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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

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.

Photo credit: © altiso – Fotolia.com

The New Social Media (Wars)

I’ve been involved in a number of posts on The Customer Collective where there have been some personal attacks by a few social media zealots against some of us that have a more balanced view of the capabilities and tools required for effective B2B selling going forward in this new(est) economy.   Jonathan Farrington1, Dave Brock, Niall Devitt, and I have a somewhat similar opinion of the role of social media.  (These are smart guys.  I recommend you subscribe to their blogs.)

The four of us had an email exchange today after some comments to one of Jonathan’s posts.  The comments sounded like sweeping indictments of “old school,” and the four of us as well.

What’s really worth considering, as Dave Brock pointed out in the email thread, is that people are attacking the four of us for being old school, when we’re all entrenched in the new social media: blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo, virtual meetings, and much of the rest.  Are they attacking our not being immersed in the new social media, which you would think might be their mission? No.  They’re attacking us for the opinions we voice about the social media from within the social media environment.2 We’re not outside observers.

Here is an edited slice of my thoughts on the subject of social media zealotry and “old school” from that thread:

ESR has studied the issue of inter-generational selling. It’s a big challenge for companies and for consultants and trainers. It will become even more challenging. How do we “experts” stay relevant to younger salespeople, managers and CEOs is one question. The bigger question is how will younger salespeople become relevant to serious corporate buyers?

Here are a few more questions: The Millennials (Y’ers) show considerably less willingness to follow convention (read process) than those who are older—a generalization, I admit. Salespeople in general have less discipline and process-orientation than professionals, which compounds the problem. B2B customer buying patterns and practices are getting tougher, requiring more discipline, process, strategy, etc. on the part of those who sell to them. So how will the Millennials, many of whom are rejecting much of what has come before, wind up selling though this capability gap? Answer: Many will not! Companies will have to tighten up their profile for B2B salespeople and a boatload of soft skills with little else won’t be a desired characteristic—not in the kind of serious B2B selling that drives the economy. So the pure social media types will have that to play with that in their spare time, or lock on to a subset of buyers in corporations who may be open to that stuff.

A client of ours went into a very tough negotiation with a well-known company yesterday.  Big, big bucks! They were meeting with a senior strategic procurement executive. Facebook? Twitter? Blogs? Virtual or online anything?  No. Weeks of research, customer profiling, political positioning, testing approaches, strategizing, number crunching, competitive positioning, collaborative brainstorming and one very, very important face-to-face meeting. Is that model going to change in the next few years? Sure, in some sales environments, but not in mission critical areas of most companies over $200 million in sales.

With all this being said, with respect to the business side of my life, I’ll listen to and consider anyone’s opinion on any subject, so long as they can express their opinion clearly and succinctly and don’t resort to manipulation, games, or personal attacks.  I believe passion is good.  So is being a zealot, if your goal is benevolent as well as your means of getting there.  I confess:  I’m a sales effectiveness zealot.


  1. Jonathan Farrington is hosting the kick-off event for the Top Sales Experts Roundtable:  The Future of Professional Selling on Tuesday, April 14th, 2009 at 1.00 pm EDT.  I’ll be a panel member.  With Jonathan in charge, it’ll be worth your investment.
  2. ESR will be publishing the findings from our recent survey on the new social media’s role in B2B selling next week.  If you’d like to be notified of the publication of this report, subscribe to this blog or the ESR/AlertTM.

Photo credit: © Carsten Reisinger – Fotolia.com

A High-Level Sales Call Gone Bad – Really Bad

Years ago I was based in Europe, opening up operations there for Datalogix International, an ERP software company.  Datalogix “wound up” in Europe after selling a large deal to a Boston-based adhesives company, Bostik.  Bostik came to us with a problem: the were being sold by their parent company, Black & Decker, and Bostik had to get off B&D’s mainframe within five months.  Bostik had a number of locations, including several in the U.K.  They were being acquired by Total Chemie (pronounced toe-TAL Shem-EE), the chemical division of the very large French multinational petrochemical company.  Talk about a compelling event!  Bostik had no choice but to invest in their own system.  There was a need, a budget, a timeframe and we were talking to the key decision makers in the company.

Greg Taylor was the salesrep.  He, along with VP of sales Steve Andersen, did a fabulous job.  The deal came in at $1.9 million, which was the largest deal for Datalogix up until that time.  We took a customer-focused, proactive approach.  I was VP of Operations at the time, and I drew up a plan to commence support operations by moving several people to the U.K., and opening up an office there.    Bostik felt very comfortable with it and that was a key reason they decided to go with Datalogix.  Since I had a diversified background in sales, operations, professional services, software development, marketing, etc., the board asked my to spend the next 18 months in Europe.  (By the way, Greg and Steve completely outsold Marcam, who was our competitor.  I wound up working for them several years later.)

My new role as VP of International Operations was to drive the launch of the company in Europe.  I was to bring the VP of Europe, Jim Cluchey, up to speed.  Another of my roles was to drive the strategic relationships we had established with IBM, DEC, and HP, and to contribute to the sales effort wherever I could.  Jim was a really smart guy and a experienced software executive.  We had recruited him away from Cognos, where he ran their European operation.

Datalogix was making significant progress implementing additional Bostik sites in other countries in Europe.  During that time, Jim Cluchey and I were devising a strategy on how to expand our reach within Total.  We had the right software, but the wrong platform.  Total ran on IBM’s AS/400 platform, and our Unix-based software ran on just about everything else.  There was a possibility that we could rehost our software onto the AS/400 and we decided we would approach Total’s VP of IS  with that plan.

Jim Cluchey went to great lengths to secure a meeting with Leo Mercier, Total’s VP of IS to discuss the progress of Datalogix’s Bostik implementations to date (flawless, and Leo knew it) and our future ability to support other Total chemical companies.  Leo was receptive.  Jim and I were encouraged.

Jim and I met in Paris the morning of the meeting.  He had flown in from London, and I from Rotterdam, where I was then living, coaching the new central Europe general manager.  Total was headquartered at La Défense, in Paris.  We were scheduled to meet with Mercier from 1:00 to 2:00 in the afternoon.  As we made our way to the office we took yet another opportunity to validate our plan for the meeting.  We knew we had to overcome the IBM challenge, but we felt confident we could do that.

At one o’clock Jim and I arrived in Leo’s office.  His assistant told us Leo was at lunch and would return shortly.  Jim and I sat there until 1:55.  That’s right, 1:55.  When Leo arrived, he invited us into his office.  No apology.  No smile.  Not even a hint of one.  He uttered one sentence.  “I want a 40 percent discount.”

As GM of Europe, Jim owned that account.  He did the right thing by telling Leo that we needed to understand their situation: what plants needed our software, what hardware platforms were required, timelines, resources, etc., before we could discuss any discount.  Leo huffed and said he had another meeting.  We left the meeting angry, frustrated and determined to go under, over, around or through Leo Mercier.

What went wrong?  Was it the centuries-old Franco-American problem? Ineffective qualification?  The NIH (not-invented-here) syndrome?  Some effective blocking by IBM, who was threatened by our Unix-based solution and had Leo’s ear?  An unwillingness to acknowledge a success in a new, unproven division of Total? Leo just being a tough negotiator? His ego?  Just one of those bad meetings that happens to everyone?

Jim continued to make great progress in Europe.  We made a number of good sales—some strategic and some tactical.  I moved back to the States early having overachieved on my objectives.   Later on I left the company.  I had heard that additional systems were sold into Total, but only after Mercier’s departure from the company.  With all that I had done before that day and considerably more after, I’ll never forget that meeting.

What did Jim and I do wrong?  What would you have done differently?

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.

Photo credit: DesignImage.com

I Would Buy From This Guy!

Although I met Charlie Green a number of years ago when we were both presenting at a sales conference, I’ve only recently gotten to appreciate his perspective, his integrity and his intelligence.

Rather than me tell you about him, I asked him some questions instead.  Read, learn and enjoy.

Dave Stein: You’ve created a fabulous brand around “trusted advisor.” Since I’m a believer in personal branding, would you explain a few of the most important steps you took to build your brand?

Charlie Green: Well, I didn’t consciously set out to create a brand; I’m not recommending anyone do that, just telling you how it happened. But in retrospect, I think a couple of things were helpful.

One was certainly the name itself. Trusted Advisor was a term that has had some currency for a long time. It was probably un-trademarkable at the time, and certainly is now. It had been used in advertisements, and everyone had an intuitive sense of it as relevant, but vague. In retrospect, that was a helluva good decision.

In my case, I also chose a high-content, high transparency route. Following some great advice and example from David Maister, I wrote an awful lot, made sure it was very good, and put it all out there. My economic model is based on keynotes and seminars, not on selling videos or online product. That means I have no reason not to pretty much put everything out there-it enhances my brand, which is good for visibility (and pricing).

Finally, I give a lot of credit to my IT people, StressLimitDesign. They are a few young people up in Canada who combine great visual design sense with internet and technical savvy, are deeply into emerging trends (blogging, tweeting, et al) and know how to combine them to help businesses like me. Plus they work very hard. My site design-graphics, content and all-has been consciously designed to reinforce a particular brand-in my case thoughtful, provocative, insightful, broad-based, etc.

DS: What I like about your approach is that it isn’t a bunch of tips and tricks. It’s more about who you need to become than what you need to do. Do I have that about right?

CG: Absolutely. I deeply believe that when it comes to something as complex as trust, “tips and tricks” cannot cut it. Would you trust someone whose approach to trust was based on “tips and tricks?” No. Being trustworthy at its root is relational-it’s got to involve some sense of behaving appropriately with another, whether it’s caring about them, or being concerned, or deferred gratification, or customer focus. We trust people because we believe they’re not going to treat us as objects for their gratification, means to their ends. And that is a matter of character. Not tips and tricks.

And it goes beyond that. The dominant shift in management thinking in the last four decades has been all about “tips and tricks,” that is, behavioral approaches. Think about how obsessed we have become with measurement, management processes, outsourcing, rewards and incentives. In each of these areas, we have become behaviorally obsessed-the root of “tips and tricks.” What we have left behind is all the parts of business that have to do with relationships, beliefs and attitudes, internal mindsets. And those are what are critical to trust. We don’t trust behaviors, we trust the motives behind those behaviors. If someone’s motives are suspect, their behaviors are completely useless-we suspect them all. Tips and tricks all become the bases for suspicion and lack of trust.

Whew-you got me wound up on that one!

DS: Can you give us a (brief) example of how you have used your trusted advisor status to outposition or outsell a competitor of yours? Continue reading

No More Gifts From Drug Companies To Doctors. About Time!

What caught my eye about this story from the Houston Chronicle was the subtitle:

Voluntary rules cut out free gifts
sales reps use to influence physicians

The story lead: “The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the major lobbying group for drug companies including Merck, Pfizer and Bristol-Myers Squibb, enacted new rules governing how sales representatives in the field can interact with physicians.”

This isn’t really news.  This new position has been developing for quite some time.  In fact, The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) banned gifts to doctors of any size, including free meals, back in 2006.  They aren’t alone.

Drug salespeople are under real scrutiny.  I suspect that will increase with the incoming Obama administration.  That’s good.

Many doctors have had issues for years with the tactics of drug reps, not to mention the sheer number of them.  A while back,  WSJ columnist Benjamin Brewer, a family practice doctor in Forrest, Ill., decided he would no longer see drug sales reps in his office.  One of his many complaints was that drug companies sent multiple reps to his office pushing the same drugs, hoping one of them would succeed.

I just spoke with a nurse practitioner who is in a private practice in a group with a number of doctors.  She has only received one gift from a drug rep: a textbook.  Drug reps had been providing educational lunches at her practice.  She believes that there are doctors who would prescribe drugs based upon what they might have received in gifts or favors or other freebies from drug reps.  She’s not happy about that.

One of my former doctors (before I moved),  knowing I was in sales, complained bitterly about the drug sales reps.  He described them as ill-prepared, pushy, often arrogant, and far too plentiful.  Understand that’s only one doctor’s opinion.  I’m not painting all pharmaceutical sales reps with one broad brush.  In fact, I see that the problem is with the system, not with them.

What is the issue here?  Two words come immediately to mind.  Distrust and bribery.  And the reps are in the middle.

Would a doctor really prescribe a drug that she “favors” because of unfair influence by a drug salesperson?  With more than 800,000 doctors in the U.S. (according to USA Today), you can be sure some of them do, even if only a handful.   Those few docs and their drug company co-conspirators will probably tell you there is a firewall between what gifts the docs receive (they’re small anyway, they’d say) and what drugs those docs prescribe for their patients.  Here’s a question:  So why do it?

I’m an HMO-card-carrying participant in the system.  I don’t want any doctor who treats me or anyone I care about being “influenced” by anything but the right thing for the patient.  Influence doctors through your knowledge, experience, insight and trust. No gifts, no freebies, no more.

Cartoon credit: Pennsylvania Gazette (Click on image).

UPDATE: I sent my own doctor a link to this blog post.  I received this email response.  For privacy, I only removed identifying text which I replaced with ellipses (…) :

I have never seen a drug rep nor taken a gift. When we started the Department of … at … in 19.., I stepped up and would not let the residents be exposed to drug reps. We took no freebies. There are good studies that show the prescribing practices of doctors and doctors-in-training are influenced when they are exposed to free meals and talks by drug reps or their representatives. The other departments at … thought we were crazy to not take the free lunches and agree to pay for lunch out of our dept budget. It was a great coup when the whole med school went drug rep/freebie free. …

I think the $ should go to lower the price of drugs for all. I think doctors should learn their medicine from our most reputable journals that are tightly peer reviewed. Drug companies wouldn’t put so much $ into it if freebies and reps did not “pay off”.

Anyhow, you can see it is a pet issue for me.

And for me as well, doc!

This Social Media Thing

I’ve been using LinkedIn for years.  Been writing about it and recommending it as well.  I’ve introduced some out-of-work sales leaders to some of my contacts, did some informal research, got connected to old contacts.  It’s a very useful tool for business.

During this past holiday, I decided to spend some time on Facebook and Twitter.  I guess the phrase “some time” isn’t appropriate.  Those apps can sure suck you in.

No question it’s fun playing with that stuff.  But is it of business value?  It certain is for many people.  One example is Julie Roads, a business writer here on Martha’s Vineyard.  She’s on Twitter all the time.  She gets a fair amount of work through Twitter.  In fact, ESR might wind up using her services going forward.  She made a great point to me on the phone last week.  Yes, all our Twittering and email led to a real phone call!  She said that she communicates with people about many aspects of her life and makes a lot of business connections that way.  She found me on Twitter because we both live on MV.  Proves the point.

Facebook is another story.  I have been connecting with old friends, family, and some business associates.  Making some new “friends” as well.  But I really don’t feel comfortable being friends with everyone.  Too much personal stuff, I think.

The other thing is that I don’t believe there are too many of the people that ESR sells to on Twitter or Facebook. Lots and lots of marketing people.  Sales leaders?  I’m not so sure.  Thats just my impression so far.  If that turns out to be the case, I’ll be spending less time there.

I’ve got a very busy month coming up, so I’ll get to see how this really works out.   I’ll keep you posted…

Photo credit: © driad – Fotolia.com