A Lie That Keeps You From Success (Part 1 of 3)

“It is easier for the world to accept a simple lie than a complex truth.” The words of 19th centrury historian, Alexis de Tocqueville are even truer today. But not only in the realm of politics. What’s keeping you or your sales team from generating appointments and leads with social selling? Bold, eye-grabbing fibs told by technology vendors and sales trainers whose livelihood depend on adoption of their false inventions. All based on a social media revolution that does not exist.

“It is easier for the world to accept a simple lie than a complex truth.” The words of 19th centrury historian, Alexis de Tocqueville are even truer today. But not only in the realm of politics.

What’s keeping you or your sales team from generating appointments and leads with social selling? Bold, eye-grabbing fibs told by technology vendors and sales trainers whose livelihood depend on adoption of their false inventions. All based on a social media revolution that does not exist.

Get on board, the train is leaving without you! We’ve reinvented sales prospecting and you’re missing out!

But here’s what the gurus (cleverly) don’t tell you: Prospecting best practices remain the same. What works rarely changes. With social selling:

  • your cold calling tactics should evolve a bit—not reinvent themselves
  • LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, blogs and YouTube don’t replace cold calling—they advance it

Cold calling is alive and thriving. In fact, effective cold call tactics can feed your social selling strategy. Sellers have the chance to improve cold calling and social selling thanks to new tools.

“I often wonder … if the advocates to the ‘death of cold calling’ movement have mixed us a martini using battery acid instead of vermouth and somehow managed to make it pleasing to the palate,” says Kraig Kleeman in a lucid stream of thought on the Association for Talent Development’s LinkedIn group.

5 Signs Your Social Selling Strategy Is a Ticking Bomb
“The (cold calling is dead) argument appears delicious and intoxicating, but somehow its outcome creates a harmfully poisonous effect,” says Kleeman.

He is right. The tsunami of false claims about cold calling being dead can cause you to believe it is a factual reality—and act accordingly. Therein lies the danger.

Believing cold calling is less effective might cause you to rush into social selling and:

  1. Use LinkedIn as a replacement to cold calling—and be banned for using connection requests
  2. Fail to spark conversations with buyers via LinkedIn updates due to misguided tips
  3. Ask for appointments in “first touch” InMail/emails to prospects (big mistake!)
  4. Waste time trying to spark conversations in LinkedIn Groups because of ineffective scripts
  5. Teach ineffective methods to your entire team by hiring a misguided social selling trainer!

Let Social Filter: Trust Your Instincts
What works in cold calling works in social selling. Period. Don’t let any guru tell you otherwise.

An effective cold call produces raw insight on where the buyer is in the decision-making process. If they’re in it at all! It doesn’t set an appointment. It doesn’t ask for a meeting. It is discovery-focused. You’re filtering prospects and placing them in “buckets.”

An effective cold call is brief, blunt and basic. It facilitates to both sides: “Might there be a larger conversation to be had here? Why, when and how?” Done!

The buyer is in control and sets the meeting, demo or call date. Your job is to find the pain—uncover (or confirm) the reason why this prospect might want to talk to you.

Next, your job is to start a journey toward the buyer discovering (for themselves) why they want to talk more. It’s a process, a discipline. That’s why cold calling works so well!

This is the most effective way to approach social selling. First, have a system. Second, focus on the buyer so much they ask you for the next contact—or ask you to stop.

Let social media filter leads for you.

Don’t Do What You’ve Been Told
This may sound crazy, but it’s the best advice I can give. Stop using social media and LinkedIn to:

  • Make initial contact with prospects via LinkedIn connections
  • Send emails/InMails that ask for appointments—overlooking cold call best practices
  • Post updates on LinkedIn without a way to provoke buyers to contact you
  • Comment in LinkedIn groups without a means to spark curiosity in you (get response)
  • Message prospects on LinkedIn using a common group as a reason to speak

If you’re doing any of these, don’t worry. It’s not your fault. Otherwise good people who are looking to ride a wave have given you bad information. Unfortunately, they’re using fear and unbridled enthusiasm as weapons. Just say no.

Boldly Stand-up for the Facts
Kleeman wisely reminds us how the degree of sales productivity can be judged by observing. Take a look at what is going on around you. Notice who is adopting practices based on speculation versus the adoption of fact.

Take a look at the output each group is achieving. (How much money they’re making!)

In other words, are your sales peers being praised as “social selling leaders” simply for “being on” social media? Or are they being financially rewarded based on the facts—how much business they’re winning?

The Best of Both Worlds
Throwing out the old and implementing a very unproven new is hogwash. It’s a lazy strategy based on hot air. Tools like LinkedIn are providing a better way to identify and warm-up cold prospects … and finding “ready to buy” leads. Tons of value there. But …

“Try telling a broker of refurbished airplane parts that raw list cold calling is not a vital activity for revenue capture … try telling a manufacturer of plumbing, HVAC, and home improvement products that cold calling aimed at resellers and end users is ineffective,” says Kleeman.

“You just might need a degree in martial arts or unfettered access to the US military’s drone missile fleet to defend yourself,” he jokes.

Cold calling is alive, thriving and (surprise!) feeding winning social selling strategies. Today is your chance to improve cold calling and social selling thanks to new tools.

Forget about reinventing sales prospecting! Make sure your team has a prospecting strategy that exploits what already works using new social tools.

Picking the Right Social Selling Training: A Cheat Sheet

Social selling training is on the agenda for B-to-B sellers in 2014. Sales reps and dealers are under increasing pressure to speed-up prospecting using LinkedIn, blogs, Twitter and more. But how can you choose the best social selling training or trainer for your organization?

Social selling training is on the agenda for B-to-B sellers in 2014. Sales reps and dealers are under increasing pressure to speed-up prospecting using LinkedIn, blogs, Twitter and more. But how can you choose the best social selling training or trainer for your organization?

Here’s where to start. Follow these steps to make the best decision. Plus, I’ll show you a way to make sure you, personally, benefit in the eyes of your boss.

7 Point Social Selling Checklist

  1. Create selection criteria and request for proposal email.
  2. “Short-list” candidates and solicit proposals.
  3. Review proposals.
  4. Interview best candidates & check references.
  5. Negotiate, review and sign contract.
  6. Assess your team.
  7. Start the training and report effectiveness.

Want to get started on this process? Print-off this Social Selling Training Cheat Sheet PDF. (No registration needed)

Selection Criteria
Will your sellers learn social selling tactics or will they start doing? Only consider training that:

  • teaches a practical, repeatable system based in traditional copywriting skills,
  • helps sellers take “first steps” to apply the system,
  • promises outcomes like more appointments & more response for sellers, in less time.

The more you stick with the above criteria the more you’ll be able to measure the performance of your training investment.

When considering what social selling trainer is best for you consider the instructional design. Only invest in training that:

  • includes worksheets that get sellers DO-ing, (not just learning)
  • is directly relevant to current challenges, goals and ambitions of your sellers,
  • focuses on a balance of platform (eg. LinkedIn) and prospecting tactics and

Beware of social selling training promising outcomes other than measurable increases in response to—and appointments with—your reps and dealers. Hire a trainer who measures his/her own success based on sellers taking action. (not merely repeating what they learned)

Place all of your criteria in a short, focused request for proposal (RFP) email. You’ll put this list of requirements to work in the next step.

Cost and Delivery of Training
Overall quality of the trainer, skills the training will develop and delivery of the training. These factors drive cost.

If your team is geographically disbursed an online training will be most cost effective. Are your sellers ambitious do-ers? Will they actually make time for the training? If so, a self-paced, “home study” program may work.

If your sellers will be reluctant to take the training, mandate attendance from your sales leader. Also, choose to deliver training using a live Webinar format. Make the training assignable to a date on their calendar.

Short-List Candidates
Using Google and LinkedIn search, scan the horizon for training candidates. Identify a short-list of potential social selling training trainers.

Use your selection criteria to solicit proposals from trainers. If you don’t wish to mail out a formal RFP, no problem. Use your selection criteria as a guide to identify the most capable vendors.

Review Proposals: The 3 ‘Must Have’ Components
Effective social selling training must result in sellers getting better response from prospects, faster. Make sure training you invest in focuses on a process that creates:

  • attention from a targeted group of potential buyers,
  • engagement that is provocative enough to spark
  • response—conversation that generates a lead or sale.

Choose a social selling trainer that basis his/her training in direct response copywriting that helps get more attention, engagement and appointments.

Assess: Make Sure You Succeed
Make your social selling training relevant and effective. Start with an assessment. Discover your team’s strengths, weaknesses and challenges—right now.

Require your social selling trainer to perform a low-cost assessment to guarantee your success and avoid disaster.

Make sure the assessment:

  • justifies your investment,
  • identifies and sets performance metrics,
  • uncovers current attitudes & experiences with tools like LinkedIn,
  • identifies both resistance to social selling and early adopters.

Identifying early adopters will insure success in the eyes of your boss. By finding reps and dealers eager to sharpen their skills you can focus the training on increasing their success (and reporting back to the boss on it).

You can stack the deck in your favor!

How to Avoid Failure
One of the most common reasons social selling and/or LinkedIn training fails is lack of focus on how to get response. Make sure your training provides more than how-to lessons on managing LinkedIn’s privacy settings and controls.

The primary goal of your training should be earning more appointments by increasing response.

When interviewing final candidates ask them for references who can tell you how their sellers are generating more response after the training.

Do you have more questions about investing in social selling training? Let me know in comments or send me an email. I’ll be glad to help! Or print-off this Social Selling Training Cheat Sheet PDF. (No registration needed)