“When it comes to prospecting use all the eggs in your basket“ – Interview by John Smibert
Social and digital has changed our prospecting landscape – or have they?
I have seen so many salespeople and their organisations invest time and money in social selling without the level of success they were promised.
I have heard too much confusing advice about digitally-based prospecting, lead generation via digital and social media. So to get some clarification I asked sales mastermind and prospecting guru, Steve Hall, for his views on digital and social.
In this short discussion Steve emphasised that digital and/or social is one of the ways to get to them, but by no means the only way. Steve believes there is no “best” way, it depends on circumstance and the truly effective prospector will use a combination of methods.
Steve is a thought leader in sales. He’s an executive sales coach, a keynote speaker, a storyteller and he likes to play Devil’s Advocate to help dispel myths around selling and marketing. He helps his clients to sell more effectively to “C” level executives and to develop compelling messages and business stories..
John: Welcome back! I’m delighted to have Steve Hall with me. I’ve previously done a few interviews with Steve, and Steve is an expert in prospecting in a B2B environment, and I really wanted to explore, Steve, with you a series of subjects, probably 8-10 interviews around prospecting that we can share with the audience out there. Would you like that? I think you’ll find some really good value. So Steve, the first question I’ve got for this first interview is we hear so much about digitally-based prospecting, lead generation via digital, social media and so on. I’d like your views on that, and I know you’ve got a little analogy that will help us understand your views.
Steve: Thanks, John – great to be here again!
John: You’re welcome!
Steve: Look, digital prospecting is fabulous, it’s really great, but…
John: But… [laughs]
Steve: But you’re on a deserted island and you’re desperate to get rescued, and you have a bottle and you throw a bottle out, and then you sit on your bum and you wait and you eat coconuts and…
Steve: And you wait, and that’s what the Internet was once upon a time. But all of a sudden we have the ability to create hundreds of bottles, millions of bottles, and throw all those bottles out, and surely someone with the right boat will come and see us and rescue us. And they would, but there’s one problem. There’s a million other people stuck on other deserted islands and they’ve all sent out 100 million bottles, and the entire sea is awash with bottles.
John: [laughs] I think that’s a great analogy for what’s happening, particularly in social media, putting out all these digital messages; marketing do it, salespeople do it.
Steve: It’s not just that, but the people on the ships that could rescue you… Not all the ships can take you. You’ve got a big party of people, ~all you’ve been eating is~ coconuts, and you need a big liner that can come and get you. And the captain to these liners, they’re trying to get from A to B with their cargo, they don’t really care about picking up people that are shipwrecked, and if they did, they’ve got lots and lots of people to pick up.
John: But if I do a little bit of planning, I can put the bottle in the right currents to get to the right target, so that means I’m targeting the right people with all my digital messages, etc. Does that make a difference?
Steve: It does make a difference, absolutely, and it makes a difference to all those other people who are targeting those same people that you are, and they’re putting out multicoloured bottles to attract their attention, with little flags in, and so are you.
John: My unique little colour and my unique little bottle, right?
Steve: It’s a competition for attention. Having said that, sometimes it works, sometimes a ship comes along.
John: Not a lot, in my experience.
Steve: But if you’re sitting on that deserted island, waiting for the right ship to come along and rescue you, are you just going to sit on your bum and wait, or are you going to get out and chop down a couple of trees and build a raft and go out and find someone yourself? And that’s what I’m saying. By all means, do digital marketing, it’s great, it works, sometimes, but if you don’t want to starve to death, if you’re a salesman and you want to make your quota, you’ve got to get out there as well and you’ve got to be proactive and go to people, rather than wait for them to come to you.
John: You’ve got to actually make the phone calls or send the emails or whatever with the right key messages, and we’ll talk about that through the next series of interviews, how do you do that sort of thing. But social does have a place, and for me it’s the combination of the whole lot. If you’re doing everything except social or everything except digital, you’re missing out a big chunk of what you need to do to get the complete coverage and the influence on your marketplace.
Steve: Yes. What you tend to find is that a silver bullet comes along, like digital marketing, and people say, “That’s the answer, we’re going to do everything that way,” and that’s a mistake. It’s a bullet, and you need many, many bullets in your machine gun to cut through the enemy.
John: Even email was the same. Email early on was fairly unique and we all had an email address, but bit by bit we get flooded with emails. Social is exactly the same, isn’t it? Digital is the same.
Steve: Absolutely. It’s a great channel and great resource, but it’s not enough by itself.
John: Okay. So, what we do about that I guess is the question. You’re saying build a raft, go out and seek the individual that you’re after.
Steve: I’m saying that you need to go to the people that need what you’re selling, and one of the ways to get to them, but by no means the only way, is through social media and digital channels, but there are other ways that are as or more effective.
John: Okay. Let’s talk more about that, and I want to go through a series of subjects now with you on just how to prospect effectively. And I’ve got to say to the audience out there, to all of you salespeople and sales leaders that Steve is one of the best. So over the next 8-10 interviews that I’ll do with Steve – hopefully you’ll come back that many times, Steve – I think you’ll learn a lot. This is going to be a good series of interviews, Steve, really look forward to it!
Steve: Me too, John!
- “Borrow your customers shoes“
- “Building Genuine Rapport“
- “Questioning for credibility and insight“
- “How to prospect”
- “Value is in the eye of the beholder”
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John leads three related organisations, Custell, Strategic Selling Group and Sales Masterminds APAC. These help B2B selling organisations, who recognise the need to transform their sales capability, to respond to the tsunami of change that is starting to wash over us all. He works with people who recognise that to survive they must more strategically support their customer in their buying journey - and understand that they must become specialists in the customer's domain in order to be of value to them. He also helps sales teams build differentiated personal brands and leverage the digital and social worlds to engage to create trust and value.