Is that your LinkedIn profile sat there on a heap of new sales but you don’t realise?

limanI think that there is a huge difference between thinking you’re using and really using the internet to develop the business.  A lot of the time what I see is a public display of vanity rather than a commercially fueled injection of sanity.  But it doesn’t replace every other communication channel and tool!  The internet, social media, telephones and old school cards are just tools of “the trade” – whatever professional role you are in.

But how many industrial injuries are caused by tools each year?  In one case the CEO of a board I trained had seven (!) years of unactioned invites in his inbox on LinkedIn, he was mortified when I explained what they were and asked how he would feel if he invited his suppliers and they never responded.  I tactfully suggested he should accept them and then send each a nice note to say sorry, just had a LinkedIn Course and perhaps they ought to catch up.

How many sales people and professionals actually make this LinkedIn “stuff” work?

My experience is very few until I train them, which is really sad, and it’s not just a UK thing either but a global phenomenon.  LinkedIn is the most underutilised free sales tool on the planet!

I work with many globals and when I audit them the profiles are shocking, the company profiles are dire and the way that they use, behave and convert the tools to more effective engagement and shorter sales cycles … well let’s just say it leaves me scope for improvement.

All tools are good, if used well, at the right time and in the right way.  At the moment my best guess is 5-10% of LinkedIn users are there; I cannot and wouldn’t comment on all the other internet tools but suspect it could be very similar.

James Potter; LinkedIn expert

James Potter; LinkedIn expert

As for the impact of LinkedIn on sales, this depends on how you use it.  I have one client that counts results in Millions of pounds so like all tools, used well and used at the right time = fabulous results, but used badly = frustration, wasted time and at worst self harm as you publicly demonstrate your lack of engagement, your lack of focus on your personal or corporate brand.

Check out this blog about why your organisation should be using LinkedIn.

If you’re not getting results on LinkedIn perhaps we should talk?

Article kindly provided by guest author James Potter the Linked In Man for our November 2012 newsletter.

Is the sales person still relevant in our connected world of “e”?

In this context, the “sales person” may be purely focused on sales, or they may just be the person engaged in the selling process by dint of being customer facing and whose prime role is actually engineer, consultant, account manager etc.

So yes the sales person is just as relevant today as they were 10, 20, 30, 50 years ago. Why?

Selling, especially in a B2B environment, is about human interaction and it requires one-to-one engagement in small simple situations, through to potentially many-to-many over long periods in large complex situations.  The process of finding the right people to speak to and initiating the communication process is surely helped and supported by LinkedIn and other “e” tools but eventually the parties have to actually talk to each other.

For many years the communication process was initiated literally by knocking on the door.  Then came; the telephone, mailshots, fax machine, e-mail, physical networking and now social networking in all its forms.  All of these tools from door knocking through to social networking serve the same purpose; to initiate communication between a supplier and a prospective customer.  However, to convert the prospect into a user and then a customer requires human interaction which means talking to each other and in most cases meeting each other.  So, who does this for the supplier; the people engaged in the selling process.

A key point being made by James in his piece is that LinkedIn is a tool and the results you get depend entirely on how well you use it; how well trained you are and how experienced.  He lists several other tools some of which are as “modern” as LinkedIn while others go way back in the history of business communications.  The other key point he makes is that LinkedIn can only ever be a part of the solution.

You can use LinkedIn to research a specific prospect, their co-workers and their company, but you then need to look wider to the company website, and the results of searches for company or personal news items.  All of this “desk” activity provides an excellent starting point, but before the first conversation is held, whether by phone or face-to-face, the messaging must be crafted to be relevant to the needs of the prospect rather than being just a list of supplier features.  As illustrated in a recent LinkedIn thread, first impressions count, so if email is used, the subject line must be of sufficient relevance and interest to encourage further reading.

People still buy from people

People still buy from people

For a prospect to become a user and then a customer for a service or product a number of things must happen.  They must believe in, trust and respect the supplier, but they will not be able to satisfy such deep emotional needs by interacting with a brand, they will need to communicate with the people that represent the brand – the sales people.

The sales person also needs to be aware that if they have looked at a prospect’s profile, then it is possible the prospect will return the favour – so profile and associated company pages need to reflect information consistent with the messages being crafted by the sales people.

In today’s economy, many companies are running lean and may not have dedicated sales people but someone will be performing the role. Someone has to represent the supplier, helping the prospect to become a user then a customer.  It is now common that the selling role will be done, for example, by delivery staff, systems engineers, project managers or account managers.  It is a tough ask for these people to undertake the selling role when another important responsibility is their key role, discipline and interest, they will need help to be successful in their selling role.  LinkedIn and other similar tools and information available through “e” will help these people who only wear the selling hat part of the time.  But like all sales people they need a good method, robust processes and appropriate skills training if they are to be effective and consistently successful in the later stages of the selling cycle when they are in meetings with the prospect.

In summary “e” has made no difference to the relevance of the sales person in modern business but it has provided them with a powerful tool.

Automated quotes rarely reflect an accurate picture

Automated quotes rarely reflect an accurate picture

One final thought; perhaps “e” has made the sales person even more relevant.  The world for buyers has been changed by “e” as they often believe they can find out everything they need to know, relevant to a potential purchase, on-line.  The issue with this belief is that none of us know what we don’t know.  The only way to see the complete picture, embracing everything that is important to the decision making process, is to engage in an interactive process of questions and answers which means human to human.  It is dangerous to make decisions based on incomplete information because the typical result of incomplete information is imperfect opinions and decisions.

To Cold Call or not to Cold Call …

Jack Dee gives the customers' perspective. But it doesn't have to be like this! Call us now to find a better way.

Jack Dee gives the customers’ perspective. But it doesn’t have to be like this! Call us now to find a better way.

… that is the question.  There has been a debate raging about whether or not cold calling is still an effective way to find new business. We say “still” because cold calling is one of the fundamental and original sales techniques but many people believe it has been completely overtaken by social media.

Our definition of cold-calling is; the act of contacting people who do not know you, typically by telephone.  The purpose is to initiate an engagement that will potentially lead to new customers and new business.  There is no dispute that the act of initiating contact has to happen, but the question being raised is whether cold calling is the right way to do it. We think there are three primary positions to consider:

  1. Cold calling is alive and well – get a list of appropriate contacts and just start dialling or knocking. It is, or should be, a key part of the total job spec for a new business sales person.  If the sales people cannot or will not do it, we would question whether they are truly equipped for the job.
  2. Warm calling is not new and it has always worked better than cold.  The “warmth” comes from doing some research to ensure the companies you intend to contact have the problems you solve.  You need to ensure the person you are going to contact is correct in the sense that they are the one feeling the “pain” of the problem so will be interested to talk to you about a solution.  Finally, your message must be “we understand your problems and we have ways of solving them”.
  3. Cold calling is dead.  So you have no real choice but to make yourself so high profile via social media, web sites, publications, blogs and so on, that prospects come flocking.

There is no doubt that some companies have genuinely made social media work for them, but equally many have not.  Levels of success depend on a number of things and the key one is the type of business you are in.  For most businesses, a blend of approaches to lead generation will always be required and for most warm calling will be an important part of the mix.

We have seen too many companies reject cold calling moving instead to an approach based entirely on physical and on-line networking.  If you are doing this and it is working great, if it is not, then perhaps you should consider an approach built around warm calling.

What do you think?  We’d like to know or help you to make up your mind!  Call us to discuss or send us an e-mail with thoughts or questions.

If You Always Do What You Always Did …

There is an old saying that goes “If you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got”.  Do you agree?  Well, we disagree.  In our experience, you will actually get progressively less because the world constantly changes and moves forward, potentially leaving you behind.  The great Albert Einstein agreed with us; his definition of insanity was “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.

Enjoy this clip from Jabberwocky with Michael Palin

Enjoy this clip from Jabberwocky with Michael Palin

However, we also observe that the unspoken assumption “change = progress” is not always so.  Today’s fast-moving world offers many opportunities to change, but not all changes are appropriate.  Hype is everywhere these days and it is easy to get swamped and carried along in the current.  Social media and Cloud computing are excellent examples of potential benefits, but they do not cure all ills; and wrong choices can cause worry and wasted time.

Of course you must change what’s not working, but leave well alone where you have a winning formula.  Our advice is to stay cool and collected; keep focused on your goals and objectives.  Set a clear and realistic plan, then look carefully at the methods, processes, techniques and tools that each function of the business will deploy to meet the plan.  Be open-minded about new possibilities; review and assess the latest trend to assure it will truly benefit you.  If you think something new will help, get expert advice and do a pilot exercise to check potential before full adoption and integration.  And remember to measure—you will need baseline metrics and an improvement target.