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Incorporating Twitter Into My Media Mix

can2I’ve been seeing more and more business contacts coming up on Twitter.  They’re following me.  Nice.  I follow them.  No question this is a fast-moving phenonemon—like Susan Boyle (with, as of today: 52,532,400 views on YouTube) and YouTube’s parent, Google itself, during its first few years of growth.

I presented today on a webinar sponsored by Genius.com.  The TAS Group hosted the event.  I shared the results of ESR’s survey on the use of social media in B2B sales.  Few of the 400 B2B salesreps surveyed say Twitter has directly contributed to them winning business.

An interesting question was posed by an audience member about pushback with the new social media, such as we had with faxes and email.  So that prompted this post, with a few observations.  Understand, I’m no Twitter guru.  I don’t have a million followers, or even a thousand.  I’m still figuring out how best to use it, gaining and providing value.

Some observations:

  • People find me and follow me.  I get an email. I click on their profile.  More make strange bedfellows than not.  I don’t understand why they’d want to follow me.  It takes time to do that.  A minute?  Often, from a selfish perspective, it’s wasted time.  Is this spam?
  • @writingroads who is a writer who lives here on Martha’s Vineyard taught me that it’s not all about just tweeting about your business.  Julie found me and got hired for an ESR project because of other interests that we shared.  Her tweets cover a wide variety of subjects.  She tells me that that’s how to use Twitter.  Tweet about what interests you.  You will find people with similar interests and others will find you.  Doing business with those comes naturally, if there is business to be done.  That works great for someone like Julie.  It wouldn’t work for a salesrep of a large company for many reasons.  At least I don’t think so.
  • Tom Pick wrote a post today on How to Use Twitter For Business.  He cites Whole Foods, Comcast, Starbucks and Ford as companies who leverage Twitter.  I looked at their recent tweets. Good article.  Thanks, Tom.
  • I don’t get people who block their updates.  Why do that?  It defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?  Maybe I don’t get it.
  • I un-follow hardcore self-promoters.  I did that twice yesterday.  People I know pretty well.  I found one sales trainer in the Middle East.  Began to follow.  What came next were dozens of tweets each day just promoting courses he was giving.  Ugh.  Bye.  If I do that, someone let me know.
  • I love people who provide real value. @DavidABrock is one.  @LouisColumbus is another. @SteveKayser and @CharlesHGreen, too.  Then there is John Caddell (@jmcaddell).  There are many more.  I try to use them as a model, but I have a long way to go.
  • It’s nice to have someone RT (retweet) one of your tweets.  Again, I do that when it’s appropriate.  I need to more of that.  Some of the people I follow are really smart.
  • When I’m really busy with work, I don’t have the time or inclination to use Twitter.  Am I not fully committed to Twitter as a medium?  Or is that reasonable behavior?
  • Those of you who read this blog know I’m concerned about B2B salespeople who spend too much time on Twitter rather than what has been proven to work in selling.  Some salespeople will look for any shortcut or trick to avoid the ongoing learning and hard work required for sales success.

What do you think?

Photo credit: © Alex Staroseltsev – Fotolia.com

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ESR’s Survey On Social Media Use in B2B Selling

With the assistance of The TAS Group, ESR recently surveyed nearly 400 users of the following technologies to determine the effects that these new technologies in helping them win B2B sales opportunities:

  • Jigsaw;
  • LinkedIn;
  • Twitter;
  • Plaxo;
  • Facebook;
  • Hoover’s or OneSource.

The pace of technology development today is dizzying. It seems as though a new sales-related technology appears daily. The question is, do these new technologies produce additional sales or just consume valuable selling time and distract sales leaders and their teams from focusing on what can really improve performance?

A few specifics from the survey:

  1. 35% of respondents say that LinkedIn has helped them win sometimes or often;
  2. 69% of respondents say they don’t use Twitter. Of those that douse the tool, 20% say it has not helped them win;
  3. 8% of respondents say that Facebook has helped them win sometimes or often.

Buy the 10-page ESR/Insight™ Brief, The New Social Media: Do They Enable B2B Selling? now.

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An Important Message About An Important Message

A while back messaging and branding expert Maureen Blandford asked me to lend an endorsement to what was then her new book, Branding Doesn’t Work in Business to Business. I had not met Maureen.  I was skeptical. By the time I got through with the book, I was a Maureen Blandford fan.  Why?  Maureen provides the quality of insight and advice that is too rare these days—she’s passionate and completely devoid of B.S.  See for yourself:

Dave Stein: You’ve been pretty strident on Twitter about companies not getting the messaging thing right these days. What’s your perspective on what they’re doing wrong?

Maureen Blandford: It seems the sales thought leadership community is pretty aligned that selling collaboratively is where sellers need to be. I’m a huge fan of sellers asking great questions, building relationships, uncovering pain AND holding their opinions and solutions until they’ve first uncovered and quantified pain.

But HQ folks are busy flooding the marketplace with a lot of noise. Corporate marketers have a tough time shaking the Brand—the Dog & Pony Show sell. They’re creating boatloads of copy for upfront in the sales cycle when prospects are least likely to be paying attention. They spend days talking about tactic aesthetics (color, shape, size, etc) that are meaningless to our prospects. Our prospects want a solution that can solve their pain for less than the pain is costing. And if they can work with someone they like and possibly even trust to implement that solution – all the better.

Marketing and sales support tools essentially need to be the feet on the street in place of salespeople. Our sales folks can’t be everywhere at once. So we really need our tangible tools to mimic what we want our sellers doing: Be cool, confident, savvy. Ask great questions. Don’t assume you know all the answers. Intrigue the prospect enough to want to talk to a rep. Think: questions, bullet points, phrases.

DS: Is this any different from how it’s been in the past?

MB: Here’s the thing. We’ve been selling the same way for, what,  thousands of years, right?  Show your product, do a song and dance, negotiate price, close or lose the deal. Classic dog and pony show. That type of selling is in our DNA. Relationship Selling has only really been around for probably between 15 & 20 years. So, even though we can all be fans of Relationship Selling, it’s still really hard for salespeople to make that transition.  If you get Jill Konrath’s newsletter, she just wrote about some classic mistakes she’s made just recently. And she’s a fabulous seller. So, again, it’s tough to get this great model right.

But Marketing hasn’t even begun to make this transition. They’re still in Dog & Pony Show + Branding glory days. Marketing must make the transition to supporting how we sell today. The problem with that for marketers is (sorry, marketers) they’ve always been more concerned about shooting that next commercial, or winning that next ad club award, than they have been about how to help sales move the ball down the field. It’s a new day. Sales organizations are the stars now and marketers need to be happy and find the honor in being the back stage crew.

DS: Can you give us an example of a company that recently made a change in this regard, what the symptoms were and how they are faring now?

MB: Wow. I wish I could. Most of the orgs that are really successful at this fly under the radar. (I guess they value success over a globally-recognized brand. Huh.) Remember that there are thousands of B2B companies in the US alone. The big ones (IBM, Microsoft) get a lot of attention. But there are so many good companies out there, with salespeople generating revenue that many of us will never know about.

The way I see B2Bs today is in a kind of suspended animation. Our sales organizations need help making the transition fully to the consultative sale model. But where’s the budget, Dave, for on-going, sustainable training, mentoring, and support? (I can see you shaking your head, Dave…) Those budgets have vanished. Meanwhile, we only need to read the national news to understand the silly ways corporate is spending the revenue that the sales folks generate.

DS: Other than what you just described, how would a sales leader know that it’s their messaging that may be part of a sales problem?

MB: Most salespeople and sales leadership have given up on getting help with bad messaging. A colleague of mine, a VP of sales at a very successful biotech company, was at a product launch for a truly breakthrough, efficacious cancer drug targeted toward premier oncologists around the country. The marketing folks modeled their product launch campaign after, get this, a popular laundry detergent campaign. Uh huh. You read that right. Cancer drug, laundry detergent. Sheesh.

If I’m ever strident (!) about these issues, it’s because it’s unbelievable to me what’s going on in B2Bs. How long are we going to starve our salesforces of the training and support they need when their marketing teams (most of whom have never carried a bag) have the keys to extraordinary budgets but are quite clueless about the tactics necessary to support a consultative sale.

DS: Without asking you to give the entire content of your book away, could you enlighten us on why branding doesn’t work in B2B?

MB: Branding is a great methodology for consumer marketing. The consumer buying process, however, is the polar opposite of the B2B buying process for big deals. Universities don’t teach the difference between marketing for Consumer v. marketing for B2B. It doesn’t make sense to take the methodology for one and try to apply it to a completely different model.

Great B2B marketers need to think much less about what color does X need to be? And more about the revenue targets, prospect and customer buying processes, how sales needs to sell to match the buying process, who influences the prospects, and what are the best support tools to land new accounts and grow existing accounts.

Trust. Confidence. Relationships. Deals. Branding can’t get us there. But our people can.


Coming up…

  1. Please join me on April 8th when I present Nailing Your Sales Training—An Independent Expert’s View a complimentary webinar sponsored by The TAS Group.
  2. On Tuesday, April 14, I’ll be joining a stellar panel of sales experts for The Top Sales Experts Kickoff Event: The Future of Professional Selling.

Photo credit: © Beboy – Fotolia.com

My 2009 Word of The Year, So Far

One of my most-used words these days is “scrutinize.”  Merriam-Webster says it means to examine closely and minutely.”

At ESR, we find ourselves using the word fairly often:

  • VPs have been asking us about how to determine which sales reps to keep and which to redeploy.  In this current economic situation some of what salesreps depended on to win in the past will simply no longer work.  It’s the old, “the past does not equal the future.” We recommend scrutinizing past performance as well as all the reps’ strengths and weaknesses against the new set of required skills and traits. And we strongly recommend psychometric testing. It’s very effective objective scrutiny.

  • We know from work with our clients that business acumen is more important now in B2B selling than ever before.  Salesreps need to scrutinize their customers, clients and prospects.  (More about this and some disturbing data when ESR reports on the results of our social media in B2B sales survey, which closed today.)  By the way, I was recently briefed by Chip Terry, Vice President and General Manager Enterprise Solutions at ZoomInfo.  He demoed their product.  Within two minutes I could see how ZoomInfo can provide the breadth and depth of information about not only companies, but equally as important, people within those companies, on whom salesreps would be calling.)

  • Messaging.  How relevant are the messages your salespeople are delivering to your customers and sales prospects?  Those need to be scrutinized and relevance to what and how your customers are buying must be determined.

  • New approaches and tools.  I’ve written a lot about the new social media as well as Sales 2.0 (again here).  These are very hot topics. (Just the number and flavor of comments to these three blog posts will attest to that.)  ESR’s recommendation is to… You guessed it:  thoroughly scrutinize any new direction or investment with respect to either or both of these promising technologies. The time may be right.  But then again, it may not be.

  • Lead Generation and Lead Nurturing.  Brian Carroll (podcast) and I are working on a project together.  Just yesterday we were discussing the challenges most companies are facing these days in those challenged areas.  What’s required for many companies is significant scrutiny. Bring in experts if you need to.  Get the right one—someone like Brian perhaps—and it will be money well-spent.

  • Sales training.  I’m very concerned about the significant drop in sales training during the past quarter.  Sales training may be precisely the right area to scale back in certain companies.  But certainly not in all, or even most.  Again, here’s where some significant scrutiny will enable you to determine where to spend your limited funds so that you have the biggest chance of making it through this economic situation.

  • Here are a few more areas that should be targeted for some scrutiny: Territory assignments, compensation, coaching mechanisms, measurement and analytics, sales process, sales support and readiness.  The list goes on.

Photo credit: © Sandor Kacso – Fotolia.com

My Interview with SMT

I was recently interviewed by Lori Champion from SMT (The Professional Society for Sales & Marketing Training) as part of the ramp-up for their annual conference in Orlando October 14 – 16, 2009.  I’ll be keynoting at the event.  The topic will be Sales Excellence 2012: Overcoming Tough Obstacles,  Achieving Measurable Results.

Lori’s interview begins:

What do a CEO, a Trumpet player, a computer software programmer, a VP of Sales, and an expert in landing “very big contracts” have in common? They describe the background of one man and he is Dave Stein! Let’s add “Opening Key Note Speaker” to the list. He is, after all the Key Note for SMT’s 2009 annual conference in Orlando, Florida this October.

I had the privilege of sitting down and speaking with Dave about a week ago. I wanted to find out more about this very versatile CEO who will be addressing us this fall.

Dave Stein is the CEO and Founder of Massachusetts based ES Research Group, Inc. (ESR) which provides Gartner-style, independent advice about sales training programs, sales performance improvement tools and approaches. It also does  evaluations and comparisons of the companies that provide them.

Read the rest of the interview here.

The Economy Is Down, So It’s Webinar Time!

I’ve delivered lots of webinars over the years, working with all the well-know providers and others as well.  With only two exceptions where the audio was lost for all the participants, I’ve had very good experiences.  That’s not by accident.  My content is always relevant to the audience, I rehearse, I’m facile with the technology, I understand the medium, and I always use a checklist to make certain I don’t forget something.

I’ve delivered a few webinars with Boston Conferencing.  They really impressed me with their professionalism, the quality of the technology, and their turnkey approach.  In fact, I’ve got a webinar coming up with FranklinCovey Sales Performance Group on Wednesday, March 11, 1:00 pm ET — Strategies For Getting Your Customers Through the Financial Crisis. (Disclosure: I’ll be delivering a webinar for pay with Boston Conferencing in July.)

So in these times of reduced travel, I asked Boston Conferencing President, Dave Will, to help us make better use of this medium.


Dave Stein: Web conferencing has been around for a decade or so. What’s changed in the past few years with respect to the technology?

Dave Will: Actually the biggest change has not been with the technology as much as with the integration into day to day business processes. A decade ago, very few organizations outside of the technology sector were using web conferencing. Even 2 – 3 years ago we found that a lot of organizations were still trying to identify if webinars were a worthwhile marketing/training tool. Now webinars are a line item in the budget. The decision has been made and the vast majority of organizations have incorporated them into their business. The question has changed from “should we do it” to “when and how do we get it done.” It is no longer a competitive advantage to run webinars. It’s a “must-have” in order to keep up.

But to answer the question more directly, web conferencing technology is doing a better job of streaming video and audio over the internet. It’s also come a long way in providing simple one-click entry to events. Webinars and Web Conferencing are no longer for the tech companies or the geeks. It’s a common tool in all organizations. One more change is that there are tons of small unknown software tools in the market that may or may not be good for business use. What has not changed is that the major “industrial-strength” conferencing tools are still Microsoft LiveMeeting and WebEx. Continue reading

Miller Heiman. What A Brand!

When it comes to marketing, Miller Heiman leads the pack.  I recently spoke with Elizabeth Vanneste, their Chief Marketing Officer. Elizabeth brought Miller Heiman into four telecommunications companies where she had previously worked. She joined the Miller Heiman team last June as a sales VP and took over marketing three months ago.

Elizabeth shared with me that her firm just added 15 sales consultants and kicked off a new partnership in India.  They have a new program, Securing Strategic Appointments, in which the participants learn, among other things, how to craft the right message, with valid business reasons, to meet with customer executives.  In addition, the program lays out specific plans for getting those critical appointments.  Elizabeth says there is a lot of interest in using these skills for selling to the government.

We talked about the economy and travel restrictions.  Miller Heiman has set up additional public sessions.  I wrote a post about public sales training sessions a while back.  They are, under certain circumstances, something to consider.

Elizabeth and I discussed technology as well.  According to Elizabeth, Miller Heiman has made significant progress with their e-learning offerings and their sales enablement tools that integrate with the top nine CRM systems (through White Springs).  Miller Heiman consultants are also now performing Blue Sheet reviews via webinars and conference calls, helping to keep their customers’ costs down.

Back to Miller Heiman’s marketing.  Miller Heiman’s brand equity is substantial.  That’s not only because they’ve been around for thirty years.  (Other training companies have been around that long or nearly that long.)  So far as sales training companies are concerned, Miller Heiman is predominant on the Web.  I’ve got Miller Heiman tagged in Google Alerts, as well as 40 or so other sales training companies.  There is no question that Miller Heiman significantly outnumbers the others with hits coming from blogs, articles, other companies’ websites (Hoover, for example), conference agendas, news, and other sources.

“Strategic Selling,” a trademarked Miller Heiman brand, is certainly widely recognized, but has become so often used generically, that it may not be connected to Miller Heiman as often as they would like.  This is similar to the issue that SPI has with their trademarked “Solution Selling.”

Miller Heiman’s leadership position in marketing isn’t something to take lightly.  After all, with the close relationship sales should have with marketing in most companies, a training company’s ability to market themselves effectively is a proof statement of an understanding of some of the most important issues, isn’t it?

Finally, this all may sound terrific to you if you’re searching out a sales training company. I can only warn you that selecting Miller Heiman or any other company based upon this or any other one-page write up is precisely the wrong thing to doESR’s Sales Training Vendor Guide, Third Edition, will be published later this month.  In the Guide, Miller Heiman and two dozen other providers are evaluated, compared and contrasted.

Disclosure:  Miller Heiman subscribes to ESR’s research.

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