Social Media

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Social Listening: Are you segmenting and targeting your ideal buyers and putting feelers out to filter out their signal from the noise? This can be done with tools like HootSuite and TweetDeck. I'm surprised at how few sellers are creating basic Twitter Lists to listen by segments of 25 individuals or less that are actually practical to track. Stephen Covey said, 'seek first to understand than be understood.' You must first open your ears, heart and mind. Be present and make sure that you have a dashboard set up to glean every aspect of what your dream prospects are putting out into the social ether: press releases, white papers, reflections on the annual report, balance sheet, interviews, YouTube videos (subscribe to their channel), Tweets, Facebook shares, Google+ updates, Pinterest boards, Instagram, SlideShare and even search the first 15 pages of search results of Google with a fine toothed comb.

Measure twice cut once — English Proverb

Social Publishing: Don't just blog - that's Web 2.0. Take the plunge on LinkedIn Publisher into Web 3.0 - the web of context and social proximity. Understand the inter-relationships of your networks and network's networks. Share your subject matter expertise and thought leadership on here daily. The network effects and engagement are without parallel. I controversially advocate moving your blog to LinkedIn where you'll get exponential views, reads, likes, shares and comments. Basic math unveils this. Imagine you're a rockstar with 200,000 followers of a traditional blog. Now let's just say you've written the most compelling article ever and you manage to get a 5% open rate. That's just 10K people that read it. But the reality is more like 2% that will actually read it - not just open it, skim it or star it for later. At 2% we're at 4,000 people and that's the grim reality of the blogosphere in 2015. Blogs are often reliant upon an email list, auto-opened in gmail or ignored.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And finally some cautions and cautionary tales:

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

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

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

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

Main Image Photos by: Eva RinaldiMaryland GovPicsChris PiascikGary Koelling & Post Memes

Top 10 Most Eccentric Content Marketing Hacks For Total Web Domination

1. Ideation trumps creation trumps curation. I've shared a picture of Elon Musk because of his first principles Physics way of thinking. If you deconstruct systems into their fundamental parts and rebuild them from the ground up it's feasible to generate new ideas the world has never seen. He's never afraid to take moonshots and think bigger. Colonizing Mars? Unlimited energy? Hyperloop? I rest my case. “Today it costs over a billion dollars for a space shuttle flight. The cost… is fundamentally what's holding us back from becoming a space traveling civilization and ultimately a multi-planet species.” - Elon Musk

2. Long form content outperforms short form. The establishment will contest this point but I've received some of the most phenomenal traction with content that is over 2,000 words. Tell the entire story. Be willing to put some steak with the sizzle. There's just far too much click bait and flash in the pan on the internet. If you write an authentic long form story you may just break the internet. "I love when people underestimate me and then become pleasantly surprised." - Kim Kardashian

3. Writing passionately from the heart resonates. What matters most to you in your heart of hearts? What are you all about? What gets you fired-up and what do you truly believe in? Paradoxically, people are playing it safe in content marketing. You could write an op-ed or you could just shoot from the hip and express your truth. Manifestos, open letters and expressions of what we're all thinking but never say go viral. It's a unique portrait of your Beatles 'Day in the Life.' Extoll megalithic world changing ideas as well as the excruciatingly mundane. You'll be relatable. You might even get groupies! “You know, I'm not one of these people that just because I've done all that I now become Superman. You can't touch me. You know, you can touch me. I'm very, unfortunately, very reachable." - Sir James Paul McCartney

4. Believe it or not, we are all subject matter experts about something so celebrate the niche you know. Even if you are the world's Cricket encyclopedia and that's all you know, go with it. Relate cricket to business, to politics, to strategy. The analogies to what you know best are extremely interesting to readers. They give context and a deeper meaning. "Cricket is a most precarious profession; it is called a team game but, in fact, no one is so lonely as a batsman facing a bowler supported by ten fieldsmen and observed by two umpires to ensure that his error does not go unpunished." - John Arlott

5. Breaking all the rules yields unexpected outcomes so exercise your poetic license. I've made the case for grammar, syntax and writing expertise. I'll also make the case for freedom of expression, creativity and unexpected prose. Even the way you write, can be the key differentiator to making it unusual on the web. For those that read me, you're aware that I can write conservative B2B strategy content in an expository fashion with the best of them but I frequently tend to bend the rules of writing and defy gravity! If what you write lights up a room and puts a huge smile on your face, if you get calls after you've hit publish from concerned family and friends – you've won! “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” - Maya Angelou

6. Dry, safe and boring fails. You want to be Mac, not PC.

If you can wrap phenomenal Youtility content in a cloak of exciting analogy, metaphor, storytelling or hyperbole it's a sleeper hit, wolf in sheep's clothing and it will reach a far wider audience.

Messy sex hair content will outperform the buttoned up approach. “Why join the navy if you can be a pirate?” - Steve Jobs

7. Focus on making your content immediately useful. Can the reader apply your advice today and get tangible results? “Anything you cannot relinquish when it has outlived its usefulness possesses you, and in this materialistic age a great many of us are possessed by our possessions.” - Peace Pilgrim

8. Your truth is stranger than fiction. Tell true stories from your journey. It's filled with bizarre characters worth writing about. “The Edge... there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over.” - Hunter S. Thompson

9. Chances are, you're funnier than you think; certainly quirkier. Be unabashedly humorous, uninhibited and unrestrained. Audiences will find this incredibly refreshing. “I am so busy doing nothing... that the idea of doing anything - which as you know, always leads to something - cuts into the nothing and then forces me to have to drop everything.” - Jerry Seinfeld

10. Think of yourself as a content mixologist. Mix, mash and splice like Jackson Pollock. An impressionist beautiful mess resonates in contrast to the perfect symmetry of a white paper from the corporate marketing department. Remarkable imagery is worth thousands of words especially pictures that wouldn't ordinarily fit together like the ones in this post. Entice with a veritable cornucopia, feast for the eyes! “It doesn't make much difference how the paint is put on as long as something has been said. Technique is just a means of arriving at a statement.” - Jackson Pollock

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: martinak15

Can Anyone Provide a (REAL) ROI for Social Selling?

A burning question on every B2B sales executive's mind... no doubt! Thought leader Sander Biehn, who writes the brilliant Thought Horizon Blog, asks, how will we tie back the ROI of all our finest social media efforts? Do you think this can be approached with futuristic CRM and CXM mashups? He was kind enough to contribute some provocative thoughts below so please let me know what you think:

No, this post isn’t going to end with a link to a new online tool that will profess to perfectly measure social selling. No, it isn’t going to be a rant about how others are getting social selling measurement wrong. No, it doesn’t have a cure-all training guide to scientifically prove the benefits of social selling.

Instead, it’s a plea for help.

How can it be that and others can measure sales contacts,digital marketing campaign leads, and sales, but not correlate all this data to sales team’s efforts in social media? I have seen some Salesforce apps that profess to do this, but they are mainly driven by salespeople manually entering to what extent social media has been used to find and interact with buyers in the sales process. That’s called ‘cheating’ in the world of analytics.

The nature of social media is digital, so why can’t machines be built to measure social selling influence and automatically tie that back to CRM data? Why can’t Klout-type scores be assigned to sales people relative to their social interactions with key prospects and verticals inside a given geography?

Instead of trying to create these correlations, the social selling community has turned its collective back on trying. Even social hotshot Gary Vaynerchuk has thrown up his arms and asked: “What is the ROI of your mother?” in response to business people kindly asking for social selling measurement.

Sorry Gary, my mom and social selling are not in the same league. Mom taught me right from wrong. Mom fed me. Mom sent me cookies and words of encouragement when I was away at college. I think social selling is cool, but I am not expecting all that from it.

There’s big data and then there’s just bigger data. I think measurement of social selling is difficult but not impossible to measure, and the race is on for someone to create a de facto toolset for it. By mashing prospects, verticals and other CRM data against what a salesperson does all day on social channels, there is no doubt concrete conclusions can be drawn. Shoot, if Radian 6 and other listening tools can measure overall sentiment of a brand, why can’t we extrapolate this data down to the salesperson level?

Why do all this anyway? Until real ROI can be calculated around social selling, it will remain a cottage industry. CMOs and CEOs will not view it as scalable and any anecdotal upside to social selling (“Reps using social make quota 74% more often!”) will fall on deaf ears in the corner suite.

I am ready to solve this problem. Who is in?

Above is the comment that spawned this post after a healthy debate about whether CRM is a graveyard for information or powerhouse of improvement. Now it's your turn: What are your thoughts on how this can actually be done? Do you agree with Sander's pithy missive? What tools if any are out there to help with this? How can we collectively solve this problem or encourage the best vendors to posthaste? Do you agree that doing so would have a profound impact on B to B to C improving the entire 'smarketing' ecosystem and giving us firepower to empower companies to invest more heavily in strategic social selling initiatives (plus give it street cred creedence.) Please comment below and share your best insights on the matter.

Like me, Sander trains enterprises how to leverage cutting edge social selling methodology. Check out Sander's company Thought Horizon where he gets results like these:

Thought Horizon provides strategy and execution for B2B sales and marketing teams interested in employing or accelerating social selling. Sander is the founder and CEO of Thought Horizon. Author of "The 30 Year Paycheck: Destruction and Redemption in Corporate America." He consults with Fortune 500's on catalyzing and implementing change of all stripes.

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: Link Humans

Will LinkedIn become the next Google for professionals?

Ask yourself, don't you start your day in Linkedin? Maybe you check your email but isn't that just notifications from LinkedIn or notifications of InMails and LinkedIn emails? What about group digests and alerts or updates from Sales Navigator of important triggers?

Is it possible that reactive company email will be a batch process function and secondary to first logging into a tool like LinkedIn which becomes your uber-dashboard to the world of selling and business?

Growing empirical evidence that this reality could soon emerge includes:

  • Sellers are performing the majority of searches in a given business day within LinkedIn.
  • InMails are the new cold call. Targeted, they have exponential response rates.
  • Referrals and studying the interrelationships of our own employees via TeamLink gives us a distinctive edge to understand how our internal networks overlay with that of our dream prospects.
  • Traditional databases are less accurate as they often take time to update whereas the community on LinkedIn self updates in near real-time.
  • When salespeople are studying organizational charts for account planning or whale hunting (power-base analysis), they literally check LinkedIn first.
  • Trigger events are easier to track than ever before because you can perform advance searches to understand the relationship of where prospects came from. You can even track down prospects that left that company for intel on the best way to get back in.
  • Alumni networks are thriving inside LinkedIn and connecting in via alums has an astoundingly high acceptance rate.
  • Groups are becoming the chat rooms of the future where your contemporaries hang out in the field exchanging advanced knowledge and debating the finer points of cutting edge solutions. Customer-facing groups where executives hang out are accessible to the modern business developer.
  • Pulse is now so deeply embedded in SEO and engagement so off the charts, that many Pulse stories hit the front page of Google News. To my knowledge, LinkedIn Publish gets crawled by the spiders and provides tremendous SEO value as there is so much interlinking, commenting and interactivity that sends key signals back to the [Google] Panda machine learning algorithm.
  • LinkedIn is at the heart and epicenter of the social selling movement more as the hub than the spoke. (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, YouTube all duke it out there.)
  • Passive candidate searches have never been easier so it's possible to now acquire top talent. This makes the entire paradigm of staffing a more efficient marketplace which is fundamentally a democratizing force in society and engenders meritocracy. [This could even have a profound positive impact on ameliorating gender inequality via it's mere technology approach].
  • LinkedIn Navigator allows a second mailbox for business development to preserve personal privacy in one's own inbox so if you're un-engaged and unhappy like 80% of the workforce... go do something about it right now!
  • The analytics engine behind LinkedIn is the ultimate matchmaking resource from a recruitment perspective. The better this big data crunching machine becomes, the more tailored the applicants it will serve up. This just makes LinkedIn even more fundamentally sticky and core to every startup and enterprise in the world.
  • CRMs could literally melt away were Navigator to allow for just a few extra features like: Sorting of lead lists, designation of current contacts and opportunity management with minimal stage creation.
  • Just a few basic classic CRM functions could help LinkedIn Sales Navigator be an end-to-end enterprise selling tool. Small startup companies will definitely begin to leverage LinkedIn as a complete replacement for CRM this year and with great results, I might add.
  • There's a growing number of people that just connect LinkedIn to Twitter, Facebook & Google+ but only utilize LinkedIn as their core network. Just like TV, I'm trying to minimize time-wasting platforms so I curtail my usage of the internet to where the most additive value to developing my consultancy can be derived.
  • According to Business Insider: "For the full year [2014], LinkedIn reported revenue of $2.219 million, an increase of 45% compared to 2013. Non-GAAP net income in 2014 was $254 million, compared to $192 million in 2013." Translation: They've cracked the code on making a social network into a profitable business model.
  • They've essentially transcended the restrictions of "social networking" nomenclature / classification and become something entirely new: a human-centric virtual world mapping the economic graph.
  • Who else is mapping the global economic graph? I'd be hard-pressed to answer that question [maybe ask BranchOut?] which further highlights the level of blue ocean strategy and divergent, focused and memorable value curves they've effectively exploited.

We can almost make the argument that the internet itself, Google searching and email are all secondary and tertiary channels. For many of the top performers on terra firma, they're a necessary evil and afterthought.

My challenge would be to see what would happen if a salesperson for just one quarter, had no email and simply utilized the full functionality of LinkedIn on desktop and mobile, without even having a traditional phone. Behold the transformative power of the entire suite of LinkedIn applications. How much business would it be possible to develop?

A lion share.

Like any system, we are only as effective as the quality of the data. That's what makes LinkedIn so unusual in how it's innovating the way we do business globally with a data driven approach at the fore. The fact that people are by and large who they say they are, in many industries all relevant companies are represented, and most core business functions from a recruiting, sales, marketing, business development and R & D perspective are achievable on here; would suggest a brave new world is upon us.

That's not to say the greater web or search engines will ever go away completely but for a variety of industry verticals, much of the utility represented by those past paradigms will simply live inside the LinkedIn system or ones like it. This is disconcerting for those that tend to perform Google searches religiously. I think the thing to remember is that 92% of all traffic is on the first page. So in essence, most of Google's function is to serve paid or semi-paid (lest we forget organic SEO strategy still costs a fortune when done properly) to the first page above the fold on a laptop.

I've had major warnings about blogging exclusively in here. What if they close and own your I.P. or go down and your blog is gone. My response is, the architects of this infrastructure are a) much smarter than I am; b) have a redundant system for a back-end technology stack; and c) run a reverse pyramid where my content in the system is the most valuable player. The more bestselling authors who migrate all their I.P. open source into the Publisher blogosphere, the more traction LinkedIn has as the leading publishing platform. And I'm OK with that... I get 15 to 50 inbound LinkedIn invites per week, sometimes even per day when a great article hits Channels like Leadership & Management or Sales Strategies. Many of these inbound touches have translated into training, speaking or consulting gigs. It's worth the risk but I do not believe that risk exists.

Weiner and Hoffman are in this for 100 years from my lens.

What do you think the possibilities and limitations are for LinkedIn? Could it replace CRMs? Could it replace Google? How about email? Will new forms of email be developed that run inside professional networks like this which render emailing and Googling on the open web, less necessary? Could the salespeople of the future get by solely with LinkedIn running on their smartphone and desktop, [perhaps in a smart contact lens] leveraging SlideShare for presentations and making cell phone or conference calls natively on the phone, or even with a simple edition of chat functionality they could add. They could add video-conferencing or partner with a Citrix or Skype to do so, fairly easily. Will traditional and cutting edge CRM vendors respond by supplying feature functionality parity?

One of the glaring things missing from LinkedIn which I've been talking about for years as the Magic Bullet for the entire system is LIVE Chat. Google+ has hangouts, Facebook has real-time 'always on' live chat interfaces. Now maybe there's a fear this is too obtrusive but if you were able to 'knock' just like on Join.Me – now that would be the killer app! Imagine knocking on a profile, spinning up a video chat and accelerating the deal.

LinkedIn is powerful in how it focuses and based on the many things it doesn't do but as it's expanded it's product and services offering, I truly believe the sky's the limit and every competitive tech company needs to be constantly vigilant.

Last feature I'll recommend, is around LinkedIn Publisher. Building out a vanity link to the corpus (or compendium) of posts would be excellent so someone could type in < or any customization here. The other side of this is building in more of a WordPress blog like index instead of a series of scrollable tiles. [Teaser copy would be great here too to attract relevant clicks and capture intent.] This would allow someone to search posts by month or search them by keyword.

Granted, few are getting near the 200 posting mark but some of the more advanced blog organization features would be great in the product roadmap. I actually like how responsive and tight the CMS is because it just looks so much cleaner than a traditional blog by maintaining one consisting format / theme across the entire ecosystem.

RSS is critical and many have adapted to so it's important for LinkedIn to enable RSS and feature it prominently for those of us that have pioneered a full blogging strategy within here.

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

Main image photo by Flickr: TechCrunch

Social Collaboration: Pillar Five of B2B Social Selling

Social Collaboration is the process of leveraging technology to work efficiently with customers, partners and your extended team to strengthen relationships and achieve rapid results.

In the context of B2B social selling, collaboration creates conversations in communities and builds teams across physical boundaries. Go beyond mere publishing to engage and then collaborate using social media platforms. Make yourself a hub of networking and invite experts in where they can contribute. Value diversity, encourage opinions but gently discourage overtly selling or pushing personal agendas.

Social drives efficiency if you operate with purpose and finesse.

Birds of a feather flock together but they don't need to fly in and physically be in the same space to see a demonstration, collaborate, share ideas, work on documents or manage opportunities and projects. Social collaboration tools are everywhere and many are free... LinkedIn, Google Docs, Facebook, your iPhone to do conference calls and much more is available to transform the way you work with others. Tools that were very expensive not that long a go are now free... video conferencing is an example. Social is a great example of disruptive technology operating in the cloud. We really can beam in virtually and engage meaningfully.

According to research published in 2014 by London investment management firm, Nutmeg, commuters spend an average 10,634 hours traveling to and from work over their lifetime. Traveling wastes time and is a productivity killer. Working from home and teleporting into your meetings using the interweb can be done to great effect.

Tools such as Google Hang-outs, Skype, WebEx, and Go-to-meeting provide the opportunity to collaborate virtually but how do you ensure best possible engagement from every person? We've all experienced physical and virtual meetings where people are there but not really present; working on emails or digitally distracted.

You can tell when people are not there so get them engaged by asking them questions. Let people know you can hear them tapping away on their keyboard. Set the ground-rules for every meeting... "If you're going to be in the meeting, then be fully here." Let people know that it's important to respect everyone's time. Make sure you understand the technology your using and this video is a funny example of the worst of virtual meetings.

Collaboration means working effectively together so share information openly and make sure that it's timely and accurate. Use your content management and internal Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system well so that your internal team has an accurate view of the opportunity and knows the current status. Use the update/feeds capabilities (if your CRM offers the feature) to keep people informed. Ensure actions are being captured and tracked, also that contact details are up-to-date for all the players within the account. Earn the support of others by using your systems and tools well to earn their support and allocation of resources.

Social media platforms and modern communication tools make the process of connecting and collaborating amazingly affordable. I'm old enough to remember messaging technologies being introduced back in 1980s when email replaced memos... it's amazing how the world has changed in one lifetime! Now instant messaging, live chat, uploading photos and videos, scanning documents, virtual deal rooms, mobile applications, and myriad other examples have transformed the speed of commerce.

But amidst the frenetic pace of business and the overwhelming number of meetings demanding your time; set yourself apart by:

  • Using technology well (logged-in and set-up before the meeting is due to start).
  • Respecting everyone's time by circulating an agenda in advance.
  • Setting expectations for participants and their contributions.
  • Starting on time and keeping the meeting on track.
  • Politely calling people out for bad behavior (there but not there).
  • Capturing and circulating actions.

Here is a list of cloud/social presentation and collaboration platforms from Jamie Shanks that enable you to present and do demonstrations incredibly well.

No-one I know fosters collaboration and engagement in social better than John Smibert who leads the LinkedIn Strategic Selling group. He's masterful at starting conversations and encouraging individuals to contribute by reaching out personally to those he respects asking them to contribute. How do you achieve the best results with social collaboration tools and platforms? What are your tips for others? Here is how to go back to my Social Selling overview.

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

Picture by Harry Harms. Every year Christian Moullec trains a number of geese to follow his ultralight plane. He uses this group and his plane to guide migrating geese from Lapland to France, avoiding areas where the geese might be hunted. In the spring the geese migrate back on their own. In this shot he is accompanied by cranes.

Test Your Social Selling Effectiveness

John Dougan, ex-Huthwaite / MHI Global is now with Sales ITV in Australia and he's initiating some very interesting research that I'll be commenting on in the coming weeks. John thinks that if you believe that 'social' changes selling behavior, then you shouldn’t be in sales!

In his article ‘Evolution not Revolution’, John explains how social selling is very simple and effective for professional sellers to communicate with customers. Social is a component of all that has gone before it and does not work on its own; nothing works on its own. He highlights that even the skills and behaviours that are required to be successful online are consistent with those that are required to be successful offline.

I've long advocated that the best sellers today bring proven old world techniques to new social platforms and tools. We live in the age of mash-ups with methodology, process and tools to drive sales effectiveness. Social is without doubt most powerful for research and connection. John and I agree that new tools are changing how we engage and collaborate and that both buyers and sellers need to be supported differently in today’s complex business environment. But‘Social Selling’ is a mere cliche for many sales people and worse, a complete mystery to others.

John Dougan says, "There is however, a meaningful transition to social engagement where those adept at developing personal brand, and who can develop a select network, can credibly connect to reap the rewards of improved customer experience."

How mature is your organization concerning social selling? Click here to complete a 2 minute survey and watch for the results in coming weeks. Were there other questions that John should have asked in his research survey?

If you'd like social selling defined is business to business (B2B) context, see my 6 part series which covers the 5 pillars of social selling.

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: Robert Huffstutter

5 'Dark Social' Concerns For Online Leadership

Last week I was running a training session for one of my IT industry clients on how to use LinkedIn for strategic social selling. "No thanks; I don't use LinkedIn" said an uber-intelligent pre-sales solutions architect as I was rounding-up the team to get them intothe boardroom. As someone reached over and lifted my jaw shut, he continued in response to my dumbfounded expression... "Seriously, I don't want my personal meta-data being harvested and being used in ways I don't authorize."

Wow; I'd always thought everyone had decided that resistance was futile and that assimilation into the collective was inevitable. This week I had a coffee with the resistor and, after assuring him he would remain anonymous, I listened to his very valid concerns.

As a professional, Google and LinkedIn are his main concerns and here are his main ones:

  1. He can lose control and ownership of his content.
  2. His data can be used in ways in which he does not approve.
  3. He can be profiled using meta-data (data about activity and content. eg; the IP address of a computer or the location of a device) without his consent.
  4. He will be blasted with advertising in ways he does not like.
  5. He will be approached by people he does not want in his life.

What is 'dark social'? I define it as the unwanted consequences of our content and meta data being aggregated and analyzed for reasons we do not understand and have not authorized.

Corporations and governments are both actively engaged in the process of tracking and profiling users of the interweb. Have you ever browsed looking for a particular car to buy or retail item only to have advertisement for these exact things then pop up all the time?

Facebook famously lured business and communities into their world to build groups only later to turn these into money-making walled gardens where business needed to pay for access and members are bombarded with advertising.  Google is the most powerful meta-data harvester in the world for profiling individuals and predicatively pushing paid [advertising] content at them. LinkedIn is now embarking on a similar journey with feeds becoming cluttered with paid content. Mobility, wearables, proximity beacons, the ubiquity of GPS, the internet of things... it all driving it to a new level. We won't even discuss Artificial Intelligence but imagine IBM's Watson super computer working with Google to digitally profile individuals.

You may think that the commercial gathering of our data is limited tospamming annoyance but Marc Goodman has written a provokative book, Future Crime, which highlights a sinister end-game where everything is connected; and in ways that we can neither imagine or manage.

People tend to create a persona on different platforms (my business life on LinkedIn, my family life on Facebook, My party social life is on Instagram or Snapchat, My political views on Twitter). But although these separate personas reside on different platforms, the APIs and web services provide points of external data harvesting.

Big data analytics can join the dots (URLs) and build a very complete picture on an individual past and an accurate predictive picture of their future. Medical, financial, behavioral, even political and religious views. Forget age or gender discrimination as a problem for the next generation; even now people are being rejected for employment because of their composite social profile... almost always without even being aware of the real reason they are so 'unlucky' when applying for jobs.

Have you ever read the terms and conditions of the social platform companies? Some are literally hundreds of pages long and in legal speak. Who really owns the content and data associated use of their platform? Instagram is a poignant example... millions of pictures in there and then Facebook acquires the company meaning that Facebook now owns hundreds of millions of photos which they can on-sell or use with advertizers.

Google started with search, then maps, then mobility with Android for free... they can now track you, scan all of your email content, search Google Docs, transcribeGoogle Voice, analyze Google+ content, etc.  I've been the regional VP for multi-national content management software vendors and I understand the latent power of content repositories... information transformed into intelligence is highly valuable. 

And then there is the Patriot Act which is currently under review but allows the United States Government to harvest anything within data centers on USA soil or in the overseas data centers of US corporations. What do they do with all this data you ask? They keep us safe because intelligence is the most powerful weapon against organized crime, fraud and terrorism. But the NSA facility in Utah is possibly the biggest data warehousing facility on Earth. It's been built on a scale that even Google envies. The computer cooling requirements alone for the mostly underground Utah facility consume almost 2,000,000 gallons of water every day... that's a huge amount of computing power being managed.

The power of all the social platforms being connected and the meta data (website tracking, timelines, social post activity, geo-location tracking, relationship mapping, etc.) being aggregated is Orwellian. The 'internet of things' creates huge amounts of data that can be harvested and hacked but no-one in business today can stay off the grid despite Minority Report style concerns.

Amazon are working on a Machine Learning service to be offered to developers deploying applications on their AWS infrastructure. It seems Scott McNealy was right when he said "You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it." Interestingly, a study by Pennsylvania University has revealed that most Americans have given up hope concerning the privacy of their data.

When I was young, the worst thing that happened at an office party was someone sitting on the photocopier, pantless... LOL and forgotten with the image fed into the shredder. Now every photo or inappropriate remark is tagged and uploaded to remain somewhere forever... nothing online is ever truly erased. Forget flushing your cache and deleting cookies... all that does is make you feel better... if you visit inappropriate websites... it's all being stored on servers somewhere.

Here are my recommendations:

  1. Embrace technology and social because you cannot avoid a profile being created on you anyway. Positively and authentically manage your digital presence.
  2. Be VERY mindful of everything you post. Before you upload that photo, imagine your mother and boss will see it! True story: A friend of my daughter ditched school in Sydney and caught a train to the city with her partner in crime. They took photos and uploaded them to Snapchat to impress their friends, then they quickly removed them... but others had screenshot the images. The evidence burnt them. Everything uploaded or done online is recorded forever.
  3. Live your life on social platforms and the internet like you do in the real world. Be an authentic person. Online violence and porn desensitizes you and makes you a lesser person. Endless hours of mindless crap reduces your IQ. Instead, the internet can be wonderful with all of its libraries, TED videos, creative thinking, ideas and connections to people that can change the world for the better.
  4. Be hyper security conscious. Always check the URL if you click a link to take you to your bank, Gmail, or anywhere else.

Hacking is a far greater problem than how our data is used by our authorized platform providers. Anthem is a health insurer in the USA who was hacked resulting in 80 million people's private medical records exposed. As a footnote... the internet is increasingly becoming encrypted which is helping to make data more secure BUT those who control the encryption algorithms will hold the power.

We live in amazing brave new world... one in which we need to trust those with whom we engage.

Footnote: Techopedia defines dark social differently here.

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

Main image photo by Flickr: Roberto Rizzato EMOtion!