marketing strategy

5 Topics That Sellers Should Write About

Every real profession demands that its members read to remain relevant. Their members research topics including the latest trends, industry obligations, case studies and research findings. Those within their ranks who are respected most are the ones who develop insights, achieve the best results and publish their findings.

Don't claim to be a professional and then tell me you don't read... you're joking, right?

According to CEB research, 95% of buyers expect insight from the seller. Yet Forrester Research highlights that 85% of sellers fail to meet buyer expectations while CEB research found that 86% of sellers fail to differentiate in the mind of the buyer. We clearly have a problem but it can be solved when sales people embrace imperative to write within the guidelines of their company and with management and marketing serving as editors.

If you want to transform the way you sell, commit to reading and then writing. Don't just read about how to sell, also read about the issues that impact your clients. Researching and writing is the best possible sales training a person can have because it forces the individual to go deep and test assertions while creating their own authentic narrative.Here is why sales people need to write but...

Should sales people write or 'curate' content during office hours or selling time? ... No!

Sales people should instead invest 30 minutes a day in their own time, before or after work, for career development. They should also work closely with their marketing department and manager to ensure quality, leverage tools, and be aligned with corporate messaging and policies. There are two types of content publishing:

  1. Content curation. This is where you work with other people's content and publish Updates via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or other social platforms in which your clients and target market monitor and engage.
  2. Content Authoring. This is where you create your own blog posts or articles that demonstrates insight and value for your target market. It is also how you evidence your credentials and set the agenda with those whom you seek to engage.

Content publishing is important because 75% of buyers use social media to research sellers before engaging (Source: IDC) and 74% of buyers choose the seller who first provides insight and value (Source: Corporate Visions). It begs the question: What do people see when they find you online? Do they see a sales person's CV or do they see a warm professional person offering insight and value?

Go beyond the basics of personal branding to also attract and engage with content

Content Curation

'Content curation' is the process of working with other people's content where you add brief commentary and then share with your network. Your goal is follow those who are relevant for your target market and then become the 'forager for the tribe' as David Meerman-Scott says. Everyone is busy and you can provide value by being a content aggregator where your market can simply follow you to see content from dozens of sources they don't have time to research individually themselves.

Who are the journalists, bloggers, analysts and industry leaders that your market audience follows and respects? By attaching yourself to these personal brands you elevate your own, and by sharing their content with short additional insights and commentary you can create value for those who follow you. From this list, highlight the individuals with substantial following within your target market whose followers you would like to become your own. Who has substantial following within your target market?

The above format is my simple way of recording the details of those who can provide you with valuable content to then share with your network. Hootsuite or Buffer are excellent technologies for easily creating a scheduling content to be automatically published at the best times. 

5 Topics to Inspire Content Creation

We need to publish content write about what interests our audience instead of projecting our 'value proposition' or factoids about our company, product or service. Importantly, we must be clear about who we are targeting with our content and here are content categories that sales people and marketers can use to create blog articles to write that attract and engage clients.

  1. Your customer’s fears and concerns (competition, disruption, etc.). Without writing from a negative perspective: What are the risks that your customers face? What competitive risks that worry them? How are they being 'disrupted' by technology, changes in the economy or legislation, agile competitors, off-shoring, etc. These topics and more can be the subject of posts you write
  2. Insights from research data that impacts your customer’s world. Search and subscribe to analysts that comment of your customer's industry or the trends that impact them.
  3. Blind Case studies evidencing how things can be improved. Every sales person needs to be masterful at telling powerful true stories of how their customers solved problems, created business cases, managed change and delivered transformation. Even if the client won't do an official case study or testimonial, it can be written by the sales person and attributed along the lines of: One of my clients shared some insights with me recently concerning how they ....
  4. Objection neutralizers that positively position and set the agenda. As an example, I work with a client in the recruiting industry and a common objection is: 'I'm too busy meet but if you have a candidate then send me their CV'. I've coach recruitment sales people to write posts along the lines of: How 20 minutes saves 12 hours and dramatically reduces hiring risk. Skills, experience and qualifications are easy to screen but cultural fit is where the greatest risk resides in a hiring decision. List all of your common objections such as 'I'm too busy', 'We have an incumbent supplier', 'You're too expensive', etc and write about why that is the very reason they should meet you.
  5. Newsjacking topical events to create interest. When Harrison Ford crash-landed his plan on a Californian golf course, I had this post up within 90 minutes.

Trigger events are excellent opportunities for both content creation and initiating contact with potential buyers. What events provide potential opportunities to improve your own customer service, intercept competitor customers, or engage potential clients early in their buying process? In the mind of the buyer, trigger events create awareness of opportunity or need and can amplify perceptions of pain. These events can motivate people to take action to change the status quo? Trigger events can include changes in personnel, a major scandal, legislative changes, new compliance obligations, products going ‘end of support’, suppliers being acquired or dropping the ball, competitor staff leaving or retiring, new leaders coming into the organization. My worksheet below is ideal for identifying trigger events and establishing the best way to monitor.

Sales people should work with their marketing team to formulate strategy, select the right tools and secure the right levels of training and support to build their individual sales pipelines. Here are my tips for going beyond content curation (working with other people's content) and writing your own material that sets you apart as a sales person:

  1. Identify your audience and then write for the one person or role you are seeking to influence. This makes it targeted, personal and on point.
  2. Be clear in your own mind about why your message is important and what you want them to do about. But avoid any call to action that overtly seeks to sell or paints you as a salesperson.
  3. Create a catchy headline (think like a newspaper editor).
  4. Use an eye-catching picture that has an abstract relationship to your topic. Honor copyright by using 'common use license' images and attribute source, or use your own photos.
  5. Have an opening that hooks, a body that informs and a close that motivates or inspires. Deliver insight rather than mere information.
  6. Aim for 700 words and don't ramble. Longer is okay and some of my best posts with more than 220,000 reads have well over 1500 words.
  7. Create back-links to other content but never use click-bate to take people to another site where they have to complete forms or register to view content.
If you don't read, then you're not a professional. If you can't write, then you can't sell because you are incapable of building a strong personal brand online that shows insight and attracts clients.

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: Joe Flood Follow Writing = Breathing

Why Sales People Must Become Micro Marketers

Segmentation has always been important in business but it's essential when products and services drift toward commoditization. Don't fall into the trap of allowing low margin products to be sold by outdated and expensive direct sales models. Designing customer experience determines how, when and where sales people play a role in client acquisition.

Sales people need to fund themselves from the value they create rather than from the margins that the product or service delivers.

Embrace the reality in the above statement and instead take the low value commodity products and services away from field sales people and give that sales quota to the head of marketing! Then for the complex or high value 'solutions' that remain, equip your sales people and sales managers to 'move to value' in how they engage their markets.

Sales and marketing are competencies, not departments. Marketing therefore needs to sell and sales people must become micro-marketers to attract and engage clients

But for marketing to succeed in creating exceptional customer experience, the CEO needs to become the Chief Customer Experience Officer. This post is not about the marketing department so let's move on to what is important for sales people. 

For any sales person to prosper in their career they need to move beyond being good at building relationships to also embrace the elements sales mastery:

Built on the timeless foundation of business acumenmasterful listening skills andpolitical awareness to develop relationships of trust, these are the three additional elements for today's most effective sales professionals:

  • Lead with insight as a domain expert
  • Create tangible business [case] value for clients
  • Leverage technology to be effective and efficient

Make no mistake, relationships are important but a relationship alone is not enough. Put another way; relationships of trust are an essential prerequisite for sales success but the relationship itself is NOT where the buyer sees value. Buyers today are busy and stressed, and they are not looking for new friends nor do they want to entertain 'professional visitors'. They instead require greater value from fewer relationships. They care about how their suppliers can help them achieve their goals and manage their risks.

The modern sales professional takes ownership of creating their sales pipeline

Marketing initiatives rarely create conversations with senior decision makers. Instead, senior executives and seasoned sales people are best equipped to target and engage the key decision-makers within client organizations. But hammering away on the phone with cold calls is a thoughtless and negative approach because less than 2% of cold calls yield any kind of positive result.

Rather than interrupt and push, the best approach is attract and engage on engagement platforms such as LinkedIn. To attract buyers we must show insight and relevance... salespeople must create content.

When I speak at conferences this is the assertion that sparks the most debate... sales people write content! There is an inconvenient truth today for anyone in sales: If you can't write, you can't sell. This short video John Smibert did with me explains my rationale.

Here are four reasons for sales people to write content with their managers and marketing department supporting them with ideation, proof-reading, editing and publishing tools:

  1. Educate yourself and develop domain knowledge and expertise
  2. Connect with industry leaders to build your sphere of influence
  3. Attract clients and an audience to support your business goals
  4. Build your personal brand evidencing credibility, value and insight

In an online world we are known by who we are connected to and what we publish. According to IDC research, 75% of buyers research the seller before engaging. What do they see when they view your profile? We want people to see a credible domain expert worthy of trust and an investment of  time.

In my next post I will provide five topics sales people can  write about but micro-marketing includes more than writing and publishing. We must also create a strong personal brand and here is how to begin. Technology also plays a pivotal role and this is where sales people should be committed to embracing CRM for the marketing team to include their prospects in lead nurturing, drip marketing and event initiatives.

The 'Updates' section of LinkedIn is very powerful, and scheduling tools such as Buffer make the process easy for sharing other people’s articles, blogs, research, infographics and Tweets. Content can easily be sourced with sales people identifying influencers in the market and individual content capture and scheduling is as simple as clicking a button in the web browser.

Sales people must consciously associate themselves with leaders who are respected by their potential clients and transform their LinkedIn profile to be a personal brand micro site instead of an online CV. Connect with leaders admired by your clients and then share their content as a 'content aggregator' who adds your own insights... working with other people's content is the easiest way to begin your content publishing journey.

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: Susan Murtaugh Follow Advertising

Lead and Sell By Getting Out Of The Way!

The Human condition can drive us toward success or failure. As legendary Aussie rocker Crissy Amphlett once said: "There's a fine line between pleasure and pain" and also success and catastrophe. We need ambition and self-confidence to propel us yet our passion must be for the cause and people we serve. We need real belief in the value we offer as we seek to convert others to our view of the world and it needs to be all about creating value for them rather than extracting something for us. But this is an unnatural approach.

We're wired to talk about ourselves, what we do and how we do it. We must instead lead with why a conversation matters by talking about the results can we help them deliver and the risks we can help them manage.

The above statement is what is at the heart of modernizing leadership and professional selling. We must lead with insight rather than a pitch; we must make it about them rather than us. Our approach must be dosed with humility and genuine interest in others if we are to gain traction and make a difference. Why should they invest time in meeting us to reading our material? Are we clear about the insights we provide and the value we create? Don't even think about going to market with your sales and marketing teams until you have compelling answers to these questions.

All great musicians know that 'less is more'. Too much clutter results in the important being lost amidst all the noise. Those who perform masterfully on stage or in the boardroom know that genuine belief in what they do is the foundation of their success. And this sincere passion has a wonderful byproduct... it is how we find purpose and meaning is what we do.

Building trust and creating value is at the heart of professional selling. But no-one is motivated by our promises or pitch and information does not inspire or differentiate. Facts and data do not equate to insight. The art of selling is in helping people have an epiphany that you personally – before your company, product, service or solution – are what they need. People have always bought from those they like and trust, but success for sales people requires one more ingredient today – value through insight.

Telling is not selling. This is because people are best motivated by reasons that they themselves discover

The very best sales people are not warriors of persuasion, but rather engineers of value. They are naturally curious and obsessively focused on the customer’s world. I used to wrongly believe that the best sales people were the ones selling ‘unique’ solutions… how wrong I was! The best sales people are actually those selling commodities; because the only way they can effectively differentiate is in the way they sell.

Here’s a revelation that will change you sales career – everything is a commodity in the eyes of the buyer; except you and the way you engage your customer. The way we sell is more important than what we sell. You personally are the solution and your insights come from being fascinated and consumed by your customer's probems and opportunities . Think like you’re an extension of your customer’s organization and talk the language of leadership: delivering outcomes and managing risk.

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 Shuck Follow Laundry time

The 3 Pillars Of Modernised Selling

Gartner Research predicts that 85% of business-to-business (B2B) sales transactions will occur without human intervention in 2020. Andy Hoar from Forrester Research predicts that more than 1 million sales roles will be disappear in the USA alone with the same timeframe. This equates to approximately 22% of B2B sales positions being lost to the forces of commoditization or automation.

Up to one-third of B2B sales roles will become extinct within 5 years. But those who modernise the way they sell can protect their careers and prosper

Here is a personal example of where sales people add little value for the buyer. I just purchased a new sports car yesterday from a dealer that I never visited or spoke with... we engaged on the web and then negotiated via email. I did all my research online and from speaking with several car industry insiders I found in my network. With their insights I identified the two best times of the year to purchase and understood dealer margins and manufacturer rebate models. I honored the 'law on disinterest' and was willing to be patient.  

I avoided the dealer's sales process for up-selling by never walking into their showroom. When I finally talked with a sales person it was simply to give him my credit card details for the $1,000 deposit. I achieved a 14% discount on the normal drive away 'deal' which was 5% better than a 'private fleet' wholesale service that also provided me with their best price. 

The above example highlights how sales people (just like accountants, lawyers, engineers and other professions) are being disrupted by technology and uber-empowered buyers who start their journey with trusted relationships in their network and then research and compare value online.

Those sellers and businesses who modernize the way they operate, blending insightful human engagement with technology, will be the ones who prosper in the machine age. Here are the three things for companies and individuals to focus on to remain relevant and succeed.

1. Sellers must be micro marketers with strong personal brands to leverage social platforms and create their own pipelines

People buy from those they like and trust but buyers are redefining the value of relationships. This is because they are time poor and don’t see value in sales relationships that merely provide information. Sellers today instead demand insight and value when investing their time. The best sales people therefore provide insight and innovation to serve as a partner who can help deliver transformation and manage the buyer’s risk.

For this reason, sales people must modify their LinkedIn profiles to become personal brand microsites where they publish insights to differentiate themselves from the competition. The modern approach to selling is to ‘attract and engage’ rather than ‘interrupt and push’. The best are engineers of value rather than warriors of persuasion. They use online platforms such as LinkedIn to evidence the business value they deliver and the personal values by which they operate. According to IDC, 70% of buyers research a seller online and this can be where the process of establishing trust and setting the right agenda occurs, well before the first conversation.

The current catch phrase for this is ‘social selling’, which I define beyond building a strong personal brand to also include: listening for trigger events (people changing roles, etc.), publishing relevant content to evidence credibility and attract clients, researching buyers, connecting and engaging in platforms such as LinkedIn, and then using technology to collaborate conveniently and cost effectively.

Social platforms and strong personal brands also play and important role in delivering outstanding customer experience and that is because, according to Corporate Visions research, buyers prefer to do business with the first to provide value through education and insight.

2. Customer experience is the single biggest factor in achieving competitive differentiation to attract customers who become loyal advocates

The way we sell is just as important as what we sell. Research done with 5,000 buyers by Corporate Executive Board was published in The Challenger Sale in 2012 and it revealed that customer loyalty was 38% derived equally from brand (company and product) and the features and capabilities offered; 9% of positive influence was from price, and a huge 53% of influence was from the ‘sales experience’ the buyer received.

Positive ‘sales experience’ was defined by offering a uniquely valuable perspective on the market, helping to navigate alternatives and avoid potential land mines, and educating on relevant trends and how to best manage risk. The sellers who thrive today understand this and focus on their individual buyer’s journey to provide valuable information and insights early in the buying cycle. They monitor in social media for trigger events and also attract and engage with appropriate content to identify the best time to engage.

Innovation is key in delivering best customer experience as you support multiple channels of social, mobile, websites, phone, field sales and resellers. When potential buyers are positively surprised by excellent service and convenient manner in which they can research, engage and transact; they become customers. Increasingly today however, a great buying experience does not always require a face-to-face sales person. This highlights part of the reason why field sales people must move to value and focus on where they can manage complexity and risk for clients in order to fund their roles.

3. Methodology, process and technology must all be integrated for sales enablement

The holy grail of sales enablement is to use the right methodology to drive repeatable quality processes inside CRM as a transparent coaching platform. Playbook concepts belong inside CRM to intuitively guide sales people in how to ask the right questions and create progression as they align with the buyer.

This is why sales and marketing must finally come together to map buyer’s journey to sales process and tools with a playbook approach to providing guidance and resources for every phase of the sale. This includes qualification, discovery, designing solutions, pricing and proposals, proving capability, negotiating, closing and onboarding clients. Technology can be used to help people easily transact while inside sales cost effectively steps-up where buyers want human interaction. 

Field sales must surrender commodity products and services to focus on high value solutions where there is both complexity and risk for the buyer. The role of field sales is to proactively create opportunities with early engagement that sets the right agenda. 

Every seller must modernise by embracing social to build personal brand and create leverage and reach. Every sales organisation must create exceptional customer experience as their sustainable point of competitive differentiation and also integrate methodology, process and technology to reduce cost while efficiently driving consistent execution of sales process across multiple channels and touch-points.

But it's easy to get it wrong. The 'private fleet' wholesale service I found online, when seeking to buy a new car, had an excellent website with good content and video animations to explain their value. However, their web to lead process was broken. I completed online enquiry forms twice without receiving any contact after receiving the automated email. When I phoned they were defensive about their broken 'web to lead' process. They found my details and then started asking me questions I had already responded to online. The sales person then tried to manoeuvre me into a corner to commit to buying if they ran the 'tender process' with multiple dealers. It was just like talking with a car salesman at a traditional dealer... no thanks.

There are other examples where customer experience is masterfully executed with well designed processes across multiple channels (social listening to Twitter, Facebook and other platform; web to lead nurturing, phone, SMS, e-mail, and face-to-face). What are the best and worst examples you've experienced and where have you seen the holy grail of sales enablement?

Note of thanks to Jonathan Farrington. This post is based upon a magazine article I wrote for Top Sales World Magazine, published in December 2015.

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: Pieter Musterd - Follow De Posthoornblazers

Jaw-Dropping Marketing That You Won't Believe

Have you ever wondered if we will look back at this period in time and shake our heads in disbelief... how did we allow technology to make us dumber and create societal disengagement. If you had a career in sales... how did I allow the product to be the message?

Every bad idea seemed good at the time

 Do we now live in the age of digital narcissism? Are we witnessing the destruction of good manners and etiquette? Is written language being butchered by social media shorthand? Is the facade of 'social following' masking the absence of human connection? Is the avalanche of content across our screens driving digital distraction and destroying our ability to ponder and learn?

This short clip from Mad Men is more documentary that entertainment... and the advertisements below it are from the same era. They will make your jaw drop with laughter or anger... yet they are all 100% real. The appalling thing is that these types of ads are still happening today in many third world countries! 

How anyone can look themselves in the mirror while they sell a product that kills their customers is beyond me. Advertising reflects the values of society and wow we have changed. I never knew that my dad wore his business shirt and tie to bed so my mother knew who deserved breakfast in bed the next morning!

But at least wives had Pep to get them ready for the evening after a day of house work... I think I am digging a hole I may never escape from...

And for the children in the home who were not satisfied with second-hand cigarette smoke, there was always cocaine gum to stop the whining and get them off to sleep...

Or maybe beer flavoured breast milk to help them sleep through the night... not to mention the nutritional benefits of hops and malt. Who would have ever known that beer is an appetizing and stimulating tonic?

And to get them going in the morning, nothing works better than a massive sugar hit... adding caffein is all the better.

No-one in marketing or sales should push anything they don't believe in. Here is a brilliant example of how marketing and sales can make products attractive to consumers. It highlights how the talent of those who know how to influence can be used for good.

Make sure you believe in what your product, service or solution does for your clients. Be a force for good in world and be clear about the positive difference you make for all stakeholders. Then transfer emotion rather than information.

Click here to see why the power of belief is truly amazing

Join the conversation here. How do you make sure your sales and marketing efforts are completely ethical and that they will remain so after the passage of time?

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:


Is LinkedIn The World's #1 Blog Platform?

Top Sales World is the world's leading magazine and online community for those in professional sales. Once a year they publish their list of the top 50 sales and marketing bloggers globally. Last year when I reviewed the list I was struck by the fact that not one awarded author was primarily publishing on LinkedIn – the biggest blogging platform in the world.

"But if the world's #1 Blogging platform is LinkedIn, why has no-one who publishes exclusively on their platform been recognised as a leading blogger?"

That's exactly what I thought and last year I set the goal of being the first author to be be independently recognised as one of the world's best bloggers while publishing exclusively on the LinkedIn platform. Today that goal was achieved when Top Sales World recognised me in the 2016 global Top 50 bloggers in the field of sales and marketing. Click on the image below to see the full list.

I asked Jonathan Farrington at Top Sales World if anyone else in the Top 50 blogged exclusively in LinkedIn and he responded by telling me I was the only one. But why is this the case when LinkedIn boasts well over 400 million members with more that 1 million who actively publish more than 150,000 posts a week. Beyond these staggering numbers, consider these reasons for why authors should embrace the platform:

  • It can reach an audience based on context and relevance with their powerful Pulse Channels and intelligent mobile apps to enhance content readership and interactive engagement. Below are the free subscription channels along with the audience numbers.
  • It has unrivalled reach within the more than 400 million members. The average post is viewed by professionals in 21 industries and 9 countries.
  • It maps the business social graph with deep analytics and reporting
  • It engages a community in discussion while providing incredible detail about those who like, share, comment and engage in collaborative conversation.
  • It is simple to use and elegantly designed for PC, laptop, tablet and mobile devices
  • About 45% of readers are in the upper ranks of their industries and this includes managers, directors, vice presidents and CEOs.

These are the factors that convinced me 24 months ago to stop blogging on my own website and go all-in on LinkedIn. I decided that I needed to go and be where my clients are [LinkedIn] and surrendered the desire to capture contact details for a mailing list or newsletter... I had an epiphany:

"I must stop seeking to 'interrupt and push' with sales and marketing and instead 'attract and engage' through relevant insights and high value content."

This meant that I chose to allow my potential clients to be in complete control. I allowed them to choose whether to contact me based of the value I provided in advance of me ever charging them a fee or attempting to pitch my value or services.  So, what were the results and do 'social selling' strategies actually work? Hell yeah!!!!!

I have attracted 85,000 followers of my LinkedIn blog and incredible connections in just 24 months. I have more clients than I can cope with. I've been recognised as the #1 influencer on professional selling in Asia-Pacific. I have been paid to speak at numerous events as a direct result of my LinkedIn publishing and activity.

I have also been recognised as a Top 50 blogger globally using LinkedIn exclusively and I am in negotiation for new book publishing contracts. When I took a white paper I wrote and re-purposed it to be LinkedIn blog post,it received in excess of 235,000 reads. Click on the image below to see the power of moving away from a website where this content received less than 100 reads as a white paper and onto LinkedIn where the audience and customers are.

I've adopted an altruistic approach where I freely provide my insights and intellectual property and avoided any form of 'click-bait'. I am well on my way to one million reads of my content and 100,000 followers in LinkedIn. But publishing content is not just important for authors. Here are four reasons for sales people to write content with their managers and marketing department supporting them with ideation, proof-reading, editing and publishing tools:

  1. Educate yourself and develop domain knowledge and expertise
  2. Connect with industry leaders to build your sphere of influence
  3. Attract clients and an audience to support your business goals
  4. Build your personal brand evidencing credibility, value and insight

In an online world we are known by who we are connected to and what we publish. According to IDC research, 75% of buyers research the seller before engaging. What do they see when they view your profile? We want people to see a credible domain expert worthy of trust and an investment of  time. We must also create a strong personal brand and here is how to begin.

The 'Updates' section of LinkedIn is also very powerful, and scheduling tools such as Buffer make the process easy for sharing other people’s articles, blogs, research, infographics and Tweets. Content can easily be sourced by identifying influencers in the market and individual content capture and scheduling is as simple as clicking a button in the web browser.

Sales people must consciously associate themselves with leaders who are respected by their potential clients and transform their LinkedIn profile to be a personal brand micro site instead of an online CV. Connect with leaders admired by your clients and then share their content as a 'content aggregator' who adds your own insights... working with other people's content is the easiest way to begin your content publishing journey.

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:

Warrior of Persuasion or Engineer of Value?

The world of sales is tough and seems to be getting tougher.  I recently had a conversation with John Smibert, the most influential person in professional selling in Australia, concerning the emerging challenges facing B2B sellers in 2016 and I provide recommendations on how we need to respond in order to succeed.

The global economy will continue to be flat for years to come and the lack of economic confidence, combined with significant changes in the way buyers execute their procurement research and vendor engagement, means that sellers must continually adapt the way they sell. 

Warriors of Persuasion must learn to become Engineers of Value.

The challenges we face in 2016 and beyond include the fact that the customer are becoming more risk adverse - they are applying committee based decision-making to achieve consensus. Average deal sizes are also getting smaller which means sellers must figure out how drive greater efficiency to achieve sales quota. Other factors include the need for sales and marketing to come together to create superb 'buyer experience' mapped against the buyer's journey with fewer sales people and better uses of technology.

Watch or read the full interview below. This will be of value to the CEO, CFO, CSO, CMO, sales leaders and their teams in order to build and execute their sales and revenue strategy.

Interview Transcript

John: Tony, it’s early in the year of 2016 - you've talked a lot about challenges through 2015, and how the B2B sales world is changing and there’s more and more challenges. What do you see as the key challenges we’re going to face in the next 12 months?

Tony: Well, I think economically the economy, the Western world economy is going to be pretty tough for the next few years, maybe as long as five to seven years. I don’t think there’s going to be a big recession or anything, but I just think every purchasing decision inside an organisation is going to get scrutinised.

John: It’s just limping along, the economy, isn’t it?

Tony: It is. When you combine that with some other trends that are just remaining with us, buyers tend to be very risk-averse and sceptical of the claims made by sellers. Increasingly inside organisations they’re also looking for consensus, and the reality is there’s more than five people or five buying groups in big organisations involved in every decision.

John: Well, The Challenger Sale research indicates 5.4 is the average, right, in medium to large corporates.

Tony: Yes, it’s true. And it’s not 5.4 people, it’s 5.4 committees or bunches of people with competing agendas. And increasingly what happens is that the old model of selling, where you track down those individual buyer personas and craft and tailor your message to them, so that when they all sit around that boardroom table at a later date, they go “Yes, we know this supplier, we’re comfortable – let’s go ahead.” That’s not the case today. They may know us, but they can’t reach agreement internally, they can’t achieve consensus internally, they don’t want to cross-fund each other’s initiatives with who’s deriving the greatest benefits.

John: That’s the key message coming out of The Challenger Customer book that I’ve just read.

Tony: Exactly, which actually is a really brilliant book. Consensus based decision-making, distrust of ROI, all of those things are making it incredibly difficult to sell. The thing we need to do is we need to modernise our whole approach and get focused on leading with insight and value. People have known this for ages, but we need to make it a reality for salespeople so that they can help customers focus on outcomes and managing risk as the way of differentiating in how they sell.

John:  And from my understanding, we need to get very good at helping organisations make a decision by working with them in a collaborative way and understanding how those decisions are made inside organisations.

Tony:  Yes, it’s true.

John: Dealing with the right people that are going to make it happen internally.

Tony:  Correct. Well - in Corporate Executive Board Challenger speak - it’s look for the mobiliser, look for the change agent inside the buyer organisation, but help them build a compelling business case that can achieve consensus within the group internally. It’s not so much about being a warrior of persuasion in selling, we need to be engineers of value and do the engineering and partnership with the customer.

John: So, you see that as a key change in the way we approach the B2B business of selling in the next 12 months.

Tony: Yes. And in many, many instances we’re just going to have to get over the fact that average deal sizes are going to be smaller, and that we need to invest in longer-term relationships with our customers, that those revenues will come over the medium and long term; we’re not going to get huge revenue hits upfront with people anymore. That’s part of how the delivery of cloud software is changing things as well.

John: Yes, I understand that, and I think that’s going to apply not just in software but in lots of different industries.

Tony: Yes. And the last thing is we need to get good at creating customer experience that supports buyer journey, so sales and marketing need to finally, finally come together and start to think about that. I think there’ll be fewer field salespeople, but there’ll be lots of different sales roles inside organisations, as we make sure that we map how the buyer is evaluating and going to market and looking.

John: So, the alliance or collaboration or whatever you call it between sales and marketing is going to become more and more critical is what you’re saying, around that buyer journey.

Tony: Very much so, yes.

John:  Okay. Good advice. It’s going to be interesting for a lot of people out there, to work out how they change their strategy and adapt to be able to work in that environment. I look forward to learning more from you as we all go through that process.

Tony: Thanks, John!

John:  Thanks, Tony!

This article appears here within one of the planet's top 50 blogs on sales and marketing and the only top 50 blog within LinkedIn. Thanks John Smibert for the video interview and transcript which can also be found on on the Strategic Selling Group website where he interviews sales thought leaders from around the world. 

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: Hans Splinter - Viking

How To Generate Your Own Free Press Coverage

LinkedIn is the most powerful platform in the world for creating a strong personal brand with a network that transforms your professional life and business results.

If you're a consultant or own your own business, or if you are responsible for media and press coverage then this information will reveal how to gain direct access to those who can give your brand a rocket-ship ride.

LinkedIn has far more value to offer than merely helping with recruiting and selling

This may surprise you but you're reading this article on the number 1 publishing platform in the world. LinkedIn has well over 420,000,000 members (with two new people joining every second) and their publishing platform, Publisher and the Pulse Channels, have unrivalled reach and engagement. LinkedIn is the most important software for anyone in business because it enables them to research, connect and engage potential employees, customers, partners, investors; and also journalists, media personalities, producers, publication editors, conference organizers... everyone who matters in building a business.

Access to the media was once the exclusive domain of Public Relations (PR) agencies who built relationships and knew how to pitch a client's value for press coverage. PR agencies can still play a role today but usually because their clients lack the ability to write good content or don't have expertise in how to create a multi-channel marketing plan. Even for those who can cover these two prerequisites, many then don't understand the power of social platforms such as LinkedIn.

According to a survey by Arketi media group, almost 95% of journalists and editors are on LinkedIn and 62% rate it as their preferred professional networking platform

I recently caught-up with Alex Pirouz, founder of Linkfluencer which is the best online training for becoming masterful at using LinkedIn.  I highly recommend his online courses for mastering LinkedIn for both selling and also PR and building your brand.

According to Alex: "For far too long the traditional methods of getting media coverage have either been too expensive, difficult or just too time consuming. But with LinkedIn you can now start connecting and building relationships with hundreds of journalists and editors from around the world." 

Alex knows what he is talking about and has himself secured significant press coverage and guest journalist spots with The Huffington Post and other publications. Alex recommends that you "write down the top three publications you would like coverage in, identify the journalists with those publications and then connect and build a relationship with them on LinkedIn."

This simple strategy enabled Alex himself to be featured in over 50 media publications and he now writes for Huffington Post, Hubspot and Entrepreneur. According to Alex; "The best thing about this approach it is that we've never sent out a press release or made a cold call."

Anyone in business who neglects LinkedIn is asleep at the wheel. I have many articles about how to use social media here in my LinkedIn blog. This post covers the basics ofbuilding a strong personal brand.

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: Niuton may - PR

Customer Experience is The Future of Selling

I recently did a webinar for Citrix on how Customer Experience (CX) can drive revenue growth and amazing profitability by reducing both the cost of sale and customer churn. We all need our customers to be advocates for us in the market and this webinar provides strategies and examples from some of the world's best corporations including Tesla, Apple and Qantas.

The transcript follows and starts at 4 minutes into the recording and this is the basis of a keynote I will be delivering at the leading Customer Experience Conference in Asia-Pacific (August 8th and 9th). Advance to 4 minutes to skip the introductions.

Transcript [begins 4 minutes into recording]

I might just kick off with an interesting stat, and that is that according to Gartner this year almost 90% of the people in charge of marketing inside businesses have identified that customer experience is something that they’re going to be focusing on to really drive sales. Now, that really begs the question: if almost everybody else is focusing on this, how does focusing on customer experience really differentiate you in your marketplace?

The thing I would say to that is that it’s really the way that we sell rather than what we sell that has a huge impact on our success. Certainly individual salespeople have understood that for a very long time, but what I’m seeing in the marketplace is really a move away from focusing on who we are, what we do and how we do it, also a move away from our product features and functions, really to instead focus on the way that we go and engage clients. In business-to-business selling there’s certainly a very big focus on leading with insights, acting as a trusted partner – I know it’s sort of a cliché term – providing insights for your clients, and in a business-to-consumer world to really be able to provide exceptional customer experience. For all of us that hire millennials in our business, this is really a generation of people that don’t just turn up and hang around for about two weeks and say, “When are you promoting me?” but they’re people that turn up that are very tech-savvy, they expect there to be an app for each kind of process that you’re wanting them to run inside their business, and as we talk about customer experience today I’d really encourage you also to think about the fact that it’s not just about creating a great experience for customers but also for staff and any ~staff~ in your business. 

The other thing with customer experience is that it’s something that we just have to do. Believe it or not, there was a time in businesses not that long ago where people realised that neon lights had been invented and everyone needed a good neon light in front of their business. Then they realised, “Do I or do I not invest in the yellow pages?” and after a while it was just, “Well, of course I do – I have no choice!” People realised that they had to have a website, that they needed the customer relationship management system. More recently people are realising that they’ve got to embrace social media and have a social media plan, and now really the next big thing – it’s already got lots of momentum – is “I need to get good at creating customer experience.”

So let’s begin by really defining what customer experience is. There’s lots of cliché terms out there, but this is really my definition: customer experience is really just the result of the interactions between a customer and the supplier during the lifetime of their relationship. When we think about customer experience, you could maybe use another term which is customer life cycle management. So it’s really how do we engage with a customer throughout their entire life cycle? It’s a big mistake in business to just think about how we work with clients at the moment that they become a contracted customer or a paying customer, and then how we make sure they’re happy and do additional business with us; today we need to think about how do we act strategically by engaging as early as possible. 

So the reason that customer experience is important is obviously creating great customer experience is a way to differentiate ourselves and drive new revenue, but it’s also how we can retain and grow clients. If we think about it strategically, there’s really two key elements to that in my mind: one is the hallmark of operating strategically in this area is we engage early, and the other hallmark is that we’ve managed to take our customers to make them advocates for us in the marketplace, so that’s really a piece of evidence. In that previous slide I was really showing you the customer buyer journey, this is a simplified version, but let’s just talk about the customer journey for a moment, because this is the first thing we need to do when we think about customer experience.

Every single new client that we acquire became a new client because something happened in their world that caused them to realise that they needed what we offered, or that they were unhappy with our competitor and that they decided to switch, and usually their journey starts online. There’s well over 3,000 million Google searches every single day, and the first thing I’d really encourage you to think about is what happens in your customer’s world. What do they go and look for before they ever know to actually look for you? What comparisons do they actually make online? ~I’ll~ tell you a short story.That’s actually a picture of a car I’ve just purchased – I pick it up in a couple of weeks, I ordered it a few months ago – but my journey in looking for cars started online as well. I found a website here in Australia that helps consumers buy cars in essence at wholesale and not have to go into a dealership, so I’ve decided that I wanted to see if I could get a great experience in buying a motor vehicle without going to a dealer – I didn’t want to be put through a car dealer sales process and moved into the sales manager’s office and pressured to buy – but when I found this website they had a great strategy but they executed incredibly poorly. Their website wasn’t clear, they required a lot of information online, they were then meant to contact me and they didn’t, I filled in the form a second time, I still didn’t get contacted. I phoned them, I got voicemail, I phoned them again and got on to a person, and when I explained my tortured story he got very defensive with me, and I said, “Look, the reason I’m saying all this is I don’t want to repeat everything I’ve already put online twice,” he assured me that I wouldn’t have to and then proceeded to ask me all the questions again. 

So, a lot of companies will have customer experience strategies or online strategies or disruptive strategies in how they want to grow market, but it’s really all about great execution. So one of the things I’m going to be focusing on today is not just technology; technology should be an enabler of our strategy, it should be an enabler of a big chunk of the customer experience that we want to go and create, but it’s certainly not the whole thing on its own. Let me tell you why customer experience is so important based on the evidenced research. Corporate Executive Board surveyed 5,000 purchasing organisations, and they actually asked them, “What causes you to select one supplier over the others when you make a comparative decision?” The interesting thing here is that 9% of that decision was price, almost 20% equally was brand and then the features and functions or capability of the product or service being offered, but more than half of their decision is based on the experience that the buyer receives when they engaged with the seller. There’s another stat there you can see on the screen from Corporate Visions. Their research found that almost three-quarters of buyers will choose the supplier that was the first one to provide them with some value or insight. So this mantra of mine that the way we sell is more important than what we sell is truly evidenced here in the slide.

So let me jump into a few things. I want to talk about design generally. My father that you can see pictured on this screen actually passed away 18 months ago. He was a legendary engineer and designer, has quite a number of patents to his name, and he took me into business about 35 years ago believe it or not, quite a while ago. As an engineer he would often say to me when he was seeking to solve a complex problem, he would ask himself, “How would the Germans do it?” because he regarded the Germans as the best engineers in the world – That piece of construction equipment you can see, he designed and built everything you can see in that machine – but he would often ask, “How would the Germans do it?” What I want to do today is really ask ourselves, “How would the leaders in creating customer experience really approach this problem?” So, in line with the fact that it’s not really about technology… It’s really about fundamentally more human factors.

If you haven’t seen this video previously, I’d really encourage you after the webinar is over to jump on to YouTube and just search “Simon Sinek: Lead with Why.” It’s a short video, it’s not great audio quality but it was a video that went viral, it’s had many millions of views. Simon Sinek makes a really important point for anybody wanting to create great customer experience, and that is we need to be passionate about the difference that we’re seeking to make in the lives of our customers, and not just our customers but our employees and all of the stakeholders that actually work with us. If we can be passionate about the difference that we’re seeking to make, then we know what we want to build customer experience around, and I just want to give you an example of this.

I don’t know who was on this webinar that was online, watching the launch of the Tesla Model 3 but they launched this vehicle online, and in just 72 hours on launch they took deposits for over $12,000 million worth of car sales. It was the biggest ever car launch in the history of the world, and the thing that amazed me is they took about 320,000 orders, where people paid 1,000 US dollars online. So they basically bought the car – and you can see it here, on the left there – basically on an online shopping cart, without tight specifications, without firm delivery dates. So all Elon Musk really committed to was that the vehicle would be in shipping by the end of 2017, it would be $35,000, these were the core features they’d be offering, and they had well over 300,000 people buy online. Now, they weren’t people walking into showrooms to buy the car, they weren’t talking to salespeople; they did it online, which I think is incredible, and the reason they did is they bought into Elon Musk’s strategy and vision for really wanting to change the world. And he wants to change the world around sustainability, and he’s very clever with technology in creating something that is just really, really cool for people to own. So, really think about what’s your why, what are you passionate about and how are you seeking to change the lives of customers and employees, and that’s what you’re going to start to build customer experience around.

I’ll just get into some other basic design things. It’s so easy for marketers to fall in love with their product; we’re all like narcissists staring into the pool of water, sending ourselves crazy with how beautiful we think the thing is that we’re selling. If you look at Heinz, they’re the oldest manufacturer of ketchup or tomato sauce, they’ve got a high-quality product, they put it in a beautiful glass bottle, they have nice packaging, and they’re thinking it’s job done. But the first thing is we need to design not for us the seller but we need to design for our consumer, and the reality is that the customer doesn’t care about the nice-looking glass bottle. They get frustrated by the fact that they can never get the last of the product out of the bottle; if they put it in the fridge, they certainly can’t get it out at all, they’ve got to bang the bottom of it. What they wanted was a plastic, flexible container, leave it upside down all the time so that they can always get it out.

That’s an example of taking an “inside out” approach to designing for the customer in mind and it’s really transformational. Even simple things like doors, just putting [~5, 15:24] basic and it shows that you’re really thinking about the client – that’s kind of a funny sign on the right-hand side of that screen; someone had put a sign on the door but clearly doesn’t care what people think, that’s just a piece of humour – but really small things make a huge difference. I don’t know about you, but when I go to a restaurant or a café, whether I have a great customer experience or not has got more to do with the little things than other things that maybe that café or restaurant think is important. If I’m sat down at a table that rocks every time I try and cut a lean on the table, that drives me crazy; if there’s salt on the table but it’s clogged up and doesn’t work, if the pepper grinder is broken… These are really basic, small things that don’t require technology, they don’t require hardly any money; they just need us to be thinking about and obsessing about what’s the experience that the client is getting when they come into my premises or engage with my business. So we need to think about what clients really want; we need to stop trying to project what we think is value but understand how they define it.

Now, this is a typical kind of advertisement, something you’d seen on a website for a drill manufacturer. Maybe many of you on this webinar have heard this example before, but I had this told to me in sales training many years ago that people don’t really want a drill, what they want is a hole in the wall and they need to have a drill to buy the hole in the wall. But my view is that that’s not actually really true. Most people don’t want the hole in the wall either, what they really want is they want their pictures hanging on the wall and they want the feeling they get from standing back, looking at those memories or those beautiful pieces of art that’s actually hanging on the wall. So as a drill manufacturer, imagine if rather than this kind of specification sheet or advertisement, instead of that imagine if you were able to put up a website where you explained to people how they could hang multiple pictures perfectly straight on a wall, or how they can drill into really difficult surfaces. If you provided the insights and the information on how to use a drill well if you weren’t an expert, ~people would get~ educated and they would associate that with your drill, and what you would do is you would become the emotional favourite.

Imagine if you were targeting tradespeople, and the real issue for them is know how to use a drill, they’re already expert at that, but for them the thing that they care about is batteries running out of power halfway through the day or during a job, so imagine if you had a website that talked about how can you do a great job in managing battery life and getting the best out of your equipment. When you start to answer that question “What do my buyers or my clients look for online before they even know to come and look for me?” as they go through that Google search they’ll start to find your content, they’ll start to be educated, and you’ll become the emotional favourite – again, with that research that three-quarters of people have a bias toward the person that’s helped educate them – and I’ve certainly found that that’s the case in all of the purchases that I’ve made in my life.

Let me now talk about some examples of companies that I think do an incredible job of creating customer experience. I know that Uber has been done to death, everybody talks about Uber, but the reason I put this up as an example is that I chose to go and become an Uber driver about a year ago. The reason I did it isn’t because I wanted to go and make additional money on the side, I just wanted to understand how do they approach both ends of the customer experience equation, how do they recruit drivers, what sort of experience do they give them – it was pretty easy to see the experience that they give clients – and I was incredibly impressed. What they do is they had this beautiful balance of dealing with people and technology, as well as understanding the processes and working out how they can automate everything incredibly easy. 

There were a few things that you needed to do in becoming an Uber driver where they needed to see you face to face. They needed to look at some documents to validate that they were originals, and you as the person wanting to become a driver had to sign a form that enabled them to do a police check, but almost everything else could be done online and they made that incredibly easy, not just in front of a traditional computer but also online. The thing that Uber recognises is not that they’re a disruptive taxi company, what Uber really is is a customer experience company; they create exceptional customer experience, with elegant design, and they obsess about simplification of every single process to make it easier for people. In one of the markets that Uber was operating in, the local regulators deemed that they were an illegal taxi service and closed them down; I know that’s quite controversial, it has been here in the Australian market. So the UberBLACK drivers are proper, registered limousine drivers, they’re all okay, but UberX drivers often do not have the correct levels of insurance and there’s risk to passengers for that reason alone, there were issues around collecting goods and services tax. They haven’t been closed down in Australia, but in one market they were, and they quickly pivoted to become UberEATS; they thought, “Well, we’ve got people with vehicles, so let’s get them delivering high-quality restaurant food,” so they were able to pivot flexibly. Again, if your specialty is in creating incredible customer experience, you can then pivot easily in business, which is really important today. The other thing that they did is they’d then gone to a third line of business which is in essence being a metropolitan courier and they’ve taken that same approach to customer experience into those markets as well. So this is just an example that if you focus on creating great customer experience and knowing those markets incredibly well, and creating hybrid models of both physical, real-world service and online engagements with technology, you can create a great business.

Apple is often held up as an example. Three years ago I converted my entire life, for me and my family, over to Apple and it was a really enlightening experience. I’ve had sort of a love-hate relationship with technology my whole life, I’ve worked for technology companies for most of it, but we all know how frustrating technology is when it doesn’t work. The thing that’s blown me away about Apple is not just the elegant design of their products but the elegant way in which they go and engage with clients. On the very few times that I’ve had a technical issue with Apple, getting on their website was incredibly easy, to make an appointment to go to a Genius Bar at an Apple Store near me. And on occasion I’ve decided to click a button to ask someone from Apple to call me, and within 60 to 90 seconds… I know this sounds incredible, but within 60 to 90 seconds someone’s on the phone and they’re helping me resolve my issue. So they understand that it’s not just about pushing people online to reduce their costs, it’s about engaging with people the way that they want to be engaged with and delivering a really, really good customer experience. What I believe we can learn from Apple is this concept of elegance, of simplification, of being as minimalist as possible in our design.

The other thing that I’d just encourage us to think about too is take these big industries that historically have delivered poor service. My first ever job when I’d left school many years ago was working in the bank, and I remember that model where all of us working in the bank were behind counters with bars to stop people jumping the counter and stealing the cash. So there was a massive barrier between staff and clients and customers were forced to line up endlessly, and the opening hours weren’t particularly friendly. Now, the banking system has gone through a massive transformation, and not just in providing online banking but changing the experience they deliver for clients when they go in. One of the things they’ve done is this concept of a concierge. To my great surprise, in the last year when I’ve had to go and engage in my state, in New South Wales, to renew my driver’s license, the experience in a government service office was very much like what banks used to be, but I was shocked when I walked in and got greeted by a beautiful, smiling face of a person asking me what is it that I wanted to do. She said that I would need to see someone behind a counter, she got the ticket for me and told me what my number was; she said was there anything else I needed to do, and there was, and she said, “Well, you can actually do that online. Why don’t you come with me and I’ll help you do it online.”

You can see in this screenshot here that they’ve got kiosks where you can go and do self-service but with someone standing beside you to help you. So it’s not just that they seek to push people off to the Web, they show them how to do it and actually make it incredibly easy for them, so these are really good. I know it sounds crazy to transform like government, but I’m seeing government departments increasingly think about how do we do citizen engagement better, how do we treat citizens as clients, how do we deliver great customer experience? If the public service is able to do it, then certainly any of us in business should absolutely be able to do it.

The next thing I’d encourage us to think about – and as I get through these examples, I’m going to give you some actionable takeaways at the end here, things I think we need to do to actually execute on this – I think we need to think like airlines. Airlines have gone through massive, massive transformation, and it’s really been driven by their horrible business model. I’d never want to own an airline; it requires huge amounts of working capital that’s tied up, you incur massive fixed overheads, huge costs before you get one paying passenger on a flight, so they’ve been forced to think, “How do we cut costs and be more flexible?”

The thing that’s always impressed me about Richard Branson and Virgin is in the airline business he very cleverly redefined quality of service as being the quality of the attitude of the people that are serving. So Virgin basically dialled things back, as far as the amount of leg room that you’ve got, the quality of good or drink on a flight, so they were a budget airline, but where they invested was making sure the staff had wonderful attitudes and gave people a great, fun experience on the flight. So the culture of the people is a massive piece of creating great customer experience. And yes, they’ve also done a really good job with technology. I think all of us that have flown in the last few years have seen this massive transformation that’s occurred, from the moment you book your ticket online to when you board the flight, so that when we turn up now to those big [~2, 26:16] at the airports, it’s basically self-service. When they first rolled out those self-service kiosks for checking your own bags in, for weighing them, for printing your own boarding pass and bag tickets, I was very sceptical, thinking, “I’d rather just deal with the person. I’m paying them all this money. Why are they now asking me to do their job?” but I quickly realised this was a much better customer experience. And now the ability to actually check into the flight, to get my boarding pass, just download it into my mobile phone, to get the seat that I want, to be able to turn up to the airport and walk on really easily without even printing the boarding pass is a great example of using technology well. So the airlines have driven costs down but improved the level of the service that they’re delivering through technology.

But I just want to hark back to an example around the fact that it’s really the people that deliver great customer experience, not technology alone. I don’t know whether many of you are familiar with the story, but a number of years ago an Airbus A380 out of Singapore, Qantas QF32, was on climb-out and one of the engines on the aircraft exploded. It shot shrapnel at a greater speed than the speed of sound, it went through the fuselage of the aircraft and the wing, it partially severed the main fibre-optic trunk lines through the aircraft – it’s all fly-by-wire that control it – the plane was incredibly degraded. The command pilot, Captain Richard de Crespigny, and his flight crew did an incredible job of getting that plane back on the ground safely, they just did an absolutely phenomenal job.

But here’s the really interesting thing: when Captain de Crespigny got that plane back on the ground safely, he actually went into the airport terminal and he said to the passengers, “When you fly Qantas, you’re flying with a premium airline, and you have every right to expect a superior level of service than flying with a budget airline, and you’re going to get that today. There’s 1,000 Qantas staff that have mobilised, finding you hotel rooms. We’re organising buses to get you to those hotels, we’ll provide you with money so you can buy toiletries and clothing. We’ll be getting you back to Sydney as soon as we can.” But then he did something amazing. After saving the aircraft, he then said to the passengers, “Can you please get out your phone, or if you’ve got a pen and a piece of paper… I’m going to give you my mobile phone, and I want any of you to phone me if you don’t feel you’re getting the right level of service from Qantas that you’re entitled to,” and interestingly he did not receive one phone call from an unhappy passenger. 

This is an example of there being a great culture inside Qantas of not just safety but a great culture of customer service. On every flight that he commands he makes a point of walking the entire aircraft, and the reason he does it – obviously when the co-pilot is in control and they’re just in cruise – to make sure that all of the flight crew on board know that the captain’s going to be walking around the aeroplane, and it causes the flight crew, the staff on the flight to really lift their game and make sure they do a great job.

So let me just morph this into the importance of technology, and we’re going to talk about social and mobile computing as key aspects in delivering a great customer experience. When that engine exploded, that Rolls Royce engine exploded on QF32, parts of the engine rained down on parts of Indonesia, and if you can see in the left-hand side of that screenshot, that’s actually a share trading screenshot. You can see that at 2 PM when it happened Qantas’ share price plummeted dramatically, and Alan Joyce the CEO was with one of his other executives in a car going to a meeting, and the question was asked, “Why is our share price falling through the floor?” So before the CEO and key managers even knew about this incident, people had taken to social media, predominantly Twitter in Indonesia, and the word was out there about what had happened. This is an example of how unhappy customers can spread the word very, very quickly, and we need to be monitoring social as part of our strategy.

When you think about how mobile and social platforms, the first thing that I normally hear from people is there’s so many different social platforms and social tools, so I’m really not sure where I would even start. I’m going to talk about what the big, important social platforms are in a moment, but let me just talk about mobile. I don’t know whether you’re aware of this, but last year was the first time in history that the number of computer users on mobile actually crossed over and became greater than the number of traditional laptop or PC computer users. There’s more computing done, there’s more interaction on mobile now than there is in traditional computing, and we all know that there’s lots of apps that are being created to deliver really good customer experience. A good friend of mine Randall Cameron works in the mobility space, this is a slide that he provided to me: this is an example of a government and corporation that’s creating apps to make it very easy for employees and contractors to go and execute their role, and they can even do it on their own devices.

One of the things that millennials and Gen Ys expect today is to be able to come into the workplace and use platforms and technologies that they’re familiar with, and even use their own devices if they can. Now, these applications, there’s a bunch of icons there on that screen, that shows you the kind of technology that’s being used to deliver a great experience for those forestry workers. So they’re not having to use big tablet computers and a truck, they can simply use their own handheld devices and go and execute their roles incredibly easily. The other thing that’s going on with mobile is the concept of geo-fencing and beacons. Even for someone like a coffee shop, they really now have the ability – if they wanted to today, and not at high cost – to be able to make it possible for a regular client as they walk into their shop or get near their shop that it automatically gets displayed in the system to make them their favourite coffee or their favourite breakfast, so they don’t even have to stand in line and ask to be served. These were works of fiction five or ten years ago, but now it’s very easy to do without a whole lot of cost. So wireless beacons inside premises and things like geo-fencing enable us to be aware of the proximity of clients as they come in and out of premises or a building or a work site, and be able to deliver an experience for them really, really easily.

Let me talk about old world customer experience and then what I think new world customer experience needs to look like, and I’ll talk a little bit about those platforms we can use as some takeaway. I showed you this buyer’s journey previously, where they go through a trigger event and consider change, do some research and it will generate a bias towards someone in particular; they’ll then go through a formal selection and negotiation process, they’ll take ownership and implement what it is they’re doing, and then obviously we want them to stay as a client and renew or upgrade with us later. On the leftthere you can see the traditional approach of push marketing, basically interrupt and push a message to people. We’ve all have a website typically at the heart of our strategy, and then once someone is a client we’d like them to give us referrals, we focus on delivering good customer service through some form of account management, that’s the way we’ve traditionally tried to deliver customer experience. But the really important thing here is that if we want to be strategic, we want to think about trigger events and what causes them to consider change and where are they online, learning, where do they go to be educated. That’s how we can go away from that model and instead attract people, inform them, provide insights, align with them what’s important with them. We can them collaborate with them in how they evaluate and select and even implement, and what we end up with is a customer that’s a strong advocate. 

These are some of the leading tools. Obviously people are searching Google; hopefully they’ll find your website, but increasingly today they’ll find a Facebook page. With a lot of the things I research, I have a bias away from the vendor’s website because I know that’s going to give me their positive view of the world, I want to find the truth, so we tend to find that on other places, places like YouTube and Facebook; if I’m looking at engaging with an individual, I’d research them on LinkedIn. The other thing we can do is we can use things like GoToWebinar that we’re using today to start to engage with people and provide insights. You can use Citrix GoToMeeting to engage with people face to face to share information, to run projects, to collaborate without having to jump on aeroplanes and trying to get very, very busy people together at the same time in the same room. So there’s ways for us to deliver experience using the technology really well, and obviously the Net Promoter Score index is a really good way to measure how we’re tracking in that regard.

I just want to give you a quick example of the power of using social media well. I told you that story of QF32, it’s a great example of delivering great customer experience and having a customer-centric culture, with Qantas as the example. I wrote a white paper and published it, and in about a 15-month period I had less than 100 downloads. Now, I thought to myself… It was a good piece of content, and I thought, “You know what? My market for me – because I’m in the business-to-business arenas, as in LinkedIn – I decided to repost that content in LinkedIn as an article, and that’s had towards quarter of a million reads versus less than 100, with 2,500 likes and I think over 400 comments that people have made and lots of shares. So what’s happened is by going to where my market is and providing good content there, what I created was a whole level of engagement, which is what we’re wanting to do in creating customer experience. So if you’re thinking, “How important is social really? We’ve got a website,” I think that’s an example of why it matters.

So let me just talk about these big platforms. If we’re in business-to-business, if you’ve got a small business and you’re wanting to contact journalists or the producers of radio shows and get interviewed and build your brand, we don’t need to go to a PR agency these days, all of those people are in LinkedIn and you can run a strategy to get to them and find them. There’s 420 million-odd members, two people join a second, it’s a great place to start to build personal brand. And at the beginning of today I talked about this thing of being very intentional about our why, why do we do what we do, why does a conversation with a potential client matter, and that’s where we can make sure that that message shines through loud and clear in LinkedIn. It’s Facebook for business, it’s where people will go and check us out before they meet.

If we’re in the business-to-consumer world, obviously Facebook is incredibly important; they’ve embedded autoplay for video content now which is skyrocketing engagement as well. The average Australian spends seven hours a week inside this platform, so it’s a great place to do social listening, to create social advocacy, user groups, people do a lot of research in Facebook so we need to make sure we’ve got a good, strong presence there; and YouTube is really powerful if we’re wanting to drive cost out, of engaging and supporting clients and improve the experience that they’ve got. For almost anything that we’re selling to people there’ll be an instruction manual or they’ll need support or they’ll have questions; it’s a very good investment to create videos that you can put up online. They don’t need to have high production value, so long as everything’s in focus and the audio and lighting is good; the more human and real they are, the owner of the business doing them is great. This is an incredible way that you can broadcast yourself over the entire planet, access to billions of people, and you don’t have to pay anything for it. It’s amazing how powerful these platforms are and they’re free.

And then Twitter to me is a great social listening tool. One of the things I haven’t focused on heavily today but it’s very important is part of creating great customer experience is listening. We should listen for the hashtag of our business or of our products, and whenever anybody is unhappy or has a question we should jump in and engage with them, we should enable clients to log a support ticket or a case with us in Twitter or in any of these social platforms as well. It’s a case of going and understanding, “How do my clients engage out there in social and on mobile devices themselves and how can I make the whole engagement process with them as easy as possible?” Then the other thing is when you’re wanting to support people – again, not just YouTube videos but recording webinars – being able to collaborate with people effectively is really important. There’s research there on the bottom of this slide that just shows that if you respond in one hour, you’ve got 60 times greater probability of engagement than if you wait 24 hours, and if you can respond within five minutes with somebody it’s 100 times. The ability today to go and create engagement with people and see them face to face with a webcam by using things like GoToMeeting is incredibly powerful. 

Let me just give you what I think the key takeaways are for today and then we’ll throw it open to questions. The first thing is as we think about the buyer’s journey and then mapping customer experience ~to~ buyer’s journey, the first thing is we want to be very clear about leading with why. We want to create evangelists and advocates for us who share our vision and mission. This is very much what Elon Musk has managed to do with Tesla; it’s very, very much what Steve Jobs has always been about, he was very passionate about design and elegance in what he was doing. Both of these people created almost religious zeal within their customer base, people that would try and convert others. There’s a couple of key questions here: the first is what is it that you believe about how you change the lives of your customers? Not an easy question to answer for people, but we don’t have any chance of creating the right customer experience unless we do that. And then the second piece is how can we differentiate by the experience that we provide? So rather than trying to differentiate in the product itself, how can we differentiate in the way that we go and support our market? Really important questions.

The next key takeaway… Here’s, again, part of the definition of being strategic is to engage early, so the next thing is how do we attract with great content. So what we’re wanting to do is to attract and engage, we want to understand where do they research, and then we want to be able to put that content up in multiple channels, not just on our website but out on those forums and groups where they go and to their research. So this question of what do my clients look for before they ever know to come and look for me, where do they learn online and what kind of content can educate and provide valuable insights, that’s what really starts to create good, qualified leads and clients engaging with us that have a bias toward us because we were the ones that started to educate them and help them, not just around our product but around all available options that they’ve got available to them. 

And the third thing is, the third key takeaway is we need to elegantly engage with people. And it’s the really small things, I think you’d agree, the really small things that really make a difference. I didn’t put it up in the slide, but I think a great example of this is the hotel industry. They’re in a ferociously competitive industry, massive fixed overheads as well – every time a room goes empty, if they don’t get to sell it again later that building window is gone forever – but the thing I’ve seen now is often when I go and stay at hotels overseas or interstate is it’s very easy for them to go online and have a look at my picture, I’ve got a strong presence in social, I’ll turn up and they’ll recognise me, and it’s happened at hotels I’ve never stayed at before. So clearly what’s happened is they’ve got a list of people that are coming in and they’ve just gone and had a look on social and seeing what they can find out about them. On one occasion I’ve checked into a hotel here in Australia, and they knew that I was speaking at a conference in Melbourne and they said, “Welcome to the hotel, Mr Hughes – I hope you have a good time speaking at the conference!” which really blew me away. It was a very simple thing for them to do, it didn’t cost them any money, it surprised me and delighted me –because people love the sound of their own voice I guess and like themselves being made to feel important – but it didn’t cost them money, it’s just inside the culture of the organisation.

So, how can we elegantly engage and really delight people? How do they want to engage and how can we simplify? I think a lot of us have processes that we haven’t revisited for a long time that we force our clients and staff through, and if we just kept saying, “Do we really need to do it that way? Is there a simpler, better way? Is there a simple app that we could create for that?” we’d go a long way to really transforming customer experience. So with that, I’d really like to throw it open to Q&A and I’m more than happy to take your questions, so I’ll just pass it back to Teneille.

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Main Image Photo by Flickr: Get Everwise - Elon Musk