If you've been involved in B2B sales for more than a few years, you've probably noticed that things have changed. This pace of change shows no sign of abating. Customers are more frazzled than ever.
Recently caught up with Nigel Edelshain, the fellow that coined the term “Sales 2.0" and more recently, "Social Selling." I think his insights on this topic are highly relevant to salespeople today, which is why I asked him the questions below.
And, it's also why I suggest you check out his 2-day Social Selling Bootcamp in February.
WHAT'S SOCIAL SELLING?
Jill: What is “Social Selling”? Is it different from Sales 2.0?
Nigel: “Social Selling” is really an extension of Sales 2.0, a term that's become highly associated with the tools we use to sell. Social Selling is an umbrella term that shifts the focus back on salespeople and their customers.
It's about using social media and Sales 2.0 tools, but the emphasis is on using them to initiate relationships and then to move offline as soon as possible.
Jill: I noticed in your Social Selling e-book you advise salespeople to manage their brand. What's that about? Most salespeople think of branding as a function of their marketing department.
Nigel: In the past, your customers could only look at your company website. Now they have social media. Customers know they can look you up personally with a quick Google or Linkedin search.
As a society we're increasingly buying and selling intangibles (like services.) Trust is a huge factor in purchasing these intangibles. People derive more trust from knowing about you personally than by reading your company's sanitized website.
Given that buyers look salespeople up online, salespeople need to think about, build and maintain their own personal brand. What will customers find when they look you up and what will they say about you to their peers?
Jill: Nigel, you've started talking about “courting” as part of the sales process. That seems a little unusual. What do you mean?
Nigel: I've started using the word “courting” in the context of Social Selling to illustrate that salespeople need patience when dealing with today's buyer. Buyers have become conditioned to expect that every prospecting phone call or email they receive will be of low value, waste their precious time and take them further away from their objectives.
Professional salespeople today have to undo this buyer conditioning by showing value in each and every approach to a prospect. They need to make sure they've done their homework and that that homework is reflected in every communication they have with the prospect, including delivering high value content on each interaction.
EMBRACE YOUR INNER MARKETER
Jill: Nigel, you talk about salespeople creating content and nurturing leads. These are classic marketing functions. Are you really saying salespeople should be doing all this marketing work?
Nigel: Yes! Well actually, what I'm saying is salespeople need to be responsible for how content is delivered to their prospect. In the end, the salesperson owns the relationship with the prospect. That individual prospect's experience with your company is the responsibility of the salesperson. The buck stops there.
Salespeople need to make sure that every interaction the prospect receives is a quality one.
If that means creating content then the salesperson needs to find a way. I'm not saying that salespeople have to become bloggers or e-book writers. Instead, they need to become “content curators.” In short, they need to find content and channel it to their prospect in a totally customized way.
Similarly, it may be that your marketing department does a “bang up job” of nurturing all the prospects that you couldn't get to meet or that didn't buy now. If that's the case, then a salesperson merely needs to monitor the situation and complete their actions when necessary. But in many companies, salespeople need to set up all their own processes and systems to nurture leads.
YOUR BIGGEST ASSET
Jill: You say that salespeople should proactively build their Rolodexes, but is this really a priority when they have quarterly numbers to hit?
Nigel: There's an enormous power to connections. Connections have the power to transfer trust to the buyer. Your job as a salesperson becomes so much easier when you have a referral. Therefore, in the long haul, salespeople with a strong network will have a huge advantage over their competitors.
To get a sense of this consider that recent research from IBM values each additional relationship in your Rolodex as worth $948 (i.e. 100 relationships are worth $94,800 to you.) That really starts to quantify why building your network is a big strategic imperative. It may not be urgent on a day-to-day basis, but it is very important.
With this in mind, salespeople should have a networking plan. They should plan for who they need to know to build that killer Rolodex and what they are going to do to get to know those people.
RETURN ON EFFORT
Jill: One thing I notice is that it seems like you're suggesting a bunch of extra work for salespeopl. BUT, salespeople are already very busy. How are they going to handle this?
Nigel: Yes Jill, you're right. I am piling things on salespeople's plates. I'm suggesting that they take responsibility for several things that are marketing functions. And yes, I agree salespeople are already very busy.
It's going to be critical in the future that salespeople are great time managers. They have to monitor that everything they do moves them forward towards their revenue goals.
It goes deeper than just careful scheduling. It's important to monitor that what you do as a salesperson causes some action from your prospect that moves your sales cycle forward.
Sales activity alone (such as making lots of cold calls) does not equal sales effectiveness. The real question is “is the prospect taking action?” The tools to monitor the prospect's reactions are now available and companies should make it a priority to take a look at them.
Jill: Thanks so much, Nigel for sharing your thoughts on Social Selling. Good stuff. And, like I said from the onset, very timely and much needed.
Check out the Social Selling Bootcamp that Nigel is putting on in February. Learn how to thrive with today's super-connected customers.
P.S. You get 25% off if you sign up before January 28th.