Is social selling really about brands?

Todd SchnickLong before it became known that Facebook had altered its algorithms to make it less likely you would see content from pages (not personal FB profiles) you had liked, unless the brand was paying for the privilege, I had really stopped consuming content on brand pages altogether.

Not because I am all knowing, but because 90% of the content there was boring, “all about me,” one-way media.

Let me say this:

I don’t think it is really important for a brand, whether that is Coke or your local plumber, to have a “BRAND” presence on the social networks.

This is my personal opinion, mind you. I am sure others will disagree. But it just doesn’t work for me. It doesn’t move me.

I am not saying it cannot work, for there are a small percentage of examples of brands that do an interesting job. But most of us suck at it. And I don’t think it matters.

This whole concept of social selling in my view has NOTHING to do with brands, or any organization marketing an idea, product, or service.

I think social selling only works when it is about people. Not brands.

I lose interest when someone says “You can find our company on Facebook!”

So what?

I am, however, interested when someone I care about says “let’s you and I connect on Facebook” (or whatever social network they are engaged on).

Stop following the standard marketing checklists that say you have to have a brand presence on all the damn social networks. I don’t think it really works.

What does work is human interaction. The opportunity to connect and dialog with someone around a shared interest. The opportunity to help someone, or TO BE helped by someone.

That is what is interesting to me around social selling. Actually using the space to connect with another human being.

Around a real conversation.

I have ZERO interest in connecting with a restaurant that simply sends me pretty pictures of food and deals-of-the-day.

No, I want to connect personally with the Chef. I want to hear his thinking on spices, on creativity, on trying new things, and healthier eating.

That’s what I want. That’s what ultimately connects me to the brand anyways.

I don’t care about an iPhone advertisement. I care about what cool, new discoveries my online friends tell me about what they learned to do on their iPhone.

That’s what is interesting.

Once, JUST ONCE, have I actually looked at a brand page on LinkedIn. Just doesn’t interest me.

What does interest me is when, through LinkedIn, I learn that a former prospect of mine has started a new gig at a new company. The ability to connect around that, and to see what’s possible…now that is what’s interesting.

Social selling isn’t about brands pushing their one-way content to me. Social selling should be about having a conversation with real people.

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Learn more about my perspective on sales with my book The Zen of Sales.

Drawing by Hugh.

Your BIG performance usually isn’t a fluke

Bubba WatsonSo, Bubba Watson won his second Masters this afternoon.

If you don’t pay attention to professional golf, Bubba Watson won his first Masters in 2012. Many considered that amazing victory a fluke, a lucky win, a miracle.

But then he won his second green jacket yesterday. His second in three years.

Very, very few golfers have accomplished that feat.

So, why am I writing about this?

A lot of people nail a miracle accomplishment: a big marketing win, a big sale, a best-selling book, and viral video, whatever.

When that happens, many say the same thing they said about Bubba: “It was a fluke, a lucky win, a miracle.”

Whatever.

You and I know better.

You and I both know it was the result of a lot of work, and the result of a lot of preparation.

Not just anyone wins the Masters.

And not just anyone scores a big marketing win, a big sale, writes a best-selling book, or produces a viral video.

No.

Like Bubba, those big wins are the result of years of hard work, years of trial and error, anything but an “overnight success.”

Not just anyone wins the Masters. Even Bubba in 2012. He executed a lot of hard work over DECADES to be in a position to win in 2012.

But that still didn’t quiet the critics.

It wasn’t until this afternoon that people realized he was for real. That 2012 was NO fluke. That this gentleman was the real article.

Three thoughts here:

1. If you are counting on some miracle win to save your day, you are in for a big disappointment. If you think some lucky win will befall you, you are toast.

2. And yeah, to achieve something big, you have to put in the hard work, the labor, the blood, sweat and tears. There is NO getting around that.

3. Finally, if some competitor is saying you got lucky with that recent big deal that just closed, well…

…you know better.

But, despite that, you had better keep working…

…someone is always working harder than you.

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Join the list to keep winning like Bubba!

Are you a sales stoic?

I’ve been reading some books on stoicism recently: Meditationsby Marcus Aurelius and Seneca’s Letters from a Stoic.

marcus_aureliusStoicism is a philosophy about living, it is a framework for how to view and conduct life, and as Tim Ferriss calls it, it can and should be your operating system.

Stoicism is defined as the quality or behavior of a person who accepts what happens without complaining or showing emotion (Merriam-Webster); and here is the Wikipedia citation.

And as writer Ryan Holiday puts it, you need to change your perception that obstacles aren’t obstacles, they are opportunities. You need to take action, not just in acknowledging the obstacle, but dealing with it. And finally, you need a force of will to accept this new framework for your life. Things will happen, embrace it.

The example Holiday gives for this force of will? He cites Edison. When his lab burned to the ground, he didn’t whine about it. He enjoyed the blazing fire and saw this as a chance to rebuild and start fresh.

Now, what does this all have to do with sales?

Everything.

Reflecting back on my sales successes, very rarely did I close a deal easily. Never did I make a pitch to someone and they blindly accepted my proposal on the spot, and ask to get started right away with check in hand.

No, most sales are complex. And I don’t mean a “complex sale” in that there are many constituents involved in the decision-making matrix.

No, I mean sales involve humans. Humans are always human. And sales often involve fluid and ever-changing organizations. Both humans and organizations are impacted by economies, and politics, and culture: all three severely influence buying mindsets and behaviors.

Often does a sales cycle proceed where the humans I am working with do unexpected things, add layers of unnecessary (in my view) complexity, make strange and unique requests, or more likely, get distracted by many unexpected things in their own life and business, which further complicates your own sales interaction.

Successfully closing a sale is successfully navigating through obstacles thrown in your path by both people and organizations, sometimes purposefully and sometimes not.

You have to expect this. If you do not, your sales career will be difficult.

You have to embrace this, if you do not, your sales career will be frustrating.

Marcus Aurelius said “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

Translated for you?

The obstacles thrown in your path are the clues to how to win the deal. Remove the obstacles, win the deal. Relish the chance to solve those riddles! That’s what makes a good salesman.

And finally, winning “simple” deals isn’t that at all.

“Simple” deals are the result of years of hard work of writing, networking, public speaking, and communicating: all designed to inform your market about how you serve.

Are you a sales stoic?

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Join the list to learn more about applying stoicism to your business and life.

Sometimes life kicks you in the balls

Sometimes, life kicks you in the balls…

I got some news today that rocked my world. The kind of news that won’t enter into a majority of your lifetimes.

But I will tell you, it’s knocked me on my ass. And naturally, this kind of news always happens when your life is operating at its outer limits.

They say God only tests those capable of handling it. Maybe so. The last thing I wanted was to hear this particular news. But nobody asked me. Life dealt the cards. And so it is…

Why do I mention this? A few reasons:

The show must go on. Life must go on.

I mention it because 99.99% of the world I interact with won’t know about my news, they won’t know what has made its way into my life. They won’t know the demons I am carrying, and those of the people I care about.

The fact is, business doesn’t stop for personal reasons. The economic engines of the planet keep turning, no matter what details impact the lives of the players playing the game. The world keeps turning.

But that’s actually good news. The sun will come up tomorrow. That’s a fact. And that is something to build upon, and keep faith in.

No, the hard core business point of this post?

Two things:

1. The people you are selling to, the people you are marketing to… Many of them are dealing with their own demons, with burdens you know NOTHING about. Just be aware of that. And take that into account when you are assessing people’s reactions (or non-reactions) to your outreach.

2. You have to know that things will keep moving, whether you are on the horse or not. You may get kicked in the balls, but that doesn’t mean the entire planet stops turning for you. You have to clear your head and process your demons, sure….

But you also have to know that the people you work and partner with will expect things to keep moving. Just remember that.

Good people will understand and accept what you are dealing with and be patient and understanding, but their world has to keep turning to.

Keep that in mind as you engage (or disengage) with the world around you.

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To join me in the fight to keep on living an intrepid life.

How to deal with things that fill you with dread

50:50Ok, there are things going on in your life that fill you with dread.

DREAD: noun
1. Great fear or apprehension.
“The thought of returning to work filled her with dread.”
synonyms: fear, apprehension, trepidation, anxiety, worry, concern, foreboding, disquiet, unease, angst

Dread, things that keep you up at night. Things that cause your heart to sink when you think about them. Things that cause agony and stress. Things that make you say “If it wasn’t for my worries about this, my life would be near perfect.”

Well, sorry. Life isn’t perfect. But that doesn’t mean we can’t take on the things that cause us dread. Here is my simple strategy for dealing with things that cause me dread:

1. List them out. Write them down. All of them. I swear, but the mere act of identifying and acknowledging them is a therapeutic process it its own right. You are no longer pretending these things aren’t really eating you up inside. You own them now. And that’s empowering.

2. Next, ask if any of these things you dread will result in death? Seriously…

If not, then what are you really worried about? Any problem can be dealt with. If it doesn’t result in death, what’s the worst that can happen?

[Look, if you are dealing with a life-threatening illness, that's an entirely different matter altogether. And Godspeed to you, let us know how we can help.]

3. Next, review your list a second time, and jot down ONE step you can take to begin to resolve the issue, solve the problem, fix what’s broken, whatever. JUST LIST ONE THING. You don’t have to solve the problem here with this simple first step.

Most things on your list probably will require time and several steps to address it enough to get to a point where it will no longer be something you dread.

But identify one step. One item. One thing to advance the ball down the field.

And even if you stop here, you will immediately feel better. I know I do. Makes you feel back in control again, you know?

And there’s power in that.

4. Finally, take/start that action. Make the move. With the mere act of completing step number three, you know how to start.

So, start.

Because you know as well as I do, too many people never actually take that step. I am guilty of this too.

If you take no action, you will go right back to where you started from. Dreading stuff.

And that’s a rotten way to live…

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Click here to live the intrepid life.

Photo from Unsplash.

The art and science of giving and receiving feedback

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Stone + HeenIt’s not everyday you can have a casual chat with two Harvard Law professors…

But that’s just what I did today with Sheila Heen and Douglas Stone, co-authors of the best-selling book Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well.

Feedback. Do you realize how important feedback is? A majority of us aren’t very good at giving it, and honestly, most of us are really bad at receiving it.

And I’m just talking about myself….

Enjoy today’s scintillating conversation!

Discussion topics from today’s show:

1. Managers aren’t the only ones who need to learn about this feedback thing.
2. What is the bigger problem? How feedback is GIVEN? Or how it is RECEIVED? And where is their more opportunity for impact?
3. Why do we take the same advice from different people differently? Why does that happen? And what do we do about it?
4. What are the three critical feedback triggers?
5. Are we hard-wired to not take feedback well?
6. If you aren’t good at taking feedback, is this problem fixable?
7. What are the real business applications of feedback? Both giving and taking?
8. How does your ability to give and take feedback impact your ability as a salesman, your ability to close deals? Can it help?
9. Don’t ask for generic feedback. It is too vague, and not helpful. Instead, ask for “one thing!”
10. Is there an appropriate time to ignore feedback?
11. How is social and digital media media impacting this whole idea around feedback?
12. Who does social/digital media benefit more….the giver or taker of feedback?
13. When one hears feedback, you either take it as coaching or judgement. Which are you?
14. Why do we stink at self-learning? Is part of the answer that we take all feedback as judgment?
15. Both Sheila and Doug share some key steps on how to take feedback better and improve your personal and business life…
16. A big piece of this is lowering your own anxiety and reactiveness to feedback…even if from your own Mother-in-law….
17. For the record: Taking feedback well is a key predictor of successful, stable marriages…
18. Doug share the more surprising discovery from the book’s research…

To learn more about all things Heen + Stone, CLICK HERE! This includes a worksheet on how to improve the giving and taking of feedback in your organization!

To pick up a copy of this wicked cool book, click below (affiliate link):

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This is episode 109.

Tie a bow tie for your customer!

Todd SchnickSo, about two weeks ago for a client gig, I forced myself to learn how to tie a real bow tie.

[It is harder than it looks...]

But let’s step back a little bit:

So, my poor business partner. Several years ago, I vowed to never use the skanky clip-on bow tie that come with rental tuxes. Ever again.

Two months ago, a client hired us to broadcast from an industry awards show that they help organize.

Being an “awards” show, we were going to conduct the interviews of the executives who had just won an important industry award, such as “Most Innovative.”

Sounds like those red carpet interviews you see on TV, right? You know, right after the actor wins the Golden Globe and hits the Hollywood press backstage.

You need a tux for that kind of interview, right?

Right. So I recommended the idea:

My client loved the idea.

Boom. We were on!

Flash forward several weeks later, when getting fitted for the tux. I decline the standard clip-on bow tie that comes with the rental, and purchase my own real black bow tie.

My business partner, not to be outmanned, does the exact same thing.

Now all we have to do is learn how to do it. At this point in my life, I’d never even made one ATTEMPT to tie a bow tie.

And over the next two weeks, he and I both spend about two to three hours studying cheesy YouTube videos learning how to tie a damn bow tie.

Two key findings from the experience:

1. My business partner and I had heck of a lot of fun going through the goofy experience. And we bonded a little more deeply as a result.

2. [And more importantly] My client is deeply grateful to our commitment to doing something meaningful for THEIR event, to add some pizazz to THEIR event.

Not that we needed this essay to learn that clients appreciate little gestures like this, but it really had an impact on the bonding between us and our client.

[Did I mention this event was our FIRST formal gig with this client?]

Take little dramatic actions like this to ingratiate yourself into your customer. The dividends are almost incalculable.

Better yet, do something vulnerable, goofy, and human: You never know how impactful little actions like this can be…

P.S. We are now currently in discussions for several more new gigs…

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Click here to learn about other actions you can take to deepen your customer engagement!

The work never ends…

New York CityTake a look at the picture embedded in this post:

This is a photo taken by my iPhone as of 646PM EST, New York City. I am in the city for a trade show gig, and this is the view out of my hotel room near Times Square, from the 22nd floor.

You cannot tell from the photograph, but it is an office building near 7th and 53rd, and despite the hour approaching 7PM, the are people still working in most windows in this tall office tower. I am going to assume this tower is just over 50 stories.

This is but one building in New York City. Think of all the buildings on the island of Manhattan.

Then, I think about my hometown of Atlanta, and all the buildings in that city. People still there working.

Then I think about your city. And all the buildings there…

Then I think about buildings and office parks all over the planet.

There’s a lot going on. People working, twenty-four hours a day. That’s a lot of work.

But then I think about me, and all the work I’ve got to do. And I am overwhelmed.

I’ve just wrapped what has been the longest, craziest, busiest two weeks of my professional life. (And don’t forget I’ve worked a few presidential elections…)

I feel bad for a few of my clients that I owe some project work for. I am a little behind due to my insane travel schedule.

I catch myself hoping that I can get caught up and perhaps, even get a little ahead of the game.

But, if I am honest with myself, it won’t happen.

I do the best I can, really I do. But I feel like I just won’t ever be caught up with everything I am supposed to, and everything I WANT to do.

Here’s the thing: The work never ends.

It will never end. I likely won’t ever be fully caught up with all I want to do.

Despite loving my work, I am swamped. This means, from one perspective, that I have a lot of hired work, which is a good thing.

I’d certainly rather be busy than bored, looking for something to do.

Now, if I didn’t love my work, I guess I’d have a real problem.

I look across 53rd Street, and gaze at the people through my window, and wonder if these people enjoy their work? Are they doing something meaningful?

Are they fulfilled? Are they avoiding troubles at home? Are they waiting out the traffic on the streets below?

Or are they buried deep doing all the work they have to do, regretting the grind they are in?

Who knows.

All I know is that I have to do two things:

1. Accept that I will always be busy, especially if I am providing value to clients.
2. And two, being busy is ok, and to be expected, if you are doing something meaningful, beneficial, and worthwhile to people you care about.

What I know now is that the work never ends.

And I am hereby accepting it.

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Learn more about doing meaningful work.

Trade Show Panhandling

Due to my work, I attend a lot of trade shows. And thus, I observe a lot of lousy trade show behavior.

My view on a recent train ride...

My view on a recent train ride…

But first, to set the table, I also ride the train a lot here in Metro Atlanta. Mostly, I am taking it to the airport, but on occasion I take the train downtown or to the Georgia World Congress Center for a trade show gig (like I did this morning).

To those of you who ride the train, there is one occasional occurrence that is a little annoying, and that is the panhandling.

You put up with it, because you know it will happen, you pretend to ignore it, and hope the person goes away.

Well guess what? I’ve defined an all too common SALES activity seen FAR TOO OFTEN at a trade show:

Trade Show Panhandling.

What is that? It is the act of manning your trade show booth, and hanging (annoyingly) in the aisle on the trade show floor, blocking attendees to ask them if they are interested in your booth, and/or asking to zap their badge to capture their email address.

They’ll pretend to listen, attempt to be polite, allow you to scan their badge, hoping that expedites you getting out of their face.

These people don’t want to talk to you. If they did, they’d have walked up to your booth to inquire.

No, they are trying to get somewhere, anywhere, other than having to talk to you.

In fact, they saw you from a distance, and were hoping to not make eye contact with you. They considered going down another aisle. But no, instead:

They put up with it, because they know it will happen, they pretend to ignore it, and hope that YOU go away.

If you go ALL THE WAY to attend a trade show, spend all that money setting up an exhibit, spend all that money sending people to man the booth, spend all that money renting the floor space, and your strategy is to have staff stalk pedestrians in the aisles?

You are doing it wrong.

Key to success: Go to a trade show knowing exactly who you need to talk to, setting face time with the handful of people that will make the difference for your trade show success…

IN ADVANCE OF THE SHOW (I know how to help you do that).

If your whole strategy depends on random meetings, you will fail. Or at least waste a ton of money.

Just today, we interviewed the gentlemen who is actually running the MODEX14 show we are broadcasting at, and he said the following:

“90% of the sales success found at a trade show is done before the exhibit hall ever opens.”

True that.

Stop panhandling.

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Click here to learn other ways to better leverage your trade show spend.

Dana Ardi: The paradigm shift you need to make to thrive

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Dana ArdiOne of my favorite bloggers, Fred Wilson, talked about new book called The Fall of the Alphas, by Dana Ardi. So, I checked it out, really enjoyed it, and added it to my reading list.

A few weeks later, some of her people saw my reading list and contacted me about getting her on my show. I immediately said yes. Today’s show is the result. Enjoy!

Key discussion topics from today:

1. Dana is a corporate anthropologist, and we discuss what that actually means.

2. Who/what are the Alphas? And why is that business model dying?

3. The new Beta business culture/model has emerged. Why? Is it JUST because of the technological revolution? Or is there more to it?

4. Alpha: A General and his army. Beta: A conductor of a symphony orchestra. Dana explains…

5. Core features of the Beta culture: communication, collaboration, empowerment, and self awareness. And why that all matters to your talent management and recruiting.

6. Beta leaders are curators, not commanders. How in the heck does the concept of curation play into this?

7. Will an Alpha organization survive in the long-term?
8. And can an Alpha organization change and evolve into a Beta organization? And if so, how?

You can find Dana’s book here (affiliate link):

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To hear from other intrepid souls like Dana Ardi, please SUBSCRIBE to my podcast on iTunes. And, leaving a review and customer rating would be appreciated as well!

This is episode 108.