Category Archives: Sales 2.0

Create a Relationship to Nurture a Lead

Anyone who has ever been in B2B sales has been here many times.  Your marketing team just handed over a new lead. You called, connected and conversed, but for now – you are not able to move this lead forward in the sales process.

Used to be that leads like this would have either been dropped or filed for another kick at the can in a few months. By this time, hopefully, the person you talked with will be dealing with different circumstances,  will have been replaced or maybe will have forgotten that they ever talked with you.  But lacking any other support system, the sales rep would not have the ability to do a whole lot more.

That has changed with the adoption of lead nurturing programs, but not for everyone. According to the BtoB magazine: Lead Generation Research, November 2012- 51% of organizations they talked to still do not nurture their leads.  For many companies its an issue of resource (now THERE’S and understatement) time, staff and money.

For companies who are still struggling to get a nurturing program off the ground, there are two key mindset objectives that will help.

1- You are nurturing a relationship – not just a lead. When you’re trying to figure out communication objectives, messaging choices, timing, list management and stay on top of the necessary next steps to actually get your lead generation program off the ground, it’s really easy to lose sight of the fact that you’re not just “nurturing a lead” your actually trying to create and nurture a relationship with a real person.

2 – What is the first concept that person must “buy into” before they will buy from you?   It’s all a matter of baby steps and if you or your sales rep only had a long enough conversation to get the brush off, then you’re probably better off not assuming that any of those baby steps should be skipped.  So ask yourself the question- what is the first thing this person needs to buy into and then create a 3 step mini nurturing series to “sell” that point.

I can give you an example that would be relevant for Boxpilot.  In order for someone to purchase our guided voicemail service, the first thing they must have bought into, is that the phone is an effective way to reach their contacts.  So a relatively straightforward nurturing series should leverage content that includes some creative examples of what to say on the phone for better messages,  a small case study that demonstrates positive results another company achieved using the phone, maybe a testimonial or even a FAQ summary about phone effectiveness…etc.

So, here’s a start. Pick your content to “sell” the first building block and craft your messaging with a person and a future relationship in mind versus simply a nameless, faceless “lead”to be moved through the funnel.

Define Social Selling

I’m struggling to come up with a definition of social selling that makes sense to me.  It’s not an easy thing to do, and if you think it is – go ahead – give me your best shot. I found these definitions online:

Gerhard Gschwandtner, CEO of Selling Power magazine and Sales 2.0 Conferences defines Social Selling (or Sales 2.0) this way:

“Sales 2.0 relies on a repeatable, collaborative and customer-enabled process that runs through the sales and marketing organization, resulting in improved productivity, predictable ROI and superior performance.”

Axel Schultze,  CEO of XeeMe and Chairman Social Media Academy shares his definition:

“Social selling is a sales technique, leveraging social media, to get and maintain a 360 degree picture of the clients and their influencer on an ongoing basis. It allows sales people to manage and maintain 5 times as many active customers compared to traditional techniques. Social selling allows an average sales person to become a top performer simply by using tools and techniques that allows them to socialize in a way that was only accessible to the top sales guard in the past.”

Do these help you?  Frankly, I’m not feeling a lot of guidance here.  One definition sounds more like a software pitch and the other is just a little jargon heavy for my understanding.

However, based on too many hours of eventually mind numbing research on the subject, I’m prepared to offer you some starting points that you can apply to “social selling” to help you and anyone else on your sales team who are prepared to step out of their comfort zone.

The downside of all this is that, in the beginning, social selling is  a guilt inducing, low return activity. Why guilt inducing?  Because, unless you approach it with the ruthlessness of Attila the Hun sacking the Balkans, you’ll burn hours getting sidetracked into useless discussions with no productive upside that you’ll be very hard pressed to justify to your management, when the numbers are not coming in.

But, there is an upside. 

Social selling, when it is no longer the “hot tamale du jour ” and settles into its real resting place in the sales toolkit, will prove to be a valuable way to drive leads, shorten the sales cycle and increase your close ratios- and that’s worth working for.

At the risk of sounding cynical, social selling IS STILL about selling.  Even if you truly enjoy sharing your experience and opinions about business issues, social selling is still a professional, business pursuit.  It is more selling than social. You’re just not tackling it head on.

While large companies can incorporate new technology tools, like the latest marketing software with a dazzling array of bells and whistles, this is beyond the reach of many other organizations. There are many companies who lack either the funds to obtain this software, or the expertise to manage it properly….or probably both.

So what does the stripped down, entry level version of social selling look like?  I would say it can easily incorporate the following:

  • A well-prepared Linkedin profile for the company and each of the reps who need to put their faces, and reputations out there to be found.
  • Inclusion in the relevant industry groups and regular monitoring of discussions to ensure that you are visible in these most desirable environments.
  • Active effort to extend your connections and potential circle of influence
  • Daily updates to your profile to keep your profile page active and stay top of mind with your connections
  • A daily Tweet.  I wonder about this one, but can only assure you from my own personal experience that Twitter does have the ability to drive business leads. Don’t fight it. Just do it
  • A company blog.  There are a lot of ways to manage this, but a company blog is a content resource for everyone in the company.  It’s a way to drive traffic to your main web site and its a way for the early stage buyer, who is still doing their best to play hide and seek with  your sales team, to get a feel for what your company stands for.
  • A response monitor. When someone responds to a tweet, a discussion comment or a post, you must be prepared to engage them, quickly.
  • Consistent offline activity.  Don’t put all your eggs in the online basket, regardless of its appeal.  This is simply a “Sales/Marketing 101  Best Practice” and some things haven’t changed. Just remember the “You” that you are presenting offline, needs to be the same person you purport to be online, or all of your work will be wasted.

For now, a sales rep who is participating in social selling is doing two things:

  1. They are engaging in a process that can passively generate leads
  2. They are using a unique online blend of traditional public relations and unpaid advertising to brand themselves. If done well, this self branding will create credibility, respect and relationships.

And for now, that’s how I would define social selling.

    How Sales People Will Help With Discovery

    Inbound marketing is a wonderful tool that serves many companies well, but there are a lot of companies who are not in a position to benefit from it, yet.  An exclusive focus on inbound marketing  is a lousy option for small businesses with very small budgets, limited marketing technology or marketing expertise. It’s particularly poorly suited to those smaller companies with products or services which are unique solutions to common business problems.

    For these companies, outbound marketing is not charmingly old school, it’s necessary. So, too, is the involvement of the sales teams in the early stages of customer acquisition.  Why?  Because for smaller, often privately held companies sales people who are not contributing to the prospecting and lead generation process are an unaffordable luxury.  By using sales people to push outbound marketing in new (and old) ways, you’ll not only be more successful with your outbound programs, you’ll lay the groundwork to start developing inbound results as well.

    So rather than shuttle them off to the side, why not integrate your sales people into the full funnel. Any while you’re at it consider this slightly different look at the sales funnel as presented in an article by Nate Elliott in the January 23, 2013 issue of Ad Age| cmo strategy Although the article is about consumer marketing, the fit with B2B is obvious.

    To paraphrase:  Your customers interact with your company in four stages

    1. Discovery – (Lead Generation)
    2. Exploration – (Nurturing)
    3. Purchase – (Close)
    4. Engagement- (Service,Re-purchase, Full Account Penetration)

    I’m not suggesting that businesses – especially small ones, walk away from marketing.  In fact, hiring a good marketing person is about the smartest hire a company can make. Having said that, some companies simply can’t pay for a marketing person and don’t have a marketing budget, so they need to rely on their sales rep(s) or management to create leads, nurture, close and service them.

    I’d like to talk about creating leads – the process of Discovery.

    The biggest problem for sales people who are acting along traditional lines is that they’re trained to make a connection and work that connection to a close (and a commission). But, the net for the Discovery phase needs to be thrown much wider. Potential customers are not going to discover you unless it’s easy to trip over your information.  To do this, sales teams needs to expand their skill set and exponentially grow the reach of their prospecting efforts. To generate more raw Discovery they need to:

    1. Network and interact on social sites like LinkedIn, to watch for applicable discussions and interact intelligently. By doing this they are raising not only the company visibility but their own personal profile and reaching far more people that they realize or will immediately respond. Its an awareness building process. Self directed corporate advertising.
    2. Contribute content ideas to be used online, that will help your company put itself where it can be found by future customers. Because sales people actually talk extensively with their prospects, they’re in a position to learn about what drove their customers to take their first steps. This information should be routinely shared with management because it will help you find what your potential customers might look for.
    3. Manage their own outbound efforts on a campaign level- not just as one-offs. Prospecting by telephone and email requires volume as well as quality. Knowing they won’t get a response from most of their calls, a good sales person needs to get that job done quickly and leave a message that will push your eventual discovery.
    4. Recognize that because a portion of their efforts will not yield an immediate personal return, focus themselves to make the maximum contribution with the minimum time.

    More than anything else, the Internet has created huge shifts in the way that businesses buy products and services and the buying world will never be what it was in the past. Sales people can roll with the changes and find ways to fit with the new business reality, or be edged out of the picture.  Small business, with more flexibility but fewer resources than large corporations is the best environment for sales people to demonstrate how the role can evolve.

    What Will Your Sales Team Do Better This Year?

    On your last birthday, you didn’t magically become a year older. On the first of January you didn’t automatically get a clean start.

    So, what’s the big deal with new years? Actually there isn’t one unless you have the good sense to take advantage of the opportunity and make it a big deal.  Decide that you do have a clean slate and the mistakes you made last year (and possibly before then) belong in the past.

    So, as the leader of a sales group whose success is vital to your company, what do you want to see happen this year that is new and improved and better?

    Measurement is a big plus.  Ouch, was that a huge collective groan from every sales rep that just felt this disturbance in the force?  Can’t say I blame you and can’t say I don’t feel exactly the same.  But that’s what I feel and NOT what I know.

    Because measurement improves performance and if there is one thing you need to bring your team onside about it would be this – they want to keep score.  That isn’t necessarily a competitive thing, like running contests and rewarding who made the most calls on a given day. That will eventually pull the focus away from the result of those calls.  Instead I talk about “keeping score” because its something that we actually seem to be pretty good at, as long as we don’t look at ourselves.

    Think for the moment about the stats we collect about sports – baseball, football and racing, (and a ton more, too) but we seem to be universally awful about tracking our own performance in our work.  It’s more than a little ironic when you consider which is actually more important in our life.

    Look at it this way, you start with a goal – also known as the quota.  You know you have a certain amount of time to get to that number – let’s work with a quarter. When you track your progress you have the opportunity to know at any given point in that quarter if you’re on track to hit that number.

    There are three mental places you can be with regard to reaching your goal:

    • You can know that you’re winning.
    • You can know that you’re losing.
    • You can be clueless.

    Now, everyone loves to hear that they’re winning.  They love tracking when it shows that they’re ahead of the game. But do you realize that, if given the choice between knowing for a fact that they’re losing or not having a clue what’s going on, the average sales person would rather be blissfully ignorant.  The trouble of course with blissful ignorance is that when you won’t face a problem you don’t have an opportunity to fix it.

    Maybe that’s why they’re called average.

    Grab the spreadsheets, set the goals and make your team track their performance.

    The Voicemail Opportunity

    In spite of the incredible advances made in email marketing, social media and marketing automation, the telephone is still one of the most powerful sales and marketing tools at the disposal of any company.  True, we often don’t use it well, leaving messages that ramble and don’t speak to the interests of our customers and in many cases we support typical sales reluctance with a misguided perception that sales people shouldn’t be reaching out to customers who aren’t already screaming to buy.

    Let’s face it, most sales reps are looking for the path of least resistance to a completed sale. With all the emphasis placed in the marketing press on inbound leads, the value of social conversations, the (greatly exaggerated) death of cold calling and some cockeyed idea that potential clients who don’t want sales people banging down their door day and night is somehow a NEW market condition, it’s all too easy for mere humans to resist the urge to pick the phone and try to talk to someone.

    Can you tell that I think that many of these resistance points are bogus? I do. But, one thing does stand in the way of developing an immediate dialogue whenever a sales rep picks up the phone, and that is voicemail.

    Now, whether you view voicemail as an obstacle or an opportunity is pretty much up to you.  But how you choose will have a real effect on your success. Obstacles get in your way, they slow you down and in many cases become an excuse for failure. Opportunities, on the other hand offer new ways of doing things and new roads down which you can travel to find more success. In the best of all possible worlds, your competitors will only see the obstacles that voicemail presents and will not see the opportunities.

    Voicemail provides a way to take corporate communications created for the universe of prospects and customers and make them yours, by leading with a message in your own voice to say “here’s something I thought would be of interest and value to you”.

    Voicemail means that no dial is ever wasted.
    Voicemail gives you an opportunity to develop rapport with new contacts.
    Voicemail pushes you to the top of a huge group of companies and people trying to be heard.
    Voicemail offers you sound bites to start wearing away points of sales resistance.
    Voicemail differentiates you from all those competitors who think they can be successful using only email.
    Voicemail allows you to automate your outreach on the phone, just as you can with email and even better, allows you to combine the two to drive a more complete message, taking advantage of the personal, persuasive appeal of your voice and the efficient distribution of factual content via the written word.

    With all the changes we have seen in the last 5 years, some things have not changed.  If you want your message to stand apart from the cacophony and clutter, don’t just run with the crowd.

    Fighting a Change? Measure the Impact

    What should be the first words out of your mouth when leaving a voicemail message?

    Much of my recent research is pointing in a direction I’m just not buying, but is that just another example of a stubborn old dinosaur resisting change?  What I’m seeing more and more of,  in reports and on discussion groups is that a voice mail message – left for the purpose of lead generation/sales prospecting- should cut immediately to the chase, which is the “pain point”.

    What should be pushed aside until later in the message is your self introduction.  That’s the “hello my name is ..and I’m calling from…” For some reason this is just sitting badly with me, but in the interest of ensuring that sticking to an old approach is not damaging my business, I’m going to be making the change and will keep track of the results and report back when a reading comes in on whether or not this makes any difference.

    New messages from me will open immediately on the purpose of the call – which is to inquire about  an assumed pain point and point to a potential solution.  Let’s see how a head to head comparison comes out.

    Are you SURE Your Clients are Sold on Your Service?

    Last week I talked with a client who thought we used computer dialers to deliver messages.

    It seems like an impossible thing to believe, given the number of years that we have built our differentiation from a ground zero of NOT using computer dialers, but actually confusion can happen quite easily.  There are many clients for whom we have worked for several years and with staff turnover, we regularly inherit new main contacts- or I guess you could say employees regularly inherit us as a new vendor.

    It happens a lot with a great many customer/vendor relationships.

    New contacts are using a service for a specific series of tasks, because we’ve been added to their job description or they’ve been directed to use that supplier because they already work with their company, but they’ve never been sold on using that service by the vendor.

    While I love being grandfathered in once in a while, it occurred to me that in never trying to actively communicate the benefits of our service to new contacts, within existing and often long term clients, we’re doing them and eventually ourselves a major disservice.

    By not “selling” your current contacts on the value you offer and making sure that they have a full understanding of what you do, how and why you do it….and why they buy from you, you deny them the opportunity to take advantage of your help when faced with a new and potentially unrelated challenge.  They won’t be able to make the leap to see how you can fit in to a different situation.

    By not completely communicating the value, you place your contacts in the potential position of using your product or service and not being able to adequately defend that decision should a management change result in program or supplier reviews.  “Because (your predecessor) told me to do this” is not the kind of answer that will endear a marketing program manager to their next department head.  While their careers are certainly not in our hands, I’d rather not be a reason they were reviewed poorly.

    I find a small irony here, given all the marketing play to the concept that most buyers don’t want to talk to a rep until they’ve more or less already made up their mind about what to buy. So it’s easy to understand how ensuring that ALL the contacts within a long standing account have a complete understanding of your value might not be a big priority with the sales team. But it should be. The competition will step into your shoes if you’re nice enough to leave them empty for long and that junior marketing coordinator who is charged with executing the details without being given the benefit of buying into all of them may very well be making those decisions one day – here or some where else.

    Respect every contact you have and be certain they’re completely educated about your company. It’s only fair.

    By not communicating our value, our contacts will not defend us, or the decision to use us. We will be vulnerable to our competitors, no matter how unscrupulous or inferior they are.

    How to Mess Up a Perfectly Good Voicemail

    It’s nice to believe that a lesson learned will stick in your head, but that isn’t necessarily the case.  It’s easy to make the same mistake over and over simply because it will come at you wearing a different disguise every time. But fancy excuses aside, beyond a doubt, the Number One reason that we repeat mistakes is simple.  We forget!

    I was on the phone yesterday, leaving a voicemail message and a colleague stopped at my office door to listen.  As I hung up the phone he shook his head and let me know in no uncertain terms that I was talking so quickly there wasn’t a chance that the person I called picked up on my phone number.

    Yikes! I know better than that.  And so do you.

    But do you always remember?  If, like some of us lesser mortals, you sometimes forget basic things because you know them so well, you don’t think about them anymore, maybe  you’ll also benefit from a few reminders.  So, unless you truly want to mess up a perfectly good voicemail message, bring these five simple points back into consciousness, just in case:

    1. Slow down.    A conversational tone is great, but if you happen to naturally be a fast talker, ease up a bit when you’re communicating critical bits of information – like your phone number.
    2. Smile.     I still remember what a Doofus I felt like in my first cold-calling job when my boss planted a mirror in the middle of my desk and explained that I needed to look in the mirror and smile while I was on the phone.  A major eye-roller it might have been, but also shockingly effective.  Yes Virginia, you can hear someone smiling and it makes them a more desirable conversation partner.
    3. If you’re using a handset, keep your head still.    You might not realize it, but moving your head around (to stare blankly out the window or catch the eye of a passing colleague heading out the door) will change the volume level in your message.  At best it means that some of what you say will be lost and at worst, the person on the other end of the message will realize why the levels are moving around and realize they weren’t as important and the different car in the parking lot.
    4. Have a definite point to your message.   Before you suddenly find yourself blathering into someones’s voicemail make darn sure you know exactly what you want to say before you leave the message.  If you have to make a lot of repetitive calls, that will simply be a matter of sketching out a good voicemail script that works for your style and the purpose of your call. If you have made a mess of your message, hit the # key and cross your fingers for a chance to delete and hopefully, re-record.
    5. Keep it short.   Thirty seconds including your “call to action”.

    Should These Words Feature in Your Voicemail Messages?

    I just read an interesting post about the 12 most powerful words  by Deiric McCann to influence people and if they’re powerful on paper, they should be dynamite when you combine them with the persuasive impact of the human voice. Next time you’re leaving a message – discover what new results you’ll love when  you  appropriately incorporate some of these proven little gems.

    1. Discover – the most persuasive of them all
    2. Easy – because we all want to make our lives easier
    3. Guarantee – it takes the risk out
    4. Health- it seems we’d like to live longer afterall
    5. Love- because it implies you’ll attend to their needs
    6. Money- duh?
    7. New- and of course improved
    8. Proven- business buyers are still largely risk adverse
    9. Results- that’s how everyone is measured
    10. Safety – another look at the risk aversion
    11. Save- on everything – it seems we don’t have enough of anything
    12. You

    …..and for all the sales reps in the audience……

    It might also be a good idea to take another look at your cold call, follow up and nurturing openers.  It’s easy to fall into a rut and when your words become a bit too familiar you can lose the conviction that needs to be attached to everything you say.  Freshen up your talking points by including some of these words.

    The 10 Worst Voicemail Mistakes

    Check out this great post written by Kendra Lee.  It’s from Eyes on Sales