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.

Posted in Sales, Sales Intelligence, Social Networks, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off

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.

Posted in Personal Branding | Tagged , , | Comments Off

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

Don’t Let Crooks Steal Your Tax Refund: Identity Theft Prevention Tips

Woman working on taxes at computer(BBT) – To itemize or not to itemize, deductions, exemptions, interest income and capital gains – you have a lot to think about when you’re doing your taxes. While you’re preparing your return, don’t overlook a consideration that’s every bit as important as whether you owe or are due a refund – tax-related identity theft.

Between 2011 and the end of 2013, the IRS says the agency caught and stopped 14.6 million suspicious returns, and doubled indictments and sentencings in fiscal year 2013. Criminals acquire taxpayers’ Social Security numbers and personal information through a variety of means – including data breaches, lost or stolen wallets or old-fashioned dumpster diving – and use it to file fraudulent returns in the hopes of getting a refund.

“Tax identity theft is particularly insidious because it targets Americans during a vulnerable, hectic time,” says Trey Loughran, president of the personal solutions unit at Equifax. “The sheer volume of tax identity theft cases reported by the IRS is astounding. Consumers need to be aware of this growing problem and what steps they can take to help protect themselves.”

Fortunately, certain steps can help Americans minimize tax identity theft risks:

  • Don’t wait to file. Filing early makes it less likely an identity thief will file first using your name and information. If a crook does attempt to file a fraudulent return in your name, the IRS will be better able to flag it if the agency already has your valid return in hand.
  • Guard your mail. During the first months of the year, many important tax documents move through the mail and identity thieves know this. They may steal W-2s, financial statements and other important documents right out of your mailbox. Consider using a locking mailbox or a post office box to receive and send tax documents, or e-file.
  • Protect your PC and all your digital devices. E-filing can be a fast, efficient way to do your taxes, but you must protect your computer with up-to-date anti-virus and anti-malware software, and use a secure Internet connection. Password protect all your devices.
  • Don’t fall for scams. If you receive an email, text or phone call that purports to be from the IRS, don’t respond – especially if the request is for personal information. The IRS only contacts you through postal mail, and will never ask you for your personal information.
  • Vet your tax preparer through the Better Business Bureau to ensure you’re dealing with a legitimate tax prep service. Never sign a blank return for someone else to complete.
  • To protect children and seniors, consider completing Form 8821, which authorizes a person to receive all IRS communications for the individual named on the form. The authorization ensures that if a criminal files a return using your Social Security number or that of a dependent child or senior adult, you’ll receive all IRS communications.
  • Contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit immediately if you receive a notice from the agency stating more than one tax return was filed for you, that you have a balance for a year you didn’t file, or that you received wages from an employer you don’t know. You’ll also need to file a police report and complete an identity theft affidavit.

“Tax return fraud continues to be a growing threat,” Loughran says. “Taking protective measures can help taxpayers avoid becoming victims of tax identity theft.”

Posted in Identity Theft | Tagged , , , | Comments Off

Your Sales Team – Wise Investment or Money Pit?

hire-right-3DCheck out this great book, Hire Right, Higher Profits, about hiring and training sales teams by Lee Salz.

The sales team is the primary revenue source for most businesses. However, this revenue is not without significant cost. If not carefully managed, this revenue source can easily become a money pit. There are five areas business executives should watch to ensure they make wise investments in their sales teams.

Hiring. In most organizations, if a new idea is proposed that costs $25,000 to implement,  blue ribbon panels are commissioned, meetings are held and a decision is ultimately made. After all, the company is considering a significant investment which requires careful consideration.

However, when a company is hiring a salesperson at a salary of $25,000, there isn’t nearly the same level of due diligence performed. Yet, it’s the same $25,000! In essence, the worst mistake a company can make is to hire sales people. Adding headcount to a sales team should be viewed as an investment made in revenue. Recognizing that this is an investment is a critical first step toward driving sales team profitability.

As executives evaluate sales candidates, there is a perception that they can hire great salespeople. Unfortunately, there are no great salespeople. They don’t exist! The issue is the word “great.” Greatness isn’t a standalone quality, but rather an attribute of the relationship between the salesperson and the sales role in your company. Don’t believe it? How many sales people have you hired – great resume, fantastic track record, polished appearance – and they failed in your company?

If you believe that there is an entity called “great salesperson,” you must also agree to one of the two of the following statements:

“When the salesperson arrived at my company, she completely forgot how to sell.”

“Our company is the absolute worst company to sell for in the history of business.”

After all, what other choices could there be if this person is truly a great seller? Companies with highly profitable sales teams don’t search for great salespeople. Their quest is to find the right salespeople with the potential to be great on their sales teams. While this may seem subtle, its impact is not.

This quest begins with a 360-degree analysis of the role to determine the factors that impact investment performance. Once all of those factors are identified, an evaluation program is put in place to contrast candidates with those performance factors. Now, instead of looking across the desk wondering if this candidate is a “great seller,” potential investors (which is what the executive team becomes when adopting this philosophy) are looking for synergy – or lack thereof – between the candidate and the needs of the role.

Onboarding. Many executives believe that – once they’ve hired a salesperson – the hard work is over. And, why shouldn’t they believe that? They’ve just hired a great salesperson! Hand the new salesperson a phone book and send him off to sell.

Highly profitable companies recognize the real work is about to begin when a new salesperson investment is made … for both the new salesperson and the company. This work comes in the form of an onboarding program. Onboarding is commonly seen as completing new-hire paperwork and getting the salesperson’s office ready to go. While administrative work needs to be done, that does nothing to protect the new investment or ensure a healthy return on it.

During the recruiting process, the evaluation program helped the investors make an informed decision prior to extending an offer to the candidate. The new salesperson arrives at the company with potential, but a program is needed to ensure the potential becomes reality – in as little time as possible. After all, every minute that the seller is on the bench, not yet ready to sell for the company, she is merely a cost on the books.

The starting point in the development of a sales onboarding program is the end. In other words, without identifying the program objectives, it’s impossible to create effective onboarding curriculum. The investors need to clearly identify the finish line for the onboarding program based on expectations they have of those new salespeople who successfully complete it. Those expectations are identified in the context of KNOW-DO-USE. If a new salesperson has successfully completed the onboarding program…

What should they KNOW?
KNOW refers to information like product knowledge and territory analysis.

What should they be able to DO?
DO refers to actions like conducting a sales calls or delivering a corporate presentation.

What should they be able to USE?
USE refers to tools or systems like a CRM or order management system.

KNOW-DO-USE provides the framework to identify the desired onboarding outcomes. With that, the onboarding curriculum is designed to lead the new salespeople to this finish line.

How do you know they are meeting expectations? Investors want visibility into the performance of their investments. There should be quizzes, a final exam and simulations to ensure proficiency has been acquired. If the new salesperson does not meet expectations, based on what the investors have documented as their expectations of someone who has successfully completed the onboarding program, there is an opportunity to protect the company by ending the investment early.

Managing. There is an age-old debate on micro versus macro management. Micro-management is often defined as constant, in your face management. Macro-management is aligned with the French “laissez-faire” philosophy of leave them alone. The debate seems to be limited to these two extremes. Yet, top performing companies cast this debate aside and take on a different philosophy.

Hiring and onboarding are seen through the lens of an investment in revenue. Managing the sales team falls in line with the “investment philosophy” as well. Each salesperson on the team represents an investment made on behalf of the company. When investors consider investment opportunities, they look for a sound business plan. This is the same philosophy highly-profitable sales teams have in place to ensure there is a strong return on investment.

The investor team develops a sales business plan template which is structured in a “wizard-format.” The plan is designed so that the investors can get a high level of confidence in the strategy, tactics and measures for each member of the sales team. Once the plan is completed by the salesperson, an investor call is held during which the the salesperson presents the plan for acceptance.

During the call, the investor team asks questions to instill confidence in their investment decision. Once accepted, periodic calls are held to update the investor team on sales business plan implementation progress.

Rather than argue micro-management or macro-management, these companies have a management structure in place that positions them for a high return on their sales team investment. Those sellers that perform well receive additional investment (time, dollars, resources, etc.). Those that don’t, they find their business ventures no longer funded.

Measuring. There is no end to the data associated with sales and it’s easy to get lost in it. Worse yet, it’s common for executives to focus on the wrong data points. Companies that recognize that the sales team is a revenue investment develop their sales metric management system designed to help them analyze performance.

Many start their system with “revenue” identified as their first metric. Yet, revenue is not a metric. It’s a result of the right metrics being delivered upon by the sales team with the right frequency. Companies can’t affect revenue, but they can affect the behaviors that lead to it. The investor team identifies a series of metrics that indicate that the business is on track. There are four criteria for each metric that is to be included in a sales metric management system:

1. Measurable. It is easily quantifiable as opposed to merely gut-feel.

2. Meaningful. The data point indicates something of importance to the business and seller performance.

3. Trainable. If a seller is deficient in this area, training can be provided to improve performance.

4. Goal-oriented. As it is measurable and meaningful, a driver is needed to ensure it is achieved.

With a sales metric management system in place, the investors have the ability to monitor the corporate investment and take swift action.

Compensating. “You’re only as good as your last sale.” This is one of the worst expressions ever uttered as it conflicts with how businesses are measured. Wall Street looks at tomorrow much more than yesterday. And, it is this expression that leads companies to develop flawed sales compensation strategies.

Traditional thought is that sellers are paid an incentive over their salary because they sold something yesterday. Profit-focused companies pay an incentive to get more sales in the future. Their focus is on growing a healthy sales pipeline in addition to winning accounts. When companies pay for yesterday’s news, their performance chart resembles an EKG.

The common starting point when developing a sales compensation plan is to ask:

“How much do we want our sellers to make if they achieve plan?”

While this is an important question, it should not serve as the foundation for the compensation plan. Since paying dollars beyond salary is a further investment made by the company the foundation question to be asked is:

“By paying an incentive (bonus, commission, etc.) to our sellers,
how will that help us get more of the sales we want in the future?”

The answer to that question helps to guide the development of a sales compensation plan that not only rewards for yesterday’s results, but for a healthy sales pipeline.

Each of these five areas has a major impact in the profitability of your sales team. While it may seem like a large undertaking, the result of transitioning your sales team to a “revenue investment philosophy” is exactly what the corporate bottom-line needs.

Lee B. Salz is a leading sales management strategist specializing in helping companies build scalable, high-performance sales organizations through hiring the right salespeople, effectively onboarding them, and aligning their sales activities with business objectives through process, metrics and compensation. He is the Founder and CEO of Sales Architects, Business Expert Webinars and The Revenue Accelerator. Lee has authored several books including the just-released Hire Right, Higher Profits.
Posted in Book, Hiring, Sales, Sales People | Tagged | Comments Off