B2B Sales and Social Media

Understanding the force that is social media is a quite a task. But leveraging effectively it to advance your team’s selling efforts is beyond the capabilities of most companies. (See information about upcoming webinar on social selling at the bottom of this post.)

There is no lack of data to underline how far social media has progressed. Last year Facebook topped a billion users. LinkedIn has over 200 million members. And here’s a statistic you’ve likely heard but may not have a strategy to overcome: according to the Corporate Executive Board, “customers will contact a sales rep when they independently completed about 60% of the purchasing decision process.” How do savvy sellers meet, create a dialog with, and nurture sales prospects during that time? The answer is social selling. Try this. Go to trends.google.com. They type in social selling and hit enter. See what I mean? It’s a force.

Too many companies are leaving the learning and development of a social media strategy up to the individual salesrep, and that’s a dangerous thing. It often leads to wasted time, confused company messaging, offended customers, and, most importantly, not adapting to the new way customers are buying products and services. That disconnect means fewer wins.

You can buy social media strategy advice and training from any number of sources. The challenge is integrating all that into your company’s selling process.  And while some sales training companies have invested in social media learning as part of their solution portfolios, many others are less willing to be held accountable for that component of sales peoples’ skill sets. That’s not a good thing.

Leveraging social media isn’t new to Philadelphia-based Richardson. Over the past several years we’ve given them high marks for how they’ve employed social media in their own marketing and selling efforts. Right now they’re planning to incorporate LinkedIn and Google Alerts into their “Prospecting with Insights” and “Selling with Insights” programs. That’s a good choice of platforms, since Facebook tends to be more of a Business-to-Consumer and friends & family network. Twitter, the other big force, can be a time-waster and risky, as I mentioned above.

Sales Performance International—the Solution Selling® folks—have successfully piloted their “Social Media for Sales” workshop. For that program, they’ve defined emerging roles a seller must play within new customer buying processes. One role is what they call “Micro-marketer,” whereby the seller uses social media for planning and demand creation and generation. The learning objectives and exercises for that program will certainly provide a solid foundation for a salesrep to get the most leverage out of technologies such as InsideView, LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs, and YouTube. This all relates to recent changes in the Solution Selling execution methodology, intended to boost sales performance in our world of tech-savvy, sophisticated, and powerful purchasers.

Solution Selling now includes a new framework for mapping social media into the sales process. They actually open up selected social media tools and exercise them in the context of a sales process.  So they are able to answer the question, “As a seller, exactly how do I use this at a given point in the sales process to advance my sale?”  SPI provides the roadmap.

 What can you do now to separate the value from the hype and get up to speed on what social media networks, tools, and strategies to employ in your selling efforts? Talk to your customers. Find out what networks they use to build and maintain business and personal relationships. That’s where you need to be. Find out where they educate themselves so they can perform their jobs better. That’s where you need to be. Then, as we’ve learned from two top sales training firms, get your new social media strategy integrated with your sales process and get your reps trained on how to leverage it.

Get ready for the Meeting

Back in 1994 I attended a Tony Robbins seminar. It was held at the Navy Pier in Chicago. Five or six hours into the session, Tony had us in a state where he could ask these two questions: “Think about something you always wanted to do, but for some reason, you never did it. Write it down.” Then, “Think about something you always wanted to have, but for some reason, you never bought. Write it down as well.” Within six months I earned my private pilot’s license. Six months after that I owned a single-engine Cessna and had earned my instrument rating. Now that’s what I call motivation. Thanks,  again, Tony.

But Tony didn’t just motivate the audience. He gave us some real business value.  Here is something I learned that day and have used dozens of times since: BEND-WIMP.

Tony explained that when meeting with an important executive for the first time, we need to have a pretty comprehensive understanding of who they are and what’s on their mind. BEND-WIMP is an acronym for Tony’s checklist.  Here it is:

B – Beliefs. What are the person’s beliefs about you, your company, your product? It would be really helpful to know that before you meet the person.

E – Evaluate. How does the person evaluate? Gut feel? Dependence on a recommendation from a trusted advisor? What questions might they ask?

N – Needs. What are their business needs? What will enable them to achieve their business plan?

D – Desire. What do they want on a personal level? (I think about Larry Ellison and the America’s Cup.)

W – Wounds. Where have they gone off the track. Mistakes, errors in strategy, execution, judgment? What subjects should you stay away from discussing?

I – Interests. What are their personal interests? What common ground might you have with them?

M – Mentors.  Who are their mentors? Whose books do they read? What business leaders do they emulate? I won a new customer years ago because I found out that the CEO had all his people read Who Moved the Cheese? I read the book on the plane on the way to the sales call.

P – Proud. What are they proud of? Accomplishments, big wins, etc.?

LinkedIn, which wasn’t around in 1994, is a great tool for executing your BEND-WIMP process. I find people in my network who have worked directly or even several levels down from my targeted executive. As I fill in my checklist, a clear picture of that person emerges. I’m sure you can imagine how much more effective than an ad-hoc Internet search this process is.

Customer Experience: A walk to remember

Do you know who Mehran Karimi Nasseri is? Maybe you’ve never heard the name? He is an Iranian refugee who lived in the departure lounge of Terminal One in Charles de Gaulle Airport from 1988 until 2006. From 1988 until 2006! Basically, he got stuck between “not having entered France illegally” and “not being able to enter France because he had no papers.” Interesting way to spend 17 years… had his suitcases with him, read a lot, studied economics. Probably ate a lot of airport food.

I had read a little blurb about him years ago when the Tom Hanks movie came out (“The Terminal”) and we got to imagine what it would be like to live in an airport. However, I really thought about it when I recently had a flight out of Denver cancelled and spent just one night around the gates—from about 9:00pm until my 6:30am flight the next morning.

So, I went on a little Customer Experience (CX) observational walk—pretty cool what one can see in 30 minutes. A number of items stood out that had a direct impact on me as a customer inside this airport:

Everything closes.
People miss flights, even end up spending the night sometimes—and they close all the stores and places to eat… Really? I understand that probably not much business gets driven through, but shouldn’t at least one place be open?

The ticket agents work hard… and typically have a lot of patience.
Interesting to just listen to the airline personnel at the gates. I listened to about 15 of them at various Delta gates in the terminal and constantly heard a strong effort to be professional and helpful no matter what attitude the customer brought to them. I heard them all: nice, mean, quiet, angry, very angry… the agents did the best they could trying to weave through a complicated system of airlines, connections, and missed flights.

The seats are dirty.
I constantly see hard working cleaning personnel going around, doing their best to pick up, clean up, and put back in order, but with so many people moving and sitting and eating and packing, it’s just hard to get everything clean. The airport could do it… if they wanted… by adding more people and prioritizing, but then there are budgetary restraints. However, I also notice that while sitting in the seat I am typing from right now, the nearest trash can is over 100 feet away. Why?

Outlets? Where?
If you’ve travelled much at all, this is painfully obvious. There are a few terminals that have great access to charging areas and outlet stations, but there aren’t many here. In today’s device-driven world, where everything seems to need charged, we need power. Big mistake on the airport’s part not to get this in place. Additionally, some of the outlet locations are marked and some of them aren’t; wouldn’t take much to ID where the outlets are, would it?

Nothing interactive.
Again, in today’s digital world and with people just standing around waiting most of the time, there is nothing digitally interactive here? No games to play while waiting at the gate, no cool contextual items I can interact with by using my phone… nothing. I find it absolutely fascinating that there’s a captive audience here—hundreds and hundreds—and nothing interactive. Wasted opportunity.

The lights stay on bright all night.
Even when no flights are coming in or going out. Even when people are trying to sleep. Bright, searing lights overhead. If you, as a company, had a chance to: 1) make customers happier by doing something; and 2) cost you less when doing it… wouldn’t you do it? I’m not saying to make it dark; safety is an issue; but at least dim the lights a bit.

The “your bag is too big” measure.
You know the metal boxes that are at every-single gate, the one that tells you your carry on bag can’t be larger than the size of the box? I didn’t see one used. At all. And, on just one flight alone—as I was watching specifically for this—I saw 42 bags that were bigger than the metal box and not once did I see a gate agent say anything. Yeah, I counted. One could assume they were checked down the runway, but none of them had the gate check tag on them. I can guarantee you that customers on that flight had issues with finding room for their bags.

No tables for people to interact.
Obviously many chairs, but why no tables? Why not encourage people to interact with each other by having some cool tables… maybe a partnership with Hasbro, Milton-Bradley, or LEGO? Heck, even a deck of cards? On a usability note, there are parentseverywhere with young ones who would love to have their kids playing around on the tables rather than crawling around on the floors.

Well, 30 minutes over.

Just want to encourage you to take the time to go and observe your organization’s experiences; whenever we do this for firms it always uncovers something not seen before. It is a skill that one can develop over time and can really lead to some interesting thoughts and ideas, particularly if you have people of different mindsets and viewpoints tag along. Look for the physical, behavioural, digital, and organizational and see where you can make an impact.

 

This Blog was originally posted here.

Know Your Customers

I do most of my grocery shopping at a place called Olivia’s Market, a small grocer in my neighborhood. In fact, I stop in at least three times a week, so I’ve gotten to know the owner, Bill Maheras, fairly well.

Now, I’m not saying we’re best friends, but over the years we’ve traded a bunch of emails and had coffee down the street, and he’s even offered me some choice Bulls tickets. Good guy, this Bill.

We also enjoy talking shop. To say that the grocery business is cutthroat would be a major understatement. Every day, Bill has to contend with slim margins, lots of competitors, scores of suppliers, and high inventory costs. No surprise, then, that Bill always tells me how lucky I am to run a software company. With high margins, no spoilage, and no inventory, our businesses are polar opposites.

But I always remind Bill how in at least one respect, he is far luckier than I: He actually knows his customers.

In today’s hundred-data-points-on-your-customer world of online business, Bill has one data point that really matters: He can recognize a customer if he sees her walking down the street. Can you say that about your company? I know I can’t.

We owners of Web-based businesses love to gloat about how many customers (make that users) we have. But do we really know any of them? Sure, we can calculate their lifetime value and figure out how many times they’ve logged in over the past 90 days, what brand of mobile phone they use, and how much they spend a month. But we wouldn’t know who they were if they walked in our front doors.

The owners of such locally based businesses as Olivia’s don’t get glossy magazine covers, and industry websites never claim that they are changing the world. But I am more convinced than ever that we can learn a lot from the Bill Maherases out there.

Why don’t I know my customers the way Bill does? Obviously, scale is one reason: We have tens of thousands of individual paying customers. Another is geography; we have users in more than 50 countries, and it’s not so easy to strike up individual relationships with them.

But the main reason is that our business is built on self-service. Customers buy Basecamp without ever having to interact with us. If they do have a question, we handle everything via email. We’ve been in the business of automation. We’ve never really valued full service.

There is nothing wrong with this. Our customers love our product. And they love that they don’t have to talk to salespeople, make any phone calls, or wait for someone to approve their purchase to sign up.

But what if we tried to run our business more as Bill does? Is it possible to create a model in which we get to see–or at least hear–our customers on a regular basis; in which we know their names, their businesses, their stories; in which we might even recognize them if we bumped into them on the street?

I want to see if we can do this kind of thing at 37signals. How much better can we be if we know our customers for real, not just as data points?

So that’s what we’re going to do with our next product. It won’t be self-service; it’ll be full service. Rather than no touch, it’ll be high touch. If you want to buy it, I want to get to know you a little first. A phone call, a videoconference, whatever–I just want to know who my customers are so I can really understand why they want to buy. I want to know if I can really help them.

What’s this product? Well, that’ll have to wait for my next column. Until then, go meet your local grocer, dry cleaner, and shop owner. Really talk to them. And let them inspire you.

source: inc.com