Take the Guesswork out of Social Influence

With Klout making a lot of news for its employment policies recently – it is nice to see that social influence ratings are getting closer look.  I love Klout – my score is 41 which makes me a “networker” in their Style grid.  My score and others’ can help me find people that will communicate my service and value proposition so that my brand awareness is raised.  I can build a nice network of social chatter by targeting my most influential social networkers.  The marketing officer in me absolutely loves this capability.

As a sales officer however, I am looking for people that can buy my solution, not kick the can down the road so that someone else will buy it.  From a sales perspective – I need not only social influence but specific actions taken and I need to know exactly what is being said on social media relative to the product I am selling.  In other words, I need to score individuals based on their social actions, social attributes, and keywords that are important to me.

Actions: I want to know if my prospects have done anything specific with my company’s social media outlets.  As example, if my customer or prospect becomes a fan of my company on Facebook or LinkedIn  – that’s important to me. So would the knowledge of retweeting something my company or I put out, follows either of us on twitter, or connects with me on LinkedIn.

Attributes:  I would also want to know the online reputation of my prospects – similar to Kout – but I would want to make that relative to what I sell.  For example, if you are a company that sells to CFO’s, then you wouldn’t rely much on social attributes.  However, if you are in the daily deals space – then this would mean much more to you.

Mentions:  There are over 1 Billion subscribers to social networking sites on this planet. Most of what they communicate has no relevance to me. However, there are certain keywords that are amazingly important to me such as my company, my product, my industry, or my competitors. More or less it would be any Adword that you purchase from Google for paid search. If it is worth paying per click, then it is worth knowing if your customers or prospects are talking about it on social media.

Social123 has taken the concept of scoring the social actions, attributes and mentions of individuals to create SocialPoints+.  Our process allows the searcher to associate a point value to the various social criteria that generates a customized and relevant SocialPoints+ score.

 

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Social Lead Generation

By now, most forward-thinking sales and marketing organizations are taking full advantage of enablement tools that provide real competitive advantage in their space. The B2B model is rather well defined with the core engine of CRM housing customer / prospect data, an e-mail aggregator pushing compelling messaging to drive traffic to the corporate website, then scoring that traffic to triage direct sales efforts.
Up until now, this market intelligence has proven to optimize business development efforts; not only had to create a lower cost per lead but a more qualified one as well. We know that buyers want to “self-educate” so we provide a content-rich website to help towards that end. Marketers have created a rather wide net with this model. However, that process is limited to the universe of individuals either contacted via the e-mail aggregator or find their way to the website through SEO or PPC efforts.
What about the buyer who consults their social network before they ever search Google? After all, today’s buyer not only wants to self-educate, they want recommendations and advice from credible sources. That is the essence of the “like” button and the comment section. That is why the modern buyer doesn’t first go to Google, they go to Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter for initial research.
Smart marketers are using social monitoring tools to fill the void that social networks have created. By using the very same Google Ad words that provide traffic on a pay per click basis, social monitors can be used to provide insight though various social media outlets in the same manner. These monitors provide real-time feedback in the form of sales leads, customer complaints, competitive intelligence, and unique industry insight where none existed before.
In a recent Forrester survey, 72% of respondents said social media helps them get answers to questions, 68% said it helps them find information they need to be successful, and 62% said it lets people know what kind of help is available. And large majorities of respondents said social media has a positive impact on brand reputation (86%), innovation (80%), and customer service (78%).
Social monitoring is the missing layer of market intelligence. It isn’t enough to have a Facebook fan page or send out press releases via a corporate Twitter account. The savvy marketer must also monitor social media with the same diligence we direct traffic with search engine optimization techniques and paid search.

From Cold Calling to Social Calling

There are two aspects about cold calling that make it an imperfect demand creation technique. 1. The cold caller hates to do it. 2. The prospect hates to receive it.

As someone that has put in his fair share of time interrupting busy executives with my solicitations, I can confess that this most unnatural of interruptions never really did live up its billing.  The problem is fundamental, cold calling is akin to finding a needle in a haystack.  We have to find the right person, in the right company, at the right time, who happens to be at their desk and willing to take an unsolicited call.

From a salesperson’s perspective, we are told that every NO leads to a YES and that selling is a contact sport – so make your dials! However, Einstein once famously told us that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  Eventually, the lack of success that cold calling produces leaves what would otherwise be a highly compensated member of your company surfing the Internet.  From a sales person’s perspective – waiting for a lead is just as productive as trying to produce one.

What if we could turn that paradigm around? What if we could provide sales people with the right person, at the right company, at the right time who is looking to buy? Triggering Event and Social Monitoring are demand creation tactics that provide business intelligence to sales people alerting them of buying events.  It can be as simple as a potential buyer announcing a need for a solution you sell on LinkedIn, a press release on Facebook announcing an corporate initiative your product can help facilitate, or a prospect exclaiming their dissatisfaction for your competition on Twitter.

Social Media is a viable median for lead sourcing. A recent report from the Social Media Examiner finds, “58% of marketers who have been using social media for more than 3 years report it has helped them improve sales. More than half who spend 11 or more hours per week find the same results and over 65% of those who spend 30+ hours earn new business through their efforts. Small business owners with 2 or more employees were more likely to see improved sales from social media (51.5%). “

“By spending as little as 6 hours per week, 61% of marketers see lead generation benefits with social media. A significant 65% of small business owners were more likely than others to generate leads, compared to the 58% average for all marketers.”

The Competitive advantage of a Social CRM

Successful businesses are always looking for an edge against their competition. After all, as Thomas Freidman has told us the world is flat, so it isn’t unusual for Asian and European companies to compete for business in the United States. Traditional e-commerce efforts that push or pull traffic to a corporate website have proven to be the vehicle that has leveled the playing field for small / foreign businesses.  However, innovative companies are finding a way to gain an advantage in this already intensely competitive landscape with socially appended data. Stated otherwise – they are evolving their CRM into a Social CRM

Take for example LinkedIn – the most widely used social media outlet for professional purposes. A fully populated LinkedIn profile has the following data on an individual:

  • Picture
  • Location
  • Accurate Position
  • Alma Mater
  • Number of Connections
  • Alternate E-mail Address
  • Phone Number
  • Twitter Handle
  • Work History
  • Groups and Associations
  • Interests
  • Honors and Awards
  • Skills and Expertise
  • Birthdate
  • Marital Status


If I were simply preparing for a meeting – this data would give me a much better perspective and holistic view of my prospect.  I would understand how long she has been in her current position and where else they she has worked to ascertain if she has used my or my competitor’s product.  I would also know if we have any mutual connections or similar interest, honors, or associations to reference.  Lastly, I would know if my prospect asked or answered any questions on LinkedIn that related to my service.

However, the true power of social data is the strength it has en masse.  A CRM that has been appended with social data empowers businesses with additional contact information such as a twitter handle, cell phone number, and alternate e-mail address. These methods of contact are used mush less frequently for professional purposes and therefore more productive.

Imagine the power of segmenting your current CRM database by interests, groups, skills, or alma maters that would be uniquely interested in your service. What impact would wishing your customers and prospects a happy birthday or anniversary have toward brand awareness? What better prospect is there than one that has already used your product? Social data can give you that insight.

When product is commoditized and you can’t get above the noise of traditional e-commerce, Social CRM is becoming a true competitive advantage looking to gain an edge.

Death of a Salesman…..Updated

Slate has written an excellent article entitled, Death of a Salesman. Of Lots of Them, Actually. The main theme of the article is that sales people are becoming “disintermediated” by the internet. The author uses examples of how auto salespeople, travel agents, and stock brokers have lost their jobs to sites like AutoTrader, Expedia, and eTrade. There is no arguing that B2C sales careers have been severely crippled by the information age but what about B2B? Truly.

(Updated: Here is some reaction from the article!)

Steve Woods, CTO of Eloqua and author of Digital Body Language, argues that a B2B salesperson’s biggest competition is Google. I have to agree. Salespeople don’t get involved in the buying process until the prospect has thoroughly educated him or herself about our service. Our competitive differentiation, client case studies, even online demonstrations are available for the world to see on our website. Every piece of information we as salespeople once thought so sacred in the sales process has been reduced to a click of a mouse. If you are saying the same thing to your prospect that can be found online then you have added no value to the sales process.

To avoid the same fate as Willie Loman, we have to tailor our message specifically to the buyer. We have to give them something they can’t find online. Luckily, the information superhighway is a two way street.

  • The first step is to get out in front of the buyer by knowing when and where they were on your website. Most marketing automation companies will give this business intelligence as part of their offering. Were executives on your site or just functionaries? The pages they selected will give you the insight into their concerns.
  • The second step is to do a thorough search of the buyers. Search LinkedIn to see how long the buyers have been working in their present positions and where they worked before. Oftentimes we can get a glimpse of predisposition by understanding the landscape of previous employers.
  • The last step is to research the company itself. Try a Google news search on the company to see if there are any triggering events that prompted the call. Hoovers will give a brief overview of the company and the competitive landscape for free. Think competitive advantage in terms of how you can give it to your prospect – not against your own competition.

With these bits of information you can begin creating a talk track around specific intelligence that will compliment what the prospect already has learned about your solution.

Hungry Sellers

I created a new group on LinkedIn called Hungry Sellers http://www.linkedin.com/groups?mostPopular=&gid=3256714

I came up with the idea because I am being asked what MORE could our team do create demand for our organization. The challenge is simple – get more qualified appointments to spark an evaluation for our services. Then I thought what better way to get a warm introduction inside of potential client that from a peer sales person.  What potential sales person wouldn’t make the connection if there were reciprocity. Then the ball started rolling down hill. Why not open up this idea to all Hungry Sellers? After all, if you are as hungry as I am, you would try any ethical approach possible to win business.

Therefore I created a LinkedIn Group for likeminded salespeople to put their networking and creativity to the test. Let’s give an example.

Say that Harry sells hardware for a Fortune 1000 company. Let’s say that Lynda sells staffing services for a regional player.  Harry needs an appointment with the VP of IT at Lynda’s company but hasn’t had any success. Lynda could use a warm introduction to the hiring manager of Harry’s company. Lynda connects with Harry because they are both members of Hungry Sellers.  Lynda will introduce Harry to her contact and Harry will do the same at his. Voila – both get an appointment where none possible before. In this case, it’s not what you know but who you know.

 Think it hard to pull this feat? In this economy, we are all in sales and if you tell the decision-maker in your company that you are receiving an appointment in-kind, that should do the trick. If that still doesn’t work, start playing the org chart game until you hit someone in your organization that cares about revenue. If that still doesn’t work, I would be seriously worried about the direction of the company I work for.

I have seen this work on many occasions so I decided to create the group. Be careful though, only hungry sellers can pull this off.

Creating Demand – Why Senior Sales People Won’t do it (updated.)

frustratedIn this economy – we are finding that marketing alone is not enough to secure a healthy pipeline of business. In response, senior sales people are asked to go from reacting to demand to generating it on their own. With this new dynamic, I think the hardest thing for sales management to understand is that their BIG GAME Hunters are unprepared and unwilling to handle this new responsibility.

Without any direction outside of a mandate to gain more evaluations – senior sales people do what they do best. They think their industry knowledge, tenure, and high compensation requires them to craft lengthy and well researched correspondence to targeted executives. (Imagine the laborious process of researching, writing and rewriting the perfectly tailored e-mail and phone script?) The problem with this approach is that when these lengthy, targeted pieces of correspondence go unanswered – senior sales people get frustrated. They begin to take on the mentality that they are closers and setting appointments only prevents them from do what they are paid so handsomely to do. In truth – highly compensated / senior sales people rose to their station because they are very productive and demand creation activity that doesn’t generate demand is just……unproductive.

What we need to understand is that our buyers are very busy and even if we craft the perfect pitch to an individual, it could be the wrong time, the wrong person, or even the wrong median. Demand Creation in today’s hectic and busy world requires a different outlook and process. We need to switch from a hunting approach to a farming mentality.

A successful demand creation process allows senior sales people to use their tenure, experience, and status for demand creation – but instead of spending this time focusing on an individual – they focus on a group of individuals. This process takes the same amount of time as traditional targeted demand creation efforts but is wildly more productive because it generates results.

I wrote this e-book to help create demand for the senior sales people who just won’t do it.

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