content publishing

How To Become A Bestselling Author Using LinkedIn

The number one obstacle to success as a writer in is obscurity. If a bear tweets in the woods in a flash of brilliance, will a publisher give him an advance making him an overnight sensation? There are 3 million blogs put out every day – you do the math – how on Earth will your content stick out?

I share this wisdom from Michael Hyatt's book Platform"Two respected agents have told me they loved my book and proposal and are willing to represent it, but not until I have social media followers numbering in the thousands. I find this bewildering: Doesn’t a good book stand on its own anymore? Are writers now doomed to spend the bulk of our workdays trawling for blog subscribers?

The answer to the first question is no. A good product does not stand on its own anymore. It is foundational but it is not enough. The answer to the second question is yes. You will need to be proactive about creating the who part of the equation. In order for you to be successful in today’s business environment, you need two things: a compelling product and a significant platform."

Your platform trumps your content. Period. You can build that crucial audience directly on LinkedIn where the network effects are the greatest (especially as a business author.)

Michael Hyatt's book, Platform encourages bringing a massively engaged 'follower audience' of tens of thousands to Publishers. This approach has already generated lucrative speaking gigs and book sales for me as a byproduct. I'm following Hyatt's blueprint advice to a tee in order to build this tribe of true fans so I can break into the US and European markets with a "built audience." 

Content alone is folly as everyone has it, I'm focused on that foundational step of audience. Content is King but audience is Ace and in order to position RSVPselling alongside SPIN, Challenger and Cracking the Sales Management Code, (as I humbly believe it holds up in the field having road tested it on deals above $100 million), it will require building power bases in the publishing industry, the sales thought leader intelligentsia and the end users: front-line sales managers, sales people and those CXOs interested in growing profitable revenue in their business.

The topic of Leadership (my next book) is an even more competitive field with the likes of Jim Collins, I can only hope to enter the fray with engagement statistics that justify the investment for the publisher. A major inspiration for this book has been my mentor Anthony Howard and his lighthouse principles of Human-Centred Leadership.

I very deliberately don't take people to my website or do short posts with links to long version articles behind a form where people must provide their details. That's what I think causes people to click away and I'm not interested in spamming or e-mail blasting people.

I had a call from America last week. It was with a potential publishing agent for my next book. She believes in what I’m all about but it’s a crowded market and she asked me a straight-forward question – I’m embarrassed to confess I stumbled.

Five simple words: ‘What Really Makes You Different?’

In every company I’ve run, in every sales team I’ve led, in every sales role I’ve held – I’ve had a solid response to that question. When I ran a CRM company, the answer was: “We help you improve revenue and reduce customer churn by providing a system that puts customers at the heart of everything you do. What’s makes us different is our approach, our people, our ability to deliver the results you need and manage implementation risk.” When I ran an Enterprise Content Management (document management) company, the answer was: “We reduce the costs and risks associated with all of your unstructured content – all those sensitive files on people’s hard drives, uncontrolled and unsecure. Our software is great but what really makes us different is our people, our project methodology, and the experience we bring from doing this for others just like you.”

Two years ago I left the corporate world and went out on my own with what I regard as the world’s best sales methodology which I’d developed and honed towin hundreds of millions of dollars of business selling to large corporations and government at all levels. But I quickly learned that the world does not need another sales methodology; most companies already have a few – they’re not looking for yet another one. And they’re right – it doesn't really matter what the methodology is; just use something well. There are so many great approaches to selling out there and here are ten of the best frameworks and methodologies ever constructed. Full disclosure, after 30 years of success in the field working with teams, I humbly list RSVP in there alongside SPIN, TAS, Challenger, Solution, Strategic, etc.

So what was my answer for the literary agent? She was patient and gracious and I eventually arrived at this: “I’m everything that needs to happen before and afterRackham’s SPIN – everything else is a fad. What makes me unique is that I’ve been doing it in the real world for thirty years and I’ve embraced social – old school meets new school, digital and physical, tactical and strategic.” It wasn’t a great answer and I shouldn’t have been negative about others.

But it was beyond being ‘not great’; it was plain crap because it failed to address the needs of my audience – book publishers. Book publishing has changed, the industry is in turmoil, bookshops are going broke, publishers are being forced to redefine their business models. There’s a new set of rules and great content is no longer enough if you’re an author – you must bring the publisher an audience! Unless you’ve got a solid following, it just represents too much risk for a publisher to gamble on you being a surprise hit.

Here is a statistic that may shock you and it was told to me by a past Australian regional manager for a major publisher. He confided that only 3% of books published in the world sell more than 500 copies – and it’s impossible to make money from a book unless you sell at least that many copies. Less than 1% of authors make any real money from their published work. If you’re in the publishing industry and can point me to other statistics or provide additional insight, please comment on this post.

Making enough money to earn a good living from writing is the same as being a musician – there are very few Bonos and JK Rowlings out there. We live in a world where there are a thousand channels and no-one is listening. Browsing, clicking, liking, cursory comments – but very few truly engage. They merely do the gardening online a few times a week, just enough to maintain the hedge and stop weeds taking hold – dipping-in and paddling around in social, just enough not to be left behind.

In a year in which we celebrate Martin Luther King with a new brilliant movie, we should think about what made him a world-changer. In my mind, the answer is clear – he had purpose and passion in his vision, mission and values.

MLK articulated The Joshua Principle: Although our actions and behaviors define us; it's who we become that determines the real value of everything we pursue.

This video by Ruckus is brilliant in its humor and clarity. They obviously understand that transferring belief in what you offer is the key to influencing someone in their buying decision! Ruckus has no problem in explaining how they’re different and why it matters.

How I wish we all had this passion and ability to create cut-through in our message but here is a confession. For my entire career I’ve been able to differentiate and link to business value in my conversations. But now out on my own with no brand to hide behind, just me and my ideas, it’s been a challenge. In the age of social selling 3.0 we all sell naked because LinkedIn reveals social proximity and relevance. LinkedIn Publisher also reveals whether we have any insights, and the exact number of followers and their level of engagement – you can't fake a persona on this platform. I say it regularly: The way we sell is more important than what we sell; and the way you engage on LinkedIn and within other social media platforms is more important than retweets and ‘likes’.

In Australia I’ve found two kindred spirits, John Smibert who runs the brilliantly engaging Strategic Selling Group and Bernadette McClelland who provides endless engagement and support. Anthony Iannarino is another from the USA and he’s been incredibly generous in his support of me; also Gerhard from Selling Power. These people are social ninjas with generosity of spirit and all are committed to making professional selling everything it needs to be. Genuine goodwill, the kind that promotes you with no expectation for anything in return, goes a very long way in a cynical world.

I want you to ask yourself a question that will change the way you sell: “Why you; and what really makes you different from all the other voices out there?” When I was asked this question about myself and my ideas in the context of book publishing, I wasn’t ready – I deserved to be shot! I’ve carved a career being able to answer that questions but there I was – deer in the headlights.

One of my clients in the professional services industry is someone I respect greatly. His name is Ian Sharpe and he helped my find clarity. I had previously shared these questions with him and he was a mirror in playing the questions back to me in my quest to improve the way I position myself in the world, especially on LinkedIn. In addition to the big question in the paragraph above, here are the three questions we used to help each other and they can help you transform your message to attract the opportunities you deserve. If you can answer these questions in the form of your story, you’ll knock it right out the park and stand out for all the right reasons:

  1. What’s the most important problem I solve for people?
  2. Why is it important?
  3. How can I help them and what should they do about it?

But back to what I should have said when I was asked the question by the publishing agent. My first book is a bestseller in Australia and is in its 6th printing; and I'm rapidly building a strong LinkedIn following. I’ve achieved this by being committed to publishing quality content daily. It’s been a huge challenge on many levels and a commitment that could not be possible without the support of my wife as I disappear every night to write. I’ve had only one ‘rock-thrower’ in that time but luckily he scampered back under his rock. The huge level of support I’ve received and the results I’ve achieved have astounded me. There’s a reason I’m doing it and it’s not narcissism; it’s the need to build a following for my next books. This is what I later sent in an e-mail to salvage and refocus our dialogue:

I’ve been thinking about your question: “What really makes you different.” The answer is that I’m a proven writer with an existing best seller and I can bring the publisher an audience. I’ve had 300,000 reads of my blog posts in just 8 weeks and among my thousands of LinkedIn connections they rank me #5, in front of the legendary Koka Sexton and Jill Rowley, and right behind Brian Tracy. But I’m not naïve enough to think that unique visitor page views equates to readership engagement – I know the publisher needs someone who can generate sales due to the following they’ve earned. For me, everyone who is a potential buyer of my books lives in LinkedIn. I’m obsessively and diligently earning a following that the publisher will be able to leverage. The new rules say quality content is king, queen, prime minister and Pope; but I know that audience is Ace – it trumps everything else. Both together is what brings the most possible value to a publisher. That’s what really makes me different.

Your family, your community, your church or club, your employer – they all need you to lead. I had a later conversation with Ian Sharpe about why he thought leadership mattered and why there is such an absence of it. Here is what he wrote back to me:

Leaders change things for the better and we live in a world in dire need of change. No one is born to lead – they learned it. Almost two thirds of Executive respondents identified leadership development as their number one concern – yet only 43 percent of CEOs are confident that their training investments in leadership will bear fruit (McKinsey 2014). The reason is that they’re focusing on the wrong developmental actions for leaders – which must be attitudinal and experience-based, and not just skills-based. A lack of leadership stunts company and career growth. There are no technical failures…they are all ultimately people failures; leading people is therefore crucial for avoiding disasters. Thriving in the 21st Century requires effective leadership, otherwise time, attention and money will continue to be wasted. Leadership is required for sustainable change and growth, it is the key competitive differentiator.

I’ve been doing my best to improve my LinkedIn profile for some time now and I think I’m close but I would welcome your feedback. Now it’s over to you. What makes a great LinkedIn profile and what questions do you ask to sharpen your focus on the why, rather than the who, what and how? If you've recently had success as a publisher, could you please share insight into effective strategies that have helped you cut through?

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: CollegeDegrees360

B2B vs B2C Selling – Why Content Publishing Reigns Supreme

On average in business-to-business (B2B) selling there are more than 5 people within the customer organization involved in the buying decision (CSO Insights research) . Business-to-consumer (B2C) selling differs in that there are less people making the buying decision; the basis of decision is simpler and the decision time is shorter. Often the transaction is a one-off or very infrequent sale without an ongoing relationship to manage.

We live in an age of empowered consumers and their buying journey starts online rather than in a showroom. They seek the informed by the opinions of others online who have gone before them. Savvy consumers are skeptical of spin and the hyperbole of marketing messages and sales people. They look to their network, in the physical world and online to gather opinion and wisdom before engaging with the seller.

The illustration below shows the buyer’s journey in retail or consumer context. This is what B2C sellers need to align with as they seek to sell and market strategically. There is a huge role for quality content marketing to attract buyers. To illustrate this, let me share a true story from my own experience when buying recently.

Like all other consumers who decide to buy something, I experienced a trigger event. My son secured his probationary driver’s license and with it came the standard restrictions concerning high powered sports cars. Do we buy a third car or replace mine with something more practical. My wife and I decided that we did not need a third car yet so I sold my sports car through and started researching something we could all drive that was both very safe and I would not worry about minor damage. My first car many years ago was a Mini and the brand holds positive nostalgic value for me. My daughter is next in line to get her drivers license and she loves them. If my family and I had gone to a Mini showroom, it would have been like shooting fish in a barrel for the sales person. But rather than visiting a dealer I was instead doing research online, and not on the Mini website.

After having experienced a trigger event (son gets drivers license and cannot drive my over-powered car) and considering change (sensible wife says we’re not buying a third car) I was researching online and in social concerning the car I thought I wanted. It didn't take long before I had experienced the shock and awe of unhappy owners on social platforms… the Mini was clearly a nightmare. Catastrophic transmission problems were a risk with replacement transmissions costing a fortune. I considered a manual but discovered it’s more than a 10 hour job to replace a clutch… ouch; and they are also known to fail. Then there was the timing chain problem (‘Mini diesel death rattle’ caused by the auto-tensioner failing and the timing chain slapping the housing). YouTube videos were most enlightening for all these issues. I also read about excessive engine oil consumption exacerbated by a small sump reservoir and tortuous dipstick path that wipes to oil away making it difficult to see what the engine oil levels really are.

I decided to take one for a test drive but not from a dealer. I hired one on my next interstate business trip and the Mini provided had 35,000klms on the clock. In my opinion it however drove like a car with a 100,000klms and was very noisy and uncomfortable. I didn’t like the driving position or where switches were located. BMW are doing a fine job improving Mini quality since acquiring the car maker but the best Mini sales person in the world could not have sold me their product and nor did they ever have the chance. This is because the buyer’s journey usually starts for online where they research within the networks and forums that don't seek to sell.

Then I searched for ‘Japanese Mini’ and the Suzuki Swift came up. After 6 hours searching for anything negative of the next few weeks, the only thing I could find was that when the rear seats were folded forward there was no single flat surface in the rear boot. Nothing mechanical seemed to ever go wrong. I then spent hours on to establish price points. I talked to my friends in the car industry about the best time to buy. When I walked into my local dealer who had a new manual Swift Sport in stock, I was there to negotiate. I bought it at the price I wanted to pay with a 5 year warranty and low fixed price service costs.

When I looked in the boot I discovered that Suzuki had listened to their customers online and already fitted a false floor in the boot to create a secondary storage area and seamless flat surface when the seats are down! On top of all this, the customer experience the Suzuki dealer delivered to me when I serviced the car is better than some luxury brands I’ve owned. Here is the main point; the Suzuki salesman added almost no value, I had already bought and he couldn't negotiate – I had to do that with his boss.

In the next 9 months we’ll buy a third car, my sports car I hope, and I’m already doing all by research online, especially in social. When a dealer meets me it will only be to negotiate, not sell. Most companies focus their online marketing efforts around website Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) using keywords and Google AdWords which is all very well for when buyers know they want what you’re selling and are seeking to select and negotiate. But the savvy online sales and marketing professionals create content to attract buyers much earlier in their journey… when they’re considering change and doing research. Content publishing is hugely powerful and the essential ingredient for online success.

For both B2B and B2C companies, here is the important question you must ask yourself: “What do my buyers look for online before they look for me?”

Here is another personal purchasing example. I'm a wakeboarder and when I wanted to buy a new vehicle to tow our new boat, there wasn't a lot to choose from that was rated to pull the weight of our rig at over 3,000kgs. Our Mitsubishi Pajero was only rated for 2,500kg towing capacity so I began my search online for the replacement. I didn’t search for particular brands but instead entered ‘4WD 3500kg towing’. I found review sites with lots of useful information and to my surprise, Jeep was rated highly by consumers on value for money and towing. I quickly gravitated to the Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited but I had two concerns from my research: product quality and handling in an emergency.

As I continued to click I found an empowered Aussie consumer who created a way to get his money back on a Jeep with 20 defects and 4 years of consumer hell. He created a Facebook page and got busy raising money and awareness of big gaps in consumer rights under Australian legislation. He highlighted that consumers now have a powerful voice on social platforms. Mainstream media picked-up the story and the result was global coverage and worldwide brand damage that has cost Jeep millions of dollars in lost sales. But all manufacturers produce some lemons and this particular consumer experience was an exception, not the norm, for Jeep owners.

There are thousands of examples out there of how consumers can create massive negative impact on a brand without spending a cent. Just do a Google search on 'Uber' and you'll see the disruptive player in the Taxi industry has some real brand issues.

Next I found the Jeep Moose Avoidance Test video on YouTube showing potential roll-over danger. But I knew that American cars are typically made with softer suspension and the recommended tire pressures are designed for a comfortable 'floating' ride for a trip around the block at the dealership. Running higher tire pressures would deal with the problem combined with my philosophy on never swerving to miss a kangaroo. There was plenty of positivity about the vehicle in social and online, and the Fiat diesel that powers it received brilliant reviews. I loved the look, features and compelling value. A friend already owned one and I borrowed it for a test drive and I was sold.

By the time I contacted a Jeep salesperson it was by phone to negotiate and I only walked into a dealership to sign the paperwork. Bought it, loved it.

Here is second big question that B2B and B2C companies must ask: “Both on and off my website, what do buyers see online when they find me?”

Do they see transparency and genuine commitment to integrity and service or do they see a facade, easy to penetrate. In research by Corporate Visions, 74% of buyers choose to buy from the seller who first provides value and insight. This is why every sales person on the planet should build a LinkedIn profile that serves as their personal brand website. It is critically important to avoid having a profile that reads like an online CV seeking to attract the next employer. Instead it needs to show the value they provide customers and the values by which they operate.

When buyers research sellers they look for social proof that the person is worthy of their time and trust. They seek proof that the person has integrity, insight and is well connected and respected within their industry. Employers themselves are now facing this same problem with websites such as Glassdoor that enables past and present employees to anonymously rate the company.

Everyone today can peel back the façade of websites and social media pages to discover the real state of an individual’s credentials, product reputation and corporate brand. Content publishing is essential for both B2B and B2C sellers, so be the one online that provides insight and value. Manage any brand negativity online with empathy through social listening and demonstrate that you're listening and improving.

If you enjoyed this post, listen here to my interview with Kelly Riggs on Biz Locker Room Radio where we discuss Strategic Social Selling.

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

Main image photo by Flickr: David Geller Steve and Bill at All Things DB2B vs B2C Selling – Why Content Publishing Reigns Supreme