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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.

Photo credit: © altiso – Fotolia.com

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

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.

Notes:

  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

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…

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