Category Archives: Insights

MarketStar Integrated Demand Generation Blog-01

The Importance of Integrated Demand Generation in the Channel


After 28 years in the world of Sales as a Service™, MarketStar has forged many lasting relationships with leaders in our field. We’ve asked Heather Margolis, a respected channel veteran and CEO of Channel Maven, to discuss her thoughts on the importance of integrated demand generation efforts in the partner channel.

 

We’ve been here before.  Integrated demand generation in the channel made a push in 2016 and is continuing momentum into the New Year. It is still commonplace, however, for vendors to unknowingly put pressure on partners to act more as a sales arm, and less as a fulfillment engine when perusing leads. In that case, vendors tend to provide a list of leads, hoping the partner can drive them the rest of the way through the sales funnel while providing little to no guidance along the way.

 

As a result, partners are left in a void somewhere in-between a poorly planned blast email and an integrated, multi-touch campaign.  Most partners will pick one, or maybe two methods to reach out to prospects and simply hope for the best. While it would be easy to point fingers at partners or vendors for this paradigm, it isn’t necessarily anyone’s fault. The IT Channel is constantly evolving, and the reality is, in order to stay competitive, partners need to drive their own business on a much larger scale and be equipped with the necessary marketing tools to be successful.

 

Sales departments across the channel have found a high level of success through integrated demand generation. This process links multiple pieces of content or collateral with a common theme, message, and objective to reach customers through several touch points that serve to reinforce and direct a sales process. Partners need to use this same approach when addressing their vendor’s leads; and vendors need to provide access and guidance to content and strategy that support this tactic.

 

Integrated demand generation touch points come through varying mediums, and are logically executed to create a path the customer would naturally follow. Education is key.

 

For example, I find that leads are more ready to purchase when you build a story like this:

 

  • First, a video – a short message that illustrates the prospect’s problem and solution at a high level
  • Second, write a blog post – this works to reinforce your video’s message by adding credibility and additional information
  • Third, share a white paper, case study or e-book that takes a deeper dive into the topic. Since the prospect is now familiar (thanks to the blog and video) with the problem and solution, it’s time to answer their questions with a longer piece of content
  • Lastly, give them a call – once you know the customer has been properly nurtured, reach out for a conversation. Partners can expect higher close rates due to their active disposition

 

Just building these pieces of content however, isn’t enough. A huge part of integrated demand generation that is often missed by vendors and partners is the social component. While sending e-mail is still an effective tactic, most prospects are inundated with so many emails that messages are often overlooked.  By sharing content via social media (most effectively LinkedIn and Twitter), prospects can still see your partners’ marketing message when surfing the web and checking the news. During this time, they are more receptive because their mindset is on consuming information, not dismissing it. When timed correctly, social posts act as a catalyst that entices a prospect to address the partner’s e-mail and builds more credibility into the brand and message.

 

Vendors and partners who embrace and collaborate on integrated demand generation campaigns will share mutual success in their sales efforts. Conversely, those who aren’t deploying integrated demand generation campaigns in the next two-three years will see business shift to competitors who have learned to do it well.  When vendors educate partners and provide them with resources to implement these tactics effectively, it’s a win-win for all.

 

You can learn more about how Channel Maven can strengthen your channel marketing solutions by clicking here.

See how MarketStar can help you build an integrated partner solution through our robust partner solutions.

Diverse Partner Communication

Create Diverse Communication Methods to Engage your Channel’s Long Tail


Channel partners have become more diverse than ever, making it hard to rely on one or two profiles to build an effective support and coverage model. This diversity only grows as you move further down the list of channel partners until you reach the bottom tier, where most vendors see the mix of high diversity and low revenue potential as a reason to write off any support beyond a portal or website. If you want to capture significant long tail revenue, you need to avoid generic messaging and give partners effective communication that fits their specific needs.

 

Appropriately building and driving diverse outbound communication will drive inbound actions. These smaller profiled partners are often relegated to exclusively on-line support from the vendor’s partner portal or inbound Help Desk support. For this to work, the partner has to inherently know what they need, where to get it, and be self-sufficient in navigating the vendor’s content and programs.

 

Often the strategy becomes: don’t give rep-level support to smaller or inactive partners because they’re not growing. Partners get relegated to self-serve support and therefore don’t get the support they need to incubate their business.  So, they don’t grow. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

 

As with end-user lead nurturing, a smart balance of field, phone, and digital communication methods provides the most effective profiling and partner prospect development process. This balance, fed by highly targeted inbound marketing content, creates a winning combination, as long as you consider two important points;

 

  1. These communication vehicles must be fed by a centralized partner profiling system
  2. The content should be tailored to look like the messages are personalized

 

Email messages, reports, research content and even product information (when the time is right) can be formatted and personalized as if they are coming from the vendor’s sales rep. This goes a long way toward creating the personal dialog necessary to get a partner to engage and begin a real relationship with your company.

 

All relationships begin with some level of attraction or interest. In today’s information-on-demand world, partners can (and do) conduct a lot of research on potential suppliers and their products or services well before any direct outreach is attempted. This means vendors must serve up the right information at the right time with the right engagement offer when addressing their target solution providers. You can do this through several vehicles including:

  • Blog Posts
  • Social Messaging
  • Personalized E-mails (Delivered via an automated marketing platform)
  • Website / Portal Downloads (Whitepapers, eBooks, Spec Sheets, etc.)

 

An enormous amount of decision making is being made on-line, and that same web-based delivery method provides the most cost effective delivery vehicle for your content. However, when forging a long-term business relationship based on mutual trust and investment, people need to identify and talk to people. Vendors who provide regular communication, are proactive, stay involved in the relationship, and meet often are considered by partners to be invested in their success and more deserving of their business.

 

Ultimately, partners want a vendor who is involved and supports them at multiple levels, and values their commitment as much as the partner values the vendor, and you can’t do that if you don’t communicate with them in a way that they understand and expect.

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The Secret to the Channel’s Long Tail: Build a Long-Term Relationship


Lead nurturing is arguably more important with partners, with whom you’re trying to establish a long-term business relationship, than it is with individual end-users. And much like end-users, partners without a deep, existing relationship already established with your company will likely fall in and out of favor with your product and service offerings as their customers’ demands change.

 

Many vendors enter a partner in their database and consider them “active” after their first, and sometimes only, transaction. And that first transaction is likely a very product focused, opportunistic interaction with you. By contrast, if you consider a new prospect as a partner who hasn’t transacted with you in two more quarters, or who has only supported a single product in your portfolio one-time, you’ll more likely address them with the right content to earn their broader support over time.

 

There is a four-step relationship development process that works effectively when re-engaging or activating a partner. Each step must be supported by content that’s important to the partner, not to your product teams. Taking this approach will infinitely increase your product and partnering credibility. The content you serve up must lead with business guidance, educational content, and relevant success stories where you’ve added value to companies that look and act like theirs. Ultimately, leading with product feature/functions doesn’t address their need, it showcases your need to sell to them.

 

These four steps are:

  • Target and address their business profile: The content they’re looking for here speaks to trends in their target customer, geographic markets or growth strategies for companies that look like them.
  • Validate your value proposition: You’ll want to ensure that the overall economic and business value propositions you’re putting forth are clear and specific; here’s where relevant success stories with companies in their markets are very powerful.
  • Establish their readiness: You’ll be assessing their current financial, sales and technical capabilities as well as any pre-existing competitive investment of resources or mindshare; content here should be focused on the business benefits and ROI of an investment in enablement time and resources.
  • Give them the sales support they need: The quicker you help them generate repeatable demand, the deeper the relationship.

 

A key success factor in building a long term relationship with a solution provider, especially one with a sizeable staff, is to create role-based content. Generic messages aimed only at the already overwhelmed sales executive won’t broaden the big picture inside your target partner. Most mature channel programs today have a marketing engine and automation system that feeds content unique to the considerations of the business principal, sales executive, marketing executive, and services team lead. Increasingly, that services team lead is in a very influential position to guide the partners’ technology investments, as solution providers navigate their businesses from on premise product sales to annuity based managed or cloud services sales.

 

When you consider an inactive, or less active partner as a prospect to win, you will build a deeper relationship that keeps your partners in favor with you, and not your competitors. Just like your top tier partners, long tail partners need content that is relevant to them, and in turn helps them sell more, increasing your revenue.

Chasing the Long Tail One Size

One Size Doesn’t Fit All when Chasing the Channel’s Long Tail


Twenty years ago a partner was a partner. For the most, part they all did the same thing, and the real differentiation came from product specialization and price. But today, profiling a broad partner community is much more complex due to system cross-pollination, new technologies and sectors, and a shifting partner landscape.

 

New solution providers constantly join the market, creating a constant state of flux in the channel. Legacy partners who have been at it for decades, are consolidating through acquisition at a steady pace, contributing to an unpredictable channel. Cloud and managed services models are force solution providers to invest in new technologies, new divisions, and practice areas in order to capitalize on these new IT consumption models.

 

In the past, volume based channel programs offered a one-dimensional view of partner capabilities and were limited to a couple major partner types (value added reseller, ISV, systems integrator). It was sufficient then to group partners into like-communities for purposes of offering up core channel program benefits. Today however, value-based channel programs attempt to capture a wide variety of partner profiling elements across sales, technical, marketing, and services-delivery capabilities.

Value-based channel programs attempt to capture a wide variety of partner profiling elements across sales, technical, marketing, and services-delivery capabilities.

Channel-savvy vendors must adopt a scorecarding system that combines the traditional, current-state partner profile elements with non-traditional elements that help predict the future success and stability of the partner.

 

Traditional elements include: 

  • Revenue
  • Target markets
  • Technical certifications
  • Product sell-through mix

Non-traditional elements tend to be more qualitative and include:

  • IT vs. LOB sales approach
  • Internal sales methodologies
  • Quality and quantity of demand generation activities
  • Level of vertical market or business process insights
  • Level of partner-to-partner collaboration activity

 

The ability to capture these elements in one central repository, accessible to everyone in your organization responsible for partner growth or development, can make or break your segmentation model. If you consider partner profiling an annual “necessary evil,” you’re probably missing the mark on creating the dynamic database you need to continually adjust your partner coverage and support model.

 

Take revenue metrics for example. A partner with multiple transactional models may be engaged in your partner program as a traditional VAR with 4-6 quarters of low sell-through transactional success. However, that same company may have a separate pre-sales consulting division that engages with large enterprise clients in a particular vertical market. In that part of their business, this partner’s revenue likely falls off your radar screen if you don’t have a formal program to capture and reward sales influence.

Current state-of-the-art channel programs provide a feeder or “community” tier for partners

Current state-of-the-art channel programs provide a feeder or “community” tier for partners interested in an IT vendor and/or their products, without requiring them to make a full investment in the formal partner program. Organized correctly, this can be an invaluable nurturing ground for potential partners while simultaneously driving high visibility to your company’s offerings and success with and through indirect channels.

 

With the rapid changes we’re seeing as new re-sellers enter the partner space, and partner consolidation among traditional partners, it’s more important than ever that the long tail of low or non-transacting partners are not forgotten. A solid plan for coverage should be in place to ensure this lengthening tail of partners and revenue is not lost.

 

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Stop Chasing Your Tail: Game Changing Concepts for Engaging the Broad Channel


More is better! That’s been the mantra of indirect channel programs within the IT industry for decades. Why? Because as high-tech products and services have continued on their break-neck pace of innovation, product lifecycles continue to shorten.

 

It’s not always clear what kind of channel partner you need to take your products to market. Nor is it clear which partner business models will be the most successful long-term. So, creating a broader community of partners reduces your risk and gives you more visibility and endorsement in the market. Broad was good for the average tech vendor trying to drive market scale and incremental revenue through indirect channels. But it’s not that simple any more.

 

In an effort to attract and maintain relationships with the masses of solution providers, channel-centric IT manufacturers and publishers now find themselves with tens of thousands of partners of different business models, sizes, maturity levels. Partner programs have become very complex and costly to maintain. In an effort to create predictable and sustainable indirect revenue, vendors have defaulted to working closely with only a small percentage of their partners.

 

In fact, 75% of vendors indicate that 20% or less of their partners represent 80% or more of their indirect revenues. In addition, because of the costly nature of engaging “the masses,” the very high-touch model necessary to incubate a new partner relationship and move it from opportunistic to committed has all but disappeared.

 

The broad portion of channel has affectionately been nicknamed the “long-tail” and is seen as a huge conundrum or incredible opportunity. In order to strike that balance between cultivating broad channel visibility and investing deeply in your top-performers, we have to think differently as a channel community. We have to use the same, if not greater, precision in how we profile, engage and solicit investment from potential channel partners as we do in our end-user branding and lead cultivation techniques.

 

There are five critical success factors for you to consider as you try to maximize revenue through your broad “long tail” channel community:

  • One size does not fit all – Not all “unmanaged” partners are the same; create simple, well institutionalized partner segmentation and profiling processes that your whole organization can buy into
  • Build a long-term relationship – Ongoing deep profiling and nurturing activities, driven by the partners’ content needs, are key to creating relevance and establishing your brand credibility
  • Create diverse communication – A smart mix of field, phone and digital communication provides that high-touch, personalized feeling of local, co-selling support partners need to build trust and investment
  • Invest, but selectively – Be willing to hand-pick key partners with a mix of the right attributes to selectively invest in and groom to be your next top performers
  • Create a data-driven culture – To maximize conversion from well-profiled prospect to long-term partner, your organization must get committed to making investment and program decision based on real analytics

 

The methodologies and digital tools now exist for channel management professionals to apply a high degree of precision in cultivating relationships with the right kind of partner. And, used correctly with an eye toward long-term ecosystem development (not just the next six months’ revenue streams), you will create a distinct competitive advantage.

3 Factors for Successful Outsourcing

Making it Work: The 4 Keys to a Successful Outsourced Sales Experience


Closing deals is getting more complex and competitive, prompting a wave of curiosity around whether an outsourced sales program can improve on internal results. Success in outsourcing comes from beyond merely choosing to outsource, it’s dependent on choosing the right partner.

MarketStar, my employer, has been an outsource sales provider for more than 28 years, and during my time here I’ve learned that four factors determine whether a company has chosen the right outsource provider for success:

 

Compensation and Cost of Sale

An important first step is to set up a compensation arrangement that balances financial risks between client and provider, and reflects the value expected from the relationship. Often a company will try to place the burden of success through a commission only model, but this model only serves to attract low-cost resources and employees that aren’t necessarily aligned to the goals, but rather the budget.

In order to compensate for success, while keeping a healthy cost of sales, companies should consider a variable compensation model to share the risks and rewards of performance, as well as fixed compensation so the partner has a stake in the relationship and motivation to stay within the boundaries set. This goes a long way to having an outsource partner who provides leadership and innovation, rather than a vendor who only executes.

You can’t expect to get good results if your expectation is to just “pay for a head.”

Training and Enablement

You can’t expect to get good results if your expectation is to just “pay for a head.” You need to ensure each representative is trained upfront with initial knowledge transfer of your products and your brand, and then you need to train again and often to keep the person fresh and knowledgeable.

Training by itself does a great job of transferring information, but what is your outsource partner doing to ensure the training turns into long term actions? A great outsource partner will enable the success of their reps through active coaching and appropriate motivation to drive specific behaviors that bring the desired results.

Training and enablement can’t be done by one party or another alone. It takes investment from both the company and the partner to ensure performance meets expectation. Plan on staying involved, especially as products, marketing materials, and sales tactics adapt to the market.

The difference between a vendor who executes and a partner who drives success, is their level of reactive or proactive communication.

 Communication and Partnership

When you pick an outsource partner be mindful of how well they communicate during the proposal process. The difference between a vendor who executes and a partner who drives success, is their level of reactive or proactive communication. Great partners will reach out for clarification, and provide suggestions for improvement without being asked. They want to see you succeed, and are focused on your business.

Close communication with an outsourced sales provider is critical to demonstrate commitment and minimize conflict. You need periodic, and scheduled, reviews to keep both inside and outside components of a strategy optimized. A willingness to pick up the phone and resolve issues quickly is an important aspect to any successful relationship, and if your conversations are limited to checking up on metrics, and getting explanations on performance, you are no longer communicating in a proactive manner, your conversation shifts to varying degrees of reaction only.

 

A Holistic Solution

Successful outsourcing isn’t just about finding a vendor that can provide you with bodies in a seat. You need a partner that offers a blended solution that uses relevant technologies designed to prepare a program for success before a call is made. They should provide you with smart business intelligence that tells you how to get the best results, rather than relying on carpet bombing your customers with calls hoping for success.

The right partner will have tools in place that optimize a representative’s ability to succeed. A phone call alone isn’t enough to make a deal. Reps need smart analytics that provide them with direction and targeting that greatly increases their chance for success. Your program should work smarter, not harder, to get the results you need.

Reps need smart analytics that provide them with direction and targeting that greatly increases their chance for success.

When these four keys are in place in a proactive and positive manner that engages both the company and the partner, an outsource sales program not only meets expectations, it adds long term value and growth.

Ultimately it comes down to what your company needs, but merely hiring a vendor to take orders vastly limits your ability to move beyond a reactionary state where you constantly look at the past. When you look for your outsource provider to act as a partner, the relationship shifts to a proactive one where both parties are invested in the future.

Perks MarketStar Guest Blog

Enough is Enough! Solving Lackluster Sales Performance, Once and For All


After 28 years in the world of Sales as a Service™, MarketStar has forged many lasting relationships with leaders in our field. We’ve asked Claudio Ayub, a 20-year channel veteran and Chief Channel Strategist of Perks, to discuss his view on improving sales performance through his experience as a loyalty marketing expert with broad knowledge in strategy development, market management, and channel sales planning.

 

Solving Lackluster Sales Performance, Once and For All

 

Does this seem familiar? You meet with your team to talk about sales performance, and after an initial discussion that doesn’t provide any insights, the discussion centers on a familiar litany of exhortations, including the need to focus and work harder. The meeting is dismissed and members of the sales team trudge dutifully if somewhat quizzically out the door, not really sure of what to do next except to repeat their same efforts with greater intensity.

The key to turning around lagging sales performances is not to use the desired number (sales or revenue objective) as the end all and be all, but to use it as a starting point. In their book, Cracking the Sales Management Code, authors Jason Jordan and Michelle Vazzana tell us that the path to a solution is to work backwards—to “reverse engineer” from the desired number to find the performance metrics (the specific actions or activities) that are behind the numbers, and that can ultimately help deliver them.

While this solution at first glance sounds simple enough, it is not happening partly because sales managers are inundated with more data than they can handle. They rely on CRM systems that provide plenty of information on where, and by how much, sales are off, but do not offer any insights on the activities that need to be implemented or changed to help achieve the desired numbers. The authors believe that what is missing from all of the data are the instructions— the specific activities to engage in—to solve the problem.

Repeated client experiences show, as do research findings and plenty of case studies, that the activities that can help a company reverse persistently flat sales performances can be found with its best sales people. These individuals are top performers because, one way or another, they have figured out the activities or best practices that get results. By identifying and breaking down these activities into replicable steps and communicating these to others to adopt and implement, a company can take the crucial first step toward reinvigorating its sales efforts.

For an in-depth read, this is the resource for you:

http://resources.perks.com/h/i/203381277-case-study-enough-is-enough-sales-incentives-that-work

Addressing the changing landscape of sales? Turn to “Sales as a Service.”


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It’s pretty obvious that the way we buy and sell goods and services has changed. As Business to Business buyers take more control of the process and move along their own journey on their own terms, it’s imperative that marketing and sales learn to adapt, personalize and provide value during the journey, or lose out in a hyper-competitive marketplace.

And that’s the crux of the situation – how do B2B sellers become more agile to reach customers when customers have more and more control over the buying journey? After reviewing tens, if not hundreds of articles, whitepapers and success stories, we at MarketStar have summarized the advice into 4 basic themes:

  1. Meet customers where they are doing research, which is increasingly online, digital and via peer networks
  2. Provide value to the customer’s research – aka provide “content of value”
  3. As a sales person, work to be a trusted advisor
  4. Use a fishing spear, not a wide net – aka “Account Based Marketing/Selling” tactics

With such a wide range of advice, tactics and technology, how can businesses mitigate investment risk?

We at MarketStar feel that just as cloud solutions augment and expand technology capabilities at scale for a reasonable cost, businesses should consider outsourced sales to expand into new markets, build new channels and scale sales teams.

MarketStar is a pioneer in “Sales as a Service,” which is an agile and scalable outsourced sales solution that helps you shift with the evolving buyer’s journey. This may be an inside sales force that reaches the elusive SMB space, or a field team that provides coverage in strategic accounts. “Sales as a Service” solutions can be very effective tests that scale if they provide long term value. Your sales team’s success relies on it, and your bottom line depends on it.

While there are undoubtedly a variety of factors, here are four reasons to consider augmenting existing sales teams with a “Sales as a Service” partner.

What We Sell Is Evolving

A majority of businesses have expanded their product and service portfolios to include new offerings, renewals, warranties, and subscriptions. These new services and offerings have, in turn, opened new revenue streams and sales opportunities that may be difficult to address or accommodate by an overburdened in-house sales team.

Additionally, the nature of a given offering may be too small, and the sales cycle too short, to warrant the costs associated with re-configuring existing in-house sales resources.

By augmenting their sales force with an outsourced solution, companies are able to allow the right level of support based on opportunity, buying cycle, and sales complexity. Each of these trends favors increased involvement by outsourced sales solutions in B2B motions.

Buyer’s Control their Journey

We are in the age of the customer, driven by empowered buyers, who have more control over their own buyer’s journey than ever before. In many cases, the buying process used to rely heavily on the sales person to initiate contact, drive conversation and be the subject matter of authority; that is no longer the case. For many buyers, the sales person is now a mere transactional irritant, engaged too late in the purchase process to influence or consult.

In today’s market, new technologies and methods of gathering prospective intelligence increase the likelihood of high-quality, personalized interactions between B2B buyers and sellers. According to a TechCrunch survey, 70% of a buyer’s decision-making process now occurs online. Through digital self-education, B2B buyers now spend less in-person time with sellers.

The Way We Communicate Has Dramatically Changed

There are now more mobile devices in the world than people. This statistic is both startling and exciting. Sixty-one percent of US adults are always addressable – meaning they use at least three connected devices to access the Internet from multiple physical locations, multiple times a day.

Digital engagement technology has passed the novelty stage and is now the preferred method of communication among most busy business professionals. This shift from live conversations to digital dialog has created a substantive shift in how people expect companies to communicate with them. “Sales as a Service,” while anchored by a centralized sales group, presents an integrated communication process that mixes automated yet personalized messaging with good ole fashioned one-to-one engagement.

We Know More About The Buyer

In today’s world, it’s rare to find an individual who doesn’t have some sort of online social presence. Naturally, this activity leaves digital footprints that marketers can, in turn, use to create a profile of potential buyers and track buying stages to classify the prospect. Businesses can then leverage this data to become smarter about selling by inserting relevant, timely content to nurture prospects and guide buyer behavior.

Additionally, savvy companies are using advanced analytics to build predictive targeting models, identify and engage the RIGHT prospects and inject thought leadership into communities and social networks at the most opportune time. “Sales a s a Service” solutions are completely reliant upon this data to make sales motions more agile, and also to optimize quicker. The more data that can be gathered, the quicker the sales process can be refined.

Generally, the old model of selling was focused around a product, rather than a customer’s experience. However, in today’s emerging market, a cross-channel, customer-focused strategy is essential to successfully interact with buyers. Buyer’s proactively seek out the information they need to advance their decisions through digital and social channels, from peers and from a variety of other online resources. Despite this obvious shift in the way customer’s buy and interact with products and companies, a recent survey found that only 17% of B2B marketers had changed their company focus to customer based instead of product based.

Enter “Sales as a Service.” In the age of “out of the box” solutions and services, no solution can add more immediate impact to your bottom line than prepackaged sales teams. Outsourced sales teams can be a key in helping companies to develop and maintain a more customer-based focus.

To get a closer look at the various elements that make up the “Sales as a Service” solution, click here and download our newest infographic.

After viewing the solution in-depth, a key question to ask is, “do I have the pieces in place to meet the changing landscape of sales?”

Breaking Down the Psychology of Social Selling


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More than 40 years ago, Stanford professor Walter Mischel conducted an experiment now commonly referred to as the “Marshmallow Experiment”. In this experiment a child was placed in a room and was presented with a treat. The child had the choice to either eat the treat now or wait 15 minutes and receive two treats.

This now famous study tested the ability of a child to resist the natural inclination toward instant gratification for a more favorable long-term reward. The children in the study who were able to resist were much more successful later in life and made better life choices.

The psychology of social selling really comes down to building lasting relationships and potentially sacrificing instant insincere sales for more favorable long-term results. Sales are the byproduct of relationships not the other way around. No question that you can pound the pavement and hit your quota; however, building lasting relationships will always produce greater long-term success, even if only realized in the long term.

My wife recently entertained the solicitation of a door-to-door salesperson that cared only about pushing their subscription-based product. The sales person was so pushy that my wife finally relented just to get the sales person out the doorway and on her way. The tactic ultimately backfired as my wife called and canceled the subscription before it ever got started.

SocialSelling-banner1Social selling is not new, it’s just another way of discovering the interests of someone so you can begin a meaningful conversation. When someone is posting their interests and achievements, that’s an open invitation for you to talk to them about it. It comes down to basic human needs: people need to connect, both neurologically and physically. It’s about them, not about you. Allow your prospects to talk and actively listen. When you’re doing most of the talking, you’re not building relationships you’re dictating them.

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Having a hard time trying to figure out how to shift the conversation? Try this:

  1. Get prospects to talk about their success. Ask them about how they got to where they are in their career, their challenges and failures, their interests and achievements. Show that you care about them as a person. 
  2.  I believe it takes most people less than 5 seconds to know your intent. Never present a façade; always be genuine, be respectful, and be witty. Nothing turns the tide of a sales call faster than arrogance and entitlement, (e.g. “Do you know to whom you’re talking? I’m the {insert ostentatious title] from Company XYZ!” – bad idea, wrong attitude). 
  3.  Build relationships based on trust and accountability. Do what you say you will do and when you say you will do it. If for some reason it’s not going to happen, be sure to contact them and let them know what to expect instead. 
  4. Never insult a person even in jest. Never stereotype and make sweeping generalizations about gender or religion. We are talking first impressions here. Be genuine and don’t offend. 

One might think that some of these principles are obvious, but I’m amazed at how many sales calls I listen to where they are simply ignored.

I recently received a call from a company looking to provide salary and cloud based compensation software. The sales rep was personable and interested in me, my role, and even commented that it sounded like I had a cold—which I did. Overall I was intrigued but not that interested until the next day when a package shows up on my desk. Opening the package revealed a box of herbal tea with a note, “Thought you could use this, hope you get feeling better”. I went from slightly interested to very impressed and all it took was a simple gesture from the sales person that said, “I care about you as an individual not just in your business”.


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So what is the profile of a good social selling rep (SSR)? Where SSR’s are valuable resources across the entire sales funnel, the most value will come in qualifying leads and setting appointments. Look for these qualities and you’re sure to succeed.

  1. Personable—good communications skills, both written and verbal. 
  2. Genuine—a “people person”, one who loves to talk, listen, and is interested in others. 
  3. Empathic—not just sympathetic but has the ability to do things that make a difference in others. 
  4. Determined—loves a challenge and will face it head on. 
  5. Passionate—enjoys taking notes and recording the subtle details not just the summary. 
  6. Witty—quick on his or her feet. Someone who is ok with a “no” but willing to try another angle before just giving up. Thinking on one’s feet is not often a skill that is taught but a personality trait that’s possessed by a select few. 
  7. Unique—uniqueness (not uniformity) is what stands out and demands attention. 
  8. Persistence—willing to keep trying. Thrives on a challenge. 

If you truly care about an individual and what they are interested in, you will always succeed in your sales career. It takes effort and, most of the time, multiple outreaches to someone to really show them that you care. But watch out, you may also develop some life-long friendships along the way.

The Psychology of social selling is about developing real relationships and caring about the individual and not just about the sale. It comes down to hiring the right people with the right personality, then teaching them behavior that will drive real results.

SocialSelling-banner3I’m convinced that it’s the right move for any business but don’t just leave it up to chance—measure it, test it, and, ultimately, adopt it.

“I Love It When Retail Brands Ignore Me.” – Said No Customer Ever.


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In 1995, Gary Chapman published a book called “The Five Love Languages.” This book highlights five common ways individuals express their commitment and loyalty to their loved ones including giving gifts, spending quality time, sharing words of affirmation, planning acts of service, and providing physical touch. Love languages need to be nurtured in different ways, in order to show you care.

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Harvard Business Review highlighted that companies should pursue emotional connections with their customers as both a science and strategy. The article titled, “The New Science of Customer Emotions,” stated, “Although brands may be liked or trusted, most fail to align themselves with the emotions that drive their customers’ most profitable behaviors. Some brands by nature have an easier time making such connections, but a company doesn’t have to be born with the emotional DNA of Disney or Apple to succeed. Even a cleaning product or a canned food can forge powerful connections.”

As an integrated marketing professional of 10 years, I often apply the “love language” approach to my own strategies in creating interest and engaging conversations with target audiences. Do my clients know I appreciate them and hear my thankfulness expressed often? Do my customers have face-to-face interactions with the products I support to tangibly hold and interact with their services? Here are three of these love languages to best highlight and gain recognition for your brand, while ensuring your customers feel appreciated.

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In a Google Holiday Consumer Intentions Study, 80% of retail shoppers reported they still prefer to experience a product in-store before buying. Another 50% of shoppers stated that they research products online, but still purchase items in store.

It’s important to provide tangible touch points to help move shoppers emotionally. Give them a hands-on experience to discover, understand, desire, buy, and love your products and services. It’s one thing to read about a product online, but it can mean love at first sight to actually see the product in action! That face-to-face, hands on experience, can be the customer’s deciding factor between cutting the conversation short or taking the product home.

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In 2014, 80% of all sales took place in-stores. Only 6% were through e-commerce, and half of those were ultimately transacted through a brick-and-mortar store. Consumers are more aggressive than ever in their search to find the best bargains, deals, and ideal products for their shopping needs.

Retail associates are the key! These reps are your loving “boots on the ground” armed with knowledge and product expertise that can assist in wooing a shopper to become your customer. Educating a retail sales team on the features and advantages of your product is like arming reps with retail cupid arrows. It empowers in-store employees to validate the customer’s questions and either reaffirm or redirect interest to making the right purchase. Reps are the last contact customers have before the sale, prepping them with these tools can successfully help them promote your brand amidst that final courtship of any lovers quarrel between other competing products.

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Everyone wants quality time with the ones they love. For a manufacturer, this equates to cozying up to a shopper at an experiential store event. Experiential events are designed to create and combine tactile sensations and emotional resonance with consumers. Shoppers are emotional and rational beings who look for experiences and interactions every day, and not just with other people. They seek out these experiences with brands, products, and retailers.

A recent study conducted on the effectiveness of experiential events for an automotive brand demonstrated the power of an experience. Following an event, 67% of attendees said that they now considered the automotive brand to be a trustworthy manufacturer as a direct result of their experiential activity, while 86% said they had a more positive opinion of the brand. When asked if they would consider purchasing a car from them, 58% of attendees said they probably would.

Creating an experience that makes people feel good, valued, and appreciated is the key to their hearts. By combining an opportunity to interact with your product, with an atmosphere that is built for the product, you win on every level.

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In closing, customer loyalty increases by strengthening their confidence in your product, offering, or service. This loyalty drives your customers to buy time and time again. So to help your customers feel loved, make sure you are speaking their “love language.” It’s all about their experience. Work to address the way your customers are seeking appreciation, validation, and interaction with your products. Turn their brand awareness into brand advocacy, and help spread the love.