50 Shades of Social Selling

Social selling is the latest craze and the world is having a global love affair with it. OK, so maybe for many it's a love hate relationship but it all depends how you look at it: War of the Roses or Princess Bride!

I knew this post would get a million clicks just like a million buyers of the latest airport novel so I lured you in with good intentions. I wanted to speak briefly to the global movement that is both a technology progression and strategic evolution called 'social selling.' The term is everywhere you want to be in 2015 and many places... well, you don't!

I think this is a tectonic shift and I believe it's truly here to stay. I actually believe that the term 'social selling' will fall away and selling will simply be known as good ol' sales again.

We're reaching a saturation point with social selling however. We could look at this like 'social selling' has crossed the chasm or we're in the middle of that bell curve. It will be interesting to see how CRM and CXM respond to this by fully integrating these channels into their ecosystems or reaching feature parity.

Who will disrupt the disruptors?

My predictions for social selling fall within the realm of wearables. I have predicted that mobile phones as we know them will go away. Device based smart computing, contact lenses and Heads Up Display, holography of everything will replace the restrictive appendage that is mobile: social will simply be a fabric of how we interact in an increasing virtual society toward Singularity.

There have been some interesting shifts that have happened as a result of social selling that I want to call out:

  • Twitter is almost primarily auto-responders. Any time somebody actually DMs me I'm almost shocked. Many times it's really an auto-DM in disguise.
  • InMails have limited efficacy when everyone is now using them as email. It's buzzing a smartphone in pocket but the EA is now monitoring the CEO's LinkedIn account. Is this progress?
  • We've reached full blown social selling meltdown just like we did with social media: This is the condition where there are more social media experts than those using social media. There are more LinkedIn and Twitter trainers than consumers can even transact with. I'm all for expanding the pie but it's getting way out of control.
  • I've found a massive gap in the marketplace for the combination of traditional enterprise, and strategic selling with B2B methodologies with the social selling tools. There are a group of experts with decades in the field that are thinking differently about power-base driven methods of navigating enterprise accounts with social media like LinkedIn.
  • Two camps have developed: The Social Selling Mafia (I accidentally inducted myself by dint of a spectrum of posts) and the Phone Slingers. Like the Wild West they are the old Sheriff in town combating the new and a bit ruffled that the social sellers are getting such great results. They even believe the results aren't real. Having tested life in both camps I can say that tools of any kind work with a strategic operator at the helm.
  • The referral camp seems to love social for its power in referrals.
  • Then there are the blended multi-channel folks that are looking to integrate all the channels together.
  • Google+ is actually not a graveyard, it's where really smart people share things that would truly blow most business people's mind. Anytime I stumble in there, I find truly next-level content.
  • There seems to be an issue with the quality of user generated content on LinkedIn. I'm learning by posting and asking for feedback. It appears that a greater degree of editing could be helpful to add to machine-based filtration schemes. I'm very curious how LinkedIn will solve this or if it's just growing pains. As Pulse and LinkedIn Publisher grow-up, will there be an algorithmic and human touch approach to improving the quality of the content.
  • It might make sense to build a Pulse Channel or balance a certain amount of posts in the system, let's say 10%, that are brought forward by professional writers from publications like Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, Inc., The New Yorker and The Economist. I think Publisher needs more balance. I know the Writers on here and they contribute but others who do 300 identical articles on Big Data can be a bit vexing to the average reader. What was so cool about Pulse originally was how it was similar to Flipboard in one's ability to monitor super high quality content that was shared.
  • I say this tongue in cheek but there is a certain a subset of the population that should really never be on any social media whatsoever. It's a cry for help! They get sucked in and productivity goes to an all time low. This 'unfortunately frequently' LION crowd is REAL busy posting big cat pictures into LinkedIn's stream right now as we speak.

There's another extreme of hyper-productive folks that somehow are able to do it all. It would be cool to build in time management tools within LinkedIn - like a timer to regulate use - or some form of batch processing.

  • From empirical observation and feedback from my readers, there's been great success in reverse looking up B2B emails and sending micro-targeted campaigns. Maybe even more so than InMail?
  • I'm curious about Sponsored LinkedIn InMails. Are any of you finding them valuable? Are you running targeted LinkedIn advertising? How has your ROI been there? What about paid options in Twitter and Facebook? How are those working out for you?
  • Let's talk about Facebook? Can it really sustain with the level of ads? Are you having a relevant experience in there? What about your Facebook Fan Page: have you seen a drop in reach with the latest changes of the sorting algorithm?
  • There's been a cadre of folks that feel 'social media' ROI is purely faith based but it also seems that it's always been tricky to properly tie attribution toward it. I look forward to futuristic technology platforms that can track this.
  • Since the latest UI refresh, I've been noticing more sponsored ads in the mainstream and actually let LinkedIn know because a few were completely taking up all the available space above the fold. Amazingly, they seemed to have adjusted this within weeks. There must have been a chorus of feedback on this issue.
  • There's been an argument that sales reps should not be permitted to publish content every day. That's the camp that's in it for curation.
  • There is fear and consternation about giving up brand control and conformity to social media policy and corporate governance. I've advocated a VP of Sales given Managing Editor status. I've also posited that with the shrinkage of traditional media models there will be a hyper-talented pool of journalists available to hold down this function in the enterprise.
  • LinkedIn might revamp the Group functionality with allowing a Live Chat experience. This could be similar to a TweetUp or Twitter Chat. This is a very intriguing idea because the level of engagement would be off the charts. It could be like a big Google Hang Out hosted by Questlove.

I'm extremely interested in your experiences with basic social selling and advanced strategic social selling memes. I seemed to have stirred the pot by insinuating that LinkedIn could be the next Google but then many wrote in that they do indeed perform hundreds (if not thousands of searches) within LinkedIn each week.

Is there snake oil around? Is it all what it's cracked up to be? If you hate the social selling movement, what's the fundamental problem with it in your opinion and how could it be improved?

Where do you think the paradigms of social, mobility and selling are going toward 2020? Predictions perform outrageously well out here in LinkedInville. If I find any very prescient ones in the comments below, I will re-integrate them back into the post above.

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: r: Turinboy


The Test For Assessing Sales Aptitude

I’m giving you my sales aptitude test linked here absolutely free but I encourage you to first read this advice. I’ve been in professional selling for more than 3 decades and during that time I’ve been a sales rep, sales manager, sales director of public companies, and Managing Director of my own businesses and also for the Asia-Pacific region of global operations. I've written a best selling book on sales leadership and I teach sales master classes for the MBA program at the University of Technology Sydney.

You’d think I would be masterful at hiring the right sales people. But I have a confession to make – it’s incredibly difficult!

What defines the right sales person and how do you screen-out those who look good but can't deliver? Once you’ve got a short-list, how do you get past the masterful façade being projected? How do you differentiate the candidates and find those with the right attitude and values? I’ve written about the importance of cultural fit and how to best execute a job interview but for the employer or recruitment consultant, how do you uncover the truth about their capabilities, values, and weaknesses?

Without doubt, the biggest mistake a manager can make is to hire the wrong person. This is because it damages your own personal brand and wastes huge amounts of time and emotional energy in managing the person out. It also has devastating consequences on revenue and lost momentum. Finally, it can also damage corporate relationships in the market-place. Never hire the best of the bunch. Only hire the right person – the one you feel strongly will be successful in the role and fit within your team culture. Here is what I regard as the best process for hiring and also rules that should never be broken if you are committed to managing risk.

Go beyond the job description and qualifications. Forget generic job descriptions! Instead write an ad that talks about what the person is expected to do and how they will need to execute. Ask them to write a one-page letter, attaching their CV, highlighting why they are the ideal candidate to join your team. Don't accept something that merely plays back the advertisement and obviously reject those who do not have prerequisite qualifications and experience. Does their CV provide evidence of consistent high performance? Have they been with past employers for sustained periods of time? Do they possess the necessary qualifications and experience?

Progressive screening to qualify out. Now that you have an initial group of candidates who have the necessary qualifications and responded as requested; it’s all about a progressive qualification process to continually screen down to a short-list.

Can they write? If they could not write a good letter (structure, grammar and spelling) or failed to do basic research and adapt their pitch, then reject them immediately. The covering letter and CV should also have been tailored to show relevancy for the role. You don't want a generic sales person and neither do your prospects and customers. Seriously, this is important because if you hire someone with poor written communication skills, you will forever be editing or rewriting proposals or correspondence – you don't have time. Worse than this, they will submit losing proposals that miss the mark with prospects. In complex B2B selling, written skills are essential.

LinkedIn social proximity. LinkedIn is phenomenally powerful and it is likely that you know someone who knows someone who knows your candidate. Use your network to check the candidate out informally. Do it as an ‘off the record’ conversation, nothing official. Ensure the conversation is nuanced and that you pick-up the subtext of commentary about the individual. None of these conversations should be with a formal referee listed on the CV and certainly not with their current employer.

Psychometric Testing. The next step is to conduct psychometric testing (intelligence and operating style) and personality profiling (if not incorporated into previous). Here is something controversial: I don't hire amiable personalities for business development roles – they have no chance of executing concepts such as Challenger Selling. Anyone who has a personality that avoids conflict or tension will be high maintenance and struggle to execute – you will forever be pushing them. The HR department will not like this, nor will they be in favour of informal ‘social proximity’ conversations but you cannot afford to get the hiring decision wrong, and you must take all necessary steps remove risk from the hiring process.

Written Exercise. Can they write under pressure? Before you run your ad, take the time to create a realistic sales scenario with a two page brief supported by a subset of your marketing collateral. This should be tailored for the sales role (field sales versus inside sales versus pre-sales / solution architects). Only give the candidates 24 hours to respond. For a business development role, ask them to write a two page executive summary that would lead a formal proposal. You’re looking to see whether they can construct a relevant, concise, professional, logical, evidence-based letter that focuses on business value rather than features of your company or functions of your product, service or solution.

The Interview. This is where you are laser-focused to determine cultural fit. They have already demonstrated that they have the skills and qualifications to do the job but now it’s all about their values, work ethic, attitude and personality. Put them under pressure and ask them to provide real examples of how they’ve dealt with difficult situations. Ask them these kinds of questions: 

  • How do you define ‘strategic selling’ – what do you do that makes you ‘strategic’?
  • What was your biggest loss and what did you learn?
  • How do you qualify an opportunity?
  • What was your biggest win and how did you create value and manage risk?
  • What’s your approach for building pipeline and how do they leverage LinkedIn and other social platforms and tools for monitoring and research?
  • What are the professional development books you’ve read in the last 12 months?

Integrity trap. If the candidate comes from a competitor, ask them what they can bring to role beyond their skills and experience. Ask them what IP they possess that can help them accelerate their success. If they say anything other than their insights, domain expertise and relationships; don't hire them. Anyone who offer to bring a contact database, pipeline report, or any other private and confidential information belonging to your competitor will most likely do the same to you when they leave. Integrity is everything – yours and theirs. There are also obvious legal issues you could become embroiled in. Your personal and corporate reputation is everything so reject anyone who shows poor moral judgement.

Reference checking. Never delegate reference checking and never make it an afterthought. Always select the people you want to talk with rather than the ‘buddies’ listed as referees on the candidates CV. You know they will say nice things and report back to the candidate afterward. Instead select the most senior contact of a large deal they won, or a senior contact with their biggest channel partner. The hiring manager (the person who the candidate will directly report to) must do the reference checks personally, over a coffee if possible rather than a phone call.

Hiring the wrong person is the biggest mistake you can make. It will cause you enormous pain and damage your own career. When in doubt about a candidate, don’t hire them. Wait, be patient, get it right. If you use a recruitment consultant, make them earn their fee by ensuring they understand your culture and that they define value in fewer CVs rather than more CVs. Don’t let them bombard you with marginal candidates or send you anyone that is not both technically and culturally qualified. The very best recruitment consultants work with a ‘less is more’ ethos and invest the time with you to understand your culture.

I promised you a free Sales Aptitude Test for complex B2B selling and here it is... Click the image below.

I won't use your email address to market to you – no spam. The self-assessment takes approximately 50 minutes but there is no time limit. Upon completion, summary scores are provided for the following seven competencies in professional selling:

  1. Sales Process
  2. Communication
  3. Knowledge, Attitude and Skill
  4. Opening
  5. Closing
  6. Objections
  7. Opportunity Development

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: Quinn Dombrowski - A bizarre job interview


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

Lack Of Emotion Kills Sales. Why Facts Paralyse

Anthony Robbins teaches that selling is about changing someone's emotional state. I agree and add that selling is first and foremost about the transference of belief. Another sales legend, Zig Zigar, passed away in 2012 and he taught me that logic and facts makes people think but emotion is what makes them act.

Professional selling can be compared with being a musician... endless personal rejection requiring a deep well of determination and you have to give your all to be successful... no holding back! At the heart of success is an authentic passion for making a positive difference in how we communicate and make a positive difference in the lives of our customers.

Passionate belief is the foundation on which success is built for entrepreneurs, sales people and those in the performing arts

We've all seen it on American Idol or Australia's Got Talent or The Voice – Keith Urban telling the contestant that they "didn't really sell it" or Simon Cowell on X Factor saying: "I didn't believe you." The greatest songs take us somewhere emotionally because they tell a story of love, tragedy, redemption... they reach in and tear our hearts out or lift us to heaven with happiness.

Johnny Cash is an amazing example of being authentic and he learned his lesson about being authentic during his first and only record company audition. He was performing gospel music but didn't really believe in the lyrics he was singing. It was disingenuous and the record company executive challenged him to sing about what he really believed. The darkness that tempered his belief in God was one the reasons that Johnny Cash dressed in black. This scene starring Joaquin Phoenix portrays exactly what happened. Watch the transformation...

We don't need to be all 'sunshine and light' to cause people to act. Numbers and facts are important for supporting a decision and building a business case but too much information simply causes the person say 'let me think about it'. The music video below has had >65,000,000 views and presents important facts in a way that evokes emotion. Watch this and shed a tear... another performance will lift your spirits at the end of this post.

Emotion has far more impact than 'production values' in any performance. Passion takes you further than mere professionalism. Yes, you've got to be able entertain and sing pitch-perfect... but that's just the ticket to the dance concert. It's ability to tell powerful true stories and transfer emotion that creates Grammy winners and sales legends.

You've got to believe in yourself, especially when others don't. Don't let the song inside you go unsung or as Wayne Dyer profoundly puts it: "Don't die with your music still inside of you." Stop telling and start selling what you passionately believe. Show it and dare to wear your heart on your sleeve!

As you put emotion into your message be sure to lead with why your audience should care. Have purpose in what you do by Leading with insight, building relationships of trust and creating real value

We must stop leading with who we are, what we do and how we do it and instead "lead with why". Simon Sinek masterfully communicates the importance of this, even with bad sound equipment. 

Why should someone meet with you? What do you believe and why should it be important to them?  What's the difference you you can make in their life or business?

Pharrell is another performer who gets the concept of building in a unique differentiator and it won him a Grammy in 2015. His productions with N.E.R.D. cemented his prowess as a producer blending rock, funk and hip hop. He didn't sound like anybody else that came before: the hybrid synergy created an 'original' sound. Differentiating your product and service in sales is paramount. You can differentiate your own selling style by pulling from old school and new school approaches.

Pharrell understands the Ogilvy "one-word" brand equity. Just check out his signature hat by Los Angeles hat designer Nick Fouquet. The hat has become an icon as has his sound. Some sales people I know wear a pocket square or rock a theme color for their company. I'm not suggesting a gimmick but if it's an authentic point of flair it may make sense. In no case am I the arbiter of business fashion but I can equate his hat to something that makes you say: 'wow, how cool'! What part of your solution, product or service stands out from the crowd? How can you work to uniquely differentiate yourself in the marketplace?

The last piece that makes Pharrell a master salesperson and performer is his ability to be a super networker. He is one of the most connected men in the entire music industry. His productions were in such hot demand because he helped pioneer a new technology called Reason by PropellerHead software that made tapestries of sound against canvases and mash-ups all digitally emulating analogue capabilities. He pushed the software to the limit and everyone wanted one of his tracks as a backdrop. You need to become a super networker in your industry, test out cutting edge software for B2B lead generation, trigger event tracking, drip campaigns and marketing automation and push the envelope as a B2B content marketer with LinkedIn Publisher. Think to yourself: What would Pharrell do here? How might he innovate?

Now it's your turn: What's your song inside? What metaphorical music is dying to get out? What other parallels do you see between music and selling?  How do you embrace positive emotion to cause others to act?

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: Dima Doskoch - Souls reflection (Autoportrait)

Nine Conversations For Sales Leaders

I first met Bernadette McClelland online as a result of the LinkedIn experiment I was undergoing by posting a blog a day for 90 days. We had a couple of conversations and she followed up by sending me a copy of Seth Godin’s book ‘What To Do When It’s Your Turn’.  That engagement resulted in us being part of a collaborative effort to elevate the profession of selling here in Australia through the formation of the Sales Masterminds Australasia with John Smibert.

Shortly afterwards I read Bernadette’s published book, ’The Art of Commercial Conversations - When It’s Your Turn To Make A Difference’ and what struck me is that it addresses nine (9) commercial conversations that all salespeople, business owners and sales leaders must have, not just with their customers, but also with themselves.

Her book is based on the innovative and trailblazing ‘Conscious Selling Model’ - a model that has been designed based on us now being in the Connection Economy and we know we are all deserving of a new discussion that helps us better adapt and align. 

Her model highlights three areas of leadership needed today for all salespeople - Personal Leadership and the approach to market salespeople need to take, Thought Leadership and the focus of commercial conversations and Sales Leadership which peels back the layers on what a salesperson’s intention must be to become a cutting edge modern day seller.

What I thought was extremely beneficial for my readers was the following ‘Manifesto for Conscious Sellers’ based on her nine commercial conversations.

  • CONVICTION - The Art of Rebellion - It’s more than loving what we do. It’s having the courage to be seen, to rebel, to take our turn, to change our rules, to step outside our fears and love what we bring to the table.
  • CONNECT - The Art of Mindfulness - It’s more than kumbaya and yogis. It’s the opportunity to centre ourselves in a busy and noisy world so we can stand grounded and confident and be present to our buyer.
  • CONTACT - The Art of Social - It’s more than a playground where we go to play. It’s the auditorium where we have the opportunity to team up, play our hearts out and be seen by those who will pay to see us.
  • CONTENT - The Art of Story - It’s more than features, advantages and benefits. It’s the ability to tell a story that captivates, and spread that story to the world through messages that create value.
  • CONSULT - The Art of Tension - It’s more than asking questions. It’s creating a space to get personal, to be bold, to push the boundaries for all the right reasons and to create change in our clients’ worlds.
  • CONTEXT - The Art of Meaning - It’s not about what you think it’s about. Its essence is in interpretation, variation, listening for understanding and being prepared to get it wrong.
  • CONTRACT - The Art of The Ask - It’s not about closing the deal. It’s about learning to say yes and learning to say no, and understanding the magic that happens in between.
  • CONSPIRE - The Art of Collaboration - It’s not about keeping in touch, customer service or moments of truth. It’s about working together, joint ventures and collaboration.
  • CONTRIBUTE - The Art of The Start - It’s not about the money or the profits or shareholders. It’s about the meaning and the purpose and the stakeholders.

To finish up, Bernadette also adds by asking this question: 

'How Relevant Are You?

Just like anything in nature, if something is not growing and contributing, then it is dying. Business is no different. Business is a living organism and anyone who thinks differently will die the death of a thousand extinct sellers. Just like Willy Loman in ‘Death of a Salesman’, if you aren’t making change happen, developing personally, or being self motivated, people won’t believe in you. It’s not as simple as Willy thought, “about being likeable through fakery, looking good, charming people and cracking jokes.” People know when you are faking it. People buy people. If you’re not for real, they won’t buy you. People want the real deal and the human element.'

Today, it’s all about measuring your relevance in the market through ideas you have for your customer’s growth, in addition to the level of connection you have with your buyers. But more than that, it’s about contribution - to your customers and for your customers, and the five word formula found in the intention of one simple question, ‘How Can I Help You?’

Bernadette McClelland leads the conversation around Conscious Selling. She successfully works with SMB’s and sales teams around the world to help them differentiate themselves when they don’t know how or when they’re not making their numbers and they don’t know why. You can visit her website here  orpurchase a copy of her book here.

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

Main Image Photo by: Bernadette McClelland

Finding The Change Agent Within Your Customer

Business-to-business selling is getting tougher because customer organizations are becoming more dysfunctional. The over supply of information and the rise of consensus based decision-making means that the biggest competitor in most sales opportunities is 'do nothing' / apathy or the status quo.

In a CSO Insights report published in 2012, on average, 80% of qualified opportunities in a company's CRM system are lost. yet surprisingly, one-third of those lost deals do not go to a competitor; the potential customer fails to buy anything at all.

The most important book of 2015 is The Challenger Customer because it provides genuine insights into customer chaos and provides a framework for finding the change agent (or 'Mobilizer' as coined in The Challenger Sale book back in 2012) to work with to sell and implement solutions.

Traditional wisdom has been for sales people to hunt down the influencers, recommenders and decision makers to tailor their value pitch based on role and agenda. But increasingly this just does not work because of organizational politics, competing agendas and misaligned priorities. The illustration below is from the The Challenger Customer book and highlights the problem of decision commitment (to buy anything at all) as you add more and more people to the evaluation, selection and procurement process.

But the problem is even worse than it look because instead of dealing with more that 5 people with the power to say yes or no we are increasingly dealing with 5groups of people! These groups include evaluation committees, project boards, steering committees, and not to mention the standard buyer personas of economic, user, technical, financial and line of business leaders.

The cost of sale in targeting enterprise and government is going up at the same time that savvy buyers are commoditizing the seller's offering to drive prices and margins down. Qualifying an opportunity properly has never been more important and it is a giant mistake to pursue business you cannot win. Here is my framework for winning large complex opportunities.

“The RSVPselling methodology was instrumental in us winning a contract in excess of $100 million and the framework provides clarity amidst the complexity of pursuing large enterprise opportunities.” 
Kevin Griffen, Managing Director, Orange Business Services

You can run this process on the back of a napkin in a coffee shop or on a white board in a meeting room. It was recently integrated into Sugar CRM. It's an efficient and effective framework for strategy and execution as you simply keep asking questions in the four RSVP areas to relentlessly focus on what's important.

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

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

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

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

Excellence in execution underpins the four RSVP elements with pragmatic tools for qualifying, closing and understanding the players in the buyer organization. RSVPselling™ also incorporates concepts such as the Value Quadrant for Professional Sales Agents© and The New ROI©

The most important element in all of this is to find the puppet-master, the orchestrator of change, the pinnacle of the power base. We must have a strong personal relationship with the person who can successfully drive change within the customer organization. Doing this is the foundation of strategic selling. Be very wary of investing in a long sales cycle if you are denied access to power.

How do you find this person, or group of people? You need research and be a master of search using LinkedIn combined with old school detective skills.

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

Main image photo from Flickr: McConnell Center 2015-9-28 Craig DeLancey on Science Fiction and Politics