Welcome to your sales weekly roundup for March 3-10. This week we’ve got social selling secrets from a LinkedIn power user, 3 great things sales managers do differently, new research from Lee Bartlett, author of the No.1 Best Seller. Enjoy.
Forbes profiles Nicholas Kontopoulos, the V.P. of Fast Growth Markets Marketing at SAP Hybris software. Before salespeople doubt his ability due to his marketing status, Kontopoulos has nearly 10,000 followers on LinkedIn, is a well-respected social seller. Here are some of his secrets:
Emphasize on ‘social’ rather than selling. What this essentially means is leading with value, rather than pitching a product or service.
Kontopoulos explains: “The primary objective for anyone should not be sales. It seems counterintuitive, especially when the most common occupation on LinkedIn in Asia Pacific is salesperson. You should instead be engaging a specific group because you have a genuine interest in helping them learn about a given topic.”
Social selling, he says, is about more human to human interaction (relationships, peer-to-peer conversations, exchanging views, information and expertise) than business to business or business to consumer.
Ba a value creator. Kontopoulos believes value quality precedes quantity. He’s only published seven articles on Linkedin since 2014, each of which took him several days to write. Each article, Forbes reports, averages round 1,363 views, 94 likes and 12 comments.
But he doesn’t only share insights through publishing original content, he carefully curates content that brings value to his audience. His golden rule is that he only shares content that has benefited his personal learning. The lesson here is the your personal brand relies on the quality of content you put out into the market.
Build your tribe. LinkedIn Groups are one of the most underused platforms, says Kontopoulos. “What I love most about groups is the wealth of knowledge and connections waiting to be tapped into,” he says.
The bottom line? The more you grow your professional network (with similar interests) and educate that network with insights, the better chance you have of acquiring business through this channel.
Sales management speaker and author of “The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness: 10 Essential Strategies for Leading Your Team to the Top” Kevin Davis urges sales leaders to examine their and their teams’ “self-report-card.” If this level of skill and attitude is not sufficient to exceed 2017 revenue goals, then they need to do three things to grow more effectively:
Stop being everybody’s problem solver. How many times have you spent the day addressing other team members problems, only to reach 5 p.m. and realize you haven’t worked toward any of your own goals?
“Remember: Every time you do something that someone else can do, you prevent the accomplishment of something that only you can do – and that ‘something’ is coaching salespeople for revenue growth.”
A way to address this problem is when a rep comes to you with a problem, don’t offer to immediately solve it. “Instead, ask them, ‘What have you done about it so far? What do you think ought to be done next?’ Pretty soon you’ll notice your salespeople will come to you and say, ‘Boss, I’ve got a problem and here are my best two solutions. I’d like to get your opinion.’ They’re learning to think through problems, and be more accountable for developing solutions.”
Commit to consistent coaching. “All too often, we sales managers delay a coaching conversation until the sales rep produces a bad result. Then we plant what I’ve come to think of as a portable “rain bird of coaching” next to the rep, crank it on full blast, drench them in “advice” (likely interpreted as criticism), and expect them to flourish. That’s not how people learn or improve.
In contrast, every month, I have 8 to 10 appointments that I am never, ever late for, regardless of what is going on or what is “incoming.” These include airplane flights – because the consequences of not getting to where I need to go are immediate and dramatic. If you can convince yourself that coaching your team is as important a priority as making an airplane flight, you’ll be a more consistent coach, and your team will flourish.”
Do more early sales cycle coaching. Pre-close sales meetings with reps do no good; you can’t improve close ratios by going in at the end of the process. You need to step in earlier, when the customer is deciding if they have a problem your organization can fix. It’s also where the customer decides the size of the purchasing decision.
Accepting that early sales cycle coaching is needed isn’t so easy, says Davis. By nature, sales managers are results-oriented. But to really see results, you need ensure your sales team is asking the right questions early in the sales process.
Marketing Director at Miller Heiman EMEA Monika Goetzmann, who blogged for us earlier this week, writes about Lee Bartlett’s recent research: could embracing a unified, company-wide social selling strategy provide your company the biggest opportunity this year?
Understanding Social Selling. In Bartlett’s latest research study, “The Impact of Social Selling On the B2B Landscape in the UK vs. USA,” he defines social selling as “utilizing digital media to source and interact directly with customers and prospects.”
Social selling is NOT (just) social media, marketing or advertising. It involves using social platforms to establish, grow and maintain genuine relationships with prospective buyers, understand their needs and establish a level of trust.
Creating a Social Selling Strategy. When it comes to social engagement, world-class organizations are two years ahead of the pack. That’s according to Barry Trailer, co-founder of CSO Insights. The lesson here is that creating a social selling strategy is essential to staying ahead of the pack.
Impact On Hiring and Training. It’s no secret sales training has changed. Among the leaders he interviewed, Bartlett found in sales training there is more of an emphasis on social networks and building a brand. Also, in the hiring process, Bartlett found in the B2B space, salespeople in their mid-to-late 30s are in the highest demand in the UK. This is because sales leaders felt millennials lack the necessary experience to “address complex business challenges, while older workers lack the necessary ability to adapt and embrace new methodologies and technologies.”
By contrast, in the US, millennials are in greater demand, because less emphasis is placed on previous sales experience. This is driven by a more educated buyer and a systemic approach to procurement. In essence, the UK is still very much focused on face-to-face meetings, whereas the US is focused on social approaches.
The author notes, “techniques like face-to-face selling and cold calling remain not only popular, but extremely successful when assisted by digital techniques. It is safe to say that social selling is not going to replace tried and tested sales methods. However, if implemented correctly, it can certainly give organisations a tangible competitive advantage by adding depth to customer relationships, especially if your competitors are slow or reluctant to adapt to the changes it will inevitably bring to the company’s strategy and culture.”