Whale Hunting Part II - Anchoring The Deal

Budget. Timeline. Compelling Event. Success Criteria. Together these form the basis of anchoring a deal so that it does not drift away from you. The stem is success criteria. An enterprise deal cannot be anchored without these four points.

Psychologically, numerous studies show that when we present a client with the unit economics in a deal, we risk self-commoditization. In protracted negotiations, starting high and making limited concessions is the strongest approach. Mark Hunter and Chester Karass have written extensively on this. So anchoring the deal is also setting an expectation around deal size and volume required.

It's paramount to think and express only in terms of annual commitments, minimum thresholds and visionary partnerships. Assess these four factors in the crucible of high interest preceding decay rate and thereby accelerate the propensity to close. This combination in its simplicity 'anchors the sale.' It is just that simple.

Qualifying the pipeline is where most sales organizations shipwreck on the rocks of missed expectation. This is why their pipe is chalk full of barnacles and detritus. If you use the anchor above effectively, it's very hard to let garbage float into the ecosystem and miss your targets. If you get these questions handled up front, you'll psychologically anchor the prospect and the deal. Notwithstanding deft application of SPIN, TAS, RSVP tried-and-true frameworks / methodologies, a boat without its anchor is listless and susceptible to the fickle tides. You can easily lose control of deals without knowing these points and inserting them carefully into your sales process. Selling to the customer in their own words requires them explaining these to you.

In an effective discovery call, these four elements are ascertained but only in a ratio of 25% seller speaking to 75% customer revealing pain. I'm a staunch proponent of peeling the onion with Situation, Problem, Implication and Need-Payoff lines of questioning. The greatest wisdom shared with me early in my career, is that often the pain is seldom the true pain. We often diagnose mere symptoms to underlying problems. Great sellers get to the root. Great sellers dive 10,000 feet deep to the bottom of the ocean to understand their customer's business as well, if not even better, than their own in order to truly begin to solve the 'real' underlying problem(s). What is the risk of not adopting the new solution? Economically? Politically? Quantify the risk of inaction.

We have the ability to literally transform our customers' business, make them look like heroes and help them get promoted. That's how powerful a strategic seller's role is. So 'the anchor' benefits both parties, buyers and sellers. It's transparent and creates efficiency. No more circumlocution, equivocation and cluttered pipe. No more 'happy ears.' I will get push back that this is an old school tactic but the ocean is wide and deep, so boiling it is imprudent.

Never present without proper discovery and due diligence performed first. All presentations should be interactive with the customer fully engaged. This is a vast challenge in that studies revealed 92% of those listening in on a virtual meeting are disengaged: checking blackberry, calendar, doing email or simply drifting off. Since the entire world is moving virtual [inside] and pundits are prognosticating that the end of field selling draws nigh, here are the critical success factors for mastering virtual meetings.

Before you look at a customer's plans, data or roadmap, get a mutual non-disclosure agreement in place. Inspire clients to pile everything they can on you. Encourage them to drown you in data from their email, Dropbox or FTP. Why? Because that's how interested you must be in them and scouring 25 files which include marketing calendars, technical specifications, requirements or notes will allow you to tailor your meeting agendas, presentations and navigate how you'll chart your course to the stars. The compass is truth, the north star is value creation. The momentum of mutually executing an NDA triggers the reciprocity, the give and take and back and forth. You want to consistently add value with every email, call, follow-up and outreach.

The Earth is flat for many software companies. They sell seats and licenses and don't care much for customisation. They've frequently grown so large the presentation is mistakenly about their size and omnipotence: there is little need to fully understand the customer's specific challenges because they've provided 50 case studies of customers 'just like them.' Huge mistake, yes? Not only do we all love to feel like we are different but companies are indeed much like snowflakes. There is no one-size fits all solution-set, especially at the level of a six, seven - even eight figure deal. You must transcend the requirements, meet with various stakeholders in the account and map the political power base. Understanding the forces moving in the account, is like predicting currents. Wade out with your wits about you, always cognizant of the rip tides: competitive threats, status quo, 'do nothing,' point solutions and the homegrown, 'we'll just build it ourselves' approach.

I'm often amused by the number of books on Amazon still touting one-call closing or even two call. I'm afraid the 80s are gone and this isn't a door-to-door steak knife or vacuum cleaner route. The height of folly is to deliver a generic proposal. Being consultative and tailoring your deck will make the biggest impact. I know a CEO who approaches every possible opportunity as if the entire funding and future of her company rose and fell on whether this single deal went through. The result is a relentless focus on strategy, listening, seeking first to understand and then be understood and a pristine, crystalline proposal that's so well developed and nurtured, it's essentially written in the prospect's own words. She never crafts the proposal after the second call. A sequence of calls with various teams over weeks occurs as the customisations are refined. By the time the contracts are drafted up, there are no surprises. No more waiting on pins and needles and endlessly checking in or touching base...

When you present a complex solution to the client, paint the entire picture of transformation. If it requires presenting a million dollar suite of solutions in order to break off the first $250,000, have you not succeeded in closing that handsome piece of business in, as the relationship will grow? Contrast this with endless requests for pilots if you attempt to close solely the $250K? Always close 'sell the dream' with a valid, full menu of application. Prioritize together – land and expand.

The world has become enamored with the social selling craze and so I am releasing an eccentric book on this subject shortly. I have recognized a global gap in training and enablement. Old school folks like me who have sold for 30 years in the field, blend strategic selling with social selling. Thus I have dubbed this Strategic Social Selling or potentially Social Selling 3.0. My thesis is that social selling will be relegated to an oversimplified transactional 'slam and jam' medium, if we do not return to the fundamentals that govern the psychology of influence and the timeless principles that govern value exchange. A deal is a deal is a deal... And an enterprise deal is a wild and wooly animal, unwieldy and untamable.

We buy when we feel the solution has value. It's human nature. We seek out the premium and we actually are loathe not to feel 'exclusive.' Apple captures this ethos as does BMW. Even Starbucks is selling coffee at a premium. Virgin is an experience. Qantas in a safe flight. Ultimately, there are value differentiators that cause elasticity of demand, allowing us to defend price and margin. I recently debated with a junior sales rep, that all vendor solutions being exactly equal, I could sell at a higher price. His argument was that the way to win the deal would be to lower the price to be competitive. Our customers understand healthy profit margins as they too seek them. I created a program to sell that service based on the intangibles: value creation, service levels and by being the differentiator my self in how it was sold as a trusted advisor as opposed to features, functions, advantages and benefits that placed him into a commoditization downward spiral.

Beyond all other elements of anchoring a large enterprise deal is the chain of the anchor itself: Confidence. Believe in your solution. Be fully sold yourself. Communicate with your shoulders back, stand upright in a confident loud tone and speak in full sentences. End those sentences. I was recently listening to a candidate be interviewed for a client I was consulting and we had a "rattler" on the phone. He hemmed and hawed, droned and prattled on. Confidence will always sell and this is another achilles heel of social. How can a computer sound confident? Will AI ever convey true confidence won by experience imputed from inflection? Artificial Intelligence will always be logical indeed although ever confident in a synthetic way. The flaw of computers is they're only ever as smart as the humans that programmed them...

So that's a collection of my thoughts on the anchor. You've got the technology to be first in. You've 'opened' in social and you've generated the deal with your dream prospect. But now you must move faster than the decay rate before the status quo overtakes everyone involved. Anchor the deal! Be honest, forthright and confidently express what this will take. Align your incentives so that the strategic outcomes are a mutual win-win. Reduce the risk right out of the equation. Fear or pleasure may drive the close so take the temperature of your stakeholders early on. Which of the following will be your litmus test? Focus on the outcomes and management of risk. You will be delegated down to who you sound like. Have you ever seen a CEO's email? She rarely includes a salutation or signature. She communicates tersely, in economy of movement and time. She's powerful in what she does not do. Learn the language of strategy and carry this counterweight.

  • Do they have a budget sufficient enough for this exclusive opportunity? Yes, it's exclusive. Not every company has the need, solution fit or will innovate to the degree to apply the disruptive technology you extoll.
  • What is the precise timeline? Is this a realistic priority or something to be left for Q4 or 2016? Entire industries can come and go in the time it takes for a company that's 'just looking.' Remember the finish line is not the signature, it's the go-live date of production when your solution is adding value.
  • Is there a bonafide compelling event? What is the 500 lb. Gorilla of a reason to do this now? Mutually define a compelling business case. Uncover demand or create it. If there is any ambivalence in this regard, it's wasted time to continue.
  • What is their success criteria? How will your prospect measure their success? Are there systems in place, analytics and reporting to measure the ROI? How are they currently solving the problem with their existing team or vendor(s)? Remember a great way to land and expand in these accounts is to encourage multi-vendor approach for diversification.

Now it's your turn: How do you anchor your deals? What elements of influence are most effective for you during the sales cycle? How do you prevent junk from clogging your funnel?

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: Christian Jensen and Mario Antonio Pena Zapatería

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 7 Utopian & Dystopian Shocking Sales Predictions

It's the end of the sales world as we know it... and I feel fine? GerhardHuthwaite and many other sci-fi fans have prognosticated that sales itself may face an existential threat from artificial intelligence (AI) as we move further and further toward the COMPLETE buying cycle. "Gartner predicts that by 2020, 85% of interactions between businesses will be executed without human intervention. It is likely that of the 18 million salespeople in the United States, there will be only about 4 million left."

Could human-based selling disappear all together? Are we at war with the machines?

Tibor Shanto wasn't sold that the death of the salesman 2.0 could really be upon us: it may be an inherently flawed argument as sales people paradoxically could actually become more of a necessary 'evil' than ever before with increased sector complexity. Andreessen put it best: "Software is eating the world." Soon the capital of Earth will be Silicon Valley as no industry is immune: complete and utter global disruption of 'everything' is predicted! But what if sales peoples' ranks explode in line with the population and Moore's law meets Sensor-Driven Cambrian Explosion of solution complexity?

Technology acceleration creates massive confusion that only a hand held by human guidance can weather. Aren't we going to need guidance for installing the Internet of Everything into our homes and workplaces? Won't human intervention always be needed to simplify a path forward from current state to future state – ever so Jetson?

It's a brave new world. In honor of Miles Davis' 8th studio album 7 Steps to Heaven 'featuring the Miles Davis Quintet in transition - this is the last of Davis' studio albums with standards rather than band originals' which I listened to while I wrote this in an iconoclastic mood - here are my 7 top predictions of how sales could either undergo a Singularity-driven Renaissance or 7 steps to hell where it could plunge into Orwellian medieval darkness like Van Damme's Cyborg (yes, a truly bad B action movie, if you know about this, I seriously hope it produced a belly laugh!).

Which camp are you in? Pray tell!

The Case for Dystopia

  1. Advances in Robotics allow for Android sales people in the field to deliver insights like Watson at Jeopardy.

2. Drones drop off customized white papers and contracts are signed by drone. Sales drones are an amusing but eerie concept to me. Robots could suddenly be everywhere eliminating field sales. Would they wear suits or have them spray painted on metallic? If you get sticker shock on that million dollar price tag could the defibrillator drone be close at hand?

3. Machine learning generates the key insights to help drive the self-serve funnel. Big data may at last become useful in selling if a technology allows a machine to become smarter than the human brain to parse it all. What paradigm shifting, curve jumping key insight could live in that big data meta-cloud to give your organization the razor's edge against the competition? If everyone is fed these insights won't there be an arms race for insight or insight parity reached to commoditize even the highest level of solutions at some dizzyingly outrageous higher level? Boggles my mind just thinking about it.

4. Search engines like Wolfram Alpha become so smart they can fully educate the prospect so they go 100% of the way through the sales process before ever needing to talk to a human. Again, the case for 100% decision and buying cycle complete. No humans needed???!!! But then again, who has the time? It's unclear if ERP firms even understand ERP and it's 2015.

5. Stealth B2B social lead-gen technologies chop off the top of the funnel so one able Chief Strategy Officer or Chief Customer Officer can automate all inbound marketing, traditional marketing and PR and move the entire sector in real time with a magic wand of DOMO-like beautiful #tech, uncovering and generating demand 24/7. With advanced stealth B2B technologies I'm aware of right now, essentially one person can do the work of an entire traditional inside sales team of 50 and the CEO can just fly in and seal the deal. No joke! Predictive analytics makes the sales process prescient and we can literally select our target in a Minority Report style dashboard that then triggers a proactive series of events. The perfect provocative insight is generated, deployed and brings her to us: convinced, converted and ready to collaborate.

6. Holography enables virtual reality walk-throughs and Go To Meetings on steroids where the executives float in the center of the conference room. This is very Minority Report meets Princess Leia! Help me Obiwan Kenobi You're my only hope.

7. Virtual reality allows for a company to solely operate remotely, a headquarters is not even needed. The entire technology stack front and back-end sits in the cloud elastically - burstable and on-demand, the entire team is distributed and all meetings are held in a virtual world. Security becomes a major concern as your competitors could be imposters impersonating clients to obtain secrets. Ooh goodie!

The Case for Utopia

  1. The Singularity occurs fusing our brains with machines allowing us to divine what people need by being able to use a larger percentage of our brains. Maybe not quite the level of Scarlett Johansson schooling Morgan Freeman in Luc Besson's Lucy. [Definitely see this movie if you haven't already!] A new era in consultative sales emerges in which we are able to perform the most advanced aspects of technology diagnosis and well as understand the strategic business factors with access to all human knowledge from smart chips in our brains or an up-link to the web via the neocortex - #instantaneously.
  2. Cambrian Explosion of specialized, qualified Sales People follows the exponential logarithmic curves of technology acceleration and Moore's Law to service new demand flying in the face of pundits. The law of divergence prevails over convergence. The complexity of solutions creates downward pressure on commodity and transactional selling below a certain dollar threshold of comfort and the anything over that watermark still requires meeting with sellers. Since these deals are less common, there is more competition for them which causes enterprise sales people to be even more valuable. Perhaps an Ender's Game like selling environment could train up the world's greatest sales people from birth. Will the Russians launch sales training schools like future ballerinas or Olympians? This leads me to my next outrageous prediction...
  3. Accreditation and training programs at a University Level spring up so sales folks can get Master and PhDs in their craft. There is a universal code of conduct and standards drafted; could you imagine? The argument I get is that's why we all love sales – people with non-traditional backgrounds can thrive. We don't need a college degree! Fun but becoming a sales person requires an interdisciplinary skill-set including technical factors such as coding, agile development and project management as we move toward 2020.

As Jason Jordan predicts: "There needs to be a meaningful body of knowledge about the profession of sales. Obviously there is not. Neil Rackham and a handful of others have done amazingly insightful research into best practices and frameworks for selling, but not many. Mostly we get anecdotal sales books that contain faint research and contribute little to our understanding of how it all works. And unfortunately, it's a bit of the chicken-or-the-egg thing here with regard to credible research... University researchers don't do much work in this space, so sales doesn't appear to be an academic discipline... So there is very little research done in this space. Mercifully, the universities that do teach sales are discovering that their sales graduates get amazing jobs... And give back. Which is raising visibility within business schools." Check out his work with The Sales Education Foundation and he notes optimistically, "All in all, we are making progress on all of these fronts. We're seeing more specialization in sales forces, more universities are integrating sales into their curricula, and researchers are starting to push into the space with enthusiasm. It will be interesting to ask this question a generation from now."

4. Specialization of sales functions transformed it into a bonafide 'profession.' Again Jason Jordan from a lively discussion in Smibert's Strategic Selling group on LinkedIn, "First, a profession needs to have specializations. Lawyers, doctors, accountants, engineers, and other 'professions' all have sub-specialties where they focus and hone their talents. For sales, there needs to be an acknowledgement that there are different types of sellers – inside salespeople, key account managers, territory salespeople, and other specialties that have unique skill sets. AND it's okay to remain in one role for an entire career. Inside sales doesn't have to be a career path to outside sales... Different skill sets, different professional paths." There are approximately 100 universities around the world now offering sales qualifications. Only about 80 of the 4,000 universities in the United States offer a dedicated sales curriculum.

5. Wearable technologies like smart contact lenses, HaloLens and Google Glass Part Deux [the fashion forward one!] simply make us that much more effective in the field. It's much like Terminator 2 with his heads-up display (HUD).

We could have readouts appearing in the distance with key vital signs on the account, LinkedIn profile identification and big data tying it all together to generate insights in real time - even as we're speaking with senior executives [sadly, the male brain can only do one thing at a time so this could drive a female domination of professional field selling]. The fusion of woman and machine even at a higher level of the Singularity could foster a renaissance in which real time big-data-driven insight is suddenly possible. This will allow for effortless translation of all languages [including code bases, Linux & GitHub] if both buyer and seller are hooked into the matrix. With stratospheric travel beyond the sound barrier or hyperloops, suddenly a small tiger team of sales reps could effortlessly cover an entire continent and correspond in 50 languages. I'm sure if Elon Musk gets his druthers we will have well-colonized Mars by then which will be the coolest territory to cover as Account Executives of 2030! The Sales Engineers could be replaced by virtual AI living in our ear, whispering the answer and the insight. CRM could at last penetrate every country in the world uprooting industries as technology adoption curves are kicked off simultaneously everywhere. With trillions of sensors in everything including your toothbrush, door locks, every system in a high-rise, who will service them, sell the configurations of them and tune them? Maybe the drone bot AI cyborg Watsons can pick that up too! Mobile phones will disappear as the clunky feaux-appendage that they are. Our chiropractors will thank us. Typing will not exist either as dictation occurs with SIRI-like impulses of the mind into word and picture concepts we can transmit over fiber optics.

6. Nostalgia itself could play a role almost like the vinyl LP of Miles playing that ascerbic bittersweet biting horn I'm listening to right now. I don't think a machine will ever produce that sound – even in the year 3,000! There could be a check-box on the site to have a romantic 'human experience' in the sales holodeck? A Sales Preservation Historical society might crop up almost like a museum with books from the 1980's and photographs of big hair and big deals! Slogans like, "Make a firm handshake" could wow visitors as they float in on hover boards...

7. Millennials decide to banish the machines and go old school like a tribe of Doomsday Preppers living like ewoks in tree houses. Will the young executives of 2020 insist on 10% machine time and hang out in the woods sipping Chai to have long philosophic discussions about strategy and present human centered solutions, waxing poetically into each others eyes about how it was better in the days of Willie Loman? Maybe the Eloctromagnetic Pulse will destroy all the circuits and suddenly Arthur Miller's classic will be discovered along with a screenplay of Glengarry Glen Ross and the madness will all start over again in the Mad Max (Road Warrior) of some faraway planet. Don't hold your breath!

Now it's your turn? What did I miss? What do you predict selling will look like in 2020? How 'bout 2050? Will the bots revolt and take our jobs? One CEO recently declared he'd never hire a sales person again? Is he Galileo or the inventor of Betamax?

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: Tomás Fano

Pharrell Wins Grammys Because He's A Master Salesperson

Pharrell is a humble, stylish and confident genius but it didn't come overnight. He applied the timeless principles of a master closer to become an overnight sensation, put out a smash hit to accompany the international box office hit from Universal Pictures 'Despicable Me' and cleaned up at the Grammys. Here's how he did it:

Anthony Robbins has been saying it for decades – "Selling is about changing someone's emotional state." Being a musician has so much in common with professional selling: Endless personal rejection requiring a deep well of determination and you have to give your all to be successful... no holding back!

We've all seen it on American Idol or Australia's Got Talent or The Voice – Keith Urban telling the contestant that they "didn't really sell it" or Simon Cowell on X Factor saying: "I didn't believe you." The greatest songs take us somewhere emotionally because they tell a story of love, tragedy, redemption... they reach in and tear our hearts out or lift us to heaven with happiness.

Emotion has far more impact than production values. Passion takes you further than mere professionalism. Yes, you've got to be able entertain and sing pitch-perfect... but that's just the ticket to the dance concert. It's ability to transfer emotion that creates Grammy winners and sales legends.

You've got to believe in yourself, especially when others don't. Don't let the song inside you go unsung or as Wayne Dyer profoundly puts it: "Don't die with your music still inside of you." Stop telling and start selling what you passionately believe in. Show it and dare to wear your heart on your sleeve!

Pharrell gets the concept of building in a unique differentiator. His productions with N.E.R.D. cemented his prowess as a producer blending rock, funk and hip hop. He didn't sound like anybody else that came before: the hybrid synergy created an 'original' sound. Differentiating your product and service in sales is paramount. You can differentiate your own selling style by pulling from old school and new school approaches.

Pharrell understands the Ogilvy "one-word" brand equity. Just check out his signature hat by Los Angeles hat designer Nick Fouquet. The hat has become an icon as has his sound. Some sales people I know wear a pocket square or rock a theme color for their company. I'm not suggesting a gimmick but if it's an authentic point of flair it may make sense. My business mentor, Anthony Howard, embraces this with conservative panache. In no case am I the arbiter of business fashion but I can equate his hat to something that makes you say: 'wow, how cool'! What part of your solution, product or service stands out from the crowd? How can you work to uniquely differentiate yourself in the marketplace?

Pharrell stood out from day one as a gifted skateboarder and began to produce other artists, collaborating with great commercial success including Jay-Z, Gwen Stefani, Robin Thicke, Daft Punk and Snoop Dogg. He embraces the synergy that comes from collaboration. The tie here is the concept of team selling where we fly in with a talented solutions consultant and work with our own internal C-Suite to make the deal happen.

The last piece that makes Pharrell a master salesperson is his ability to be a super networker. He is one of the most connected men in the entire music industry. His productions were in such hot demand because he helped pioneer a new technology called Reason by PropellerHead software that made tapestries of sound against canvases and mash-ups all digitally emulating analogue capabilities. He pushed the software to the limit and everyone wanted one of his tracks as a backdrop. You need to become a super networker in your industry, test out cutting edge software for B2B lead generation, trigger event tracking, drip campaigns and marketing automation and push the envelope as a B2B content marketer with LinkedIn Publisher. Think to yourself: What would Pharrell do here? How might he innovate?

Now it's your turn: What's your song inside? What metaphorical music is dying to get out? What other parallels do you see between music and selling? What music gets you pumped up to go out and give your all?

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: Shawn Ahmed

An Open Letter to Social Sellers Everywhere

Dear Social Seller,

Now that I've got your attention I must warn you. It is dangerous to implement basic social selling techniques. I wanted to take a moment to express a word of caution in applying a cure-all or over-simplified approach to strategic selling within social mediums. A one size fits all approach simply won't work. Any advanced selling system is based on the fundamentals however you have to leverage a process and acknowledge the nurturing required for an effective sales cycle to happen in social environs over time. Let me make my case...

When we treat social selling as the next big thing, as if it were a transactional cold call where we can achieve million dollar closing results with one or two calls, we take the sector backwards. All the same guiding principles apply to social selling so it's been my personal mandate as of late, to advance social selling into something elevated that I've dubbed Advanced Strategic B2B Social Selling. It's a modern twist on an ancient classic. Dave Brock says it the best ever: Prospecting is the New Prospecting! What's not to love about that?! But it's actually a profound commentary on the decadent global state of interrupt and push-button selling, a condition that social sales has allowed some to slip into.

My hair may be greying but I've noticed this 'social-for-social's-sake' undoing highlights a major gap in the sector. For Millennials and others looking to leverage LinkedIn or Sales Navigator at the core of your strategy, I would highly recommend dropping everything and reading Neil Rackham's books like SPIN Selling. Then take those learnings back to it... I would also recommend savvy sales managers make the investment in power modules on top of CRM like TAS Dealmaker and Pipeline Manager, or even go with Pipeliner CRM, to take control of their pipeline and manage key account growth. Don't just install it, train your people on it thoroughly, weekly and quarterly.

The folly of Sales 2.0 or Social Selling is it's often missing the context of the coming Web 3.0 paradigm. The vision of what strategic social selling can be is a highly focused weapon for change management over time. Understanding and mapping a political power base is more important than ever. The Status Quo and Do Nothing are more megalithic than ever with budgets slashed on razor thin margins. It's becoming even more of a winner-take-all and oh how the mighty fall! Incumbents are disrupted every day by smarter, faster leaner point solutions.

Connecting on 'social' with frenemies or blockers in the account can sink deals just as you aim to accelerate them. You need to pinpoint the mobilizers, your advocates and build consensus amongst champions inside the prospect's ecosystem. Leveraging trigger events without the underlying knowledge of military strategy is fatally flawed. We must understand the ripple effect our actions will create on the account based on sound business acumen, assessing the customer's balance sheet, reading their annual report and gaining a deep knowledge (and understanding!) of their culture. A lack of understanding of what's motivating all stakeholders in the account, could literally set you back an entire enterprise sales cycle. Yes, using social selling can get you fired or even cause you to time warp backwards down a 12 to 18 month spiral of your hard won efforts!

Is it possible to accelerate deals using social selling? Yes, yet I am of the mind ifonly you mix the old school with new school methods. There are strategies and there are tactics and you must know the difference. In selling, powerful prospects are trying to outwit you on a three dimensional chess board with a backgammon board underneath. When you move your piece you must be 15 steps ahead. Aggressively pushy, quota-crusher selling behavior on social will get you blocked or deleted. Cunning wiles mixed with intuition and a sixth sense thin slice for reading people and situations born out of tens of thousands of hours in the field, will be your compass to navigate these land mines as you build a bridge of trust over troubled waters. It's so incredibly noisy, it's become deafening to purchase anything in this day and age. That's why executives shut you out and procurement takes over with the reverse auction to ignore your value and throw the lower price competitor in your face.

Should you get rid of your desk phone? I prefer a cell phone to show localized caller ID so prospects actually pick up. I digress... Where I'm going with this is that Trigger Event selling is a science irrespective of technological channel. Challenger Selling is somewhat of a remix of recurring themes which renders Solution Selling, Strategic Selling, BattlePlan, Insight Selling and Consultative Selling absolutely more valid than ever. Learn and practice them all and then mash them up into your own mixed martial art form before you step valiantly into the Muay Thai octagon!

If you are just starting out your career in selling with your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ in hand, put down your social selling quiver for a moment today. Put down the compound bow Robin Hood, and learn to shoot with antique fire arrows before you go storm the castle! Hit pause and go read the great authors on this subject. Study the great books that deal with complex sales challenges and parameters such as Jeff Thull's Mastering the Complex Sale or Mahan Khalsa's work with Franklin Covey. If you are an ambitious sales manager looking to move up the ladder and make your mark in 2015, make sure to steep yourself in Proactive Sales Management by Skip Miller, Selling to VITO by Anthony Parinello, Aligning Strategy and Sales by Frank Cespedes and Jason Jordan's clairvoyant Cracking the Sales Management Code. Wouldn't it be nice to manage the KPIs that can actually be managed and leverage the sales activities that actually lead to revenue outcomes? Get crystal clear about what actually can and will move the needle; read Mike Weinberg's book: New Sales. Simplified. Not only speak the MBA lingo of leading and lagging measures and indicators but then... leverage them to move the boulder. Social selling didn't make it easier. It made winning even more of a Sisyphean task!

If you sell products or services on a longer enterprise sales cycle time continuum, heavily touted transactional-based social selling means will simply fail. There are critical success factors that must be learned by experience in order to effectively manage your time, pipeline, powerfully leverage a CRM, set the 'right' meetings, open powerfully, discover before you present, nail an on-site meeting and master a telephone. Mike Weinberg's pithy hyper-concise book has managed to encapsulate the highest levels of new business development. Jill Konrath is a sage when it comes to cataloguing multi-faceted strategies to penetrate new accounts whilst selling to big companies.

There's been a stunning array of get rich quick, instant gratification, fad diet type social selling material put out recently. Just like any quick fix, it simply will not work sustainably. We gain the weight back and lose our shirts if we don't walk out of the casino. Social selling is limiting and should be used responsibly as a compliment or a supplement, never a crutch. It almost needs a Surgeon General's warning! My research and experience bears out that it can only become a core strategy once the aforementioned materials are studied and lived. It's a deep nurture, enablement, awareness-building and big deal force multiplier.

It does not replace the greatest technology ever invented. The indisputably original YOU. There are hundreds of other amazing complex and strategic selling books, theories and disciplines out there but I have mentioned just a smattering as they've had the most profound impact on my career, development of my ownRSVP methodology, writing The Joshua Principle and it is my fondest wish that they will help you to get started and begin to be dangerous. I must puncture the social selling bubble and forgive me for casting aspersions on the social selling revolution as Messiah.

In contrast, imagine how powerful you'll be by becoming a Level IV Trusted Advisor wielding a premium LinkedIn profile while you challenge the status quo? Jim Holden posits that only 3% of all sellers ever achieve or operate at this level. It's critical to understand what it means to become a trusted advisor, and how that trust is earned through collaboration, persuasion and consultative value creation. Beyond the features and the benefits are the politics in the account, hidden economic / competitive factors, outcomes and risk we must manage deftly at a senior level. The CEO who signs only pulls a seat up next to her for you to collaborate on a mutually arrived at solution which grows over time, if you've added significant, unexpected strategic value above and beyond the norm.

So what's the social selling message to the advanced sellers out there – for the road warriors seasoned in closing seven-figure deals? Take the road not taken. Jump into the deep end head first and never look back. If you have gray hair, you actually have an amazing edge. Don't worry for a second – you will not drown. If you have business acumen and situational awareness, understand enterprise sales cycles and political power-bases, embrace proactive sales management and how to navigate a highly matrixed account with 'bee swarming' as one of my readers called it recently (i.e. meeting with various stakeholders in order to move a deal forward); you'll get on swimmingly. If you have a rock-solid sales process [maybe an amalgam you've built yourself], then you actually have a tremendous edge.

Think of LinkedIn as yet another phone and integrate it into your process. LinkedIn Sales Navigator is like the most advanced cell phone in the world. It's Google Glass. Think of Twitter as the spokes, the amplification that used to be encapsulated as Direct Response Marketing or e-mail blasts. Apps that filter Twitter give you context, then you're being strategic with the tool from firehose to laser.

The medium changes but the message stays the same. The methodologies that always separated top performers who won in the field, still win in the digital age. Iconoclastic salacious books sell with shock and awe but you need tried and true methods to sell complex products / services, if you want to stand a fighting chance of transcending self-commoditization and getting blocked by the digital gatekeepers [where do you think the traditional gatekeepers went?] They now screen the CEO's LinkedIn Profile! We must be the key-masters of the new digital fortress, leap over the moat blasted from the trebuchet of insight.

As sellers, we live and die by our results. When I train sales people I train them to execute. I spend a ton of time on 'execution' of which I have only found two books written on in the context of selling. SPIN Selling and The Four Disciplines of Execution are ones for the ages! Be proactive, learn to avoid the busy fool syndrome and place a major emphasis on execution whilst vastly simplifying your sales process. It's not rocket science. Humorously, I recently worked with a fellow with a background in astrophysics and even he was excited to get these concepts straight.

The 57% statistic on 'buying cycle' by CEB is a bit of a red herring because great sellers know they can uncover demand or even create it in any economy. They've been doing it over the telephone for time immemorial. It's called influence, understand the science and persuasion. [Cialdini] Even with contact rates down, they're still breaking the ice and bringing in high value meetings - every day. Hear that sound? That's your phone not ringing. That's the mouse clicking. Reach out and talk to live human beings. It will change your career, income and life. You're job will be 1,000% more enjoyable.

From my lens, relying on lead-gen vaporware widgets or content strategy alone is why only 60% of sales people hit their quota. Over-achievers are communicators and leverage every channel conceivably available to get to the target - whatever it takes, maintaining integrity but staying the course. I've also seen the Machiavellian social sellers out there who want to 'kill it' or 'crush it.' Hmmm...How would you feel if you were objectified into a bull's-eye? Soften up, leverage a bit of polish, panache and finesse - this is a human-to-human game. Digital didn't change that. You look more offensive in 'all caps' with your 3,000 percent benchmark report featuring empty promises of inflated ROI. We see right through you and hit delete.

Many of you reading this in the global social selling community I'm connected with [and I've sought you out, some 300 - 500 awesome thought leaders] are experts in your field. You're already pioneering ways to fuse the old and the new. I would just hope you too realize this gap and take the time to step back and help a new generation learn what still matters in the older methods. Why not always build in some key takeaways on sales process, frameworks, methodologies, syllabi and good old fashioned roll-up-your-sleeves training into the mix? Challenger Sale gave organizations an excuse to throw the baby out with the bathwater and announced the death of Solution Selling. The aptitude tests came out to detect the Challengers! Now we can all just show up, provoke with insight and we'll win by challenging key executives. Just tell the smart people how you're smarter. [Gong!]

They still MUST know, like and trust you first. People buy from those they like and trust; it's an immutable law of selling. Consultative selling is not dead as Linda Richardson puts it. Although we don't want to ask, "What's keeping you up at night?" because it's supposed to be right there on Google, it doesn't mean we can't create a value hypothesis in advance. We must diagnose before we prescribe and work collaboratively with active listening to peel the onion back to their real problems, problems the customer doesn't even know she has. We can build a solution comprised of many solutions that digs to the heart of the problem. We can work together to build the business case. We can sit beside our dream clients and work to derive value progressively (ongoing) for all parties involved. We can negotiate on a win-win basis.

Newsflash! Human nature and thousands of years of evolution have not changed the basic game we're playing. Personally, I'm not going to invest millions into something I haven't vetted thoroughly face-to-face and through references as well as performing sound, back-channel due diligence. Would any CEO buy sight-unseen over social alone? #Never. Maybe if it's the biggest incumbent in the marketplace but even then, what if they don't give you white glove treatment as they've gotten too big for their britches to provide concierge service? In this caseDavid can often defeat Goliath [case study]. It's a game changer when you feel your vendor can transmute vendor-status into a true partner and provide you with world class, above-and-beyond, service levels.

I want to encourage social sellers to return to being strategic sellers. My message to the social selling intelligentsia is 'let's take a more intelligent approach' and study our history so it doesn't repeat to bite us in the you know where. Let's go old school! Reading this and setting your sights on 150% to 200% quota this year, you may be wondering, how can I get there? Go read the classics. Get a library card and shut down the computer. Lock your smartphone in a safety deposit box for reading time – that's a move more valuable than Kruggerands.

Pick a mentor who is twice your age and pick their brain with a volley of situational questions about real world experiences in the field over decades. Let them spill the war stories, what it really took to get the deal over the line. Find someone in your company to practice, drill and rehearse with. Go through the hard questions, dry run your presentations, practice Situation, Problem, Implication and Need-Payoff (benefit) questions (SPIN). Practice active listening and open questions that lead to value. Become a student of history and politics. Read multiple newspapers [yes, the paper ones] every day to look for trends and trigger events. Start to form a gestalt in your mind so you can bring an informed perspective when you finally do sit down with the very important top officer. She'll be more impressed by a global perspective and lack of blinders on than any attempt to wow her with your technocratic prowess.

Close the laptop, tablet and log out of the smartphone. Humanize your approach. Take notes in long-hand. Build out Design Thinking or First Principles based brainstorming processes to generate truly unique insights. Test your hypothesis for a compelling business case out on your own CXOs. It's going to take a bit more work than reading a tweet to transform a key customer's business, don't you think? I remain convinced that executives in 2015 are yearning for something more, something deeper. It starts with sellers who truly attempt to understand their business, their challenges and strategic objectives. Challenge yourself. Be original! Dare to be visionary in all you undertake. Carpe diem!

There are parallels to diet fads in my mind or those late night infomercials blurting get rich quick. Social selling has been held up by the promise of immediacy. It's up to you if you're going to be Lawrence of Arabia and lead the people to glory or deep into the next mirage dying of thirst. The alchemist of our social selling age is within each one of us. If we've ever had any modicum of success in selling to our dream clients, we know intrinsically how it really should be done. Teach with integrity and walk your talk.

Challenger Selling has been misinterpreted as hubris toward the powerful which will just get you delegated down to who you sound like: a transactional telemarketer. Social Selling and Challenger are actually brilliant facets of deeper methods underpinning them, methods that came before [thank you Neil Rackham] that are majorly nuanced. These could be your silver linings playbook but you must mine the diamonds my friends! To use these constructs powerfully requires responsibility. Don't operate the heavy machinery of social networks with your C-Level customers while intoxicated by the 'it's easy' peanut gallery. Understand executives fully on a deeper level by taking a lengthy pilgrimage to the Holy Land that is a diverse knowledge base, something I call the Strategic Selling Pantheon: Keith Eades, Jim Holden, Neil Rackham, Miller & Heiman, Linda Richardson, Craig Elias, Tibor Shanto, David Brock, Jeff Thull, Art Jacobs, Tony Parinello, Mike Weinberg... there are more, the list is long but it's not endless.

I feel like I can almost count the bloggers on one hand that are taking the new insights and fusing them with the luminous old world laws. My realization in writing this is they know much more than what's on the surface so my open letter is to encourage all social selling thought leaders to open up and share their rich history. What got you here? Shoot from the hip, heart and tell me your story. Let me feel the foundation of how you think and why you've arrived at the insights you broadcast! Then it has meaning for me.

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them. - Henry David Thoreau

The best thing that you can do to be lethal in social selling is to step back and learn the difference between transactional and strategic methodology and then go steep yourself in a master class on Audible or Amazon. If you're a Founder or CEO selling a SaaS product under $250K per annum, you should consider not betting the house on a costly field selling organization. If you are running a thriving inside sales team, study the bible of predictable revenue scaling that isPredictable Revenue by Aaron Ross and mix this with Sales Navigator licenses to bring a whole new level of pre-call research and trigger event omniscience to your process. Translation: massively lower your cost of sale. The Board and Investors will be ecstatic.

If you're selling enterprise software, mobile, ERP, hardware, cloud based applications, big data, IT, security - PaaS, IaaS; if you're selling to government or Fortune 2,000 companies with byzantine procurement; if you're selling in response to RFPs... this letter applies to you. History repeats itself and the great secrets of selling have been laid out for you. Your path amongst the stars has been charted. We are all standing on the shoulder's of giants so let's not miss the opportunity to carry the knowledge forward to new generations.

Older generations, let's not be too stubborn to embrace change and apply the time-tested laws of strategic selling that we know produce outcomes; and apply to the new tools and platforms that can enable them. Pass the knowledge down but also absorb the new rules. We all know the dinosaur adage and the visual of pulling a wise elephant out of the quicksand. Selling is undergoing a mini-Renaissance right now. But we are missing the full double rainbow helix effect of the Age of Enlightenment if we can't connect ourselves to our roots. We need to know where we came from to evolve and see around curves.

It's a brave new world so I would suggest reading David Meerman Scott's 'The New Rules of Marketing & PR,' if you have not already! This is where my journey began. Mentees located me around the world based on my YouTube videos reflecting on Challenger Sales and they kept suggesting DMS's book...and others. I also got connected with Tibor Shanto and Craig Elias [Shift!], as well as social selling leaders such as Tim Hughes at Oracle UK, who are building a unique blend of "enterprise social selling" fusing old and new to withstand the downward pressure of selling disruptive solutions into established legacy markets.

As you may have noticed by now, I've plunged-in to the deep waters of the social selling revolution but my vessel of curiosity has rapidly been attacked by a giant squid. I have found a Mariana Trench of a major niche or gap to fill – the sector is crying out for more advanced methodology for social selling. And they don't even know that's the secret to making it more effective. Or maybe you all do, and that's why this open letter is more of an open reminder – a nudge to do more. Explain more... Where are you coming from in that recent post? Call out the book you've just quoted, reference the method that you learned in training in the 80's or 90's or Oughts and why it might still apply or doesn't at all. Maybe one piece of it needs a slight tweak or change? Pointing that out could be eye-opening, enlightening and highly illustrative to someone hungry to know. Let us learn with you...

Has selling changed? Are there systems that have gone the way of the Dodo? Sure, but most have been adapted and the authors are still at large figuring it out just like we are. They're leveraging survey data and training as we speak. It's a data-driven approach but there's one X Factor they'll always have on the youth: Wisdom. On the flip-side there is the wisdom of youth. Not knowing you can't do something produces miracles. The Millennials often have no limits, break all the rules and thereby redefine the game as we knew it.

If you'd like to embark on this journey with me, to understand how we can leverage social selling, social media and social networks to close seven figure engagements purely inside and accelerate them, stay tuned to this channel and my upcoming book.

Call me crazy or even dead wrong. Either way, I would love to hear your responses below. Are you thinking of social selling from a lens of elevating the channel? If you're a seller where are you still struggling with social selling? How are you avoiding complexity and commoditization in increasingly crowded markets? What's helping you compete and win as you navigate increasingly complex, matrixed organizations where everyone has an SVP title? Are you developing a foothold in the power base? Are you frequently sitting down with CXOs? Actually?! Are you going up against legacy incumbents as a cutting edge start-up technology to land and expand, breaking through with social selling at the helm? How are you tying all the technologies together? Are you a micro-marketer radiating your thought leadership expertise to move from push to pull? What message would you send to the Social Selling elite?

Sincere regards,

Tony J. Hughes, Sales Reverse-Mentor

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: © Tony J. Hughes

Unicorn Alert!!! My Top 100+ STRATEGIC Social Seller List

Strap on your narwhal horns of "strategery" and fasten your seat belts. This list is in no particular order but is nothing short of awesome! Without further ado I'm releasing my Web 3.0 Champions Twitter List to the world: Web 3.0 Champions(664 Thought Leaders Influencing Strategic Social Selling 3.0 and growing daily! - Please go follow all of these luminescent minds and fly this list into your HootSuite, TweetDeck or social dashboard of choice for full blown content fireworks overload like New Year's over the Sydney Opera House.)

Ladies and gentleman of Earth... a new hashtag is born like the birth of a star in a champagne super nova.


Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat. - Sun Tzu

You heard it here first! I've compiled this mega-scroll from a variety of sources after an overwhelming response to my open letter to social sellers everywhere. I think we can all agree there is far too much of social for social's sake going on. It's reached epidemic proportions like Beanie Babies, Paris Hilton and the Macarena. Who let the dogs out Grumpy Cat?

I feel these folks are truly putting the STRATEGIC into SOCIAL. Who did I miss? I'll continue to update the post with your thoughts. If I missed you or someone you care about, please like, comment write in or inbox me immediately with why they're STRATEGIC: tony at rsvpelling dot com.

plural strat·e·gies

Full Definition of STRATEGY

1 a (1) : the science and art of employing the political, economic, psychological, and military forces of a nation or group of nations to afford the maximum support to adopted policies in peace or war (2) : the science and art of military command exercised to meet the enemy in combat under advantageous conditions b : a variety of or instance of the use of strategy 2a : a careful plan or method : a clever stratagem b : the art of devising or employing plans or stratagems toward a goal 3: an adaptation or complex of adaptations (as of behavior, metabolism, or structure) that serves or appears to serve an important function in achieving evolutionary success <foraging strategies of insects>

So many metaphors in here, at least that's how Merriam-Webster defines it. How do I define strategy? Here's my definition if closing six, seven and even eight figure deals leveraging social + strategy as a force multiplier is something intriguing to you. I may have just cracked the code and am coaching strategic social selling effectively right now on three continents. I've thoroughly enjoyed speaking at Oracle recently down under.

There's power in mashups! These folks get it. You could say they're unicorns. They use the new tools and fuse them with classic methods. They think intelligently and strategically with social applying it to closing enterprise deals. A bunch of these thoughts leaders can be found on the big lists: KiteDeskOnalytica(where I humbly find myself at #87, which is encouraging after a few months of rookie effort mixing Strategic Selling methods with David Meerman Scott New Rules of Marketing and PR), InsideView and the Summit Klout List. If you show up on this list, I've interfaced with you, learned something valuable from you and respect your technique.

People ask me what inspired the ideation and sheer volume of the last 135 posts on LinkedIn Publisher in 90 days; it was all of you. Remember these people on the list and make sure you religiously follow everything each one of them says. Then you can change the face of selling as we know it and write a bestselling book. It's that simple! ;-)

  • Timothy Hughes
  • Koka Sexton
  • Jill Rowley
  • Mike Kunkle
  • Jason Jordan
  • Mark Hunter
  • Gabe Villamizar – Millennial Unicorn
  • Babette Ten Haken
  • Jill Konrath
  • Tamara Schenk
  • Ken Krogue
  • Brian Tracy
  • Miles Austin
  • Brynne Tillman
  • Alice Kemper
  • Sonja Firth
  • S. Anthony Iannarino
  • Steve Richard
  • Kendra Lee
  • Marsha Collier
  • Jack Malcolm
  • Mike Weinberg
  • Jeff Sheehan
  • Colleen Stanley
  • Ann Handley
  • Nancy Nardin
  • Melonie Dodaro
  • Eric Mitchell
  • Michael Harris
  • Dave Kurlan
  • Viveka von Rosen
  • Grant Cardone
  • Bernadette McClellan
  • Aaron Ross
  • John Smibert
  • Chris Young
  • Alice Heiman
  • Ago Cluytens
  • Vala Afshar
  • Bryn Hughes
  • Brian Fanzo
  • Jack Kosakowski
  • Andy Paul
  • Rachel Miller
  • Michael Brenner
  • Jo Saunders
  • Heide Schwende
  • Darrel Griffin
  • Brian Solis
  • David Meerman Scott
  • Alex Hisaka
  • Elay Cohen
  • Trish Bertuzzi
  • Jon Ferrara
  • Anneke Seley
  • Steven A. Rosen
  • Michael Fox
  • Keith Rosen
  • Daniel Barber
  • Lori Richardson
  • Art Sobczak
  • Tibor Shanto
  • Craig Elias
  • Deb Calvert
  • Kelly Riggs
  • Jeffrey Gitomer
  • Jay Baer
  • Michael Hyatt
  • Dave Stein
  • Jim Keenan
  • Greg Alexander
  • Charles H. Green
  • Bob Burg
  • Tim Hurson
  • David Brock
  • Doug Davidoff
  • Mike Schultz
  • Leanne Hoagland Smith
  • Ted Rubin
  • Matt Heinz
  • Lee Salz
  • Robert Terson
  • Colleen Francis
  • Ken Thoreson
  • Tom Searcy
  • Jeb Blount
  • Josiane Feigon
  • John Dougan
  • Paul McCord
  • Donal Daly
  • Gary S. Hart
  • Eric Quanstrom
  • Tiffani Bova
  • Tom Hopkins
  • Gerhard Gschwandtner
  • John Cousineau
  • Joanne Black
  • Jonathan Farrington
  • John Golden
  • Jamie Shanks
  • Barb Giamanco
  • Celina Guerrero
  • Alyson Button Stone
  • Nikolaus Kimla

Again, who's missing from the list? Are you a strategic social seller? Unicorn alert! Help me out LinkedIn???!!! Give a shout out and some love to folks you know and comment WHY they are STRATEGIC and SOCIAL. Why is he or she strategic with social selling? How are they thinking differently? Call out a quote, a book, an interaction?

LET'S SEE HOW BIG WE CAN BUILD THIS LIST in an interactive experiment almost like a modern strategic social selling chain letter. We all know the ones beseeching us to save the public TV station that go #viral. I'm hoping to save the sector from shiny object syndrome and 'look a squirrel' transactional Armegeddon.

THANKS FOR YOUR HELP! Now to celebrate let's all go to Rio!

P.S. An addition to the list: Michael Fox @adaptiveselling, Director Field Readiness at VMWare.

He provides strategic, adaptive, execution-oriented perspectives and expertise to professional B2B selling, especially how to develop high-performance sales teams; based on global experience in various sales and sales enablement roles. 
Check out his latest posts:

Your top 100 list article was awesome, just wanted to give you a shout out. I am surprised combining unicorns, Will Ferrell, and Arnold didn't break the internet.

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: Monica

Why Everyone's Ghostjacking But Nobody's Talking About It...Until now!

Virtual reality and the promise of a second life are at last upon us. Do we even need to jump in the hyperloop to explore the world with new eyes? I miss the ambitious 1990's and the days of the Lawnmower Man VR helmet and Power Glove. But here we are with Oculus Rift and HoloLens, Magic Leap holography and the promise of a brave new world of Marcel Proust. "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes". Now we actually can. One investor called Magic Leap, 'so badass you can't believe it!'v

Drum roll please... Without further ado, I'm fairly sure I'm the first in the world to have coined this phrase:

Ghostjacking (v.) is the process of logging in to others' social media profiles to grock the context of their networks. Ghostjacking is when the CEO allows you to drive their profile in order to connect from the C-Level to the C-Level. Ghostjacking is the secret weapon that is accelerating enterprise deal cycles within social media right as we speak and I haven't seen it written about. Nobody's talking about this and many are doing it.

The future has already arrived. It's just not evenly distributed yet." - William Gibson

I know what you're thinking – You are right in raising the risk of personal brand damage caused by poor execution. The ethics needs to be carefully considered also.

The office of The President, The Prime Minister, The Pope, The CEO, Rockstars, Hollywood icons… they all have trusted delegates who reach-out, reply to correspondence and manage social on their behalf. A letter from the Queen is not generated by the Queen herself. Delegates are instructed and authorized to engage within strict guidelines and in a very targeted manner. They’re instructed and authorized to ‘ghost’.

This is not new…Bringing this approach to the world of social is 'old world meeting new world'. Professional selling is catching-up but anyone who is clumsy through autobot gaffs or spamming behaviour will damage their personal brand enormously. I have screenshot examples that I share in my presentations and keynotes. Deceptive or disingenuous behavior will be punished by recipients. HUGE levels of partnership and trust are required to execute and there is much to consider... this really is cutting-edge stuff!

It's common knowledge that various team members will power others' social profiles in order to allow the corner office to delegate. What I've yet to see established, is a cohesive strategy if encouraging this. Imagine encouraging your SVP of Sales to run the CXO's profile in order to appointment-set at the highest level for maximum cut-through. As one might imagine, the response rate of a CEO reaching out to another CEO is ridiculously high.

There are a few ways I've envisaged doing this. One, is to leverage a series of approved personal templates that allow for some editorial control in the process. Two, is to record calls and frequent responses and then transcribe them into a template to give you the DNA blueprint or gestalt of that C-Level's thought pattern in order to be effective. The best outreach while ghostjacking is the language of the CEO: short, to the point, economy of movement and effort – blunt and even colloquial.

This is a controversial idea but one that can be aligned with your go-to-market strategy. It can be a major competitive advantage when coupled with the neighborhood technique. 'Hey I'll be in Auckland, let's do lunch.' Imagine you're in an RFP or up against a legacy incumbent. You have not been able to meet with the key stakeholders in the account. The CIO is dodging you. The ultimate maneuver is outreach by your Founder or CEO to theirs in order to hold a fireside chat or high level summit.

As a sales leader, reaching out from your CEO's LinkedIn to make that invitation can be the key moment that turns a tenuous relationship into a concrete one. The major hurdle in high performance, strategic social selling is getting in front of the right clients. I list 13 counter-intuitive ways to do this here on and off the Tron game grid.

CEB recently released research on the consensus sale and they state that "on average, 5.4 people are involved in today’s B2B purchase decisions."

We all know the parable of management by committee and where that story goes... #stall.

To buck this trend and in recognition that there's typically only one name on the purchase order, I'm advocating the most counter-intuitive 'get past the gatekeeper' strategy of all time! When power connects to power, the magic happens in accounts. I've seen a 16 month deal cycle move forward in 90 days with this technique. What's the precursor to a successful ghostjack? Trust. It's critical that in business we always operate with absolute ethics and integrity so work collaboratively and always put this tactic into a healthy context.

Ghostjacking is a riff of newsjacking as defined by the prescient David Meerman Scott. This is where you Tweet your content at a timely Google or Twitter trending topic or hashtag so journalists can pick it up in the news cycle bell curve, pre-decay-rate and you inject your harmonic story within the breaking news like a surfer dropping in to toe-surf a digital long board.

If you have a close relationship with your internal C-Suite as a sales leader, it may be worth exploring whether to share social access to a key profile in order to ghostjack or ghostdrive into new accounts and territories. This is an approved practice with a real senior internal stakeholder profile, accessing networks with the power of a pre-approved templated message. You can even craft a bespoke message and have your CEO edit it for authenticity and syntax.

Other clever and practical applications of Ghostjacking include:

  • CMO powers the company Twitter account and leverages personal profiles to customise retweets. (This has been happening since the dawn of social!)
  • Account Executives drive each others' Navigator accounts to look for changes in the patterns of the content stream and interrelationships as a Flight Simulator exercise
  • CEO gives one Sales Leader the keys to the castle and a list of targets with a multi-template approach to penetrate key stakeholders. (Project management software like Jira or Workboard can be leveraged for real-time approvals.)
  • Marketing teams take ownership not only of a Facebook Page but personal executive accounts to grow them meaningfully.
  • Comment seeding in discussion groups or forums foments heated debate. I've often stated that polarity fosters interactivity which heats up social.
  • Beestorming which is adding the entire C-Suite of an existing or new account. This is super high risk because one has to understand who the talkers, blockers, mobilizers [Challenger] and frenemies are. It's highly effective to log in as a C and super-link into the power-base to understand the political ramifications.

Whether you cringe reading this or are an advocate, nothing changes the fact that we all know this stuff is happening and it's the unspoken truth. Even if you're leveraging ghostjacking from an observation level to do passive research and report back findings to your C-Suite, the view is often unobstructed from the top. As the saying goes, the lead sleigh dog has the best view. This may be dubbed as a guerrilla strategy or dismissed / misconstrued as grey-hat but if you want to take it even more above board, sit with your CEO and explain the idea to them. Work together on this meta-tactic to target your top 25 dream accounts this quarter, map their power base and devise a strategy to 'get in.' She can send the outreach, and you can prep the strategy. Either way, it's an effective modus operandi to become more collaborative in the virtual world we all now live in and explode yourself ever so Battlestar Galactica into a supernova super-networker.

Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts... A graphic representation of data abstracted from banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding..." - William Gibson

Often the only people CXOs will add back are other CXOs. Navigator allows all salespeople the ability to passively track the content and activity stream of any senior executive and this is helpful. The true power-play is a hyper-targeted InMail, invite or 'neighborhood' technique - meeting request from the very important top officer (VITO).

I'm working on a controversial new book that will explore many of the extremes, grey areas and best practices of strategic social sellers. I've endeavored to see around corners, 10X the satire and see the world through the new eyes of 2020, with my smart contacts and Singularity squarely in 3D holodeck check.

Now it's your turn - What experiences have you had in ghostjacking? Have you heard of savvy reps powering executive profiles? Is this reality or myth, the stuff of urban legend? What's your stance on this as a standardized business practice? How far could the future of virtual reality in business to business sales really go?

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

Main Image photo by: Sergey Galyonkin. Also added this photo below after suggestion by Avron Welgemoed.

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

90 Days Of Social Media Mania. What Were The Real Results?

Back in 2014 I decided to get serious about social to build my global brand by publishing unique quality content on a daily basis on LinkedIn but I did something no-one else has dared to do and stopped blogging on my website and went 100% all-in on LinkedIn. It was risky and LinkedIn has indeed changed the way the Publisher platform works and it's more difficult to build following there today.

Please note that all of these screenshots (above and below) with my stats were before the 90 day mark. Actual numbers are within text of this article.

No click bait to take people away, just a pay it forward content strategy to launch myself on the global stage. Every day I posted at least one article and then amplified using Twitter. It’s been a simple strategy and rather than seek to drag prospective clients to my website, I decided to be where they are – inside LinkedIn. Why did I go against the advice of David Meerman Scott when LinkedIn is a semi-closed platform? Let me answer that by sharing some breathtaking facts about LinkedIn:

  • There are 540,000,000 members and 40% use it daily. 2 people join LinkedIn per second.
  • There are more than 400 million unique page views of content every day and more than 35 billion page views in an average quarter.
  • Every person I want to reach on the face of the planet is in LinkedIn. 90% of business decision-makers in Australia are members which is the 2nd highest penetration for LinkedIn worldwide behind Netherlands.

In just 90 days back in 2014 I blasted past almost all of my peers who had been building their follower-base over many years. Here are some of my numbers from just 90 days of social media commitment:

  • Increased LinkedIn followers from 1,600 to almost 6,600
  • 4,500 views of my LinkedIn profile in 90 days
  • 346,000 unique page views of my virgin LinkedIn blog in 90 days
  • Twitter followers up by 80% and I improved the quality of the base
  • Ranked in Top 100 Globally in Social Selling (Onalytica research)
  • Secured 5 paid speaking engagements with tier-one multinationals, and exceeded my 2014 speaking revenue in just the first 6 weeks of 2015
  • Invited by LinkedIn to author for them (see badge below and here is the post the comment relates to. Note that I always add positive spice wherever possible.. controversy is your publishing friend)
  • Invited by 3 companies to guest blog for them
  • Invited by Kelly Riggs for interview on The Business LockerRoom radio show (scheduled for Monday March 30th)
  • Initiated discussion with major publisher for USA book deal
  • Reached #1 in my peer LinkedIn network and #5 in my total LinkedIn network (currently #7) among my 3,000 connections.
  • The quality of my network went through the roof.
  • I launched a brand new hashtag called #strategicsocialselling to fuse the old school and new school and launched an official 100+ unicorn list of my own purely based on empirical sentiment analysis.
  • Executives from LinkedIn wrote in to encourage me to shorten the posts whilst I paradoxically began to get higher traffic in relation to best practices. I pulled my research from and analysis of Dave Kerpen's corpus, OKDork 3,000 and Buffer Blog - Anatomy of a Perfect Blog Post. (Hence the 1,700 to 1,900 word sweet spot of steak to the typical short form sizzle / flash in the pan. I A/B tested like crazy!)
  • My friends and close family thought I was nuts and yelled at me to get off LinkedIn at dinner parties.
  • But...I received the following humbling comment dozens of times or some version of it, 'This is the best post I've ever read on LinkedIn.' 'I'm printing this out and sharing it with my sales team.'
  • Multiple adherents to my unorthodox methods cropped up and they started to publish on LinkedIn sending me their own success stories of lead generation.

My LinkedIn Social Selling Index score went through the roof and according toMatt Loop at LinkedIn Australia, I am one of the highest ranking members in the country – maybe the highest who is not on a Sales Navigator subscription. In case you ever get access to your Social Selling Index (SSI) score from LinkedIn, here are the current benchmarks from LinkedIn:

  • Average: 49
  • Leader: 61
  • Best in class: 65

Australia has the highest penetration for LinkedIn globally and the average score in November, 2014 was just under 24 across all industries. My current SSI score is 87. If you're not a Sales Navigator subscriber and have a better score than 87, let me know out I'll hat-tip you to the world ;-)

Many of my posts achieved well over 1,000 reads and many were also featured in LinkedIn Pulse feeds. Here are two examples.

Imagine the cost for all these results if you went to a traditional PR firm 10 years ago! Their advice would be to work with a journalist to have a thought leadership piece published in a magazine. They would have charged at least $5k per month for a 6 months retainer contract and delivered a nice folder with clippings of the press mentions achieved. Now I'm embarking on YouTube videos. $2k for the equipment and I'm all set-up with my own studio in my office so I can now upload for free on my global channel... it's staggering. There are 1 billion views of YouTube videos every month in the world.

But how does all this monetize you ask? Being in the top 1% in LinkedIn has yielded incredible results. I'm #1 in my peer connections (professionals like me) and currently # 7 among my more than 3,000 overall connections.

Business is coming to me and the conversations revolve around my availability and what I charge, rather than why I should be considered… Like CEB says, 'they are on average 57% through the buying process but with my rich sticky, open source content where I share every secret to closing million dollar deals from 30 years in the field and a 90 day deep dive in social – prospects are 90 to 100% through the buying process. They literally hire me on the spot. It's magical! It’s almost as if I don't have to sell myself when I’m having a conversation. People read my content, review my credentials, decide they want me to help them with their team, and then they contact me. I’m engaged in conversations for keynote speaking engagements in Europe, America and Asia-Pacific. Tier-one vendors are paying me to attract audiences at their events.

I'm a grey haired dude from the old guard. If there's one lesson you can learn, if you excel at sales, marketing or writing you can do this too. You can most likely have even more success than me! Find a Millennial and beg her to train you.

Leads come to me, self-qualified and well advanced through my sales funnel… it’s unbelievable. In a recent post about CRM a person said he needed to buy a CRM for his company and put his phone number in the comments thread. I called him and then passed the lead on to someone I trust to look after him. No referral fee; just 'pay it forward'. Click the link and see for yourself.

I prioritized ideation over creation and creation over curation. I newsjacked, I mashed-up and I went big in long form. I gained hundreds of supporters for every detractor and had many a detractor write me back declaring me an 'innovator' in this medium. It has been exhausting, humbling and rewarding. Parkinson's Law was my guiding light, 'work expands to fill the time allotted' and I was able to write a 4 hour long post in under 2 hours and then a first draft down to under 1. I shut-off the TV, cracked open my reference library and built a YouTube channel. Here is a screenshot of a LinkedIn report showing my network characteristics.

My ultimate goal in building a publishing platform within LinkedIn is to create a following for my new book. My strategy has been largely based on the excellent writings of David Meerman Scott (The New Rules of Marketing and PR) and Michael Hyatt's book, Platform.

While you’re wondering about social selling, your competitors are attracting and engaging your customers and prospects.

Do what I did 90 days ago; take massive 10X action and embrace LinkedIn Publisher for content marketing. You will educate yourself, attract a quality network, build your personal brand, and reap commercial rewards.

I double dare you to take the 90-day LinkedIn Publisher Challenge?

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: B Rosen

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

Top 10 Negotiation Hacks To Protect Price & Preserve Margin

Complexity and commoditization run rampant. There's an entire library of congress of books on this subject so I thought I'd list for you some practical, real-world life-hacks and techniques that actually work. You're going to have to completely differentiate your offering and get into deals early to knock out the competitors. Ultimately, savvy buyers will still bring in all your competitors even during the denouement (climax) of the deal so you have to be ready to have an edge to box them out.

First, David Brock of Partners in Excellence weighs in:

Tony, you've covered a huge amount. Here are some additional/supplementary thoughts: 

1. Too often, sales people work on negotiation positioning, protecting pricing or margin as the move into the closing stages of a deal. This is far too late. You need to begin establishing your positioning from your very first qualification meetings. 
2. It's impossible to preserve pricing and margin if your solution has negligible differentiation meaningful differentiation from the alternatives. There are a few key words here. The first is meaningful--it has to be critical and important to the customer. Just having more features, functions, better service, better quality, etc is meaningless unless the customer cares. If you aren't differentiated--if you haven't provided leadership in driving the customer to think what you have is the most important, you will never be able to defend price/margin. 
3. The customer has to find their current state is absolutely unacceptable. Doing nothing is not an alternative. Then combined with 1 and 2, having a strong business case positions you strongly to avoid discounting. 
4. Finally, making sure the customer understands the context. If arguing for a percent or two prevents them from Millions in profitability improvement, remind them the silliness of wasting time to achieve these goals.

At the very least, you want to engineer your win into their process, by establishing the requirements and exerting positive control over the deal at every step. By being the decision maker's 'emotional favorite' going in and co-creating the most compelling business case for mutual value creation and the New ROI, you've helped them advocate for your solution and build enough of a consensus internally to secure the win. Let's deconstruct a rather elaborate topic into 10 central hacks:

  1. Anchoring & Threshold Gating – Anchoring the sale is both procedural and psychological and this fits right in with threshold gating. You need to set a minimum threshold for the deals you'll take on. Allowing for endless 'Seemore Sydrome' meetings, pilots and proof of concepts (POCs) could sink you. Many get romanced by the notion of 'land and expand' but $250K up front is an effective enterprise pilot, not zero or $5K. You can land and expand only if the client has enough skin in the game. We know you will with infrastructure costs and the investment you'll be making to ensure your customer is successful with your solution. Psychological anchoring is simply the concept of painting the larger vision of what a strategic partnership could look like economically and solution-wise. If you offer that full vision at $200K, they're going to look to get involved for 1/10th of that. If you factually state your typical annual deal size is $1MM, they're much more likely to transact with you in the realm of an acceptable enterprise size engagement. These are two concepts that are thousands of years old but they are alive and well in complex B2B selling so utilize them respectfully, artfully and with integrity. Be transparent with your pricing model. Be willing to 'fire' high maintenance tire kickers and set the tone for the partnership up-front. You will not scare off a great customer as exclusivity drives sales. Top companies want the best solution and are willing to invest if the ROI is there. They're not necessarily looking for a free trial. They seek Cialdini's social proof, case studies, reference clients they can call for 'proof of life', vis-a-vis: true testimonials. Many ask for retention information in RFPs because they're clamoring for stability in an overcrowded market place where many companies are not looking for the 100 year run; they're notoriously seeking a three year exit and vulture capitalists are pushing for that. Maximize customer value over shareholder value and build a relationship on the basis of longevity and trust.

2. Bucketing – The bucket technique works. This concept comes out of systems as disparate as charitable giving engines to models of lease tiers for European luxury cars whose finance departments operate similar to banks. I realize some pricing analysts will be reading this as I'm networked with you, so I'd love your thoughts in this sphere. Essentially, when presented with three options, human nature is to select the middle one. An even larger overarching concept, as you look to build out your pricing grid or SaaS tiers – you need to present your pricing in such a way as to land customers in the stratification you intend. Remember, this is in their interest as well as yours. To grossly oversimplify, if you're looking to sell deals at $500K, create tiers of $250K, $500K and $1MM. The Challenger Sale talked about creating constructive tension and discussing price early as two of the most powerful things that Challengers did naturally. My take on this is that it displays transparency and confidence. Cut through the placation and hot air. Get down to brass tacks. Pricing conversations must be delivered with finesse. If you present the matter too early, you can risk killing the deal. Invariably, if you are interacting at the most senior level in an organization, they will move toward the pricing discussion with force and great intensity rapidly. That's when being prepared with a bucket like, "Typically our engagements fall into the realm of $250K for a pilot and $500K to $1MM on an annual basis. We need to fully scope the project to understand the unit economics at play [professional services] or we need to understand exactly what modules you'll need [SaaS]. Which of these numbers speaks to you?" – I want to give some credit to Bryan Kreuzberger, the originator of Quad Emailing for some of the phrasing and verbiage here. You don't want to alienate buyers with this line of reasoning. If well timed and especially face-to-face, you're going to rapidly accelerate your ability to find out the available budget, the comfort level and merge this with a query into "success criteria" so as to understand what precise value they're looking to derive from their investment and how they intend to measure it. Maybe you can measure it together...

3. Elasticity of Demand: Suite of Solutions vs. Single Commodity –It's a mistake to sell single solutions into the enterprise even if you sell one thing. Let me explain. A single solution looks and smells like a commodity and so you'll be commoditized. Period. Point solution providers can pull this off because they've either gone Google and vastly undercut pricing to 'democratize' the industry, they've got way less overhead running fully lean in the cloud with limited Op-ex vs. Cap-ex, or they've figured out a more transactional way of offering one feature of a large enterprise solution to those 'looking for a deal.' Nobody got fired for buying IBM so over-simplification is actually an Achilles heal. Companies with a healthy bottom line are not looking for the 'low cost, loss leader.' If you're the incumbent, the argument is the little guy has vastly fewer resources and R&D to invest back into its suite of solutions that allows an end-to-end holistic approach. Often the incumbent is also vastly more secure with understanding the customer's business processes and people, so make sure you check that box if it's a competitive advantage. If you are David going against Goliath, perhaps you can provide a level of concierge service or place this dream client in Beta and that's very attractive to them to be this hands-on. Here is a Case Study.Perhaps they can even use both solutions at once, 'truly land and expand,' to multiply the effectiveness of what they're already using. Many amazing point solutions scale and providing a suite of solutions creates a situation of 'elasticity of demand.' You can also allow for consulting, setup and management fees which are standard practice and act as a mechanism to preserve margin.

4. Value Focus - We're all trying to sell value but value is not enough. Senior executives purchase based on delivering outcomes and managing risk. Leverage risk as a weapon and provide unexpected value by focusing on mutual collaboration and value creation over the life of the proposed partnership. Span your attention out and discuss what the potential growth curve looks like in the first, second and third year and some of the benchmarks other clients in a similar vertical are achieving at these levels. 'Just sell value' is a hard pill to swallow as this is the mantra in all the competitive companies for most sales managers. Sales executives must teach customers with new insight and provocative compelling business insight they've gleaned via industry expertise.

In a previous post, I highlight the physics idea that Elon Musk utilizes called First Principles thinking where you reduce a system down into its fundamental parts [Ferris Deconstruction: Deconstruct, Selection, Sequencing, and Stakes] and then rebuild it in your mind or a brainstorm... from scratch. The battle royale is to be won with disruptive insight. Ideation is a big deal and precedes Challenger. The strategies and tactics will matter little if there's not a unique and compelling reason to buy from you. Ultimately, separate yourself from vendors and present instead as a partner and trusted advisor. Do this by sitting on the same side of the negotiating table and add so much value from inception that they: a) feel they'd pay you $500 just for the initial consultation and b) they feel they drove a huge bargain even investing $1MM because you're going to make or save them millions net net. Pretty simple but this gets incredibly muddied with thousands of books that tell you WHAT the outcome is without a blueprint of how to get there. I recommend any book or blog by Mark Hunter for a deep dive into these subjects of high profit selling.

5. Pre-Trigger Penetration - Craig Elias & Tibor Shanto extoll this revolutionary concept of 'first in'. Frankly, I believe that InsideView, Gagein, Avention and even components of LinkedIn Sales Navigator stem from seeds of ideas in the concepts of Trigger Event Selling in the clairvoyant book -Shift!. Pick this one up and start to study the 3 main trigger events: a) changes and transitions, b) awareness, and c) bad supplier. You'll need to get upstream pre-Challenger via a slew of techniques I've coined strategic social selling to do this effectively. If you're 'first in' you can set the tone, engineer in the requirements and continuously educate the customer. I've often stated, 'look, even if you don't choose our solution, I'm going to do everything that I can to help you to make the most educated decision.' Big enterprise sales teams talk about 'swagger' and how 'the swagger breeds.' It's this big machismo Glengarry Glen Ross target practice devaluing the industry into something less human.

To de-risk the head-to-head Running of The Bulls at Pamplona strategy with the competition, I would advocate listening and hunting for trigger events so that you can introduce yourself, provide value and edutain before the prospect even knows they need to look. You interject a disruptive way to execute on a major initiative already in play and bingo – major sale.

6. Offer Limited Concessions - Hard negotiating is about making limited concessions. If they ask for a discount, Mark Hunter will tell you to always hold firm on price but negotiation experts might advocate a very minor concession over a holdout time period. The bigger concessions you make earlier, the less chance you get to an effective win-win close. And don't forget, by the time you get to procurement they're going to ask, "Why is your solution 4X more expensive than the other 3 vendors I use for this offshore?" Or, 'Why's the license fee astronomical compared to these other three [point solutions] who are willing to take us on in a free trial?" That's when you may need to place a call to your executive sponsor in the account if you're getting blocked in procurement and shaved down. I've had situations where I reached an absolute stalemate with the purchasing team after daily half hour calls for weeks on end. Complete Groundhog Day! Be confident in your pricing model and stand firm. 'Friends and family' discounts are a slippery slope and training your customers to wait until New Year's Eve until your leadership is desperate to close, is a bad idea and sub-optimal business practice that pads numbers, to say the least.

7. Don't Be Afraid to Walk Away - Hit pause on the negotiation and grab dinner. Be willing to walk away from the negotiation table and even the entire deal if they've got you over a barrel with an offensive counter-offer. Call their bluff of posturing over you for pennies on the dollar. The power-base knows your price and knows the market. You're not alone in this deal. It's quite common they're going to find 3 other suppliers just to run a reverse auction and wave the lowest pricing schema in your face as a bargaining chip. Top executives drive a truly hard bargain. Don't you? I'm stunned when haggling breaks out but I'm never shocked when I get low-balled. Enterprise tiers are non-negotiables and when you're trying to grow revenue scalably and predictably, you cannot stoop to slashing pricing. The margin and even the entire business can suffer. If somebody keeps low-balling you and puffs their chest out like a peacocking lion, hold firm and take the high road. If they keep going there, be willing to walk out of the casino. Realize that a) They're doing this because they want your solution that bad and you've already clearly differentiated and won the value war, and b) It's very much posturing. You need to apply the principle of non-hunger, set the tone that you have many enterprise deals in the queue and batten down the hatches until this perfect storm blows over. Motivational speaker Tony Gaskins says "You teach people how to treat you by what you allow, what you stop, and what you reinforce."

This applies 100% to customers. Walking away from procurement for a while (while still remaining engaged wit the power base) could be the last strategic card to play and a better strategy than dropping price to lower a deal. You begin a relationship in weakness or strength – that choice is always yours. If you train the client they can simply apply pressure to your jugular at any point to get their way you'll erode any virtuous cycle to up-spiral a relationship. Deals that are won at the end of quarter with price drops are the same ones that renew with the customer shopping you to every competitor under the sun and coming back to demand 'lower fees' or else they're going to the competition. Even if you are the most innovative, market leader and integral to their core business! You could be the engine of their entire growth plan and you've still opened yourself up to the susceptibility of hostile negotiations. What's uncanny about this, is that I've seen the same customer treat one vendor like gold that didn't buckle on price and another like dirt who did. Think hard on that point.

8. ROI Calculation & Co-Creation [Drive Revenue] – Many methodologies speak to building a value hypothesis that's both qualitative and quantitative [Jeff Thull] and co-creating to prove it out with the customer. Some cautions here: Calculating a 3,000 percent increase is disingenuous. Pragmatism and realism are essential when communicating with CFOs and CIOs. Don't attempt to apply lipstick to a pig or present a pie in the sky 'push-button' fix even if your solution is completely transformational. We all know the devil's in the details and our success will rise and fall on delivery - the execution phase - when the rubber meets the rode and we look to bring about lasting change. There's an entire sector of consultants who can help with building out ROI Calculators. I think benchmarking by polling or surveying existing customer data is a very effective strategy. 'On average, our customers are realizing anywhere from a 3 to 5% revenue lift.' Remember that metrics that matter vary wildly so giving some study into the one key metric powering the buyer's purchasing decision and how you can influence it, is a worthwhile endeavor indeed.

9. Engineer in the Requirements – Build a document which prepares a client for RFP. Even provide them with a template RFP to make their job easier... I've done it with incredible results selling to government. Make sure to include all the questions that help them to assess how your solution better fits their requirements. Chances are, most competitors will not have the forethought and preparation to build a RFP checklist to share with clients. But if they have one too it can become a situation of a requirements stand off. Too many bells, whistles and features can work against you, presenting fear of scope or feature creep. It can interject implementation risk unnecessarily. Compatibility, extensibility and interoperability are ubiquitous buzz words but at the end of the day, are your people committed to getting the solution live and doing whatever it takes to make the client successful.

10. Venn Diagrams, Opportunity & Relative Costs [Create Cost Efficiency] – What's the impact of not making the change? What's the sunk costs of just holding the dozen meetings you already have? [Government] If there are four main factors that a decision can be made on, what's the Venn Diagram of the most important two? Map that out on a white board. It's often impossible to reconcile all the demands a customer is looking for. If they're painting a utopian reality, we know for a fact going in that no vendor is going to be able to satisfy them. At this point, it's worth building out an opportunity cost calculation or presenting a diagram that highlights these paradoxes and contradictory forces. Here's a humorous one to trump up the point!

And finally, an amusing story about competition in enterprise deals to share with you which will highlight just the level of psychological warfare actually involved in all of this which I'm sure many of you are far too intimately familiar with already... There was a point solution that presented itself as more advanced and sophisticated as the competitor. They had invested nowhere near the R&D and resources into improving the product and their system was legendary for going down at peak times. But every prospect that called in was given this song and dance: 'We're the leading enterprise solution. We're exclusive. Let us know when you're ready to make a real investment." Incredibly with a product that was nowhere near as good as other direct competitors, they cornered the enterprise market with the power of exclusivity alone. That's a hard argument to punch a hole into. Beware of this tactic if you are the leader or disrupting one. 'Oh, and call me back when you're ready to get into the elite version...'

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: U.S. Army

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

Top 15 Insidious Social Selling Myths

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Frank Kovalchek

12 Reasons Why You Should Be Fired In Sales

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Main image photo by Flickr: Emilio Küffer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scott Jones
Director of Global Business Group Sales

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Main image Photo by: James Willcox

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

What exactly do you do?

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

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

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

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

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

Ask yourself these questions when considering your 007 strategy:

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

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

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

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

Main Image Photos by: Johan Oomen

Don't Be A Face Sucking Alien

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here's how you build confidence and close elegantly:

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

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

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

Main image photo by Flickr: Pug 50

The Element Of Surprise

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

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

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

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

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

The element of surprise.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I expect my biggest enemy to be do nothing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Main image photo by Flickr

Top 40 Most Infamous Sales Archetypes Of All Time

1. Rico Suave

2. The Schmoozer

3. Don Juan DeMarco

4. Pinocchio

5. Wolf of Wall Street

6. The Spreadsheet Jockey

7. The PowerPoint Princess

8. Social Media Boy

9. Dandruff Man

10. The Class Clown Comedian

11. The Orator

12. Nostradamus

13. Tony Robbins Jr.

14. The Prince of Procrastination

15. The Charlie Sheen

16. Jessica Rabbit

17. Don Draper

18. The Yes Man

19. Houdini

20. The Joan Rivers

21. The Baldwin

22. The Rudy

23. The Axe Body Spray Dude

24. George Costanza

25. The Book Worm

26. The Steve Jobs Wanna-Be

27. Captain Obvious

28. The Paris Hilton


30. Machiavelli

31. The Emperor's New Clothes

32. Don Quixote

33. The Multi-Level Marketer

34. The Brogrammer

35. The Manager Who's Never Sold

36. The Gamer

37. The Scribbler

38. The Luddite

39. War & Peace

40. Extreme Energy Drinker

41. Bonus: The Highlander

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

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

Main image photo by Flickr: Charlie Llewellin