I was talking to a friend and respected colleague last week. As a Senior Vice President of Sales he was lamenting the unfavorable market conditions. Price competition. Buyer attention deficit disorder. Voice mail. A value proposition you can hardly discern. Procurement. Lengthening cycles. Margin pressure. His world had changed. His job was much harder than it had ever been before. The same kind of effort was increasingly producing less of the desired outcome. That means pressure. The kind of pressure many people, particularly salespeople, across a variety of industries and disciplines are facing when they arrive at the office today. What was good enough to get us here simply isn’t going to be good enough to propel us forward. Shift. I asked him, “what is the biggest bottleneck in the sales cycle? the one thing you need to make happen that you believe will drive the business forward?” He didn’t hesitate, “We need time with quality decision makers. They need to hear our story. It all sounds the same, but there are key elements of differentiation. I wish our prospects could talk to a few of our customers.” I didn’t hesitate, “They can. You can help them do it. If you are relying completely on your direct sales organization to influence the marketplace you are missing an opportunity for impact.” I see the resistance all of the time to the Social Selling movement, particularly among veteran sellers. That question surrounding Facebook, Twitter, YouTube. Is social media a business tool or waste of time? I knew where he stood. But couldn’t resist the opportunity to flip open my laptop and simply show him my Facebook Wall from the day (and I threw in at tweet from the same day for good measure): Aaron, Kelly and Brie are like minded colleagues. We are connected and enjoy the benefit of socializing our ideas through new media. They also happen to work for HP, Farmers Insurance and Oakley. Their interest means validation. Their recommendation of my work means everything. Whether they hire me or not isn’t the point. Interestingly, I have never asked for their business. Increasingly, that is how it works (most sellers try and close too soon, before they have earned the opportunity to ask for the business). I always teach salespeople the value of having the marketplace sell for you (Flip the Sale). The tools and technology enable, educate and eventually put you in a better, more intelligent position when it is time to ask (for help or the business). They expedite the sales cycle. Activate the brand. Can you explode market share without social media and sales 2.0 strategy? Of course! These are simply tools that help. Frankly, in a competitive marketplace, I will take all the help I can get. In sales your network is your net worth. It pays to consider how you can positively add value and impact your network each and everyday. My friend is still skeptical. His view is that social selling wouldn’t be as relevant for “his” business. That is where the conversation always starts. He just sent me a LinkedIn invitation. Progress. I’ll be presenting Social Selling on Day 2 of the ACA International Convention next month in Texas. Hope you can join us!
Ryan Estis is a Keynote Speaker & Management Consultant blogging about business performance.