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
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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.

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October 29, 2012

Discover LinkedIn’s Impact on Sales

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

July 30, 2012

Guest Article: “The Explosion of Robot Selling to Increase Sales,” by Leanne Hoagland-Smith

The Explosion of Robot Selling to Increase Sales
by Leanne Hoagland-Smith

It may be just me, but the explosion of robot selling arena appears to be contradictory to the goal to increase sales. Every day I receive messages from robots, oops I mean salespeople, wanting me to buy this or try that.

Just yesterday I got this one:

Hi Leanne,

I was checking on this.

This ends at 5pm today.

Let me know if you would be interested. Regards,

What he was checking on was a previous marketing message that I had personally answered, but his “robot” sales process did not even read my email because he was engaged in “robot selling.”

Over at LinkedIn, second connections who share similar groups believe they, too, can engage in “robot selling.” These folks send out broadcast emails with the hope to snag one or two likely sales leads, while ignoring the fact they potentially alienated a whole lot more folks with their intrusive marketing messages.

Now there are email marketing to social media firms who assure their clients that email and social media marketing works.  Maybe it does, but my sense is small business owners are becoming more and more savvy when it comes to their buying decisions.

People buy from people, not robots.

This is why the term is relationship selling not robot selling.

People also buy from people, not robots, they know and trust.  When businesses and more specifically professional sales people are engaged in robot selling (think automatic emails, robo calls, recorded voice mail messages,  etc.), they ignore the human factor.

Automation type marketing tools are great especially when you are posting content.  However, there still must be some personal interaction from you as the human being unless your target market is robots if you truly wish to increase sales.

This human or personal interaction may be a handwritten note or postcard, a phone call, something that differentiates you from all those other gray suited robots. Additionally, thanking or liking postings to actually leaving a message shows you have some real interest in others and it is not just about you wanting to sell.

So continue with the robot selling if that is working for you meaning you are securing your goal to increase sales. However, for this old Swede, I will continue with my focus on relationship selling and building those critical relationships necessary to increase sales. My sense is at the end of the day, I will have ticked off far less people, enhanced my personal credibility and built some new relationships based on trust.


Leanne Hoagland-Smith is the Chief Results Officer for her executive coaching and consulting company.  She brings a no nonsense approach to her clients that is results focused.  You can read more from Leanne at the Increase Sales Blog.

April 11, 2012

Lessons for Sellers from the Unsocial Media

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

January 27, 2012

In 2012 the New Normal in Sales Is . . .

As with the beginning of almost every year we have a number of commentators and pundits proclaiming what the “new normal” is.

We’re told that the old normal was the government strove to keep unemployment below 5% and that the “new normal” is going to be to try to keep unemployment below 7%.

We’re told that the old normal in the auto industry was to try to increase the miles per gallon on a manufacturer’s fleet by selling enough high mileage units to raise the fleet average, and the “new normal” is no longer trying to sell large numbers of high mileage internal combustion engines but to sell hybrids and alternative energy vehicles.

In sales we’re told that the old normal was cold calling, face-to-face meetings with prospects and clients, and using salespeople to find, connect with, and sell prospects, and the “new normal” is that salespeople are an outdated and costly luxury and are, at best, nothing more than an archaic relic of the past that companies just haven’t come to the realization are no longer needed.

Many, including myself, find it amusing to read the “new normal” predictions knowing that for the most part they are nothing more than someone’s attempt to be relevant and gain some attention.

We’ll ignore addressing the issue of the “new normal” unemployment rate and the “new normal” in the auto industry and spend a minute or two discussing the “new normal” silliness in sales.

The “new normal” argument is based on several supposed changes in how buyers buy products and services.

  • One argument is that the Internet has fundamentally changed the way people shop and buy.  Proponents of this position argue that the Internet provides buyers all the information about potential products and services that they used to have to rely on salespeople for, making the salesperson obsolete.  Further, most companies now offer their products and services online, so not only can the buyer get all the information and comparisons they need online, they can complete the purchase online, making a salesperson completely irrelevant.
  • Others argue that in today’s highly competitive market where any company that creates a competitive advantage through product improvement or a more efficient process that reduces price can count on that advantage lasting only a very short time before their competitors catch up and return the market to equilibrium, there’s really no such thing as a competitive advantage.  In such a market all products and services are reduced to commodity status where price is the only differentiator and once price is the one and only deciding factor, salespeople are an unjustified expense whose only significant contribution is to increase the product or service’s cost.
  • And others argue that with the increasing popularity of social media and technology the sellers that are left will never have to leave their homes as they will be able to connect with, develop relationships with, and sell via a combination of social media and tale-meeting technology such as Go to Meeting.  For these commentators the new normal is a world where technology replaces face-to-face meetings and even the telephone.  Sellers who use their car, their phone, or even text are not only behind the times, they’re signing their own death warrant by not learning to adapt to the new reality of business.

Have you heard these proclamations of the”new normal” before?  You probably heard them last year—and the year before that—and the year before that.  This new normal is taking forever to get here but I guess if someone keeps claiming this is the year, sooner or later maybe someone will be right.

But I sincerely doubt it—at least any time soon.

First, let’s look at a couple of statistics that might shed some light on what salespeople are doing.

According to travel statistics, business travel has increased by almost 4% each of the last two years.  I find it somewhat surprising that there’s a significant increase in business travel when supposedly salespeople aren’t traveling.

In addition, every single recruiter I’ve spoken to indicate a significant increase in open sales positions, especially for experienced outside salespeople.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not arguing that the sales profession isn’t changing nor am I arguing that social media and technology are not impacting how sellers sell.

My argument is simply that in 2012—and probably for the foreseeable future—there will not be a “new normal.”

  • Almost all sellers will find their offline activities will still be more vital to their success than their social media interaction.
  • Getting out of the office and in front of prospects and clients will still be the primary relationship building and selling format
  • More than likely business travel will increase again this year—and for the foreseeable years to come—including travel by sellers
  • Sales jobs will continue to be created with the corresponding opportunities for both experienced and inexperienced men and women
  • Social media will continue to be an area that sellers need to learn how to effectively engage—but the reality is it isn’t going to take the place of a seller’s offline activities such as cold calling, networking, and seeking high quality referrals and when a connection is made through social media, for it to be effective it will have to be taken offline.

In other words, for now and at least the next few years, the “new normal” will be the old normal.

Do those activities this year that have been successful for you in the past and you’ll be successful again this year.

It’s fun and exciting to talk about the “new normal,” but the fact is not much has really changed.

Human nature hasn’t changed since last year.

The phone still works and people still answer it.

Referrals will still get you more and better business than any other prospecting format.

You will still have to work to develop relationships.

You’ll still have to educate, be a real problem solver for your clients, and bring more value to the table than your competitors.

The world hasn’t shifted on its axis—yet anyway.

So take all the talk of the new normal with a grain of salt.  Don’t ignore social media and by all means use technology to the fullest, but if you want to be successful in 2012, pick up the phone, fill up the car, and hit the streets just like you did last year and the years before that.

Follow Paul on Twitter: @paul_mccord

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
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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
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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

June 25, 2011

So That’s How Sellers Are Using Twitter!

Filed under: Sales 2.0 — Paul McCord @ 11:23 am

Although the survey is still up and accepting responses, there has been great consistency in percentages on all of the questions since virtually the first day the survey opened.  Based on that consistency, I’ve decided to go ahead and present the results.

Question 1:  How long have they been using Twitter?
45% of respondents indicate they’ve been on Twitter for one to two years
30% have only been using it for six months or less
Only 25% have been on Twitter more than two years

Question 2: Why do they use Twitter?
31% indicate they use Twitter primarily for prospecting
25% use it to promote their business
16% to keep in touch with people within their company and their clients
15% use it just for the fun of it

Question 3:  How active are they?
51% Tweet at least once per day
77% Tweet at least once per week
16% Tweet once per month or less

Question 4:  How many followers do they have?
35% have 100 or fewer followers
The average is 1,384 followers

Question 5:  How many people do they follow?
35% follow fewer than 100 people
The average is 1.345

Question 6:  How many of the people they follow do they actually read their tweets?
21% read the tweets of 10 to 25 of the people they follow
The average was the tweets of 141 people (or 10.5% of the people the average respondent follows)
1 person indicated they regularly read the tweets of between 500 and 1.000 people

Question 7:  How many of the people they follow do they retweet their tweets?
29% retweet the tweets of 10-25 of the people they follow
The average respondent retweets the tweets of 46 people they follow (3.4% of the people the average respondent follows)

Question 8:  How many of the people they follow have they had personal contact with?
29% of respondents have had personal contact with 1-5 of the people they follow
29% of respondents have had personal contact with 10-25 of the people they follow
The average is personal contact with 60 (4.4% of the people the average respondent follows)

Question 9:  Twitter has:
34% say Twitter has exceeded their expectations
21% say they don’t know because they didn’t know what to expect
21% say Twitter has met their expectations
Not one person said Twitter has been a disappointment

So what does this mean for sellers?  Well, based on the averages, it means that you are probably really only reaching about 10% of your followers–and it’s really tough getting your tweets retweeted.

On the other hand, even the 16% of respondents who indicate they seldom if ever post a tweet think Twitter has had some value for them

 

Up next we’ll be looking at how sellers use LinkedIn.

 

June 16, 2011

How Do People Really Use Twitter? Please Take a Short Survey

Filed under: Sales 2.0 — Paul McCord @ 12:41 pm
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A few weeks ago I, in conjunction with Richardson Sales, produced a general survey on how salespeople are using social media. 

Although the results were most interesting, we didn’t have the opportunity to get very deep in our questions about any one social media platform.  Over the next weeks I am going to be doing several short surveys that get a bit deeper into how various social media platforms are being use.

The first short survey is about Twitter.

You can access the survey here:

Take our Online Survey

It’s short—probably take less than two minutes to complete as it only has 9 questions.

Take the survey and then check back in a couple of weeks to see how others are using Twitter—and what the overall view of it is.

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