Social Network Software
My neighbor ? a lovely man I've known, and have had social contact with for years ? is the COO of one of the world's largest companies. He's read my books, is familiar with my concepts, and is a fan. But we've not talked shop due to our social connection.
One day he called me and told me he wanted me to speak with his new national VP of sales ? that he wanted my ideas and methods to be used in his company. Wonderful. Especially since it all came from him.
The VP called me days later at my friend's request, and we had a great phone contact: he said he was familiar with my concepts and was interested in a conversation, and he invited me to his office to spend some time. It was one of the only times in my life I flew to a client site for a face-to-face prospecting visit. In my mind, this was a very hot lead indeed.
When I got there, it became apparent he was setting me up to show the COO that he didn't need me, didn't need my material, and was fine, thank you very much. He was curt, rude, and, frankly between us, rather stupid in his remarks.
When I spoke with my friend, he grumbled and hung up. Next week, he called me back with the name of the VP of training. The man called me, had a lively, exciting conversation with me, sent me a check for the next public training so that he could attend himself, and I never heard from him again.
IT'S NOT ABOUT WHO YOU KNOWI knew the right guy. It doesn't get any better ? COO of a Fortune 50 company, close friend. But in the end, it had nothing to do with what I was selling, or who I knew ? it had to do with how the buyers were buying.
There is a whole burgeoning field of software that will help sellers find people who they know in a company. Then you can call that person, or have one of your friends call that person ? all in hopes that this connection will give you a leg up. Let's take a look at the presuppositions inherent in the concept of social networking:
1. that the person you know within a company has the clout to have some say within the company;
2. that the person you know is on a decision team (or knows someone on a decision team) that is ready to make a decision to bring in a new product or service;
3. that the person you know will know how to say what you need him/her to say to get you the exposure you seek;
4. that bringing you into the company ? even if the person has the clout to get you into the company ? will influence a decision;
5. that the company is ready to make a change;
6. that the person bringing you in can help the company understand they need to change;
7. that the company will know how to line up it's decision criteria just because you know the right person, and you can show up with your great product and presentation material.
Let's take a look again at what's happening at this point in history. Sales people are not needed to offer information: buyers can get more information about a seller's product than they have to offer, more about their product andthe competition, the good points and bad, the industry successes and failures, the price points ? sellers are just not needed to push product any more.
Because this historic sales function has been superseded by a computer, sellers don't know what their jobs are anymore. Sellers are attempting to add new functions to their role so they can offer some value: they are making themselves 'trusted advisors'; becoming 'true consultants'; demonstrating some sort of 'value add'- either through product or service or technology.
IMPEDITMENTS TO SALESBut the problems with sales continue: the same problems that have existed within the sales function since its inception continue to be impediments to sales. There remains a void in the sales process in that space between how sellers sell and how buyers buy.
Since its inception, the dichotomy between the product/seller/sale and the buyer's environment/buyer/buying process has been met with fallacious assumptions, including:
* if you get in the door and have a face-to-face meeting, the buyer will know how to buy.
* if you pitch/present/promote/advertise your product effectively, the buyer will know how to buy.
* if you give clients great prices, they will choose your product;
* if you give clients great service, they will know how to choose you;
* if you are the brand leader?
* if you have the best product?
* if the buyer needs your product?
* if you have the best software?
* if you know someone?
A few years ago ? about 5, I'm guessing ? we came to the realization that 'sales' wasn't working. What did we do? Point our resources to the new-new thing ? technology. Since then, we've attempted to try to use technology to overcome all of the inherent problems sales creates. We've tried SFA, CRM, and now Social Network Software. And all they do is continue to operate on the same beliefs that sales has always worked from: people will buy if they like/understand/need/recognize the product, or like the sales person. And that's patently untrue. We've just not known what else to do. And the gulf between the sales end and the buyer's end keeps widening.
In the December 2003 issue of Inc. Magazine, Michael Fitzgeral says in 'Internet Icebreakers', an article on Social Network Software:
'It's not a slam dunk--the contact might not care that your brother's partner's wife just happens to be a member of his homeowners' association.'
For those of you who have been reading my newsletters for years, you are going to have to hear me rant about this just one more time.
-Buyers live in an idiosyncratic buying environment.
-The buyer's network of decision factors includes an interesting network of people, rules, collaborations, initiatives, budget issues, and human fallacies.
-The buyer's environment is a complete system that they are comfortable with.
-Systems face chaos when something new gets added.-Buyer's systems won't add anything new until they understand how to manage any chaos to return to some form of stasis.
In other words, no matter how good your product is, how well you pitch/present/promote/propose it, or who you know, the buyer won't make a purchasing decision until they line up all of their decision variables so they can manage the disruption a new purchase will create within their system.
If you are eager to use Social Network Software, at least use Buying Facilitation® as the front end: help this person navigate their internal variables so they can learn with you how to bring you in the most effective way.
Remember that Buying Facilitation® uses the buyer's decisioning sequence to: lead them through a good look at where they are at (all of their company's norms, rules, values, initiatives, and subjective criteria); notice if anything is missing; understand how to fix it with familiar resources; address all of the internal systems they need to manage prior to bringing in a solution that will possibly create chaos.
The above is the sequence buyers go through anyway, and that the time it takes them to do the above is the length of the sales cycle: they are going to do it with you, or without you. If you can use your new-found relationship to get you into a close range with the prospect, make sure you take the opportunity to lead them through this process and become a true Trusted Advisor.
Once you are 'in' and getting a chance to have your time in the sun, use Buying Facilitation® again to help them line up their decision factors. That will not only make you their true Trusted Advisor, it will also make the person you know look good. It will increase your sales over 200% (that's right ? there is not an extra zero there), reduce your sales cycle by 75%, and get you on the decision team.
Getting into the prospect's space, knowing someone who can bring you in, or having a great product remain the outer edge ? the selling edge - of sales. It's time in our history to use the job of 'sales' to help buyers make their best buying decisions. Social Network Software can play a part: it's just the front end, however. There's still plenty of work to be done to help buyers buy.
My tag line remains: do you want to sell? Or have someone buy?
Sharon Drew Morgen is the author of NYTimes Best Seller Selling with Integrity. She speaks, teaches and consults globally around her visionary sales method, Buying Facilitation.
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