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Go Weak to Close Strong

Go Weak to Close Strong

When it comes a salesperson engaging a prospect, soliciting a referral, and gathering information as part of their sales efforts, most tend to go to their most trusted and closely held relationships. There is nothing wrong with taking that approach. However, what if I suggested that reaching out to lesser known people within your network or people entirely outside of your network would aid your efforts and, in some cases, be more rewarding?

According to Wikipedia and the often cited research of sociologist, Mark S. Granovetter, in mathematical sociology, interpersonal ties are defined as information-carrying connections between people. Interpersonal ties, generally, come in three varieties: strong, weak or absent. Weak social ties, it is argued, are responsible for the majority of the embeddedness and structure of social networks in society as well as the transmission of information through these networks.

I know that this sounds counterintuitive, but Granovetter’s research illustrated that information traveled better via weak ties because more of the information shared was novel rather than common knowledge to most members of the social networks.

Why the sociology lesson and what does this have to do with sales? Well, as salespeople in an increasingly challenging environment where cold calling has diminishing returns, new tools and techniques are required to remain competitive.

I have already written previously here about social selling and the power of social media and social tools to identify and engage prospective clients. What I am talking about here with the strength of weak ties is the idea that salespeople should be extending their outreach to weaker ties within their extended or beyond their network to gain information, garner referrals, and possibly even win new business.

For many, the idea of contacting people they know loosely, or not at all, feels uncomfortable. My response to that is to try it. The worst that can happen is either they say no or choose not to respond at all. You just need to get used to the idea that you have nothing to lose.

Throughout my career, and especially since the arrival of LinkedIn, I have been the beneficiary of numerous opportunities, sales related and otherwise, because of my willingness to reach out to people I don’t know and ask for their time and assistance. I continue to be surprised by the results.

Coincidentally, I am a contributor to this blog because of relationships I fostered through social networks with people I have yet to meet in person. I have secured board positions, speaking engagements, and more through relationships that you would not define as close.

In one instance several years ago, I reached out to someone I did not know and asked them for a few minutes of their time for a phone call to learn more about them, their firm, and the work that they did. From that initial contact, an extremely fruitful business relationship, and friendship has developed. I owe the work that my firm and I have been doing for the last eight years to that connection. How’s that for the strength of weak ties?

More often than not, I have found people willing to help even if we have not met before. Just be gracious and respectful and you will be surprised by the kindness and assistance you receive but be sure to show your gratitude too.

If you are trying to map an account, profile a prospect more thoroughly, or research an industry sector, why not leverage your extended network to find people or secure introductions to people who can help you achieve your objectives. I know it will feel awkward at first, but if you are clear, to the point, and respectful of their time, you will be amazed at the results.

When one person surprises you with information or an introduction that would have eluded you otherwise, you will be converted. Give it a try. Put your faith in weak ties and before you know it you will be closing strong. Good luck and be sure to let me know how it goes.

CRM is Key Finding in LinkedIn State of Sales Report 2016

CRM is Key Finding in LinkedIn State of Sales Report 2016

LinkedIn recently released its State of Sales in 2016 report—which found that Salespeople rely on a variety of sales technologies, but spend the most time using CRM solutions and social selling tools, and believe both deliver the highest value.

Through our blogs, ebooks and even through our recent product releases, we at Pipeliner have been, for the last few months, pointing out the crucial need for CRM in addressing the frantic pace and level of confusion in today’s business world. Our most recent release, Automata, actually employs the science of cybernetics to assist salespeople and sales managers in navigating the incredible complexity of today’s sales landscape. Our next release, scheduled for July of this year, brings even more simplifying tools and benefits to salespeople everywhere.

It is evident that LinkedIn, through this report, has come to similar conclusions with regard to the need for CRM.


When it came to highlighting the amount of time spent with CRM, the report found that one-third (33 percent) of CRM users spend 3-5 hours per week using CRM tools. Almost one quarter (24 percent) spend more than 10 hours per week using CRM tools.

Sizes of businesses also played a role in CRM usage, at least according to this report. 44 percent of employees at medium-sized companies (100-999 employees) use CRM tools in comparison to only 23 percent of employees of small companies (under 100 employees) and 27 percent at large companies.

The report was based on a survey commissioned by LinkedIn, and conducted on 1,017 sales or business development professionals in the United States in December 2015/January 2016 by Market Cube, a research panel company.

Pipeliner is the best possible CRM solution for navigating today’s sales complexity. It is Instant Intelligence, Visualized! 

Chapter 8 of Managing a Social Selling Team: Patience

Chapter 8 of Managing a Social Selling Team: Patience

In the previous chapter, we covered the measurement of success in managing a social sales team. We discussed the importance of tactics and their desired outcomes being tied directly to your team’s important, strategic business objectives. And we went over the purpose and real value of engagement over social media between seller and buyer: making a clear connection between important business issues or opportunities and relevant solutions.

Now let’s take a look at one of the most vital components of social selling and managing a social sales team —and one of the hardest to teach— Patience.

Active Versus Passive…but Not Really

Social selling is a journey that is made of many incremental steps. Especially when compared to the sometimes hectic and aggressive nature of sales activities like traditional prospecting, many of those steps in the social selling journey might appear passive.

But are they really? It is the effectiveness of these steps and their end goal that must be communicated— sometimes repeatedly— to salespeople. The end goal demonstrates that while appearing so, these steps are anything but passive.

But because they appear passive, the effective social sales manager teaches salespeople to be patient in their approach. And that patience begins with research.


The successful salesperson of today—meaning the social salesperson—must become adept at research. Not doing so, or resisting doing so, will mean that the salesperson gets to watch his or her colleagues and teammates bring in leads and prospects while he or she does not.

Research takes patience, focus, skill, and above all time. This is equally a challenge for managers who are used to measuring a salesperson’s effectiveness first through revenue generated and pipeline and second through activity.

Activity is often defined as being out on calls, dialing for dollars, sending prospecting emails or following up on all the above. In the eyes of traditional sales managers, it does not mean head down, fastidiously going through LinkedIn (or other social media platforms) groups, reading company information, following discussion threads or talking to online network connections. So not only does the salesperson need to become a researcher; the sales manager needs to create the space for them to do so.

Research tells the salesperson who they should be communicating to, where (virtually) they should be conducting that communication, and what specifically they should be communicating about.

Such research should be part and parcel of any salesperson’s workday.


Following that research, patience is really tested—for a salesperson needs to listen. For many salespeople this might seem counter-intuitive, because many have been taught to “Always Be Closing.” That translates, for many, to, “Always Be Talking” or “Always Be Pitching.” Of course, such behavior often excludes much listening.

Let us say a salesperson has conducted some research, and has now got a list of potential prospects to follow. The social salesperson then begins listening to each of these prospects.

Of course by listening, in this case we mean virtual listening. Through social media, what are potential prospects complaining about? What are their pain points? What kinds of products and services are they seeking? Or, perhaps a bit more subtly, what kinds of products and services would solve their complaints or pain points, that they might not have even thought of yet?


It is only after all the steps of the above are accomplished—after plentiful research and listening—does the salesperson start to become outwardly active toward prospects. And when they do, it is simply to help, to recommend possible solutions for their issues. Those recommendations may or may not include the sales rep’s product or service line; the idea is simply to help, and to become a trusted source of help to these prospects.


Once trust has been well established, only then can the real sales work begin.

Building a connection with a prospect by understanding their social footprint, what they appear to be interested in, and looking for ways to deliver value to them without the expectation of initially getting anything in return is a new and somewhat frightening approach for many people schooled in traditional sales. But in today’s networked world, it is the only approach that works long-term.

LinkedIn InMail: A Salesperson’s Secret Weapon for Engaging Prospects

LinkedIn InMail: A Salesperson’s Secret Weapon for Engaging Prospects

Many salespeople complain about having to make cold calls, especially because they are increasingly ineffective. Social selling evangelists, myself included, suggest that social selling can help diminish the need to make cold calls and potentially avoid them altogether. Connections are made with prospects in social channels rather than over the phone.

If you have to reach out cold to a prospect, then there is a way to increase your likelihood of success. We’ve already mentioned that cold calling is getting tougher and tougher, and email can feel a bit like its part of a spray and  pray strategy. However, if you use LinkedIn InMail or Messenger, you have a greater likelihood of getting through to your prospect and here are a few reasons why.

Spam Filters

With the rise of spam filters, getting an email through to a prospect has gotten tougher. If they have never received an email from you before, then there is a risk that you could run afoul of their spam filters and never reach them. Sadly, you might never know that that was the fate of your email. You are left to speculate based on no response.

However, LinkedIn is a recognized and credible domain. Most people, if need be, configure their spam filters to allow messages from LinkedIn. Leveraging this trusted domain increases the chances of your InMails reaching the right people.

Your Profile Is Your Resume

Please understand that I am not suggesting that you are looking for a job when reaching out to a prospect when I refer to your profile as a resume. Hopefully, the following will give you a better sense of what I mean.

If I sent you an email with my resume attached and assuming it made it through your spam filters, you would be asking yourself “Who is this person and why did they send me their resume?” My email would tell you why I am getting in touch, and my resume would give you a bit of back story and work history, but that is it for context.

If I send you a message through LinkedIn, then my name is a hyperlink to my profile which is essentially my resume. It gives you my back story and work history, but it also picks up where my resume left off regarding context which is our next key point.


When you click my name to visit my profile, you get to see who we share as mutual connections which my resume does not provide. As the sender, I gain some subtle validation and additional credibility based on those mutual connections. The recipient starts to think that “Mary Smith would not be connected to me if I was a jerk”. Mary does not have to say anything. Her connection to me is all the extra help and context I need, but she is there if the recipient wants to check with her about me before responding.

It used to be that you had to ask people who they knew, but now LinkedIn makes networks transparent. We now know who you know which allows people to be very specific about asking for introductions, referrals, and background checks. We take this attribute for granted too often, having forgotten how much more effort was required to make such connections before LinkedIn and social media.

The Need for Brevity

While LinkedIn gives you 2000 characters for messages, it does not mean you should take it. Best practices suggest being clear, brief, and to the point with your messages while still personalizing it and establishing common ground. Think WIIFM – “What’s in it for me!” – where “me” is the recipient of your message.

Tell them why you are contacting them. Draw from your knowledge about them and mutual connections to illustrate that you have taken the time to learn more about them and that your message isn’t spam. Explain what they have to gain by responding and wrap it up succinctly and professionally.

People are time-starved and increasingly reliant on their mobile phones so be cognizant that the first, and possibly only, place the recipients will read your message is on their phone. How much text can convey what you want to say and still fit on the screen of a smartphone? Writing a message as long as a book just won’t do it.


Recently a client of mine, who provides communications services, found himself losing a client who had elected to take the service in-house and have it delivered by a staff member. Not one to sit idle, my client went to LinkedIn and, after a bit of research, targeted his former client’s three top competitors.

Now before people accuse him of traitorous behavior or breaching confidentiality, let me add that he did not do anything of the sort. He simply approached the competitors via LinkedIn InMail with a very succinct message about who he was, the services his firm provided and for whom (e.g. their competitor), and indicators of his knowledge of the marketplace and what they would face if they were new entrants.

Two of the three competitors responded and InMail exchanges ensued. Within a couple of weeks, one of them signed a six month contract for communication services. How is that for a payoff from three InMails sent as part of a cold outreach?

Consider adding this to your existing prospecting efforts and see what happens over time. Maybe this will become one of your primary prospecting strategies. You won’t close a deal via LinkedIn, or Twitter for that matter, but you will be able to spark a conversation that, if nurtured further, could lead to one. Furthermore, not every InMail will be a home run but if you do proper research in advance, target your recipients and tailor the right message, LinkedIn’s messaging just may be the secret weapon your sales arsenal is missing.

7 Ways to Establish Your Personal Brand On LinkedIn

7 Ways to Establish Your Personal Brand On LinkedIn

Perfecting a traditional sale is an art that mixes emotional intelligence with the ability to paint vivid pictures in the minds of customers. The days of cold calling, direct email, and door-to-door sales are creeping to a close thanks to the technological advances that the Internet provides. I want to welcome you to the world of social selling and teach you how to close deals on LinkedIn. This is part one of 6 of a social selling guide that provides down to earth advice on succeeding on LinkedIn.

I will provide real world examples along the way allowing you to implement the following strategies on LinkedIn.

  • Establish Your Professional Brand
  • Find The Right People
  • Engage With Insights
  • Build Relationships
  • Social Selling Strategies
  • Social Selling Sales Acceleration Techniques

All right so let’s get started with part one.

7 Ways To Establish Your Professional Brand On LinkedIn

We all know by now LinkedIn is a social network for business professionals but what many of us fail to use LinkedIn effectively to network and close deals. As sales professionals our first impression is everything.

I’m going to show you how to optimize your LinkedIn profile to cater to your target customer and stand out from competitors with these 7 professional brand strategies to succeed on LinkedIn.

Put Keywords In Profile

What do Google and LinkedIn have in common? They both are large search engines. A search engine according to Wikipedia is

A program that searches for and identifies items in a database that correspond to keywords or characters specified by the user, used especially for finding particular sites on the World Wide Web.

LinkedIn is a database of business professionals and you need to include keywords (a word or phrase that’s used to search and retrieve information in a database. In this case LinkedIn) throughout your profile to get you found by potential customers.

In LinkedIn people can perform searches to find business professionals. In order to get found you must have the words in your profile. Let’s say I’m a real estate investor looking to find owners of small and medium size commercial real estate companies in the Washington, D.C. area. Your search would look like this.

LinkedIn gave us 12 results for commercial real estate owners that are my 2nd connection (we have a mutual friend). The word Owner is bold because it’s the keyword. As you see if customers are searching by job titles or industry and you don’t have the keywords in your profile you won’t show up.

So you may be asking where should you put the keywords. It should go throughout your website so that the text is still logical. On my profile the keyword is “digital marketing” because I’m looking for clients who need marketing services.

Crete A Compelling Headline

Consider taking time to determine what your unique value proposition is. Your business has something that makes it stand out from competitors. Here’s a great example of a digital marketer that chose to focus on Facebook marketing which is a specific niche and cater to the specific audience of app developers with his messaging.

Once you determine your brands voice then create a compelling headline like Dave Rogenmoser. His headline is intriguing and leaves readers with a question that requires an action on their part.

Include A Call To Action In Your Summary

Your summary is directly below your headline and header. Within your summary you want to focus on building up your credibility and providing value by showcasing an offer with a call to action (CTA). A CTA is where you ask others to take a specific action. Some common CTA’s include “contact me and download now”. In my header I focus on giving a free limited time offer that’s only for my LinkedIn connections.

It has proven to be very effective and has even led to some sales, which didn’t require prospecting. People simply connect with me and message me. I will warn you that your offer must be enticing enough to be worth someone’s attention.

Here’s a recent message I received (Later in this blog post I will share how you or your marketing department can develop an enticing offer that your LinkedIn connections will love) without any marketing or prospecting on my part.

Ask For Recommendations

When selling you always want to have someone boost you up to increase your credibility. On LinkedIn recommendations are how you build your credibility. You can simply ask past clients that are active on LinkedIn for recommendations.

Joe Pacheco of Pipeliner CRM is a great example of a LinkedIn profile that’s optimized with tons of recommendations… eleven to be exact. It also helps your credibility when recommendations are from employees at well know organizations.

Develop A Lead Magnet

Now that we have gone over some core steps to optimize your LinkedIn profile to present the best representation of your personal brand possible the last strategy is all about setting your personal brand apart from others with a compelling offer to go with the CTA in your summary.

A lead magnet is an offer that compels potential customer to act and give you their contact details.

I recommend creating a 5-10 page PDF around one of your customer’s pain points that you can easily solve. By showing you can provide value in a brief amount of time you will remain at the top of your prospects minds, now you can easily follow up to schedule an introductory call. No need to have a cold call anymore! Your only focusing on building relationships and talking to prospects that express interest in your services or product (consumed your lead magnet) after already providing value.

You can have your marketing team develop the eBook or choose an eBook template from Creative Market, write your content, and have it put together on Fiverr. This would cost less than $50 in total and would be a long-term asset to accelerate your sales process.

Now take the time to implement the following steps. Knowledge without action is worthless. Give yourself a deadline and find a way to keep your self-accountable. Next I will be covering how to utilize the LinkedIn automation tool and find prospects on LinkedIn using secret advance search techniques that I have discovered through my own trial and error.

If you feel you can’t wait and want to learn how to do prospecting on LinkedIn then here’s a webinar by my friend Josh Turner that gives you a one-hour training on optimizing your LinkedIn profile.

Investigative Social Selling

Investigative Social Selling


Many of today’s buyers like to do their own research and undertake a self-discovery process during the early stages of their buying journey. As a salesperson, you can utilize social selling to improve the customers’ purchase and research experience. Global research, conducted by IDC in February 2014, finds that online social networks play a vital role in the purchase process of 84% of the most senior B2B buyers. In the final stage of the purchasing process, when stakes are highest, online professional networks (e.g., LinkedIn) are the number one information preference of buyers.

The key tools in a successful sales person’s toolbox, relationship building, referrals, and recommendations are also shifting online. Instead of ‘dialing for dollars’ like the older days, sales professionals can reach hundreds of prospects at once using social media. When you interact via social media, it’s better if you approach prospects through a mutual connection. If a connection isn’t possible, it’s important for sales reps to be visibly present online in an authentic, transparent, and complete way. For example, discussing relevant industry news in a related LinkedIn group is an excellent way for sales reps to engage with a new audience. When people comment on your group posts and show interest in topics that you are posting, send them a LinkedIn connection request. However, since generic LinkedIn connection requests are frequently ignored, it is important to include a personal message and mention the topic that you both were discussing in the group into start a quality professional relationship via LinkedIn.

Buyers are generally either in the stage where they recognize they have a problem, where they acknowledge it and where they’re committed to doing something about it. The buyers can benefit from social media activity at all three stages of the purchasing process. However, buyers use social media differently in each stage, which is why there is a need for consistent social media use by all sales reps.

For example, to engage with buyers during the earliest stage, sales reps can monitor prospects for trends that can be converted into relevant conversations. Subscribe to industry magazines, LinkedIn Groups, and Google Alerts in order to be well informed daily. Tweeting and retweeting relevant news, including the important hashtags, is also a great way to aid potential customers in the discovery process. When encountering buyers in the middle stage, sales reps who are better able to track and manage engagement via social media such as LinkedIn, may have an advantage when it comes to keeping deals on track. And when a buyer is finally committed to doing something about their problem, a solid and transparent social media presence will add credibility and confidence to the buyer’s purchase.

Want to accelerate your high velocity inside sales team? Get more tips in our book.

Convincing Management that Social Selling Is not a Fad

Convincing Management that Social Selling Is not a Fad

I will be the first one to say that social selling can be an overused expression. It is unfortunate that many see social selling as something unique or distinctly different than traditional or historical sales methods. In one particular instance, it is describing what is fundamentally something we have been doing all along – seeking warm referrals.

While social selling can be the new manifestation of traditional or common sales behavior, it is not the salvation for poor sales skills or efforts. If you suck at sales, then social selling cannot save you. If you put forth poor sales efforts then, again, social selling cannot address your shortcomings. In some cases, social selling requires more effort but the payoff can be bigger. If you want the bigger payoff but are not willing to do the work then you only going to be disappointed.

LinkedIn has found that those who do put in the effort experience a greater likelihood of meeting or exceeding quota. According to LinkedIn, social selling leaders create 45% more opportunities per quarter and are 51% more likely to hit quota than social selling laggards.

So if that is a bit about what social selling is and isn’t to properly set your expectations then how do you set the expectations of your management and build a case for adopting social selling activities. Here are some suggestions for you to consider.

Be The Bright Spot

The Heath Brothers wrote a book about change management called Switch and one of the things the highlighted within the book was the idea of a bright spot. They defined a bright spot as someone or some people exhibiting the target behavior or attitude. By exhibiting the target behavior or attitude, they were more likely to influence their colleagues and peers to adopt the same behavior and/or attitude.

If you want to be a catalyst for change, then be the change. Be the bright spot that exemplifies what you want others to do or be. By show where and how social selling efforts positively benefited you, it will be much easier to convince others such as your colleagues and your leadership.

Your Competitors Are Doing It

See what your competitors are doing and flag any and all signs that they have already started to incorporate social selling strategies into the sales and marketing efforts. They may not have adopted social selling company wide but see if particular members of their sales or marketing teams are actively selling socially. Nothing can fire up support than the notion that your competitors are ahead of you in one or more areas.

The beauty of social media and social selling more specifically is that you can easily discover and monitor what you competitors are doing. Granted, they can do the same on you but the key is not to stick your head in the sand and think that neither you nor your competitors are considering social selling now or need to for the future. The competitive landscape is changing, and you need to change with it. Adapt or die is an aggressive expression but it seems to be an appropriate expression in this case.

Show Proof That Your Customers Are Active In Social Media

You have probably heard a lot of people talk about social media listening and meeting customers at their point of need. You may have wondered what it means and/or how to do it. It is about monitoring social media for mentions or updates that indicate a need or want on the part of a prospective customer. Ideally, proactive listening enables you to respond promptly, perhaps even ahead of your competition.

I should clarify that by “responding” I mean answering their questions or directing them to resources that can help them in their time of need. I do not mean that you try to close them on the first tweet response you put forth. They are seeking assistance rather than a sales pitch. Being helpful will differentiate you from those that elect to cut to the end and try to close.

I was working with a co-location company a few years ago, and some of the sales staff were skeptical about social selling and I showed them this query from Quora where someone was asking others, possibly even strangers, for recommendations for a co-location service provider where they might move there 1000+ servers.Convincing Management That Social Selling Is Not A Fad

Here was a prospective customer asking for co-location service provider recommendations and the salespeople that I was presenting to were floored. I was able to highlight a site, Quora, that they didn’t even know about where people sought information and assistance and that, in this case, had sales prospects amongst their users.

Again, the key would have been to respond with helpful information and some clarifying questions to better assist them rather than asking for the order. That’s not what people go to Quora seeking. They are seeking recommendations from their social networks.

People will use Google to answer questions and to gather information, but they will also ask their networks for help and recommendations. Social selling serves the latter where social savvy salespeople can identify inquiries and join the conversation by being helpful.

Seek Attribution

The question of ROI always comes up in the discussion of social selling. Let me clear up a common misconception. Social selling is not about closing more deals. You will not close a sale over Twitter. You will still have to meet someone face to face or over the phone to close the deal. Having said that, don’t be discouraged if you think ROI will be hard to prove. The goal is to show that social selling efforts led to more leads identified, more prospects engaged and added to your funnel, and ultimately more customers influenced over their decision-making journey through your content marketing efforts.

You can prove ROI by designing it into your efforts. You want to be able to approve a correlation or specific attribution between your actions and the outcomes. By that I mean, you want to be able to show that your social selling efforts expanded your network (i.e. prospects and referral sources), led to more calls, meetings, demos, and proposals, and, finally, more closed deals. For example, be sure that you can show how your outreach on LinkedIn or Twitter led to an initial engagement with a prospect and then how you continued to nurture that relationship that ultimately resulted in a sale.
Collaborate with your marketing team to ensure that your efforts are translating to click-throughs to downloadable content or to landing pages where calls-to-action are getting responses. Confirm that the content you are sharing, whether yours or from others, is resonating with your audience. You want to prove that your output is producing outcomes.


I think it was Peter Drucker who said, and I am paraphrasing here, “that which is measured is managed”. For the sake of this conversation, it is about measuring your social selling efforts to show management that what you are doing is working. Ideally, you want to be able to show growth in your funnel and sales calls, meetings, demos, and proposals.

Sales are metrics-driven so make sure your social selling efforts are the same. Your management will grateful to you for doing so and more easily convinced that social selling can complement, but not replace, your efforts and that of the rest of the sales and marketing teams.

Change is hard. Many support change as long as it does not impact them. Not everyone changes or adopts new behavior at the same rate. Patience is required to set the change in motion and see it through to the point where it is now standard operating procedure.

I hope these recommendations will help you build a strong enough case for social selling. If you have tried some of these or something else, then I would love to hear more about it. Maybe you have some experience that can help somebody else make the case for social selling in their organization.

Good luck and good selling.

Chapter 7 of Managing a Social Selling Team: Measuring Success

Chapter 7 of Managing a Social Selling Team: Measuring Success

Editor’s Note: Today we post Chapter 7 of a 10-chapter book, authored by our CSO, John Golden and Matt McDarby, President of United Sales Resources.

In the previous chapter, we proposed the idea of measuring social selling activities and outcomes.  If you’re still reading this book, then perhaps you agree there is value in measuring the effectiveness of your team’s social selling effort.  After all, why would we measure only certain, traditional selling activities when we consider just how much we can actually research, learn, and discuss over social media.

Let’s take a step back together, though, and consider what we are measuring and why.

To What End?

Measuring the impact of any sales tactics would be a rather meaningless pursuit if those tactics and their desired outcomes were not tied directly to your team’s important, strategic business objectives.

Let’s take the example of a client of one of ours….

  • Very successful revenue-generation team, growing from $400M to $850M in just four years.
  • Highly disciplined process for creating value for customers throughout the buying process.
  • Specific objectives for major accounts and for regional accounts.
  • Strong alignment and collaboration between marketing and sales departments.
  • All sales tactics, whether online or offline, are actively observed, coached, and made more effective

This highly disciplined team regularly revisits their important, strategic growth objectives, checking often to see if they are making measurable progress, account by account, opportunity by opportunity, sales call by sales call.  They can, at times, get too caught up in measuring sales activities and small outcomes, briefly losing sight of the strategic growth goals that have been clearly articulated by executive leadership and the SLT. Ultimately, though, the main driver for their explosive sales growth has been staying focused on their overall, desired business outcome and taking direct cues from their clients’ key initiatives to determine where heavy investment and sales focus need to be applied.  Put simply, they don’t let their regular measurement of selling activities (whether “social” or otherwise) overshadow the big picture.

Neither should you.  The social engagement pipeline that we shared in the previous chapter is simply a means to keep sellers focused on the right behavior.  In this case, the right behavior is engaging with the right (prospective) buyers about the right issues or opportunities at the right time.  That is the essence of great selling, and your task as a sales leader is to use tools and processes that promote that behavior as often as possible.  In the client example we’ve just mentioned, that organization employs regular, early-stage pipeline reviews and frequent call and prospecting planning sessions to emphasize the important behavior that has led to and will likely continue to lead to success.  Of their sellers who are actively engaged online with buyers (both prospective and existing), many of them receive some regular coaching in which their social networking activities are part of the discussion.  Sales managers who have become attuned to the new reality of buying and selling empowered by social media provide the coaching.

Successful Engagement

At the risk of belaboring a key point in this book, we must point out that social engagement for engagement’s sake is not terribly valuable.  Successful social sellers are able to demonstrate to prospective buyers that they understand buyers’ business issues and opportunities at a deep level.  The purpose and the real value of engagement over social media between seller and buyer is to make a clear connection between important business issues or opportunities and relevant solutions.  Buyers will offer their time to those who offer an authentic and empathetic approach to understanding their issues and opportunities.  Sellers who socialize but do not demonstrate authenticity and empathy are bound to fail online (just as badly as they fail offline).

Converting contacts and discussions we have over social media to real-world leads and opportunities is generally how success should be defined and measured.  In a sense, today’s social selling tactics are neither a substitute nor a replacement for other tried and true methods of engaging with prospective buyers.  The interface, reach, and the efficiency of these relatively new social selling methods is all that separates those tactics from warm-calling, email marketing, in person networking, or any other methods whose objective is to fill the pipeline with new opportunities.

The risks of doing social sales poorly are as bad if not worse than the risk of poor email marketing or telephone prospecting.  Having applied, experimented, and sometimes failed at all of these methods, we know that customers draw quick conclusions about us and our salespeople, and poor impressions can be difficult to overcome.

What can you do to put your team back on the path to success if they are not consistently able to engage with the right buyers about the right issues at the right time over social media?

  1. Observe social interactions between your sellers and your prospective customers. Social sales observation can be done asynchronously, unlike the observation of field sales coaches that require a coach’s physical presence and ability to shut up and observe with a customer in the same room.
  2. Discuss with your seller(s) the outcome(s) of his or her / their social selling interactions. Where did they have success?  What positive outcomes have they achieved?  Does that offer any clues about how they can engage effectively with other buyers in the future?
  3. If they cannot point to any successful outcomes, investigate together the quality, timing, appropriateness, customer-focus of social messaging and engagement to determine if improvements can be made. Commit to observing their social interactions, and make time for review together again.
  4. If they’ve had success, identify what specifically led to that successful outcome, and reward it in an appropriate and relevant way.

To some reading this book, the idea of observing, measuring, and coaching the effectiveness of social selling activities might seem artificial or unrealistic.  Perhaps for some, this level of observation and coaching seems like micro-management.  We agree that coaching at this level of detail may not be appropriate in many circumstances or for all teams or individuals.  In the end, though, we wonder what kinds of sales results should we all expect if we are unwilling to ensure that our salespeople are engaging with the right people about the right issues or opportunities at the right times.  What might we be leaving to chance?

Are we willing to put our results at risk simply because we do not fully buy into the notion that selling tactics have to change, and the changes are being driven by client demand?

Key Points From This Chapter

Social engagement for engagement’s sake is nothing.  Social engagement must be centered on the idea of demonstrating to prospective buyers that you / your team understand their business issues and opportunities at a deep level.

Sales managers can play a key role in ensuring that their teams are focused on engaging with the right prospective buyers about the right issues at the right time.

Social selling activities can be observed and coached, and in some ways, it may be simpler to observe them compared to field-based coaching.  To ignore these activities and to let them go un-coached may mean you are leaving a significant portion of your early-stage opportunity development results to chance.

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