Whale Hunting Part I - The Rate of Decay

What do complex sales and the radioactive decay rate of atoms have in common? "The rate at which these unstable isotopes [deals] undergo decay varies greatly between the different isotopes [customers]. The process is random for each atom [customer]. However there is a fixed probability that an atom [deal] will disintegrate over a fixed time scale [quarter(s)].The time it takes for the radiation to decay to half of what it was previously is constant and is called the half life [closed lost]."

Believe it or not, I always think of these decay rate charts, a phenomenon occurring in many natural systems, when I'm looking at enterprise selling. What is the said radiation? It's the emotion of senior decision makers and their propensity to overcome the status quo and make a change. It's the heat of the moment and the inspiration to take risk. Draw a graph like this on the white board and map Deal Size and Propensity to Close on the Y axis and time on the X axis. Then draw another horizontal line or watermark halfway up the Y axis to express the status quo. When a customer gets excited about the possibility of change, you've touched a nerve or uncovered pain; emotion flares up and just like a whale tail breaches the water line of the status quo. The fear of not changing outweighs the fear of changing for only a very short amount of time. If you do not get on site, Skype or meaningfully connect in that timeframe (actively listening) to help them make the case with the appropriate deciding stakeholders in the account, the deal will fall back down into the water and decay rapidly to the half life of 'close lost.' Ask yourself this question, how many opportunities have hit the "half life" and are hiding, decaying in your pipeline? It's time to Spring clean out your customer relationship management closet, observe the following universal truths and start to win.

Although enterprise deals ($250K+) on average can often take anywhere from 6 to 16 months to close, if you haven't made a major impact in a quarter or two, you're talking about a massive pull of inertia catapulting deals with whales back down into the dark ocean of "do nothing." Your likelihood of closing the deal is exponentially smaller with every month that goes buy from the original point of high interest. Customers buy on emotion and close on pure logic. Many call this striking while the iron is hot when opportunity knocks, before dying on the vine. Andy Paul has taken this to an even further level of real-time selling or zero-time selling as others like Craig Elias have dubbed the concept as 'first in.' This is a tricky expression and I'll uncover a new way to look at time and engagement in this post as well as a follow-up. There are nuances here that I feel could be more thoroughly explored. I wanted to share some of my unique thoughts about this concept as it relates to the natural world and how I see the ramifications of decay rates and how they're impacting enterprise deals and influencing sales cycle stagnation, or acceleration. It seems like a big mystery until you just look at any system in nature.

Simplicity emerges...

First off, are you currently even hunting whales? With all due respect to these beautiful, mysterious and regal creatures of the undersea kingdom which I do seek to protect, in sales, as a metaphor whale hunting is defined as going full bore after your largest dream clients. Why relegate your team to mediocrity and tire-kickers? I would argue it takes an equal amount of time, money and resources to go after bad deals as it does to target the right ones. Time is money and you're in business to produce dramatic results for clients that are a key fit for your solution. Think as big as you can, then think bigger. Imagine the most incredible deal you could put together with the biggest client with the most complete suite of your solutions. Write this down on paper to memorialize it. What truly constitutes an ideal prospect? Understand every facet of the whale almost like a marine biologist. You are Jacques Cousteau! Which company could your firm foster a strategic partnership with and completely transform their business as well as yours? That's step one: defining the whale and not limiting yourself to that definition. If you can't spot it, how can you hunt it? OK, you may not feel ready but I guarantee you're more ready than you think.

So that leads to the next major question? How do I combat that rate of decay? How can I reconcile enterprise sales cycles with my lack of time, capacity or resources? I need to go raise a round of funding... I need to close in business now. My startup company is at risk... or, as an account executive, I have to make my number, right?

Check out this second graph. Now I can go find thousands of these charts but what we see here is a similarity of diametric motions in competing energy systems. There's the downward pressure of decay and then the acceleration up and to the right of growth and the confluence or crossroads of both. You have a chance to literally insert yourself into deal cycles other competitors have started for you. You can come in out of nowhere (or below from the depths if we stick to this analogy) with more power, force, insight and passion and completely disrupt another decay rate already in play causing your deal to accelerate back up to growth. I would relate this to a block in the game of billiards when you knock the opponents ball off course or position your ball to block the target.

This is why social selling and social networks are so powerful. You can literally generate demand rather than servicing it. The whole traditional idea of web leads, inbound phone calls and the reactive nature of whales coming to you is a recipe for RFP, stalls and low average deal size. Generally, CXO whales deploy and delegate to have several vendors spelunked at once. So waiting for the sector to come to you is a red herring. I've opined ad nauseam about the power of content marketing to create an octopus's garden to attract whales and that's an ongoing Challenge endeavor that Marketing and B2B salespeople should undertake together but that does not forego, the proactive whale hunting mentality each day. The boulder versus the sand is going after at least five whales per day before doing anything else. Don't answer your email, construct an RFP response, work the web leads or build that 55 slide presentation with your NASCAR slide. Don't do anything until you've identified, targeted, followed up with, cold-called or connected with on LinkedIn – at least 5 dream customers before lunch. Every single day. After all, you still have the name "sales" in your title. And if that title disappears industry-wide someone is still going to be responsible for bringing in the revenue of the company. I'd challenge any robot to close a six or seven figure deal. If we get there in my lifetime, I'll eat my shoe. Please hold me to it!

Recently, a CEO argued for the end of selling and how customer service agents could handle it all. He whined about how unfortunate commission plans are. Even if all that were true, somebody in the companies of the future will understand this post and hop on a plane, even go door to door again, and do all this old school analog hunting completely eclipsing the techy folks waiting around for $250,000 self-serve orders to come into the website. I don't know about you but I've never been more suspicious in my life in making a major purchase than right now. In 2015 everything including Ferraris can be purchased on a mobile phone with one click and how on Earth do I know it's not a scam? Is the engine full of sawdust? Am I sending a money order to Dubai? How do I get into the car and test drive it... I'd be shocked to hear of one Fortune 2,000 CEO spending $1MM without face time and even walking the facilities of the vendor. If you're a CXO reading this or you know one that has purchased million dollar enterprise software sight unseen, please comment. I would love a case study, perhaps I'm wrong (but I doubt it.)

You can set off the chain reactions in both charts and be there first, early. I think the thing that Corporate Executive Board research misses and Challenger Sale for that matter, is the goal of insight selling in a real-time ecosystem is to bypass the entire decision making process all together. The entire buyer's decision journey is reactive: they've already started and you're inserting yourself anywhere between 57% to 90%. So it's all focused on engaging early upstream. But who is teaching, don't even compete in an existing buying cycle that has a decay rate. What about the novel idea of triggering the buying cycle yourself? Right, the entire cacophony of "it's not a sales cycle," it's a "buying cycle" is juxtaposed to the sales people I coach actually closing six and seven figure deals with LinkedIn. They're generating demand not servicing it. I would counteract this with the Jobsian thought, "What customer ever knew what they want? We need to show them what they never knew they always wanted." Paraphrasing...

On Monday, hold a meeting with your sales team. Write down the top 10 companies you need to close and what exact deal you want to do: size, solution, stakeholders, etc. Who are you not closing you need to be? I'm sure it's on the tip of your tongue or in the back of your mind. What are the solutions you'll sell and the problems you'll solve? Chances are, you're no longer up periscope searching for whales; you're reactively dealing with a school of fish of smaller accounts - just as high touch, high maintenance - and they're reactively consuming all your time. Have you given up? Recalibrate! Now that you've pinpointed these whales it's time to share your team's knowledge of everything in the accounts: what were the past attempts, do you have paper with any of them, were there past proposals? Have stakeholders you've sold to from other accounts moved into them? Where are the people that signed the POs or SOWs now? All of this is very much a group trigger event tracking exercise and will serve as the wind in your sails to build momentum in this quarter and the next. You are simply getting to know the whales, identifying them before you go after them again.

Reinvigorated by this article? I certainly am. I do this every day and train groups and CXOs to look at their book of business and territory mapping in this novel way. So what now? Go look at the graphs again. Nobody is ever satisfied with what they're using, especially in software. Most people have creeping doubts. Ask someone if they're happy? 99% will mention they could be happier in this area of that. So essentially the flare of change, the breach of the surface of the ocean, the whale tail's rise if you will is happening right as we speak all over the ocean of our sector and customer base. You only need to get out a pair of binoculars, open your eyes from your CRM spreadsheet jockey repose and get out the S.S. Minnow. All you have to do is intercept the decay rate or better yet, CREATE IT! Waves, ebbs and flows - watch them. If you live by a major body of water, go study right now... It holds thousands of years of secrets in its movements. Enterprise sales cycles ebb and flow the exact same way. It's all right there!

When I call on a major customer and I have a cutting edge solution that is superior in many ways I focus on the outcomes and risk. I keep the conversation strategic with the business folks to win the business sale and technical/tactical with the operational technical folks to win the technical sale in tandem. I make a compelling and provocative business case that my competitor is not using. It's unique and data driven. I'm not parroting the magic quadrant report: I tell the story in my own way to deeply engage. It's about them, their quote in the annual report, the media, the blog, the conference. I also realize there's a 3% chance they're actively looking and 40% chance they're open to looking. That 40% is my ocean where I'll create the breach. Jumping dolphins are cool too, fast nimble high growth companies that I can sell into that will create the budget and still have the scaled need. The minute I get customers excited emotionally about improving the state of their business, the risk of change decreases, the system is frictionless and now I have a customer advocate and champion to go cause a Renaissance in the account. Value creation is easy. It's not a one time propositions. It's an upward spiral of how we're working together to either drive revenue or increase operational efficiency on an ongoing basis. Then the decay rate begins...

Let me simplify this for you: If you've got deals over $250,000 in your pipe and you are not actively engaging and moving them through your funnel with enough velocity they will [I repeat]: drown into the status quo of the Doldroms. No doubt about it. The minute something goes white hot in your pipe, you have mere weeks, maybe a quarter to accelerate it so you can be that red sine wave graph up and to the right. You must catch the egg of interest and intent or it will break. These are simple diagrams pulled right out of isotope and atomic decay rate research. But all these decay rates look eerily similar against infinite human systems, as they are fractal. The expenditure of emotion, energy and enthusiasm like echoes into a canyon, is guided by the limitation of Earth time. We all know the greatest enemy of quota is time. That's why we must ferociously protect our calendars against the forces of evil in our own companies masquerading as good. Endless admin, enablement and days of internal meetings does not a top seller make. It's just a law. Companies exist to block their sellers. That may be the greatest paradox of all. Often in an early stage startup I consult, the first step is to pinpoint the sellers who are literally "blocking revenue." Once a shift is made and the able folks are in the right location, a team of 2 can drive more revenue than 10. I've seen it happen too many times it's like some parable in Greek myth. Deal Blockers Anonymous. The anti-sellers reckoning!

Time is of the essence. Identify the whales. Think bigger. Build a sustainable, repeatable [demand gen] mechanism to engage them early before they "die on the vine" and decay and when you see the tail flare up, realize they're most likely engaged with all your competitors. In the enterprise, this is definitely always the case. To prove it, think of your own behaviour? When's the last time you bought a pricey piece of software? Did you not go to Google, submit to multiple web forms and request demos from at least three companies. I recently did this with GoToMeeting, Join.Me and WebEx and had reps from all three selling me, slide-decking me and romancing me for a few months. But if you're first, if you're the one to cause the flare up with a key insight, by helping them see their business or business model in a dramatically new way, you then have this shining moment to accelerate the deal. Is it audacious to think you can revolutionize someone's business who may be very senior to you? Not if you build enough industry expertise by assessing what the leading edge companies are doing you interface with. You generate insight by living it, being out in the field, walking the halls of dream clients and reading like a fiend.

Is it possible to close deals without an inside sales team, field sales team and solely as a CEO founder leveraging marketing automation and LinkedIn alone? Yes. I know of several using stealth social gen technologies now. I know of companies having success with companies like Frontline Selling and There's an inside phalanx of Predictable Revenue sellers too applying the Henry Ford Silicon Valley specialization models. The sales people of the future will understand this and form a strategic alliance with their internal C-Suite. By leveraging stealth B2B social lead gen technology to set unlimited meetings, bonding and having a close knit relationship with the leadership of their own company, and being more proactive than ever, they can pick from a grab bag like bobbing for apples. It will be possible to steal deals right out of the hands of competitors.

We've all had this happen to us. All's fair in love, war and business. And when I say steal, it's like stealing the ball in sports; it's a fair play. If you outsmart your competitors by thinking more strategically, being quicker and more cunning as the fox, it's still counts when you bank it. Technology levels the playing field but technology mixed with strategy is unstoppable. Study military strategy, study the classic strategic selling books you think are collecting dust on the shelf. Don't get too enamored with the Social Selling craze because many of these principles lack the foundation of strategic selling in complex matrixed organizations. You need to garner a very thorough understanding of SPIN selling, TAS, Solution, Strategic, Insight and Power Base before you attempt to do this in social. You will walk right into a hornest nest as you trigger multiple land mines with out a complete and thorough training in the Pantheon.

After all, until they 'sign on the line that is dotted,' it's a free country, free market and the customer or "whale" is in charge. We'd never harpoon the whale, we'd let them harpoon us into a meaningful business relationship of trust that lasts and strengthens itself in an anti-fragile manner where we're providing so much recurring value creation that they'd never sever that tie in the chaos of high growth technology acceleration. We're out ahead innovating in permanent beta. Maybe this post should have been called Whale Rider because I've featured a picture of a photographer capturing the stately mysterious whale shark. You truly want to co-exist with your best customers and forge alliances of trust. It's a simbiotic give and take after all. That's why I love the book Go-Givers Sell More!

If you're limiting yourself on the size of deal you can close, speed you can close it and level of dream customer, you're wasting precious time in your career and taking commission money out of your family's pocket. Go big! Dream bigger and think bigger. There is a ton of great information on trigger events that Tibor Shanto and Craig Elias put out so I must tip my hat to that in this article. I'm going to write a follow up post to this all about "anchoring the sale." This will cover the psychological components and where Cialdini's influence factors in when you do get in "early" and chase the rainbow to find that mythical pot of gold. Don't get bitten by the procurement leprechaun!

Once you spot a prospect that is "whale size" and has embarked on the decay rate journey there are ways to anchor the deal before it falls off that are critical to bringing the revenue home and booking it. The role of social media, LinkedIn, Twitter and persistent cold-calling techniques coupled with them as well as how to leverage on-site and interactivity become key here. Look for Part II.

Happy hunting and closing! Once you catch the whale, psyche! realize they caught you and coexist with them. Admire their beauty. Go for a swim in the ocean of healthy profit margins, recurring revenue and a virtuous cycles of mutual growth!

Now it's your turn: What makes deals die? Why do some accelerate and others stall? How are you leveraging strategic selling systems, processes and technology to compete in big deals or accelerate your sales cycle? Curious...

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

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Marcel Ekkel

Top 40 Luckiest LinkedIn Growth Hacks - Extreme Edition

The harder I work, the luckier I get. Call me Edison or Casey Kasem, as controversial as some of these ninjitsu tactics may be, here are my top 40 wacky, wild and a bit wooly ways to get lucky on LinkedIn. Forgive me as I lift the proverbial kimono but I was inspired after speaking for Oracle in New Zealand today and reviewing for their Melbourne event tomorrow on Social Selling 3.0:

  1. Rewrite your profile optimized for keyword search but also rewrite it with Purple Cow Power of Wow content. Differentiate!
  2. Change your headline to something action based that differentiates you, stands out and is value creation focused.
  3. Launch your own LinkedIn group and host it curating it with great articles and posting provocative questions. Make sure it's a catch name like LinkedIn B2B Mastermind Social Thai Chi Practitioners!
  4. Use 100% of your InMails. You get 25, write them all. That's less than 1 a day. Not using InMail is just like not exercising or learning. It's the path of least resistance. InMails are a literal gold mine. InMail should be called GoldMail or PlatinumPings!
  5. Join 50 groups and actively participate in all of them as much as possible with relevant questions to foster engagement. Keep rotating out 2 to 5 of them to make sure every group is packing a power punch.
  6. Set your settings so that every update you post is visible to “everyone’s network.” You've gotta be visible if you're going to build the Hyatt Platform.
  7. Block visibility of your connections from the Settings tab to prevent competitors from poaching clients. You may be in an industry where it's better to be open but in highly contested disruptive startup waters - lock it down!
  8. Add an email address you're open to sharing in your about section to allow others to freely connect - especially pertinent as an author. Write it as 'tony at RSVPselling' if you're worried about getting scraped! My bio message immediately encourages topics to be sent to me and/or any questions or feedback.
  9. Publish wild articles in LinkedIn Publisher and push yourself to reach the 1,700 word (7 minute read mark). Think steak and sizzle. Iterate on thousands of topics, pull from that grab bag. Be a student of how-tos, extremes and hyperbole. You'll be told that 200-400 words is ideal for building followers but don't be afraid to polarize your audience... if it's good, keep going. Just be sure to respect your audience; they're smart and don't need you to them what they already now!
  10. Reverse look-up up valid B2B email addresses leveraging Rapportive. LinkedIn owns this company which pulls from the RapLeaf database. It's not always accurate but it's a good way to at least get a quick read on prospects from inside Gmail.
  11. Get a subscription to LinkedIn Sales Navigator and launch aLinkedIn War Room. The secrets of Navigator include passive lead tracking, lead serving daily, shares, company updates and TeamLink. In a bigger company TeamLink is a massive edge. You can map how your seat licenses map out to the greater organization and 3 degrees to the target.
  12. Connect with key influencers in your sector, they’re often more open to connecting. Thought leaders are often very open to mingling in social but make it count. Customize and personalize. Add them to a Twitter List and invite them to your personal LinkedIn Group. Follow every thought leader's blog with the Feedly app. RIP Google Reader, how we loved you so, I can't even count the ways!
  13. Build a custom Twitter list just off your top LinkedIn connections to make sure you’re listening to them in TweetDeck or HootSuite.
  14. Block your visibility when you view people for deep R&D or if you’re wanting to be seen, open it up – two very different strategic objectives.
  15. Build a private mastermind group!
  16. Find a reverse-mentor to teach you all the cutting edge Social 3.0 techniques. If you're under 35, desperately seek out a mentor to teach you how to actually do SPIN selling, TAS, Solution, Strategic, Consultative, Power Base and BattlePlan. These technologies close million dollar deals and mixed with social are lethal!
  17. Hit the plus sign on everyone's skills - everyone who deserves it - yes! Hold an endorse-a-thon! I know, it's annoying getting told how great we all are, all day, but so many of us are guilty of it. If you can't beat them join them on this one. LinkedIn is fundamentally sticky for this reason. Buzz the smartphone in pocket.
  18. Write personalized invite requests from mobile LI and LinkedIn. Get creative and be original. Remember that being likable for likability's sake doesn't always make you stand out. Be yourself and be real. Authenticity and candor are rarer than diamonds on here.
  19. Sort your feed by Recent Updates versus All so you can retrain LinkedIn's machine learning algorithm to populate ever more interesting stuff. Train your content dragon!
  20. Publish on Publisher 3 times per day for 3 months at 1,900 words.Super challenging but rewarding! Grew my followers 3X. Secret? Stop watching TV. I pushed myself to the limit and drove 300,000 views and followers to 3X in 60 days: 1,500 to 5,500... even while I was on family vacation in Vietnam... thank you family!
  21. Go out of your way to actually meeting people in real life - coffee and tea are the best for this especially before and after standard work hours. Never eat alone!
  22. 99% of just people hit the like button so leave meaningful comments everywhere calling out specifics. Actually read the articles. Get to the end. Mention something from the end. It floors people when you read every word. Most stuff on here is snackable. Go like the materials in the gallery. I'm shocked when top thought leaders gallery section of SlideShares and YouTube speeches is about as crowded as a graveyard. Get in there and make a joyful noise!
  23. Use the @mention feature to promote people discovering new connections from within your comments. Just hit the @ button anywhere you comment: you'll discover the secret of how this works. Always do it! Discipline yourself to leave a hyper-personalized reply comment on every comment you get. Comments are gold, go add those profiles; study those people and interact meaningfully.
  24. If you apply for jobs, try to apply to dozens or hundreds just to expand your horizons through weak ties. You'll be amazed the treasures that flow back. Remember your resume is in a pile deeper than the administration's revised tax and expenses backlog.
  25. Ask your entire network for recommendations.
  26. You thought you got me and I knew some of you grimaced at that one. 'Don't spam me Tony!' Before you do #25, do the good ol' deleting party so everyone in your network matters.
  27. Interact with other geographies, fields, cultures and age ranges.You'll grow so much more by embracing a global outlook on the business world. Agism is so passé!
  28. Keep LinkedIn open 60 to 90 hours per week on mobile LI and in a browser tab to study patterns and improve your content pattern recognition.
  29. Watch the trending keywords of "most searched" in Top 25 Pulselike Big Ideas 2015 and your write titles based on them. Follow all the thought leaders on a Channel, link in with them on LI and Twitter. If some CEO posts some link bait like: "I'll never hire a salesperson again" take a stand and counter act the post with one directly calling it out. LinkedIn take-downs are like fireworks. Remember debate class and Parliament. Make sure to respect your adversaries. You could start the post with: "Will the right honorable gentleman please hire some sales people."
  30. Share pictures of great quotes; images get huge interaction. Build-out your own selfie YouTube channel like Tibor Shanto; talking to the camera. Real, gritty and raw is world's more powerful than the 'slick.' I need to get going on video blogging... next phase for me.
  31. Build an international Twitter & LinkedIn Sharing network where you thunderclap out other people's stuff. It's not some secret cabal conspiring for clandestine Illuminati domination. Instead, it's really just sound business. The law of fellowship and affiliation prevails. Your people retweet and re-share your stuff in social and you return the favor. Make sure to add comments to pass back the Google Juice by making it non-duplicative.
  32. Newsjack and Ghost-Drive (aka GhostJack). Ghostdriving is the real-time concept of driving other peoples' profiles to see the world from new eyes. I call this pulling a Marcel Proust: "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes." Newsjacking is posting content in response to Google and Twitter trending topics. Hashtag cloud back into Twitter by linking your LinkedIn and Twitter. Remember, mentioning Kim Kardashian in anything defies all logic and reason and outranks everything on the internet instantly. Mash it up! Top 10 Things Kim Kardashian Would Do As A Sales Manager... LOL!!!!
  33. Create the longest, most over the top, profile ever created. Never worry about being too unique. The extra mile is a lonely road on social. Put every charity, award, society, interest you've ever had out there in full force. Why? Search engines crawl it and eat it up!
  34. Hub & Spokes - My signature social selling 3.0 strategy - break the mold and move your blog to LinkedIn [hub] - Leverage Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube and Instagram as the spokes. Become the garden that attracts the butterflies. Stop building bionic nets! I just received 7 friend requests in the past hour. Pull the industry to your doorstep! #attractionmarketing
  35. Whenever anyone interesting views you, add them back with a personal message. Inbox them when they like your content or comment. Max-out referrals and personalize them all.
  36. Mash-ups - Fuse the old and the new, the Luddite and the Advanced, the shocking and the mundane. This is akin to Digital Power Clashing, wearing many shades of plaid and argyle to stand out.
  37. Leverage heaps of humor and satire - B2B is dry and dull, you need to take it up a notch and crack wise. I often blast out satirical political commentary and get awesome engagement. Always, always make fun and lampoon yourself! Share funny YouTubes and use GIFs and mashed up pics. Tweet right at other authors to urge response. Tweet at the media, they'll seldom respond!
  38. Tell true stories or build B2B Fiction - Get your statistics right so you don't mislead. Extrapolate the future and push the envelope. Build characters in your mind to create allegory.
  39. Make wild predictions about the future!
  40. Open source everything. Share every last secret openly. Give software companies and third parties permission (with authorship) to repurpose and remix your content. Remember Seth Godin gave away the biggest eBook of all time. He's still relatively unknown because of it. [NOT!]
  41. Bonuses...You know me. Tap into alumni networks. Adding alums gets a 95% accept rate when you call it out. Always ask Why when someone disagrees with you??!! Draw it out. Haters are gonna hate so develop a thick skin. If someone attacks you ad hominem do what Tibor Shanto did and eviscerate it, line by line with the precision of a Rhodes Scholar. He warned his frenemy the following: contains facts.
When you accept someone's connection invitation send them a message thanking them for inviting you to connect and ASK them if you can help them in any way. It's amazing how many times it pays off. They then 'really' look at your profile and you get to both start a conversation. - Sonja Firth

Finally, make sure you understand LinkedIn's SSI because those who score well have 50% more likelihood of making their sales target.

I hope you're laughing and also scratching your head! Now it's your turn: What did I miss? What LinkedIn hack works for you? How are you pushing the envelope on here or in social? What has resonated with you the most? Were you offended or did you laugh out loud? Did you hit share? So remember what happened to the cat. If you've lived 9 lives and are ready for more, count Curiosity as numero uno on this bizarre listicle data dump.

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

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Dita Margarita

Infiltrating The Social Selling Mafia

The first rule of Fight Club is: You do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is: You do not talk about Fight Club.

Ladies and gentlemen, I've recently been accused of being inducted into the Social Selling Mafia as a 'made man.'

I assure you, this is patently untrue but even if it were true, I really couldn't admit – could I? Live by the social media, die by the social media. I have no intention of 'sleeping with the fishes.' I prefer my shoes to be Italian leather rather than lead.

But seriously; I've been pushing like crazy in LinkedIn for 90 days and it really does work. You can leverage it more effectively than a telephone. What case study am I referencing? My own success in the channel and that of those whom I mentor. I think it's because I approached it with an open mind and little experience.

I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance." - Socrates, from Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers

Instead I decided to use RSVP, TAS, Battle Plan, Challenger, Strategic, Solution, Power Base, Miller Heiman and especially SPIN in the channel. Since I couldn't find it anywhere, I coined what I'm doing as #strategicsocialselling and launched a new hashtag. That's not to say that many of the #socialselling elite are not strategic. Many are and I'm meeting them along the way, as they agree it's about fusing old and new school methods together. I called many out in a Strategic Social Selling Unicorns Post.

I was writing a post about the power of 'Pay It Forward' and that being 'interested versus interesting' is the great hidden secret to all social selling hiding in plain sight in order to generate profitable new business via LinkedIn when a thought leader responded that 'Social Selling is a Myth' and he does not agree with the tenets of the ruling families of the Social Selling Mafia. I thought it would be amusing to write a retort as a post. Also, I don't really see myself as part of any mafia of any kind. As Groucho Marx stated facetiously, "PLEASE ACCEPT MY RESIGNATION. I DON'T WANT TO BELONG TO ANY CLUB THAT WILL ACCEPT PEOPLE LIKE ME AS A MEMBER." [Rimshot!]

I've blazed a trail as a pioneer out on my own in social selling endeavoring to make it more strategic and writing about ways to use LinkedIn Sales Navigator, InsideView, Avention, Trigger Event Selling and stealth B2B technologies akin to or FrontLine Selling. I've tried to just go out and produce results via massive action rather than buy into any of the prevailing theories out there. Thus I've posited various paradoxes I see in social selling as well as ways to leverage it in every aspect of the traditional prospecting engagement funnel. I'm pleased to hear that thought-leaders are reading and thinking about my work. Rest assured, I serve no master but the truth and am looking for ways to tangibly help those that I coach achieve cut-through leveraging the new tools.

Unbeknownst to me, by promoting LinkedIn so heavily, I inadvertently got hazed into the amorphous mob of the social mafia. I ended-up on a Top 100 Social Sellers list from Onalytica, within a few months at #87. I started to newsjack and leverage David Meerman Scott principles which, blended together with my RSVPselling Methodology, gave me what I've calculated to be one of the highest read blogs in my network. Humbled and grateful to be there; thanks for your support!

The truth is, that everyone who's taken the deep dive into Social Selling 1.0 and 2.0 are the trailblazers. They've laid a foundation for a brave new world. They've gotten in the covered wagons and gone West toward their manifest destiny (or in Australia where I am, East – over the great dividing range). LinkedIn is so much more than a yellow pages or CRM of contact records. It's so much more than noise and hype. It's everywhere that you want to be. It's where all your prospects are and with Navigator, you can now passively monitor your prospects' streams. At long last, by leveraging that one relevant insight to crowbar in a 'warm introduction,' you are 500% more likely to secure a meeting.

So in many ways leveraging LinkedIn for B2B upstream engagement is exponentially more successful than a traditional phone. You move from servicing demand to creating it. You move from prospecting to uncovering latent demand pre-trigger events. You're upstream to Challenger. You're upstream to the 57% of the decision making process. You're serving them insights and new solutions to problems they may not even know they actually have.

Only 2% of attempts on a phone get through for a result and it's just not high enough. I've made 100 calls in one day – I won't settle for second prize or a set of steak knives! I want to be the CEO in charge of my own life. I want to win. To sell I need to make contact. I need someone that I can sell to. What I will say, is that seeking to get in without a compelling insight, without speaking CXO, without ideation in your go-to-market strategy that aligns sales and marketing and challenges the sector's status quo: that's high risk. You will fail. So social selling just to 'open' faster, is transactional whiz-bang. Strategic insight applied to social 'opening' as a conduit to meaningful value exchange [the V in RSVP = value creation], landing the coffee meeting, on-site and then hopping on the airplane – that's the tour-de-force trifecta or four-fecta! Fuggedabouit!

I come to social media with a completely open mind. I'm on a clandestine operation of old school strategic selling, a cunning fox in wolf's clothing. I approach every day like a rookie would. I ask why? I explore every possibility and I read the #socialselling hashtag like mad. But I also watch all the top sellers on Amazon, read the consultants' white papers, research any credible data I can get my hands on and follow many blogs of the contrarians who believe social selling is a myth.

The argument that is accurate in my opinion is that any communications channel mistakenly leveraged for cram and jam, slam selling and push button gratification is inherently fatally flawed. Agreed. Can you use social media and elevate it into sending the language of outcomes and risk over the wires to the right executives to break through in dream accounts? Yes. Can you build the right target network and engage with them in Groups, InMails and respond to their Publish, Blog and Updates on LinkedIn? Yes. Proof? I receive e-mails and invites from CXOs constantly in response to what I write. The proof is in the commentary arguing against Social Selling. If you're not using social selling to engage, how are you reading all of my articles and leaving long meaningful comments? Your existence as an executive in the channel is empirical proof of its very success.

So thus: WE ARE ALL IN THE SOCIAL SELLING MAFIA or perhaps we are just selling. 330+ million on LinkedIn strong are getting a spectrum of results every day based on their ability to wield the technology by making meaning in their message. It's communications 101 or maybe 202. Sellers are as powerful as the quality of their insight – in any channel – and that's the way it will always be. So what's really changed? The medium but not the message, dare I say. A Twitter with 200,000 followers cannot hold a candle to the right 1,000 connects [thousand true fans] on LinkedIn that are hyper-targeted and segmented to match to your solution fit.

Ultimately, if we study Metcalfe's law and the history of network effects we find that there is always a network with nodes. It's all a human communications systems grid. Text messaging surpassed voice calls for Millennials. Snapchat and WhatsApp exceeded Facebook. Ultimately, it's all just network communications with changing media. Wherever the majority of customers communicate will always be the penultimate channel for business success. Penetrating a social based ecosystem with a telephone is in violation of the basic laws and science of network effects. There's a basic scientific argument that would support the efficacy of social networks, the internet and Web 3.0. Wherever the fish spend the most of there time is where the fishermen go. They even risk their lives for the deadliest catch! The bait is quality insight-driven or Challenger content. Call it what you will! It's factual and empirical. Just like early phone sellers who didn't master a strategic approach, the phone was rendered worthless. Because of the way LinkedIn notifications hook into mobile, you're literally buzzing their smartphone in pocket.

My prediction from 2015 toward 2020, is that social sellers will become increasingly strategic by fusing the old and the new. The universal methodologies and frameworks that have always won enterprise business will fuse with the new technologies that enable sales acceleration and omniscience. The role of big data, predictive analytics and smart AI algorithms cannot be overstated. The Social Selling Mafia stigma will fall away. This is just like I argued the future of CRM is not CRM although I'm sure that's what it will still be called. Everything will solely become 'selling' once again and I doubt there will even be mobile phones. It will all be about wearables, smart contacts, Google Glass II Designer Edition and we'll have heads up (HUD) displays giving us readouts from managers hooked into the cloud, seeing what we see in a virtual space. Can you imagine? Live sales coaching in real-time?

You may think I watched Minority Report one too many times. The keys to unlocking the riddles of the future of selling are hidden in our deepest past. It's the alchemist – the answer is hiding at the beginning of the journey, buried treasure right beneath us, hiding in plain site. Communication is the most powerful thing we do as humans, much of it is even non-verbal. Communications networks follow the law of divergence, not convergence. They're extremely powerful leveraged in concert. When salespeople connected with prospects through GoToMeeting and turned on their webcam, they had a 34% higher closerate than when they connected through GoToMeeting without video. This is because 10,000 possible facial expressions speak volumes more in universal parlance to humanize our brands. We read people via Gladwellian thin slice, don't you? The majority of Top 100 Twitter profiles are swiftly becoming brands so personal branding and thought leadership via content strategy at scale becomes a profound trend we're seeing.

The future will belong to strategic social sellers 'opening' sales opportunities upstream with holographic and Skype-like means of first calls and demos. There will be stratospheric travel that shrinks the globe so that C-Levels can interact for on-sites to create partnerships in a single day trip. The phone will still exist of course but all the virtual conferencing innovations will be the method of choice. Just look at the explosion of FaceTime, Skype, Join.Me, WebEx and GoToMeeting!

I respect all the sellers out there pushing the envelope regardless of their moniker. Social selling is neither myth nor lie. There are very real case studies. Check out the LinkedIn Navigator success stories in the enterprise and testimonials at that link. There's your social proof on social selling and the data does not lie. Look at all the real world case studies these leading enterprises are touting. Multiple 300K+ deals, 40% pipeline growth and millions in net new revenue!

Shakira said it best, 'My hips don't lie!'

Huge increases in engagement lead to higher revenues. LinkedIn is clearly the new effective cold call if done strategically with relevant insight in context. We must challenge ourselves to approach the new tools strategically. Welcome to the brave new world. I never intended to take the 90-Day Social Selling Challenge on LinkedIn in order to join some 'mafia.' I was seeking to get on board the superhighway like Einstein riding the light beam. If good ideas that work are mafioso, then we're living in an upside-down world. I don't care much for tools or rules.

I do whatever it takes maintaining integrity, to get the deal over the line and I suggest you do too. The greatest strategy of all is the one that works in that moment on the field. 'Opportunities multiply as they are seized,' Sun Tzu. The mafia know who I am and have been encouraging so far, more proof perhaps there isn't mafia at all. More just luddites against the early adopters. I have seemed to upset a few people by putting myself out there to this degree. It was worth it to gain thousands of new connections to help us collectively figure this all out. Disruptive change is hard on everyone. People fear change and seek security and stability, something impossible in high technology markets. Let your results speak for themselves and boldly go where no one has gone before! Adaptation and agile learning are the key. Only the curious will survive.

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

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Eneas De Troya

Return of the Dragon #strategicsocialselling - new hashtag, old twist

The dragon we've all been trying to slay is the strategic [up and to the right] aspect of this value quadrant. 'Up and to the right' is right: get the strategy right and you'll be a sales sensation. Strategic sellers make it rain but how? CEO's often explain it as he or she 'just makes the magic happen'. They've fumbled into the ecstasy of anthropomorphism in describing strategic sellers who effortlessly seem to become trusted as advisor eagles or lone wolves (if they're not housebroken) or even mythical beasts like Lewis Carroll's Gryphon. They've got a similar graph like this on the universal hot vs. crazy matrix (see YouTube sensation below). Aka; the Unicorn. The more you look, the less likely it is to be found. Typically, as humans we fear what we don't understand. Not with top sellers. The leadership may not understand them but they certainly love them. One word – revenue. Then how on Earth could you get more of them into your organization? Maybe you need a unicorn catcher consultant like Dana McLendon in the video below who explains to men the unicorn zone when seeking to find the right women in your life?

For your edification (and my own no doubt!), I took the time to generate THIS STRATEGIC SOCIAL SELLER UNICORN LIST after a few months of scouring the internet and continuing to lose sleep! This compilation is actually dead serious and devised to help us all identify who these folks are. I intend to keep revising and adding to it in contrast to many somber advanced analytics based ways of generating the top 100 social sellers. It's not easy to dominate social selling but it is easier to game algorithms than be strategically seasoned, applying real world methodology that actually produces concrete revenue results and factors in #social.

It's always cool to compare the size of our Klout rankings, Social Selling Index Scores (SSI) from LinkedIn or PageRank of our vlog. Ultimately, I'm simply looking for an insight into the strategic sales process, methodology and traditional frameworks that still work on massive enterprise deals whilst selling into big companies and government infused into the modern social selling methods.

What does it mean to be truly strategic in major deals? That really depends on how you define strategy; something almost any sales person I meet with struggles to define. To me, strategic selling is about engaging early at the highest levels with provocative insights that foster engagement. The quality of your insights will dictate the acceleration of your deals and commensurately, the velocity of your pipeline.

Pure Matter Blog released a list of the top 50 social selling experts it polled aboutthe biggest challenge social selling experts face. There are some wonderful answers here. Outside looking in, as I've only been pushing hard in social for under 90 days, I'm dead certain it's the following so please tweet these if you agree:

Social Selling must become strategic to be leveraged effectively and sustainably in closing repeat enterprise deals.
To achieve a strategic social selling plan for your company, the answer is simple: It's a mashup of what came before with the cutting edge of what's next.
Strategic Social Selling means fusing old world and new world selling methodologies to close enterprise deals and generate predictable revenue.

Who's leading the charge in this regard, especially writing about it?

  • Mike Weinberg who wrote New Sales. Simplified. and riffs on it here.
  • Tim Hughes at Oracle UK. Period.
  • Jill Konrath has always innovated at the cusp. She's even broken this down into agile learning as a meta-skill for high value selling.
  • Jill Rowley - I tweeted out she's a strategic social selling unicorn and she requested to be a bacon #socialselling unicorn. She gets the mashup! She's exceeded quota year after year so she understands the pressures in the enterprise on ACV and crushing the number. She speaks CXO here.
  • David Brock whose Partners In Excellence blog sets a gold standard for prolific B2B writing. He's even more prolific than I've endeavored to become... I don't know how anyone could live on less sleep than me doing all the writing after days filled with clients.
  • Mike Kunkle is a sage - a master of enterprise enablement, I can never stop learning from his posts that seem to presciently fuse everything great on enterprise selling together. He has encyclopedic knowledge of every facet of sales, coaching, enablement and the underlying tech. True gift to the industryLinkedIn Publisher ecosystem. I vote LinkedIn makes the Influencer Network open again and elects him into it.
  • Koka Sexton - There's no secret why Koka is the face of content strategy for LinkedIn. He needs no introduction. Follow him religiously!

How do you prevent history from repeating? Simple. Study it. How do you take social selling and elevate it to a point where it can withstand the forces of procurement, buying committees, more decision makers involved in the buying process than ever before, complexity and commoditization?

It's crucial to have a rock solid strategic social sales process. Have you mapped the politics, power base, picked a military strategy and built a multi-channel plan of attack that includes social as a force multiplier, not the core? Insight is the core. You are the core, the differentiator and the why. People still buy from those they know, like and trust. But they won't let you waste their time, especially executive decision makers.

Sellers fall into hunters and farmers but that's a glass ceiling we've bought into. I'd argue hunting in named account is closer to the mark. And beyond that, moving 'up and to the right', becoming the mythical beast, slaying the dragon or becoming one is our moment-by-moment challenge. Without strategy you are blasting, spray-and-pray, in a house full of smoke and mirrors. Just like martial arts takes years of focused discipline, so does becoming great at strategic selling. Hope is not a strategy and thinking strategically is interdisciplinary in that it requires improving business acumen as well as selling and communications skills.

I love Bruce Lee. He said some incredibly profound things in his short time gracing the world with his gifts. He was a bright light gone to soon but he had a vision and he said the following which applies to strategic selling more than any other quote I could find; it's not what you're expecting! Bruce also believed in his ability to rise to the top, something you must do to stand out as signal in the noise in #strategicsocialselling against a backdrop of #socialselling.

Love is like a friendship caught on fire. In the beginning a flame, very pretty, often hot and fierce, but still only light and flickering. As love grows older, our hearts mature and our love becomes as coals, deep-burning and unquenchable.”

For some, familiarity breeds contempt. The same old marketing pabulum certainly does. Let us strive to fall in love with our customers and help them to fall in love with good ideas that truly break new ground. Let us leverage social media to passively listen to them, which LinkedIn Sales Navigator at last allows us to do. We're no longer the 'awkward fast friend.' Let's engage with relevance, context and meaning. Let's understand where we came from as a global selling community. One of the ways we can protect our livelihoods and jobs is to become more strategic in everything that we do. It starts with you.

Strategy in advanced selling situations is a great deal like learning something as ephemeral and metaphysical as 'swing feel' in jazz. You must play it to feel it and feel it to play it. Experience is how we learn. The joy is in the doing, the magic is between the lines. The music is in the silence. Ride-alongs by a gifted mentor or sales manager are a good way to get a feel for this when interacting with intimidating executives one-on-one. Coaching your people to look for strategic factors is a great exercise. Strategy sessions where each team member takes turns strategizing about how they'll engineer the win, where are you blocked, who your competitors are, all yields residuals for quarters to come. Laying this all out in TAS Dealmaker or Pipeline Manager... I cannot overstate the level of high value activity this represents.

I've recently received requests to consult companies in setting up a Social Selling War Room. That link contains my blueprint on the LinkedIn War Room I debuted on LinkedIn Publisher featuring the most enterprise-focused application of I've ever seen. I've innovated on it with a social front-end technology stack. It's the way we combine LinkedIn Sales Navigator with CRM, automation and third party plug-ins that truly makes it game-changing. Here's how you can get the output of 20 inside sellers with a Tiger Team of 5 of your highest performing reps.

I'll be tweeting out insight at a new hashtag I believe I may have been the first in the industry to coin: #strategicsocialselling – Please join me in that stream... I would love your thoughts? How are you making social selling strategic? What is influencing that intention in execution? How are you mashing-up the new school and old school? As thought leaders, let's unite to move social selling from a fad back to just 'selling' - strategic, powerful and thoughtful. Let's make it matter more to our customer and customer's customer.

There's the logistics, the tasks that you outline, that must be done to get you in front of the right people at the right time; and then there's the interpersonal skills... the charm, the charisma, the emotional quotient. I believe the logistics can be learned, but what about the interpersonal skills? Is that something you either have or you don't? Or can it be cultivated?" - Bob Leonard

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

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Kenny Louie

The Era Of Personal Brands Is Now. Are You Ready?

We're living in the age of the rise of personal brands, and I recently sought some advice from one of the world’s experts. You may not know his name but you’ll recognize his clients. Two of them changed my world, expanded my mind, disrupted my thinking. Both of these luminaries have been instrumental in shaping my own business and marketing strategies.

The first is Simon Sinek: Start With Why. He helped create clarity for me in my professional purpose and pushed me down the road where you make a difference.

The second is David Meerman Scott and his book, The new Rules of Marketing and PR is mind boggling and answers the questions around sales and marketing convergence in the digital era. He convinced me to give my content away for free.

So who is the man who has helped these luminaries? His name is Mark Levy and I sought him out to ask him for some thoughts and advice on personal branding. Strap yourself in because like Morpheus, he offers us the red pill. Are you brave enough to swallow it see how far the rabbit hole goes?

I was and I’m embracing it all. I’ve never worked harder in my life but the results have been truly staggering. Whether you’re seeking to implement Challenger or to inject yourself upstream, early at senior levels with target customers; all of this is highly valuable. Mark Levy made a few important points with me and here they are:

“Don’t feel confident unless you have reason to feel confident.” Mark told me the story of a businessperson whose stated problem was a lack of confidence. The businessperson was about to attend a high-powered conference, packed with top prospects, and he didn’t feel confident about his ability to grab and hold people’s attention. When he heard the man’s elevator pitch, Mark said: “Lack of confidence is not your problem. You have every reason to lack confidence. Your pitch is unfocused, and all your claims are based on your opinion. Instead of working on your confidence, let’s work on your elevator speech and pitch."

“You don’t need phony confidence. You need an elevator speech that's so brutally honest and relevant to your audience that you’ll stop people in their tracks. When you feel confident in your material, confidence in yourself comes naturally.”

“Pull them in with facts.” For four hours, Mark interviewed the businessperson about the company he founded. In particular, Mark was looking for facts. What kind? Facts about how the company began, who exactly it helped, and concrete evidence of the approach the businessman took in his projects.

“I was looking for tangible things,” says Mark. “Things a camera would see. Sometimes that camera would be shooting a close-up: 'Tell me about how you helped one company.’ Other times it would pull back for a wide-angle shot: ‘Tell me about one commonality among the hundreds of companies you’ve helped'. Big picture and relevant granular details are both important."

Soon, Mark uncovered ten factual statements that formed the basis of a powerful pitch. Remarkably, the person was able to use one of those facts to demonstrate that his firm was, in a specific yet important category, the #1 firm in his industry. This was a position the businessman had not realized he could own until he had invested the time with Mark.

“When it comes to finding a big sexy idea and a strong marketplace position,” says Mark, “philosophy, opinion, and point-of-view are critically important. But when you look at the facts, at the telling details, you see things in a whole new way. Looking at the facts takes the pressure off. You escape the demands of your mind, and you’re more clearly able to see all the ways you’ve helped people.”

“Start with where your audience is.” Mark and I discussed how best to pitch an idea (or, what he calls “a big sexy idea”). He says that a problem some people have is that when they share the idea with others, they jump into explaining their solution too quickly. “If you jump to your solution,” he says, “you’ll do one of two things: both bad.

“First, the person you’re pitching to won’t know that you truly understand who they are, what they’re facing, and what they want to accomplish in the world. Before you tell them how you’re unique, they want to know you recognize how they’re unique.

“Second, if you jump to your solution, you’re forcing the other person to make sense of it and how it fits into their life. You’re asking them to do too much work. That’s work, by the way, they won’t do. They’ll ignore you or they’ll put on a false smiling face while they think of reasons to leave."

“When pitching an idea, start with where your audience is. They haven’t lived your life. They’ve lived theirs. Make it easy on them. Talk about things important to them. Talk about situations pulled right from their daily work. Show them that you know what they’re experiencing in ways that they themselves may not have even articulated. Then, and only then, should you talk about solutions and what you have that’s different.”

“To find your big sexy idea, look at your business as if it’s a book.”Clients come to Mark to find their marketplace position, or get help in writing a book. Mark, in fact, has a long history in the world of books. He’s worked in publishing, book wholesaling, and book retail. He’s written books, ghost-written books, coached people on writing books, and taught writing at Rutgers University.

“It’s no wonder, then,” says Mark, “that when I look at positioning your business, I look at it as if it’s a book. See, whether you realize it or not, like a book your business has a main idea. It’s ‘about’ something. That main idea may be sharp and distinct, or it may be general and commoditized. It may be easy for people to talk about, or it may be fighting with other ideas, so talking about it is hard."

“I look at your business and think, ‘Right now, what’s the main idea here? What’s the idea, and what are all the things substantiating that idea? What are the facts, stories, pieces of philosophy, exercises, frames, endorsements, and so on."

“While I’m examining things, I look for story-lines that might be buried, or that the business owner hadn’t thought about before, and I ask myself: ‘If this storyline were brought to the fore, how would that change everything? What would the business’s new focus be? Who would be its customers? How would it make a difference in their lives? What would they be buying? How would they be talking about it?’

“It’s really about trying new story-lines that are honest, but unused. It’s searching for a way to make a book into a page-turner. Sometimes – not always, but sometimes – a little change can make a commoditized idea into a big sexy idea. It can make a good book into a blockbuster. “

I asked Mark about how his ideas on positioning and branding applied specifically to personal brands. He told me: “It all applies. Everything I’ve been saying works for big businesses and brands of one. “Your brand, no matter what the size, always needs to be about an idea. Right? It’s not about you. It’s how you make a particular audience’s life better. It’s what you stand for and what you symbolize.

Mark's parting wisdom: “You’re never selling your humanity. You’ll always be selling an idea.”

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

Main image photo by Flicker: Sir Richard Branson by Jarle Naustvik

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:

Main image photo by Flickr: Andrea Rose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Main image photo by Flickr: MGEARTWORKS

Strohkorb's SMARKETING Manifesto

'Smarketing' thought leader Peter Strohkorb sounds off on this subject for the ages:

First a caveat: I have nothing against technology. In fact, I am a big fan of it and believe that it has delivered great benefits to humankind. This article is about the WAY that it is often implemented, not about the technology per se, because human nature is such that anything that is imposed on us will initially be resisted, or even become outrightly rejected.

In my opinion, most business technology implementations are conducted the wrong way around, i.e. focusing on the Technology first, not on the People using it.

A common pattern that I have observed is that business executives become excited about what technology vendors are promising from their latest “solutions”, be it CRM systems or any other kind of business process automation tool. In my line of work, I have experienced numerous implementations of CRM and sales enablement software, and this is how it all-too-often seems to work out: Eager to see the promised business benefits materialize the executive team approves funding and hands the implementation over to the technical team, who then appoints a project manager to coordinate the various project streams.Have you heard the saying that “To a hammer, everything looks like a nail?”

What I have seen is that at that handover point to the implementation team the entire project focus changes, from the broader perspective of delivering business benefits towards mostly just getting the technology installed on time and on budget. The project plan suddenly moves to reflecting milestones and deliverables that largely focus on the technology, while the end users often become a bit of an afterthought. “Oh, we'll give them training.” is an often-encountered response.

Why is that wrong? How many sales reps do you know who love filling in forms? I have seen CRMs that demand the sales reps to fill in dozens of fields for each client interaction. Are you surprised that they then balk at this task and that process compliance and technology utilization rates reach nowhere near their projected targets?

Let’s face it, sales reps don’t view CRM systems as a sales support tool. They see them as a sales management tool, and what's more, one that expects them to give up their personal knowledge and client relationship information. They often feel that giving up this personal information makes them more vulnerable to job loss when their employer organization decides to downsize its sales force. In their minds, filling in CRM data is not only boring, time consuming, taking them away from selling but also reduces their personal job security.

According to Accenture, 85% of technology projects fail to deliver the anticipated business benefits. Is it any wonder? Are you surprised to hear that most CRM implementations take two to three years before they start to deliver the business benefits that the vendor promised would happen in a much shorter time frame?

So, what is the solution? For a start, you don’t do what seems to be the standard way that consultants like to work and that many technology projects seem to be implemented. All too often, I have seen consultants and technology experts come into an organization, work predominantly with the executive team and with the IT department on a process and technology solution that is then imposed on the end users with only the barest minimum of consultation. The catch-all that I have witnessed, as far as the end users are concerned, is often just a group email addressed to them with a list of the proposed solution features, and the laconic offer to "Let us know if you disagree with anything."

Are you surprised then that when the new tool is switched on, the end users do not naturally embrace the change, and often outrightly resist the new solution, complaining it does not work the same way, nor better than the old?

I have even seen instances where the design of the new solution was changed at great expense and significant delay AFTER it was first launched, in response to belated end user feedback. As is so often the case, the people at the front line often have the best ideas but they rarely feel empowered to voice them, and only very few are ever asked for their opinion.

My recommended approach is to include those people early and comprehensively who are most immediately impacted by the new process and technology solution, namely the end users. What's more, the very people that help to craft the solution, will be far more likely to embrace it after implementation and they will be far less likely to resist change. So, in my opinion, most business technology implementations are conducted the wrong way around, i.e. focusing on the technology, not on the people using it.

One of my favorite sayings is this: “You can have the latest technology and the most sophisticated processes, but if your people are not with you, then it will all come to nothing.”

Why is it then that most business technology implementations, particularly as far as CRMs are concerned, seem to focus on the technology first, and on the people last? So, are most business IT solutions implemented the wrong way around? Are CRMs putting people last? What do you think ?

My team works with Sales and Marketing teams in medium and large B2B organizations. We hear all the time how sales reps complain that Marketing doesn't produce high enough quality sales leads. There are statistics around that, that say that Sales only follows up on about 15% of the leads that Marketing provides. That’s 85% of leads being wasted!

Sales says that Marketing doesn't produce “qualified” leads and Marketing says that it isn't their job to “qualify” them; that their job is only to generate enough general interest in their business offerings for prospective customers to just contact Sales. While they are really unqualified leads often Sales refers to them as “Cold Leads” or tire-kickers, rather than a real genuinely interested buyer.

That is the crux right there: Marketing may think that just a name and a phone number are a sales lead, whereas sales reps ideally want a ready purchase order and probably the accompanying payment for the product or service they are selling. Ideally, Marketing people argue, they want to be order takers, not sales people.

The old sales funnel is dying and the Buyers’ Journey is upon us, which means that the entire way organizations attract interest and sell things is changing dramatically. Organizations that do not adjust to the new paradigm really risk being left behind only to go the way of the dinosaurs.

My experience, with a lot of different organizations, is that there often is no coordinated effort between Sales and Marketing on how to manage leads. Instead of an agreed, documented and managed lead nurturing program often the initiative is handled solely by Marketing and then imposed on Sales without much collaboration between the two.

This results in sales leads of various quality being simply thrown "over the fence" for the sales people to follow up and then weave their magic. Marketing gloriously acclaims that they have successfully generated X number of leads. While Sales exclaims that they aren't worth their attention.

If the organization doesn't have a mutually agreed plan in place on what constitutes a lead and how to handle them, then the leads will most likely end up wasted with the response from the sales rep something like this: “I called them and they weren't interested,” or even worse “I called them and they didn't remember making an inquiry about our product.” I believe this is where the “Death of a Lead” happens, because what happens to a lead once it is handed over to a sales rep will demonstrate of how much value it was to start with.

In many organizations the quality of the feedback from Sales to Marketing is either non-existent, very poor or at best rudimentary. What is missing is a structured, measurable and - most importantly - consistent and constructive way for Sales to inform Marketing of what works and what does not.

Once Marketing receives constructive feedback from all Sales reps it can then make informed decisions on how to better support them. So, if we can close the feedback loop between Sales and Marketing we can create what we call a virtuous cycle of collaboration that stops wasting time, money and effort on both sides and allows both teams to live up to their full potential. We call that Sales+Marketing Collaboration, some call it Smarketing.

But no matter what anyone calls it, most would call it Nirvana. And wouldn't it just be a wonderful thing?

Sales and Marketing are two of the most customer-facing functions in any sales organization. As the key revenue-generators they are what a customer gauges the business on and they are the organization’s present and future growth engines. So you would think that there can be no higher priority to the senior management team than to ensure these two vital teams work together as effectively as possible in order to present the best possible image to the market and to entice customers to buy from us, rather than from our competitors.

Additionally, there is a whole lot of evidence that closer Sales+Marketing Collaboration lifts Sales Productivity, and I can show you that a lift of just 5% in Sales Productivity can yield a 20% increase in profit. So, Sales+Marketing Collaboration should be a BIG DEAL.

So, what stands in the way of getting Sales and Marketing teams to support each other more effectively ? The following is a collection of high level mistakes that we have compiled for you. Contact us for more detailed information.
Here are seven of the most common mistakes:

1. Ignoring the Problem and Doing Nothing
The worst mistake one can make is to turn a blind eye to problems. Yet, denying that there is a problem, that there is room for improvement, and merely accepting the status quo can magnify issues that would be otherwise manageable. For too many companies, sales and marketing departments are working in their respective silos, blissfully unaware of the need to adapt to the changing world that surrounds them. Too many organizations have taken this path and have suffered for it. How did Kodak miss the digital-camera revolution? How did Canon not see the threat from smartphones with in-built cameras? Show initiative and address the problem.

2. Relying on "Quick Fixes"
The world is increasingly impatient and our attention spans are becoming shorter. Combine that with the short term results outlook in many sales organizations and it is no wonder that when problems arise we look for quick fixes. However, shortcuts rarely work when it comes to sales and marketing collaboration. When sales reps do not make their targets, many organizations try to fix the problem with short-term solutions.

Let’s look at some of these quick fixes:

• Provide more sales training
This is a popular panacea but according to the nineteenth-century German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus, 87% of new knowledge is forgotten within 30 days. What do you think happens 30 days after sales training?

• Hire more sales reps
The rationale for this popular choice is as follows: if X number of reps bring in Y amount of revenue, more reps will bring in more. However, bringing more reps into a flawed sales and marketing environment will not yield the desired results .

• Generate more sales leads
Surely, this is the way to boosting sales results? Well, it would be if all your sales lead creation and management processes were perfect, if sales and marketing were working harmoniously together to generate, nurture, hand over, close and report on leads perfectly. If that is not the case, why would you want to spend good money creating more leads only to see them dry up and lead nowhere thanks to a flawed process? Stuffing more leads into a flawed sales process will not resolve a sales effectiveness problem. The best thing here is to fix the cause, not the symptom.

3. Having no one responsible for improving Sales+Marketing Collaboration
Sales and marketing obviously need to work together. For such cooperation to be possible, cross-functional processes need to be in place to make sure that both sides are in alignment. Not having a intermediary in place to intermediate between Sales and Marketing is a gross oversight. Get a referee.

4. Neglecting the Human Element
Collaboration is a deeply inter-personal matter, it relies on people doing the right thing. When attempting to foster a cooperative relationship between Sales and Marketing it is important to address the human dimension as a priority. Only then will it be appropriate to move on to HOW each department can support the other, what tools should support them or what joint processes and metrics we should use. People come first.

5. Believing that Technology will deliver a Miracle
I have nothing against technology, as long as it is deployed properly. It seems though that there are vendors out there that offer their latest whizz-bang technology by promising the world. It is pretty obvious that even the most sophisticated technology will remain ineffective if you don’t have your people and your business processes aligned first. Technology is good, use it wisely.

6. Trying to implement Change without Executive Support
When change touches on aspects of corporate culture, implementing reforms can be an uphill battle. As laudable as it might be for middle managers or junior staff to attempt to make cultural changes, such optimistic projects are often doomed to failure unless they have executive buy-in. Get the boss involved.

7. Expecting Immediate Results
Too often, we expect overnight results, and sometimes even that’s not fast enough. The fact is, any change must be given time to work its way through the system if it is to have any chance at producing the hoped-for results. Hasten wisely.

Now it's your turn, please go check out Peter Strohkorb's acclaimed consultancy: How are you aligning sales and marketing in your organization? How are you solving the age old problems of CRM with proper implementation and enablement? What are your thoughts on Peter's powerful thought-provoking contribution and advice above? Perhaps drop him a line in the comments below if you agree or have a different opinion. He's raised some critical issues that all business people must endeavor to collaboratively resolve in the information age.

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

Main image photo © 2015 Peter Strohkorb


10 Telltale Signs You Just Might Be A Sales Change Agent

“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.” ~ Pericles

  1. Not only do you 'default to prospecting mode' [Weinberg], it's your favorite part of your job - talking to prospects, customers and clients. In fact, you'd always rather be dialing, skyping or inmailing rather than doing reporting for the reporting or endless admin or passive strategic process docs.
  2. You're fundamentally proactive. If you don't get 3 major boulders moved by lunch, you know you failed so you always do this with gusto and that habit generates big commission checks this quarter and ensures rich pipeline for the next.
  3. The status quo is like a challenge to you. You see the world through disruptive rose-colored glasses and this is a good thing. When you look at a business model your knowledge of the industry already plugs in 5 ways to stand the legacy paradigm up on its head.
  4. You speak CXO, the language of outcomes and risk, the language of strategy. Your vernacular is about 'real business outcomes,' opportunity cost and risk mitigation.
  5. 'I can't' and 'I'll try' aren't in your vocabulary. You abhor too much talk and not enough action. While everyone is busy strategizing how to get into the account or proceed to the next step in the sales cycle, you've already had multiple cell phone conversations with the key stakeholders.
  6. Your CEO loves you as do dream clients. You're treated as a trusted advisor everywhere you go on many subjects way outside the realm of "selling" – branding, marketing, product innovation, scaling, forecasting, technology and 'big ideas' to take back to any discerning board.
  7. Face-to-face contact is the root of your book of business. You preference meeting with real people above anything else, even if you run an inside sales team. Nothing happens until a sale is made and a customer is satisfied. You are the engine of the new technoconomy.
  8. You don't follow a script. You riff off 10 scripts you're A/B testing in real-time until you've honed in on the chained lightning winner.
  9. Your activity levels are off the richter scale. By 9am you've done more outbound hunting than the next 5 people on your team did last week. Serious! You understand the symbiotic relationship between leading measure activities and hard revenue outcomes. You're action oriented and detail oriented without being overly-fastidious. You practice economy of effort in your writing, speaking and body language.
  10. You are confident to a fault but empathetic and collaborative. You're never afraid to challenge but do so respectfully. You see the world differently like Steve Jobs.You're not afraid to give candid feedback and speak your mind. Although you may not be the ideal manager of people,clients love and trust you because you tell the truth and that's literally 'priceless' in their business. Your deeper motive is aligned with helping them succeed with your solutions and navigate the complexity of the ever changing landscape. There is no need for a tactical 'social selling' distinction – only high quality strategic selling - Social has been in your DNA since 2004.

Now it's your turn: How do you personally relate to these 10 points? How and why do you see yourself as a change agent? How have you changed the company's culture you work in or that of a customer's? Where do you need to improve? I ask myself this last question every day. 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:

Main image photo by Flickr:  Gemma Stiles

Social Listening: Pillar One of Strategic B2B Social Selling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Main image photo by Flickr: Geoff Livingston; Dell's Social Media Command Center

Do We Ever Really Learn From Sales Failure?

I've recently had the privilege of getting to know Cian Mcloughlin as part of a Sales Masterminds group that's been formed in Australasia and led by John Smibert (Strategic Selling Group in LinkedIn). Cian has real insights into how to drive massive success in complex selling and I asked him about the role of win and loss reviews, why they're important and what mistakes companies make. Here is his wisdom... the rest of this post is from him (with pics from me).

“You don’t learn from successes; you don’t learn from awards; you don’t learn from celebrity; you only learn from wounds and scars and mistakes and failures. And that’s the truth.”  Jane Fonda.

Not all scars, in life or in business, should be seen as badges of honor. Most of my business battle-scars (with the possible exception of my grey hair) I wear on the inside. Earned in hard fought deals lost at the 11th hour or sales skirmishes over before a single power-point had been fired in anger.

The thing about scars, be they from life or business, is we should always learn from them. It’s one thing to lose a deal or miss out on a promotion at work, but before the scar has even begun to form, you need to be asking yourself “what can I take away from this experience, how do I learn from it and ensure I’m better, smarter and more prepared next time around?”

Unfortunately the vast majority of professional sales organisations, I’m talking big companies spending inordinate amounts of time and money prospecting for new business, actually spend very little time or money trying to understand why they won or lost a deal in the first place. We all know line attributed to but almost certainly never uttered by Einstein “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome”. You can guarantee whoever did say it, didn’t work in the b2b sales world!

The amount of wastage, duplication and chasing of lost causes which occurs across the business world is borderline criminal. I wouldn’t even hazard a guess at the real and opportunity costs associated with sales organisations (be they technology, professional services, engineering & construction, utilities, oil & gas companies) responding to numerous tenders, conducting lengthy cycles with would-be customers or undertaking hugely expensive proof of concepts, only to lose the deal and walk away with nothing.

My personal opinion (and I’ll be the first to admit I’m biased) is that win, lose or draw if you’ve conducted a professional sales process, you’ve earned the right to extract some value from the experience and the vast majority of b2b customers out there agree with me. So, the next time you’re conducting a major deal, whether you’re in the box seat or staring down the barrel of defeat, pause for a moment and ask yourself the following questions. Win, lose or draw…

  • What insights could this client give me to improve or refine my sales skills and do an even better job next time?
  • Could their feedback help me to distance myself from my competition in some small but important way?
  • Am I winning this deal on product, price or my ability to present a compelling, credible and believable story?
  • Am I losing on product, price or my inability to engage, inspire or educate my prospective client?

I suppose the real question you should be asking is what lesson could this new new scar teach me?

Follow Cian in LinkedIn and read his posts. He has held senior sales and channel management roles in a number of the world’s largest IT software companies, including Cognos and SAP, in 2011 Cian became the founder and CEO of Trinity Perspectives, a boutique sales consultancy firm based in Sydney. He also co-authored an Amazon #1 bestseller ‘Secrets of Business Success”, and is a regular sales and marketing commentator in the mainstream media including Sky News Business, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers.

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

Main image photo by Flickr: Erik Charlton Fire Eater