Essential Tools for the Social Leader

This continues to crop up in conversation with my colleagues and customers. What are the essential tools for leading in a networked and social era. Here are my top 5.

  1. Evernote. Strictly speaking, not really a social tool. However, those that are living in the cloud (living the vida nuba) need a note taker that is versatile and available on any device that they have to hand. Evernote does this and much more. If you are not using it you are missing out. Check out Evernote Hello too.
  2. Buffer. If you have something you want to say to a community that spans the globe and that have busy twitter streams themselves then you might need to say it late at night or early in the morning. You might even need to say it twice. This needs a tool that manages your posting to a timetable so that your sharing can be sometimes scheduled and sometimes impromptu.
  3. Klout. Err, I’m sorry. I care about my social influence. Not obsessively you understand. I just want to understand if what I am sharing is working. One way of knowing if you are contributing something positive to the global conversation is to check what others are doing with your Tweets, Updates and Posts. That’s what Klout does … and there are Klout Perks too.
  4. Unfollow. If you follow me and we share interests, I follow you back. Unless you spam me, we will spend a long time sharing. I expect the same in return. Nothing anyone has to say is that important that they can’t listen from time to time. Unfollow will highlight all those one way conversationalists so that I can unfollow them. You are not Brian Solis, after all. Unless you are.
  5. Linked In and Twitter Apps. Yes, I know that this is two really but what I mean is native apps. Whilst I use aggregators  the native apps keep getting better so I use them frequently for new insights into how they can be used to  nourish my network.

That’s my list. My essentials. There are more of course including pocket (you really need this!), bitly, feedly and flipboard but I really could not function without these any more. If you are part of the connected generation you will have a similar list too and no doubt we some in common.

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The New Sales ABC Always be Serving

519GWpY-vAL._SS500_I have always had a problematic relationship with sales. This is quite an admission given that I have worked closely with professional sellers for most of my working life. Indeed, much of what I do today is help customers through their analytics and social crm initiatives and then ask them for money at some point i.e. I sell. There, I said it.

Thankfully Dan Pink’s latest book To Sell is Human (Amazon UK US) addresses my personal demons head on. His research suggests that many of us, when we think of sales, go straight to Ricky Roma in Glengarry, Glen Ross. In fact, when Pink asked the question ‘when you think of sales, what is the first word that comes to mind?’  the resulting word cloud was not pretty.

I don’t want to share too much because, like his previous title Drive, the destination is worth the journey but suffice to say it is insightful, full of surprises and fresh in it’s examination of what it is to sell in the networked and social age.

One of my most startling (what a friend calls) ‘aha’ moments was Pink connecting  modern selling with Robert Greenleaf’s servant leadership movement. I have often commented that there is overlap in sales and leadership. Both are about working with the universe of possibilities and creating certainty, both are about moving from indecision to decision. Sales and leadership are at their core about making things happen. Pink articulates it better than I ever could. In connecting with Greenleaf’s modern leadership movement he makes the point that modern selling is less about serving the self (usually through a large commission cheque) and more about serving the needs of a customer searching for answers.

We do not really need to look any further than this for a world without spam, cold calls, high pressure techniques (always be closing!) and (damn it, I am on a roll) another global economic meltdown through the sale of financial products which did nothing for the (ultimate) customer and everything for sellers and speculators.

I am ready for a world which Pink articulates as professional sellers ‘solving problems and serving customers’ because they want to be ‘part of something bigger than themselves’. It’s here of course (it is just unevenly distributed)  and the smart seller is already doing it. They are ‘up-serving’ and ‘cross-serving’. The rest … those that are up-selling and cross-selling need to catch-up and I look forward to a reinterpretation of Mamet’s play where Blake chalks up the letters A-B-S. Always be serving.

Sales Cycles Suck

Sales cycles are a preoccupation for sales professionals? Where is the deal in relation to the cycle? Is the prospect progressing through the cycle as forecast? Organisations invest thousands of man hours in training and countless more in implementing them. There are more than two hundred and fifty titles on Amazon alone that cover the subject. They can be strategic, complex, intuitive even scientific. Take a detailed look at the range of books on offer and you would be forgiven for thinking that most sales cycles are broken. The majority of materials are all about simplifying, mastering, rethinking, shortening and taking control of them. In other words, sellers feel that theirs are too difficult, too long or out of control.

The problem, however, is more fundamental. They suck. They generalise behaviours on the assumption that if you put prospective buyers in a wide funnel at one end and take them through a series of qualifying and processing steps that they will pop out the other end and the cash register will ring. Sounds logical enough but they assume that it’s all about the seller. The buyer is reduced to a target, an object, a mark. If you are not offended by that you should be.

I for one, don’t want to be in their sales cycle. If I am in any cycle, I am in my buying cycle.

A rep from an alarm company once called me after I chose his competitors product.  As far as he was concerned, he had the better product, a competitive price, had answered all my questions and managed all my objections. He had run the perfect ‘sales cycle’ and yet I hadn’t behaved in the way that he predicted. He had probably forecast me at 100% to his manager. His frustration was palpable. I went with a slightly more expensive option even though the products were broadly comparable. It made no sense to him and he told me so. The trouble was his competitor had been recommended to me by a trusted friend. It aced anything he could say or do and it wasn’t on his sales cycle. However, it was on my buying cycle.

Professional sellers often argue that they don’t mind being in someone else’s sales process at all. In fact many claim they actually like it. However, probe further and it becomes clear that this is out of a respect for their own craft. It’s rather like a musician being asked up from the audience to guest with the band. They like being sold to because they get the rules, understand the techniques and can take an informed and objective view of someone else’s performance.

Most of us though find them awkward, unsatisfactory and disagreeable. They are are built from the sellers perspective. They are all about closing and commissions. The buyer is someone with a business problem that needs a solutions but this is incidental to the fact that they are a budget holder and can make a purchasing decision. Not that a sales process is a bad thing. Not at all. It is only sensible to make sure that expensive resources requires to implement sophisticated solutions are allocated to the right buyers at the right time. However, any sales approach that doesn’t have the buyer at it’s centre is fundamentally flawed. Unless the sales cycle is unambiguously built around the needs of the purchaser to the extent that at it’s core, it is indiscernable from the buying cycle. It a sales cycle that sucks.