Social selling and sales articles

Why Social Selling Training Pays

Whether you like it or not, when buyers are so influenced by social media, social selling training should be part of any sales development plan.

Progressive companies now ensure that social selling is now an integral part of their sales process, tapping into the sales intelligence that the social networks provide to both buyer and seller. Never since John H Patterson created his sales training methodology for NCR, have sales people needed to adjust their sales skills, due to the fact that the more traditional forms of selling such as cold calling have diminishing results. Training to release the power of social selling can have to engage buyers is now a core activity, not a gap filler.

social-selling

Selling and buying has changed. The profile of a typical business buyer along with their needs, values and how they purchase goods and services has altered completely from 10, even 5 years ago. A business should use social selling as a genuine touch point to share insights, research, information and content before engaging in any sales conversations. Social selling is a learned skill (how long does it take to master other sales tactics – months, even years?), it is not a fall back method for sales people to spam sales messages on Twitter, Facebook, on LinkedIn groups. Nor is it a means to plaster vanilla flavored sales messages across groups and connections.  The tactic of connecting and building a network of connections just to send sales messages is NOT social selling.

The biggest tip I can convey is that for social selling to work you need to build value over time with your social network by sharing relevant, quality content that people find useful and helpful. So, in time when a sales person reaches out with a personalized social touch point to a prospect to engage in a sales discussion, the chances of progressing a relationship will be greatly enhanced.

Part of the training should be about learning the social selling habit loop, a daily routine to connect with your social network community with news, articles, research, videos and snippets of information. They also need to learn, Givers Gain, starting with ways to connect your network together (as this provides value) and offering to help others connect. A good example of this is that a sales person sees a message posted on LinkedIn that says, “Where could I find some inspiration for a key note speech I have to deliver?”  Instead of posting of reply such as, I would be interested in this myself or have you tried PowerPoint? (True reply!).  Now, the sales person finds someone in their social network that is a presentation expert and offers to put the person in touch with them. Nothing in it for the sales person, other than to build their credibility as someone who is a conduit, a connector who brings value by taking the time to listen and connect their social network. To quote “Covey”, these are  a lodgements that pay off in the longer term.

social-selling-information

Never forget that selling at its most basic is simply the act of communicating and gaining commitments. Now, more than ever, to be successful in sales, we need to understand that (a) selling is all about building relationships and (b) providing value. With a well-planned out social selling program, a business will gradually drive more sales then cold calling or cold email will ever achieve.

Always remember that all selling is inherently social, so social selling is really nothing new, but rather a new communication channel. So, look at social selling as an additive process, a sales tactic to help you sell more effectively that will evolve over time.

A process worth following is to separate ‘social selling’ into two main areas:

(1) Direct Social Selling and (2) Indirect Social Selling.

The direct side of social selling is utilising the various social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Instagram to look for conversations where one would share content/articles. A pathway to connect with people a business wants to target or nurture a relationship with. Taking the example of a CIO who tweets about their focus on reducing IT costs in the coming year. The sales person in return now shares some articles or research on reducing IT. As the interaction builds (assuming the sales persons product or service can help with reducing IT costs), they can at an appropriate time, reach out with their first social touch point – by sending a highly personalized connection request. After a series of planned touch points, the sales person can now reach out to explain the value they might be able to bring to the buyer’s goals. Please note: this is a shortened version of the process but the point is to look for information about what prospects or companies are doing or saying so person or business can be highly relevant to them when they reach out via the social channels.

The indirect side of social selling has to do with a sales person building their own personal brand so over time their social audience (connections and weak ties) eventually value their insights, comes to view them as a valuable industry expert, not just another weak sales person. However, it’s important to note that this does take time and does not provide some instant results that some sales leaders think should happen these days. The reality is social selling is all about adding value to a target market, share not sell, help not hinder, be useful not useless.

We write these articles on sales to try to add some value by not just talking about the theory of selling or business but actually giving you some useful tips on sales, marketing and business (hopefully). On our social channels, we share suggestions on what to do and how to do it. We also regularly post or re-tweet articles from other sources not just about sales but about business topics that we think are important to sales people and business leaders.

We practise what we preach, on a daily basis we review discussions in our groups in LinkedIn or Facebook, we strive to provide honest answers to questions people ask without promoting our business or telling them how wonderful we are.

To finish up, please take the time to think through the goals, expectations and vision for any social selling program you plan to put in place. Apart from training, spend time looking for articles, news and research you can use to connect with people without interrupting them while at the same time position yourself as a thought leader by sharing quality information that is relevant. This will help you or any sales person in the digitally influenced buying/selling process, regardless of what you sell.

Learn Social Selling Online

Learn social selling online. If you are stuck for time or prefer to learn at your own pace, then The Digital Sales Institute will help train you to become an expert in social selling.  No doubting that a digital element touches some part of the sales process and sales is constantly trying to keep up with this changing buyer interaction.  We all need more prospects to engage with, and research shows we can spend up to 40% of our time trying to find them. The old reliable – cold calling has limited or even zero success. Inbound leads will only get so far in delivering a steady stream of prospects. The result is a large portion of time searching on the social networks to find leads to fill your pipeline. It could be that you are frustrated with the results of your social activity or maybe your efforts are not getting results you had expected or you are paying too much for a sales lead using Google Adwords etc.

In the digitally connected era, The buyers journey has changed. Even B2B BUYERS have adopted consumer-like behaviour. They now conduct their own product research online, they self discover, seek out information via the social channels, and often make purchasing decisions without any or limited sales persons involvement. Those customers who engage with sales people are already 57 percent of the way through the buying process before their first contact. The reality is that the influence of social media on buyers has fundamentally changed the way sales people engage with customers. The way we sell has changed dramatically and will continue to change as digital natives become the major buying force.

 

The use of social media to generate sales is no longer the exclusive domain of marketers. It’s not about pushing out generic sales messages. It’s about engaging in social conversations. It’s about looking for signals and triggers, connecting and engaging with people.
With over 2.4 billion social media users covering business and consumer, you need to be where the fish are swimming. Did you know that 75% of B2B buyers now use social media to research vendors. While a Harvard study showed that 90% of decision makers say that they never respond to cold calling.

Social selling could be the closest you can get to being a fly on the office wall of your prospects. Learn to find out Where they hang out digitally. What language do they use. How socially active are your prospects. What external content do they share or engage with. There is a glittering treasure trove of social data ready to be used if you know how to tap into it. Let the Digital Sales Institute show you the skills to successfully social sell. Now is the time to transform your sales skills for the digital age.

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Social selling is now the fastest growing sales tactic in the sales process, used successfully by thousands of sales people globally. Our course clients for “Social Selling Training” are seeing increased sales performance, and increased buyer engagement.  Working at your own pace, The Digital Sales Institute will guide you to becoming a social selling expert with deep insights into the key aspects of social and digital selling. From social profiles and social purpose, to buyer engagement, through to digital sales expertise, you will acquire the skills to become a social selling expert.

The 7P’s to Social Selling

7p-to-social-selling

What is Social Credibility

Building social credibility via our social media networks allows us to nurture relationships, stay top-of-mind with the purpose of creating “sales time” with buyers at the right time. It is about positioning ourselves to have influence and high levels of perceived value with prospects or potential customers. It is not just about building up our own personal brand but also support the company’s brand online.

social-credibility

At a practical level it is about participating in online discussions on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Forums etc as well as writing and sharing content relevant to your customers. It also extends to being aware of industry trends, seeking referrals from clients and co-workers, and working every day towards being viewed as a subject matter expert in a given field. Social credibility is also constructed by connecting with industry experts, clients and potential prospects by engaging in social conversations. Most importantly, it invloves developing influence in your market so you contribute valuable and relevant insights to your social sphere.

What does this mean in reality?

I have my profile photos updated across all social media platforms

I have a tag line(s) on my social profiles that resonates with my ideal customer

My profile speaks to the pain points of my ideal customer

I have articles, multimedia, videos on public display across my social accounts

I have genuine recommendations from clients and connections on my social media profiles

My activity reflects my personal brand and my social purpose

I have a bank of connections that I constantly add to and engage with

I follow influencers and companies within my industry

My company page is visible to all and is active

I am socially active consistently and not just because I need leads

I can be seen and found on multiple platforms with uniform messaging

social-media-personal-brand

How can your social credibility be measured?

Social Selling Index

Number of Social Connections

Number of Connection requests you receive weekly/monthly

Number of followers – you and your company

Number of profile views you receive

Number of conversations you engage with or start

Number of shares and comments (on your content)

Number of leads you generate as a result of building your social credibility

Number of “sales time” events you manage to secure with potential customers

Check out more social selling and social media marketing tips by signing up to our newsletter

 

Brian.

Is Digital Selling The Ultimate Sales Channel?

In a world where generating sales leads is now the biggest challenge facing companies, could digital selling including social selling be the ultimate sales channel for the foreseeable future. In the digitally connected world, to attract buyers attention, a business has to develop trust, this means starting with authentic interactions and engaging on social media.

Digital-Selling

There are lots of definitions as to what “Digital Selling” actually entails, but the main point to get across is that digital selling is about creating cohesion between sales and marketing in the areas of content marketing, inbound marketing, social selling, data, social listening and insights which are mapped to the buyer’s journey. All these “online” elements when structured together can be used to create a Digital Selling strategy. It is not just about the sales team trying their luck with social selling or the marketing department producing a stream of content. To make it work, leaders must create an organisational structure around the social media channels and KPI’s to measure buyer engagement.

Many companies feel that in-house created content reach (views, likes, downloads)  is the ultimate measure for buyer interest, however other measures like social reach, buyer connections, sales person profile/company page views, questions posed, questions answered and conversation engagement are other key measures worth considering. A key part of any Digital Selling strategy is everyone in sales and marketing should be involved in the creation, organising and sharing of content.  To succeed with the socially influenced buyer, remember companies with the best stories shared will win. In a way, a business needs to have a publishing department, one that concentrates on creating volumes of content or research which is mapped to a buyer’s journey

Let’s take a deeper look at Digital Selling

Digital selling is the use of social selling (1:1 buyer engagement on social channels undertaken by sales people) combined with the use of digital assets (videos, articles, whitepapers, case studies, infographics, webinars, online presentations) and supported by sales intelligence (data, ideal customer profiles, insights, triggers, CRM, social listening) to generated leads and revenue.

In a way, digital selling could be termed “closed loop selling” as it about matching your sales strategy to buyer behaviour which we now know is increasingly influenced by social media.  So in a way, it takes a holistic view of the buyers journey to bring together the assets and actions in order to be valuable to buyers on their journey, one that ultimately leads to better engagement and ultimately more sales.

There are many compelling reasons around this strategy, mainly driven by the fact that buyer behaviour has changed and there is no old way of doing things as most sales tactics such as cold calling have diminishing returns. Today’s connected buyer is more informed than ever before plus they have become expert at tuning out to all those interrupter sales strategies and tactics that worked so well in the past. They seek not to be sold to. They seek advice, knowledge, insights and someone to guide them to the right purchase decision.

The whole digital sales transformation is in full swing around us, whether it is inbound marketing, freemium models, social selling or consultative sales models, it is digital selling to step forward and take centre stage.

Digital selling is fast becoming main stream as forward thinking SaaS companies lead the way whilst many smaller or medium sized businesses must watch and learn fast.

digital-selling-strategy

So where does social selling fit in?

As I stated previously, Social Selling is the key sales person’s activity within Digital Selling. Again, there are many definitions but my own one is “Social selling is the sum of connected actions shared online when experienced by customers/potential customers will influence their awareness and consideration for your business.

It boils down to the influence an individual sales person can have on customers and prospects’, by sharing content on social networks which is consumed, shared, commented on and visible across multiple networks.

Sales teams deploy social selling as an activity that is proven to be valuable (sharing insights, articles, expert advice) to buyers as they move through the awareness, consideration and selection stages on the new buying journey via social media.

Social Selling uses three key elements: namely Insights, Triggers and Referrals to map the buyer’s journey, then supports these elements with articles, curated content, videos, whitepapers etc to engage a potential customer.

Summary:

A digital selling strategy acknowledges that the connected buyer needs education but they educate themselves. They have become blind to advertising and ignore slick marketing material. They value peer recommendations over sales jargon and they complete a large part of the buying process without sales interactions or taking calls. They want to be guided and expect insights from experts with an understanding of their business not yours.

So, pause, listen & engage to nurture relationships via social networks. Modern sales leadership know that the key to sustained success is to include digital selling alongside social selling and social media marketing so all departments and all employees can play their part in the online customer engagement process. When sales and marketing work together to engage someone from prospect to customer, the whole business from top to bottom can stay on the same page with critical contacts, conversations, conversions while measuring the resulting ROI. That is Digital Selling.

The Key Elements of Digital Sales Transformation

Digital transformation and digital sales transformation is much spoke about business strategy terms (there is even Kudos within management circles for mentioning them). But what is it and what can it do for a business is less understood. How can a business benefit from digital sales transformation strategy is a question being asked in many companies?

I think we all have to acknowledge that the sales profession is going through a major transformation. Social media, mobile, and digital information means buyers are better informed and rely less on sales people in the purchasing journey. And that same purchase process has become longer and even more complex within the consultative type selling models.

digital-sales-transformation

Digital Sales Transformation could be defined as “How sales capabilities and competences need to be developed to address the “Connected Buyer”, meeting changes in the industry facilitated by digital tools”. In a nutshell, transforming sales performance will involve a combination of better training for the new age sales person, better use of technology/data, and better customer content to drive conversations.

It is not just another business buzzword to be bandied about at management meetings. The buyers journey is changing fast (wait till Millennials make up the majority of buyers!!) so it’s important to focus on real business and customer challenges and changes now.  Now it the time to have a clear approach, prioritise action and involve the entire marketing and sales force in any digital transformation process. Where to focus in terms of market arenas (capture more business in the short term), what is the right offering (product to market fit) and value proposition for these markets, and how to manage customer relationships and sales to win in the digitally influenced market, are some of the questions to be answered.

The digital tools I mentioned above as part of the definition of sales transformation are invading the business ecosystem, bringing with them major changes in the way we work, communicate, and sell but most importantly the change in how customers buy. As with most things in like, this has brought both opportunities and challenges, and has triggered the Digital Transformation within companies for all aspects of customer touch points.

Sales enablement needs to focus on “value messaging”, “social selling” and “consultative selling” skills training.

The starting point is focused on improving the business awareness of the sales teams because the old sales methodology of selling product features to increasingly more sophisticated buyers will not cut the mustard.  Sales professionals must be able to map the buyer’s journey, understand “Ideal Customer Profiles”, deliver compelling insights (using a variety of content) to differentiate themselves (Why me!!)  And communicate this value to close more business without being dragged into the pricing discount race. So sales enablement leaders are looking to “value messaging”, “social selling” and “consultative selling” skills training using social networks to help the sales force communicate and influence buyer perceptions of value.

The development of these new sales or marketing competencies revolves around the capacities for sales people to be more agile, buyer-centred, innovative, connected, aligned and effective with present and future changes in mind. The digital sales transformation will have many connected goals, but in the end striving towards optimisation across sales processes, support divisions and the business ecosystem of the always-connected customer where building the right bridges with the right people at the right time during the buyers journey is the key to success.

A reminder of the buyer’s journey: Today’s buyers, from consumers looking for a new car to company buying committees purchasing software, can easily research and compare products thanks to the visibility offered up from a host of social networks.

digital-selling-impact

The positive news is that with re-tuning for this digital era, sales teams have significant capabilities to impact the buyer’s journey to become a valuable influencer, aided by big data, digital selling tools, and organisational changes to the buyers’ growing level of self education.

The major themes of Digital Sales Transformation:

  • Find growth in arenas before your competitors arrive
  • Sell the way customers want to buy
  • Optimise sales operations and digital tools
  • Sales and marketing as a unified team who challenge the status quo and manage revenue performance
  • Empowering sales enablement to make change happen

Look Ahead

The whole purpose of sales transformation is to drive profitable growth within companies. It is about using insights, social signals and data to anticipate buyer interests and map out where untapped potential lies. They focus on being useful and valuable to buyers in order to lock in new customers first (and out manoeuvre their competitors).

Find growth in Social Data

The use of social data as part of the sales engagement plan can open up amazing sales opportunities. Companies from all sectors, B2C and B2B can build insights from a wide array of internal and external sources and create tailored selling propositions based on prospect personalisation. However to maximise the benefits of social data, social selling needs to be at the very heart of the sales culture.

Selling that matches the Buyer’s Journey

Generation connected customers have discarded their participation in traditional sales models. They want self-determined, more seamless, and rewarding buying experiences; they want more of the right information at the right time, more value from sales interactions and they want on channels of their choosing. For sales leaders, getting their heads around this is hard enough but transforming sales models in mature or emerging markets is a major challenge. But leading sales organisations are finding ways to improve digital channels, the availability of content plus maximising direct and indirect channels. Using social data and social selling they are cracking the code of how to integrate them all. No company can win today using old sales methodologies, so the smart ones are using transformation to manage a multi-channel approach to ensure consistency, maintaining close contact with customers and raising the sales bar. The best sales leaders are transforming inside sales and field sales, integrating online with inbound with social selling, orchestrating direct and indirect sales and marketing teams and using data to drive activity.

The best test and tweak constantly to bring value to the buyer’s journey and turn conversations into sales conversions. They embrace social networks, mobile and understand the benefits of building deeper customer relationships across all platforms with quality content. Finally, they recognise that digital is an additive process, so they work hard at seamless integration with every other sales channel to win.

Mapping the Customer Decision Journey

“12% of all B2B sales in the US will take place online by 2020 – Forrester”

 digital-transformation

75% of purchases now start with an online search by the buyer. 90% of decision makers say that they never respond to cold outreach – (Harvard Business Review).  More than half the sales process has disappeared. B2B buyers are 57% of the way through their purchasing decision before they ever engage a sales person. In fact, a B2B customer will regularly use different interaction channels throughout the purchase process. The mapping of Ideal Customer Profiles and the Customer Decision Journey  around which marketing and sales collaborate has become standard practise in many progressive sales organisations. They also know that this journey is different by customer segment/profile, with varying needs and expectations at each point in the journey.

It is about ensuring the sales teams reaches the right people at the right time with the right offer.

Innovate Inside Sales

Cold calling is dying fast and some companies are still flogging dead horses. Sales transformation success can pivot on changing the inside sales approach. The leaders of the successful inside sales forces have recognised this. They use social selling to nurture customers early, long before any sales pitch. They seek to bring value and be a trusted source of information to unlock growth in key accounts which is the prerequisite for the consultative sale. Regardless of size or industry, there are always new ways for business development people to engage new customers.

 Blend your Sales and Marketing Engine

In transforming the sales engine, business leaders must ensure that marketing and sales teams work together to extract the full value of every piece of data or customer touch point. Despite their co-dependency, it can seem like marketing and sales are marching to a different tune. Successful sales leaders work with marketing (and vice-versa), benefiting from the market insight skills it brings and feeding these insights to the sales engine to maximise every campaign or lead. Research has shown that when the two teams collaborate to drive sales and revenue, companies enjoy higher sales growth.

Use Technology as an Advantage in Sales

The use of digital sales tools must evolve to keep pace with customer preferences.  Part of the role of sales enablement is to ensure the investment enables success instead being viewed as another big brother information tool. Appoint an owner whose focus is on acquiring and implementing the right tools to deliver the returns on productivity or performance the business expects.

Sales Transformation is about having the right Talent to Execute

Think “New Age Sellers”. Sales leaders can have all the social data, all the social selling training or all the digital tools available, but without having the talent who embrace this new progression, they will achieve little. Hard questions like do we have the right talent for our future sales plans or how many of our existing sales force can make the transformation we require have to be asked and answered.

 Make Digital Selling Part of your Sales DNA

Sales transformation is not about achieving some short term wins but embedding it in to the genes of the organisation for the long term. The companies who will win out in selling to the always connected buyer will create a culture that embraces social channels. They will prioritise sales training and throw the spotlight onto people who are playing a starring role as agents of change, and they focus on social collaboration between sales, marketing and support that goes way beyond the individuals skills to create sales capabilities embedded into the DNA of the entire organisation

Growth will be driven from the Top

Every sales leader has to step forward and be at the forefront of change. Because without strong leadership any transformation initiative will hit the rocks sooner than you think! Strong leaders will be given the platform to challenge the status quo or “the way it’s always been done “thinking. They will galvanise their team, they plan and map change while demanding results from the sales force who has been equipped to win. Senior sponsorship and stakeholder alignment is critical as well as a clear vision of where to prioritise the transformation effort.

A final thought

Undertaking sales transformation may sound brave but the insights to future buyer preferences remove it as optional. The rise of social channels and data brings enormous opportunities for value creation and sales growth, but there are many challenges along the way. Any companies planning to be in business five years from now should already be preparing for a major overhaul of how they sell, no business and no industry is immune.

 

 

How to create an ideal customer profile (and stop selling to the wrong customers)

If I were to ask you who your ideal customer is, what would you say?

When I ask most new founders this question, I usually get an answer like, “Any technology company between 2-200 employees.”

I appreciate the optimism, but I have some bad news: When you try and sell to everyone, you end up selling to no one. New businesses especially need a more focused, specific market than “any technology company.” The problem is, they don’t know how to accurately define their ideal customers, so they just guess.

But guessing doesn’t cut it. Selling to the right customers is too important to gamble on. So let’s take some time today to create a realistic ideal customer profile.

If you already have one, read on anyway. Maybe yours could use some improvement.

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What is an ideal customer profile, and what does it do?

An ideal customer profile describes the fictitious individual or organisation that gets the most value out of your product, and provides the most value back to you. We’ll go into what that means shortly.

This profile helps you find qualified prospects and protects you from selling to the wrong customers.

For outbound prospecting, your profile will give you a clear target to aim for, resulting in highly qualified leads. For inbound prospecting, you can compare incoming leads to your profile. If they don’t match the criteria, you’ll know to move on.

Simply put, an ideal customer profile helps you identify and sell to the type of customers that will most benefit your business.

Creating your ideal customer profile in 3 steps

Although ideal customer profiles describe a fictitious organisation, they need to be based in reality. The following steps assume your business has at least 10 customers. Without those customers, you won’t have enough data to create an accurate profile.

If you’re not at that stage yet, check out this guide to getting the first 10 customers for your startup.

1. List your 10 best customers

Your “best” customers are the customers who are the most successful with your product, not necessarily the ones who are the most happy with it.Happy customers like your product. Successful customers receive real, tangible value from your product, and offer that value back to you.

happy-vs-successful-SaaS-customers

Successful customers should be able to easily quantify the value they receive from your product, and it should always be substantially higher than what they pay for it.

Once you have your 10 customers, move on to step two.

2. List their defining attributes

Create a simplified profile for each of these 10 customers that outlines their defining characteristics. For example, how large are they? What industry are they in? Where are they located?

The goal of this step is to create a clear picture of your customer’s business from all angles. It can be as long or short as you’d like, but here are the 10 fields I recommend including in each:

  1. Industry
  2. Location
  3. Annual revenue
  4. Total customers
  5. Total employees
  6. Years in business
  7. Why they need our product
  8. How they use our product
  9. How they found our product
  10. Primary pain points

Add any industry-specific fields you see fit, such as social media presence or brand awareness, then move on to step three.

3. Identify commonalities

Take a look at your 10 customer profiles side-by-side. What traits do they have in common? In almost all cases, there will be a handful of key elements that most (if not all) of your top customers share.

For example, are they all:

  • In the same industry?
  • Generating the same annual revenue?
  • Using your to product solve the same challenge?

If you’re having trouble finding commonalities, it might mean you didn’t create a thorough-enough profile for each of the customers in step two.

Consider going back and taking a closer look. If you dig deep enough, you’ll find a handful of key elements they all share.

Compile all of those commonalities into a single profile, and you’re done! You’ve created your ideal customer profile.

Update your profile often

Your business is going to grow and evolve over time. As it does, make sure to update your ideal customer profile.

At least once a year, run through the three steps above. Update your list of high-value customers, identify their defining characteristics, and create a new profile.

You might be surprised how much your profile changes over the course of a year.

Sample profiles

You can organise your ideal customer profile however you see fit. But if you need some inspiration, here are three examples.

Example one: Short, sweet, and to the point

The shorter your profile, the easier it is for your reps to remember on the fly. By limiting your profile to a handful of information-dense sentences, you make it easy to learn and utilise.

Our ideal customer is a bootstrapped FinTech startup between two and five employees. This startup averages $1M in annual revenue and uses our product to better manage their growing list of prospects and customers.

Example two: The list

The list is an easy-to-read, easy-to-understand approach to the ideal customer profile. This lays out the most pertinent information in a format that is easy to review on an as-needed basis.

Industry: Technology

Department: Sales

Business type: FinTech startup

Funding: Bootstrapped

Annual revenue: ~$500,000

Number of customers: 100-500

Type of customers: VC-funded startups

Number of employees: 2-5

Years in business: 1-3 years

Biggest challenge: Managing a growing list of prospective and current customers

Our solution: Our software compiles their prospects and customers into one easy-to-use interface that allows salespeople to easily track data, follow up on accounts, and close more deals.

Buying cycle length: One month

Competitors used: None

Online presence: Established following on Facebook, weekly blog

Geographical location: Bay area

Product awareness stage: They are aware of our product because of our online presence, but have never been a customer and have not yet signed up for our free trial.

Example three: The novel

Sometimes there just isn’t a substitute for details. When you’re going after a specific niche, you might find it useful to start with a long-form profile like this, and then create a shortened version for reps to memorise.

Our ideal customer is a 1-3-year-old bootstrapped FinTech startup earning about $500,000 in annual revenue. This customer will have completed a startup incubator program within the last year. Although they service a handful of markets, the majority of their most successful customers are VC-funded startups who are struggling to meet projected sales goals

They employ between two and five people full-time, one of whom is a dedicated salesperson. The majority of their leads will be inbound, and need to consider branching out into outbound lead generation to meet sales projections.

Their sales team has been managing their accounts through an Excel spreadsheet and, although it worked for them in the beginning, the system has not been sustainable as they’ve grown. They are beginning to let accounts slip through the cracks and spend more time trying to manage current accounts than on-board new ones.

They need our software because…

You get the idea. This approach outlines every potentially valuable detail about the ideal customer to make it easy to spot them from a mile away.

Limit yourself, grow your business

If you feel like your profile is limiting your leads, that’s not a bad thing.

New businesses especially need a hyper-specific customer profile. If only 15 companies fit the specifications in your ideal customer profile, then go out and close those deals.

But until you’ve locked down your ideal customers, don’t step outside them. 15 high-value customers are worth more to your business than 30 low-value customers (that’ll probably end up churning anyway).

If you’re on the fence, I challenge you to give it a try. Set aside an hour or two this week with your team and create your ideal customer profile. Then use that profile to track down and close deals.

If you don’t notice a difference, forget about it. Shred the profile and keep doing things the way you were.

But when you do notice a difference, I want you to come back to here and share your experience, and your profile, in the comments below.

I can’t wait to hear your success stories. Until then, get back out there and crush it.

About the article

This is a guest post, courtesy of Close.io. The Bitter Business has no business relationship with Close.io other than enjoying the quality of their insights into sales and how to sell better.

About the author

Steli Headshot

Steli Efti is the co-founder & CEO of Close.io, an inside sales CRM that allows users to make & receive calls with one click, automatically tracks all your emails, and minimises manual data-entry.

 

A Social Selling Guide for Sales Leaders

A social selling strategy starts at the top. If sales management and senior executives are suspicious about social media – if they only see risk, their people wasting time clicking “Like” buttons and employees posting funny pictures, then they would be right to draw down the shutters and, in the process, cut off the opportunity social media presents.

If, on the other hand, they want to become a social business and prepared to invest in training to optimise its potential and reduce risk, to reconfigure operations so that departments work together digitally, not in silos. Then social selling could be the key to unlocking the data insights into customers and prospects. Where do they engage, digitally? What language do they use? How active are they? What external content do they share? There is a mountain of social data out there if a business knows how to mine it.

Some 62 per cent of Irish companies said they used social media platforms as their primary method for connecting with customers, up from 58 per cent and 46 per cent in 2014 and 2013 respectively.   (Compiled by CSO December 2015)

So how many of our companies have formal social selling programs, policies and KPI’s in place?

social-networks

The social networks allow us to interact with other human beings in meaningful ways online. Social Selling is an evolutionary step forward making the sales process more productive and meaningful. It is not about using social media to shout at, stalk, or spam people digitally. It is not about employing the social channels to replace cold calling/sales outreach or replacing the telephone with Twitter and LinkedIn.

The reality is that integrating social media into your team’s selling process is a must if you expect your salespeople to break through the competitive clutter and reach buyers who are better informed and more digitally connected than ever before.

A well planned social selling program will see sellers will use the online channels at the front end of the sales cycle to be useful, to network, build their online brand, and be found, demonstrate credibility, generate leads and conduct presales customer engagement. Social channels can and should also be used to nurture existing customer relationships and as part of account based management

To turn your sales organisation into a social selling machine, you need to do these things:

Accept that buyer behaviour and the buyers journey has changed. Sales management must shift their mindsets. The selling world is different than it was five or ten years ago. Some if not most of the sales tactics that worked when a business was building its customer base, are not working for sales teams today. Saturated with sales approaches, buyers ignore phone calls and emails from people they have never heard off. It takes so much more effort to break through the noise these days. Sales people must alter their sales approach.  The role of sales leadership is to help them learn how to do it.

Develop a social selling strategy. Engage both the marketing and sales teams as part of the planning process.  Be careful not to head straight for social selling training without having thought through items like culture, change, KPI’s, content and making social selling a consistent activity. Heading straight to tactics without executive sponsorship and a well developed plan is a recipe for failure.

Establish social etiquette and social media guidelines. Sales people need to know what is expected of them from their actions online. Sales people present themselves PLUS the company brand. Remember what is posted online stays there is forever, while mistakes are bound to happen a business can reduce any risk by ensuring that all the sales teams understand the art of communicating online. As important is to teach them what is and is not appropriate to say and do on behalf of your company when they are using social networks as part of their selling activities. Less than 26% of sales people know how to use social media correctly as part of their sales activities.

sales-process

Include social selling training into the bigger sales training plan. The digitally connected buyer means that sales behaviours have to change and sales people need to understand how to strategically use the social networks in the right way. If a company or sales people just view social channels as a vehicle to spam prospects with vanilla sales pitches, a huge opportunity will be wasted, and the company brand is put at serious risk. Social training should be ongoing and not just a one-time event at the end of induction training.

Implement and focus on the metrics. Social activity is not about doing more – make more connections, send more invitations, or do more demos. Without the right metrics and KPI’s, sales teams can waste a lot of time hitting like buttons. Without clear goals and objective sales people do not link their social behaviour to social etiquette, policies or structure. They commit “random acts of social” where at times self-promotion takes precedent over company promotion. The quality of sales activities as a result of social selling is what counts. Using the social networks to attain measurable sales results is more important than checking off the box that says sales person A sent 50 connection requests.

Be realistic in your expectations. Using the social channels is not a quick fix to increasing sales pipeline and revenue. No one who implemented a social selling plan saw results overnight. No surprise here as this is no different from any other sales tactics a business may have invested in for the sales teams. When it comes to the social channels learning how to do things differently does take time. This is why the planning that goes into providing the sales training and coaching that sales people need is vital so these new approaches bear fruit overtime.

social-media-infographic

Social selling is an additive process. This is not a replacement for phone calls and prospecting emails. It is an additive approach, a prescriptive process like another arrow in the quiver that you should think about, “How do I apply social to every prospect, every deal, every account, every single day for no more than 30 to 60 minutes a day.

Forward thinking sales leaders know that social selling is not some snake oil, nor is it a gimmicky approach to selling. These leaders know social selling is another set of sales tools and an evolution in how we reach buyers in the digital era. Social selling is a complement to traditional sales methods—not a revolutionary approach that replaces them. Social selling, due to its ability to enhance the customer journey, is an incredibly powerful sales tool. But, like any tool, its value and utility are ultimately tied to the skills of the individual employing it.

The What and How of Sales Enablement

Sales enablement is linchpin that a business uses to bridge the gap between their sales strategy and how they execute this on social media, the phone or face to face. In a fast moving digital world, common sales challenges (buyer interactions, longer sales cycles, declining win rates, slowing customer acquisition and shrinking deal sizes ) can be mapped back to the same source — the conversations between sales people and buyers.

The challenge for sales leadership is to equip the entire sales team(s) with the ability to consistently and systematically have a valuable conversation either online or offline with the right set of customers at each stage of the buyer’s journey to optimise the results of the selling system.

The goal of sales enablement is to ensure that every sales person has the knowledge, sales skills and behaviours to maximise every interaction with buyers.” In other words, how can sales leaders create the environment to “get all your ducks in a row to give the salespeople the best chance of closing a deal?”

sales-enablement

A sales enablement framework for the digitally connected buyers should include:

Targeting the Right Prospects

Reports show that only 3% of buyers are in a purchasing cycle when contacted by sales. This blunt sales effort can be extremely for all stakeholders when lead nurturing is directed at the wrong buyers, who are not ready to buy, or worse just are not interested in what you have to offer.

Sales productivity is impacted due to sales people’s efforts not being focused on buyers who are middle of the funnel or already in the “I may have a problem” mindset. A better use of social selling and social data combined with sales intelligence as part of a sales enablement program will go a long way to helping this challenge.

Aligning the Sales and Marketing Teams

Sales enablement cannot be correctly implemented without aligning marketing and sales. Both departments need to work together to arm the sales teams with the right assets to have the right conversations with the right buyer profiles at the right time and in the right channels.

The reality today is that sales people need to be engaging and holding conversations with buyers throughout the whole journey, even while the buyer is in status quo mode (not yet aware that they may have a business issue that needs solving). It is about bringing a level of consistency to the whole sales process as both marketing and sales work together to interact with customers across the entire buying journey.

A consistent approach from sales and marketing will help assess the sales cycle, identify problem areas, fix them, and achieve the sales goals.

Understand where content fits In

This involves developing relevant content to specific buyers during a specific stage of the buying process. Content is a “must-have” asset in successful sales enablement roll-outs. This includes blog posts, white papers, infographics, eBooks, videos and reports which are deployed to engage customers and potential buyers. During the sales process, the sales team need to understand when to use each type of content and how to position it with their buyers and prospects

Ask and answer questions like:

What are the online personas each prospect will display?

How do we create content that aligns with that persona?

How do we deliver content to the sales people?

Who will produce and supply this content to the sales team?

How will all sales people be trained to use content effectively?

Which is the right combination of company-created, curated and shared content?

How to match the content to the stage the buyer is in?

sales-enablement-graph

The role of social selling

For a whole host of reasons (which you can read in other articles on this blog), social selling is crucial for a sales enablement initiative in the sales 2.0 world. Once the content strategy has been mapped into the sales process, sales people can use these assets as 2nd click content to qualify prospects through the funnel. They can leverage the content to share with and engage buyers, showing that your company is already aware of their concerns and is ready to answer their questions.

A successful social selling program takes time to listen, share, post, nurture, engage and convert. Sales and marketing should work together to form concise messaging and offers that targets issues that buyers may be addressing now.

Measure your Results with KPI’s

If you can’t manage it, you can’t measure it, still holds true even if large parts of the sales conversations has moved online. Rather than try to measure too much, it may be more beneficial to focus on a small set of key performance indicators.

A tip is to separate the sales enablement metrics into two parts:

Performance metrics: How did we do?
How many new connections did we make last month or how much content did the sales teams share last week? How much reach, interest or engagement did we ignite?

Diagnostic metrics: Which is working/not working?

Which activities are working? What needs to be improved? What types of content are the salespeople sharing and with who? What content is not performing or which set of prospects are not responding?

These metrics will help all stakeholders make the right decisions; decisions which help the buyers engage and drive revenue.

Always prioritise the prospects

Too many times, businesses are thinking about “Me” and not “Them”. The focus can be solely on the company, the product, the messaging, the key differentiators, etc. They hone in on themselves and relegate their target audience and the audience’s needs. This internal focus impacts on true sales enablement.  So rather than helping the sales teams understand the buyers, the focus can be entirely on helping the sales team understand the products. Helping buyers through the buyer’s journey should the core of all sales enablement programs, from awareness to decision.

A quick summary

Sales enablement is critical as the business world in which we function has fundamentally changed. Out with the explaining the companies’ products and why buy messaging.  In is assisting prospects evaluate alternatives, helping and educating buyers. The focus becomes truly enabling the sales team to engage throughout the whole buyer’s journey, on their grounds and in the channels they choose.

The modern buying process means that different criteria have to be introduced. Using sales enablement as the guiding principle, sales organisations everywhere can set themselves up for success. The end result will be empowered and productive sales people, skilled in helping prospects across the buyer’s journey and bringing in more revenue, faster than ever.

Sales Strategy – Marketing Services – Sales Consultant – Social Selling – Inbound Marketing – Lead Generation

I'm always available to have a chat on your business plans and any challenges in lead generation, social selling, marketing or sales.