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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

What’s Your Sales Strategy During This Recession?

Josh Gordon did a really nice job writing a white paper (registration required) on the results of a survey done by The Customer Collective.  Josh interviewed Jill Konrath, Denis Pombriant, David Bonnette and me.  Our observations and recommendations were incorporated into the piece.

It became clear with the first of the findings that many sales leaders are headed in the wrong direction. Thirty-eight percent of sales organizations are being directed to go after new categories of customers, with only 33% being directed to spend more time with core customers.  My comments on that statistic.

“First, during a recession many clients will ask, ‘Is the economic situation hitting our suppliers as badly as it’s hitting us?’ They are looking at risk right now, and are very concerned about doing business with suppliers who may not be viable; this is especially true of smaller suppliers. So, clients will tend to do business with companies that they have done business with before, where they feel a degree of security.

“Security issues aside, there is the practical matter of an organization’s ‘cost of sales.’ The calculations for bringing aboard a new customer versus selling to an existing one have been around for ages. It simply costs much less to sell to an existing customer. These basics do not disappear in a recession. Why pick an uphill battle at a time when sales are challenging and clients are pulling back? Why not use these same forces to your advantage? The key is having more products to sell to your existing client base. Besides developing new products, you can reconfigure others and pull back older ones that still have useful life in them.”

I recommend that you read about this and the other five findings in the white paper, look at the statistics, consider the opinions of the experts, then come up with a strategy for your team.

Photo credit: © Karen Struthers – Fotolia.com

To: Blog Lurkers / Subj: What Are You Thinking?

Is that you lurking on my blog?

Is that you lurking on my blog?

Robin Fray Carey from The Customer Collective and I have been exhanging emails. TCC is a fine example of a Web 2.0 community.  I’m pleased to be part of it. 

I had asked Robin a question about the demographics of the 3,000 or so users on her site.  It seemed to me that they were mostly sales trainers and consultants.  Robin said the trainers and consultants are the open “critics,” but there were plenty of sales and marketing execs who were “lurkers.” 

Lurkers!  Being fairly new to blogging, that term caught me off guard.  Lurker.  Now that I think about it, I’m certainly guilty of lurking on some blogs and social networking sites.

Those of you who visit this blog either regularly or rarely, please take a minute and leave a comment to a post now and then.  The blog stats show this blog has been steadily increasing in traffic since I started it last April, so I know you’re out there. 

I’ll be equally as delighted whether you support or reject my position on the subjects I write about.  I’m just interested in what you’re thinking.  And I know other visitors to this blog would be, as well.