Have you noticed that there seems to be a polarisation around the use of ‘Social media’ in B2B sales. There is a very pro camp and a very anti camp.
The pro camp rave about the value of ‘social’. They emphasis how it is incredibly powerful in helping gain engagement with prospective customers and in establishing the beginnings of trusted relationships – ultimately generating sales opportunities for our sales pipeline.
The anti camp grumble about how social is an incredible time waster, not providing a return on investment – “just pick up the phone” they say “it’s much more effective”..
So when UK based Adam Gray, who is one of the leading proponents and successful implementers of ‘Social Selling’, was passing through town I jumped at the chance to hear what he had to say. I asked him to present the pro ‘Social Selling’ case in a series of interviews of which this is the first.
Firstly I asked Adam why he believes ‘social’ is important and to explain why he believes we should all embrace it.
He talked about the growing challenge of opening doors in traditional ways and how ‘Social’ can help with that.
He talked about how our personal digital profile is of vital importance to attract customers and how we need to project ourselves – our personal brand.
He emphasised buyers “want to see that you’re their confidant, their adviser, somebody that can up-skill them and share your expertise with them to make them better-equipped to make an informed purchase”. And social gives you the opportunity to position as such.
See the full interview to learn more. This interview is likely to be valuable for sales leaders, sales managers and professional salespeople.
John: Hello and welcome all my Strategic Selling Group members, Sales Masterminds and all the followers of this ‘Talking Sales’ series – great to have you with us! Today I’m delighted to have Adam Gray with me – welcome, Adam!
Adam: Hi, John – nice to see you!
John: Adam is one of the leaders in the world of social around the world, he’s a marketeer, and working with Tim Hughes, the two of them are probably the leaders in the implementation of social in the sales world, amongst other areas of business. I’m really delighted to have you here, Adam, as an author, a strategist, a speaker on this subject. I think you’ll have a lot to share with us that will be of interest to my followers.
Adam: I hope so, I hope so.
John: I wanted to start by saying in the discussions I’ve had up until now, I think this man is probably a little bit of a social bigot when it comes to sales, etc.
Adam: And proud to be such, proud to be such.
John: [laughs] My question is how important is social, particularly in the world of sales, and in the future, how important is that we all embrace it?
Adam: It’s absolutely crucial. Over the last decade we’ve seen the way people buy change significantly. Salespeople, that are a well-honed machine of hosting calls and meeting, adding value, understanding clients’ needs, closing business, that skillset that they have, which is rare and takes a long time to develop, is often massively diminished by the fact that they simply cannot get into the situation where they are facing off against a customer, having those conversations and adding value.
John: It’s actually getting tougher to break through the door and have those conversations, isn’t it?
Adam: Absolutely. Nowadays you leave messages for people and they simply don’t respond, where it used to be 10 calls and then it was 20 and then it was 50 and then it’s 100 to get a single meeting. That’s not a good use of a salesperson’s skillset and their time. Social enables you to position yourself in such a way that you look like somebody that should be on the shortlist of people with whom they should be having a conversation.
John: There’s a lot of people I talk to that are very negative, they don’t see that social has that bigger role in the future, because they said, “You still need to get on the phone.”
Adam: Absolutely right you do, absolutely right you do. Because telephone has an intimacy to it and it’s that one-to-one conversation, and people want to be treated as an individual. But what you have to do is create the backdrop upon which I’m prepared to give you my time and have that call with you for you to sell your wares, to show your expertise, to demonstrate that you can listen to my needs and come back with something which is going to be of value. We all know that our basic behaviour now is if I phone you up and say, “I’m really great at this, you should be buying from me,” the first thing you do is go to Google, and as an individual, the first thing that will come up in the results is probably going to be my LinkedIn profile. That’s the most visible page about me which adds to my credibility, or makes that credibility evaporate.
John: That’s a very, very strong point. In my experience, you look at the profiles for professional salespeople on LinkedIn, and a lot of them are still CVs. They still don’t sell themselves as somebody creating value for their customers.
Adam: Absolutely right. I think that part of this is not because it’s outside of their area of expertise or capability; it’s simply that they haven’t really invested the time to sit down and think about how it’s going to be viewed by the person that’s coming to have a look at it.
John: And that’s really thinking strategically, about who I am, how do I project, what’s my unique promise of value, and how is that projected through my social profile.
Adam: Yes. It’s putting yourself ruthlessly in somebody else’s shoes if you like.
I think that the mistake that we all make to a greater or lesser extent is that we think, “People don’t buy the way they used to buy, except for me. It’s different because I’m really interesting and I’ve got a really great product,” and we all tend to go with that premise. It’s the old adage of somebody saying, “What I really need is a telephone call with a salesman now.” Said nobody ever! People try to avoid being sold to. So when you have that CV online, which makes you look like a salesman, a salesperson, it makes you look like you’re a closer of business, it makes you look like you’re a tenacious target-basher… Actually, that’s the last thing that the customer wants to see. What they want to see is that you’re their confidant, their best friend, their advisor, somebody that can upskill them and share your expertise with them to make them better-equipped to make an informed purchase.
John: That’s broaching on a whole subject that I talk about a lot, the fact that we as salespeople need to be domain experts in the customer’s domain. We need to be able to bring insight to the table that the customer values, and helps them in a thinking journey through how they address their issues and problems and opportunities in their business. Whether you’re on social or not, you need to be that person.
Adam: Absolutely, that’s a prerequisite now. But I think that the reality is that you can be the best domain expert and the best helper for me to make the decision in the world, but I’m only going to know that after I have already engaged with you. The reality of the social presence is to get you to first base, it’s to get you to the point where we’re having that conversation, and then I can decide, “Yes, here’s a man that I trust and I believe in and clearly understands my issues. Or here’s somebody that’s a charlatan or somebody that’s just a salesperson.”
John: Are you saying that in the future we won’t sell if we’re not on social?
Adam: I think increasingly that’s the case today, I think that’s only going to increase as time goes by. Every year there is a report produced by Hootsuite and We Are Social, which is the State of the Internet and social globally. By January 2016, you would assume, I certainly assumed, that everybody that was going to sign up for a social network had signed up for a social network, because there was nobody left, everybody was online. Between January 2016 and January 2017 the number of social accounts increased by 21%, which is just unbelievable! I would have thought that that was an impossibility for that to be achieved.
What it means is that instead of we’re getting to the point where signups and therefore the importance of this to access your market is slowing, it’s actually increasing exponentially, the rate of increase is increasing.
John: Let me close down this discussion, and I’d like to then discuss more about how we do this, how we are more effective in social. The bottom line you’re giving me is all salespeople out there, if they’re not on social and using social as part of their sales activity and a critical part of their sales activity, they’re being left behind.
Adam: They are being left behind, and the increasing difficulty that they have of getting those meetings when they can shine as a salesperson, the increasing difficulty they have is only going to increase.
John: It’s much more than just getting meetings though, isn’t it? It’s sharing content, it’s putting value on the table of the customer, it’s insight, the whole box and dice, through a buyer journey. I’d like to talk more about that in one of our future discussions as well. So, the bottom line according to Adam, and I’ve got to say I agree, is social is a critical part of our activity as a salesperson. Social doesn’t mean we sell better; social means we are still effective as effective salespeople, and that’s another subject maybe we can discuss. But basically in my view, if you can’t sell, social is not going to help you. If you can sell, social will help you immensely.
Adam: Absolutely right – perfect.
John: Okay, thank you very much – look forward to the next discussion, Adam!
Adam: Thank you!
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John works with companies who are striving to grow high margin revenue by retaining customers, creating value for customers and strategically acquiring new customers. He loves successful and happy sales teams who are driving positive change for their customers. He coaches sales professionals who are keen to enhance their career. He helps them develop their skills and capabilities and enhance & leverage their personal brand.