pulled in a hundred names to an Excel spreadsheet. Then I polled the audience for anyone I was missing in the new guard and old guard and made it a living breathing list. I'm still getting tweets about it and adding names... If you're reading this, please click the list and tell me who I'm missing. The result was hundreds of views and continuous retweets for weeks. You can get very sophisticated with how you tweet at people and have conversations. Tim Hughes @Oracle UK tends to introduce folks with a Twitterduction (Twitter + Introduction), which is a very cool strategy I haven't seen often. There are also live Twitter Chats and Tweetups mixing offline and online events happening constantly around B2B themes like CXOtalk and social selling hangouts so keep an eye out for those.

LinkedIn: Basic methods will yield basic results. You're going to get what you put in so hit full throttle on LinkedIn with these:

  1. Reverse look-ups with Rapportive: In B2B sometimes you just need to look-up an email address and get in touch. Rapportive was purchased by LinkedIn and is an uber-effective tool to reverse look-up most any email address via RapLeaf integration from within Gmail. I would imagine most of you are using it already at this point. Coupled with LinkedIn, it's a fantastic way to send an invite leveraging a public B2B email and writing a personalized trigger or pre-trigger driven message. #relevant
  2. Translate Top 100 Twitter Lists to LinkedIn Network Growth: For example, I encourage adding this entire Onalytica Top 100 Influencers list of thought leaders with a personalized invite. (Full disclosure, I made it to the list leveraging all the social strategies I open source in these posts.) Influencers are generally open to expanding their network with relevant contacts. Is it worth being connected to these 100 brilliant minds elevating the global sales training industry beyond the limitation of a niche 'Best in Show' cottage industry on Twitter and LinkedIn, then building a Twitter List with all of them? Completely! Here's a brilliant KiteDesk Twitter list already created for you. Collect them all – follow them and link in with them. Interface with them and be hyper-curious. Ask why they teach what they teach? Many will coach and mentor you virtually. You'll be amazed at how accessible they are because they get the principles in this article. Imagine the top 100 thought leaders advising you daily to help improve the way you sell! Synthesize these lists and listen closely.
  3. Leverage the LinkedIn Connected App and LinkedIn Sales Navigator Standalone App: Connected let's you monitor birthdays, updates, job changes and anniversaries. It's ideal for pre-meeting intelligence. Start your day with it. Reach out when meaningful meets relevant ... Sales Navigator is going to literally deliver you leads as you're waiting in the lobby! Need I say more? It will show you trigger events in real-time. LinkedIn's suite of standalone apps continues to become more powerful. Their roadmap will redefine the industry, make no mistake.
  4. Group Participation @10X: Chances are, you're not active enough in LinkedIn Groups. Take a moment to go to Fresh Sales Strategies (Jill Konrath's Sales Group 14,000+ sales people strong) or Strategic Selling (byJohn Smibert) and spend a half-hour to an hour in there going through the threads and writing thoughtfully with open ended questions to stimulate further conversations. What's unique about Smibert's group is the thread levels are insane. There are literally hundreds of detailed B2B complex strategic sales answers, techniques and insider cricket happening in there. Don't miss it! It's Inca Gold. CAUTION: DO NOT promote your company or insert links or name drop. Simply add value and help with your own thought leadership and bold ideas. When in doubt, ask questions and 'go with gratitude'. John and Jill are very helpful in moderating these rich gardens of content. But there's no way you're active enough! Trust me on this... Follow 50 groups that are as specialized and have the highest traction and get going in there today...Once you cap out on groups, if certain groups get slow, drop out of them and join others. I always have a revolving series of groups that I'm monitoring for brilliant ideas, who's in them and I'm transitioning in and out of them based on their stickiness and volatility. Step two, is to post provocative questions in there frequently. THIS DOES NOT MEAN posting your same article to 50 groups – This FEEDCLOGS and is the bane of how the sorting algorithm in LinkedIn works. I've had more LinkedIn invites come in from high participation in Groups than almost any other channel, other than Publisher.
  5. Blocking Visibility and Friend Lists: Many of you reading this are in super competitive industries such as B2B CRM and Marketing Automation, ERP or HCM, ITC or any cloud-based start-up. Markets with a PaaS, IaaS, SaaS and hardware virtualization are constantly being disrupted and your sales team aka cast of thousands is against theirs like Braveheart. It's an arms race for market share. It's dangerous to expose your connections as competitors can fish clients. Also, if you're constantly in LinkedIn looking at competitors, prospects and clients you want to change your visibility in settings to anonymous. All is fair... remember it's just business and business is war. But you can be responsible about it and maintain gravitas and inner peace out on the battlefield by keeping your cards close to the vest. Be aware that as you search, you're being searched and you need to fireproof yourself against competitive threats. Private groups are a good solution to loop in key clients for active enablement conversations. Think edutainment!

Happy closing! All I can say is that the fishing is the best where the fewest go but where the fish are happily swimming. It's not what we sell, it's how we sell it. So it can't ever be the social media or widgets we use, it's always how we use them that will separate us. A couple overarching concepts I always think about almost like an inner mantra on social as I look to advance it into an art form are:

  • The power of my brand is inversely proportional to it's scope. [Al Ries] – How can I focus on less tactics even less social networks and tools? How can I specialize even more to move the content from a firehose to a laser?
  • Youtility [Jay Baer] – Is my content snackable and actionable, effective in the field today? Can someone literally print this post and go make a sale, accelerate a deal or breakthrough into an impenetrable dream account? I'm highly conscious of the usefulness, inspiration and motivational factors of every post.
  • Platform (Michael Hyatt): Am I building a platform of 1,000 true fansthat I can take to the Publishers? Am I building an engaged tribe that will sneaze my content to the ends of the Earth? [Godin] Content is not enough anymore. Neither is context. Neither is audience. You can't build a career or business on these alone. You can only become a bestselling author, successful entrepreneur or leading brand to capture marketshare, hearts and minds, if you focus on building a massive platform as the foundation of your strategy: first! You need a massively engaged, focused audience around your brand and so this post is that blueprint. Imagine if your entire company read it, and applied it next week? [I train companies on this... tony@rsvpselling.com]
  • Ultimately, REVENUE is the One Key Metric (OKM): In any free market economy where capitalism is thriving, eventually you're going to be gauged on success based on the hard revenue results you generate. It can take 45 to 90 days of persistent advanced strategic social selling efforts on LinkedIn to begin unlocking larger deals, speaking engagements, consulting clients and all sorts of new opportunities. I'm doing my part by spilling all of its secrets... but most don't dedicate the time and focus to produce dramatic results because it's a slow burn – a marathon sprint. Patience is the hidden virtue in social that will make you lethal. "Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat." Sun Tzu is the master of strategic social selling but the wildest paradox of all. He created the blueprint for social selling success in 500 BC!!!
  • Duplication is the enemy of SEO. Google's updates, be they Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird or Whaleshark (hehe! are you paying attention, that's not one but should be!) are looking for frequent, relevant, authentic and well written content. Good is the enemy of great. Never post the same thing twice anywhere on social media – ever! If you're putting a link on LinkedIn, add it in a different way on Twitter, Google+ and anywhere else. The spiders are parsing text and the machine learning algorithms are looking for duplicate content to give you demerits. Always be aware that when you're sharing the same thing the same exact way over and over again, you are authentically not only spamming but reducing rank, traffic and conversions to your I.P.

And finally some cautions and cautionary tales:

  • Generic content will fail on LinkedIn and Twitter. You can't be a walking brochure in a meeting and you can't simply release white papers and thickets of inane B2B statistics unless you are seeking an incredibly niche audience. That's my opinion. Boring will get you unfollowed immediately. There is power of wow, there is power in a bizarre purple cow. Dare to be different and always ask yourself this: "What would you click on?" It's just like Gordon Ramsey yelling at a line cook to 'taste your [expletive] food!'
  • There are very few practitioners of #socialselling fusing old school strategic selling methods with the new school tools. The fundamentals still matter and those with decades of experience have an advantage on here. Milennials can learn from Baby Boomers and vice a versa. Miles Austin wrote this ingenious recent post called Tools Don't Make the Carpenter where he states, 'Using sales & social tools without core sales training kills more sales than anything else.' It was a brilliant mash-up in my opinion because if you gave me a bevel and a saw and asked me to make a Baroque bannister, I'd instantly deliver you a dog's breakfast. That's worth a read and following the hard hitting strategic sellers listed in there including Mike Weinberg, Anthony Iannarino, Mark Hunter, Andy Paul and Jeb Blount. That leads me to another couple posts by Iannarino on these topics you should immediately take in: • 15 Things I Would Train Salespeople On Instead of Social Selling • How Social Selling Jumped the Shark
  • You can spend 90 hours a week on social media and completely destroy your business or break the sound barrier with outrageous success. Social procrastination is vastly different than social empowerment. You can spend a focused hour per day in here and accelerate your results. It requires a disciplined approach and going beyond basics like profile optimization, referrals, InMails, buying Sales Navigator, creating a Twitter and building out all your social media profiles. All the basics are critical to 'get live' so you can crawl but the walk-run stages actually require a great deal of focus and discipline. It's just like the difference between when you learned to ride a bicycle and that BMXer who back-flipped over the Great Wall.
It's more mission critical what you are NOT doing in social media, content strategy and social selling than what you are doing."
Einstein's warning applies to Social Media Driven Selling & Content Marketing writ large, ' Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.'

My coaching clients globally are generating real new business. Consistently closing six and seven figure deals is possible with Premium LinkedIn and LinkedIn Publisher as a focal point [hub] and Twitter as the spokes for amplification. I preach this because it's worked for me. Many top consultants in Australia have put these strategies and tactic into use, tailored them and executed on them with stellar results. Here's a brilliant new friend reflecting on the advanced techniques I've espoused which has lead to a chorus of agreement in complex B2B, consulting and enterprise sales. Nathanael is killing it without even a need for a CRM –

In closing, I encourage you to go read the compelling case studies that LinkedIn is putting out that apply to your vertical or business makeup, especially if you are reading this incredulously and need empirical proof:

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 Photos by: Eva RinaldiMaryland GovPicsChris PiascikGary Koelling & Post Memes

12 Reasons Why You Should Be Fired In Sales

I work with many sales people across multiple industries every month in my role of mentoring and deal coaching. Many meetings feel like Ground Hog Day or maybe I’m just becoming grumpy in my old age; but here are common shortcomings I see in sales people that make them worthy of being fired.

If you’re a sales manager or CEO, send this to the entire sales team and put them on notice that they will be held to account. If you’re an individual sales contributor, address all of these issues now to save your career. I’m serious – stop screwing around with your success; be the professional you’re paid to be. Here are the things (in no particular order) that make your boss look bad and you look amateurish.

  1. Not being across the detail of your key deals. Stop giving long-winded waffling answers when asked about the status of an important deal. The senior executives above you are busy and don’t want a bedtime story. Be succinct in your responses. Start at the end and provide a summary before diving into detail. Say something like: ‘It’s forecast for the 13th and their executive sponsor has confirmed with me that the date is confirmed with their internal team. Everyone in the power-base is on board and procurement is in the loop. There are two risks that I am managing…’
  2. Failing to have a strategy. Never use the words ‘hope’ or ‘hopefully’. In every major deal you need to be thinking about what could go wrong and manage the risks. You must have a strategy for relationships, the competition (including their internal options), and engineering their processes for evaluation, selection and procurement. Hope is not a strategy. Being passive and failing to create any level of positive tension is professional malpractice. You're not a professional visitor or observer who reports back. Make it happen by building positive relationships with the right people inside the customer organization.
  3. Failing to work hard. Sustained success is never the result of consistent luck. Work ethic is prerequisite for anyone performing at the top. If you’re not 'blowing your numbers away', then you sure as heck had better be seen to be working hard. Work ethic is what smooths out the peaks and troughs of sales performance; to be consistent month-in and month-out. The time to be working hard is when you don't feel you have a weak pipeline of qualified opportunities – things change quickly. earn your success with the sweat of your brow. Look yourself in the mirror, and your boss in the eye, knowing you've earned the right to be successful.
  4. Wasting time and being late for meetings. Every meeting should have an agenda and confirmed in advance. Time is precious. If you can't manage yourself, how in the world can you manage complex sales processes and expensive company resources. If you don't respect the time of others, why should they respect you? Being on time means being at least 5 minutes early. Sit in a nearby coffee shop and prepare, think, plan – take the stress out of meetings. Arrive early and stake the perfect seat, arrange the room. Every pilot knows that their mind must arrive well before the plane if they are to be truly professional.
  5. Failing to take notes and follow-up. It staggers me how often I see sales people not taking any notes in meetings. ‘I have a good memory’, they say. I don’t care if you have the memory of an elephant! It’s about the customer, not you. They need to see you being fully there and vitally interested in their every word. Taking notes also enables you to break eye contact (the only reason you should) and show them that they are important, that you don't want to forget, that you’ll follow-up, that you’re a professional. Imagine how you would feel if a builder came to your home to provide a quote for your big renovation and he didn’t measure anything and failed to write anything down... 'I have a good memory love; no worries, she'll be right'... Next!
  6. Not using sales tools provided to you. Your company has invested huge sums of money in sales methodologies and tools... use them! By all means pragmatically, but use them nevertheless. Show people that you've qualified the opportunity and that you have actions in play to address weaknesses and gaps. Complete call plans and share with your boss before all important meetings. Build close plans on all the big deals to show you understand the customer’s internal approval gates, procurement processes, compelling events and dates. Here is an ideal meta framework for opportunity management.
  7. Not keeping the CRM up to date. How can you claim to be a professional when the CRM shows that the deal is still at qualification or discovery stage yet you submitted the proposal last week? Why is the CRM ‘next step’ something that is trivial and happened 3 weeks ago? Why are all of your forecast close dates the last day of the quarter? Professionals keep their records up-to-date to help their boss help them – if you want the resources of the organization invested to help you pursue big opportunities, then earn respect and support by how you operate. How can marketing assist you with inviting prospects to events if you don't bother to put them in the system. Why should you be allocated any more leads when most of the ones you've been given are languishing in the CRM without any notes or change in status? No wonder so many marketing and management people have low opinions of sales people. 
  8. Being a shocking lone wolf. Being a lone gunslinger cowboy may suit your persona but success in complex enterprise selling is always a team effort. It’s amazing what can be achieved when you don't care who gets the credit. Work well with others; collaborate and be a team player. If you read between the lines, The Challenger Sale says to fire Lone Wolves when they start missing their numbers.
  9. Being a ‘Social Selling’ illiterate. LinkedIn is the new phone for securing appointments. Your LinkedIn profile is the platform for establishing your credibility before you even meet. Your LinkedIn Publisher posts are how you set the agenda and deal with objections in advance. Twitter is how you amplify your insightful publishing to spread the word. YouTube is how you avoid having to do high risk, time wasting, tire kicking, mind-numbing, Russian roulette high risk demos. Social selling is highly relevant in the world of B2B enterprise selling... get on board before your career sails away without you!
  10. Failing to create the necessary value to fund your role. One of my European clients did an extensive study concerning the cost to the company every time a sales person pulled-up outside a client's premises. Field selling is expensive... here is the answer $476. The number is accurate – they have annual revenues in excess of $1 billion in Australia and hundreds of sales people. They asked two questions of every manager and sales person in the company: When you visit a customer or prospect, are you creating $500 of value for them and us? If you asked the customer and your boss to split it; $250 each – would they be willing to both write you a check?
  11. Breaking the circle of trust. Lying to your boss is the beginning of the end of your relationship with her. Trust is everything – with customers, colleagues, your partner, everyone! Without trust you have nothing in professional sales. Your personal reputation is the most precious thing you have. Who is in the mirror staring back at you? Is there a look of conviction or an empty suit hoping not to be found-out. Don't cheat your boss out of time or steal their money. Be honest about the state of your deals.
  12. Inaccurate forecasting and fantasy pipeline. Everyone above you has the living crap beaten out of them when they miss their numbers. It felt like I aged a whole year at the end of every quarter when I was managing the region for American corporations. Regular ugly surprises at the eleventh hour make heads explode. Squirming out of commitments damages you enormously... be a person of your word and don't over-promise. Bad news early is manageable but consistently delivering ugly surprises at 3 minutes to midnight is terminal – for you or your boss.

Beyond stupidity, incompetence or arrogance; are there other factors that destroy a sales career worthy of mention – what are they?

P.S. Here is what I tell sales managers concerning who belongs, or not, in their team. Every sales person should understand this formula.

Just to be balanced (a chip on both shoulders) my next post will be on why sales managers and other bosses should be fired.

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: Emilio Küffer

How To Increase Sales At-Bats By 200% [Testimonials]

The best part of this forum is I get the liberty to go totally open source with the content I'm featuring and with permission plug some epic B2B technologies that I believe in. If I were ever to take some kind of referral fee, I would disclose that here. Why aren't I? This is a purely pay-it-forward post because I feel my readers and companies everywhere can benefit by employing world class B2B lead generation platforms on-demand to accelerate their sales cycles and run even leaner.

Are you delivering meaningful interactions within quality segments? Are you using the correct value proposition for value creation? How are you sustainability setting appointments and building fresh qualified pipeline? Are you mastering and maximizing your outbound prospecting? Would you agree that the traditional funnel has changed? I would argue that opening has become more difficult than ever with contact rates below 2% by phone and email? What if you could hand this part off to a technology platform that has a secret sauce which figures it out for you?

I believe Mike Scher to be a thought leader and he's been doing this for 13 years out of Atlanta. Below he provides a couple case studies that he's been gracious enough to share. Granted there's no magic bullet in sales or life – you still have to go engage and close the lead – but technologies like this can help you quantum leap into the the funnel rather than flailing around seeking to throw opportunities in. The results speak for themselves...

We all want to drive more sales predictably and open more deals. First conversations are the Stargate to explosive revenue growth. To my cricket fans out there, you'll have to forgive the baseball analogy, as I lived in the States for a few years and I'm a fan of the game. I came into contact with Mike Scher who is the CEO & Chief Demand Creation Architect for FRONTLINE Selling, helping B2B clients create demand, increase their sales pipeline and get more first appointments in America & Australia.

As I circumnavigated the globe in search of unique ways to fill the proverbial funnel, his name kept coming up in conversation. I linked out to Frontline Sellingin a post and amazingly, one of my readers got in contact with the company to try it out. That's the power of social 'sneazing' as Seth Godin would call it and the power of making a recommendation to my growing tribe.

Here's some wisdom from Mike on how his technology platform allows leading B2B enterprises to optimize both the quantity and quality of first conversations (in the photo he is talking with Gerhard from Selling Power Magazine):

"There are mysteries and there are secrets. What is the difference? Well a mystery is something where no one has the answer. A secret is something at least one person knows the answer.

One of the biggest problems in B2B sales is securing and executing that
first meaningful sales conversation. Of course, every sales organization
would like to have more first conversations. But what if you REALLY need
more, how would you go about doing that? How could you increase the number
of 'at-bats' your sales team has by 50%, 100%, 200% or more? 

If that is a question you have asked yourself recently, you are not alone. 

I am here to tell you the answer isn’t a mystery. 

A few years ago, Agility Recovery Solutions in Charlotte, NC was plugging
along selling business continuity solutions. They had trouble scaling
their sales team until they found out a secret to getting more first
appointments with the right people that enabled them to grow their sales
team from 5 to 40 people in 9 months and increase recurring revenue 500%! 

Coupa Software needed a way to scale their business development efforts to
support hyper growth. They used this secret to grow their business 100% in
2013 and did it again in 2014. 

Northbound DGS is a high end provider of demand creation solutions. 
Northbound leveraged the secret to drive triple digit growth. They used it
as a way to train sales people to produce high value leads and appointments
and get them productive in days instead of months…..or never. 

So what is the secret these and hundreds of other companies world-wide all
leverage to drive the type of game changing outcomes described above? It’s
Staccato On-demand™ by FRONTLINE Selling. Staccato is a predictable and
repeatable technology that is simply the most effective way to increase the
quality and quantity of meaningful first appointments.

We help our clients get more first appointments with people who are genuinely interested in talking to them – so they can sell more. Period.

In any B2B sale, whether it’s with someone who has expressed an interest in you -- a white paper or web hit lead -- or someone you’re interested in selling to, like a targeted account -- the game really begins with that first meaningful conversation.

Lots of important marketing activities take place prior to that conversation like messaging, marketing automation, lead scoring – and many sales activities kick in after that to close the sale. 

But, initiating that first conversation is key – it’s the critical junction, the catalyst to all that follows. And, it’s what we do. 

Staccato drives amazing results by taking all the guess work out of the
prospecting and lead follow-up process for B2B sellers. Over the past 13
years, FRONTLINE Selling studied 1.8 million calls, conversations, emails
etc., and determined which ones work best along with when, how and how
often to follow-up. Staccato is offered as an app that you can find on the
Salesforce.com AppExchange."

The FRONTLINE approach is truly a game-changer! Our productivity and ability to uncover net-new sales opportunities has gone through the roof. This is truly a repeatable process.

Scott Jones
Director of Global Business Group Sales
Alfresco

My newfound obsession is with cutting off the top of the traditional funnel with B2B automation and optimization. Imagine if you could run a leaner sales team with a lower cost of sales and get warm introduction delivered to you. This way of thinking not only increases efficiency and effectiveness to work qualified deals lower in the pipeline but it allows your closers to further specialize.

Part of the fun in applying Predictable Revenue by Marylou Tyler and  Aaron Ross (took Salesforce to $100MM) or the concepts extolled in The Sales Acceleration Formula from the CRO of Hubspot, Mark Roberge (took Hubspot to $100MM) is finding unique and innovative ways to outsource or leverage technology platforms to fill roles in the assembly line process. Read both of these incredible books – they're absolutely essential to your strategy for scaling!

I think we can all agree, that without a funnel chock-full of qualified leads, it's going to be a mission impossible to build a sales machine that lives up to and even exceeds forecasts to satisfy the demands of The Street or investors. FRONTLINE is just one of the cornucopia of technology companies that I would like to feature from my publishing feed. There are also some stealth social driven database analytics engine fueled technologies that are quite compelling too. [By popular demand, case studies forthcoming...]

Undoubtedly, there's a bit of humor in making a request in multiple LinkedIn Groups recently as follows:

Here was one amusing response from a thought leader I respect who later did actually provide me a lead.

That discussion is here so I'd love to hear more of your deepest inner thoughts on what the best technologies are in this emerging sphere. I'm certain Frontline Selling is at the top of that list of ways to creatively solve the neoclassical front-of-the-funnel problem:

Now it's your turn: What B2B front-of-the-funnel automation or augmentation technologies have you seen prove to be successful for new business development? What's worked for you? What has been the result of your experiments as a sales leader with elements of sales and marketing automation? What is the role thatArtificial Intelligence, big data and predictive analytics will play on this sector in the near future? Won't we always need meaningful human interactions to create a quality introduction? Hello Watson!

And now a moment of Dilbert zen that highlights just how painful the old ways of selling used to be, as you ponder a meaningful response to new memes below...

BONUS – A bit more about Frontline Selling gospel from Mike Scher:

There’s no secret sauce. No magic incantation. Just a proven, common sense approach that FRONTLINE has used for a decade to help tens of thousands of sales people from firms across almost every vertical get more first appointments with people who are genuinely interested in talking to them. 

FRONTLINE fundamentally changes the way sales people (theirs or yours) think about prospecting, they use a system and process that delivers a very structured approach to reach decision makers, and they provide a discipline of who to contact, how to contact them, what to say, how to say it, when to say it, how often to say it --- and, most importantly, the focus to make it a ritual. 

Their simple, but powerful web app reinforces, maps and guides daily activities – and provides managers visibility into activity and productivity for every team member - allowing them to coach for success. And, their approach is identical whether they get appointments for clients or share their knowledge with their team. They've added a new product name, Staccato, in honor of the continuous repetition of who to contact, how to contact them, etc., and, in celebration of their first decade...

Check out these brilliant concise LinkedIn Publisher Articles By Mike Scher before you go:

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: James Willcox

How To Win Huge Deals When The Stakes Are Dangerously High [Checklist]

What exactly do you do?

Bond: 'Oh, I travel... a sort of licensed troubleshooter.'

We've all been there before. The Battle Royale or maybe we've bet it all on red 16 at the roulette table. We're under deep cover in Monte Carlo and it's time to jettison the casino before the scorpions find us in our beds. We may just feel like 007 – pick your favorite scene...It's life or death in strategic selling! The competition has its hooks in the deal. The prize looks too sexy to be true. Procurement is shaving us down like a Bond villain calmly stroking a Persian pussy cat whilst openly revealing a sinister plot to choose a commodity supplier for total margin domination.

The quarter is about to close and we're banking on this one key moment to make or break our chances of the commission check. It's New Year's... somewhere. The RFP response has gone out. The SOW is sent. It ain't cheap to put gas in this vintage Aston Martin or keep a tuxedo pressed under scuba gear 365. The shot clock is ticking. The client will invariably demand a 'friends and family' discount. Haven't we trained them to wait until the last minute? Truly...what do you do? How do you navigate the island of Dr. 'No' to still engineer winning the deal, saving the world and booking the revenue. What is the role of social when the stakes are extremely high?

Sales is simple, right? Well yes, you may not need the mathematician's mind of Ian Fleming but you will need to know how to take calculated risks. Bonus points for getting away with quippy one-liners! If you prepare incredibly well, anticipate competitive threats and risks and leave no stone unturned in your close planning process you just may have a shot at diamonds forever. You must maintain a rigorous focus and discipline as the best military strategist would. When I'm working a six, seven, eight and even nine figure deal, I remain constantly vigilant and many questions race through my mind, many of which I outline below for your Youtility belt. Confidence is the feeling you have just before you understand the situation. Don't let your ego blind you. Cockiness can get you iced by Odd Job. For many of us, earning a living in complex B2B sales is a roller coaster ride and 60's spy novel with a cliffhanger ending. I've been there... Use this checklist to live to die another day, keep your golden eye on the ball and emerge victoriously to make a lucrative sequel with Cubby Broccoli:

  • Are you proactive or reactive in this deal? Are you levering it forward with leading vs. lagging measures? Have you evaluated the execution aspect of your sales process? Are their leading indicators and pattern recognition from past Win and Loss Reviews that would indicate impending victory?
  • Did you anchor the deal? Budget, Timeline, Compelling Event, Success Criteria – Are you pre-radioactive in your decay rate?
  • Did you RSVP? Relationships, Strategy, Value Creation, Process
  • Did you thoroughly perform discovery before you presented? Was your presentation Jobsian under 10 slides? How many Ahas and Wows did you garner? Better yet, did you simply Venn diagram it out on a white board with a dry erase marker keeping eye contact and addressing all concerns?
  • Do you understand the political power base and situational power base Mr. Fox? Do you know who your frenemies are in the account before you dodge friendly fire? Who ultimately holds the P & L and is authorized to sign a Production Order?
  • Did you 'beestorm', meeting with various stakeholder groups to build consensus? Who is mobilizing the deal? Talkers, blockers vs. advocates?
  • Who is the incumbent supplier and which exact sales people are you up against? Are there rogue consultants circling who can tip you off as to your status as a third stringer to simply check the box on three required vendors in a bureaucratic government tender process?
  • Are you missing requirements? Is there FUD - fear, uncertainty and doubt - that you can utilize to your advantage? Did you highlight their weakness, set traps and lockouts and differentiate by demonstrating unexpected value?
  • What's the outcome VITO is looking for? What are the risks if they don't change from the status quo?
  • Did you ask Situation Problem but especially Need-Payoff questions to dive deep enough to the root cause of the problem(s)? [SPIN] Did you peel the onion? Honestly, are you addressing a symptom or the true problem?
  • Did you win the business sale as well as the technical sale? Did you produce a tailored insight-driven presentation and proposal to each group? Did it highlight the competitors' weakness and position you as the leader? Oh no... have you said to much. Oversharing requirements can inversely increase perceived risk!
  • Have you personally met with the signer off-site? Have you leveraged risk as a weapon?
  • Have you leveraged LinkedIn Sales Navigator to gain intel and TAS Dealmaker to politically map the account? Have you honestly qualified hard enough?
  • Based on RAIN Group research did you Connect, Convince and Collaborate effectively? [The 3Cs are why Winners win, 'based on 700 B2B purchases with buyers responsible for over $3.1B in annual purchasing and interviews with 150 corporate buyers about their recent purchasing experiences.']
  • What is your military strategy or battle plan? Did you plan and execute it? Land and expand, Direct, Flanking, Attrition, Containment, Guerrilla etc.
  • Did you deftly leverage social media at every phase of the funnel? #strategicsocialselling
  • Did you speak CXO? Did you respectfully challenge but make sure to build rapport and trust advisor status prior? Did you build a provocative business case? Did you ideate enough with first principles thinking? Did you deliver a commercial teaching pitch? Teach, Tailor & Take Control [CEB]
  • Do you understand the trigger event(s) in play? Is the trigger strong enough? Better yet, were you first in, pre-trigger? Was that trigger a change or transition opposed to awareness or bad supplier? Did you analyze previous wins to influence this one?
  • Does the most senior executive truly understand why you're different? Did you present a convincing value hypothesis? Did you build a conservative, believable ROI or lift calculator?
  • Have they called a raving reference client? Have you presented hyper-relevant case studies?
  • Have you ghostjacked your own CEO's profile to directly connect to their CEO or Board via social profiles? Have you flown out on-site with your own internal executive sponsor?
  • Have they talked 75% of the time? Have you shared a powerful sales story? Have you brainstormed and white boarded with them? Did you perform gap, white space or SWOT analysis?
  • Have you connected emotionally and cerebrally? Have you had coffee independently with each to understand the politics?
  • Have you embedded yourself into a burning business case? Will she get promoted by choosing your solution? Will you transform her business? Will you make the customer look like a hero?
  • Have you communicated why and how you will save or make the company millions? Do you understand the health of the company? Are they in growth, stasis or crisis mode? What does the annual report tell you? What are the clues from the balance sheet?
  • Have you built a Gantt chart for execution and delivery stages ratified by the client? Are you holding each other accountable?
  • Have you established a cogent close plan?
  • Have you bubbled this up to your internal executive team to make this deal a priority and leverage their networks to triangulate into the power base?
  • Are you leveraging all your resources including pre-sales engineers, solutions consultants and client services? Are you the conductor of the symphony?
  • Did you put your CTO, CIO, CFO in touch with theirs?
  • Do you have empirical evidence and proof the deal will actually close? Hope is not a strategy. Has legal cleared for the MSA or PSC? Have you moved the deal into the end zone 15 days before the quarter closed?
  • Have you been tenacious in your follow up always adding value but never violating the principle of non-hunger?
  • Is the customer buying IBM? No one ever got fired for choosing them thus they were always happy to pay more for job security. Did you build a strong enough business case that the risk not to change is far greater than the risk of maintaining the status quo? Did you reduce friction early in the sales process? Did you make it easy to buy from you?

Ask yourself these questions when considering your 007 strategy:

  • What is our relationship strategy and are we aligned with the power-base?
  • Do we truly understand the decision driv­ers and business case?
  • Do we understand their corporate mode and personal agendas?
  • Who and what is our competition and how will we position against them?
  • Does the customer have other projects competing for funding?
  • Which of our competitors is engaged with the customer?
  • How will our competitors seek to position against us?
  • What are our compara­tive strengths and weaknesses?
  • How will we engineer the customer’s focus on our unique value?
  • How will we prove or validate our capabil­ity and lowest risk?
  • Where will we position price to leave room to negotiate?
  • Do we have all necessary information and what don’t we know?

Here's a sensational true story and case study where I went up against an incumbent supplier and won against all odds. Read how we did it as you think about how all the above check points factored in...

Now it's your turn: What did I miss on the checklist? What do you ensure you've covered in order to increase propensity of winning major enterprise deals in the 11th hour? Managers... Are you out there? Care to open-source your clandestine thoughts on the comment thread faster than you can say 'espionage?'

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 Photos by: Johan Oomen

Don't Be A Face Sucking Alien

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here's how you build confidence and close elegantly:

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

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

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

Main image photo by Flickr: Pug 50

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 10 Reasons Why Your Sales Reps SHOULD Be Creating Content

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Main image photo by Flickr: Mike Licht

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Main image photo by Flickr: Maria Elena

Can't Write? Can't Sell!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Main image photo by Flickr: John O'Nolan

Top 10 Most Egregious LinkedIn Violations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonus Round:

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

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

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

Main image photo by: David Blackwell

The Element Of Surprise

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

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

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

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

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

The element of surprise.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I expect my biggest enemy to be do nothing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Main image photo by Flickr

Top 40 Most Infamous Sales Archetypes Of All Time

1. Rico Suave

2. The Schmoozer

3. Don Juan DeMarco

4. Pinocchio

5. Wolf of Wall Street

6. The Spreadsheet Jockey

7. The PowerPoint Princess

8. Social Media Boy

9. Dandruff Man

10. The Class Clown Comedian

11. The Orator

12. Nostradamus

13. Tony Robbins Jr.

14. The Prince of Procrastination

15. The Charlie Sheen

16. Jessica Rabbit

17. Don Draper

18. The Yes Man

19. Houdini

20. The Joan Rivers

21. The Baldwin

22. The Rudy

23. The Axe Body Spray Dude

24. George Costanza

25. The Book Worm

26. The Steve Jobs Wanna-Be

27. Captain Obvious

28. The Paris Hilton

29.

30. Machiavelli

31. The Emperor's New Clothes

32. Don Quixote

33. The Multi-Level Marketer

34. The Brogrammer

35. The Manager Who's Never Sold

36. The Gamer

37. The Scribbler

38. The Luddite

39. War & Peace

40. Extreme Energy Drinker

41. Bonus: The Highlander

Who did I miss on your list?! I'll add them.

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

Main image photo by Flickr: Charlie Llewellin

Why Harrison Ford Survived Plane Crash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Main image photo by Flickr: El Hormiguero

Workplace Value Is Defined by These Two Things

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

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

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

Work Place Value = Degree of Positive Influence x Results Delivered

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

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

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

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

 Main image photo by Flickr: Giuliano Maiolini

The History and Future Of CRM According To Marco Formaggio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Main image photo by Dr Michael Hammer. Creator of Business Process Reengineering