Social Selling: Why 2014 is the Right Time

Social Success

According to a 2012 study from the Aberdeen Group, those that have adopted a social approach to selling are achieving far betters results than those that have not. Look at quota attainment, customer rentention even forecast accuracy and social sellers come out on top.

As we enter another New Year, social sellers are proving to be more successful.

What is Social Selling

Outwardly, Social Selling is about making use of social platforms to communicate with their prospects, customers, channel and colleagues. However it is not tools that define a social seller, instead it is how (and why) they use the tools that sets them apart.

Social Sellers have a Presence

According to the 2013 B2B Lead Generation Report by Holger Schulze, over 90% of B2B buyers begin their buying process online. Those sellers that have a presence and are contributing will be engaging with their customers far earlier than those that are not.  Those sellers that do not have a profile on the major social platforms  will not be noticeable by their absence. They will just be absent.

Social sellers maintain a professional on-line presence so that they, not just their companies, can be found when their prospects begin their buying process.

Social Sellers Make a Contribution

Maintaining a presence is just the start for a social seller. They want to be active in the communities they serve, educating, sharing, moving the conversation forward. Those that sell payment services spell out what new regulation might mean; those that sell unified communications explore how telepresence impacts an increasingly mobile workforce.

There is more to a Social Seller than their products and services. They are  focused on the challenges and opportunities that their customers care about.

Social Sellers Listen

Listening is the subject of countless books, is one of Dale Carnegies ways of influencing people and one of Stephen Covey’s habits of highly effective people. All social interactions begin with listening and the new world of social platforms is no different. By listening Social Sellers gain insights into their customer and understand their priorities. They listen carefully so that when their customers are ready to buy – they are ready to help.

Social Sellers Lead

Selling, in my view, has much in common with leadership. As sellers, we need to engage our buyers by knowing what their opportunities and challenges are. We can then offer a fresh and external perspective on how to meet them.  Sellers are  catalysts for change but buyers naturally have their own ideas of what works well, and it’s not easy to challenge the status quo.

Change comes from being a leader, from offering your customers new ways of thinking about their business. I have some issues with the  The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson, not least of which is that I don’t believe sellers have a right to take control of the customer conversation. However, the key to Matthew Dixons and Brent Adamsons text is that sellers have a responsibility to challenge the established position.

Social sellers have lifted their game beyond understanding their own products and services. Instead, they understand their customers markets, invest in the issues their customers face and demonstrate thought leadership.

The Bottom Line:

Social Sellers are seeing early success. They are retaining their customers and making their numbers. They are not achieving this by simply being on LinkedIn, following Stephen Fry or Tweeting about their flight delays. They are  adapting to a new environment. They are adding value, building trust and creating meaningful relationships. What’s more they are unconstrained by limitations of time and distance because they are using online social platforms to extend their reach into new communities previously unaccessible to them. Most importantly though, they are establishing themselves in a new environment, an environment where their customers are already comfortable. Social sellers are getting ahead whilst those that refuse to see that their customers live in a new world are falling behind.

By the end of 2013, the voice of the social buyer grew stronger and louder. Were you around to hear them so that you can change in 2014?

Living the vida nube

Ricky+Martin+r10A career in consultancy and services leadership has not really helped me develop a sense of rythm, a party spirit or noteworthy alcohol tolerance. It is fair to say that Ricky Martin’s crazy life passed me by. Mostly.

That being said, I am  living the vida nuba. There are less sequins certainly, but it has made me more efficient, more connected and more adaptable to the myriad ways in which a working day can pan out. Life in the cloud is really working for me.

The basic step of making  personal and professional docs available in the cloud had the immediate benefit of making everything accessible from my home and/or office. However, the consequential benefits  have been unexpectedly pleasing too;

Unchained 

I am with Kivi Leroux Miller on this. In her blog she describes, how for many of us, work has become a state of mind, not a place.  It’s true. I cannot express enough how much freedom cloud gives me during a working week. I can write or work on trains, in coffee bars and, as I do from time to time, in the 7th floor bar of the Tate Modern. The views are an inspiration.

Sure wifi isn’t everywhere but it is mostlywhere and there really haven’t been enough exceptions to care. I have forgotten thumb drives more often.

Zen Computing

Once I started using cloud applications I quickly realised that I actually did not need all the features in ‘other’ bloated desktop tools. Last year, I wrote a book, a full twelve chapters plus bibliography, fore and after words without ever dropping into an unwieldy desktop word processor except for a few frustrating minutes before sending it to the publisher. Hey the future is here, it is just unevenly distributed.

All that space on my hard (SSD) drive and my head is replaced with tools and apps that make other parts of my life more productive. Just finding space for Evernote in my world has been a blessing and occasional lifesaver.

Everyware

When I made the  move to Mac a few years ago, there was no need to scour my C drive for old mail, spreadsheets and documents. They were all good to go. I have forgotten what Hot Syncing was (really, what was that all about?) and instead I have become device independent. Whichever bit of kit (phone, phablet, tablet or laptop) fits the task in hand is the one that gets picked up and used.

Moore is More

Sure, things go wrong from time to time and a broadband outage can make me disproportionately edgy. I am, overwhelmingly though, enjoying a law of increasing returns and keep finding new things that delight me. I  no longer have those panicky moments where I don’t know if it is on ‘this’ computer. It is. All of them. If someone makes a convincing book recommendation at a conference, I don’t make a note of it – I buy it. If a battery runs out on one device, I move to another. You get the picture.

The list goes on. Whilst it doesn’t give me swivel hips or a desire to go dancing in the rain, it does give me a heady sense of freedom, flexibility and control.

Diversity

Diversion into Diversity

Much of what we talk about here in DH is about the changing workplace largely as a result of living in the networked age. I hope, that some of these posts encourage us, as organisational leaders, to rethink the way we work, the way we organise and the style in which we lead and follow. This post is a diversion into diversity.

Social and Social Structures

In Decision Sourcing, Rooven Pakkiri and I assert that businesses are, like all social structures, organised around a common purpose – one of economic activity. In fact, it turns out that economic activity could even have been a critical part in human evolutionary development. Neanderthals, it turns out were every bit as smart as modern humans even if they were also hairy strong and tough. It turns out that hairy strong and tough was all the fashion for ice age conditions but it didn’t make them stupid. Nevertheless, in spite of the two hundred thousand year head start before Homo sapiens arrived. Ten thousand years later, all the Neanderthals were gone.

Essential Team Building

The prevailing theory is that modern man had sophisticated tools making them better at hunting and warring. However, research by Jason Shogren of the University of Wyoming suggests that, rather than toolmaking, it was  trade and specialisation behind Homo Sapien dominating previous members of the genus. Dr Shogren’s research reported in the Journal of Economic Behaviour and Organisation, suggests that the early survival of humanity depended upon economic cooperation. The sapien edge came from collaboration, trading and specialisation of labour. Trading between craftsman and hunters allowed sapiens to get more meat, a finite resource, therefore driving up the fertility of sapiens and the decline of Neanderthals.

The Ultimate Performance Management System

Whilst this perfectly illustrates the importance of economics on our evolution (Shogren’s point is about bartering and trade) it also illustrates the importance of a need for diversity in communities. Neanderthal could not have been more perfectly motivated (hunt or die) but this was clearly not enough. The stick could not have been more final and the carrot more crucial and yet extrinsic motivation failed an entire species. Over at the Sapiens though, their system allowed bad hunters to put down their spears and make clothes and tools. Craftsmen created, hunters piled up meat and pelts and warriors fought. A system of trading was an implicit recognition that everyone had a role to play.  An acknowledgement of diversity through a system of exchange resulted in everyone getting better clothing, tools, weapons and a belly full of food. There would have been no group hugs or tolerance workshops. No badges or T shirts. Instead instinct and necessity lead them to a fundamental truth about diversity in tribes. In teams if you will.

Team Building or The Same … But More

Whilst it is a human tendency to be drawn to people like ourselves, it can lead to homogeneous hiring and more of the same. More of the same, it turns out, was a system that didn’t work out that well for those whom we first discovered in the German Neander valley.  How should our teams look in the future? It might be worth looking for some pointers in our evolutionary history.

Hippo Decision Making

According to Andrew McAfee of the MIT Centre for Digital Business in an article in MIT Sloan Management Review many companies still practice decision making by Hippo. Actually he refers to it as HPPO,  the Highest Paid Persons Opinion. 

This resonated with me having just completed the draft for a chapter on networked decision making in our upcoming book Decision Sourcing, published by Gower. 

McAfee argues that the next wave of enterprise 2.0 will see organisations make decisions in new ways. Decision making by HPPO is in sharp decline.

 

The book argues that the current default mechanic for organisational decision making , the hierarchy, has literally run out of steam. It’s origins are rooted in a time where capital was scarce and labour was abundant. The top of the hierarchy was probably occupied by the owner of the capital. They also had the most business experience, the most knowledge and enough life experience to co-ordinate the work of everyone else. In a knowledge based economy, these things just don’t align any more.  One of the hottest jobs at the moment, that of ‘community manager’ didn’t exist five years ago. If you are managing a community manager today, you have most likely never been a community manager yourself.  As a manager of a community manager you better be good at co-ordinating the work of others, the primary purpose of management because you are not adding too much in the way of domain experience.

 

Social Decision Making, those decisions made by Socially aligned organisations will take many more inputs, many more perspectives all helped by the automation afforded by enterprise social platforms. There will be no decision made simply because of the HiPPO. They will undoubtedly be better for it.

Enterprise Social Circles

Paul Adams,  Facebook Product Manager and former Social researcher at Google led the charge into Social Circles.  Quite frankly, according to Adams, ‘Friends’ really didn’t cover it. We have family relationships, relationships with our colleagues and closer ‘besty’ friends. We also have relationships that are built during life stages (university) or around hobbies (football teams, diving) and those that are built because of locality (neighbours)

 

These are all social circles appropriate to (what I call) lifestyle social circles. But what about our professional social circles? Professional social circles, professional communities are built in Social platforms like LinkedIn or inside our own organisation. These circles, or communities, also include life (or career) stage communities such as inductees and locality (same office) But what other types of professional social circles are there? Some might be functional, customer specific, product or service specific?

 

I would welcome your suggestions and comments here:

A Short Post on Air Quote Reduction from WFH Cynics

As working practices change, many decision makers are ‘telepresent’. I have at least two customers that operate a two desk for three policy so are clearly assuming a third of their workforce are simply not in the office on any one given day.

The decision makers cubicle is empty or more likely gone along with many others. The whole office may well have been emptied and now home to a new Starbucks.

Decision Makers spend are spending more time working from home or working from hubs. Ironically, they might even be in the Starbucks where all the cubicles used to be.

Which brings me to the reduction of air quotes.  if I have seen one set of air quotes to accompany the phrase ‘working from home’ I have seen a thousand. Stop it. Your inference offends me and the overwhelming majority of workers use home working as an opportunity to get stuff done, often late into the night.

 

Some also use it to take the opportunity to drop off/collect children or carry out some other family commitment that would otherwise be a pain in the proverbial, require time out of the office or both. It’s a gift from their enlightened employer that they return two or threefold at the beginning or end of the day. What I hear most often from home workers is that their overall output improves once they have worked out a sensible work pattern. They get into the ‘flow’ of increased productivity which would otherwise be interrupted by, amongst other things, the chattering water cooler crowd overusing air quotes.

Collaborative Decision Making and the Big Salad

Tom’s Diner

DSC01291Some good friends of mine have asked me to take part in what seems like an amazing concept later this year. Rooven Pakkiri and Stuart Mcintyre of Collaboration Matters are eschewing the usual cubicle stylee stand at their next show at UC Expo on the 6th and 7th March. Instead, they intend to build an all-American Diner complete with actors rather than the usual ‘stand’ sales folk.  This really caught my imagination not least because I had paid a recent (last year) pilgrimage to possibly the most famous diner in the world, Tom’s Diner, in New York, the setting for a Suzanne Vega song and Monk’s Diner from Seinfeld.

 

Nighthawks

The idea is to contrast Edward Hopper’s famous painting ‘Nighthawks’ a study in loneliness and alienation in a big city with Josh Ellingson’s modern take of a Diner, Wifi Diner. Ellingson’s work, commissioned for Wired Magazine, shows what is possible when we are all connected. For me, this sounds like it may take a little explaining to a crowd that are used to something very different but it will be a welcome relief and a great introduction Social Business for many. Businesses, in my view, should do more of this. It demonstrates leading rather than following.

 

Watch and Listen

The stand will feature a live debate between thought leaders in the Social space and I will be representing my own company, Artesian Solutions, innovators in Social Listening and will be sharing my thoughts on Social and Social Analytics.  See you there.

Social Gestures and Social Business Intelligence

Social Gestures

If, in the middle of a conversation,  I put my index finger to my lips you would instinctively lower your voice. If I held my hand out flat towards your face whilst you were talking you would stop mid-flow. These social gestures are powerful forms of human communication. They are efficient communication short-cuts.

Cheque Please

One of the most universally useful social gestures is pinching the thumb and forefinger together as if holding a pen followed by a short wave in the air as if writing. Used in restaurants around the world it invariably results in receiving the bill even if your previous attempts at the local language resulted in you getting the wrong dish which you ate whilst wishing you had swallowed your pride rather than what ultimately arrived and pointed clumsily at the menu when ordering. Human social gestures are shaped by culture, history, collective memory and there are are a growing amount of equivalent online social gestures.

The Power of Online Social Gestures

Online Social Gestures are specific and granular interactions supported by social tools. In a single gesture or click it is possible to ‘like’ a document ‘rate’ it’s value or ‘share’ it’s content. Online Gestures in social tools are powerful for two reasons.

Firstly, they simplify interactions. Let’s take another universal human gesture, lifting a single thumb in the air to signify our approval. A single click on a thumbs up icon communicates the same message as adding the comment ‘I like this’ but it’s easier. It’s a single click rather than two clicks and nine key strokes. The difference in ease of use is marginal but it removes a barrier, albeit a low one, to participating in the social discourse.

The second reason though is more significant. In adding a ‘like’ button we have identified a common interaction within the universe of interactions that we can isolate, capture, analyse and make further use of. For example, we can capture and count how individuals rate a document. The availability of that document in searches and lists can be influenced by the rating. The more readers positively rate a document, the more others will become aware of it and the wider and audience for good content as decided by the ‘crowd’.

Decision Making Gestures

There are specific Social Gestures for Social Business Intelligence and the interactions associated with decision making in an organisation. Today, the social interactions are very simple but we should expect these to grow as vendor offerings grow in their levels of sophistication. The following represent social gestures for Business Intelligence. Some exist today, some are inspired by the behaviour of decision makers as we see it so are effectively our suggestions to Social BI vendors;

  • Explain. Open a question to explain the real ‘meaning’ of a BI report is identified. This is likely to be a gesture initiated by a Senior Manager
  • Resolve. Explore the possible solutions to the issue now identified as a result of the investigation that has taken place.
  • Decide. Agree and announce the most suitable solution to the issue
  • Approve. Seek approval or challenge from those involved in the decision making discourse
  • Action. Execute the solution identified in the resolution discourse.

Capturing Decision Making Gestures

If we simplify and capture these gestures we can start to understand the significance of separating, capturing and analysing each of them;

  • Explain. Senior managers can easily delegate the task of discovery to domain experts and analysts until there is consensus on the meaning of a BI report. For example
  • Resolve. All considered solutions along with the discourse and debate can be tied back to the issue identified in the BI report
  • Decide. The chosen solution can be clearly identified along with all those that were considered
  • Approve. Those involved in the decision making process can agree, disagree or register a challenge to the decision either as part of a consensus driven approach or simply ‘for the record’
  • Action. The activity decided upon to resolve the issue can be tied back to the decision and it’s outcome as a success or failure recorded so that it can be considered as an option for similar future decisions

So online social gestures, as they relate to decision making are the starting point form which we can begin to understand the decisions in our organisations, how they came about and what they tell us about improving future decisions.