The Best Sales Touchpoint Email Cadence

The words “sales email” and “touchpoints” are evil — pure evil — because of the context in which “touchpoint” is used. Managers feel pressure to see reps making “X” number of contact attempts per week.

EmailThe words “sales email” and “touchpoints” are evil — pure evil — because of the context in which “touchpoint” is used. Managers feel pressure to see reps making “X” number of contact attempts per week.

“How many new touchpoints have you made in total?”

“How many times did you attempt/touch each prospect on your list?”

This kind of requirement leads reps to type, “What is the best sales email cadence?” into Google.

The results can be disastrous.

Accountability for Spamming

Most sales managers hold reps accountable for spamming. You can call it volume of outbound attempts at new customers. And, yes, it’s vital to aggressively prospect using email, LinkedIn/social and telephone. All channels.

But are sellers being held accountable for spamming?

My experience working with reps proves: 99.5 percent of the time “you need X touchpoints per week” encourages good reps (who know better) to start spamming.

It also forces reps who don’t know better to start spamming … and to fail as sales professionals. Habit formation is key. Bad habit formation is deadly to the individual and organization.

Worse, I see top-performing reps who know a mass, templated, “touchpoint” approach won’t work still doing it. Because they need to follow orders, and unfortunately have very little freedom to explore what works.

The Freedom Box

The last thing you want to do with great reps (and reps who have the potential to be great) is to micro-manage their activities. Instead, manage their activities and keep them moving full steam ahead. But also out of trouble as they find their way forward. So how to balance? Freedom.

Forbes contributor, Jim Keenan created the “freedom box” several years ago.

“If the results are there the employee has all the freedom they want. They can do anything they feel is necessary to be successful,” says Keenan.

The box is big with lots of options. Reps have lots of freedom to innovate on what works.

“They can attack their job in any fashion they see fit, leveraging any approach they want. They have full autonomy,” says Keenan.

“Keenan’s ‘freedom box’ shrinks as a function of bottom line results for each rep and gravitates towards activity management as the freedoms (and the results) decline,” says sales manager coach David Masover.

“In other words, there is a reciprocal relationship between freedom and results.”

Accidentally Forcing Reps to Spam?

By not allowing reps enough freedom to experiment, fail and learn from failure we all lose. Including customers who need our products/services. Sellers end up spamming, failing and developing failing habits.

“Let’s be clear — you can’t manage results. You can only manage activities that lead to results,” says Masover.

The Truth About LinkedIn Social Selling Software

The automation of fake sincerity destroys your credibility. Can we agree on that? Whether you’re dating or trying to influence a new customer, fake sincerity is deadly stuff. Yet mainstream social selling (marketing) software roars forward — violating LinkedIn’s terms and conditions, and every ounce of what Dale Carnegie taught us about winning friends and influencing people.

Fake It til You Make itThe automation of fake sincerity destroys your credibility. Can we agree on that? Whether you’re dating or trying to influence a new customer, fake sincerity is deadly stuff. Yet mainstream social selling (marketing) software roars forward — violating LinkedIn’s terms and conditions, and every ounce of what Dale Carnegie taught us about winning friends and influencing people.

The Faking of Sincerity

If you’re not familiar with the faking of sincerity … well you’re living under a rock.

“I get emails all the time from companies that sell browser extensions and apps for use on LinkedIn,” says Bruce Johnston, who advises sellers on these issues.

Johnston says the idea is that you can automate and scale up your interaction with others by getting the extension or app to do the work for you.

“Apps will view profiles, invite people with certain keywords or titles to connect, automatically send them welcome messages when they accept, automatically endorse them, automatically send them congratulatory messages when they have a birthday, work anniversary or change jobs, and automatically send sales messages to large swaths of your connections.”

Sound familiar?

Now I don’t want to offend my dear readers but I must ask, point blank, do you think:

  1. Faking interest in prospects is smart?
  2. Automating the faking of your interest will work?

If you do, how long until your target customers catch on? How long until they get inundated with fake sincerity coming from sales people and stop falling victim to your false signals of interest in them?

Why Would Sellers Fake Sincerity?

Scale. Automation. It’s the dirty promise of all things digital.

What’s the result of the automating of faked sincerity? Johnston says sellers want to a better way to scale — to start a relationship with a connection without having to go to the trouble of knowing something about them.

People are lazy. I get it. But robotic nonsense like this? Too many smart people are falling for this dangerous gimmick.

In a recent post on LinkedIn, Johnston says, “Doesn’t anyone find it ironic when these (automation) companies say: ‘We will automatically look at 500 profiles, scrape the data from the profiles, then automatically accept invitations to connect sent your way, and send the new connection a welcome message. It’s the ultimate in social selling!”

He rightly asks, “Wait a second, where was the social part? How social is it when you are starting off your relationship with someone by conning them?”

What’s the Harm?

Using “relationship starting” marketing automation software cheapens the user experience for everyone on LinkedIn. It also violates LinkedIn’s terms & conditions. But it gets worse for you. Because this practice introduces the element of doubt in your interactions with people.

“Is that really you who sent that message or your bot? Was that you who sent me a ‘welcome to my LinkedIn network’ message or a browser extension?” asks Johnston.

3 Questions to Ask Your Sales Team

The social selling backlash has begun. You might sense it or be experiencing it. But you won’t read much about it online. I’m reading a lot of self-appointed experts whining, “You’re doing social selling wrong, dummy!” It’s as if the market is changing. Experiencing. Maturing.

The social selling backlash has begun. You might sense it or be experiencing it. But you won’t read much about it online. I’m reading a lot of self-appointed experts whining, “You’re doing social selling wrong, dummy!” It’s as if the market is changing. Experiencing. Maturing.

Rest assured: For most sales and marketing leaders the backlash against social selling is becoming tangible. Personal. Reps are pushing back.

This in mind, here are three questions you should be asking sellers in every pipeline meeting.

  1. Why do you invest time on LinkedIn? (at all)
  2. How do you invest that time?
  3. Would you rather reassign that time? Why or why not?

Yes, these are basic questions. But that’s the point: You want raw, un-filtered answers — insights on how your team’s productivity is being hindered or helped by current social selling practices. These questions can be asked on a private basis or in a group. Both strategies can yield productive results.

Is This Your Sales Team?

Social selling has, for many, been a bust. It’s a time-wasting venture in farming (marketing) conducted by those we’ve hired to hunt (sales).

We’ve wisely invested in tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator. However, many organizations are subscribed to a dangerous practice: ordering reps to abandon their hunting instincts — instead, focusing on planting seeds. Marketing.

For example:

  • Sharing valuable content and articles and hoping for engagement
  • Sending self-centered, templated email scripts via LinkedIn InMail
  • Re-posting press releases on LinkedIn blogs and updates

The result:

“Management is forcing me to waste time posting updates on social,” say many sellers. Instead, they want to be on the phone — dismissing social entirely.

This attitude is often based on experience. They tried it; social didn’t move the needle.

But did your reps go to battle with the best weaponry? With an effective, repeatable communications methodology? Or did they just push content out to customers and go back to their day?

1. ‘Why Do You Invest Time on LinkedIn? (Or Not)’

Asking your reps why they do (or do not) invest time on LinkedIn can be a real eye-opener. Especially when your organization mandates participation. If you’re invested in Sales Navigator reps must be using it — frequently and effectively.

You want that ROI. Sales Navigator is expensive.

But getting to effectiveness isn’t easy. I know, because my clients struggle with earning sellers participation in something they often:

  • don’t believe in (the status quo rep)
  • know won’t help them (they’ve tried and failed)
  • are afraid of (they don’t want to be a spammer or loudmouth)

If reps are comfortable with the status quo do they truly need social selling? The answer may surprise you. In some cases buyers are:

  • not active on LinkedIn
  • not contained in the LinkedIn profile database (at all!)
  • disguising their purchase authority (to hide from over-aggressive sellers)

LinkedIn may not be a fit.

Validate Failure and Move On

You cannot argue with experience. Experience drives our behavior. Humans do more of what rewards them, less of what doesn’t. Especially good sales reps!

If your reps have tried and failed with tools like LinkedIn, validate that failure and investigate why they failed. Nine times out of 10 it’s lack of an effective “hunting” communications technique — and over-focusing on “farming” activities.

Your Social Selling Strategy Is Broken

At the heart of most social selling strategies are poisonous ideas. Concepts that “experts” claim are best practices — that actually decrease chances of earning buyers’ business. Ideas like: Never cold call. Cold calling is interrupting you customer. It’s wrong, you shouldn’t do it.

How to Avoid Broken Links, Broken Layouts, and Unhappy Subscribers (2015 Direct Marketing Day Virtual Conference Session)At the heart of most social selling strategies are poisonous ideas. Concepts that “experts” claim are best practices — that actually decrease chances of earning buyers’ business.

Ideas like: Never cold call. Cold calling is interrupting you customer. It’s wrong, you shouldn’t do it.

“Saying this is wrong and it’s hurting people,” says sales trainer Anthony Innarino.

“More and more self-styled gurus popping up and pontificating to the sales profession that one form or another of prospecting is dead,” says author and sales trainer Jeb Blount.

“They pander to the salespeople who are scared of, uncomfortable with, or simply don’t want to do the hard work of sales.”

When it comes to selling on social media Blount and Innarino have a provocative perspective.

“Selling is about conversations and commitments. But conversations without commitments isn’t selling. It’s just conversations,” says Innarino.

In essence, it’s marketing. Broadcasting.

Marketing is often about soft outcomes. Sales is about hard outcomes: Commitments.

“I defy any quota carrying sales rep and go to their sales manager and say, ‘listen I really want to focus on social selling … so I want to spend most of my day creating content and sharing it.’ You’ll soon find yourself in a new role. Probably not in that company, probably not in sales,” says Innarino.

Is Your Team Hunting or Farming?

The lines between marketing and sales are blurring. This is precisely the problem. Today’s digital sales forces are been reduced to farmers, rather than being armed as better hunters.

It’s becoming more about usage of LinkedIn, less about qualitative outcomes. Sales conversations!

“The big push on ‘social’ selling has turned a lot of SDR teams into ‘send a LinkedIn invite then try to sell them 5 minutes after they accept,” says Mike Andersen, VP of Inside Sales at Mimosa Networks.

Sales people are not, and should not, be marketers (farmers). Yes, they should be listening using social media like LinkedIn and Twitter. But they should be using social to hunt more — farm less.

Are your sellers exploiting LinkedIn Sales Navigator to find potential customers and qualify them as buyers faster? Great. But don’t let them get bogged down with commenting on posts, posting updates, sharing articles and press releases (creating noise).

My research and experience leads me to conclude: There are loose correlations between being visible on social media and closing sales. Farming is important. It’s just less important than prospecting.

Today’s most effective sellers are using LinkedIn to locate, research and provoke problem-solving discussions with potential buyers. Hunt.

Are Your Hunters Being Forced to Farm?

Do your sellers feel they’re being forced to perform pointless activities on social media — that do not help find, nurture or close business faster?

Is there tension between sellers, management and marketing? Disagreement over what direction to take, why and how? You’re not alone. This is the hunter-farmer conflict.

1 Deadly, False Assumption About LinkedIn Social Selling

What constitutes social selling on LinkedIn? LinkedIn answers with [trumpet blare] The Social Selling Index. (SSI) It’s a measure of a social seller’s effectiveness. Effectiveness. It’s what sales is all about. You either open discussions with prospects and close ’em — or you don’t. But that’s not how your marketing team may be seeing it.

What constitutes social selling on LinkedIn? LinkedIn answers with (trumpet blare) The Social Selling Index. (SSI) It’s a measure of a social seller’s effectiveness.

LinkedIn Social Selling IndexEffectiveness. It’s what sales is all about. You either open discussions with prospects and close ’em — or you don’t.

But that’s not how your marketing team may be seeing it. More importantly, the number of qualified leads in the pipe and close rate is not how LinkedIn expects you to measure effectiveness at selling using their tool set.

Do I have your attention?

This ‘Best Practice’ Isn’t
I see one deadly, false assumption being made by sellers when “social selling” on LinkedIn. Worst of all, it is being sold as a “best practice.” But, increasingly, savvy sellers and sales managers say it’s not.

Here’s the rub: Most sales reps are being told (by LinkedIn and “experts”) to maintain a strong LinkedIn Social Selling Index — connecting with prospects and regularly sharing valuable content to generate leads.

However, investing time in this “social selling” strategy often leads to uncovering fewer leads and closing fewer sales.

I say “social selling” because frankly I don’t believe the term has merit — beyond serving gurus and LinkedIn as a marketing gimmick.

The Problem With the Social Selling Index
“SSI is purely a marketing tool used by LinkedIn for selling LinkedIn Sales Navigator,” says Mark Birch, managing director of Birch Ventures, a seed stage investment and enterprise sales advisory firm.

“It does not provide even one, single useful data point other than to say you have lots of connections, have a completed LinkedIn profile, and share a bunch of stuff on LinkedIn … none of which has to be content that you create,” says Birch who doesn’t mince words.

More importantly, Mr. Birch sees a huge flaw in LinkedIn’s Social Selling Index.

Sellers cannot establish a causal relationship between SSI and actual revenue generation, quota achievement, size of deal, length of sales cycle, or any other relevant measurement of sales capability.

Even though LinkedIn says it’s possible. The company often claims SSI is linked to performance — not just activity.

In response, Colin Daymude, director of sales at Frontline Selling, is pushing back. For example, when LinkedIn says 78 percent of social sellers outsell peers who don’t use social media, Mr. Daymude has a thoughtful response.

“One hundred percent of all Presidents Club winners drink water on a daily basis. That doesn’t create a direct correlation to closed business either,” says Daymude.

“The top sales person (by leaps and bounds) at my company enjoys a full 20 points less on their SSI score and is nowhere close to my CEOs or newbie sales rep’s ranking among peers. How can that be, LinkedIn?” asks Daymude.

The Problem With ‘Sharing Valuable Content’
The SSI’s practical use is simple, according to LinkedIn: Measure “how effective you are at establishing your professional brand, finding the right people, engaging with insights, and building relationships.”

The SSI is composed of four categories.

  1. Establish your brand (be a thought-leader by publishing meaningful posts).
  2. Find the right people (identify prospects faster).
  3. Engage with insights (share “conversation-worthy” updates to grow relationships).
  4. Build relationships (“finding & establishing trust with decision-makers”).

That said, here’s the problem.

The Most Overlooked Digital Prospecting Method

Is LinkedIn effective for prospecting? For 95 percent of sellers invested in LinkedIn Sales Navigator, it’s been a bust. Identifying leads in the vast LinkedIn database has proven effective. But there is a better way to prospect.

Converting Website Visitors to Sales OpportunitiesJoining conversations and contributing value — without expectation or trying to sell yourself. This is what generates sales leads on digital/social platforms, like LinkedIn. Right?

Meh. Not really. Like most advice coming from self-appointed social media experts, it’s not that easy to reach and qualify top-level decision makers. However, there is a better way: providing incentive for prospects to talk about themselves. In fact, it’s possible to help them qualify or disqualify themselves as buyers of what you’re selling. Fast.

Is LinkedIn Effective for Prospecting?
For 95 percent of sellers invested in LinkedIn Sales Navigator, it’s been a bust. Identifying leads in the vast LinkedIn database has proven effective. But sparking conversations?

Not so much.

“We are reviewing tens of thousands of C-level profiles per month and it’s clear C-level are not engaging,” says Simon Marley, CEO of Growth Logic Ltd.

Mr. Marley is matching LinkedIn profiles to a database of C-level contacts. He reports:

  • top executives are hiding the fact they are Officer level on LinkedIn
  • 90 percent of executives show no signs of activity in the past 30 days on LinkedIn
  • 2 percent will add their email address or contact details to their profile
  • a huge number of C-level people are not listed on LinkedIn.

“Our experience shows C-level buyers are on the network but they are not engaging with other members,” says Marley who notes that most companies using LinkedIn to sell to other companies don’t want to be sold to via the platform.

A Better Prospecting Method (and Why It Works)
Your prospects want to talk about their pains, goals, fears or urgent objectives. We all live in a world filled with uncertainty. Bottom line, all humans love to talk about themselves.

We are self-centered creatures.

Here’s the rub. Think about it like a first date. The more you talk about yourself the faster you:

  1. get comfortable with talking more with the person who is listening;
  2. start discovering reasons why you want to talk more, or not;
  3. realize if you are willing to act on your challenge.

Once a prospect starts realizing why they want to continue the discussion everything gets easier. Because why a buyer wants to talk more is connected to one thing — purpose.

Whether you help them in a LinkedIn Group or in an InMail, the you get prospects talking about their challenges, hopes and ambitions the more they begin to:

  • Understand if they’re willing to change (at all)
  • See investing in you (changing) as a path to stability and excellence
  • Experience your advice and assign value to it

When messaging prospects using the phone, email, LinkedIn, are you helping them to start talking about themselves — as a means to break-the-ice and get a conversation going? If not, don’t worry. It’s an effective, yet overlooked digital sales prospecting method.

Because it’s so simple, so obvious.

Brief, Blunt and Provocative
You’ve got to be brief, blunt and provocative. Getting prospects to start talking about themselves via email messages may feel unnatural. But it works. Plus, it is a repeatable prospecting method that helps buyers qualify/disqualify themselves.

There are a handful of different ways to effectively spark and steer conversations with executive decision-makers. However, they all involve these characteristics. Your message must:

  • Encourage introspection on the buyers’ current situation
  • Provide an incentive for response
  • Pique curiosity

The main idea in your first-touch email is to give them an incentive to reply by revealing “the conversation already going on” in their mind. The goal is not to get an appointment.

For example, can you think of a missing puzzle-piece that they don’t have right now — but should? Can you help them discover a fact about something important — that is probably unknown to them? Can you help them avoid an unseen danger or threat that will cause problems?

These are effective first-touch message writing starting points.

As your email exchange progresses, ask them if they’re willing to do something with this new found knowledge. Help them see how damaging lack of change is—and see the disruption change causes as a path toward excellence and stability.

Step 1: Provocation
Here is an example from the managed print services industry. Managed print services is mostly a cost-savings opportunity for owners of large fleets of office copiers and printers. However, breaking into a cost-reduction discussion is problematic.

Most managed print service sellers (among others) are bombarding the potential buying market with messaging focusing on one issue: Cost reduction. It’s a non-starter.

However, one client I work with uses a clever approach to sparking conversations. He warns prospects about an issue they don’t know about — but should.

Data security. Avoiding data breaches. Here is the approach template:

Subject: How secure are your printers?

Hi, [first name] …

Real quick — how secure are your copiers and printers at XYZ LLC? Did you hear about the Illinois law firm — sued because the janitor removed hard drives? He walked-away with hundreds of thousands of documents.

Are you doing everything possible to mitigate your risk?

I don’t pretend to know your situation, but I’m curious. How are you managing security of your printers/copiers at XYZ LLC?

Thanks for considering, [first name],
[signature]

Don’t Follow the ‘Social Selling’ Pack
Giving first without expectation often results in wasted time and lack of leads. There. I said it. Nobody wants your whitepaper or e-book. And nobody wants to receive your long, self-centered email soliciting their business.
You know that. So stop sending these messages.

By structuring conversations to help customers understand why they want to talk they’ll trust, engage deeply and consider buying from you.

Starting the conversation is often the most difficult prospecting challenge. And that’s why this methodology works.

Buyers are primed for uber-short, pithy conversation-starting emails. Yes, from strangers.

Remember: Buyers buy for their own reason, not yours. So the more you help potential customers realize their own reason for talking the faster they will self-qualify themselves for you.

Good luck! Need help with this? Get in touch in comments below.

Is It Time to Re-think Your InMail Approach?

Are you sabotaging yourself when using LinkedIn InMail to prospect new business? Or is your team spinning wheels, generating less than the minimum 40 percent response rate? It might be time to re-think your InMail communications approach.

Are you sabotaging yourself when using LinkedIn InMail to prospect new business? Or is your team spinning wheels, generating less than the minimum 40 percent response rate? It might be time to re-think your InMail communications approach.

Here are three deadly trends I see emerging with sellers and what to do instead.

Are you/your sellers:

  1. Believing InMail is more “powerful” (able to produce appointments) than cold calling or standard email?
  2. Investing in LinkedIn training, but overlooking communications methodology?
  3. Using InMail to request meetings with status quo buyers, but failing to earn them?

Many sellers are getting frustrated out-of-the-gate. Because InMail places so much pressure on getting response. Performance. Sellers often get turned-off to prospecting in general! Or they become more turned-off by it.

It’s best to develop a successful communications approach using standard email — then bring that success to the realm of InMail.

A Better Way to Use InMail When Prospecting
Any written message’s strength is founded in the writer’s ability to provoke a response that invites a conversation. The better you are at provoking replies — that lead to conversations — the more InMail provides advantage.

That’s a communications thing; not a LinkedIn thing.

I’ll be brutally honest. Many sellers are failing to develop new business leads with InMail. Not because LinkedIn Navigator or Premium is a bad investment. It can be a good one. The trouble starts with false beliefs.

Beware if you think InMail is

  • powerful
  • better than standard email
  • able to replace cold calling efforts

Remember, LinkedIn does not make any substantiated claims about better response. InMail is also not trackable. Unlike standard email, you cannot track any open or click activity! (This is huge)

Attract Buyers With Your Message
We’re only human. We are all looking for a short cut to what we want. Something that will do all the work for us or — in some way — produce better results with less effort. Right? But for most of us InMail is not earning better response from potential buyers.

And I know why.

Email can make prospecting more scale-able, faster and feel more effortless. But only if you master a communications methodology that can be applied systematically, at scale.

Email can speed-up your prospecting. It is creating more appointments, faster, for those who understand one odd but powerful concept. And this idea takes practice and diligence.

The idea is attraction.

Attracting potential buyers to ask you for the meeting allows leads to self-identify and qualify themselves.

This is vital to practice when courting prospects who won’t budge off of the status quo. Being able to get invited to an educational conversation (eg., Challenger Selling) with a new client demands this approach.

This way a discussion with you is seen by the buyer as less of a risk. Talking with you becomes attractive.

Thus, getting invited to discuss a challenge, fear or goal your prospect has is the beginning of an email-powered process. It’s a sign they’re attracted to you based on the message you just sent them.

And that’s a cool feeling.

Make InMail Messages Part of a Process
The best way to use InMail to your advantage is to shift how you’re looking at it, what you expect from it and how it “fits in” to your prospecting process.

Do you have a defined prospecting process?

In most cases, InMail should be supplemental. It should not be your first choice for making initial contact with buyers. Instead, use InMail as part of a systematic prospecting methodology.

You should also be using the phone, standard email and (sometimes) direct mail. InMail snaps-into your multi-faceted process.

Invest in Your Communications Technique First
Before you invest in “LinkedIn training” make sure to invest in perfecting your own/your team’s personalized communications technique. Make sure it:

  • is practical, repeatable and based in traditional copywriting skills;
  • helps you take “first steps” to turn the methodology into a process you enjoy;
  • provokes response and appointments, in less time.

One of the most common reasons social selling or LinkedIn training fails is lack of focus on how to get response. Effective messaging is vital to your success.

Invest in the right training. Be sure you get more than lessons on managing LinkedIn’s privacy settings and controls!

Best of all, if you stick with the above criteria you’ll be able to measure the performance of your training investment.

This is how the best of the best use InMail … as part of a system that doesn’t rely on email alone.

Good luck. Let me know what you think in comments.

How to Get Meetings With Buyers Who Say No

I swear if another person says, “Most of the buying decisions are already made by the time decision-makers meet with sales reps” my head is going to explode. This is true. Got it. But how does a seller get a meeting with decision influencers during the early phase? How can you get invited to discuss buyers’ challenges as they are discovering they need a solution?

I swear if another person says, “Most of the buying decisions are already made by the time decision-makers meet with sales reps” my head is going to explode. This is true. Got it. But how does a seller get a meeting with decision influencers during the early phase?

How can you get invited to discuss buyers’ challenges as they are discovering they need a solution?

Stop asking for meetings. Literally. Start attracting the meetings to you. Provoke your prospect to start the chain reaction.

Get them curious about you. Curious enough to invite you to the discussion, in its earliest stage.

They Need You, Badly
You’re selling a B-to-B product or service that people need — yet they keep declining the invitation to meet, discuss their situation. You know they need a remedy to a disease they have — or will soon have. They need to act.

They need to meet with you. But they keep saying no.

Maybe your solution pays for itself. Or it will bring growth to buyers who implement it. It can change things for the better, fast. It’s good!

In your email, phone script or LinkedIn InMail approach you mention this to them — only to get turned down or ignored.

The truth is, they don’t care about the promise you (or your competitors) make. They only care about themselves. You are not attractive to them.

“Social Selling” Is Not the Answer
Customers need to discover, for their own reasons, why they need us. Not our reasons — theirs. Is how you’re using social media focused on helping them do so? Usually not, and it’s not your fault.

We are constantly being told what to do. None of it works.

  • Engage with insights
  • Share valuable content
  • Stop pitching and start connecting — make deposits before withdrawals
  • Build a social sales funnel
  • Help customers become sales advocates
  • Use personal branding to establish your reputation

These tips are what you want to hear — not what you need to know.

What you need to know is not simple. But it is effective. It’s what the top 5 percent of digital sellers are doing.

Here’s why you may be failing. What you are most receptive to trying (what you want to hear) doesn’t work. It’s a human thing. For example, on LinkedIn:

  • Share someone else’s update and give them credit
  • Comment on someone else’s update
  • Comment on a discussion in one of your LinkedIn Groups
  • Comment on someone’s new profile picture
  • Start a discussion or share an article in one of your LinkedIn Groups
  • Congratulate someone on a new job
  • Share your blog posts with your network
  • Wish your contacts a “Happy Birthday”
  • Thank people for endorsements

Any fool can take these actions. They’re often touted as effective by people who couldn’t sell there way out of a paper bag.

These tips sound logical, doable and simple. Hence, the appeal.

But they will not move you toward what you want — the appointment.

Stop Asking for What You Want
You want the appointment. But what you need is an invitation. You might think I’m playing with words, but this is vital to your success. It’s critical to stop asking for what you want. Focus on what you need.
You need to be invited to the “cool kids club.” And while social media likes, shares and comments may be helpful, they’re not the key.

Your goal is not to book a meeting when making first contact with a prospect. Using InMail? Standard email? Connecting on LinkedIn first?

Beware: Starting by trying to get an appointment will get you rejected by 90 to 97 percent of perfectly good prospects. I learned this from my own experience, but Sharon Drew Morgen really drove it home for me. She’s got 20 years of experience herself.

When you go in cold, with an email or call, most buyers don’t know what they need at that point. Or they do have a need but aren’t ready to buy yet. Other buyers haven’t assembled the decision-making team, yet.

Setting an appointment with a seller will happen —but not with you. All because you asked for it too early.

The key that unlocks the door to your appointment is an invitation to talk —not discuss need. Being invited takes attraction. And sometimes attraction takes provocation — to spark a bit of curiosity in your prospect.

Provoke to Grab Attention
You cannot just show up on someone’s screen with an article containing information they already know. That’s a social selling pipe dream. Instead, attract the potential buyer to ask you for the meeting, demo or face-to-face.

Get invited to discuss a challenge, fear or goal your prospect has. Provoke them. Remember, if you aren’t provocative in a way that sparks curiosity, you aren’t getting to step one — a reply to your email.

Because decision-makers are filtering emails on-the-go. They’re mobile. Getting a reply demands that you are brief, blunt and provocative.

Start by using your first email message or cold phone script to provoke a “What did you mean by that?” or “How, exactly, did you do that for your client?” from a potential buyer. Use the chance to push on a pain point — or surface an unknown fact the prospect needs to know about before they can make an informed decision.

Get on the radar of decision-makers by asking for permission to facilitate discussion, not discuss need — and certainly not discuss your solution.

Sharon Drew Morgan puts it this way. “Help buyers navigate through the early part of their internal decision journey, much like a GPS system helps drivers navigate their route.”

Get started today by giving prospects an irresistible reason to talk — to flip on that GPS.

Attracting a prospect to you requires saying just enough in your cold email to get the conversation started — a short chat about what’s meaningful to the other person.

Then, allowing the other person to do most of the talking beyond the first, cold email.

Good luck!

LinkedIn Sales Navigator: Deciding if It’s Worth It

Is LinkedIn Sales Navigator worth it for sales prospecting? And how can you measure the investment — and end it if it’s not? I’ve consulted my most trusted resources — and clients — on the answer. Because what we need is an honest answer from people who are interested in growing their business — not just LinkedIn’s! Here are the results I’ve found in guideline format. The consensus seems strong. In 95 percent of cases you may not need a Sales Navigator or Premium level account.

Is LinkedIn Sales Navigator worth it for sales prospecting? And how can you measure the investment — and end it if it’s not?

I’ve consulted my most trusted resources — and clients — on the answer. Because what we need is an honest answer from people who are interested in growing their business — not just LinkedIn’s!

Here are the results I’ve found in guideline format. The consensus seems strong. In 95 percent of cases you may not need a Sales Navigator or Premium level account.

Key Consideration Points
Let’s keep it simple. Here’s what the average B-to-B sales prospecting person needs to consider. Point by point.

  1. The Free Trial: Is one month enough time to judge?
  2. The cost: When and how will it be recovered?
  3. The yardstick for success: Leads found and qualified faster, not trivial activity.

The Problem With a 30-day Trial
I rarely hear anyone talking about this aspect. Yet I’m not sure why. In most B-to-B sales environments a 30 day free trial is not enough time to judge any sales prospecting tool, tactic or strategy.

Even in today’s fast-paced social selling world LinkedIn’s 30 day trial period is far too short.

One of my most trusted sales training colleagues put it this way: “What sales team wants to commit to a playing field that moves the goal posts every couple of months? If I have a six month sales cycle, please explain what good a one month free trial does me?”

Thus, please understand that the free trial isn’t actually free. It’s a discount on your first six months of Navigator subscription. Because many of us need at least 6 to 12 months to understand if this is having positive impact on the bottom line — finding and closing new clients faster.

Justifying the Cost
The fastest way to understand if the investment might be worthwhile is to examine the benefits — but with a sales hat firmly on. Sales Navigator Professional (for individuals) gets you:

  • InMail: The one perk that everyone knows about.
  • Free incoming InMail: Anyone on LinkedIn can send you a message, free.
  • More search filters: You get an additional eight filters (although some are not applicable at all to sellers)
  • More saved searches: Very handy if you have a set of searches you do repeatedly.
  • More search results: You can see two hundred, four hundred or more.
  • Unlimited profile search: You will not need to worry about hitting LinkedIn’s arbitrary Commercial Search Limit.
  • Introductions: You can send a message to someone you would like to meet through a mutual LinkedIn connection.
  • Who’s Viewed Your Profile visibility: You get more visibility into who has viewed your profile.
  • Automated lead recommendations and real time news insights on leads.

I’m not saying any of these features are good or bad. Rather, we must question if they are worth paying $79 per month to access. In particular, most of my clients find the ability to search an unlimited number of times beneficial. How much so? This varies on individual experience.

And therein lies the tricky part: Generating enough experience with these features to pass fair judgement.

The Yardstick for Success
This is a tricky issue extending beyond the problem with a 30 day trial. It is unclear when significant cost breaks on the $129 per seat Team fee comes into play. This is not publicly discussed by LinkedIn. More importantly, justifying the cost must come in the form of hard numbers.

Sales related numbers.

The vast majority of businesses I’m finding measure soft value when building a business case for Sales Navigator. LinkedIn itself is encouraging this “soft yardstick” via it’s Social Selling Index. (SSI)

True, each category of the SSI is based on a practice vital to success using LinkedIn. They are important to your productivity, effectiveness … ultimately, your success at finding and closing leads faster.

Beware of Vanity Metrics
LinkedIn’s social selling index is flawed as a measurement tool when building a business case.

Because establishing your brand, finding the right people, engaging and building relationships are the basis for the SSI. However, each of these has an (unmeasured) quality component that directly drives business value.

Here’s the rub: When reps have a lower skill set at communicating with prospects they will always have lower success at earning meetings and closing deals with them. You can brand, engage and connect all you want.

In the end, the more effectively reps communicate the more deals get discovered, nurtured and closed.

Yet LinkedIn’s main tool of measurement is based purely on a quantitative basis.

Bottom line: The SSI is a potential indicator of productivity. However, being an active user of LinkedIn does not make you a productive seller.

Sales productivity takes more; it takes qualitative behavior and specific business outcomes. Knowing how to make a sales appointment via email or InMail trumps being able to simply send email!

What do you think about how I’m approaching this? Am I off the mark? How are you approaching building the business case?

 

Why an “Hour a Day” Doesn’t Work on Social Media

You’re consistent. Diligent. You spend your hour a day on LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ or Twitter. And then you get back to something that might actually generate a lead or sale. Like cold-calling. You know, that “dead” strategy that is difficult these days—yet still gets you paid!

You’re consistent. Diligent. You spend your hour a day on LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ or Twitter. And then you get back to something that might actually generate a lead or sale. Like cold-calling. You know, that “dead” strategy that is difficult these days—yet still gets you paid!

Being consistent with social media is not working.

For most of us, there are too few leads coming from being diligent. So why, then, do you continue to post updates, share content, re-tweet?

Maybe you still believe in LinkedIn or Twitter and realize success (at anything) requires diligence. That’s true. Good for you. Or maybe because your boss expects you to—and you continue despite the lack of outcomes.

Despite having a reliable process. This process.

Having a Process Always Gets You Paid
Can’t find time for social? Don’t want to invest time because of lack of results? Your process is wrong. Stop focusing on being consistent. Instead, get a few small results, then build on them.

Be diligent. Be consistent. Most of all, be sure you have a chance at getting early results that you can build on.

Let’s be honest. Getting early results is all that matters. This isn’t about doing things to feel accomplished or satisfy management. Time investments on social media should pay you in these terms:

  • more appointments in less time
  • moving through your prospecting list faster
  • leaving fewer voicemails
  • less time asking for demos—more time giving demos to pre-vetted leads

How can you get these kinds of early results? Follow a proven, effective system.

  1. Attract Attention by saying something bold, new.
  2. Spark Curiosity in what you have to say by holding back details.
  3. Provoke Response by using words that trigger immediate reactions.

The Process Must Make Sense to You
Don’t just follow a system blindly. Make sure YOU believe in the system. Most of all, make sure the approach you use has a high probability of paying off—producing want you want in the near-term.

“In general I like the approach you are recommending, Jeff, because it really makes sense and its something I can relate to and believe in,” says IBM Digital Sales’s Johan Hoffert.

In fact, in a matter of a few days Hoffert tested this approach on a non-responsive prospect he was struggling to reach. He turned it into a lead. What changed his luck? Process, not diligence.

Beware: If it feels like a waste of time it is. Trust your instincts.

You’re an Idiot, but I Have a Cure for That
“When was the last time you bought something from someone who said, ‘You’re an idiot, but I have a cure for that?” asks Bruce Johnston, a respected provider of outsourced LinkedIn lead generation services.

Johnston is concerned with many social selling experts and trainers—their approach to helping reps who need guidance in this area.

“Underestimating your customers’ intelligence and using a fear based approach rubs me the wrong way,” says Johnston who blogs at www.practicalsmm.com.

In a recent email exchange, Johnston told me the message he tries to get across respects his customers and tones down the revolutionary hyperbole. Specifically, social selling, when combined with what you are doing now, is a sales accelerant.

“What many of these ‘experts’ are doing is pushing an ‘if you are not doing social you are a Luddite’ point of view,” says Bruce Johnston. It’s time to tune them out!

What Sellers Need to Know—Versus What They Want to Hear
The truth is this “hour a day” idea is a lie. It’s an excuse to be lazy. The act of “sharing valuable content” with customers is not effective. These ideas are what we want to hear—not what we need to know.

It’s natural for us to want shortcuts. But when you’re a front line seller you can’t afford to waste time. And if you manage a team of sellers you had better pay attention!

“The experts” all agree: Diligent use of social media is the key. An hour a day.

But they’re wrong. Dead wrong.

Evolution, not Revolution
Can you generate leads by regurgitating information (“sharing valuable content”) and Liking prospects’ posts in an hour a day? Is this a revolutionary idea? No and no.

Success is rooted in sales fundamentals—not digital time-wasters coming from people who have never actually sold a B2B product or service!

Your/your team’s success depends on evolving to use what we already know works with the new tools. It sounds trite, obvious. But most organizations have yet to put the obvious to work for sellers. Now you have the key … the process. Good luck!