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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 > > http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YCQvdsm6nsg

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 > > http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tuMYvHGL210

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 > > http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rofgMueCOqo

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.

Collaboration

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.

Summary

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 > > http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Bcx_Ra-gzs

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Why 3D Printed Food Just Transformed Your Supply Chain

Hans Thalbauer

Numerous sectors are experimenting with 3D printing, which has the potential to disrupt many markets. One that’s already making progress is the food industry.

The U.S. Army hopes to use 3D printers to customize food for each soldier. NASA is exploring 3D printing of food in space. The technology could eventually even end hunger around the world.

What does that have to do with your supply chain? Quite a bit — because 3D printing does more than just revolutionize the production process. It also requires a complete realignment of the supply chain.

And the way 3D printing transforms the supply chain holds lessons for how organizations must reinvent themselves in the new era of the extended supply chain.

Supply chain spaghetti junction

The extended supply chain replaces the old linear chain with not just a network, but a network of networks. The need for this network of networks is being driven by four key factors: individualized products, the sharing economy, resource scarcity, and customer-centricity.

To understand these forces, imagine you operate a large restaurant chain, and you’re struggling to differentiate yourself against tough competition. You’ve decided you can stand out by delivering customized entrees. In fact, you’re going to leverage 3D printing to offer personalized pasta.

With 3D printing technology, you can make one-off pasta dishes on the fly. You can give customers a choice of ingredients (gluten-free!), flavors (salted caramel!), and shapes (Leaning Towers of Pisa!). You can offer the personalized pasta in your restaurants, in supermarkets, and on your ecommerce website.

You may think this initiative simply requires you to transform production. But that’s just the beginning. You also need to re-architect research and development, demand signals, asset management, logistics, partner management, and more.

First, you need to develop the matrix of ingredients, flavors, and shapes you’ll offer. As part of that effort, you’ll have to consider health and safety regulations.

Then, you need to shift some of your manufacturing directly into your kitchens. That will also affect packaging requirements. Logistics will change as well, because instead of full truckloads, you’ll be delivering more frequently, with more variety, and in smaller quantities.

Next, you need to perfect demand signals to anticipate which pasta variations in which quantities will come through which channels. You need to manage supply signals source more kinds of raw materials in closer to real time.

Last, the source of your signals will change. Some will continue to come from point of sale. But others, such as supplies replenishment and asset maintenance, can come direct from your 3D printers.

Four key ingredients of the extended supply chain

As with our pasta scenario, the drivers of the extended supply chain require transformation across business models and business processes. First, growing demand for individualized products calls for the same shifts in R&D, asset management, logistics, and more that 3D printed pasta requires.

Second, as with the personalized entrees, the sharing economy integrates a network of partners, from suppliers to equipment makers to outsourced manufacturing, all electronically and transparently interconnected, in real time and all the time.

Third, resource scarcity involves pressures not just on raw materials but also on full-time and contingent labor, with the necessary skills and flexibility to support new business models and processes.

And finally, for personalized pasta sellers and for your own business, it all comes down to customer-centricity. To compete in today’s business environment and to meet current and future customer expectations, all your operations must increasingly revolve around rapidly comprehending and responding to customer demand.

Want to learn more? Check out my recent video on digitalizing the extended supply chain.

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Hans Thalbauer

About Hans Thalbauer

Hans Thalbauer is the Senior Vice President, Extended Supply Chain, at SAP. He is responsible for the strategic direction and the Go-To-Market of solutions for Supply Chain, Logistics, Engineering/R&D, Manufacturing, Asset Management and Sustainability at SAP.

How to Design a Flexible, Connected Workspace 

John Hack, Sam Yen, and Elana Varon

SAP_Digital_Workplace_BRIEF_image2400x1600_2The process of designing a new product starts with a question: what problem is the product supposed to solve? To get the right answer, designers prototype more than one solution and refine their ideas based on feedback.

Similarly, the spaces where people work and the tools they use are shaped by the tasks they have to accomplish to execute the business strategy. But when the business strategy and employees’ jobs change, the traditional workspace, with fixed walls and furniture, isn’t so easy to adapt. Companies today, under pressure to innovate quickly and create digital business models, need to develop a more flexible work environment, one in which office employees have the ability to choose how they work.

SAP_Digital_Emotion_BRIEF_image175pxWithin an office building, flexibility may constitute a variety of public and private spaces, geared for collaboration or concentration, explains Amanda Schneider, a consultant and workplace trends blogger. Or, she adds, companies may opt for customizable spaces, with moveable furniture, walls, and lighting that can be adjusted to suit the person using an unassigned desk for the day.

Flexibility may also encompass the amount of physical space the company maintains. Business leaders want to be able to set up operations quickly in new markets or in places where they can attract top talent, without investing heavily in real estate, says Sande Golgart, senior vice president of corporate accounts with Regus.

Thinking about the workspace like a designer elevates decisions about the office environment to a strategic level, Golgart says. “Real estate is beginning to be an integral part of the strategy, whether that strategy is for collaborating and innovating, driving efficiencies, attracting talent, maintaining higher levels of productivity, or just giving people more amenities to create a better, cohesive workplace,” he says. “You will see companies start to distance themselves from their competition because they figured out the role that real estate needs to play within the business strategy.”

The SAP Center for Business Insight program supports the discovery and development of  new research-­based thinking to address the challenges of business and technology executives.

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Sam Yen

About Sam Yen

Sam Yen is the Chief Design Officer for SAP and the Managing Director of SAP Labs Silicon Valley. He is focused on driving a renewed commitment to design and user experience at SAP. Under his leadership, SAP further strengthens its mission of listening to customers´ needs leading to tangible results, including SAP Fiori, SAP Screen Personas and SAP´s UX design services.

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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.

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About Sunny Popali

Sunny Popali is SEO Director at www.tempocreative.com. 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.

Social Media Matters: 6 Content And Social Media Trend Predictions For 2016 [INFOGRAPHIC]

Julie Ellis

As 2015 winds down, it’s time to look forward to 2016 and explore the social media and content marketing trends that will impact marketing strategies over the next 15 months or so.

Some of the upcoming trends simply indicate an intensification of current trends, however others indicate that there are new things that will have a big impact in 2016.

Take a look at a few trends that should definitely factor in your planning for 2016.

1. SEO will focus more on social media platforms and less on search engines

Clearly Google is going nowhere. In fact, in 2016 Google’s word will still essentially be law when it comes to search engine optimization.

However, in 2016 there will be some changes in SEO. Many of these changes will be due to the fact that users are increasingly searching for products and services directly from websites such as Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube.

There are two reasons for this shift in customer habits:

  • Customers are relying more and more on customer comments, feedback, and reviews before making purchasing decisions. This means that they are most likely to search directly on platforms where they can find that information.
  • Customers who are seeking information about products and services feel that video- and image-based content is more trustworthy.

2. The need to optimize for mobile and touchscreens will intensify

Consumers are using their mobile devices and tablets for the following tasks at a sharply increasing rate:

  • Sending and receiving emails and messages
  • Making purchases
  • Researching products and services
  • Watching videos
  • Reading or writing reviews and comments
  • Obtaining driving directions and using navigation apps
  • Visiting news and entertainment websites
  • Using social media

Most marketers would be hard-pressed to look at this list and see any case for continuing to avoid mobile and touchscreen optimization. Yet, for some reason many companies still see mobile optimization as something that is nice to do, but not urgent.

This lack of a sense of urgency seemingly ignores the fact that more than 80% of the highest growing group of consumers indicate that it is highly important that retailers provide mobile apps that work well. According to the same study, nearly 90% of Millennials believe that there are a large number of websites that have not done a very good job of optimizing for mobile.

3. Content marketing will move to edgier social media platforms

Platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat weren’t considered to be valid targets for mainstream content marketing efforts until now.

This is because they were considered to be too unproven and too “on the fringe” to warrant the time and marketing budget investments, when platforms such as Facebook and YouTube were so popular and had proven track records when it came to content marketing opportunity and success.

However, now that Instagram is enjoying such tremendous growth, and is opening up advertising opportunities to businesses beyond its brand partners, it (along with other platforms) will be seen as more and more viable in 2016.

4. Facebook will remain a strong player, but the demographic of the average user will age

In 2016, Facebook will likely remain the flagship social media website when it comes to sharing and promoting content, engaging with customers, and increasing Internet recognition.

However, it will become less and less possible to ignore the fact that younger consumers are moving away from the platform as their primary source of online social interaction and content consumption. Some companies may be able to maintain status quo for 2016 without feeling any negative impacts.

However, others may need to rethink their content marketing strategies for 2016 to take these shifts into account. Depending on their branding and the products or services that they offer, some companies may be able to profit from these changes by customizing the content that they promote on Facebook for an older demographic.

5. Content production must reflect quality and variety

  • Both B2B and B2C buyers value video based content over text based content.
  • While some curated content is a good thing, consumers believe that custom content is an indication that a company wishes to create a relationship with them.
  • The great majority of these same consumers report that customized content is useful for them.
  • B2B customers prefer learning about products and services through content as opposed to paid advertising.
  • Consumers believe that videos are more trustworthy forms of content than text.

Here is a great infographic depicting the importance of video in content marketing efforts:
Small Business Video infographic

A final, very important thing to note when considering content trends for 2016 is the decreasing value of the keyword as a way of optimizing content. In fact, in an effort to crack down on keyword stuffing, Google’s optimization rules have been updated to to kick offending sites out of prime SERP positions.

6. Oculus Rift will create significant changes in customer engagement

Oculus Rift is not likely to offer much to marketers in 2016. After all, it isn’t expected to ship to consumers until the first quarter. However, what Oculus Rift will do is influence the decisions that marketers make when it comes to creating customer interaction.

For example, companies that have not yet embraced storytelling may want to make 2016 the year that they do just that, because later in 2016 Oculus Rift may be the platform that their competitors will be using to tell stories while giving consumers a 360-degree vantage point.

For a deeper dive on engaging with customers through storytelling, see Brand Storytelling: Where Humanity Takes Center Stage.

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About Julie Ellis

Julie Ellis – marketer and professional blogger, writes about social media, education, self-improvement, marketing and psychology. To contact Julie follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn.