Sales Intelligence via Blog Searching

Content marketing has, to some degree, taken over search engine optimization as a way for companies to drive traffic to their websites. Write educational articles that provide real value – and that subtly mention the company’s products and services – and others will forward the information to their friends, all with hope that the holy grail of online marketing occurs and that the article goes viral.

Because posting content online is so easy, consumers also write and post articles about products and companies. Sometimes these articles feature positive reviews. More often than not, consumers share their gripes online about a poor-performing product or inept customer support, hoping that an audience of thousands or even millions will convince a company to change its ways.

The vehicle that many companies and people use to post their information online is a blog. Blogs are real-time online Web logs, or “diaries,” on just about any topic imaginable. Content management platforms like WordPress make it easy for anyone to create a blog. Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook make it easy for anyone to distribute their content worldwide.

It’s estimated that there are more than 150 million blogs, some updated infrequently, some adding new content daily. On WordPress alone, more than 400 million people view nearly 20 billion pages each month. To grab attention, blog posts must continually provide value with companies and individuals sharing inside information about future products, new ideas, industry research, and more.

YouGotBlogs.comBecause you’ll often find information in a blog post that you might not find on a company web site or in traditional media, searching blogs is a great source of sales intelligence and competitive research.

Google used to have a very powerful blog search engine, but in 2014, they discontinued the public service. The good news is YouGotBlogs.com came online in 2015, and it is designed to specifically search blogs and blog posts. In addition, because of its multi-field form, there is less of a need to use complex Boolean logic in your search than you might with a typical search engine.

Type in the name of a company, or even a person, that you’re interested in learning about and there’s a chance you might get lucky and find something valuable. If you get too many results, re-enter your search but this time add more keywords related to what you desire, e.g., marketing, sales, etc. Note that the default “All” tab will show results from across the Web. Click the “Blog Posts” tab to limit your results to blogs and/or blog posts that contain your search terms. Click the “Relevancy” tab to sort by relevancy to your terms, or by post date.

One note of caution: Remember that anybody can write about or comment on anything online, so what you read in a blog might not necessarily be true. Don’t assume the information you read in a blog post is factual. Verify it via other sources and when meeting with a prospect or client, don’t quote blog content as fact; rather, use it to ask better questions.

 

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Are You Taking Advantage of the Most Powerful Emotion in Sales?

What is the essence of Sales Intelligence? Why is it a lead generating and deal closing machine like no other? It is not the inside secrets of effectively using search engines, mining the Invisible Web, or leveraging social media to find information. That is the “how.” Rather, the “why” is a mindset that differentiates one salesperson, and one organization, from all others. Following is a modified chapter from the best-selling book, Take the Cold Out of Cold Calling about how making the other person feel important can make the difference in winning the complex sale.

If you’re over the age of 40, you remember the days before the Internet. Most firms didn’t have email, there was no such thing as video conferencing, and if you had a cell phone, you had to keep it in a briefcase because it was so cumbersome. Yes … the days before broadband and wireless technology (or said another way, the days when you could go home and have a life).

If you were in business and especially in sales, we did something else in those pre-Smart Phone, pre-Twitter, pre-webinar days — we took our prospects and clients out to lunch. We didn’t have the technology to easily communicate with our prospects and clients other than via telephone, so we made it a practice to take them out for two-hour lunches, four-hour golf outings, and three-hour sporting or theater events. Remember those good old days?

In the high-pressure, high-technology, “don’t-have-enough-time” world of today, how many of you take your prospects or clients out for two-hour lunches?

How many of you even take the time for lunch?

Why did we spend so much time with our prospects and clients? For one reason: We wanted to build a relationship. We wanted to learn about the other person, his or her values, and what he or she cared about in business and in life. We wanted that person to get to know us because we knew that if we could connect on a personal level, we could provide value, we could ensure relevancy, and we could establish loyalty. We wanted to show that we cared.

We wanted to make our prospect or client feel important.

Maslow's Hierarchy of NeedsYou’re probably familiar with Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. In his 1954 book Motivation and Personality, Maslow outlined the five levels of human needs. Maslow’s Hierarchy is often portrayed as a pyramid, with the largest and most fundamental levels of needs at the bottom (e.g., food and air), and the need for self-actualization at the top.

Some people associate self-actualization with people such as Tony Robbins or the Dalai Lama — individuals who have maximized their potential and are at complete peace with themselves and the world. Whether that’s the true definition of self-actualization or not, it’s safe to say that most of us will probably not reach the pinnacle of Maslow’s pyramid.

What I find fascinating is what’s directly below self-actualization. It’s the need to feel important. The need to feel appreciated. The need to feel recognized. The need to feel loved. In fact, the need to feel important and appreciated ranks much higher than the need to eat or breathe.

In study after study since Maslow came out with his theory, people report that they would rather die than not feel appreciated.

Think about that for a moment as it relates to your business and your sales efforts. Imagine if you could tap into that emotion?

What are you doing in every prospect and client interaction to make the other person feel important?

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Is Social Media a Waste of Sales Time?

THE SOCIAL MEDIA VS. SALES TEST

social_vs_sales

I just finished a two-week business to business social media vs. sales experiment with some interesting results. For Week 1, I tracked the amount of time I spent writing, posting, reading, interacting, re-tweeting, commenting, providing insight and ideas etc. on various social media sites. I answered questions on blogs, forums, and in groups and I shared articles and provided value to others identified as being in my buying target audience. I did much of what the social media “experts” say needs to be done to be a successful 21st Century salesperson.

For Week 2, I pretty much stayed away from Facebook* and spent just a few minutes posting on LinkedIn and Twitter. Instead, I used the same amount of Week 1 social media time making phone calls and connecting with key prospects. For each call, I practiced “sales intelligence” and researched each prospect — both the person and his or her company. My calls were very personal, and my “pitch” was highly relevant to what I knew the other person cared about.

THE RESULTS:

Week 1
I generated a great deal of interest and strengthened my brand. In fact, one of the articles I wrote received more than 125,000 reads and 150 positive comments. All of this work generated a few semi-qualified leads, but it led to zero sales, and zero dollars in my bank account. It did, however, strengthen my position as an industry “Thought Leader.”

Week 2
I made close to 30 phone calls, leaving voice mails for most, and speaking directly to eight prospects. Following the initial call round, I spoke with/emailed an additional five prospects who had returned my earlier calls. This led to closing three new pieces of business, one of which could end up being the largest contract I’ve ever signed. All of this work did nothing to enhance my expertise or market position. It did, however, add some nice dollars to my bank account and strengthened my position as an industry “Profit Leader.”

THE CONCLUSION:

Was this a scientifically valid test?
Of course not. Maybe the closed deals were pure luck, timing, or coincidence. Plus, to accurately judge if leveraging social media will improve sales is a test that should be done over a period of months, not two weeks.

Should you conclude that social media, developing a strong personal brand, and positioning oneself as a topic expert and industry thought leader is a waste of time?
That would be silly. A personal brand is exceptionally important in today’s world where buyers have “Buyers Intelligence.” Buyers know how to use Google. They know how to search for information on you, your experience, and what others think of you and it’s important to have a strong and credible online presence. The social media work done in Week 1 (done consistently, over time) to genuinely engage prospects, answer questions, and provide value will almost certainly generate future opportunities and new leads. Social media should be part of a long-term overall branding and marketing strategy.

Yet at the same time, you also can’t argue with the results of this two-week test:
– Social Media Efforts = 0
– Daily Sales Efforts = $

We all only have so much working time. To practice social media by yourself in the way most experts recommend would mean devoting at least an hour per day, five days per week. In that same amount of time, it’s reasonable that you could make six sales calls; one conversation, one “call me back later,” and four voice mails. During a year, that would mean an additional 1,400 or so calls.

I know with 100% certainty that if I made 1,400 sales calls to highly qualified prospects where I have researched the prospect and am relevant to their needs, that I will close deals. How many? For me, I would feel very comfortable saying that 1,400 calls would equal at least 50 new clients, and probably closer to 100. Spending the same amount of time on social media — doing it better than 99% of the people on the planet — would probably generate four to ten new pieces of business.

So what is the answer?

Can you use social media to educate, engage, and interact with prospects and even clients? Absolutely! Yet is that a sales strategy, or is it a marketing strategy? Can that activity be delegated to someone else on your team, delegated to the marketing department, or even outsourced? As a salesperson, is your time better spent on LinkedIn Groups and Tweeting articles or is it better spent on the phone or in person with a prospect or client, where you’re engaging in a relevant, sales intelligence-based conversation?

Yes…as a B2B salesperson, you should spend time on social media each day. Just make sure you time box it. I might recommend 10 minutes per day. Then delegate or outsource the rest. If you don’t have the resources to delegate or outsource, then time box the thought-intensive social media activity to the weekend. Maybe spend an hour or two per week updating your profiles, writing, publishing and/or sharing valuable content, and using a tool like Hootsuite to schedule your posts.

Social media is NEVER a replacement for sales and relationship building. Devoting time to connecting with prospects and clients is imperative. Practice sales intelligence and learn what is going on with your prospects and clients. Then block out at least one hour or more, each day, to picking up the phone, or better, meeting with prospects and clients in-person so you can build authentic, genuine, and mutually-beneficial relationships that ultimately leads to more business.

The next time you logon and devote valuable time to your favorite social network, ask yourself this important question: Is this going to help me be a Thought Leader, or a Profit Leader?

*In my test, I concluded that I needed to delete the Facebook app on my iPhone. I found that it was too easy to touch that button and my allocated five minutes sometimes easily stretched to 30 or more. Honestly, I think I was addicted. So I apologize in advance to my Facebook friends and fans as you’re going to see a lot less of me “liking” and commenting on your posts and photos, and declining your Farmville requests. Clicking that “delete app” button actually feels very freeing.

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YES…You Too Can Hang Out with Bill Clinton!

Bill Clinton SpeachAs a professional speaker and author, I enjoy reading the biographies of other speakers, authors, and business leaders. I often find the stories of those with whom I share the stage fascinating, inspiring, and sometimes truly unbelievable.

This morning I saw an ad for a professional speaker who will be giving an open-to-the-public presentation. This speaker is pretty well-known so I won’t provide any identifying details. In his bio, it says things like: “Participated in charity events with (insert famous name here), presented at (insert famous location here), shared the stage with (insert your favorite athlete, politician, movie star, or rock star here) etc., etc.”

There is no way of knowing if any of it is true, and to what degree, but it certainly looks impressive.

Now, on my social networks, I post pictures of my friends and business colleagues, and some of them are famous. My biography, however, isn’t filled with the names of all the people I’ve worked with over the years. Although the list is pretty cool, I just don’t feel comfortable leveraging others to promote myself. Saying that, the speaker referenced above does very well financially so I thought I would change my biography to the following…

“Sam spent time at Harvard, Yale, and Stanford and has been featured in places as varied as the Great Wall of China to the White House. From Bill Cosby to Bill Clinton to Elton John, Sam has shared the room, stage and exchanged ideas with Nobel Prize winners, Presidents, rock stars, world-class athletes, #1-ranked authors, and some of the world’s greatest thought leaders.”

Oh…by the way, here is the proof of my blow-hard statements:

  1. Technically, I spent time at Harvard. While visiting a client, I bought two shirts at the school gift shop.
  2. Technically, I spent time at Yale. While driving to a presentation in New Haven, I stopped and enjoyed a latte at a local coffee house.
  3. Technically, I spent time at Stanford. While in Palo Alto, I took a jog around the campus.
  4. When I visited the Great Wall, I had a picture taken of me where I was the featured person.
  5. When I took the White House tour, I had a picture taken of me where I was the featured person.
  6. I was in the same room once with Bill Cosby. Granted, it was at one of his performances and I was one of 10,000 other ticket holders, but technically, I was in the same room.
  7. When I was in Las Vegas, I once walked on the stage where Elton John performed.
  8. I’ve delivered the afternoon keynote on the same platform where Bill Clinton, George Bush, Nobel Prize winners, Bobby Knight, Mike Ditka, Bon Jovi, and other very famous people had earlier given the morning keynote.
  9. Every year I attend the National Speakers Association convention and hang out with #1 ranked authors and world thought leaders. Some of them have even asked me for my ideas and advice, sometimes related to a deeply personal issue. For example, at this year’s convention, Steve Forbes asked me if I knew how to find the bathroom.

The good news is the Internet has made it easy to craft and manage a personal brand. If you want to show up high in search engine results when someone looks for you online, then a professional biography is fast becoming a requirement for today’s business executive.

The bad news is the Internet has made it easy to craft and manage a personal brand. Too many people take liberty with the truth. Too many ride the reputations of others to enhance their own stature. Too many think that personal branding is synonymous with “look at me, me, me.”

Most prospects, clients, and even potential employees won’t bother to check the facts to see if what you say on your website biography, on your LinkedIn profile, or on your Facebook page, is accurate or an exaggeration. However, all it takes is one person willing to do some simple news searching and your story could easily be dispelled, and your reputation potentially permanently damaged.

Certainly, you should be proud of who you are and share your accomplishments – that is the essence of a biography. Yet, at the same time, a good dose of humble pie is refreshing in a world of oftentimes narcissistic online behavior.

Stay true to yourself and what you’ve accomplished, and who knows, maybe someday you will get to hang with Bill.

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Is Facebook Destroying Your Business Opportunities?

Dis-LikeWhile I’m most known for presenting on Sales Intelligence (how to search for information on other people), I am also often brought in to discuss the opposite — Personal Branding (how to control what others find when they are searching on you).

During my program preparation, I’ve witnessed and heard stories from executives where people have done damage to their reputations based on what they post on Facebook. Worse, this damage has caused the posters to miss out on major business opportunities. Most often, the person posting had no idea the damage they did to their own business or career.

While many of the posts were pure stupidity, some exhibited the “law of unintended consequences,” meaning the post itself was rather innocent, yet it was negatively interpreted by others. Following are some examples of both:

  • A financial services firm was looking to hire a video production company for 10 on-location video shoots, averaging about $12,000 per shoot. If all went well in year one, the firm anticipated needing 20 videos in year two, and possibly for many years thereafter. A production company came highly recommended and based on a review of the company’s reel, website, testimonials, and the founder’s LinkedIn profile, the company was going to get called in for a bid — it would be their project to lose. Prior to picking up the phone, the firm’s marketing director went on Facebook, as he wanted to get more information on the production company’s founder (as she had some very impressive professional credentials and he wanted to see her friends and who he might know). What the marketing director saw was shocking. The founder’s Facebook posts looked like they were written by a junior high student, and they contained numerous grammatical errors. In addition, there were vitriolic posts against people who she disagreed with, other business professionals, and even past clients. Needless to say, the call never went out, and she lost out on nearly a half-a-million dollars in business. And she’ll never know.
  • I was delivering the keynote presentation at a large association meeting. In preparation, I randomly researched a number of the association’s members and their companies so I could ensure I tailored my talk to their interests. One of the members, the president of a large company, had multiple Facebook posts sharing his disdain for labor unions. I can only think that he thought his Facebook page was private. Why? Because in doing further research, one of the newspaper articles I read was about the upcoming negotiations this president was about to have with the union representing his employees. Oops.
  • An exceptionally talented woman posted on Facebook that her husband had a “successful medical checkup that morning, and although all was looking good, there was still a long road ahead.” She probably just wanted to share the news with her friends. But the “law of unintended consequences” was about to strike. This woman was also on the short list to get hired for a six-figure marketing job. After the post, she was not even included in the final list. The small business that was going to hire her didn’t want to take the risk of large health-care cost increases, or that the woman might one day request weeks off to care for her ill husband. Unfair? Yes. Heartless? Probably. Illegal? Maybe. Realistic? Absolutely.
  • In preparation for a very important meeting, an executive who had attended my Know More! Selling program wanted to practice what he had learned. To ensure relevancy and that he provided value, he went online to research the other meeting attendees. In reviewing one of the attendee’s Facebook pages, he saw a post she made about the newly crowned Miss America, Nina Davuluri, whose parents are from India. This woman was aghast that a “foreigner” was named to represent our country (Miss Davuluri was actually born in New York) and the racist post continued, even comparing Miss Davuluri to Osama Bin Ladin. Needless to say, the executive brought his six-figure opportunity to a different company. In addition, there were more than two dozen others who added equally racist comments to the original post. Of course with a mouse click, it was easy to see who they were, where they worked, the businesses they owned, etc.
  • A company executive posted on his Facebook page his strong support for a Republican candidate in an upcoming election. What this executive didn’t know was that a major new business prospect was a strong Democratic supporter. The new business prospect took his seven-figure contract elsewhere. There’s nothing wrong with posting your political feelings online, just know that in so doing, you could be alienating 49% or 51% of your prospects and clients, depending on your geography.

Remember that nothing is private online. Even though you may have set your Facebook and other social media settings to “friends only,” over time, as you click on links, watch videos, and play games, those setting may return to default, which typically means “wide open for anyone to see.” In addition, what you post online can be archived, and made searchable, forever.

Happy posting.

Posted in Facebook, People Search, Personal, Personal Branding, Reputation, Social Networks, Social Selling | Tagged , , , | Comments Off