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Dec 26 16

Creating Crap At The Speed Of Light!

by David Brock

I think I’m suffering “Social Selling Fatigue.”  Perhaps it’s the time of year, perhaps Kelly Riggs pushed me over the edge forwarding this article, “How B2B Sales Can Benefit From Social Selling.”  But I’ve reached a tipping point.  I usually try avoiding lashing out directly, but I just can’t help it.

The article is filled with a lot of data, much taken out of context, much from research that has been questioned or even discredited, but it supports the authors’ points and what they have to sell.

But it misses too many points, and actually misses much of the power of social selling–as well as all forms of well executed selling, whether phone, email, door to door, snail mail.

The mistake this article makes is focusing on the vehicle or tools, and not on the context and content.  As Simon Sinek has so artfully described it, this is an article that focuses on the “How,” never bothering to address the “Why,” or even the “What.”

But this is the mistake too many pundits and organizations miss.  So, I’m not really lashing out at the authors, they’ve just jumped on an already crowded bandwagon careening aimlessly down the road.

Too often, people cite that high performers are leveraging these tools, and their success is because they are leveraging these tools.  In reality, these high performers are leveraging everything available to them.  They are leveraging the phone, email, face to face.

These high performers are successful not just because they leverage social selling, but because they know what’s important to customers and engage them through many channels but in ways that engage the customer about things they care about.

Sales and marketing effectiveness, in reality is less about the tools and channel, but more about the context and the value created.

All sorts of studies cite the difficulty of reaching customers through the phone, through email, getting face to face meetings.  Many of those conclude, “social channels are the answer.”  What they miss is the “why” in the challenges of using email, the phone, face to face, or any other channels.

It’s not the channel.  People aren’t averse to the phone or email or face to face.  They just don’t tolerate the crap delivered through it.

Social channels suffer from the same problem.  If you are using LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, or whatever new vehicle, but you are delivering the same meaningless, irrelevant messages or internally focused messages, prospects and customers are going to shut down!  We all see this, daily, in each of these channels.

It’s not the friggin tool or the channel!

The authors cite a statistic (created by a social tools vendor), that 84% of B2B buyers are starting the purchase process with a referral.  Let’s accept that as fact for the moment.

My reaction is, “Well duuggghhh…..,” we’ve always known referrals are important.  I recall reading a sales manual published in the 1920’s for Ford Motor Company sales people talking about the importance of referrals.  There are countless statistics through history talking about referrals and the importance of leveraging them.  We’ve long been taught about the importance of strong customer references, so what’s new?  Just because referrals (positive and negative) can now be spread through channels isn’t novel.

Of course we’d be foolish not to leverage these, just as we’d be foolish not to leverage them through other channels.  Look at any user conference.  Vendors invite customers and prospects to those conferences hoping customers will engage prospects in discussions about how much they like whatever it is the vendor sells.

And of course, referrals through any channel are powerful–it’s not the channel, it’s the referral.

I do dispute that 84% of the purchase process begins with a referral.  I’ve always maintained that 100% of the buying process begins with the customer recognizing they have a problem and committing to do something about it.  Until they do that, why do they even care about referrals.

Here’s where the majority of the opportunity exists.  Helping our customers understand there may be a better way.  There may be opportunities they are missing.  Yes, content offered through social channels as well as other channels is helpful–but the customer has to be looking for it.

Recently, we implemented some new tools to help in the delivery of our services.  These tools have been around for decades (in various forms).  Our team was roughly aware of them, but frankly we weren’t paying attention to them.  It was a sales person in conversation with someone on our team that made him, subsequently the rest of us aware of what we were missing.  At that point, we did all the things a buyer might do, we engaged the sales person in learning more.  We did our digital due diligence, we looked at a few alternatives, eventually buying from that original sales person.

The point is, all the content, all the articles, everything that was available about this category of solutions was meaningless, because we didn’t recognize we should be paying attention.  Today, I think one of the most critical role of sales is helping prospects and customers wake up to new ideas and opportunities.

The authors, as others do, cite data that supports their premise and reiterate truisms like, relationships and trust are important, citing the role of social channels in building those relationships and trust.  Sure, but this is not exclusive to social channels, and I suspect other channels like the phone or F2F are significant in building relationships and reinforcing trust.

The authors cite the same tired statistic that 72% of B2B sales people leveraging social channels report outperforming their peers who don’t.  But, as I mentioned earlier, those same sales people are also using the phone, email, F2F, and other channels, but the study didn’t ask those sales people that question.  Researchers often don’t ask these questions, because the answers don’t serve the conclusion they hope to reach with their research.  The research, in this case was about social selling, so why ask anything about other methods or channels.

One could look at that same data in others ways.  28% of high performers aren’t using social channels.  Hmmm, why are they successful?

Alternatively, we know that those high performers also represent a minority of sales people.  We know that medium and low performers are using social channels as well.  The authors allude to this with the additional data point that 75% of sales people have had social selling training.

I suspect, many of the low performers are also using a lot of social selling tools (at least based on my LinkedIn messages, tweets, and Facebook, I seem to be attracting more than my fair share of them).

Again, the differences are probably less that high performers are using these channels, but they are using them in ways that are highly impactful and effective–just as they are using every other tool in ways that are highly impactful and effective.

It is more meaningful to understand what is it about these high performers that are different.  How do they think , how do they engage, how do they create value in each and every channel and interaction?

Too many focus on the tool, vehicle, and channel, thinking it’s those that drive results.  Instead, the reality is more about the why and what–it’s the level specific conversations, it’s the value the sales person is creating, it’s how the sales person helps the customer think differently about their business, it’s how the sales person helps facilitate the buying process that drives engagement and buyer/seller success.

Perhaps beating a dead horse, if 100% of sales people use social selling tools/channels, we won’t see improvement in customer buying experience, engagement, and sales results.  If sales people continue to focus on meaningless product pitches, irrelevant and unfocused communications, absence of customer research, business acumen, and understanding of customer business results, social channels will become as ineffective as other channels.

Clearly, I’m a big fan of social channels and engagement.  Why would I be blogging, tweeting, using LinkedIn, YouTube if I weren’t?  But, I’m a big fan of the phone, of email, of handwritten notes, of face to face.  I’m an enormous fan of creating meaning and value in every interchange.

I’m just not a fan of stupidity, regardless of the channel we choose to exploit.


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Dec 22 16

Are You Guilty Of Picking Things Apart?

by David Brock

It seems to be human nature to pick things apart.  We may be looking at a new prospecting or marketing program, we may be looking at a deal strategy, we may be looking at a new organizational structure.

Whatever the level we act, we have a propensity to look for faults, or what could go wrong.

We hear various manifestations of that in lot’s of ways,

“We’ve tried this before…..”

“But we’ve always done things another way….”

“We’re different…..”

“There’s a lot that could go wrong…”

Think of your own favorite ways to pick things apart.

Too often, when we focus only on what could go wrong or the risks, that we end up doing nothing at all.

Sometimes, it’s the nature of our jobs–or more likely how we interpret our jobs–that we look at what could go wrong.  We look at the downsides or the problems.

As a consultant, I fall into that trap too often.  Yes, part of my role is to be a skeptic, to question everything.  But my job really isn’t that, it’s to help people and organizations grow and improve.  It’s really less pointing out what’s wrong, in fact I wouldn’t be there, if the client hadn’t already figured out something was wrong.  In reality my job is to help them make things work.

As managers, it’s easy to fall into that trap as well.  We look for problems, we look for what’s wrong, we tend to critique or find fault.  But as managers our job isn’t to find things wrong, it’s to find out what’s right, to identify the things that work, then scale those to drive growth.

Too many managers look at their people, finding fault.  They focus on the mistakes the people may have made, the things they may not be doing.

As sales professionals, we have a tendency to do this as well.  We look at what we don’t have.  We never have quite the right product, or the right price, or the right support.  We second guess the customer’s reaction talking ourselves out of trying.

Sometimes we try something new and it fails.  As a result, rather than figuring out how to make it work, in hindsight, we pick it apart to find all the things that were wrong.

What would happen if we stopped doing this?

What would happen if we could start to look at, “How do we make this work?”  “What have we learned, what could we do to adjust what we do to make things work?”

Nothing we choose to do will ever be perfect.  Everything will have problems or challenges.  Everything will have something that goes wrong.  Everything we do can fail.

What sets great people apart is not focusing on what’s wrong.  Not doing Monday Morning quarterbacking picking things apart.

Great performers always look at new ideas, challenging themselves with “How do we make things work?”  “How do we leverage this to produce a better result?”

When they do make a mistake or fail, rather than picking things apart, making excuses, or assigning blame, they look at things from a different point of view.  They look at what they have learned and how they might do better.

Unconsciously, we fall into closed mindsets.  There is far more opportunity if we choose a growth mindset.

Rather than picking things apart, let’s start looking at “What do we have to do to make this work?”


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Dec 21 16

Acting Beyond Ourselves, Having An Impact On Others

by David Brock

Long time followers of this blog will recognize this is the time of year when I will make a full court press on my audience to take action.  It’s the time when I am blatantly asking you for your money!

It’s not for me  (I can hear the collective sighs of relief with people realizing I haven’t turned into a slimy sales person.)

It’s for a very specific purpose:  To provide clean water to those that don’t have it.  It’s providing a donation–whatever you can afford–to Charity:Water.

I believe each of us has a higher purpose.  We need to think and act beyond ourselves, contributing to others.  It’s not just how we contribute in our jobs, to our friends and colleagues, within our communities, or even to our families.  We have a mission to help others—people we are likely to never meet.

Many of us take water for granted.  We casually dispose of half consumed bottles of the latest “designer” water.  We go to the tap or the water fountain.  It’s always there, we don’t have to think about it.

For 100’s of millions of people around the world, this luxury doesn’t exist.  Infant mortality rates in regions with poor water quality or limited access to water is extraordinary.  Access to clean water and basic sanitation can save up to 16,000 lives a week!

In Africa, alone, women and children spend 40 billion hours a year, walking to get water.  Imagine the power of converting just a small fraction of that time to education or starting and running a small business.

For a little over 3 years I have sponsored an annual campaign to attack this problem, to have and impact on others, to make a difference.  Additionally, earlier this year, I donated a substantial part of the profits from my book, Sales Manager Survival Guide.

I’ve chosen Charity:Water because of the impact the organization has in solving this problem.  100% of the funds we raise go into a project in a needed community!

Collectively, we have raised over $35,000.  That money has had a huge impact, we’ve provided water to over 1000 people in Southeast Asia, India, and Africa.  But that’s not enough.

We can and must do more.  I’ve set a nominal goal of $10,000 this year.  Each year we have exceeded the goal I’ve set.  So this year, I’ve set a stretch goal of $15,000.

I’ve been amazed and am very thankful at the responses from past campaigns.  Donations of $25, $50, or whatever you can afford, all accumulate to having a huge impact.  No donation is too small, each dollar can have an impact on someone’s life.

As in the past, to accelerate our start, I will match the first $2000 in contributions.

Please take a moment to give.  Take a moment to think beyond the Year End Close, the Holidays, or whatever problems you may face.  Please think about someone you will never meet, but whose life you will change.  Please donate.

I’m also asking you to go beyond your personal gift.  Use your best skills of challenging, providing insight, persuading, closing to ask others to join this campaign and contribute.

Thanks so much for your past support and your support of this campaign!

September Campaign 2011 Rig is drilling in Northern Ethiopia! from charity: water on Vimeo.

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