How Do You Sell In the Social Era?

Chris Heffer

Are you looking to improve or modernise the way you sell?

Do you want to learn how you can use the social web to help you sell more?

In this post I will discuss both the traditional and the new ways salespeople can work.

After reading this post you will have an insight into what the future of selling will look like. Hopefully you will start to see that there are alternative ways of working that will help you to help your customers more, which in turn will help you hit your sales targets.

£20 note fanned outA salesperson is often one of the highest paid people in the business. I believe unless salespeople change the way they work, they will lose the influence over the sales process, which warrants their high compensation packages.


What does a salesperson actually do?

Wikipedia explains the verb describing what a salesperson does:

Selling is offering to exchange an item of value for a different item. The original item of value being offered may be either tangible or intangible. The second item, usually money, is most often seen by the seller as being of equal or greater value than that being offered for sale

Basically a salesperson attempts to convince a potential customer that there is more value in what his company is trying to sell than what they are charging for it.

Imagine a world without salespeople? The world of business would stop. Right?

I want to share my perspective that the value a traditional salesperson has in an organisation is shrinking. I will begin by explaining the two types of salespeople.

What does a traditional salesperson do?

If you were to survey every salesperson in the world, these are the kind of activities they would include in their typical day:

  • Cold calling
  • Chasing people for commitment to the next step in the sales process
  • Qualifying if someone is a good prospect
  • Trying to convince a prospect they should buy a product
  • Trying to speed up the sales process so that the customer buys before the end of that month/quarter/year
  • Receiving leads from marketing (and usually complaining they are not very good!)

Watch this video to see how bad cold calling can be!

Trouble viewing? Click here > >

How does a social business sell?

A Forrester marketing report said, in technology sales, two thirds of the customers’ buying process is done before they engage with the sales team. Even if the split varies in different industries the principle is the same. Traditionally customers would rely on salespeople to share information about the products but now customers now have many more sources of information to help make their decisions. Sources such as:

  • Blogs
  • Social networks
  • YouTube
  • Ratings and reviews
  • Comparison articles

What do people type into Google?

people are searching for answers not your product

People don’t start their buying process by typing into Google your company name or your product name. More often than not, they have no idea who your company is or what products you sell.

What they actually type are things like:

  • How do I do X?
  • How can I fix problem X?
  • What is X?
  • How can I improve X?
  • How can I cut costs in X area of my business?

Even when they have an idea of what they want to buy a lot of people will be searching for:

  • Product X vs. Product Y?
  • How much does Product X cost?
  • What are the pros and cons of product X?

If you choose only to get involved in the sales process when the customer is ready to talk to a salesperson, you are missing a big chunk of what has already influenced a customer’s buying process/preferences. That is assuming you even get a chance to be involved at all.

You need to influence the start of the sales process rather than just the end of it. You need to be the person educating the customer while they are learning about your industry and the types of products you sell.

Case study – O2 mobile network – How do I transfer data between iPhones?

o2 guru tv screen shot

Below is a great video from a mobile phone network in the UK called O2. They launched a YouTube channel call O2 Guru TV. It was a video help site designed to help anyone with issues relating to their mobile phones. A small percentage of the videos make reference to O2 specifically but do not promote O2 directly. They position O2 as a brand who are very helpful and a company who provides great customer service, even to people who are not their customers. The result is, that in a very competitive industry with high churn rate, they have a competitive differentiator. They are selling indirectly to their potential customers by showing them why they should do business with them.

The video below illustrates the concept. When anyone in the world searches “How to transfer data between iPhones?” this video is going to be there to help them.

Trouble viewing? Click here > >

Case study – Blendtec blenders – Will it blend?

will it blend screen shotAnother good example is Blendtec. This series of Youtube videos started in 2006 when they wanted to make a video to show how good their product was. They created a series called “Will it blend?”. Since they started they have had over 208,000,000 hits on their YouTube videos.

Trouble viewing? Click here > >

This is their latest video comparing an iPhone 5 with a Galaxy S3 (as featured above). This has little to do with selling blenders, however a lot of people are thinking of buying one of those two phones and are searching for a comparison. Off the back of this video they have had a massive amount of exposure and at the time of writing have had nearly 5 million hits in just over a week. These videos are a bit of fun and do not necessarily result in direct sales. However if you were going to buy a blender and you are looking to make yourself a smoothie, then the fact that this blender can blend an iPhone, you can be sure it won’t have any trouble with your bananas and strawberries.

I have written three other examples of how you can get more customers by using social media in my last blog post.

So how do the two styles compare?

From salesperson to product expert

The line between sales and marketing is blurring. Traditional selling will eventually fade away. The successful salesperson in the next few years will become more like an educator. They will be less sales-like and more a product expert. Salespeople need to think less about how can I sell this to a customer and more about how can I help my customer to understand the types of products, without necessarily even mentioning their product.

Productivity – How many people can you influence?

Salespeople are always busy doing something. Sometimes things which are productive and sometimes not so. If you use social channels and publish all the content you generate, every time you did one of the following tasks, you could reuse that content and create something you can share online.

  • Answer a customer question = Blog post instead of an email
  • Create a presentation = Upload slides to Slideshare and make into a blog post
  • Speak at an event  = Video the event, upload to YouTube, create a blog post
  • Have a good idea you want to share = write it in a blog or record a YouTube video and send the person a link rather than an email

Obviously you need to consider customer and company confidentiality but you may be able to make the advice more generic and in turn make it suitable for a wider audience.

If you were emailed a question, you could spend 30 minutes sharing your knowledge and giving your customer a great answer to their question in an email. If you were to put it in a blog and publish it on-line, then that 30 minutes would benefit many people rather than just one. It would also save you time next time a customer asks you the same question.

The article with the most page views on my blog was originally an email to a colleague giving him some advice on how to use twitter at a conference.


You are not alone. Although sales sometimes feels like a lonely job there are rarely situations where you are truly alone. You will have other people in the same role doing your job in other areas and/or other people who help you with your sales. Either way social can help. Instead of having to try to coordinate multiple people, to get the information and help you need via emails, phone calls or face to face meetings – you can use social. There are many different ways you can do this using a variety of different platforms. In essence you can create a virtual room where people can share knowledge, insight and documents. This will help the team come together to solve the problems the customer has, which will hopefully result in a sale.

Remember: None of us are as smart as all of us”

Can you sell without talking about your product?

gagged salesman

If your product has a unique benefit over the products it competes with, then you do not need to talk about your product specifically. If you wrote a blog or recorded a video about that unique benefit then the potential customer can decide how important that benefit is to them. You are just educating your potential customer and in the process helping to shape their requirements about what is important to them and what they need. If that benefit is not important they may buy from your competitor, but they would have done anyway. If it is important, when they are ready to buy, they will only buy from you.

From push to pull selling

Imagine you never had to make another cold call again? Imagine if every time you called someone they always took your call and knew who you were? This is the future.

I foresee a world where no individual will ever accept any unsolicited approach from anyone in any way. Facebook has developed EdgeRank to prioritise what information you see.

Facebook description of EdgeRank

The news feed algorithm uses several factors to determine top stories, including the number of comments, who posted the story, and what type of post it is (ex: photo, video, status update, etc.).

I can see this idea spreading outside of Facebook.

This idea has spread from the world’s largest social network to one of the largest free email providers. Google mail has begun to prioritise people’s inboxes by labeling certain posts as important. It figures out which mail is important based upon who you email regularly, which messages you open and reply to and what keywords are in those emails.

Content and information are a commodity. Cold calling, generic email shots, radio/tv/magazine ads and most, if not all traditional marketing methods, are not going to work.

In the future the only way to reach people will be by creating great content which is helpful, interesting, useful, educational or entertaining to your potential clients.

The importance and relevance of content and communications will dictate whether people read the information or not.

Not how you want to sell but how your customers want to buy

It is not how you want to sell which dictates the relationship, it is how your customers want to buy. A social business sells in the way people want to buy and not the way the company wants to sell.


If you can educate your potential customers well enough, although not all those customers will buy from you, those who do, will only buy from you.

I believe a traditional salesperson will become an order taker and be pushed down the value chain. Customers are now empowered to do their own research from both biased and unbiased sources. The need for a sales person to come along and give an opinion biased towards his own products is reducing.

I always remember a mentor told me many years ago when I questioned the value that marketing had vs. sales. I didn’t think you could earn as much in marketing as a salesperson can. He said:

If you run a business, what would you want? A product people wanted to buy or a product you had to sell?

Sales and marketing people need to understand that the old ways of doing business will not work in the future. I would advise you get ahead of the curve and change the way you do business, before the old ways grind to a halt.

I will leave the last word to Jeffrey Dachis who is CEO of the Dachis Group.

Trouble viewing? Click here > >


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13 Scary Statistics On Employee Engagement [INFOGRAPHIC]

Jacob Shriar

There is a serious problem with the way we work.

Most employees are disengaged and not passionate about the work they do. This is costing companies a ton of money in lost productivity, absenteeism, and turnover. It’s also harmful to employees, because they’re more stressed out than ever.

The thing that bothers me the most about it, is that it’s all so easy to fix. I can’t figure out why managers aren’t more proactive about this. Besides the human element of caring for our employees, it’s costing them money, so they should care more about fixing it. Something as simple as saying thank you to your employees can have a huge effect on their engagement, not to mention it’s good for your level of happiness.

The infographic that we put together has some pretty shocking statistics in it, but there are a few common themes. Employees feel overworked, overwhelmed, and they don’t like what they do. Companies are noticing it, with 75% of them saying they can’t attract the right talent, and 83% of them feeling that their employer brand isn’t compelling. Companies that want to fix this need to be smart, and patient. This doesn’t happen overnight, but like I mentioned, it’s easy to do. Being patient might be the hardest thing for companies, and I understand how frustrating it can be not to see results right away, but it’s important that you invest in this, because the ROI of employee engagement is huge.

Here are 4 simple (and free) things you can do to get that passion back into employees. These are all based on research from Deloitte.

1.  Encourage side projects

Employees feel overworked and underappreciated, so as leaders, we need to stop overloading them to the point where they can’t handle the workload. Let them explore their own passions and interests, and work on side projects. Ideally, they wouldn’t have to be related to the company, but if you’re worried about them wasting time, you can set that boundary that it has to be related to the company. What this does, is give them autonomy, and let them improve on their skills (mastery), two of the biggest motivators for work.

Employees feel overworked and underappreciated, so as leaders, we need to stop overloading them to the point where they can’t handle the workload.

2.  Encourage workers to engage with customers

At Wistia, a video hosting company, they make everyone in the company do customer support during their onboarding, and they often rotate people into customer support. When I asked Chris, their CEO, why they do this, he mentioned to me that it’s so every single person in the company understands how their customers are using their product. What pains they’re having, what they like about it, it gets everyone on the same page. It keeps all employees in the loop, and can really motivate you to work when you’re talking directly with customers.

3.  Encourage workers to work cross-functionally

Both Apple and Google have created common areas in their offices, specifically and strategically located, so that different workers that don’t normally interact with each other can have a chance to chat.

This isn’t a coincidence. It’s meant for that collaborative learning, and building those relationships with your colleagues.

4.  Encourage networking in their industry

This is similar to number 2 on the list, but it’s important for employees to grow and learn more about what they do. It helps them build that passion for their industry. It’s important to go to networking events, and encourage your employees to participate in these things. Websites like Eventbrite or Meetup have lots of great resources, and most of the events on there are free.

13 Disturbing Facts About Employee Engagement [Infographic]

What do you do to increase employee engagement? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Did you like today’s post? If so you’ll love our frequent newsletter! Sign up here and receive The Switch and Shift Change Playbook, by Shawn Murphy, as our thanks to you!

This infographic was crafted with love by Officevibe, the employee survey tool that helps companies improve their corporate wellness, and have a better organizational culture.


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Supply Chain Fraud: The Threat from Within

Lindsey LaManna

Supply chain fraud – whether perpetrated by suppliers, subcontractors, employees, or some combination of those – can take many forms. Among the most common are:

  • Falsified labor
  • Inflated bills or expense accounts
  • Bribery and corruption
  • Phantom vendor accounts or invoices
  • Bid rigging
  • Grey markets (counterfeit or knockoff products)
  • Failure to meet specifications (resulting in substandard or dangerous goods)
  • Unauthorized disbursements

LSAP_Smart Supply Chains_graphics_briefook inside

Perhaps the most damaging sources of supply chain fraud are internal, especially collusion between an employee and a supplier. Such partnerships help fraudsters evade independent checks and other controls, enabling them to steal larger amounts. The median loss from fraud committed
by a single thief was US$80,000, according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE).

Costs increase along with the number of perpetrators involved. Fraud involving two thieves had a median loss of US$200,000; fraud involving three people had a median loss of US$355,000; and fraud with four or more had a median loss of more than US$500,000, according to ACFE.

Build a culture to fight fraud

The most effective method to fight internal supply chain theft is to create a culture dedicated to fighting it. Here are a few ways to do it:

  • Make sure the board and C-level executives understand the critical nature of the supply chain and the risk of fraud throughout the procurement lifecycle.
  • Market the organization’s supply chain policies internally and among contractors.
  • Institute policies that prohibit conflicts of interest, and cross-check employee and supplier data to uncover potential conflicts.
  • Define the rules for accepting gifts from suppliers and insist that all gifts be documented.
  • Require two employees to sign off on any proposed changes to suppliers.
  • Watch for staff defections to suppliers, and pay close attention to any supplier that has recently poached an employee.

About Lindsey LaManna

Lindsey LaManna is Social and Reporting Manager for the Digitalist Magazine by SAP Global Marketing. Follow @LindseyLaManna on Twitter, on LinkedIn or Google+.


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Amazing Digital Marketing Trends And Tips To Expand Your Business In 2015

Sunny Popali

Amazing Digital Marketing Trends & Tips To Expand Your Business In 2015The fast-paced world of digital marketing is changing too quickly for most companies to adapt. But staying up to date with the latest industry trends is imperative for anyone involved with expanding a business.

Here are five trends that have shaped the industry this year and that will become more important as we move forward:

  1. Email marketing will need to become smarter

Whether you like it or not, email is the most ubiquitous tool online. Everyone has it, and utilizing it properly can push your marketing ahead of your rivals. Because business use of email is still very widespread, you need to get smarter about email marketing in order to fully realize your business’s marketing strategy. Luckily, there are a number of tools that can help you market more effectively, such as Mailchimp.

  1. Content marketing will become integrated and more valuable

Content is king, and it seems to be getting more important every day. Google and other search engines are focusing more on the content you create as the potential of the online world as marketing tool becomes apparent. Now there seems to be a push for current, relevant content that you can use for your services and promote your business.

Staying fresh with the content you provide is almost as important as ensuring high-quality content. Customers will pay more attention if your content is relevant and timely.

  1. Mobile assets and paid social media are more important than ever

It’s no secret that mobile is key to your marketing efforts. More mobile devices are sold and more people are reading content on mobile screens than ever before, so it is crucial to your overall strategy to have mobile marketing expertise on your team. London-based Abacus Marketing agrees that mobile marketing could overtake desktop website marketing in just a few years.

  1. Big Data for personalization plays a key role

Marketers are increasingly using Big Data to get their brand message out to the public in a more personalized format. One obvious example is Google Trend analysis, a highly useful tool that marketing experts use to obtain the latest on what is trending around the world. You can — and should — use it in your business marketing efforts. Big Data will also let you offer specific content to buyers who are more likely to look for certain items, for example, and offer personalized deals to specific groups of within your customer base. Other tools, which until recently were the stuff of science fiction, are also available that let you do things like use predictive analysis to score leads.

  1. Visual media matters

A picture really is worth a thousand words, as the saying goes, and nobody can deny the effectiveness of a well-designed infographic. In fact, some studies suggest that Millennials are particularly attracted to content with great visuals. Animated gifs and colorful bar graphs have even found their way into heavy-duty financial reports, so why not give them a try in your business marketing efforts?

A few more tips:

  • Always keep your content relevant and current to attract the attention of your target audience.
  • Always keep all your social media and public accounts fresh. Don’t use old content or outdated pictures in any public forum.
  • Your reviews are a proxy for your online reputation, so pay careful attention to them.
  • Much online content is being consumed on mobile now, so focus specifically on the design and usability of your mobile apps.
  • Online marketing is essentially geared towards getting more traffic onto your site. The more people visit, the better your chances of increasing sales.

Want more insight on how digital marketing is evolving? See Shutterstock Report: The Face Of Marketing Is Changing — And It Doesn’t Include Vince Vaughn.


About Sunny Popali

Sunny Popali is SEO Director at Tempo Creative is a Phoenix inbound marketing company that has served over 700 clients since 2001. Tempos team specializes in digital and internet marketing services including web design, SEO, social media and strategy.

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4 Biggest Risks In NOT Using Social Media

April Crichlow

These days social media is critical for success in business. Early adopters have made great strides, using it to engage with customers online and find new clients. For the laggards — typically small businesses that think they don’t have the resources or need for social media — the question looms: “Is social media a fad, or is it here to stay?”

Unfortunately for these companies, social media is here to stay. There are four major risks in not using social platforms as a business tool:

  1. You risk being out of the loop. Social media is a key channel for consumers collecting information and connecting with other consumers. It is also a great opportunity for companies to engage with current customers, as well as potential customers, all over the world. By not using social media, you run the risk of losing customers, credibility, and crucial information that can benefit your business. Even if you choose not to actively participate in discussions, you need be aware and stay informed regarding conversations about your company. Don’t stick your head in the ground and hope for social media to “blow on by.”
  1. You can’t respond to negative comments about your business. When customers are not satisfied with your product or service, one of the first things many will do is complain on Twitter or Facebook, or they will write a bad review online. If you are not actively keeping tabs on these discussions and reviews, they can hurt your reputation and cost you potential business. How can you protect your brand if you don’t know what’s being said about it online? Social media is now the default platform for customer service. Instead of calling an 800 number, consumers want to send businesses a tweet or post something on a Facebook page. When they can’t find you online, they will go to a review site such a Yelp or Merchant Circle to complain and warn other customers. However, if they have a relationship with your company, they are much less likely to take such actions and will instead send you an email or a private message about the problem.
  1. You risk missing the positive comments about your business. Customers also leave positive feedback online about companies with which they do business. However, if they believe their comments won’t be read by the companies they are praising, satisfied customers are less likely to leave feedback.
  1. You risk giving your competitors an unfair advantage. If your competitors are active on social media and you are not, your rivals have a leg up on winning business from potential customers. You don’t allow for comparisons and can’t answer questions in real time. Unless your product or service is overwhelmingly superior, this is one risk you cannot afford to take!

Social media is an excellent forum to participate in discussions happening right now about your business and your industry. Building an active presence on social sites offers numerous opportunities to promote your products and services, provide outlets for customer service, and check up on your competition. It’s not too late to start using social media as a business tool…but one day soon, it might be.

If you are an SAP partner and would like to learn more about this topic, join me on Dec 1st for How to Spend 15 Minutes a Day on Social Without Breaking a Sweat. Register now: (s-user) #SAPMarketingAcademy


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