Learn from Social Selling to make your e-mails hot

It has happened fast, the shift from using social media in your daily selling. Studies such as this from CEB and Google tells more than one-half of the sales process is gone. Or, more precisely, customers run their buying process at least 57% before they get in touch with a sales rep, in some cases much longer than that.

Conclusion: There’s not much time left to make some impact on your prospects’ decisions.

New social media techniques are therefore essential for your sales success. However, one part of your sales lead production is still left to be traditional, such as sending a prospecting e-mail. It may not be a great part of your sales work and it will definitely be decreasing. But you’d better not ignore it in a foreseeable future.

The challenge is though, partly because of the mentions above, it’s getting harder to create sales leads from traditional methods. So what to do?

Why not turn the knowledge transfer the other way round? Why not learn from recently learned social selling skills and apply those best practise on traditional prospecting as well?

Social selling to e-mail

To do so, you need to define what elements in your social selling that are key to your success and map them to traditional selling tasks. The very best experts in this area is Barbara Giamanco. My own key elements are these five:

  • Curiosity
  • Relevance
  • Value
  • Expertise
  • Ease

Curiosity. Most of us are crazy curious about things we are interested in. You might be interested in discussions in your specific marketplace and what your competitors are doing right now. Social media lets you see what they are discussing and bother about for the moment.

Relevance. In today’s overflow of information you need to be mega relevant when you discuss things. Don’t bother participate in social media discussions or write articles if you’re not relevant.

Value. Only pure customer value counts in social media. Value is measured by the customer, not you.

Expertise. Customers are doing a major part of their buying process without contacting you, but they still need information. They turn to their personal contacts and relevant public information to make their decisions. In social media, it’s easier than ever to be their “personal” contact and provide in depth relevant information.

Ease. In social media you cannot sell. Your only “sale” is a “like”, comment or an accepted invitation on LinkedIn. Easy actions from prospects are connected to a sort of “cost” for them, but it’s affordable low, such as “Yes, I can like this article”, “Well, I should comment on this” or “Fair enough, I can afford to be his friend or contact”.

OK, I will now try to apply my social selling key elements to a traditional prospecting e-mail that turns it from cold to really hot. For some years now I’ve been able to test a method using these social selling key elements in traditional prospecting e-mails with extraordinary results.

In 96% of the cases I’ve got contact and a booked meeting with the right people, access to the decision maker and a list of people that have an impact on my sale.

My method uses both phone and e-mail, and requires three prerequisites:

  1. Cell phone number to the most top manager you can get
  2. E-mail address to the same
  3. At least one success story this top manager can relate to (a competitor to his business is ultimate)

Prepare a short manuscript for leaving a short voicemail (because he will likely not answer your call) to the top manager when you call. Don’t forget to finish with: “…I will also send you an e-mail summarizing what I’ve said for your convenience”. This is just a heads-up when the e-mail arrives and connects to your first sentence in your e-mail.

Now it’s time to compose the e-mail.

Subject line. The only purpose of the subject line is to make the top manager to open your e-mail and should consist of two things and in this order: Relevance + Curiosity. The part of the subject line “Heat Exchangers” makes Relevance (if e-mail sent to top manager in a industrial construction company) and the part “Competitor X” stimulates Curiosity (“what have they done that makes relevance to us…?”).

Example: Heat Exchangers to Competitor X

First sentences in Body. The first sentences in the body will do two things; connect to your voicemail and pitch Value. These first sentences are maybe the only few the top manager will read, so plan your words very carefully. The sentences have to be short and describe the value generally so the top manager easily can understand it. The value has to be relevant to his role, challenges he may struggle with and in words such as money, bottom line, etc.

Example: “I was trying to reach you earlier today but didn’t succeed, so here’s a short summary of my voicemail. As you certainly are aware of, the Challenge B has become a major concern to companies in your industry. As I mentioned in my voicemail, we’ve been working together with Competitor X and by implementing our heat exchangers with our unique feature Y, Competitor X has decreased their total cost by 20% and improved their bottom line with more than 15%. I would like to discuss with you how we’ve been able to achieve these improvements related to your specific business environment”.

Middle body. This part has to be written pretty complex. The reason is that when the top manager starts to read it, he may understand what it is about, but need to involve expertise to determine if it’s interesting enough to spend time on. What will he do?

Yes, of course the top manager will distribute the e-mail to whom it belongs to. And this is exactly what you want!

You want other people impacting your case to be engaged. Also, when anybody later on get in touch with you it might be by forwarding your own e-mail message. If so, you can just scroll down and see all relevant names by reading cc:s etc.

The body should further explain what you’ve done at Competitor X and what more value they’ve got by implementing your solution. You have to show your deep expertise. But please note, I don’t encourage you to reveal competitors’ business critical details and break non-disclosure agreements. Your text in the body should therefore consist of industry details that the internal experts or department managers can relate to and judge to be true and credible, without having you to reveal secrets.

Communication should be in context of “from one expert to another”. This part of your e-mail has to win those experts’ hearts. They don’t easily change their minds investing in new partners or technology, because they’re not embracing change and are definitely prioritizing low risk above most other things. But they also are pragmatists and may be convinced by market leaders. That’s reminds me of the most excellent book in marketing strategy I know, Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey A Moore. It tells the higher relevance you have to their needs and greater market leadership you may prove, the higher chance you’ll get. Maybe you’re not the well-known market leader, but nobody says how tiny markets should be defined…

Finish. The finish will call for action, but in bite size. It really should be “at no cost” to further engage with you. That makes the Ease for them to engage. “Why not, a meeting with this guy only cost us the time of one hour…?”

Example: “I’d like to schedule a one hour meeting at your premises, anytime that fits your schedules and of course entirely unconditionally, where I may further explain what we’ve done for Competitor X and other companies in your industry”. You see, you conclude your message with curiosity as well to improve your snakebite rate…

Now you have to wait. Don’t disturb the process for a while by calling them too early to follow up. My experience is that a minimum “radio silence” of three weeks are necessary for their process to execute. Think about it; there are lots of things you may have set in motion on the prospect’s side: e-mails that have to be forwarded, internal discussions, meetings etc.

So just wait. Your social selling boosted e-mail is hopefully just getting hotter than ever.

 

 

3 stories that reveal if your sales attitude is out of date

It’s not easy to cope with all dramatic changes now happening around how to sell. High performing sales reps do, but my following true stories tell many people within sales and SMB’s still have a long way to go before they would be able to compete in the future.

outofdate

Story #1

In my garden there was until recently a huge red leafed beech. It’s height was almost 60 feet and due to that we couldn’t leave it for another year. We had to take it down. In my former life I certainly was a monkey or such animal, so I went out climbing up to the top, taking down one branch at a time.

One day later I was satisfied with my work. However, the tree trunk was still left. I scanned the internet after firms that could help me taking the trunk down. I called a few local firms and selected one that already the coming Friday was able to finish the work. Being an experienced sales person, I appreciate if a buyer comes back to me, even if it’s just to tell me I lost the deal, so I went out texting those firms that lost my deal.

Here’s the text dialog with one of them:

Me: Sorry, but I have to tell I selected another firm for the job. Thanks for your time anyhow 🙂

The sales rep: Now you lost a lot of money! We’re always 30-40% below our competitors.

Me: (slightly sarcastic) Ooops, then it certainly was a lot of money, maybe several dollars? But you didn’t check all of my needs when you called – I wanted to get the job done already this week… By the way; care about what you’re texting – just a small tips.

The sales rep: I always stand up for what I write or say. I’ve been in business since the 90’s and last year we got 96% of all jobs in your town.

Me: (increasingly upset) Think about if I had another tree I needed to take down? Regarding your attitude, do you really think I would be contacting you again? Blaming a potential customer is not a good choice. I’ve been in sales for a long time and teach sales reps, it might be a good advice to join one of my sales training classes…?

The sales rep: You should consider a training class in Foresight to earn some money!

End of story.

Lesson learned. Always accept a lost deal with a smile and a “good luck”. Look at it as a new opportunity that starts. We all know prospecting takes time and even if you lost this deal, you got in touch and next time it’s a warm call.

Story #2

This story is recently shared from my brother. He had some problems with his chainsaw (I know; you may think we are all in forestry…) and went to a retail store to get it fixed. He asked for service and the sales rep took the chainsaw into his repair shop. The brand was one of those they were selling in the store and the sales rep promised to fix it. But this was what happened next:

The sales rep: OK, I know what’s wrong, we’ll fix it. By the way, where did you buy it?

My brother: (little embarrased) On the Internet…

The sales rep: ON THE INTERNET????? Just go away and take your worthless chainsaw with you! People buying things ON THE INTERNET are not welcome in my store!!!

Lesson learned. Not adjusting your attitude and business to modern buying processes where customers using the internet and social media to educate themselves, buy things and compare, are just out of date. It’s a major threat for SMB’s but not aligning to reality is only stupid. Such aligning might be: “Great, we have a special offer for those buying on the internet, it’s a service agreement for only 99 dollars per year and I can make this included as the first repair. Would you like to fill in this form, please?”

Story #3

This story is a short one, also shared from my brother. His mower was not starting, so he called a local shop to get it fixed. However, the shop was closing at 4 PM and he knew he was a little late calling 4.05 PM:

The sales rep: (first thing saying) Do you know what time it is???

My brother: Well yes, I actually do, but I took a chance and called anyhow; and lucky me, you answered.

The sales rep: We’re closing at 4.00 PM, you cannot call later. Come back tomorrow! Then he hung up.

Lesson learned. Nothing is closed anymore. Business is always open, 24/7. Opening hours are restricting in itself, but here’s the worst thing about the short conversation above: The sales rep was actually picking up the phone. It’s not just missing the call if he didn’t answer, he also damaged his brand and that may be unrepairable.

Recognize any of these stories by your own? Do you have any more examples of out of date sales attitudes? Please tell in the comment line below! Maybe we all as high performing sales reps would get a big laugh at least 🙂

 

A New Customer Without Any Sales; That Isn’t Luck.

A couple of weeks ago a company just called me and said they will buy my product. I hadn’t heard of them before and, of course, I hadn’t done any activity at all to sell. In fact, I wasn’t even aware of their bare existence.

I thought; Ohh, that’s pure luck!

Luck

But it was not. I mean, I was happy having them as customer buying my product, but it was no “luck” involved in getting them.

Five years ago, I got in contact with – as I hoped – a new partner company. We were the perfect match; our products complement each other perfectly. One day they called me in to do an introduction for a couple of hours, so they would be able to understand my product better. Since my hope was that they would provide leads to me, I accepted.

How naive was that, on a scale? Instead of a short introduction, they really pumped out of me all my knowledge. I felt somewhat robbed, but nevertheless, I like to give, so that was not a problem, but after that session I didn’t hear from them. Not a single faint whisper for five years.

Until a couple of weeks ago when my customer told me where they got my name from. “Call Stefan, he’s awesome doing that type of stuff”.

In the new type of sales process, which more or less doesn’t exists in the same way as before, the buyer is king. And in the new internet economy, most things of commodity are anticipated to be free. This means you cannot sell first. To sell, it’s anticipated you give first, to have a chance of any reward.

Lucky you, Sales Rep! In the new social world it’s easy to give. Of course you need to have some sort of skill, that may be sought after. Use that expertise to get into discussions, but be aware: DON’T SELL! Just provide your knowledge in a humble and confident manner, and you will leave a good aftertaste.

Lesson learned, your chances to be rewarded is much greater if you give first. It may take a long time, but sooner or later you will see the positive effects of giving are greater than the negative.

Happy Giving!

Stefan

 

 

 

Don’t Ask The Customer: Do Your Homework

Today was the third day in a row a sales person called and made exactly the same mistakes, ended up too suddenly.

Hi, I’m Paul. I’m calling from The Company X. Can you tell me who is responsible for Marketing in your organization?

Just a short sentence. I heard some background noise as well, imaging he was in a room where many people were doing the same as him.

It wasn’t abnormal. It was a typical sales call, but ended up in the same way as the other recent calls I got this week. I hung up. I never do such otherwise, except if I’ve not having time at all. I learn from bad and good sales people, just spending a few minutes, to get a fresh experience of how sales reps are working nowadays, to get the stories of behavior and to perfect the advice I give to sales and business leaders.

research

This week wasn’t a bad one. And I wasn’t in a bad mood at all. Still; I couldn’t stand the way these sales persons called. It was so many faults.

So, can you “Find Five Faults”?

First.

When you call, go to a quiet place. If I hear other voices, I think of two scenarios – both are bad. Either the working environment is too bad for the person calling: “are they really so many employees so close to each other?” or – and more obvious: it’s a call center guy with a list to call. So my feeling is that I’m devalued, only being a row in a list. If he doesn’t catch me, it doesn’t matter, he’s just going on calling…

Second.

He didn’t know my name. Addressing by pronouncing the receivers name means he want to speak with me personally, not my role or position.

Third.

Don’t ask for anything if you’re not giving something first. The sales rep asked me to give him the name of my marketing manager. Why should I? What do I get in return? A ticket to the cinema or theater? It connects to the Third as well: He don’t want to talk to me, just my role. To bad for him, since I am the marketing manager…

Fourth.

Do your homework. You may find most information about my company on the internet. As a sales rep, if you don’t have the time to spend a couple of minutes scanning my web to get who is the marketing manager, you probably not are having time to help me either. You will take my money and go away. I understand, sometimes the information on the net can be somewhat scanty, but again, that’s no problem. There’s lists to buy. If you can’t afford buying a list of names – I recognize that as a not solid enterprise you’re calling from.

Fifth.

Begin your call by mentioning a pain you know – and I mean really know – the prospect has. Even if most of the sales process is gone nowadays, the buying process is still ongoing. Take part in your prospects’ searching for help and best practise, using social media channels. Learn to be a helping star and you will get close enough to hear their biggest pains.

Don’t take me wrong here. I really care about you sales reps out there. I’ve been a rep by myself and I know the hard work you have to do. But why are you walking a path full of thorns?

Good luck out there!

 

 

 

Passion Makes Excellence In Sales, Too

Did you know one of the most successful songwriters and producers is Max Martin, the man behind numerous hits by Taylor Swift, Maroon 5, Kelly Clarkson, Pink, Backstreet Boys (yes, I’m really so old…) and incredible twenty-one No 1 on the Billboard list?

What is his burning flame? What are his key success factors? If we can define them, may we translate them to a sales environment as well?

Passion in heart

Let’s give it a try.

Definition No 1. Learning the craftmanship.

Recently I read an interview with Max Martin in the swedish newspaper DI Weekend (interview is in swedish) by Jan Gradvall. Max Martin invited passionated young people to his studio to “get the right feeling” for years. The “pupil’s” work tasks included making coffee and other basic alternative boring tasks, not connected to music at all. But they consumed the atmosphere, the culture in the studio. They learned the details the hard way by just being there. Why would talented producer wannabes spend that enormous amount of time just making coffee? One reason is of course the fantastic opportunity to meet famous pop stars. Wouldn’t it feel nice serving a cup of coffee to  Bon Jovi ? But that’s not my point. To produce a song going to the top of the Billboard list, it requires craftmanship.

In sales, the craftmanship will start being a sales or marketing assistant to senior sales pros or learn from them by listening or reading their books.

Definition No 2. The fuel is Passion.

To learn to be a craftman it takes years – and blood, sweat and tears. If you like to be a famous producer, being in an environment like Max Martin Studio would be the perfect place learning perfection. To cope with daily coffee making I believe you have to have a lot passion for music. The passion is the fuel you will be putting into it, it’s your investment in your education.

What is passion in sales? Of course, it’s the love of talking to prospects and customers, but I think of it on a little higher level. It’s the every-day moments in your life. If you choose a crime novel before you go to bed in the night instead of a sales book by Dave Stein, you probably haven’t got the sales passion. But if the shoe size of your prospect’s CEO does matter to you, you’re on the right level. If you are taking classes in your spare time (instead of watching a movie or playing softball) to learn more about the prospect’s business environment, you are on track having sufficiently high content of passion in your blood.

Because there are no short cuts creating perfection. And you will need perfection to exist in a never ending increase of competition.

Take care / Stefan

 

 

The Ultimate Sales Boom – Have You Done Your Toothbrush Test?

All sales people are looking for easy sales. When the customer buys – not you selling. No matter what, the customers seem to flow into your order books without any effort at all.

You’re in the Tornado.

The term “Tornado” is perfectly defined by my favorite marketing author Geoffery A Moore; author of the bestselling book “Crossing The Chasm” and following “Inside The Tornado”. In the serie of books Moore dicusses how to bridge the chasm in the technology life cycle between visionaries and pragmatists by defining your smallest niche and buildning a bridge-head on the pragmatist’s “Tornado” shore of the chasm using a bowling pin strategy. In my blog post Niche Marketing Defeats Large Competitors I go a little deeper in this topic of how. Interesting though that’s a lot of efforts and may take good piece of time.

And – more important – that strategy was introduced long before the social medias were born.

Nowadays we have examples as King (Candy Crush Saga) and more companies that really take advantage of the social media technology for their success. I’m pretty sure Candy Crush hasn’t been that huge success without Facebook. What’s new is that King builds the social media into the business model itself.

In Candy Crush Saga, Facebook is not a fancy add-on, it’s literally the true salesman for aquiring new users, collaboration between them and of course building the loyal community that will continue to spend time and money in the product.

Well. You may say this would only apply for consumer products or services, not B2B. I think it can, at least for digitial services. And if you do your Toothbrush Test.

Toothbrush

A toothbrush test is a way of testing if your product is used frequently enough to change peoples lives. You’ll not gonna change somebody’s life if your product is used one or twice a week. But if your product is so compelling or desirable that people will use it as often they brush their teeth – in average two times per day and as a habit – then you will have a good starting point for a tornado.

Then it’s a question of how large your target group is – how many people would change their lives using your product. It doesn’t matter if your product is even so amazing for your favorite customer, if it’s not applicable to more than them.

A couple of weeks ago I visited Singularity University in Silicon Valley. Their mission is to research in and inspire leaders to apply exponential technologies to address humanity’s grand challenges. To change the lives of billions of people. I learned, if you want a massive tornado, start change your perspective: For how many can my product change their lives? And in what way?

Here’s the paradox; you need to narrow down your idea to a tiny vertical, but the customer need have to be valid for many more people than in this initial vertical to get a tornado in place. As it’s told in the book “Crossing The Chasm” you first become the market leader in one verical and then, maybe after years, the adjacent verticals will fall as bowling pins since they have identical needs, and at the end creating that tornado.

Of course you haven’t got that time. You want the tornado now. The toothbrush customer need is your key to very fast create your tornado.

To succeed, you need to switch your perspective looking more at customer need than features you have in your existing product. To start, ask the following questions to yourself:

  • Can you narrow your business idea to fulfill one single core need?
  • Would that fulfillment change the lives for many people you’re targeting?
  • Will your product be used (at least) twice a day?
  • Is it easy to make it a habit? Gamification has the potential to add stickiness to your product in a whole new way
  • Is your product easy to share or – better: is the social medias a part of your service and business model?

Happy to be with you today, we’ll keep in touch!

Stefan

The Sales Letter Comes Last in Sales

Many years ago I was about to replace our account manager for one of our large key clients. At the same time, the intention was to discuss a new need they had where we may be solving by using our new exciting (and expensive…) product. The former key account manager, a very experienced and wise business man – my mentor, was with me in the meeting.

After presentations, I started out talking about our solution and there was a fruitable and interesting dialogue. A couple of hours later the meeting session was ended and I felt I’ve got some really positive response from the client. I was hoping for a fast sales process.

My mentor told me I would loosing this deal because I talked too much. Keep your mouth shut, he said, and start listen. If you do, our client would have been sharing his fear, real need and pain. Now he didn’t tell anything about that. How can we solve anything if we don’t know what to solve? Then he told me a joke: What’s the similarity between a crocodile and a sales rep…?

crocodile

I’ve just came across a blog post by Nancy Bleeke: Mouth shut, Ears opened. Bleeke tells the same as my mentor did. If you just listen and observe nuances in tone, choice of words or body language, you will gain so much more. Bleeke states that people would talk if you let them. I thought I did, but I didn’t. And you’re so busy talking and putting focus on your own pitches, you haven’t got the state of observation of the tiny messages your client is sending out. It’s about communication, but while the sender is ON the reciever is in OFF mode or vice versa.

My mentor was right; I never got that deal. Lesson learned: The sales letter comes last in sales, not first. If It’s not broken, why fix it? But you need to check first if it’s broken. Then investigate the complete environment around the broken thing; pain, fear, urgency, opportunity and so on before you can go on building your case.

The process would be something like this:

  • Build the relationship
  • Learn what the real needs and desires are about
  • Create your solution for these needs and desires, based upon benefits
  • Identify objections to your solution
  • Gather proof your solution is the way forward
  • Develop your guarantee it will be

When this is ready, only then comes the sales letter. It’s not any adracadabra. It’s a structured behaviour that has been working in sales since start of mankind.

Connecting to my blog post Early Customer Buiyng Process in a Social World I pointed out this behaviour also would be working in the new digital social world. Building relationships on a global level have never been easier using LinkedIn, Twitter and similar tools and following groups and forums will give you information about real needs and pains. Providing solutions should be more like giving advices and experiences without having any expectations of getting anything back.

In a lively discussion you will gain a lot of objections. Use them and train your self meeting them. Learn how the objections may develop your own solution. Finally, try to get buzz from different sources and people in your network, that will get stronger proof and guarantee.

Following the recommended behaviour you sooner or later will discover the major part of your sales process would go on without sending any sales letter at all. By the way, it’s no use sending sales messages in such forums anyhow. But it’s worth waiting for.

Keep listening and observing and your deals will go smoothly into your arms.

Oh, was just about to forget to tell you the right answer of the joke; what’s the similarity between a crocodile and a sales rep? Both have a big mouth and no ears…

Best Regards,
Stefan

Checkout the Sales Scenario app for iPad, thanks.