Social Selling

Law of Delegation Magnified By Social

We are delegated down to people we sound like. This is an immutable law of selling and if we are to engage at the highest levels we must talk the language of leaders and business owners: Financial outcomes and managing risk; then underpinned by numbers, percentages and metrics for key result areas (KRAs). But B2B sellers in today’s are often delegated or blocked before they can even utter a single word to their prospect. This is because most buyers research, just as sellers do, before deciding to engage.

Imagine you’ve reached-out to a senior executive, you’ve got your value insight all ready to go… rehearsed, punchy, compelling. You call and reach the Executive Assistant or voicemail. What happens when your potential customer or their gatekeeper checks you out on LinkedIn? Hmm… salesperson. All quiet on the eastern front or if you do get a response: “She doesn’t have time to meet you but you can contact Seymour in the basement who will be happy to evaluate whatever it is you're trying to sell us.” The problem gets worse if you approach prospects through social, even using ‘warm introductions’ from your LinkedIn network. Click, click… salesperson, no thanks.

Websites can present attractive facades but LinkedIn creates transparency. Forget trying to project a persona because LinkedIn and social platforms create transparency at every level. You’re selling naked, not just in your network but in your ability to deliver insights and business value. You must be the real deal. You must be the person worthy of the success you seek… no gimmicks, no pretending, no shortcuts. How will you build your personal brand through what Koka Sexton calls Social Proximity? How will you become a thought leader? What is your publishing strategy?

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 Post by Flickr: JD Hancock

The 6 Sins of B2B Social Selling

1. Narcissism and selfishness: Let your content attract people without you pushing or selling. Be a person of goodwill who generously promotes others. Talk about yourself only when you’re providing examples within a quality piece of content. Find kindred spirits online and help build their brand. The law of reciprocity works big-time in social but don't give to get.

2. Acid-washing: Good manners are an important part of all social interaction, including on-line. Being caustic through sarcasm or negativity paints you in a very poor light. If you don't have something positive to say to an individual, don't say anything at all. Click away.

3. Blog-bombing: If someone takes the effort to create a post or blog to contribute to the community or conversation, you should never promote your own competitive products and insert links to your website. This is the behaviour of a blood sucking parasite… think leach.

4. Faking it: Never pay for fake fans or likes. By all means use tools to help you schedule posts and manage social platforms but earn your followers organically.

5. Stealing content: Plagiarism is theft, plain and simple. Acknowledge others any time you knowingly use their ideas or intellectual property. Be original or attribute the source.

6. Spamming followers: Respect people’s time and focus on providing quality insights. Don't post junk and don't push sales messages at people. Pushing high volumes of self-serving content simply alienates people and they turn-off. Less really is more. Leverage the law of attraction.

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: mkhmarketing

Your LinkedIn War Room

We’ve all seen the situation room at the movies – Martin Sheen in West Wing as President Bartlet down in the White House basement or Bill Pullman as President Thomas Whitmore in Independence Day. It’s an impressive scene with multiple screens displaying data on command. Profiles of the bad guys, enemy analysis and everything available at the click of a mouse to make the big calls based on the best available intel and ‘on balance’ probabilities.

Enterprise solution selling needs the same paradigm because complex selling is more analogous to war than sport. We need to defeat the enemy by navigating complexity. We need the very best intelligence about individual players, organizational drivers, industry trends, financial profile, political power, competitor incumbency, SWOT analysis, data about the customer’s customers, the consultants who influence them, their weighted decision criteria, approval gates, business case… we need it all and more. This is because a strategy is only as good as the intelligence and thinking that leads to it. Fact-based decision-making without supposition, ignorance or blind hope is essential.

Here's a secret weapon for your sales arsenal: Make the investment in your LinkedIn War Room and here’s why it’s a must. I’ve won massive deals as the lead salesperson selling to IBM at 70% higher prices than the competition. As the Managing Director of a software company, we won the whole of a government license deal after we’d been told that we were eliminated but managed to get back into their process. As the external deal coach, I recently helped a client win a $100M contract selling to a client with the power-base distributed across three countries. These career-making deals are earned with strategy, teamwork and excellence in execution.

Imagine this scene. A dedicated War Room in your company with screens on every wall; think Salesforce Social Media Command Center meets LinkedIn Navigator on steroids. There is a boardroom style table in the middle but higher than normal and with no chairs. People do their best thinking on their feet and meetings are faster and more productive when participants are not reclining. There is a big sign on the wall: If you’re here – be here! Turn your phone off and focus on the task at hand – how will we win? Every screen has a purpose. Skype or video conferencing for face-to-face interaction with customers and team members in other offices. See their eyes to ensure they are focused and engaged – human to human (H2H) interactions without distractions. According to Citrix case studies, video-conferencing can increase close rates by 34%.

Collaboration deal room software is displayed on one screen. Another screen is a Gantt chart building the win plan, capturing all of the interdependencies, milestones, events and dates; aligning with the buyers own internal process highlighting what has been validated. Everyone is side-by-side, collaborating with this Tiger Team of 5 or more with Social Selling Index (SSI) scores of 70+, scouring the contextual web for something that can make a difference: news, job changes, promotions, innovation, new product launches, funding, thought leadership content, tweets, curation, shares, comments and likes. Another screen shows the opportunity snapshot. CRM screens abound capturing every detail as the single source of truth for the account, opportunity, players and action-tracking.

In between the various big screens, the walls are glass white boards full of relationship maps, color-coded to highlight power players, supporters, enemies, competitors, and external influencers. Post-it notes are everywhere. The whole room is a living three-dimensional account and opportunity plan. Strategic maneuvers and purposeful tactics are played-out. On other screens, the constellation of social apps are provided on heads-up displays Minority Report style. Key targets stream down a screen, Lead Lists tracked passively in Navigator.

Twitter: Like stock tickers, lists representing all the players show who they follow and what they’re talking about in Social.

LinkedIn: For profiling and seeing social proximity, and for tracking human trigger events. Of all the screens in the room, the LinkedIn ones are most important to leverage 2nd and 3rd degree TeamLinking and networked intelligence.

LinkedInPublisher: Sales people become micro-marketers sharing subject matter expertise (SME) content based on business challenges universal to your sector on a daily basis back-linking to Forrester and Gartner reports.

Blogs: Anyone in the customer organization who blogs is monitored. Grass roots early signs of what’s going on inside, behind the barricades.

Facebook: Who are the key people connected to, personally and professionally? Competitors, consultants, influential players in their industry? And you thought Facebook had no role in B2B selling.

Annual Reports: The team is trained to read and understand them, they sit on iPads at the ready for mission critical intel to reflect CXO insight.

ROI calculators: A dedicated technical member of the team is at the ready to help collaboratively build the business case, making and proving out a value hypothesis, quantitatively not just qualitative.

Join all the dots, crack the code by managing this room with leading measure KPIs, know what you don't know and set tasks for further intelligence gathering. Develop a cunning winning plan based on best value and lowest risk for the customer. Everyone who enters the LinkedIn War Room leaves his or her ego at the door. Their job is simply to play their role and contribute where they add the most value. Regardless of your corporate methodology (Challenger, SPIN, TAS), apply the RSVP meta-framework for creating clarity amidst all the complexity. It represents a quantum leap for your social sales force. Do it simply by relentlessly asking these sets of questions to govern your metaphorical laser-guided tactical assault:

R)elationships: Do we have the right relationships? Followed by: Are we selling at the right level? Do they have genuine political and economic power? Do our relationships provide differentiating intelligence, insight and genuine influence?

S)trategy: Do we have an effective strategy for managing relationships and competitive threats? Followed by: Do we understand the power-base and have we identified the competition (external and internal including the risk of them doing nothing)? What's our strategy for winning while engineering a positive bias in the customer's requirements toward us?

V)alue: Are we leading with insight and uniquely creating compelling business value in the eyes of the customer? Followed by: Why will they buy anything at all and is there a risk of the status quo prevailing? How are we differentiating and evidencing our credentials as lowest risk and best value?

P)rocess: Are we aligned and do we truly understand the customer’s process for evaluation, selection, approval and procurement? Followed by: Do we understand how they define and assess risk with suppliers and solutions? Do we have a close plan validated by the customer?

I named it RSVP because 80% of success is simply showing up and being fully there. In Social, you can always be ready, listening proactively; real-time reconnaissance of your dream clients is finally possible. Be ready to make a relevant entrance to their conversation which they will find maximally refreshing.

It's a brave new world! Make the investment in your War Room and bring Social Selling 3.0 alive where tried and true selling methodologies are super-charged by social platforms and collaborative technologies. But make it exclusive by prioritizing for your best people and most strategic deals. Salespeople should compete with each other for access to it. Is their deal truly qualified? Have they earned the right to use it with enough base-level information and intelligence? Is the opportunity big and strategic enough?

How will you know that you are winning beyond any single KPI, even revenue? One word, one key metric: INTERACTIVITY

An ode to the Social Selling 3.0 War Room (The world's first LinkedIn Poem?)

Everyone who has ever bought from your firm

Every SOW engaged, tactically short or strategically long-term

Relationships and strategy trump technology for technology's sake

Listen closely to the leaders you seek, work a process and records shall you break

The dawn of true sales leadership, victory over shiny object syndrome

The customer is the star in this quirky B2B poem

The insightful message at the right time accelerates the deal

Pipeline explodes with qualified prospects in your zeal

Selling is social helping in the cloud, no spam allowed

Social Selling 3.0, shout it out loud!

Authentic connections and KPIs that lead rather than lag

Cracking the sales management code, the right activities mean it’s in the bag

This room is a place of active listening and engagement,

Of strategic thinking and quota attainment

Understanding the political power-base with fresh intel from LinkedIn

Provides the knowledge that’s needed to engage and win

Intelligent conversations fill the air, collaborative ideas tantamount

Disruptive selling at its finest, top gun mavericks, micro-content marketing is paramount

Challenging the status quo with insight selling aplomb

Strategies and tactics are iterated just like an agile software dev team in the era of dot com

Technology will never outpace human ingenuity, this human selling innovation will shine

Behold, the LinkedIn War Room a modern construct of our changing times

In the eyes of customers, we all look pretty much the same. It's not what we sell, it's how we sell it. Reinvent the way you manage complex strategic opportunities. Your CEO will be stunned by the quantum leap in execution through the Social Selling 3.0 War Room paradigm. She could even use it for M & A activity! There's been a chorus of management talk about driving 3.5X pipeline and this is a great insurance policy. What if you could drastically increase conversion rate by making said pipeline exponentially stronger filling the funnel via social omnipresence? Impressive revenue and margin will follow but remember, there is no magic bullet. Could this radically transform the face of B2B inside sales, further reducing cost of sales (COS) and accelerating sales cycles on six and seven-figure closes fully inside? Will the world's first SVP of Social Selling be hired this year? Yes, I believe it will happen. You read it here first! As Marc Benioff puts it best as a mantra, "Become a customer company."

I predict it will all be trending this way, freeing up sales executives' time for innovation and more meaningful interaction lower in the funnel where it counts the most. Closer to the customer, closer to the deal flow; a shift to service and fulfillment. You will have more time to nurture and grow your existing business explosively and in venture-backed companies this solves an age-old Achilles heel: too great a focus placed on net new logos, cutting off the nose to spite the face. After all, Gartner reports 80% of revenue comes from 20% of existing accounts. The coveted sales job of the future will somewhat paradoxically be Sales Writer/Researcher, once a soft skill transmuted into a hard skill. So perhaps Shakespeare himself would be a top sales performer if transported in a time machine to 2045?

Technology acceleration has implications on enterprise field selling as well and I'll be touching on that in greater detail in future posts. This may be 2020 but imagine an Account Executive wearing Google Glass or a SmartWatch getting real-time updates synced to CRM & Social Streams from the corner of a smart contact lens corresponding with a manager on another continent (sitting in the LinkedIn War Room no doubt!) advising her on the meeting agenda and strategic talking points at every crossroads. Imagine the implications on training and ramping reps if you can ride along with a rep digitally through wearable tech? Benioff is already running the whole company off a smartphone and CRM will at last be fully mobile, as every rep is equipped with a supercomputer tied to the cloud with more computing power than a warehouse mainframe mere decades ago, at there disposal with one tap.

Remember that selling is serving and you can be at peace in the war room, if you follow elements of this blueprint and make it your own. To quote Jill Rowley, "Your sales force is on the brink of EXTINCTION. They are being replaced by search engines and social networks. It’s time to adapt or die."

More on How to Build Your LinkedIn Center at this link. Inspirational credit is due to the following authors for concepts in this poem: Craig Elias and Tibor Shanto, Shift!, Cracking the Sales Management Code, Jason Jordan and Michelle Vazzana, Jill Rowley #SocialSelling, The Challenger Sale by Brent Adamson & Matt Dixon, Jim Holden's Power-Base Selling, David Meerman Scott's New Rules of Sales & Service & Marketing & PR, Reid Hoffman, The Start-Up of You, Jeff Thull's Mastering The Complex Sale. Special recognition to Neil Rackham, SPIN Selling and Donal Daly, Account Planning in Salesforce.

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 Raines

Whale Hunting Part II - Anchoring The Deal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Christian Jensen and Mario Antonio Pena Zapatería

An Open Letter to Social Sellers Everywhere

Dear Social Seller,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincere regards,

Tony J. Hughes, Sales Reverse-Mentor

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

Main image photo by: © Tony J. Hughes

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

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

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


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

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

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

plural strat·e·gies

Full Definition of STRATEGY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Main image photo by Flickr: Monica

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Main image photo by Flickr: B Rosen

Infiltrating The Social Selling Mafia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Eneas De Troya

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Kenny Louie

The Greatest Secret to Social Selling Success Is Hiding In Plain Sight


That's it. That's the rub. Millions of words, tweets and concepts compiled everyday on the interwebs about this tragically beautiful human thing we call selling and the social networks we're all grappling to understand boiled down into two words.

It's simple, it's not about you. It's about your customer. It's about your network. So how do you move off the solution, move off yourself and start to be present for others? Being geniuinely, authentically interested in what's in it for them, other's success and OPC - other people's content - will produce shocking results.

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." - Maya Angelou

I moved my blog to LinkedIn but I released all the intellectual property I had here. I endeavored to give every shred of knowledge I have away after 30 years in selling back to the world for anyone interested. From 1,600 followers on LinkedIn Publish to over 6,000 was an incredible journey of discovery of each one of you in these last 90 days. So many interesting people have reached out for advice, mentorship, with partnership opportunities, asking about specific business challenges and sharing their story.

The benefit to me is not book sales or speaking gigs. That's the byproduct. The true self-actualized fulfillment is knowing I'm helping you. What I try to do every day is listen in social. I compile lists and add intriguing minds to them on Twitter so that anyone with something uniquely original to say makes it to Web 3.0 Champions. This list is closing in on 700 people. I listen around the clock in TweetDeck and retweet interesting things back out to my followers.

It's lonely on the extra mile of social selling. It's lonely taking five to ten extra minutes to read an entire article and pull out that one tidbit of genius it's self evident that writer worked so hard on. I'll comment that back. I'll ask a question about that silver lining. It's almost like SPIN listening. I want to know why? Why did they think of that brilliant concept? What influenced their writing? What was the situation or story behind the story?

LinkedIn is a gold mine. Not for what it can do for you but for what you can do for others. It's life-affirming and enhancing. You can unlock its secrets and world changing power only by thinking altruistically, philanthropically and in a pay-it-forward spirit of service. Service is the highest form of consciousness and Go-Giver selling is a unique reverse-pyramid paradigm. I'm always looking to take a step back and be thoughtful, to be 'fully there' present, giving that connection my full attention. Does this set me apart?

I'm always impressed when Mike Kunkle reads my entire post or David Brock weighs-in. They are so prolific it's mind-blowing. I read Dave's Partners in Excellence every day and marvel at how he fuses cutting edge social selling with advanced B2B strategic methodology. How about Anthony Iannarino? He's done 2,000 posts and look at the quality and level of insight. Jill Konrath is prolific in social, giving it all away. Jill Rowley makes the most thoughtful comments. She's a master at social listening and recently tweeted a plate of bacon at me – creative genius. The more they give, the more it comes back around in karma. When you write something with the intent of helping people, which hopefully this article will do, it not only puts out more great energy into the universe, hopefully the reader gets a result. They feel empowered, inspired and ready to go surmount the obstacles in their day.

Content marketing and social selling have become an addiction for some. I'll admit, I may not sleep as much as I used to. I am addicted to helping others. My iPhone buzzes with a tweet from the UK or an e-mail from The States. I'll get a new review of my book that makes me tear up for a moment. For those of you that have written a book, you understand the labor of love this represents. I'll get a profound question posed in a thread or group on here and I'll really think about it. Sometimes the questions are more exciting than the answers; the articles on LinkedIn Publisher are so thought provoking I'll wake up in the night with a new answer.

Inspiration is what LinkedIn gifted traditional selling. It opened up all our networks in an exponential way expanding our horizons. It makes the world smaller and breaks down barriers and that's a good thing. It's keeping us all more engaged and inspired than ever before. It's open sourcing knowledge and this synergy is making us all better.

I've warned my readers not to live on a computer even the supercomputer in their hand. We weren't meant to have 3 arms, wouldn't you agree? Maybe it's a bit more of a luxury for me as an independent consultant who's blazed a trail speaking, coaching, training and writing for a living. I hope you find these words helpful and explore what I call MY CORPUS. Dig around in there daily and apply some things to the real world every day. Please let me know how it worked, or could have worked better. After 30 years and many million-dollar deals fought for, won and lost; after incredible failure, rejection and success – I do believe what I've encapsulated here is the essence of professional selling success at the highest level.

Social Selling can be strategic. We can elevate it. It can be your edge and competitive advantage. Social selling is very much about being interested. The more hours you take understanding your customers, the greater partner you are able to be. The more you listen in meetings, the higher propensity to close. Actively listening is one level and the ultimate level is being fully there, smartphone off, notepad ready to write it down, making eye contact. Don't sell with your eyes. Just be there, shut off the past and future and contemplate every word. Don't look to interject or craft the next persuasive retort. Let go of all that: it's worthless, really.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created Sherlock Holmes. The greatest mysteries were often hiding in plain sight. All of sales can be reduced to two words. BE INTERESTED. It shouldn't be that simple but if you just did that every day, you'd quantum leap all your competitors. It's not even about competition, it's about creation and sharing. I recently had the privilege to consult on an eight figure deal with an executive that hardly spoke. Just eye contact, listening and deft note taking. Timely follow-up displayed the depth of their understanding.

If you made it to the bottom of this post it's definitely going to pay off. How can you become more interested? Many people act like they're in Hollywood on LinkedIn: 'Enough about me, what do you think of me?' Buzzer! It's not about you silly!

  • Sort your social stream by Recent Updates so you can see them all.
  • Scroll and wait for something to jump out and grab you.
  • Read through slowly and don't just hit the like button.
  • Click through, read the entire thing.
  • Comment and reference something in the text, image or video.
  • If they reply, comment again.
  • Share a link.
  • @Mention them (use the @ sign to backlink to their name or others who should read it which will notify them and help others discover their work).
  • When you do a big LinkedIn Publish post, pull quotes from the readers underneath and add them back in with the quote feature. I love doing that! #interactive
  • InMail people, message them and admire what they wrote.
  • Give, digitally give. Define what that means to you! I get a thoughtful message from one author after every single post I write. He's a social selling champion.
  • Grab coffee
  • Take it off-line
  • Join 50 groups
  • Start your own group asking provocative questions of the group members.
  • Foster discussion don't just thank. You're giving when you want to know more.
  • Ask why!
  • When you retweet add a comment in that 140 characters.
  • When you read something inspiring, write something of your own in response and Tweet it back at that person.
  • Hashtag thoughtfully don't just stuff every tweet (guilty! – learning...)

This post has profound implications on CEOs and leaders. Please spend twenty minutes a day on your own LinkedIn profile. You could literally change lives with the power of social media by allowing more access to you. Writing a weekly update on Publisher as a thought leader helps many people. It elevates the sector. In order for social selling to work, we need the entire business community to all get online in here forming a super network. It's the promise of the utopian virtual reality. Ultimately, hiding behind a gatekeeper is again convenient for you but you're only further from the end customer you serve. I'm astounded when I tweet something at a brand and they don't respond to my tweet when others pick it up and respond in minutes. Social listening not only protects brand reputation it surprises and delights customers, the lifeblood of your entire business no matter your market share. CEOs: Your boss is ultimately a satisfied customer!

It's extremely difficult to be interested when you have over 1,000 friends, a deluge of Twitter handles you follow and streams that look like stock market tickers from Hudsucker Proxy spitting out data faster than a texting teenager. Get a list together in HootSuite or TweetDeck. Filter out multiple lists by vertical. Slow down to speed up. Re-sort your LinkedIn or Facebook feed to see all the posts and retrain the algorithm by liking different things. Make an old fashioned spreadsheet of targets and check in on just the top 30 each day. Start up conversations with dream customers.

Ultimately this subtle change starts with you. Paradoxically it's not about being more interesting, it's about being more interested! I'm interested in your thoughts about this idea so please leave a comment below. If you seldom ever leave comments make a violent exception even if it's just a share or like. Thank 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:

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Ricardo Liberato

The 5 Most Unusual Daily Habits Of Highly Effective Social Sellers

They publish daily.

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

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

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

They comment daily.

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

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

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

They courageously connect daily.

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

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

They listen, curate and share daily.

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

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

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

They aim straight for the top daily.

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

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

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

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

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

I'm endeavoring to live every principle in this post every day right here.

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

Main image photo by Flickr: Mike Licht

Empowering The Next Generation Of Sellers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Main image photo by Flickr: Andrea Rose

Top 15 Insidious Social Selling Myths

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Frank Kovalchek

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

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

What exactly do you do?

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

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

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

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

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

Ask yourself these questions when considering your 007 strategy:

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

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

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

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

Main Image Photos by: Johan Oomen

Top 10 Reasons Why Your Sales Reps SHOULD Be Creating Content

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

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

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

Here is a brilliant article with 25 easy tips for creating great content as part of your social selling strategy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Main image photo by Flickr: Mike Licht

Can't Write? Can't Sell!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Main image photo by Flickr: John O'Nolan

Top 10 Most Egregious LinkedIn Violations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonus Round:

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

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

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

Main image photo by: David Blackwell

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

18 Of The Most Sophisticated LinkedIn Techniques

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

Da Vinci said it best. It's never the tools, it's how we use them. Excellence is determined by the way in which we execute. I've found that with some subtle tweaks, LinkedIn can be exponentially effective as a prospecting, networking, engagement and CLOSING platform. The last is highly contested and debated as everyone is looking to tie metrics to it. I have closed business leveraging LinkedIn. Here are some advanced techniques and combinations that I haven't seen much written about. What advanced techniques do you utilize on here?

  1. Start your own LinkedIn Group, invite all your connections into it and then every time you post a provocative question based on debatable insights in your vertical, push that question link out to Twitter.
  2. Leverage Rapportive to reverse lookup a key email address of your prospect and then add them via the "other" radial with a customized message pertaining to their profile.
  3. Mystery messages are messages with an unexpected subject line, colloquial tone, short and cause a click. You need to put yourself in the prospect's shoes, they're receiving umpteen brilliantly constructed templates in their LinkedIn inbox. The unexpected will get opened, something that is natural and screams "not written by a robot" will get opened. Leverage the power of mystery.
  4. Advanced searches can be leveraged to show a few result pages of CXOs. This will allow you to aim high. If you can find people who used to work in that position, message them asking for the best way back into that account.
  5. Use all InMails - The majority of people do not use all 25 InMails in a premium account per month. Do you? It's a golden opportunity. Each one is like making 10 to 20 cold calls. Lead with value and compelling insight.
  6. Publish everyday. Most sales people wouldn't dream of writing every day or even twice a day on here. Do you know only 40,000 Publish posts come out each week when 345MM professionals are on LinkedIn? There is a huge opportunity cost if you are not publishing daily.
  7. Watch who follows your Publish and views you everyday. Send invites to all of those that are pertinent with a personalized message.
  8. Reach out to add people or message people through LinkedIn groups.
  9. Amp up your participation in groups with provocative questioning. Max out your groups to 50 and be disciplined in posting different questions in 3 to 5 groups every day. Go into a group thread and speak your mind, answer all the questions. This will bring more views, LinkedIn invites and warm leads.
  10. Follow industry thought leaders. In sales KiteDesk,, Onalytica and countless others compile lists of the top social selling thought leaders, marketing thought leaders, you name it! Thought leaders are very open to connecting. Via their networks you'll get even bigger relevant networks.
  11. Subscribe to all the thought leader blogs on as well as following them on LinkedIn. Don't just hit the like button. Share the articles from their blog and write a unique comment. Link your LinkedIn updates to Twitter so they kick back there and then link Twitter to push to Facebook. One update and you hit 3 social networks. For expediency's sake as a busy executive, this is mission critical.
  12. When you perform due diligence on key prospects in accounts always analyze the lower right section called "People Also Viewed."A great way to go is to start with CEO and look at people also viewed. Sometime this area is hidden. But there is no faster way to triangulate the C-Suite and power base most closely connected to it then with this strategy.
  13. Never ever contact a prospect by personal email even if it's listed contact me @gmail on their LinkedIn contact area. They probably just don't realize that's listed. Go reverse lookup a valid open B2B publicly listed address and reach out there. Cross reference this with so that you can call their switch, EA or direct line. Often prospects do list their cell phone numbers. I'm not opposed to calling cell to cell but have a hyper-valid, trigger-event based reason. Start with the why in the first 5 seconds. Be confident and have gravitas.
  14. Rewire your entire social selling strategy as a real world appointment setting engine.
  15. Be real-time responsive, always on, via mobile devices.
  16. Use the Connected App by LinkedIn to acknowledge birthdays, work anniversaries or triggers to strike up conversations.
  17. Invest the money in a Premium Account. As an enterprise, get LinkedIn Sales Navigator and work to make it an organizational competency. Build incentives that tie back to KPIs like the Social Selling Index - SSI - (Klout-like LinkedIn score/mechanism that shows the level of engagement of top users.)
  18. Get training not just on the basics but in advanced "strategic" social selling to bring the old methods together with the new channels.

Now it's your turn: What are the most sophisticated LinkedIn strategies that you leverage? It's OK if it's a basic technique but you've found a way to turn it up. Jack Kosakowski came up with a whole series of LinkedIn based trigger events when a connection does something that is grounds for a personal LinkedIn email or InMail outreach. I thought that was brilliant. This was one of the best posts of all 2014!

What features do you think LinkedIn is missing? How do you get results in here daily? What specifically is helping you open, close and accelerate pipeline?

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: Pic Basement