70% of your customer’s buying decision is made before the first meeting. You already know this. However, to set yourself apart and optimise your sales process, you use a multitude of digital tools. How do you combine the human aspect with technology in a sale? Here are 3 tips for you to adopt the best position. (excerpt from the white paper Du VRP des cavernes au commercial du futur [From the primitive field sales representative to the salesperson of the future]) 1. When closing, the human aspect is at the heart of the sales process
The spread of computers has reframed how we hold a meeting with a prospect, but it has not revolutionised closing, which is above all a human affair. This is what Frédéric Bonneton emphasises: “Technology is involved upstream. If you have made the customer understand the value of what you are selling them, with interactive tools for example, they will not hesitate, because they will not have to weigh the pros and cons. If the customer is afraid, you must “nudge” them, which is something no algorithm can do for you.” 2. Using digital technology to boost your presentation phase
Nevertheless, the new tools that have appeared in recent years may tell the salesperson how to focus their closing efforts. “Technology can help in that it makes the presentation a data collection phase that incorporates CRM (customer relationship management software)” says Bruno Barandas. “For example, there may be triggers that would say: “prospect X has read your entire presentation », or “they have read it twice », “they went to these pages », “ they spent X minutes on the quote page”, etc. The presentation will be enhanced as a real sales tool and not only a tool that aids the salesperson.” 3. Finally, avoid the following bad practices</strong
Being too empathetic: you must know how to set your conditions and educate your customer (with refinement);
Trusting the customer and believing them when they say “I will call you back”. You must never be afraid of annoying your prospect by chasing them over the phone;
Letting your diary be dictated by the customer: a salesperson’s time is precious too.
The initial sales meeting is THE key moment in a sale. It’s like an exam, either you pass or you fail. So, it is essential that you stack the odds in your favor and avoid mistakes that could give a poor first impression of your company or even discredit you. In this article, I will list ten mistakes that should not be made in the first B2B sales presentation and advice on how to avoid these pitfalls.
Mistake No. 1 – Arranging a Meeting with an Unqualified Lead
Possibly one of the worst errors for a salesperson is to organize a meeting with a person who, in the end, does not have an actual need. This often occurs in B2B. The salesperson receives a lead from marketing, passes five minutes on the phone with the lead (without analyzing needs) and straightaway suggests a face-to-face or video-conference meeting. By arranging an irrelevant meeting, the salesperson (and sometimes a pre-sales person who has a physical meeting) wastes time in preparing for the meeting, or demonstration, for a person who is only looking for information (perhaps because they are an intern), instead of concentrating on hot leads. Such an unqualified lead could certainly feel valued, but could also be frightened off by such energetic bluster for a simple demo…
What you should do:
Conduct a B.A.N.T. B.A.N.T. allows you to categorize a prospective customer in the early stages by confirming that there is a Budget, a person who has the Authority to make a decision, a Need to change and therefore a proven need/problem, and a Timeline for the project and decision.
Avoid incentivizing the sales team on the number of meetings alone. While one of the keys to increasing B2B sales is giving your sales team the objective to hit X amount of meetings (telephone, face-to-face, etc.) every month, it is also pushing them to just “set up a meeting.” Remember that time is precious and all the effort spent on unqualified leads is less time available for your hot prospects.
Establish a “simpler” mechanism for prospects who are still in the discovery stage (long-term project) or not one of your targets. For information requests, the contact can be done through a tele-sales qualification unit or a simple phone call. The prospect will then enter a specific automatic marketing process with regular messages (e.g. invites to a web seminar, customer success stories, etc.).
Mistake No. 2 – Not Adding your Contacts to Your Social Networks
The sales meeting does not start when you first shake hands with your prospective customer… it should start right after you get off the phone with them. LinkedIn is an indispensable tool in preparing for your first sales presentation. It allows you to glean very useful information:
The exact position of the person and their career. In this way, you can adapt your arguments.
Mutual colleagues or contacts whom you could possibly contact or mention during the meeting (e.g. Martin, your former colleague from… sends his regards).
The place where they studied, thereby knowing where they come from so you can mention common experiences (e.g. I saw you studied in Denver, I just spent my holidays there…).
It is also the moment to sow the first seeds of what could be a special and more personal relationship with your would-be customer:
Like/Comment/Share… their publications
See if they have “liked” publications from competitors
Before going to the meeting, you will be able to review their profile and their news feed to find some topics of conversation.
What you should do:
You can add the person to your contacts with a message tied to your upcoming meeting. For example, “Hello, in anticipation of our meeting on March 1, I would like to connect with you on LinkedIn so we can stay in contact. All the best, Fred.” However, do not start “harassing” the person by contacting them several times or sending reminders if they don’t immediately accept your invite.
Regularly publish relevant news and content on your LinkedIn profile so that you can regularly appear in the news feeds of your leads. This way, you can stay fresh in their memory. You could add them to one of your company’s LinkedIn Groups, such as, for example, my group “Customer Experience Management,” which allows me to send a periodic newsletter to the group’s members.
Mistake No. 3 – Not Personalizing the Presentation
If a lead suggests having a meeting, it is because there is a problem and they think you can help them. It’s not just to have a presentation of your products and services. The error to avoid is conducting a generic presentation without demonstrating to the customer that you have created the presentation with only them in mind. The key is showing that you fully understand their problem and that you have the means to solve it at a good price. As Guy Kawasaki states in his book “The Art of the Start 2.0” (2015), a good offer is the one that finds the way to “get money from your prospect’s pocket to your own.” The idea is not to think how you will sell your product but how you can solve the client’s problem.
What you should do:
Add your lead’s logo onto one or two slides in your presentation and personalize the name of the PowerPoint file that you will send later by email. This will show the prospect that the presentation was really thought up for them. If you have a short video, ask your DTP department to add the prospect’s logo into the introduction.
Add one or two slides (after the presentation of your company) where you summarize what the client told you during the first phone call (challenges, needs, issues, etc.), with their own expressions or figures if possible. These slides can be entitled “What we understood about your needs.” This will convey the idea that the presentation is personal and the needs of your client have been considered. It is also the moment to redefine your presentation before continuing. This discussion will allow you to adapt your presentation on your product and demonstration, and use your client’s ideas in your sales pitch. Read also:Why (and how) you should harmonize the sales pitch of your teams.
Look up your prospect’s products, agencies and subsidiaries and the names of personnel on the prospect’s website, and include such information in your demonstration. For example, if you’re selling a CRM solution, add the name of your leads into the contacts list, if you’re selling telephone solutions, send an SMS to your leads’ cell phones.
Mistake No. 4 – Being Late or Slow to Start
Your customer is entitled to be late, this can even help you by putting them in a position where they feel indebted to you for having waited. But, YOU cannot be late. It is essential that you give yourself a margin of safety so you can arrive at least ten minutes before the meeting. Your prospect has offered you their time, you must not squander it! Whether it’s a video-conference or a face-to-face meeting, always send a reminder to your prospect one or two days beforehand. Be careful, the reminder should not be worded like “Are we still meeting tomorrow?” (this could allow the prospective customer to cancel the meeting due to a heavy schedule). Better is a reminder in the form of “We have prepared a personalized presentation for you and cannot wait to meet you. There will be 3 of us, arriving by car. Should we go to reception when we arrive?” This makes a cancellation much trickier for your prospect. If the meeting is canceled, propose a new date as soon as possible, and, if necessary, a remote meeting (e.g. telephone), in order to avoid extra waiting and then schedule a new face-to-face meeting. What you should do:
Define THE message you definitely want the lead to remember, this will be THE thing that they remember from your conversation. Your presentation and arguments must be developed to attain this goal.
Prepare your documents before the meeting and make sure you work through them in a way that matches your prospect’s expectations. Do a quick run-through to rework inconsistencies.
Ideally, arrive 30 minutes in advance so you can settle yourself into the presentation and refine your strategy with the help of your colleagues over a coffee.
Put your computer on standby to avoid wasting five minutes on booting it up in the conference room. Similarly, if you need Internet access, inform the prospect of this beforehand or set up your cell phone as a 4G router.
Copy your presentation and documents onto a cloud storage system, so you can still access them if your laptop crashes.
To help your presentation run smoothly, you can use our Touch & Sell sales presentation app. The presentation is ready to start immediately, all your content is up-to-date, available offline and enhanced with a mobile application in your company’s colors.
Mistake No. 5 – Not Exploiting Informal Moments Before and After the Meeting
The meeting is not the only moment that you should prepare for; the selling begins the moment you step inside the building. There are five key moments:
Arrival on the premises and notifying your arrival. You should announce your arrival, and not be found slumped on a couch with a mountain of open files. Your smartphone is more than enough for work.
Greeting: you only have one chance of making a good first impression.
The walk to the conference room: you should have some small talk on hand to break the ice (e.g. your offices are well decorated, how many work in the building, is that the iPhone X you have there…). This is the moment for building a rapport, making a compliment…
The meeting: you should prepare an agenda, a summary of the presentation to be confirmed with the participants. The goal is not to launch into a speech but to reassure the client that you have the solution to their problem.
Taking leave and returning to reception: this is often an important moment that should be exploited because the prospect is not on their guard. For example, you can ask questions about competitors, “Have you talked to other people?” / “What are your next steps?”
Mistake No. 6 – Not Offering a Material Item
Even if our business relationships are becoming increasingly digital, you should leave behind some token reminder of your meeting. You should go to a meeting with:
Your business cards. Do not say “I don’t have any more”/“they’re at the printers,” etc. This could show that you don’t even know how to manage simple office demands, so, how will you ever manage the client’s project?!
A brochure of your company. This is one way of remaining present in the office of your lead, and they might show it to colleagues…
A USB drive with the presentation you did.
A goody bag (e.g. anti-stress ball, cell phone charger, etc.). Offering a gift, even a symbolic one, will make your lead “indebted,” which could help you during a sales follow-up.
What you should do:
Make a “Prospects Kit” that will be systematically given to every new lead, with the brochure, USB drive, goody bag, etc. to be sure you’re never forgotten.
Buy a bunch of goodies with your logo on them so they will serve as a reminder of your brand or product. You could even have two types of goody bags, the standard one for all prospects, and the top-range one for key accounts or VIP clients. The aim is to make your lead feel “indebted” to you, as Robert Cialdini explains in his book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”.
Mistake No. 7 – Forgetting to Confirm the Agenda and Time Available
A classic mistake is not confirming your contacts’ available time and having to race through your presentation to fit it into their schedule. At the start of the meeting, confirm the agenda and the time available to give your presentation. With this, you will be able to adapt your presentation. What you should do:
Have a short and a long version of your PowerPoint presentation ready so you can pass from one to the other according to the time on hand.
Set out the essential information to be remembered for your prospect. By defining exactly what you expect from them and what you hope they will remember, you can focus on that topic and prune off any fodder that might obscure the information that should be conveyed. For example, you can define your objective as being remembered in a shortlist for a tender, the goal is then to set yourself apart from your competitors. As a result, you should highlight one or two functions, the price, the business model, etc.
Mistake No. 8 – Speaking Too Much and Not Taking any Notes
The prospective customer is the star of the show. Not your products or you. This is not the place to go through a full-blown sales pitch. The prospect must be convinced that you have fully understood the problem and it is only then that you should present your solution. You shouldn’t put the cart before the horse by immediately offering your solution… the prospect will think you don’t know all their specifics, or that you’re not interested in their actual case, and just want to sell your product. You have to also show your interest in the prospect’s problem by taking notes (notebook, laptop, etc.). What you should do:
Avoid talking too much and interrupting, 60% of the first meeting should be devoted to listening to your leads and their needs, the other 40% to talking about your company and its products. People enjoy talking about themselves and having their problems listened to (they and their problems are the stars of the meeting, not you!). Do not interrupt and always let them finish their sentences. Still not convinced? Remember the last time you talked to your friends or colleagues about your vacation? Their first reflex was not to ask what you did, it was to talk about themselves or their friends by saying “I went there, too”/“my neighbor just got back from there.”
If possible, appoint one person to take notes during the meeting so you can write up minutes. That document will allow everyone to compare what was understood and offer a basis for the actions to be taken.
At the end of the meeting, do a quick summary of what you understood and what you are offering. Reiterate that you would really like to work on the issue and that your product fulfills this type of demand.
Do not forget to be positive and remove all negative words from your vocabulary (e.g. don’t hesitate to call me => I’m available if you have any questions…).
If possible, add the idea of ROI (profitability) resulting from using your product, whether rationally (e.g. you could save x hours) or emotionally (e.g. you will no longer have to repeat the same speech ten times, you won’t be wasting any more time, your tasks will be automated, etc.).
Mistake No. 9 – Not Proposing a Next Step
The meeting is coming to a close, if it has been positive, now is the time to bring up a next step. Why not set a date for a subsequent meeting? You have to strike while the iron is hot, especially if the prospect is meeting several companies in succession. What you should do:
Add the question “What are the next steps?” to the concluding or final slide. (source: eloquant.com).
Mistake No. 10 – Forgetting to Make a Report on the Meeting and the CRM
Once back at the office, you should not wait until the day before the next meeting to work on the brief. Start by carrying out a debrief with your colleagues right after the meeting (but not in the corridor, parking lot… where you can be overheard) or send out emails to launch actions and fit in meetings. If you send documents to your lead, you can use tracking tools. There are tools out there to track when a prospect clicks on or opens your documents: Tilkee.com, bananatag.com, qwilr.com, getconga.com, proposify.com, yesware.com, HubSpot, etc. What you should do:
Send a concise synopsis of the meeting to the prospect, reminding them that you would really like to work with them and you are available if they have any questions. You can also send them documents mentioned during the meeting.
Record your complete minutes of the meeting in your CRM in order to keep track of exchanges.
Set an alert in your calendar or your CRM to send a reminder to the prospect at the right time.
As you have just read, success in the first meeting with a prospective client is not just about turning up, it is about being invested in the needs of the client and showing that you are the person with the solution to their problem. This means understanding the client’s issues and preparing the finer details that will make the difference by winning the prospect’s trust, showing that their problem is important to you and that you want to devote time to solving that problem.
Fabrice Herlax, Chief Marketing & Operations Officer at Délifrance, equipped his company’s sales department with a mobile sales presentation application to assist the department in their work. When searching for new franchisees in different countries, Fabrice Herlax looked for a tool that could easily integrate a certain number of presentation documents. One of his requirements was that the solution should be simple, and available without an Internet connection. Providing his salespeople with a mobile sales-support application seemed to be the best option for what Délifrance was looking for.
“The Touch & Sell solution quickly enraptured us”
The bakery company’s CMOO was seduced by this turnkey solution: an easy-to-use application, managed through an administration interface that allowed instant adjustments to the application’s content.
How was the sales-support application rolled out at the company?
The first phase for the Délifrance teams was to think about the layout of all the documents to be made available to the sales team in the application. The company employed a Touch & Sell endorsed agency to develop the application’s graphic interface with the brand’s motifs. The final step was the integration of materials from the administration interface, and the synchronization of the content on the sales team’s tablets. According to Fabrice Herlax, Délifrance “found a fairly quick creation process because Touch & Sell supplied an operational tool within four months.”
How have your employees taken to the application?
In Délifrance, two units have received the client-meeting application. One is the team responsible for business development and customer leads, the other is the sales department whose role is to open new stores. The two units have happily embraced the new tool and use it daily. Given this success, the company has opened up access to certain presentations in the application’s infrastructure for master franchisees so that they can have the latest information when they themselves are in a type of sales presentation. In essence, Délifrance has harmonized its sales pitch. Délifrance’s Fabrice Herlax equipped his sales team with a mobile app to assist them in their sales presentations
What have you noticed since using Touch & Sell?
Before using the tablet application, sales would go to meetings with papers in hand or a computer that wasn’t practical to lug around. As for the client’s experience, you can guess… According to the Chief Marketing & Operations Officer, Touch & Sell has by all accounts facilitated the interaction between the salesperson and the client during the presentation. With all documents at hand and being able to slip easily from a PDF document to a video, the company gives off a modern, professional image. Fabrice Herlax has compared the Touch & Sell solution to a 4×4, the application is “suited to all terrains”.
How would you describe your relation with Touch & Sell?
For the CMOO, the relationship between Délifrance and Touch & Sell rests on three key points. The first is responsiveness: “we’ve always received a quick response to our questions and technical issues; this is a key aspect for us,” declared Fabrice Herlax. There is also customer proximity: “Touch & Sell fully understood our needs and accompanied us in a speedy development without attempting to complicate the tool.” Finally, receptivity and attentiveness are strong points for Touch & Sell. The CMOO stated, “we felt like we were being listened to and we saw solutions come up following constructive conversations on how we would be able to use the application.” Délifrance’s interest in the Touch & Sell solution has now moved onto the smartphone. Fabrice Herlax espoused: “we quickly identified the smartphone as a complement to the tablet.” He recommends this use for one-off, unscheduled sales meetings such as at trade fairs, “the need to have identical access through a smartphone seemed obvious to us.” The Chief Marketing Officer personally uses the Touch & Sell application only on his smartphone. It allows him to have constant access to all content to bolster his sales presentation when on business trips. More than 170 companies have decided to make use of a mobile sales-presentation application to support the arguments of their sales teams, in particular: Lagardère Métropoles, Universal Music, Canal+ Régie…
The sales meeting is a quintessential rite of passage for all salespeople (to prove the point, see our previous article about social selling). Despite the Internet’s ubiquitous status in our era, meetings have never been more important to ensure mutual understanding. And, obviously, argue in favor of your product. In this article, we will see how sales meetings can be made more effective by drawing inspiration from books on the topic, interspersed with real-life anecdotes.
Remember: 1.Face-to-face meetings are a linchpin in sales: mastering the aspects involved is crucial. 2.There is no such thing as a natural-born seller, but some people can learn to sell well. 3.The key moments in a sales meeting are the preparation, the first few minutes, listening to the client and closing the deal.
The sales meeting remains an indispensable part of selling. Even though technology and devices easily allow remote communication, nothing beats a one-on-one meeting that enables you to converse directly with your client. This type of meeting is the most important moment in a sale and a crucial time in the life of the salesperson: the customer’s needs, desires and fears have to be analyzed and satisfactory responses must be found. And, of course, closing the sale, because that is the ultimate aim. After much effort, the salesperson finally comes face to face with the customer of their dreams. The dozens of blockading secretaries have been dodged and an incredible number of impromptu visits and fruitless emails were needed to get this meeting. This opportunity cannot be wasted. An ill-prepared presentation, often due to time constraints, leads to the sale falling through and hopes being dashed.
No one is born a seller…
There are, however, those who are born to learn how to sell properly through hard work and effort, as Gitomer and Zemke explain in their book “Knock Your Socks Off Selling.” There is no secret recipe for this. But it does take self-discipline, willpower, positive thinking, self-confidence, constant work, team spirit and, in particular, building a real sense of a relationship (see the checklist on p. 30 of the book).
Preparation for the Sales Presentation
We first have to dismiss a myth: you cannot wing a sales presentation. This does not always mean spending ten hours with your nose in a file, but you should at least take the time to calmly look over the presentation. It is also necessary to have carried out research, prepared the opening, sales strategy and pitch, without forgetting to leave good time for listening to the client’s concerns, needs and questions. Of course, you have to be able to react, respond and improvise when necessary, but relying on improvisation in a cavalier attitude won’t get you very far. Nowadays, it is very easy to search for information on a company and its directors, but such ease can be misleading. A lot of information about companies is hidden. An increasing number of decision-makers, as described in our previous article, have fled from social networks to hide from sellers. So, the background work is more important than ever.
Lessons from my First Sales Outings
My first, and catastrophic, visits involved me walking unprepared into stores that I didn’t know with products I didn’t know well and without having thought out my sales strategy (the offers I could make, which products to highlight for such-and-such a customer compared with the machines stocked by rival department stores, etc.) Once I realized that I had to prepare my presentations and, where possible, ask for help from my more experienced colleagues, my sales meetings improved drastically and I was able to make some sales as a result. Sometimes, a relaxing hour in a café before the appointment allowed me to plan my line of attack. Only the most hard-working people manage to improvise convincingly. Beginners are not able to ad-lib, only those who have practiced can give themselves the luxury of being inventive.
Henri Jeanson once wrote, “First impressions are always good, especially when they’re bad.” This is another aspect about which I learnt a lot in the field because, under the emotional distress of being a beginner and also due to the lack of preparation, I usually had clammy hands. Fortunately, my sales manager gave me some very useful advice: just before shaking hands, I should discreetly rub my hand on my trousers and then firmly shake hands to avoid any impression of nervousness or of being a dead fish. Having sweaty palms is obviously no crime but it will inevitably convey a feeling of inferiority, which does not bode well for the rest of the meeting.
Other aspects at the sales meeting have their own significance. In their sales bible, “Les accélérateurs de vente” [Sales accelerators], Michaël Aguilar and Philippe Lafaix rightfully remind us that the title held by the sales person, and even the business card, are not trivial matters. It should be noted that on page 39 the authors describe the reverse approach that is often used by clubs and VIP associations, whereby the seller reverses the power dynamic and explains to the potential client that joining the club in question requires a period of reflection to properly study the application and assess whether the client is a suitable candidate for the club.
Learning to Listen
If the job of the salesperson is difficult, the life of the client is not clear sailing either. A good seller needs to learn empathy, to be able to understand the other person’s profession. As I have been on both sides of the sales pitch, I can explain the buyer’s perspective. Contrary to what is often said, the buyer’s actions are not governed solely by rationality. The buyer has their own career path, internal problems, resistance to change, organizational or budgetary problems… All this means that the buyer’s mind is completely elsewhere when the salesperson walks through the door. The numerous salespeople who came in with their PowerPoint presentation on the history of their agency made me feel that they were more concerned about themselves than about my problems. What was keeping me up at night was my projects and the problems I encountered in rolling them out. When I met a salesperson who came with an attentive ear and suggested a solution to a problem that they had come across before, I was much more likely to make an order. Such sellers are few and far between. Try to remember what Regis McKenna once said, “you have to always start from a blank page.” This allows you to show you are actually listening to your clients’ problems. And when it’s sincere, it’s all the more powerful.
Closing the Deal
Alec Baldwin’s excellent monologue (“Always be closing!”) inGlengarry Glen Ross comes to mind. A scrupleless sales manager “motivates” a sales team, some of whom (Jack Lemmon) have problems back home, but ends up berating them with a warning that two of them will be fired. Despite this caricature, the closing is the most crucial part of sales, especially a well-conducted sales presentation. Michaël Aguilar and Philippe Lafaix, in their major work, describe it as “the moment of truth. The closing validates the salesperson’s work. The client says yes and the salesperson is rewarded. The client says no and the salesperson is struck by disappointment, even doubt.” The authors give an example of the sale of office equipment where a question asked in a negative form leads to a 31% success rate. The figure rises to 39% when the question is put into a positive form. This is beaten further with 51% by a question giving a positive choice between two options. Instead of making an offer that ends with a yes or no, it is possible to demonstrate a series of relevant options that lets the client make their own decision from among the options. This is not only a selling technique, it is also a method to respect the client’s choice and let them opt for a solution that matches their needs. The client meeting is an art form that requires a lot of practice. The quality of the discovery and research phase before the presentation, and actively listening to the prospect are essential to enter the closing phase with relative ease. Michaël Aguilar explains that this latter phase is (all too frequently) the moment when the seller turns the screws on the buyer by handing them over to a manager. One day, my wife and I entered a furniture store. Once inside, we noticed that it was completely devoid of customers. A saleswoman immediately swooped in on us and, after a basic and fairly rushed pitch, had us sit down and called her manager, who tried to close the sale as fast as possible by putting us under pressure and knocking down prices at a staggering rate. Not only did we not buy anything but we have avoided the place ever since, like many others considering the crowd we saw there. It was a traumatic experience. B2B is not exempt from such ideas. As a customer, I have seen many sellers of this type in B2B; the pick of the litter being a salesperson who insulted me on the phone because I wasn’t able to make a decision (I was actually trying to get him off the line). Contrary to these brutal methods, an advisable tactic is what Michaël Aguilar and Philippe Lafaix call the “soft closing which is inspired by a question put forward by Anglican vicars to those attending a wedding ceremony: Is there anyone who objects to this wedding?” We should not forget that the B2B sales meeting is like a marriage. There is a before and an after the sale, and the buying is often revisited after the fact. It is better to remain respectful and friendly and keep this advice in mind to be more effective in arranging client meetings.
The social selling index (SSI) is not a reliable indicator, as it can be tweaked and inflated artificially
Social selling can help you grow your network, hence generating more appointments rather than giving you opportunities to hide behind your computer
Eventually, tools may help salespersons achieve better results, but are no valid replacement for sales methods
Should social selling replace customer visits?
I have practiced social selling for a long time now, and my answer to this question]
‘ is a resounding ‘no’. I am under the impression that lately, the world of sales and marketing has gone crazy. In reality, too much of the social selling activity leads to social media bores.
According to Mark Schaefer, marketers have a knack for using technology for being more annoying. It’s high time we rethink social selling, and I must admit that the recent developments made me reflect on a few things: the relevance of our business and ethics, the meaning of sales and lastly, the actual definition of social selling itself.
Here are some thoughts on the subject, and my advice to salespersons, sales managers and marketers with sound brains.
Sales is extremely difficult and requires energy and proactivity on the part of the salesperson. Yet, learning how to let go is even more important and something that salespersons should pay heed to. Being a good salesperson implies avoiding Joes Isuzu’s hard selling methods at all costs.
Recently, The Joe Isuzus of this world decided to swamp social media platforms — namely LinkedIn — with their so-called social selling approaches. This is not doing anything to improve the perception and image of sales persons.
Here are a few examples of the prevalent social media hassles:
– A salesperson, or even worse, “business developer”, who contacts you immediately after you have accepted her/his connection request on LinkedIn. It’s irritating, especially if you have no chance in hell of ever being one of her/his customers.
– A sales person who sends you her/his sales pitch and drowns you in information in copy-paste manner through an inmail, without even bothering to call you Sir rather than Madam (or vice versa depending on circumstances).
– Third example, the sales people who scraped your email address by scanning LinkedIn after adding you in for a connection and includes it in his newsletter without your formal permission (in other words, who spammed you shamelessly and regardless of laws and ethics).
I could go on like this forever. Although I stopped being a customer five years ago, I am still being annoyed on social media- mainly LinkedIn. I can imagine what customer-side decision makers are going through.
Many of these annoying salespeople’s products or services would actually be the solution to a considerable number of problems, yet, such methods are so unrelenting and brutal that they tend to be counterproductive.
Grow your social selling index and become a sales Czar!
Regardless of such bad practices, what is social selling exactly? What I understand from the pitches of its evangelists can be summed up in a few words:
“Cold Calling is a thing of the past and is ineffective: sharing information and attracting customers to you is far more relevant. To this end, simply copy and paste links and messages, or curate content (prepared by someone in the head office): share, network, and customers will flock. No more need to see customers, the higher your social selling index (SSI), the higher your bonus.”
I know sales people from major US IT businesses who are pressurised by their management to grow their social selling index to fulfil the sales objectives. Beware of that: salespeople — and I was one of them once — are always keen on circumventing managerial decisions for their own benefit.
To grow your SSI, you do not have to be influential, just hook up on LinkedIn and follow the checklists (see the figure below). Personally, I’m rather bad at this. It’s understandable, I spend far too much time with my clients or on their engagements to be able to be hyper active on social networks.
The Social Selling Index shows the checklist to work on:
establishing your brand, connecting with the right people, engaging with them and building relationships.
Salespeople are feeling the heat and need to change, but how?
B2B buyers are getting tired of sales calls. Forrester rightfully pointed this out in a famous 2015 report. They even predicted that (some) sales people would disappear. Even though I’m not quite sure when this will happen.
This is relatable and in a way, not even new. Jeffrey Gitomer’s motto has always been, “People don’t like to be sold but they love to buy.”
On the one hand, some traditional techniques such as cold calling are now even less effective: it is estimated that a mere 1% of sales calls lead to an appointment. It doesn’t mean that seeing more customers is useless, because without sales visits, there are no sales.
On the other hand, newer methods such as content marketing are on the rise: the Content Marketing Institute indicates that it is 3 times more effective than outbound marketing. However, this does not mean that a salesperson’s aim in life is to sit behind a computer and click on links, let alone bombard LinkedIn with readymade content prepared by central marketing.
Telephone technology has nothing to do with the fact that decision makers are not picking up the phone anymore. What changes their behaviour is the kind of people bothering them, and it’s understandable.
There is a lot of confusion out there, but we need to fathom that tools are just tools, technology is nice but only when it’s useful and that sales and communications are two different jobs.
Let me make a few points about inbound marketing and true social selling:
Content marketing knows no “targets” but audiences. This is crucial. The very definition of this term by Joe Pulizzi mentions audiences (vs targets). Decision makers should not feel like rabbits in the headlights of your Range Rover. Rather than “targets”, speak to your audiences and be relevant.
Content marketing works when it is authentic. Clicking on links prepared by robots will not help you get more appointments.
Content marketing is an opportunity to see more customers, not fewer. Turning salespeople into marketers and vice versa means you are putting square pegs in round holes and aiming at the wrong thing. Marketing must help salespersons see more customers, and that’s what I call true social selling.
Social selling, the real McCoy, does not refer to copying and pasting content that one does not understand (or even that one has not read) to submerge Web channels. Such channels are already overwhelmed with content. Besides, content effectiveness is constantly reduced by platforms via their algorithms, in an effort to protect their users and therefore their business.
Finally, what is social selling?
Social selling means that one should not annoy potential customers. Instead, one should offer them added value and use authentic and quality content wisely to better serve them.
I emphasize here, that looking at social selling in such a way will make you see more customers, not fewer. To this end, do organize events, multiply contacts, generate incoming links, encourage potential customers to call you, and eventually, sell more.
To achieve this, good sales people will need to see customers and prospects and use content marketing techniques to enrich their visitors and contacts, not to sit behind their computers.
Switch from social selling to well-designed sales enablement platforms
Ultimately, salespeople should not stop visiting customers; they should rather aim at seeing more of them. Use content to better your salesforce and supply them with quality content which will help them see more customers and turn sales calls into relationship-building exercises.
In my view, this is the true message conveyed by Forrester’s report on the evolution of sales. Forget about SSIs, we’ve heard too much of this, let’s get back to good and serious business.