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.

In through the out door

Todd Schnick

If you are actually selling, you are probably going to struggle.

If you are actually selling, you are more than likely going to dread going to work in the morning.

If you are actually selling, you will have to work really hard. And make slow, grinding progress.

If you are actually selling, you won’t have too much fun.

Damn shame.

So don’t actually sell.

Go in through the back door.

Move your markets in ways that are accomplished by ANY MEANS other than actual selling.

How? Here are three simple examples:

1. Teach people. Teach people things that make their life (and business) better. The key here is to enjoy what you teach.

2. Write books. [Yes, even short e-books count] Hopefully, you are writing words that excite and inspire you. And, actually move people (and markets) to action. People want to associate with a writer who moved them.

3. Connect people. Nothing makes people happier than when a friend connects them to a promising business opportunity. All you have to do is be nice, and be human to people. Help them. And they will spring surprising opportunities on you. When you least expect it. And your sales process is already advanced down the field, since your new connection already trusts you because of a referral from someone they trust.

But here’s how I do it:

4. I interview people on my podcasts.

That’s it.

A simple strategy.

You could say I am doing my guests a favor by being a guest on my show. I am giving them a forum, I am giving them a platform, I am giving them an opportunity to tell their story/deliver their message.

I am exposing them to my audience, which I have worked really hard to build and cultivate.

For this, they are grateful.

But that’s not it entirely. After a heavy majority of my interviews, my guests inevitably ask, “So tell me what you do?” Or “Tell me what you do with this studio…” Or, “So, do you always broadcast and do live interviews on trade show floors?” [see above photo]

This is how the conversation starts. And more often than you might imagine, these conversations lead to business opportunities.

All because I did them a favor. I helped them in some small way.

I didn’t sell these people. I didn’t cold call them. I didn’t send them a brochure. I didn’t send them a piece of direct mail. I didn’t ensnare them in some marketing automation campaign. I didn’t hunt down the name of key executives in a Lexus/Nexus search.

I merely found interesting people, running interesting companies, doing interesting things. And I helped them. And in return, they struck up a conversation. And that simple conversation leads to business opportunities.

It doesn’t even feel like “selling.”

My friend Joe Lavelle, and businessman and friend I very much admire, called what I do selling through the back door.

I think it means I get the time and attention of key decision-makers without having to do the yucky, unpleasant, hard, and time-consuming tactical side of sales.

Now, I am not saying this is easy to do.

It took me years to craft a business model where I move my markets via radio shows and podcasts. And I’m slogging hard towards my 10,000 hours of honing my interviewing skills.

But that’s just it. I spend my limited time honing my podcasting skills, giving my guests an amazing experience.

I don’t spend my time cold calling a stale database that I bought from some vendor who copy and pasted my email address into a pre-written email template…hoping I’d respond.

I don’t call what I do selling. Selling, in some circles, has a negative connotation.

No, what I do is move markets, and I move markets (and decision-makers) by going in through the back door.

And the best thing about it?

I don’t dread waking up in the morning, having to tackle some ungodly call list…

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To learn more about my take on sales, check out my book: The Zen of Sales!

A simple trade show strategy

1625490_10152240888068252_336858249_nIt is 646AM as I type this, Tuesday.

I am broadcasting from HIMSS14 in Orlando, Florida.

I co-host and produce a small-business podcast called The Healthcare Insider. The show shines a light on the movers and shakers in the healthcare industry, the people leading change and driving innovation in the industry.

It is a fascinating show, and our fastest growing.

Our work here in Orlando includes two components, the LIVE broadcast feed (today + tomorrow), plus we have two crews roaming the floor capturing interviews and gaining the perspective of executives around the industry.

The latter is what I want to bring to your attention. It is what I am doing in the photograph above. It is a podcasting strategy that can be a very impactful business development strategy.

It works like this (three-step plan):

1. You host a show that showcases leaders in your respective market space.
2. You attend trade shows covering your industry.
3. You walk around to the exhibits, and ask to speak to the executives to share company insights on the market and coming trends.

Does the strategy work?

Here are some things I heard just yesterday:

“Oh, let me get the CEO for you!”

“The president of the company is busy at the moment, but come back at 2pm. He’d love to talk with you.”

“This interview was so short, can we connect post-show and do something more comprehensive?”

“I fly to Atlanta on a pretty regular basis. Can we arrange a follow-up interview in your studio?”

“Can we showcase this interview on our corporate website?”

“Is it ok to send your interview out to our company mailing list?”

“Let me give you the name and number of our CEO, so that you can arrange an interview with him later today or tomorrow!”

Read those again, and tell me if your regular cold calling efforts are generating outputs such as that.

As a salesman and marketer, if you don’t recognize the value of hearing those quotes above, then you really aren’t a good salesman and marketer. And don’t see the value of a podcast like mine has in generating meaningful relationships with the decision-makers of your target companies.

That’s what this is all about. Generating meaningful relationships.

Relationships start from conversation.

When you have a platform, people want to talk to you. They want to get their message out. They want to have their story told.

All you have to do is provide them your platform…

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To learn more about this process, JOIN THE MAILING LIST HERE.

Are you clueless? Does your prospect think so?

cityI get very frustrated with the productivity gurus who advise us that in order to stay more productive, we must NOT pay attention to the news…

…for it distracts us from the work at hand.

I think this is stupid.

And horribly poor advice.

If you cannot pay attention to the world around around you because it makes you less productive, you’ve got bigger problems that we need to talk about.

Look, I am all about stripping away the mental clutter that distracts you from focusing on what matters. But I think you can take this too far.

If you buy into this advice, I think it just means you are lazy.

Lazy? Yes. You simply aren’t willing to pay a little bit of attention to what is happening to not only critical world events, but more importantly, to what is happening in your market space. You just aren’t willing to do the work necessary.

[Oh sure, you have time to watch House of Cards, but not to invest a few minutes on becoming more worldly...]

To give you some context into how I see things, I think one of the reasons things are spiraling out of control in Washington, DC is that the average bloke on the street isn’t paying attention to how bad things are there. If people were cognizant as to how broken DC is, they might rise up to do something about it.

Yeah, I guess what I am saying is this: I don’t necessarily blame the buffoons in Washington. I blame the citzenry that is completely clueless about it.

Our elected officials don’t worry about what you think, because they know most of you aren’t paying attention.

So what does this have to do with business?

1. You can’t engage in meaningful, interesting conversation with prospects if you are clueless to the world around you.

2. In a sales conversation, you have to be relevant. And if you are clueless to the state of the world, you are useless, and will relate to hardly anyone. Or anything they care about.

3. You have to operate in the context other people are functioning in, and if you aren’t paying attention, how in the hell can you possibly do that?

4. And let’s face it…your prospect expects you to be savvy to what’s going on in the world. That’s why they might be willing to pay a premium, for they want you to actually have a clue to what’s happening, to be aware of world events that might impact their business and markets, to be aware of new technologies that might disrupt their industry.

So don’t bury your head in the sand.

With your smart phone or tablet, the world is at your fingertips. Access to any niched information, news, and commentary is available to you with a few clicks or swipes.

Yeah, don’t get sucked down the rabbit hole, and don’t set aside the important, creative work you are supposed to do. It is easy to procrastinate by saying you have to keep an eye on the news.

Build a simple monitoring process that enables you to keep tabs on the important news and events that impact your world.

Your sales skills depend on being relevant. No one wants to talk to the guy that never has any idea about the world events everyone else is talking about…

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Join my list here, where I share relevant news weekly about the edgy stuff going on in our world [sample].

Photo via Unsplash.

Why the hell haven’t you published a book yet?

bookSeriously. Why?

Why haven’t you published a book yet?

It is silly that you haven’t. It is so frickin’ easy. There are literally countless resources available on how to self-publish a book to the likes of Amazon (or virutally any other book channel).

Presumably, you have knowledge. You know things. You are an expert in something.

This knowledge is beneficial to someone.

This someone would benefit from your book. If you’d just write the damn thing.

So why haven’t you?

You don’t need to write War and Peace.

5,000 words will do. Sell it for one dollar. Get your knowledge out there.

This isn’t about becoming rich or a New York Times bestseller. This is about putting out content that pulls people into your sales funnel.

Your published book becomes indexed content that people will find when they search online for the knowledge you possess.

Why shouldn’t they find YOUR book when searching?

Seriously. Why not?

Why shouldn’t you become the trusted resource to help people?

And if you tell me that writing 5,000 words about something you profess to be an expert on is too hard? Well, then I am calling your bluff, and will proclaim that perhaps you aren’t an expert after all.

Maybe that’s what really has you spooked about the idea of writing a book.

Amazon is the third most popular “search engine” for people looking for answers to problems and struggles. Having a problem with X? Why not see if someone has written a book about how to do X.

Simple.

Why isn’t your book (or e-book) one of the possible resources for people to find help?

And in so doing, you become someone from which they seek additional help and counsel…

See how this works?

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And yes, here is one of my books, in case you are asking if I’ve put my money where MY mouth is: The Zen of Sales

Curation as sales strategy

Todd SchnickI’ve been thinking about curation a lot lately. Curation, as in the act of collecting disparate pieces of content from around the internets, organizing them, and then sharing with a targeted audience.

But here’s the thing: I think curating content is a great sales strategy too.

Why?

1. It reinforces your brand. I want people to live boldly. So, I share articles that push them towards living a more intrepid life.

2. Gives you a chance to be of service. Service first, sales second, I always say. Providing helpful information to your list is a great way to be of service.

3. Allows you to control the education of your market. Marketing is about educating your market, making them understand how you can help them. Why not provide even more helpful knowledge to your market?

4. Allows you to use the work of others to keep in touch with your list. I can’t create everything, and others do an outstanding job of creating content that helps my market too. Why not tap into that? This builds trust too.

5. Gives you opportunities to occasionally share your own material. Where appropriate, I sometimes sprinkle my own content into the mix. This makes it less icky to share a link to one of my books or radio shows.

My friend, and past Intrepid Radio Show guest, Colin Wright recently published a short book on how to become a curator. A quick read, it is worth checking out:

So here is how I do it:

Every Sunday morning, I send an email to my mailing list with the curated bits from the previous week. Here’s a sample.

This has quickly become one of my favorite tasks each week. I already spend lots of time researching, studying, and learning what I can over the course of the week. Now, I have a way to take what I am learning, collate and share it, thus serving my audience.

Serving my audience is a good strategy. Builds trust, demonstrates service, and strengthens my relationship with my list. I recently received this lovely email from a member of my mailing list:

“This has quickly become my most eagerly awaited and useful email each week. You’ve introduced me to some incredibly valuable people that I was completely unaware of.”

Do you think someone with this type of reaction is a more likely buyer down the road?

Yeah. Me too.

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To get my Sunday email of curated awesomeness, sign-up for my Intrepid list here.

Photograph via Unsplash.

The CRM paradox

Todd SchnickMost sales people are familiar with a CRM system.

Many sales people are judged, ranked, bonused, graded, and their life-value determined based on simple stats generated from the CRM.

This is good. And this is very bad.

I think CRMs are very useful sales management tools.

Let me clarify this point: CRMs are very useful sales management tools for the sales reps themselves. In the context of determining how YOU are doing. Individually. As in, are you improving? Or not?

But unfortunately, they are not often used for that purpose.

Too often, they are used as clubs with which to beat someone over the head. As in:

“You aren’t meeting your numbers. Hit them or be sacked.”
“You are way behind others on the team.”
“You better haul ass to catch up with the rest of your team.”

Now, understanding your performance in the context of the rest of your sales team does matter, in terms of learning where you can improve.

But the punitive side of things I think is very damaging. And sadly, far too common.

I am guilty of this myself. I did it just this morning. My intention was to motivate my colleague, but instead, I injected poison into the process. I made it about our internal team rankings verses making progress helping humanity (aka our customers).

I made it more about competition. Not about serving and helping people. This is why I’ve always personally had problems with CRM systems and the stats and numbers and rankings they spit out.

Most sales people (and sales managers), me included sometimes, make it about rank and status, verses legitimate progress towards helping more people.

Most sales organizations pay you based on your numbers. They don’t pay you based on serving and helping people.

I think the problem is this:

Some sales organizations don’t see a difference between the two.

I think this is the problem.

The organization that sees these two as completely different are the ones who are thriving, building a long-term focused enterprise, and employing sales people who relish their work, and don’t dread hitting the pavement each morning….

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To learn more about my take on sales, check out my book: The Zen of Sales!

Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Hurts so good #Sales strategy

Corporate ass kisserLast night, I lost a deal because my price was too high.

And it was a great feeling.

Really.

And proof that I am maturing as a salesman.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I would have offered my services for too cheap. Or, I would have countered with a lower price.

Those days are behind me.

This maturation process in a small businessman like me isn’t easy. People like us are always afraid to turn down business. Since people like me eat what they kill, we like to kill everything in our sight, just in case another animal doesn’t cross our path anytime soon.

But that is a horrible attitude to have, and will slowly drive you to a miserable existence. And very likely will drive you out of business.

But this doesn’t just apply to small business owners. This applies to anyone in sales. In any size organization. If you spend your days competing on price, it probably explains why you hate your job, and dread waking up in the morning.

No, like I said the other day, you have to be (almost) cocky and confident in what you sell, knowing you bring the right value and pure excellence to your clients.

When you do that, price recedes from the decision-making process. The confidence that comes from being in a position to walk away from low counter-offers, ultimately makes you a better salesman anyways.

This mindset changes everything.

Yeah, you never want to lose business. But it hurts so good to lose business the right way. And in the end, is so much better for the long-term health and viability of you and your sales organization.

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To learn more about my take on sales, check out my book: The Zen of Sales!

Drawing by Hugh.