Archive for the ‘social media’

(Sales) Interaction Design

idI had an interesting discussion just the other day about the [putative] rise of social selling; increase in virtual, rather than physical, sales engagement; and the rush to redeploy field sales resources to inside sales. The topic being discussed was how, or if, a company should adjust its sales strategy to accommodate or leverage these new capabilities. I have a few thoughts about this and I would welcome your opinion.

There is a growing body of opinion that these “trends” (social, virtual, inside) are the ‘new normal’, and unless you quickly adopt them, and switch your investments from other (possibly successful) models, that you are doomed to failure. I shudder at the thought of this.

With any ‘new paradigm’ in sales and marketing there is a need to consider why the paradigm is emerging and how this new facility, or modality of engagement, impacts the blueprint for the interaction between buyer and seller.

I refer to the creation of this blueprint as Interaction Design, a term perhaps more frequently used by UX or other professionals who concern themselves with how a user will interact with technology.

Interaction Design focuses on creating engaging interfaces with well thought out behaviors. Understanding how users and technology communicate with each other is fundamental to this field. With this understanding, you can anticipate how someone might interact with the system, fix problems early, as well as invent new ways of doing things. (Ref:

Shouldn’t sales and marketing professionals be concerned with understanding the communication with their customers? Isn’t there great value to be had if you could anticipate how a buyer might interact with the [sales and marketing go to market] system, fix problems early, as well as invent new ways of doing things?

Interaction Design should be applied to how a sales person, or a whole company’s sales and marketing organization, interacts with customers throughout all of the phases of a selling or buying cycle. We know that the combination of company, brand, or product impacts customer loyalty less that the sales experience – the actual interaction with the seller. So shouldn’t we be looking to provide our buyers with a great ‘user experience’?

I am not saying that there is not value in social, virtual and inside – not at all. But in the absence of deeply considered deployment, we run the risk of damaging the buyer’s user experience. We first need to design the sales interaction in painstaking detail. Otherwise we will burn cycles, prospects, customers, and the careers of our sales people, in pursuit of these latest trends.  Thinking long and hard about how the customer will want to engage in the buyer/seller interaction is not necessarily easy, but as a carpenter, tailor or surgeon will tell you, it is always better to measure twice and cut once.

The challenge we now face is that with the proliferation of automation fueling social, inside and virtual, we have an opportunity to screw up our sales efforts really quickly. Just because it scales, doesn’t mean we should do it – at least not until the design work has been done. The corollary of this of course is that if your competitors have figured it out before you before you do, then you will be a competitive disadvantage. That’s one of the conundrums we face in a world with such advances in technology and rapidly evolving dynamics. Still, better to be late than to destroy what you have while trying to be early.

Interaction Design, when applied to the sales engagement, is something we at The TAS Group consider to be part of Smart Sales Transformation, and can be something as fundamental as building a smart sales playbook that guides the sellers to anticipate buyer actions, or a system that connects your solutions to the customers business problems.

Taking a customer-first perspective in all that you do helps to ensure that your buyer has a better user experience. Once the ideal interaction has been designed, you can visualize how the engagement happens – from the customer’s perspective – see what outcome you want at each point in the interaction, and then see how social, virtual and inside can help accelerate the velocity of the interactions for increased effectiveness or equal effectiveness with greater efficiency.

At one time while Ron Johnson was Senior Vice President of Retail Operations at Apple he challenged Steve Jobs with an Interaction Design problem. As the company was just about to open its first retail store in May 2001, Johnson was riding with Steve Jobs to a weekly planning meeting. “We’ve organized it like a retail store around products, but if Apple’s going to organize around activities like music and movies, well, the store should be organized around music and movies and things you do,’” Johnson confessed. Jobs turned to him and said, “Do you know how big a change that is? I don’t have time to redesign the store.”

Ten minutes later, Jobs walked into the meeting and said, “Well, Ron thinks our store is all wrong. And he’s right, so I’m going to leave now. And Ron, you work with the team and design the store.” That lesson of doing things well “carried through to so many things I’ve done,” recalls Johnson. “It’s not about speed to market. It’s really about doing your level best.”

Well said. “It’s not about speed to market. It’s really about doing your level best.”

Sometimes starting over can be the best place to begin, and sometimes you can leverage what you have already in place. You just have to design for the interactions you are looking to accelerate, and understand the capabilities (or deficiencies) in new technologies or trends. The story begins and ends with the customer.

Why LinkedIn is losing its value to me

I don’t know about you, but I am a little frustrated with LinkedIn lately.  Every single day now I am getting multiple generic “I’d like to connect with you on LinkedIn” messages.  Most of these are coming from people I do not know, and as they are mostly generic, I have to assume that the senders are not really interested in making a connection – but simply are building up the contacts they have. That does not make any sense to me. In fact, I think it dilutes the value of their real network. Our Dealmaker Index Global Sales Benchmark Study would suggest that there is little correlation between the number of contacts someone has on LinkedIn and their revenue achievement.  The value is in how you build connections, not how you accumulate contacts.

I am a huge fan of social networks and have personally built relationships and won business directly as a result of our social media activity.  We have even built LinkedIn and Twitter integration directly into our Political Map Express and Dealmaker Smart Opportunity Manager products to make it easier for our customers to leverage their social networks.

At The TAS Group our core philosophy has been to shape thinking, cultivate customers and earn permission to engage. We try to follow 4 key principles:

1. The Social Universe is a great place to listen and learn

2. You Should Give Value First and Expect Nothing in Return

3. You Must Be Authentic, Be Prepared to Fail, and Don’t Give Up

4. It is advisable to be Open, Collaborate, and Co-Create – Let Others Play in the Community

The recent trend towards accumulating contacts seems to fly in the face of that. If those who you link with have a massive network, but you are not really connected to them, then it dilutes the value of your network, as they keep popping up as the link, and that sometimes gets in the way of people who you really now, and who might really help. Perhaps LinkedIn’s recent practice of continuously suggesting new people to connect with is partly to blame for this. It may well the case that LinkedIn has a different agenda – will we see them entering the CRM market with a ‘contacts-already-supplied’ strategy, who knows? – but as a social network to build connections it is losing its value, IMO.’

This was really brought home to me when a female colleague of mine received the worst kind of message.  It went like this …

Subject: Hello
How are you? I hope it has been a productive week for you..
I know the idea of using LinkedIn for an online dating websites purpose is weird. I don’t do this all the time. But i was captivated by your profile picture. I don’t how recent the picture is,but you caught my attention and you look very beautiful.We belong to the same group (Sales / Marketing Executives (CSO/CMO)).
However,I’d love to get to you know you if you’re single and available to date. We could get to know each other and meet for lunch,dinner or a cup of coffee whenever we are both comfortable to meet and depending on your schedule.
What do you think?



Is this really what LinkedIn has come to?

I seem to remember that, in the past on LinkedIn, you used to have to identify how you knew the person before you invited them to connect.  I, for one, would like to see that – or some other threshold of relationship – reinstated.

Otherwise the spam-factor will just increase and we will have to look at alternative solutions, and that would be a shame.

And yes, I will post this on LinkedIn, and see if there is any response.  If you care about this, please share.


Realtime (Honest) Feedback on your Sales Proposals?

As you may know I published my most recent book – Account Planning in Salesforce - earlier this year. I am always nervous when I am launching a book.  I put a lot of myself into it and, even with a topic like Account Planning, I find that my writing always seems to become infused with my values, my opinions and my beliefs.  I really just don’t know any other way and I wanted the readers to get value from the book. I want them to feel that the time they spent reading it was worthwhile.

So, as you can imagine, when Account Planning in Salesforce went to #1 Bestseller in its segment on Amazon I was really pleased.  And the reviews were pretty good too – even the ones from people I don’t know!

But what I did not realize was that as people read the book on their Kindle devices, they were highlighting the passages of text that resonated with them. Meanwhile, the elves in the background at Amazon are continually collating and analyzing the highlighted areas and can provide a summary of what people care about. (See below the top 5 highlighted passages – I am really thrilled with the one that came in at #1.)

These insights are hugely valuable to me and I plan to use what I have learned from Amazon’s analysis in a webinar I am delivering on Account Planning in Salesforce for 2014 later this month.

But also this whole process got me thinking,  what if …

Wouldn’t it be great if you could do this for all sales proposals, PowerPoint presentations or marketing collateral?  It would be like having someone watch your customers as they read through your documents; highlighting, underlining, adding ? and X marks, circling paragraphs of interest or drawing lines through parts that they disagreed with.  Then you’d really know what they really think. (Scary? Maybe!)

At The TAS Group, we do a lot of micro-analysis on the effectiveness of our digital marketing, and of course that is really helpful in making sure that we are presenting the messages and content that add most value to our customers.  But we can’t micro-analyze on a personal emotional level … but thoughts are percolating here …

In the meantime, here are the Top 5 Most Highlighted passages from Account Planning in Salesforce.  (If you are interested, in an upcoming webinar, I will be discussing these comments and other issues that I think we should all be caring about as we plan for 2014).

Top 5 Most Highlighted


The impact on a customer of a poor buying decision is usually greater than the impact on a sales person of a lost deal. 


You need to be a specialist and expert in the business, strategy and market of those few customers with whom you are working. 


Research for Insight. Integrate for Velocity. Focus for Impact. 


Remember, customers don’t need you to learn about your product: they can get all of the information they need from the Internet. They don’t need you to recommend solutions: they can get that from their peers. Your opportunity is to help them shape their needs, identify or suggest initiatives, and then to figure out how you can apply your solutions to those initiatives. If you don’t know how to do that you should look for outside assistance. 


The cost of new customer acquisition is 500% that of customer retention. Increasing customer retention by 2% equates to decreasing costs by 10%. Reducing customer defections by 5% can increase profitability by up to 125% (depending on industry). (Source: Leading on the Edge of Chaos, Emmet C. Murphy and Mark A. Murphy)

If there were particular parts of the book that you enjoyed I’d love to hear from you.  If you have not read it you can get an extract here.


12 Elements of a Great Sales Playbook

The implementation of a sales playbook can be one of the most impactful initiatives for any sales organization. There are two reasons for this tremendous ROI. First, by following some simple guidelines, it can be a remarkably easy initiative to implement, and second, research shows that this results in 33% additional revenue.

We have done hundreds of Sales Playbook deployments with Dealmaker Smart Sales Playbook. Here are the 12 Elements of a great sales playbook that you should use to guide your implementation. 

1. Repeatable Winning Sales Processes

The key word here is ‘repeatable’. When everyone adopts the same sales process, there is a common language that is understood, not just by sales, but by the whole organization.  Recent research shows that while only 60% of sales teams have a sales process that is well defined, and well executed – those who do are 33% more likely to be High Performers*.

2. Customized to the Buying Cycle

Customers buy in lots of different ways; some purchases are guided by a single decision maker, while in other cases there can be a large buying committee. Some issue RFPs (health-warning!), others invite recognized suppliers to discuss their issues,  an increasing number learn in the Social Universe, and just a few remain with the incumbent supplier trading ‘the devil you know’ for potentailly more advanced or competitive solutions. Unless you visualize the journey the customer wants to take, you won’t be with them when they reach their destination.

3. Sales Tools in Context at Each Stage

At each stage of the buying process, salespeople need to employ just the right tools – at the right time to advance the sale to the next stage in the process.  A B2B sale is not a single event. In fact it is a collection of micro-sales events, each crafted to move closer to the eventual goal. Salespeople are busy and often don’t know which tool they need, where to find it or how to use it at the specific point in the micro-sale. Integrating sales tools into the playbook as part of the sales process is the solution.

4. Industry Sales Process Templates

It is widely accepted that tailoring your sales process to the specific needs of an industry will increase your chances for success. Third party industry sales templates are readily available from suppliers who have been tracking and analyzing millions of sales cycles.  That is the catalyst you need to get started.

5. Many Simple and Complex Processes

One playbook or sales process does not fit all.  Sometimes you are pursuing a brand new customer or a very large deal that demands a complex and sophisticated set of ‘plays’ to win the deal.  In other cases, the transaction might be quick,  one that suggests a diffferent rhythm. Your sales playbook should have the requisite intelligence to support that automatically and serve up the right playbook at the right time.

6. Process, Benchmarks and Insight

Benchmarking delivers many advantages for companies looking to improve the performance of their sales organization. Your playbook must capture those benefits, learn from them, and uncover inisghts that help you to drive your sales velocity.  When deploying a playbook, ensure that you have built in a capability that guides you to progress through these stages of evolution for your sales team.

7. Team Visibility for the Sales Manager

Being a front-line sales manager is one of the hardest jobs in sales.  It is also the critical link in sales.  Unless the sales manager has with all the tools he or she needs to easily manage the business, the whole performance of the sales organization suffer.  You need to provide them with the ‘Easy Button’.  Sales playbooks are often designed just with the sales person in mind.  Remember that the sales manager is the critical link.

8. Integrates with CRM System

This one should be a ‘no-brainer’. The playbook must integrate tightly with the CRM system so when the sales person works with an opportunity, the playbook will always be present, just where it needs to be.  That way the playbook (if it is smart enough) can react to the attibutes of the opportunity, like the size of the deal, or the products included in the opportunity record to present the right playbook for that opportunity. Complete integration with your CRM delivers the  optimum experience for the sales person, and provides sales managers with greater flexibility on how they view the data in the context of the rest of the business.  It is important.

9. Informs Sales Forecast Visibility

Salespeople spend about 2.5 hours each week on sales forecasting, and for most companies, the accuracy of sales forecasts leave a lot to be desired. To maximize the impact of your sales playbook on the accuracy of your sales forecast, there are two things to consider. (1) Does the sales playbook incorporate intelligence that objectively monitors the close date of the sale? (2) Does the sales playbook provide the sales manager with insight into deal vulnerabilities and risks in the forecast?

10. Motivational and Visual

There are only two reasons why an individual does not complete a task.  Either they do not have the competence, or they are not motivated enough  to do it.  Think about that – these are the only two reasons.  Your sales playbook should improve competence and increase motivation.  The competence piece is easily understood.

Motivation is a little more challenging. A study on What Motivates Sales People shows that, perhaps surprisingly for some, compensation is not the primary motivator. ‘Making Progress of Winning’ is ranked by sales people as the main reason they get up in the morning. To entice adoption of the sales playbook (rather than force compliance) your sales playbook needs to provide true value for the sales person – resolve that reward/effort equation, so that the salesperson gets more back from the playbook that they put into it.

11. Social and Collaborative

As B2B companies rely more heavily on social collaboration tools, some of the biggest gainers are going to be salespeople. Sales people who are the leaders in their organization are using social tools such as Chatter in Salesfore to improve collaboration in their own sales teams. Leading sales playbooks help by letting everyone ‘follow’ the plays, contributes to the conversation, and collaborate on the deal. The B2B world is constantly becoming more social and collaborative and you should ensure that your sales playbook accommodates this advancement.

12. Mobile and Cloud

Time is precious, and the sales person’s time is incredibly precious, both to them and to the sales organization looking to maximize the performance of their key quota-bearers.  Since so much of a sales person’s time is spent moving between A and B and back again, they should be equipped with the mobility to connect to their sales playbook allowing them to be responsive, productive, collaborative and consistent at any time, wherever they are. In other applications, mobile and cloud capabilities are being leveraged to facilitate access anywhere, anytime.  It must be the same with your sales playbook. Unless mobile and cloud are core elements of your sales playbook plan, the initiative could face severe challenges in a very short term.


Gartner: Cool Vendors in CRM Sales

Gartner just released their 2013 Cool Vendors in CRM Sales report and are selling it on their site for $495.  You can get it  here for free.

According to Gartner, the 2013 Cool Vendors in CRM Sales offer new technologies that improve sales performance and effectiveness. They use mobile, social, big data analytics and the cloud to help salespeople improve their selling skills and find new prospects. We are delighted to be included in the list of just three companies that made it through Gartners diligence.

Key Findings

  • Cloud applications combined with mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) are enabling salespeople to be more engaged in the sales cycle in real time at the source of the interaction with the customer, thus making them more effective and efficient in capturing, managing and updating information throughout the sales process.
  • Internal and external social network intelligence applications are emerging to assist salespeople with finding and developing new sources for lead generation and moving these newfound contacts and opportunities to a quicker close and with greater certainty.

Discontinuous, or sporadic, classroom sales training is approaching a fast demise; sales technology applications that help salespeople use sales methodologies and automate sales processes are showing great promise.

Enjoy the read.  You can get the report here.


Customer Network Value

In June 2012, Angela Ahrendts, CEO of Burberry appeared on the cover of Fortune magazine.  As Fortune reports it:

 Last May, Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts flew to California from her London headquarters to introduce herself to an executive she thought could be critical to the future of her business: CEO Marc Benioff. When the two met at the Ritz-Carlton in Half Moon Bay, they stood in the hall batting around ideas for 15 minutes before even sitting down. Ahrendts explained her vision: to create a company where anyone who wanted to touch the brand could have access to it. She just needed a digital platform to make it happen.

Click for bigger image

Benioff sketched a diagram of how Burberry could become a “social enterprise,” overlaying technology like Salesforce, SAP, Twitter, and Facebook atop the entire company. (Benioff signed the drawing “Angela + Marc = LIKE,” and Ahrendts keeps the framed original, pictured below right, in her office.) “I told him, ‘I think I finally met someone who talks faster and has more energy than I do,’ ” she says. “We just connected.”

However, as anyone who attended any event between mid-2011 and 2012, physical or virtual, could tell you, you could see that Ahrendts’ new celebrity status is due in no part to the level of exposure given her by Benioff. It even got to the stage that Twitter contributors were wondering if she was going to wear ‘that white suit again’.  Benioff – certainly one of this era’s marketing geniuses – knows how to make his high-profile customers feel special – and knows, better than most, the value of the Customer Network Value.

In many cases customers are totally bypassing the early stages of the traditional buying cycle.  Rather than calling a company for information, they are instead joining forums on line, engaging in conversation on Twitter or Facebook, looking to people with ‘Klout’ or influence to guide them through the information gathering and evaluation phases of the buying cycle.

They look for recommendations from peers and others ‘like them’ to short-list potential suppliers, refine their requirements, and gain insight in the application of a vendor’s product that often surpasses that of the vendors sales person.

To care about your Customer’s Network Value, you must first care about your customer, and treat customer service, and every customer interaction as an extension of marketing.  Caring about your customers before they become customers is actually more difficult but increasingly important.

You can achieve this firstly by participating in the same networks in the Social Universe as the customer traverses the Contact phase of the buyer/seller transaction.  Then you need to monitor what is happening and respond to your customer during the Control phase, as that is where they can have most impact on your future customers.  In any case, if the customer wants to interact in the Social Universe, it is your job to facilitate that interaction.  It is increasingly becoming an implicit part of your promise to deliver – and you need to be prepared.

We need to recognize that our customers and prospects hang out somewhere, and that somewhere is increasing somewhere online in the Social Universe, where each is weaving their own tapestry with the threads of their network.

You really do want to be one of the threads!

Unless you want to become irrelevant, or unless you can consistently be the low-price provider servicing those who care only about price, then you need to be part of the ‘recommendation chain’. You must establish trust, and the customer must see you as someone more ‘like them’ than a representative of your company.  But, the threshold is high – because in the end, for new customers, you’re going to ask them to do business with you. Being ‘like them’ breaks down some barriers, but it’s not enough.  You must continually add more value in the Social Universe than you expect to get in return.  You’re looking to recoup the return on the influence you have developed online later.

Social Trust – the Core of the Social Universe

[This is the fourth in a series on 6 Factors that are transforming B2B Sales in 2012. This factor deals with Social - and I have broken that down into four separate posts. This is the second of the posts on Social.]

Social Trust

We are seeing a fundamental shift in the interactions between buyers and sellers, and indeed between all commercial entities and their customers. Attitude and preference, as they relate to how a customer thinks about a business, are more likely to be informed by peer groups than by expensive commercials or company statements.

For any network to work effectively, it has to be built on trust.  Social networks in their current manifestation deliver benefit to the participant that is directly related to the associated trust currency, a wallet that is filled by value delivered in line with a promise made, where time is donated by the recipient in exchange for value received from the donor. Trust is earned in those micro-transactions and is fundamentally based on the transparency – perceived or real – of the social network engagement.  In the Social Universe, you can develop a personality where people learn who you are, what you stand for, and whether you are, in fact, as good as your word.

Honesty and integrity as propellants of commercial energy have not necessarily been the most comfortable bedfellows with the pursuit of profit and revenue – particularly since the turn of this millennium.  Madoff, Enron, Lehman, MCI, are names that send shivers down our collective spines.

I’d suggest that honesty and integrity are two of the least understood, and most undervalued, personal and business assets – particularly when it comes to the accelerated world of the Social Universe.  Social citizens of high influence can damage a business’s reputation by a single tweet.  More importantly however, ‘average’ citizens in the Social Universe can themselves influence large corporations when wielding the tool of social media.

When Social Consumers Go Viral

In September 2011, Bank of America announced a monthly $5 debit card fee.  This announcement was poorly timed as it came during Occupy Wall Street’s protests over the bank’s $45 billion bailout.  On October 1st, 22 year old Molly Katchpole wrote a petition against the fee, and Molly’s petition reached 300,000 signatures in six days. Bank of America reversed its decision.

When domain registrar stated it was supporting SOPA – the Stop Online Piracy Act, deemed by many to be damaging to the independence of the Internet – social media sites revolted.  Reddit user selfprodigy declared December 29th 2012 “Transfer your domain day”.  Ben Huh, CEO of Cheezburger, tweeted “We will move our 1,000 domains off @godaddy unless you drop support of SOPA.  We love you guys. But #SOPA-IS-CANCER to the free web.” Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, tweeted that Wikipedia was also “proudly” leaving goDaddy. Users pledged to transfer 82,000 domain names to other providers.  GoDaddy reversed its position on SOPA.

When it became known that fashion house Armani and Versace were using sand-blasted denim treated with chemicals that were reputed to poison the lungs of 5,000 Turkish denim workers involved in the manufacture, there were hundreds of angry posts on Facebook, and 38,000 people signed an online petition against the Italian designer’s failure to boycott sand-blasted denim. Within a month Armani and Versace publicly condemned and banned sand-blasted denim from their lines.

A reputation for being honest or having high integrity is priceless. It brings trust and openness, deeper relationships and more productive engagement.  Trust is ‘truth over time’.  Trusted is earned. It is hard to win but easy to lose.  Social media is forcing transparency, authenticity and accountability. Corporations and big banks can no longer make business deals without the scrutiny of those it impacts; the Internet, the phenomenon of Wiki leaks and the social and political climate is forcing more disclosure.

Social Trust is Fundamentally Personal

If I asked you who you might consider as your primary trusted sources, you will probably think about your family, your friends, your colleagues at work, other people in your neighborhood or people in your social circle.   It is rare that the CEO of MegaCorp or the leader of your government will spring to mind as your primary trusted source.  When it comes to picking a provider of services for your home, you are more likely to ask a friend for a recommendation for a plumber than pick one blindly from the White Pages or Craig’s List.  If you are choosing a band to play at your ‘rock-chick’ daughter’s wedding, you might ask her friends what local bands she likes, or looks for a recommendation from others that you know to make sure that the band you book is more Metallica than Manilow.

From a purely pragmatic perspective, always being honest means you never have to remember what you said or come up with different versions of the truth for different audiences, exercising your corporate PR department in increasing tangled webs of spin and counter-spin. Beyond the counter-productive nature of inadequate transparency, the reality is that what you, as a business might broadcast in your public pronouncements, is of diminishing value, and it is worth considering whether, in isolation, such expenditure is wise at all.

Lasting business relationships between the seller and the buyer, like lasting personal relationships are built on a foundation of trust that for each of us is fundamentally personal.  While always important, trust as a determining factor of business transaction efficacy increases or decreases in amplitude at different phases of the business interaction. This is because risk transfers from seller to buyer before and after the sale.  To understand how this manifests in the Social Universe, and where social network interactions are more or less necessary or powerful, it is worth considering the phases of a commercial transaction, bearing in mind that at all times, trust is fundamentally personal.

I will discuss that in the next post

If mobile is the needle – social is the thread

[This is the third in a series on 6 Factors that are transforming B2B Sales in 2012. This factor deals with Social - and I have broken that down into four separate posts that will be published over the coming week.]

If Mobile is the needle, then Social is the thread.

Mobile makes information accessible anytime, anywhere, and can make information location sensitive.  But Social weaves all of the information together, and we each get to create our own tapestry – being curators of information from multiple and varied sources, engaging and allowing us to shape, create, and co-create information in our own voice, and, amplify the voices of others – all in a global community.

Remember, it is not that long ago that we were all chained to the desk locked down by the desktop computer. In 2000, wireless networking did not exist, and social network sites had yet to emerge.  For most people, information on the Internet was consumed, but not created.

Now as a new tapestry emerges, we get the opportunity to color our own patterns.  The confluence of mobile and social has changed the dynamics of time, location and information.  As we each move our own needle, we get the opportunity to weave personal and participatory shades with an immediate and synchronous rhythm.

And the rhythm is being amplified, causing waves that are being felt everywhere. Becoming increasingly social through their mobile devices, 24% of US adults look to the advice of their online virtual peers as they shop in the offline world, checking out product reviews on the Internet before they make a physical purchase. More than one in five post photos and videos from their phones and about a third engage in social network sites as they roam.

Social networks are the ties that bind us, and irrespective of race, income, or gender, two-thirds of us now use social networks, primarily to reach or communicate with friends, current and re-discovered, and stay in touch with family.

These behavioral developments started in the consumer world, but quickly transitioned to the business world. Remember, not all consumers are B2B buyers, but all B2B buyers are consumers.  All business people – including both sellers and buyers – are consumers, and the lessons they learn in ‘consumer-land’ shape their thinking and expectations in ‘business-land’.

Social Business / Social Enterprise

social enterprise used to be an organization that applied commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being, rather than maximizing profits for external shareholders. This term has been hijacked in recent times – the main culprit being Marc Benioff, CEO of, which is perhaps interesting, given his impressive philanthropic record – to refer to the application of social media, social network, and collaboration technologies to business systems, particularly in the cloud.

Before appropriated the term Social Enterprise, or released Chatter, our research team had investigated how we could make our Dealmaker application ‘social’. What would be the impact if Dealmaker ‘tweeted’ (privately to you) every time there was an important change in a sales opportunity?  That was the genesis of Dealmaker Pulse – back in late 2009.

We decided that Dealmaker Pulse should provide intelligent social networking for sales, with instant objective deal alerts, and allow sales people and leaders to benefit from keeping their ‘finger on the pulse’ of their selling organization and get instant knowledge of what is happening across their teams and deals.

Since then, with the development of Chatter, Jive, Yammer, and other social enterprise tools, sales people and leaders can now elect to follow opportunities, accounts and users, and their messages (or ‘pulses’ in our language) delivered in real time.

Above all, social should be collaborative, and our focus has since evolved to how we can use the intelligence of Dealmaker to inform the other social and CRM platforms with which we integrate.

Collaboration is important as it positions all parties on the same side of the table and helps to develop a trusting relationship.  Trust needs to be at the center of the Social Universe, and I will discuss that in the next post.

6 Factors that are transforming B2B Sales – Part 1

I recently had the privilege of speaking at the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco.  My session – entitled Six Factors that are Transforming B2B Sales – seemed to strike a chord.  Over the next few posts I want to recount the thoughts I shared and get your views.

I started my presentation with a perspective on the current landscape and the environment in which we all seek to survive and thrive.

– o – o – o – o – o –

Do you ever have one of those days when you get up and hope that just for one day nothing changes?  Sometimes it feels as if we are barely hanging on, buffeted by a torrent of innovation and evolution.  But maybe today will be the day when you won’t have to adjust or adapt, reorganize or rework …

But, I don’t think so.

Things are happening more quickly than ever.  In the next 30 minutes;

  • 700,000 apps will be downloaded from the AppStore,
  • Users will spend 146 days on Facebook – yes, in the next 30 minutes – think about that, and
  • 21,000 new Twitter accounts will be created

“But wait”, I hear you say, I’m concerned about B2B sales – should I care that Lady Gaga has 20 million followers on Twitter? (That’s about one person for every 20 people in the US, or one for every 400 in the world.)

I think we can learn from this – not just from the fact that Lady Gaga has 20 million Twitter followers – but the overall metamorphosis of human interaction that we are witnessing first hand. Because, if we observe carefully, we will see that consumers are often the first to travel the journey that businesses subsequently follow.

Consumer Behavior is a Predictor of Business Behavior

Consider the changes you’ve seen in business over the past 10 years – particularly when it comes to technology – and you will notice that consumer behavior is always a good indicator of what will happen in the business world.  Trends that you see in B2C interactions are usually followed by similar engagement in the B2B world.

As an example: Consumers were the first players in the App Economy, downloading applications from Apple’s  AppStore, only to be followed by businesses that are now both distributing and consuming applications in this self-service model.

In the software world, online application stores from new-economy players such as the AppExchange from, and Google’s Marketplace, now sit alongside offerings from the traditional software companies.  SAP provides the Ecohub that it describes as ‘the community-powered online solution marketplace that is your trusted source for discovering, evaluating, and buying solutions from SAP’.  Microsoft – who for a long time might have been accused of fighting the subscription economy – now has it’s own Marketplace where, as of March 2012, provided 70,000 apps, and looking to one of its main business application areas, Microsoft has made considerable investments in the Microsoft Dynamics Marketplace where it serves up ERP and CRM solutions.

HP and Oracle also jumped on the appstore bandwagon, both unveiling platforms (in late 2011) designed to help others get their own app store initiatives underway.  HP’s Storefront Portal offers a framework capable of enabling two-sided business models: wholesale and retail.  Oracle announced its own Digital Store platform, designed to help service providers manage the complete content lifecycle, spanning content submission, test and approval and storefront management of their app stores.

In April 2012,’s Amazon Web Services business, facing looming competition for its business of renting online data storage and computing, announced a store where customers will be able to rent business software from a number of third-party providers, including I.B.M., Microsoft and SAP. The offering appears to be something of a blend of the software as a service, or SaaS, business of companies like and NetSuite, and the mobile app stores popularized by Apple and Google. Like SaaS, customers are renting their software, and can easily discontinue use in favor of another vendor, something much more difficult using traditional packaged software. And like an app store, the AWS Marketplace has several vendors, plus a means of discovery and comparison among products.

Think about this: Not all consumers are B2B buyers, but all B2B buyers are consumers. As if by osmosis, people are conditioned to new ways of thinking by the interactions they have as consumers, and begin to expect similar capability or convenience in their business connections and interplays. And it happens without any one noticing; incremental changes in behavior and expectation, satisfaction and dissatisfaction.

The fact remains that all business people – including both sellers and buyers – are consumers, and the lessons they learn in ‘consumer-land’ shape their thinking and expectations in “business-land’.

Consumers, salespeople and B2B buyers are changing, and not just in a small way. It’s almost as if we are seeing a remodeling or metamorphosis of the rules of both intrinsic and extrinsic behaviors before our eyes.  If we take the time to step back for a minute we can observe continuous evolution.  It is evident in how people connect, communicate, and collaborate, their quest for visible progress and feedback, their limited attention span, changing personal motivations, unusually peripatetic career paths, a desire for increased autonomy and self-mastery, actions more redolent of entrepreneurialism than traditional workplace obedience, a preference for where and how they work, an expectation or demand for an array of tools to apply, an acceptance of disruption and interruption, and a predilection to disrupt and interrupt.

If you’re hoping that today will be the day it doesn’t change, then I expect you are out of luck, and the best you could hope for is that the rate at which change is happening will find cause for pause, and you might get a chance to catch your breath.

On the other hand, you could choose to embrace the change, and be part of it, seeking new ways to do the tasks that are perhaps mundane or not operating optimally, and then – and here is the exciting part – you might find that there are new opportunities emerging that you never thought possible.

Using LinkedIn Properly

In my previous post, Which B2B Social Network is the Most Valuable? I referenced the research we did through the DealmakerIndex and it was very clear that LinkedIn is valued a lot more by B2B professionals than any of the other outlets in the Social Universe. There has been much written about LinkedIn best practices, but just this week Dave Stein at ES Research put together his thoughts on LinkedIn and some observations about how it is used.

I liked very much what Dave had to say, and with his permission I have included his thoughts here. The comments in [italics] are my additions.

In Dave’s words …

  • I use LinkedIn to help clients with blind reference checking of candidates for sales and sales executive positions.  Recently a client took my advice by looking at who I was connected to that might, in turn, be connected to a VP of Sales candidate they were getting close to hiring.  Bingo.  I was able to introduce the CEO with a number of close contacts who generously spent a lot of time with my client. The candidate never knew the conversations took place.  He was hired last week.? [It is always very important to check references, and LinkedIn is great place to select references you might want to check, other than those offered by the candidate.]
  • I always look someone up on LinkedIn before speaking with them the first time, or after not speaking with them after a long time. Amazing how things change for people. New company, new position, new contacts. Conversations are so much more productive when you get a fix on the other person’s perspective.?[I’d suggest that to really get inside someone’s head, Twitter is a better place to get a feeling for who someone is.  LinkedIn tends to be less spontaneous, and consequently provides less insight.]
  • When someone I know contacts me to network their way into a new position, I’ll often suggest they look through my connections.  I’m generally willing to make introductions, although recommending them is out of the question for me if I haven’t worked with them directly.  The book makes another point. Don’t wait to start networking when you’re looking for a job.  Take the time to build a network based on mutual value before that need arises. I completely agree with that.
  • I cull my connections regularly.  I’m not a collector of connections on LinkedIn.  In fact I think those that are miss the point of real networking. I believe it’s the quality of the relationships that determine how networked you are, not the number of names you can collect.  For that reason I don’t accept connections from those whom I don’t know, have not been recommended to me, or with whom I don’t have something in common.  I (almost always) send a reply which explains my position, assuring them that my unwillingness to connect with them isn’t personal. I expect some get offended anyway, or think I’m odd.?[I couldn’t agree more – it’s about connections, not contacts.  If those who you link with have a massive network, but you are not really connected to them, then it dilutes the value of your network, as they keep popping up as the link, and that sometimes gets in the way of people who you really now, and who might really help.]
  • I feel the system is being abused when someone wants to connect with me, but can’t take one minute to overwrite the ubiquitous, “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” Take a minute and tell me what I can do for you, or even better, what you can do for me, or even better than that, what we both can do for someone else. ?[LinkedIn’s recent practice of continuously suggesting new people to connect with is partly to blame for this I think, but if someone does not write a personal message, then I’m with Dave here.]
  • Salespeople who are not looking for a job should construct their LinkedIn profiles centered on the value they have delivered for their customers through each of the positions they have held. [I think there is an opportunity to provide a quick overview of the value your current company provides, or how you can provide value to customers based on your current company's offerings.] Those who are looking for a job should stress sales performance.
  • I’m not big on recommendations. I have a few that are important to me, but I don’t publish others. I think they are, for many, part of a profile-expanding quid pro quo approach. In those cases, I don’t even read the recommendations.?[It is amusing sometimes when Fred recommends Jane, and Jane recommends Fred – but I don't know who Fred and Jane think they are kidding.  Seriously though, recommendations are typically solicited, and are not reviews, but compliments that are asked for, and as such have little value.]
  • I’m a little miffed at LinkedIn.  There is no iPad app. I don’t keep up with iPad app development news. I wonder when the iPad app will happen.  Anyone know??[I found this LinkedIn iPad app.  Can’t comment on it though, I’ve not used it.]
  • I’ve used both LinkedIn ads and job postings. The job posting facility worked very well when ESR was searching for another analyst last year.? [I’ve used LinkedIn for job postings regularly as we have found some great candidates that way. However, you do have to trawl through a lot of chaff.]
  • The groups and discussions are all over the map.  Some groups are tightly controlled.  That’s good. Others are like the wild West.  If I want to get updates on new discussions from some groups, I get barraged with spam. If I turn off the notices, I’ll surely miss that occasional important discussion I need to know about.  With all that said, I spend some time each week commenting on others’ posts.?[Much of the activity on groups seems to be consultants selling to consultants, or vendors promoting their wares.  Occasionally though you can find good groups that are tightly controlled and conversations are more meaningful.]
  • By all means, have someone read through your profile. I have a problem with professional profiles that contain very noticeable grammatical errors and misspellings.  I’ve seen some profiles where the names of companies have been misspelled by those that worked there.
  • I don’t quite get it when people don’t include a photo in their profile.  Do they know how to import one?  Do they have a photo?  Do they care?
  • Finally, if you’re going to ask me for a favor, please don’t include me on a Linked in (or any other) distribution list. Especially don’t begin the mass email with, “Since you are someone I trust and respect…”

Beyond Dave’s excellent points, there are few questions I’d ask …

  1. Should you always try to connect on LinkedIn with new prospects?  If your competitors are watching you, you might need to be careful.
  2. Should companies enforce a standard description of the company for all of their employees, or is LinkedIn more personal?
  3. Is there an optimum number of connections you should have on LinkedIn?  Can you really have ‘connections’ with 5000 people?

As ever, I’d welcome your thoughts and comments.

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