Sales Enablement

CRM: Graveyards of Information or Powerhouses for Improvement?

George Brontén from Membrain has been following my posts and regularly provides insightful comments. LinkedIn is an amazing platform for building relevant connections with thought leaders around the world and we decided to catch-up on Skype.

Membrain is a specialist in B2B sales enablement and we ended-up discussing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) technology. I found George’s views provocatively interesting and very cogent. I eventually ask him this question: Is it possible that CRMs aren’t well suited to do everything that their makers claim they’re capable of doing? We recorded our chat and here is a paraphrase of George’s response.

CRM vendors would like sales leaders to believe their technology is a one-size-fits-all panacea but they have added so much functionality over the years that if you ask ten people what CRM is, you are likely to get ten different answers. In many companies, the CRM has become a graveyard of information, instead of a tool that helps improve sales performance.

More feature creep to come: Feature creep isn’t about to go away. The market pressures to grow top line revenue will continue to drive CRM vendors to constantly add new capabilities and acquire new technology. But when it comes to complex B2B sales and other specialized needs, a new wave of cloud-based applications are emerging. They add functionality not available in traditional CRM systems like Salesforce without a lot of hard work; i.e., custom programming and on-going maintenance. [I agree with George that the age of mash-ups is here to stay and that CRM must evolve]

One-size-fits-all or none? The concept of “one system to rule them all” is appealing but has turned sales professionals into data-entry clerks and sales managers into report-creators. Everyone spends too much time gathering information and not enough time on activities and skill enhancements that will help close more business. CRMs typically don’t help sales professionals improve, although that’s what was promised when the system was sold.

Different needs depending on the complexity of your sales efforts:Some may be surprised that CRMs are not well suited for complex B2B sales. Can’t CRMs do almost anything? With a lot of consulting and programming, this may be true. There are certainly many excellent add-ons available but how do you turn a transaction system like CRM into a visual guidance, learning and coaching platform needed in the complex sales environment?

CRM products are best for selling low-risk commodity products which can be transacted but high-risk solutions usually require the consensus of multiple stakeholders and take months, or even years, to come to fruition. The more complex your sale is, the more important each action of your sales people becomes. You need a system that supports complex process.

List, lists, lists or visual guidance and coaching? Sales improvement software should let you implement any sales process you want, and visually guide sales professionals, step-by-step through a sales process and preferably using a specific methodology and sales linguistic. In contrast, CRMs were designed to capture and display large amounts of information, and because most CRMs are developed to adapt to the needs of different user groups and business units within a company, the graphical interface often has a generic – and frankly, a quite ugly - design. The output is often lists of information that look very similar no matter where you are in the system. This type of user experience provides little contextual feedback and focus.

Studies by Sales Performance International, a leading sales development consulting firm, emphasize that a visual overview of the sales process produces significant improvements in sales performance. In general, people can digest visuals better than text, making the graphical design of sales improvement software much more than just points of vanity.

Manage information or drive the right behaviors? While CRMs were originally designed to manage customer relationships and interactions, sales improvement software is designed with one goal in mind – win more business. CRM promises the same focus but rarely delivers in implementation. Sales improvement or sales enablement software takes a different approach by focusing on the sales process itself so that sellers truly understand the prospect. The best systems become a real-time training and coaching platform to drive success throughout the sales process.

The premise behind this new breed of sales improvement software is that most sales professionals fail because they aren’t selling properly. Sales improvement software helps the sales professional know what to do with whom, when and how. This is where you need sales process, methodology, skills and professional coaching.

The future is in “meshing”: I believe that we’ll see more “meshing” in the future, where the concept of data sharing between modern best-of-breed systems removes much of the golden luster of using the same CRM vendor for everything. It will continue to be the system of record, but there will be a limit to how far CRMs can reach into new applications such as sales improvement. [I agree with George here also and I often write about the new world of mash-up methodologies and technology].

The race is on and it will be a fun one: CRM will not go away and we’ll see marketing technology merge with sales technology. It’s not so much about disrupting CRM as it is about evolving the sales profession by developing specific technologies to improve sales results by better supporting sales people, frontline sales managers and leaders. My bet is on technology that will encourage winning behaviors and win more complex B2B sales by growing people and making complex processes easy to navigate.

Wow… George is not alone in his views and I speak with many who are developing complementary and competitive technologies and cloud software offerings that can change the game for CRM adoption and success. I see an exciting future ahead for sales people who embrace technologies that improve their efficiency and effectiveness.

Now it's your turn. Do you agree with George? Where do you see the future of CRM?

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: Brian Smithson

The One Anomalistic Trait to Scout Out When Hiring Sales Falcons

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

D. None of the above.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Main image photo by Flickr: Stefan Groen

Could you function without your CRM?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Main image photo by Flickr: Roland Tanglao


Falling in love with helping customers and transforming their business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Main image photo by Flickr: Ralf P

Top 10 Flagrant Social Selling Mistakes Reaching Pandemic Proportions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Main image photo by Flickr:  B Rosen

Social Engagement: Pillar Four of Strategic B2B Social Selling

Social engagement is simply how we establish connection and build relationships with people in social media. All the rules of the physical world apply including professionalism, good manners, respect and integrity.

Blasting someone with your uber-messaging Gatling gun projection machine causes people to recoil. Baiting people with content to capture their details and then launching a ‘shock and awe’ bombardment campaign damages your brand. Too much ‘noise’ creates selective deafness in your audience.

We’ve all been on the receiving end… instead use social listening and social research to be targeted and relevant for those with whom you pursue a relationship. Be a Hawkeye cupid sniper rather than a worrier with an arsenal.

The way we sell is more important than what we sell. How we open the conversation is far more important than how we close the sale. Masterful openers set the agenda and establish value. When we engage anyone in business we need to:

  • Introduce ourselves within a trusted network

  • With relevant context that creates value in a conversation

  • Leading with insight and respecting their time

  • Without pressure or manipulation

All of this can be done in social with LinkedIn being the critical platform for B2B sellers. Be where your customers are... where do they go online to research and gain insight? What online communities are they part of? What do they look for before they look for you? Here are the things to focus on:

  • Use Sales Navigator to determine social proximity for good old networking to secure an introduction. Warm introductions trump cold calls every time.

  • Pick up the phone and call them... it still works a treat!

  • Lead with why, rather than with what you do and how you do it. Be clear about the business value you offer in terms of delivering outcomes and managing risk.

  • Be a giver not a taker. Ensure that they take more from the meeting than you.

  • Create well conceived templates that you tailor for InMails and emails to anchor meeting and conversations. Convey that you've authentically researched them and their company thoroughly to glean actionable insight. 

  • Become a valued member of the online communities in which your targets participate. No creepy stalking or cheap self promotion... just weigh-in with insight and become known to the group as a valued member.

  • Be clear about what the next steps should be.

  • Always follow-up in a timely manner on every small commitment.

Connect in context, engage with relevance, focus on business value (delivering their outcomes and managing their risks) and endeavor to build a relationship of trust.

Feel free to weigh-in. How do you engage using social and what are your tips for others? Here is how to go back to my Social Selling overview.

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Main image photo by Flickr: Spreng Ben