The end of Q1 actual and Q2 forecast review, we’ve all been there…

Whether you are presenting your performance, the performance of your team or, you are on the other side of the table asking the questions. 

When times are high it’s always a great session. You delivered Q1 as planned or ahead and your CRM is overflowing with deals at ‘close’ and a host of others filling up the pipeline from ‘qualification’, ‘analysis’, ‘value proposition’, ‘review’ and ‘negotiation’ stage. You have good visibility on Q2, Q3 is opening up, and you even have eyes on some Q4 activity. A well-oiled Sales machine with Sales Qualified Leads and conveyed deals all lining up at the right time and the right place…perfect. You can provide all the data, dates, people, conversations, exchanges to support each one and everyone can believe it. The main thrust of the conversation at these sessions around capacity and delivery.

When times are lean its not so pleasant a process.  Perhaps you struggled to meet Q1 numbers or scraped through, that’s now gone and now we are looking to Q2. Are you now chasing and relying on that one deal to come off?  If the pipeline is bare or partially filled in, it’s a hard conversation.

At this point it would be easy for the management team to crank up the pressure. “Make more calls”, “send more email”, “do more of whatever it is you need to do to make those numbers”. 

The fact is, most of the people on the front line know that the world has changed, and the buying world has changed. The fact is that they know that no amount of pressure increases to do more of what we did is helping in any way.  

As leaders, we must ask ourselves if we have given our people the best chance at delivering, have we prepared the internal environment to harmonise with the new external environment?  

The world has changed, and it shouldn’t really be a shock. 

I was looking back though the archives and found an article by Laurence Minsky and Keith A. Queensberry published in the Harvard Business Review in 2016. It’s called “How B2B Sales Can Benefit from Social Selling".

In this article, Minsky and Quesenberry write:

“Outbound B2B sales are becoming less and less effective. In fact, a recent survey found that connecting with a prospect now takes 18 or more phone calls, callback rates are below 1%, and only 24% of outbound sales emails are ever opened. Meanwhile, 84% of B2B buyers are now starting the purchasing process with a referral, and peer recommendations are influencing more than 90% of all B2B buying decisions.

Why are more and more buyers avoiding salespeople during the buying process? Sales reps, according to Forrester, tend to prioritize a sales agenda over solving a customer’s problem. If organizations don’t change their outdated thinking and create effective sales models for today’s digital era, Forrester warns that 1 million B2B salespeople will lose their jobs to self-service e-commerce by 2020.

The answer to the shift away from reliance on outbound sales could reside in social selling, the strategy of adding social media to the sales professional’s toolbox. With social selling, salespeople use social media platforms to research, prospect, and network by sharing educational content and answering questions. As a result, they’re able to build relationships until prospects are ready to buy”.

The authors were quoting studies and statistics from 5/6 years ago that we should all have been paying attention to back then.

"..skilled social media sales professionals are six times more likely to exceed quota over peers with basic or no social media skills".

Earlier in this article I talked about healthy actual / pipeline review and one which was much harder with little or no pipeline to review.

You could ask ‘why wasn't this business de risking their forecast, when in 2020 the data and processes exist and it's standard practice?’

The answer is, to have done this you would need to have transformed to being a Social and Digital salesforce to be able to get this level of data at your deal reviews.

People think Social Selling is all about prospecting, thinking like this is dangerous. 

Social and Digital are used across the complete commercial cycle.

Social media had changed the world.

Back to the Harvard Business Review article from 2016:

“Social selling makes sense for achieving quota and revenue objectives for multiple reasons. First, three out of four B2B buyers rely on social media to engage with peers about buying decisions. In a recent B2B buyers survey, 53% of the respondents reported that social media plays a role in assessing tools and technologies, and when making a final selection.

Social sales content also gets salespeople involved earlier in the sales cycle, which means they’re more likely to define the criteria for an ideal solution or the “buying vision,” and thus, more likely to win the sale.

Salespeople should also collaborate with their social marketing counterparts to make the most of their social efforts. Marketing can train salespeople in social media systems, processes, and best practices. According to a survey, 75% of B2B salespeople indicated they were trained in the effective use of social media. This training can encompass everything from working in specific social media channels to using corporate social media software, understanding the business’s social media guidelines, and orienting social media content around customer interests and needs, rather than on brand features, benefits, and prices.

After all, social media is too important to be left to marketing. In fact, a recent study found skilled social media sales professionals are six times more likely to exceed quota over peers with basic or no social media skills. It is time to get started with social selling and meet your prospects where they’re spending their time. Your organization could be halfway there if marketing has already made the shift to integrating social media into their strategies. When marketing combines their long-game with sales short game in social selling, it can be a win-win for both teams — and for your overall business.”

Just a reminder that this piece was written in 2016…Please take a minute to think about that.

With our clients, we have changed the pipeline review completely and we do this with Social processes and tools like Sales Navigator. Sales has changed and it's changed as the internet, social Media and mobile all changed the way people buy. A large part of how we have changed the pipeline review is through class leading Social Selling, some of this is tapping into the psychology of the 2021 buyer.

First, buyers are looking for experts, they are looking for trust. Some people call it Salespeople "helping" but I think we are cynical of Salespeople "helping" and you need to be subtler than that. 

Salespeople need to have a personal brand, so that buyers can see what they salesperson stands for. Not the what, but the why. Buyers are looking for authentic trust. 

In 2021 your Salespeople also need a strong network. Gartner says that 10 people are in the group making decisions in your target accounts. This means that your Salespeople must be connected to the right 10 people in your target accounts. This isn’t just ‘potluck’ connecting, it takes strategy and skill to do it correctly. 

At a recent pipeline review for a client, we looked in Sales Navigator and found that the Salesperson was not connected to anybody in the target account on LinkedIn.  The pipeline entry in CRM showed this ‘deal’ as closing in the next quarter. The salesperson was committing to it even though they knew no one in the target account and had no connections.  We have to be serious about this, the salesperson isn't connected to anybody, hasn’t built any relationships and is invisible within the account.

Once we have forensically looked at the accounts, reduced the risks of the Salesperson's network and if the Salespeople exhibiting the right behaviours, you can look at things to do to unblock the deals.

For example, you can look at content, we use content for many different purposes.

There is the content you get from Marketing, which is "throwing corporate mud at the wall and hoping it will stick"...this doesn’t help you.

This is about writing a piece of industry, company, or individual focussed content. 

Blogging is a modern salespersons tool, and we use it all the time to focus on a single buyer and place that content under his or her nose. Note: This is NOT a sales pitch, this is a piece that will provide insight and inspiration.  This is content that will educate, challenge, and provide the drive for them to see your proposal as a priority. You won't do this by just annoying them by calling them and emailing them.

Look at your Sales, Marketing and Business Development people’s profiles today, are any of them blogging every week? 

If not, ask them why not, it’s a core skill these days and an incredibly powerful tool in the box

I’m happy to explain the 3 main reasons why if you want to talk it over.

All sales. marketing and business development professionals must be blogging..

Social has now become the prospecting method of choice for companies as it provides no place to hide, from demand generation, to prospecting, to accelerating deals through the pipeline, through to reducing risks in the forecasting process.

Social allows you as a sales leader to forensically break down the pipeline, even better, however good your questioning, there is no place to hide with social! 

This is just one of the many ways that you can de-risk and protect your pipeline from sudden change using social and digital.

The benefits of Socially transformed teams:

There are many benefits of transforming your team to Social, the 30% increase in revenue and 40% reduction in sales cycles should be enough to convince you but, getting the forecast, pipeline and inspection processes under control is just as critical.

The article I referenced in this piece was written in 2016...we’ve been working in Social Selling & Influence since before then, this isn’t new for us. We've run all the tests and worked out all the glitches so you don't have to, you can get straight to work. We build all that we do for our clients on solid data and results.

Social Selling & Influence and whether it is effective or not is no longer the discussion, the discussion is whether organisations have the improvement mindset, the transformation culture, the commitment to change and the desire to remain relevant...    

Live Social ‘21

Eric Doyle

Crux / DLA Ignite