Sales and Sales Management Blog

January 8, 2013

Is There a Dehumanizing Impact From Social Media?

Filed under: Communication,Sales 2.0,technology — Paul McCord @ 12:37 pm
Tags: , ,

Last week I wrote a post about the many emails I get from sales trainers asking me to post their articles on my blog but who, rather than recognizing that they are in a sales situation, take a completely self-centered approach to making the request.  These are presumably smart individuals that have simply forgotten what they know about sales and make the most basic selling mistake possible—making it all about themselves.

But I’ve noticed this “all about me” attitude is creeping into many other places such as responses to blog posts, on forums, and in Facebook and Twitter discussions.  Worse, I’ve noticed a gradual coarsening of language.

Certainly much of the above has existed for quite some time in the realm of political and sports discourse on social media, but slowly over time this self-centeredness and rudeness seems to be creeping into the normal everyday discourse including, on occasion, sales discourse—and not just between sellers but with customers or potential customers also.

With this observation comes the natural question of what’s the cause and remedy?

Is the cause a callusing of our culture?  Is it the impersonal nature of the technology?  Or as the world becomes more hectic and our lives become more demanding are we simply unconsciously reacting by becoming more self-centered?

I can certainly see that any or all of the above could be a catalyst for the obnoxious behavior we are seeing more of on social media—as well as other technology such as email, text messaging, and such.

I suspect the majority of the behavior and the attitude the behavior emanates from comes primarily from the dehumanizing impact of the technology itself.  More and more we find ourselves interacting with machines rather than people—and it is easy to divorce ourselves from the human on the other and focus on the medium; and once we start talking to the medium instead of a person it isn’t that difficult to toss aside the normal rules of human interaction, for after all, we are no longer dealing with a person but an impersonal, unfeeling machine.

Or maybe it is a sense that we have virtually the freedom of anonymity as we often know little or nothing about the other person or persons we are addressing; they aren’t people but just disembodied words that show up on a forum, a text message, a tweet, or an email..

Certainly we don’t encounter the above behavior on a regular basis—at least not at this point.

But I am concerned.

Technology is a very useful tool—but simply a tool, not a replacement for human interaction.  More than once I’ve been visiting with a salesperson who texted their manager or another seller who was no more than 10 feet away.  Slowly face-to-face or even phone interaction is being replace with the idea that a text message is quicker—and who wants to get into a conversation when a question can be asked and answered in seconds rather than minutes?

While visiting with one seller, she sent an email to her manager asking a rather detailed question.  I asked her why she just didn’t pick up the phone and get the answer without having to wait for a response to her email.  She said that if she called her manager she’d have to answer questions about this prospect or that deal and she just didn’t like having to answer all those questions–and email and text messaging kept her boss away—it was a very real insulator from having to interact with another human..

Are the rules of interaction changing due to technology?  Are we slowly losing our human-ness, at least as we’ve known it?  Is there really a dehumanizing impact to social media and communication technology?

I would love to see a solution, but based on the history of social media in other areas I suspect the trend will continue.  Possibly the most I can hope for is that the trend be slow.  The good news is that there will always be a segment of users who will not forget that the technology is nothing more than the medium and that the real focus is the other person.  Hopefully that segment will always be the vast majority.  In the long run, I’m not sure it will be.

Follow me on Twitter: @paul_mccord
Facebook http://www.facebook.com/McCordTraining
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=6953584&trk=tab_pro

Advertisements

October 29, 2012

Discover LinkedIn’s Impact on Sales

Filed under: sales,Sales 2.0,selling,small business,technology — Paul McCord @ 10:15 am
Tags: , , ,

What’s the best way to use LinkedIn to drive sales? How are other sellers using it?

That’s a question almost all of us would love to have the answer to.  If you wonder if you’re just spinning your wheels, wasting your time with Linkedin or if you’re not, how to get the most out of it, my friend Jill Konrath is conducting a survey that explores exactly how sellers are using Linkedin and how to get the most out of it.  And she really needs your input–and since you need her findings, it’s one of those gosh darn authentic win/win situations for the both of you.

So, if you’d like to find out the answers, take Jill’s Sales & LinkedIn survey.   It’ll take about 2 minutes of your time.

Just do it, take the survey –> http://bit.ly/Sales-LI-Survey-cm

What do you get out of it? As soon as the survey results are ready, she’ll send you a copy. You’ll find out the best way to use LinkedIn to drive sales.

 Your input is really needed. Go here to take the survey now –> http://bit.ly/Sales-LI-Survey-cm

August 21, 2012

SEO, Driving Traffic, and Increasing Sales

Filed under: marketing,prospecting,Sales 2.0 — Paul McCord @ 10:27 am
Tags: , , ,

I’ve run across a number of small businesses lately that have flushed good dollars down the drain with untargeted or inexperienced SEO (search engine optimization) services.

If you have a website, I’m sure you’ve received the email or call from someone trying to sell you SEO services with the promise of increasing your page ranking in search engines which will drive more traffic to your site and thus increase your on-line sales.  And if you’ve bitten on any of these sales calls you have probably discovered on-line selling isn’t as easy as paying someone to optimize your website.

Don’t get me wrong, you need traffic to your website and SEO can be an important part of attracting that traffic.

The problem with the typical search engine optimization solicitation you get is from a company that doesn’t really understand your business or your market.  In order to gain the knowledge they need in order to be able to really help you target a specific market, they must rely on you to give them information and direction. 

So they ask questions that they believe will help them gain the knowledge and understanding they need. 

The problem is often they aren’t asking the right questions for your product or service.  Worse, many will simply ask you to tell them what you want and need, expecting you to be the expert on what will get you where you want to be.  Even worse, some simply won’t ask anything and will wing it, hoping that by simply driving more people to your site you’ll get more sales.

The fact is you don’t need SEO; you need targeted SEO. 

You don’t need increased traffic; you need increased quality traffic.

You don’t need people visiting your website; you need prospects visiting your site.

You need someone that understands what it is you do and who you need to bring to your site.  You need someone that has the background to understand your business and who has a record of reaching your market.

Search engine optimization does not equate to increased quality traffic and thus increased sales unless it is laser focused to bring you the right visitors. 

By all means spend the necessary dollars on optimizing your website.  But spend those dollars wisely.  Do your homework and hire someone who has a track record targeting and attracting your market.  If you don’t, you may increase traffic but you more then likely won’t justify the expense with increased sales.

 

Connect with me on Twitter: @paul_mccord

or on Facebook:  http://www.facebook./McCordTraining

April 11, 2012

Lessons for Sellers from the Unsocial Media

Filed under: Communication,Sales 2.0 — Paul McCord @ 4:14 pm
Tags: , , ,

Is it just me or are others finding that they’re getting more and more brazen sales solicitations of various kinds from their new “friends,” “followers,” and “connections” than in the past?

It seems that when I friend or follow or connect with someone I’m far more likely now than in the past to get a direct message or inmail or email thanking me for following and “as a special gift” they offer me a super duper deal on their services or books or whatever. 

Often I’ll get an inmail thanking me for the connection and since they know that I’d love to follow their company page on Facebook they’ve taken the liberty to provide the link. 

Other times it is an outright blatant solicitation to sell me something without even the guise of a special offer. 

And sometimes it’s more subtle with an invitation to get to know one another on the phone—that within 30 seconds becomes a hard-line sales pitch.

It may simply be because more and more sellers are using Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social media and they’re ignorant of proper social media etiquette.

But it might also be a symptom of something more fundamental–the hazard of using a medium that is inherently unsocial—a computer.

Rude and obnoxious anonymous postings on forums and blogs have long been issues, along with the occasional in your face attempt to sell from a new friend, follower or connection. 

I’ve always chalked up the clumsy sales attempt as simply an etiquette error.  The rude and obnoxious comments on blogs and forums I’ve assumed was simply a result of having the luxury of being anonymous combined with “talking” to an inanimate computer screen.

But I’m beginning to think that there is a deeper inherent problem with social media than simply learning proper social media etiquette–and that problem is the impersonal nature of the computer itself.

Even though intellectually we know our emails, direct messages and inmails are going to another human, we are interacting with an inanimate object to talk to someone we do not know and whom know little to nothing about. 

Our message is then received by someone who is looking at an impersonal screen while reading the words of someone they do not know and many very well have never heard of before.

That is not a humanizing combination.  In fact, it makes it easy to dehumanize the other person because in a sense we’re not talking to a person until we get to know them a bit on a personal level.

In addition we may have a tendency to misinterpret the other person’s meaning when they friended or followed us.  Maybe they were looking to make a connection not because they were chomping at the bit to buy our stuff. 

But when dealing with a faceless person who we do not know and who we only have the barest of connections with it is easy to forget about their side of the equation and go full bore to satisfy our wants and needs.

The  direct messages, emails, and inmails we receive from other sellers should teach us a couple of hard and fast lessons:

  1. Slow down and consider why the other person might be wanting to connect with you—and realize that more than likely it isn’t because they’re dying to buy from you.
  2. Use the same rules of engagement you’d use if you met the person at a social gathering.  People are looking to make connections for all kinds of reasons but no matter the reason, trust and respect must be earned and built and that takes time.

Forget trying to push your wares or your website or your Facebook page as soon as you connect with someone.  Don’t screw up your new connection by immediately sending an unwanted, self-serving sales piece.  You may be typing to an inanimate computer screen, you may not know much about the person you’re writing to, and you may be anxious to make a sale, but the one thing you can count on is that whomever you’re writing to won’t appreciate being treated like a dollar sign to be rung up on the cash register.

November 2, 2011

Is Sales 2.0 Making the Buying Process More Difficult?

Filed under: marketing,sales,Sales 2.0,selling — Paul McCord @ 12:31 pm
Tags: , , ,

Sales 2.0 has been lauded as giving the customer control of the sales process since they can now research their options and make purchase decisions long before ever speaking to a salesperson—IF they ever speak to a salesperson.

Much has been written about how this new buyer controlled process will destroy the sales industry since more and more purchasing decisions will be made without ever consulting a salesperson; how buyers will continue to demand access to more and more free, objective information; and how all of this information will make the purchasing process quicker, easier, and more efficient for buyers.

I suspect that all of the predictions will prove to be absolutely, totally, unquestioningly incorrect.

I’m willing to bet that there will be a huge increase in the number of professional,  highly specialized sellers as a result of the avalanche of information made available to buyers.. 

I’m also willing to bet that the sheer amount of information available at one’s fingertips will increase the complexity of the purchasing process for most goods—even relatively simple purchases.

Just two very quick examples:

My wife and I are in the process of a major home improvement project.  We have ripped up perfectly good carpet from two rooms and perfectly good ceramic tile from three other rooms in order to put down a stone floor so we can cover it with more carpet in the form of rugs (what humans do sometimes makes no sense from a logical standpoint).  In years past the selection of rugs for the foyer, den, dining room and kitchen would have been easy—we have a few stores in town that sell rugs and we’d make a selection from their inventory.  In reality we’d select from maybe a few hundred rugs with a couple dozen being actual contenders.

Not now.  Not with the internet.

My wife has spent weeks searching through literally thousands and thousands of rugs from hundreds of vendors from across the world.  Her choices in terms of size, design, colors, and pattern are almost limitless.  Whereas in the past she would have been satisfied to make a selection from a very manageable number of options, she is now virtually paralyzed in making a selection by the sheer number of options.  More options mean more uncertainty.  

To help make the right decision, she’s brought in a design expert—a professional service provider who would never have been hired if not for the complexity of the decision created by the volume of choices the internet provides.

Further, the design expert says that Debbie is hardly her first new client she’s acquired because of the increased design choices offered by the internet. 

Such a simple thing—buying a few rugs—should only be a day’s work.  Instead, Debbie has invested hours and hours and hours over the course of weeks searching for rugs—and still had to bring in an expert to help make the decision.

But Debbie is far from the only one who has had to call in an expert and a simple consumer purchase is scarcely the only type of purchase the internet has complicated.

A manufacturing client of mine needed to acquire a phone system for a new office they were building.  The office would open with about 25 employees but was scheduled to staff more than 100 within two years. 

They had a committee assigned to do the research and make recommendations.  Over the course of a couple of months much time and effort was spent researching options on the internet.  In a relatively short period of time the committee had stacks and stacks of articles, brochures, and a massive amount of highly technical information.  Certainly they had enough factual information to make a decision.  However, it fairly quickly became obvious to the committee members that they needed an expert to help them wade through all of their options and make a well informed decision that maximized their current investment and gave them the flexibility for the anticipated quick and large expansion.

The result was another specialized seller was hired.  The internet gave the committee members everything they needed to know, but it couldn’t give them the background and experience to make the best decision on their own.  They could, of course, called in a seller from every possible vendor, but even then they would need someone to help sort things out in order to make the best possible decision.

Now certainly it can be argued that these are simply two isolated incidents and don’t represent the norm.  It can also be argued that neither case involved a salesperson per se.

I don’t think these are unusual cases in the least and I could give many more examples.  Further, both of the experts hired are individual consultants, so they are very much salespeople.

I don’t doubt that in many cases the flood of information provided by the internet will eliminate the need for engaging a salesperson.  But I am also convinced that the very same flood of information is going to explode the need for highly specialized sellers to help consumers and businesses make sense of the enormous volume of options, technical information, and the inevitable conflicting opinions and advice buyers will be confronted with.

Information and options are good—knowing what to do with them is priceless.

June 27, 2011

Is LinkedIn Producing the Results Sellers Want? Help Us Find Out

Filed under: Sales 2.0 — Paul McCord @ 2:36 pm
Tags:

While we had an enthusiastic response to the Twitter survey, I’ve received a ton of email from folks asking me to get the survey on LinkedIn up as there seems to be a great deal of interest in seeing how other sellers are using LinkedIn and what their experience with it has been. So rather than waiting a couple of weeks before posting it as I had planned, we’re putting it up now while interest is high.

Take our Online Survey

As with the Twitter survey, the LinkedIn survey is relatively short—only 20 questions and should only take 4 or 5 minutes to complete.

I encourage you to head over and let us know what your experience with LinkedIn has been—good, bad, or indifferent.

As with the Twitter survey, results will be posted after a couple of weeks.

Not to get too far ahead, but after LinkedIn we’ll deal with Facebook and see how that’s worked out so far for sellers.

Take our Online Survey

May 3, 2011

The Civil War, General Patton, and Sales Technology

Filed under: sales,Sales 2.0,selling,technology — Paul McCord @ 9:35 am
Tags: , , , ,

The United States is just launching a celebration of the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, the bloodiest war in US history.  Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of reading about the war and talking to a few historians and I’ve begun noticing that the politicians and generals during the war faced a similar situation to what salespeople and sales leaders are facing today—how to adapt to the newly developed technology.

From April of 1861 until the end of the war in June of 1865, more than 600,000 and maybe as many as 700,000 Americans died of disease or were killed in battle. 

Battle casualty figures were staggering.  For the combined four years of the war, the two armies combined suffered a 25.1% casualty rate—a rate that no other war fought by Americans can even remotely begins to match.  For instance, the casualty rate suffered during World War I was 6.8% and during World War II 6.6%.  The casualty rate during the Vietnam conflict was only 0.5%.  Yet even during the two World Wars and Vietnam the casualty rates were considered horrendous and the folks on the home front were mortified with the casualties.

What can account for such grime casualty rates during the civil war? 

Technology.

Technology was outpacing the officer’s and politician’s understanding of how to use it.  The introduction of the riffled gun and cannon barrel and the minie ball changed all of the rules of war—but few understood that at the time.

The generals of the Civil War were taught tactics at West Point or at some other military school.  War wisdom at the time was to line up soldiers shoulder to shoulder with bayonets affixed.  One army was usually behind some type of fixed position—fence, stone wall, barricade or whatever, whiles the other army attacked in formation.  Most guns of the period held one shot.  Reloading took time and couldn’t be done on the run.  The advancing army held fire until they were upon the enemy and then fired and ran trying to breech the enemy line in close combat.  Bloody and gruesome, but it worked—until technological advancements turned the traditional attack into suicide. 

Once the North began acquiring the riffled gun and cannon, the men began falling like flies.  The old gun was accurate from a relatively short distance; the riffled gun and minie ball were accurate up to 250 yards.  In addition, as the war progressed more and more repeating rifles were introduced, giving the individual infantryman more firepower—accurate firepower—than anyone could have imagined just a few years before.  Most of these repeating rifles were in the hands of the Union army.

A further technological wonder that took both armies time to comprehend how to effectively use it was the railroad to transport men and material.

The failure of the officer corps of both armies to modify their tactics caused enormous casualties.  Technology had changed the nature of waging war in a very fundamental way.

Yet in the end, the war wasn’t won by technology.  When all was said and done, despite the great changes that had influenced the waging of the civil war—new guns, new cannon, iron ships, and even a submarine—the war was won the way all wars had been won, with the sacrifice of individual soldiers and superior generalship.

The Union had huge technological advantages as they possessed the vast majority of the new technology, yet barely won the war.  Despite their inferior numbers and equipment, the South outgeneraled the North time after time.  Not until Lincoln got a general willing to consistently take the fight to the enemy did the North begin to get a grip on the Confederate army.  And it wasn’t the technology that gave Grant the upper hand, it was his willingness to get down to basics and engage the enemy every chance he got and to exploit Confederate mistakes.

In the end, technology gave the North great advantages that helped them win, but as in past wars, ultimately it was the basics of good generalship and brave, committed men in the trenches that allowed the North to win.

Even today the basics of war outweigh the advances in technology.  General George Patton out witted and outgeneraled the German army even though Patton’s Sherman tanks were inferior to the German Panzer.  Guerrillas are able to defeat some of the most advanced military and security technology known to man by wit or luck or because their opposition relies too much on  technology and not enough on the proven basics of warfare.

We in sales are facing a very similar situation.  We have at our disposal a huge arsenal of new technology, yet surveys indicate that few really understand how to truly tap the potential of these assets.  In addition, there is a chorus encouraging sellers and sales leaders to not only embrace the technology but to virtually abandon the proven traditional basics of finding, connecting, and solving the issues of prospects.

By all means, embrace the technology that is giving us new opportunities to find and connect with prospects, to develop new solutions to their issues; to give a customer service experience superior to what was available in the past.

 But know that it will not only be sometime before there’s a full understanding of how to really use these assets, technology will always outpace our understanding of how to use it.  In other words, we’ll always be fumbling around trying to corral technology.

That being said, do not abandon the proven basics of selling because despite the hype, technology will never replace the personal relationship–it cannot replace the human connection and selling is at its core a very personal experience, not a mechanical one.

 If you want to turn your product or service into a commodity—bought like any other commodity primarily on price—then by all means abandon your traditional offline prospecting and relationship building activities.  But if you want to maintain profit margins and build a loyal client base, embrace technology as a servant of your primary selling activities rather than turning your traditional activities into a servant of technology.

Technology advances killed tens of thousands during the Civil War because it had outpaced the general’s ability to mesh their tactics with it.  How many sellers will it kill today the same way? Technology is great—and it will enhance the way you sell; but don’t allow it to replace the way you sell because in the end you’re selling to humans, not machines. 

April 11, 2011

Results of the 2011 Richardson/McCord Training Social Media in Marketing and Sales Survey

It has taken a bit of time and a lot of effort, but we finally have the 2011 Richardson/McCord Training Social Media in Marketing and Sales Survey results.

Some will be surprised, some won’t like the findings, and others will find they confirm what they suspected.

Two things stick out for me:

1.  Both salespeople and companies, whether they currently use social media or not, are struggling to figure out how to use it effectively. In fact, few—even those with sophisticated marketing departments investing time and effort into the process—have any real social media strategy.  Undoubtedly, this will be true for quite some time to come–and, of course, that means there are and will be thousands out looking to take your money to help you learn the hows of making Social Media work.  The lesson here: be extremely careful as there are many who know little more than how to construct a tweet who are anxious to take your money.

2.  To date, social media has been pretty useless in generating actual sales.  By far the most use salespeople and companies are getting from social media is in the area of prospecting–finding new prospects to contact using traditional means, not in making sales.  Again, this will probably be the case for a long, long time–it may always be the case.  Except for web-based sellers, few are realizing any real sales volume from their social media activities.  The lesson?  If you’re thinking you’re going to make easy money by spending time on social media and not having to do the hard work of prospecting, well, good luck with that thought.  On the other hand, if you’re not using social media to help identify and research prospects, you’re probably wasting a heck of a lot of time elsewhere.

Find out what else we discovered–it’s all in the survey.

I’ve decided to divert from the typical approach of requiring you to register to receive a sales oriented White Paper or making you subscribe to our newsletter.  Instead, I’m offering the report as a simple PDF download with the download link below.  I would encourage you, though, to either subscribe to the SELLING POWER Newsletter by simply shooting me an email at pmccord@mccordandassociates.com with the subject line “subscribe,” or clicking on the “Sign Me Up” button at the top of the sidebar to the right and subscribe to receive notification of new blog posts.  Subscription appreciated, not required.

If you have questions or anything needs a little more light put upon it, by all means, don’t hesitate to contact me.

Download social media survey

February 11, 2011

How Salespeople Use Social Media Survey

Filed under: marketing,sales,Sales 2.0,selling — Paul McCord @ 7:48 am
Tags: , , , ,

Richardson and McCord Training have teamed up to develop a research report on whether or not salespeople are using social media in their sales and prospecting efforts; if they are using, what platforms are they using and how effective it is.  

All salespeople and sales leaders, whether you use social media are not, are encouraged to take the survey.   The survey is designed to gather information on whether or not the seller uses social media as a selling and prospecting tool; if they do, which platforms do they use; about how much time they devote to their soical media usage; and what impact it has had on their sales.

The survey is short and shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to complete. 

All who complete the survey will be entered into a drawing to win an IPod Touch.  In addition, all participants will be sent a copy of the final report.

We value you participation and I invite you to take a few minutes  to take the survey and maybe win that IPod Touch

January 25, 2011

Is It Really a 2.0 World for Sellers?

The hype is everywhere: if you’re a salesperson or company without a blog, you’re totally out of today’s marketplace and are losing position to the competition hourly because unlike them, you’re not establishing your image as an expert; if you’re not active on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and/or Youtube, you may as well concede that you won’t be in sales 6 months from now; if your focus is anywhere besides online, you completely misunderstand 21st century buyers.

The message from so many is simple: we live in a 2.0 (going on 3.0) world, and anyone who doesn’t recognize that and realign their business to focus on the enormous and exponentially growing online business opportunities is a dinosaur and cannot possibly be successful in the future—and the future is defined as tomorrow, the next day at the latest.

Certainly this is a message that many businesses and salespeople want to hear.  No more having to cold call.  No more having to figure out where to advertise—yellow pages? Magazines? Newspapers?  Nope.  No more having to network through physical groups and events.  Focus on social media and the virtual world and grow your business without having to invest a dime or spend hour after hour prospecting and hearing ‘no’ after ‘no.’  Finally, a free–and rejection free–way to sell and make more than you ever dreamed possible.

What a crock.

It’s also a message that a great many people have a very vested interest in spreading.  Take a look at the incredible number of social media, internet marketing, and online business “gurus” and “coaches” trying to connect with folks on Twitter.  It appears that everyone who’s ever signed up on Twitter and successfully created a tweet considers themselves to be social media experts, ready and willing to charge the next sucker a buck to teach them how to create a tweet also—and promise them instant millions without having to work. 

Then there are the “futurists,” predicting how technology is going to change the world of selling, virtually destroying the sales profession while creating untold opportunities for companies to increase sales and profits.  These are the same futurists who upon the invention of the telephone predicted that salespeople would never again meet face to face with prospects; and who upon the arrival of the fax machine predicted that mail was no longer necessary; who upon being introduced to email declared that surely this time business mail really was dead.  Now, with the gazillions of social media options, they’re proclaiming that this time technology really is going to completely revolutionize the world of selling.

And, of course, there are thousands and thousands of companies joining the chorus of social media and internet hype who must sell their products and services to the businesses and salespeople who want to be in the vanguard of the new sales world order. 

Before I go any further let me say that despite the above, this isn’t a polemic against the internet or social media.  My Sales and Sales Management blog is entering its fifth year of publication; I am active on Twitter and Facebook; I participate on LinkedIn and Focus and many other social media sites.  I believe there is much of value and much to be gained from these technologies and you should be involved with them just as I am—but I don’t believe that they’re decreasing the need for massive traditional offline marketing and sales activities.  If anything, the hype surrounding social media has lured many competitors away from traditional prospecting and marketing, giving those who recognize the current limitations of social media a distinct advantage over those who have bought into social media as the ANSWER.

I’m also not by any means trying to say that all trainers, coaches or advocates of social media are hyperbolic in their views of the role of social media.  There are many great trainers and coaches who understand social media’s place in the marketplace and do a superb job in guiding and directing sellers and business owners in how to use and gain value from them. 

The Reality of the Internet and Social Media

That being said, there’s still far too much unfounded, wishful thinking about the power of social media.  A recent post by Brian Carroll demonstrates the lack of business generated by social media—Brian was quoting Sergio Balegno, Director of Research for MECLABS, the parent company of InTouch of which Brian is President.

MECLABS surveyed 2,300 marketers and discovered that by the end of 2010 only 6% were generating enough business leads to track ROI.  Only 25% of marketers even have clear objectives and practices for engaging social media.

Those surveyed were marketers of good size companies, not small businesses and individual sellers.  Sergio’s conclusions are very different from mine.  His conclusion is that 6% of companies realizing enough sales to track ROI with such a new medium is impressive.  That conclusion is all well and good–for a company that can afford to assign someone to managing an aggressive social media campaign.

My conclusion is that only 6% of sizable companies producing measurable ROI with a marketing department behind their activities indicate that a small business or individual seller is so far behind the 8 ball with social media that investing significant amounts of time trying to create business through it is a monumental mistake.

Further, if only 25% of the marketing departments of companies using social media have developed clear objectives and practices of how to use it, how many small businesses and individual sellers who don’t have the time or research resources of a fully fledged marketing department have developed such?  How many can spend the time and effort needed to develop such a plan and still maintain their sales volume, much less increase it?

In addition, Dave Stein of ES Research Group, Inc, the only independent source of intelligence and advice on sales training approaches, programs and the companies that provide them, forwarded to me the following graph that indicates that there is still a huge segment of society that relies little or not at all on the internet for information and decision making help.

 

Although this chart tracks only three items; how many in each age group go online for any reason; how many in each age group access a government website; and how many in each group access financial information, it does give us some idea of how many use the internet for non-government oriented research and information.

According to the above study 79% of the population above 12 years of age goes online, yet only 38% of the population above 18 uses it for financial research and information, which is one of the top research topics on the internet.  This correlates well with a study by Ruder Finn Internet Index which found that 80% of all internet users go online to socialize but less than half that number uses the internet for shopping and/or research.

If we assume there are about 235 million Americans 18 or older and 79% go online but only 50% of them use the internet for shopping and research, there’s only 93 million adults online shopping and using it for research (39.5% of the total adult population).  That means there are still 142 million Americans (60% of the adult population) not buying online or using the internet for research, i.e., 142 million Americans that you won’t be reaching online no matter what you do.

The question is simple: do you want the opportunity to reach 40% of your market (online), 60% of your market (offline), or 100% of your market (both segments)?  If you concentrate on those who are online, you’ll be eliminating 60% of your potential market (these numbers do not include businesses which would add many more millions to each category).

Now, take 60% of your potential market away and then realize that only 6% of companies with a marketing department that has the resources to aggressively work social media have generated enough business from it to be able to track results.  What are the realistic chances that social media is going to become a significant income stream producer for you or your small business?

I know, I hear the answers now—“I’m not online to sell, I’m looking to develop relationships; sales are secondary and hopefully will come someday.”  Really?  You’re spending two, three, four, five hours a day online to develop relationships with people or companies not to sell–but to maybe sell someday?  What would a sales manager say if when she asked you how you spent your week you said something like, “Well, I spent about 10 hours this week on the phone calling and meeting with prospects and clients, and I spent 20 hours online trying to develop relationships.” 

“I see,” your manager says, “what are your sales projections from spending so much time online?” 

“Oh, you misunderstand,” you answer, “I’m really not trying to sell, I’m developing relationships with lots of folks that maybe in the future might someday be prospects.  See, social media isn’t for selling, it’s for relationship development and to do it right I’ve got to spend a good deal of time interacting with them.”

“I’m sorry,” your manger responds, “I was under the impression your job was to sell.  How did I get such a wrong impression?”

“I know,” you respond, “it’s hard for you to grasp the new sales paradigm.  Things have changed, we now sell by not selling, we engage with people who might want to buy at some point in the future.  With social media I can engage hundreds of these companies.  One day, if I continue to spend half my time engaging this way I’ll be a big producer, I’m sure.  You’ll see.”

“Uh, huh,” your manager stammers.  “How much business have you gotten so far?”

“None, but don’t worry, it’s the wave of the future, everybody says so.”

“So is unemployment,” your manager responds, “it’s the wave of today.”

Sounds silly?  Yes.  Real?  Yep, there are lots of sellers spending huge amounts of time engaging in social media when they should be selling.  But, hey, social media’s easier and safer—and everybody’s doing it.

The Real Role of the Internet and Social Media in Sales and Marketing

What does this mean for sellers and small business owners?  It doesn’t mean ignore social media.  Not by any means.  Social media can play a real role in your marketing—and it will become more important over time; just take a look at the percentage of each age group that is plugged into the internet.  As you would expect, it gets bigger and bigger as the ages get younger, and, of course, those youngsters will become oldsters one day.  Likewise look at their activities.  Those in the 18 to 34 age group aren’t that far behind the older age groups in using the internet for financial research.  As they age, more and more members of this age group will engage the internet for reasons other than socializing.  By the time they reach the 65-73 age group, their financial research numbers could well be almost twice what that current age group’s numbers are.

But that’s a good ways away.

Unless you sell only to internet users—say you’re selling SEO services, website design, and such—your market is more offline than online (even if you only sell to net users you still have to spend a good deal of time selling offline—EBay and Esurance are good examples).

For most of us the internet is a viable marketing tool if used correctly.  (For an interesting current discussion of using blogs to establish credibility and expert status, see Dave Brock’s post and the comments here.)  Unfortunately, it can also be the ruination of us if we allow it to eat up too much of our time hoping for easy, faceless, no rejection sales.  There’s really no magic bullet to get around the fact that selling success has, as Tibor Shanto of Renbor points out, “always come down to planning, discipline and execution.”  Tibor goes on: in B2B sales “most buyers are not plugged in to the [internet] echo chamber to the degree 2.0 gurus would lead you to believe.  Speak to most office supply sales people, speak to buyers in the transport trade, or a vast majority of buyer and sellers, and they are not in the 2.0 lane, some are not in any lane at all.  Even many of the buyers who are ‘tuned in’ find themselves with information overload and contradictory input, as a result studies show that they still turn to direct interaction with trusted sales professionals.”

I think that in today’s world investing a few minutes a day in social media makes perfect sense and is a commitment almost every seller should make; making social media a major time and effort commitment doesn’t. 

Where you invest your time—and how much you spend–is the real question.  Most salespeople need to engage social media as a prospecting and marketing tool. More than that, they need to engage social media as a tool to develop and strengthen relationships with their prospects and clients who are tuned into technology.  Linda Richardson of Richardson, one of the leading sales training companies, put it well:

“Selling is about relationships and competency.  Sales 2.0 does not take the place of relationships, but it does give salespeople and customers a new platform for building relationships and increasing competency.  Sales 2.0 is more than technology. The tools enable collaboration, better preparation, and create a more effective and efficient way to sell. 2.0 is about reaching and connecting with the right people, getting a lot smarter and engaging in more meaningful conversations.   Of course not every company or buyer is leveraging 2.0 but by waiting on the sidelines sales organizations and salespeople are placing themselves at a serious disadvantage and risk.  Sales 2.0 is transforming sales and opening up possibilities never before seen.    It is a fast moving 2.0 Sales World and with the ever increasing number of tools there is a real need to help salespeople learn how to use them to reach their buyers.”

Where are buyers today?  Certainly there’s a large contingent that engage the internet, yet most are there not to buy or to do research or inquire about products, services, needs, or wants, but to connect with their circle of friends—to socialize with their group.

That recognition means we have to consider just how much are we willing to invest in the 2.0 world when we are not going to be able to engage with the majority of our prospects.  Can we connect with prospects?  Can we even make an occasional sale?  Yes.  Is it going to produce the business that could be otherwise produced in strategic offline prospecting and engaging of prospects?  Testimony and research to date seems to indicate the answer is a resounding no, not now.  Are the hoped for relationships that will result in future sales worth spending large numbers of hours on social media sites?  Not if your paycheck relies on sales.  Unfortunately you can’t cash a relationship, no matter the future potential. 

The internet and social media will continue to grow in importance.  You need to have a presence and grow that as the influence of the technology grows.  But if you want to be in business long enough to see significant business come from it, you have to be fully engaged in the business of selling—offline.  That hasn’t changed and it won’t change for many, many years to come.

The Major Role of the internet and Social Media for Most Sellers Today

That doesn’t, however, finish the discussion of the role of the internet and social media for us sellers.  Although the chart Dave sent me points out the limitations of social media and the internet for marketing, Dave emphasized the very real benefit of them for virtually every salesperson to significantly change and improve their prospecting research, for learning and sharpening sales and product knowledge, and for the fast and inexpensive (often free) opportunities for great training and skill development through blogs, article sites, webinars, forums and groups, and the other platforms available on the net.

Webinars offer unbelievable training and learning opportunities and should be a core resource for every company and seller.  You can get guidance and training from some of the best trainers and thinkers in business and sales without having to leave your office; whereas in the past you couldn’t get their training unless you were lucky enough to have your company bring them in or you lived in or were willing to travel to a place where they were presenting a public seminar—if they gave public seminars.  The internet has opened those opportunities to every seller in the world that has a computer and internet connection–and often at no cost.  (Webinars are also one of the best resources for sales and customer service as the uses for selling, customer and internal training, and servicing customer needs is endless.)

LinkedIn groups and sites such as Focus offer sellers the opportunity to ask questions and get answers from some of the top sales minds in the world, as well as from other sellers.  These forums and groups make it possible to get world class answers to virtually any question a seller could possibly have—free of charge.

For most of us the internet has opened tremendous new doors for researching our markets, for identifying quality prospects, for doing competitor research, for obtaining training and developing new skills.  As Linda indicated above, it can help us create a more effective and better way to sell—both online and offline.

The 2.0 world does have a tremendous impact on how we sell.  Its influence will continue to grow.  Right now it can open doors to opportunities in training and research that can change the very basic nature of how we do things.  The only thing it can’t do is help us reach that more than 60% of our market that doesn’t use the internet or social media outside of socializing with their group.  For that—for the lion’s share of our market—we have to hit the street in the same manner we’ve always done.  And that means it really isn’t quite a 2.0 sales world–yet.

Next Page »

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: