Monday, February 28, 2011

The 10 biggest LinkedIn annoyances

By Tim Heard

As useful as LinkedIn can be for promoting your career or business and connecting with other professionals, users have voiced some major peeves. Tim Heard rounded up the top complaints.

Back in January, I was engaged in some urgent matters via LinkedIn, only to have the site go down. Like many, I hopped onto Twitter and began to inquire what was up, as if anyone on Twitter would know. I guess maybe it was some comfort to know it wasn’t just me who couldn’t connect. It was everyone.

As I browsed through various disgruntled tweets, I noticed many rumors that LinkedIn was likely to go public soon. On one hand, I thought that perhaps this infusion of cash might lead to more stability and fewer error messages about unavailable functions. On the other hand, by my reckoning, the current owners of LinkedIn have wallpapered their homes with currency and have swimming pools full of hundred dollar bills. In fact, while Facebook remains free, yet still worth an estimated $60 billion, LinkedIn has cleverly figured out ways to entice members to pay — and pay and pay and pay — for memberships, ads, and various services.

The recruiter in me who knows a thing or two about information technology understands how occasionally systems get overloaded. But the consumer in me who sees LinkedIn coming up with more overt ways to bring in revenue than the “social network” has trouble getting his mind around how the site doesn’t have enough redundant servers and databases to make the process a bit more satisfying (or at least less distracting) to those of us who are addicted to it like Facebook couch potatoes are to Farmville.

As my thoughts grew darker, I decided to vent my frustrations a bit. So I posed this question to roughly 90 million of my closest friends: What are your LinkedIn pet peeves? Here are the top 10, culled from user responses, with my own input mixed in.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: LinkedIn LIONs

I can’t fathom that anyone would not know what a LinkedIn LION is, but in case some individuals have managed to live in blissful ignorance, a LION is a Linked In Open Networker. LIONs are people who will connect to anyone and accept requests to connect from anyone.

To most, this sounds fairly innocuous. At face value, it is. Many users are even told by well-intentioned friends and colleagues that if they want to grow their networks, they should become LIONs. (I was, and I briefly went over to the dark side when I first joined LinkedIn.)

What you are not told is that many (not all) LIONs believe that once they have your email address, they automatically have your permission to start sending you their marketing newsletters. Many others (especially those at the top of the chains) have figured out that they can generate revenue by selling contact lists.

If we set aside these behaviors as anomalies, there still exists a mentality within the LION subculture of taking rather than giving anything back. Whereas the LinkedIn motto is “Relationships matter,” in the eyes of a typical LION, numbers trump relationships. The goal is to accumulate as many contacts as you can through any means possible.

LinkedIn LIONS are notorious for joining groups and then posting an introduction that goes something like this, “Hello. I’m ___. I really wish that I could get to know all of you, but I’m limited to joining 50 groups and therefore have to drop out of this group. I’d love to get to know you though and will accept invitations to connect from anyone who sends one.” I have been the owner of a few groups and have usually been vigilant about allowing LIONs in, but I’ve had a few members make such a post after corresponding with me to get approved and promising that they wouldn’t.

The other somewhat humorous fact about LIONs is that they take umbrage at being able to invite only 3,000 individuals to connect to them. So the ones who have reached that limit will send emails saying, “I’d like to connect to you, but I’ve run out of invitations and mean old LinkedIn won’t let me have more. Will you invite me to connect to you? Here’s a link you can use to connect to me.”

2: Facebook

One could reasonably ask, “How in the world can Facebook be a description of a LinkedIn problem?” The answer is simple. The Facebook culture, where anyone who sends you an invitation to connect is your “friend,” is so pervasive that it has spilled over into LinkedIn. Keep in mind that LinkedIn is supposed to be a business-oriented networking Web site — a place where you make business contacts and interact in ways that are designed to expand your business network, grow your business, and help others do the same.

The challenge is that people join LinkedIn who have previously known nothing but Facebook (or worse, the old MySpace), and they start “friending” every contact who interests them. No use of introductions. Not even a message like, “Hey, I saw your profile and I’m interested in connecting because…” The recipient gets an invitation from someone on the other side of the world that says, “Kheng would like to connect with you and indicates that you are a friend.” Then there are messages like the one supposedly from a student attending the University of Exeter, who was trying to accumulate as many contacts as she could as a part of a class project (implying that some professor believes that spamming people around the globe is a helpful way to grow your business contacts). I made the mistake of accepting one such friend request last year and within a week, I was overwhelmed by dozens of additional requests, none of whom would reply to messages asking for a bit of information about themselves.

It doesn’t matter if you have ten thousand direct contacts on LinkedIn. If none of them knows who you are, or worse, if they look at you as an irritating spammer, all your efforts at building a network have been counterproductive. Ari Herzog, a social media communication specialist from Boston, pointed out in a recent discussion online, “The old saying…,’It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,’ is wrong today. The new saying is, ‘It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.’ You may be connected to hundreds of people on LinkedIn, but unless they know you — and not just your name — they’ll never help you. Ditto elsewhere.”

Whether you’re a Web marketing genius, a misguided student from England, a veteran recruiter, or a job seeker, one good contact who knows you reasonably well and is willing to take some action on your behalf is worth more than 1,000 online “friends” who don’t know you from Adam. If you take nothing else away from this, remember that the first contact you make with someone is your opportunity to make a meaningful first impression — or no first impression at all. A relatively modest effort on your part can yield positive results in the long run.

3: Spammers

There are several ways you can contact someone via LinkedIn. First, you can send a message through a mutual contact. This is called an introduction request. It can be time consuming, and sometimes the message doesn’t get through, especially if your contact must send a message to his or her contact, who then must send a message to the end recipient. On the other hand, it can be very useful, especially if you send the request through someone who knows you, thinks highly of you, and says nice things about you in the process. Introductions, when successful, are much better than cold calls or direct messages because someone is vouching for you as a part of the process.

The second way is sending InMails. InMails are purchased, but they allow you to contact someone directly with whom you otherwise would have to use an introduction or whom you wouldn’t be able to contact at all. Since LinkedIn members pay to use InMails, they generally don’t use them for spammy purposes. They use them because they have a specific (usually business-related) reason, and contacting the person quickly is important.

Finally, there are group-related messages. LinkedIn allows members to join up to 50 groups. These groups may be related to professional interests, specific affiliations, industries, companies, schools, and so on. One benefit of joining groups is that in most cases, members can send messages directly to other group members without having to request an introduction or spend an InMail.

Here’s the catch. Spammers have gotten wise to this. So a company will set up a profile for some low-level marketing flunky who sends out messages to every member of the group, inviting them to join a newly created group or to check out the company Web site or espousing the virtues of the product they are offering. Thankfully, after much pleading by members, LinkedIn finally created an option to flag messages as spam. While it doesn’t eliminate spammers, it should help LinkedIn shut them down more quickly.

4: Scammers

Scammers are close cousins to spammers. Sometimes they are more sophisticated. Usually they aren’t. They range from barristers representing estates and needing help moving huge sums of currency out of the country to people asking for help in purchasing specific pieces of property near you. Probably the most difficult to pin down are those who pose as representatives of charitable organizations, often complete with Web sites. The sad fact is that you have to assume that anyone who’s asking for money is a scammer unless you have an extremely reliable contact in that person’s location who can verify their claims. As someone who once gave serious thought to establishing a nonprofit, I feel for the good-hearted people who get painted with the same brush. But in this case, it seems reasonably safe to assume that the bad eggs far outnumber the good ones.

5: Answer trolls

One nice LinkedIn feature is the ability to post questions about a variety of subjects and get reasonably good answers quickly from subject matter experts. Keep in mind that you get what you pay for. If you’re having serious legal troubles, you probably don’t want to turn to LinkedIn’s free answers for help unless you’re just asking about how to find a good lawyer. On the other hand, you can get a lot of helpful replies on subjects ranging from how to use LinkedIn to technical issues to … well, to just about anything.

Some people are naturally inclined to be helpful. But others seem to be using LinkedIn for self-promotion and/or self-fulfillment. It generally isn’t hard to figure out over time. If someone seems to consistently post answers that point back to things they have done, products they sell, or books they have written, that might be a clue.

I have been a member of LinkedIn since around the middle of 2004 — about a year after the site launched. In that time, I have answered 183 questions. Twenty-one of those were listed as “best answers” and 44 were listed as “good answers.” (I thought they were all good.) I think that’s a lot of answers.

To put that in perspective, one user has posted 421 answers this week. Another user, who has posted 250 answers this week, has posted 445 “best answers” just on the subject of how to use LinkedIn. The top answer guru of all time on LinkedIn has responded to more than 35,000 questions to date. Just by eyeballing his profile, it looks like he has provided a shade more than 400 best answers. The #2 all-time responder has provided almost 25,000 answers and (again just a guesstimate) maybe 100 best answers.

These folks don’t get me as hot and bothered as LIONs, spammers, and scammers, but they do really irritate some members. I have seen answer discussions degenerate into flame wars between people posting answers. I think the main source of irritation for many is just the blatant self-promotion that some display. But if enough of their answers are so helpful that they are getting credit for having the best answers, I’m not going to lose sleep over them. My advice would be that if two answers seem equally good to you and one comes from someone who already has credit for 300 best answers, give the credit to the other person.

6: Lack of meaningful competition

Technically, this isn’t an issue with LinkedIn. But it has led LinkedIn to be a bit complacent at times.

Plaxo is probably the closest thing to a competitor. It started out as an online contact management tool. Unfortunately, I think the founders lacked a clear sense of what they wanted the site to be when it grew up. For a time, Plaxo was generating a lot of spam, which caused the brand to be damaged goods in the eyes of many individuals. It has made significant improvements, but even though it has been around since 2002, it is effectively a late entry into this market. Other sites like Xing and Ryze also have a lot of catching up to do.

7: Profit-mongering bean counters

I totally get that the good folks at LinkedIn deserve to make a reasonable return off what is really a darn good product. But having said that, they seem to have lost all sense of connection with their customers.

Take, for example, the following solicitation I received from LinkedIn. I currently utilize a Business Plus account. Based on the amount I spend, from LinkedIn’s perspective, it is a small business account, and LinkedIn would like to see me spending more per month. Recently, it informed me that if I were seeking a new job, I should consider upgrading to a premium account. For a mere $499.95 per month (called a Pro account), I could have a job-seeker badge on my profile, contact more people by introduction, and have access to Lindsey Pollak’s webinar “Job Seeking on LinkedIn.”

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m sure it’s a terrific webinar. But someone please tell me, what job seeker has $6,000 per year in expendable income to devote to a job search? Assuming I found myself out of a job and for some reason not hamstrung by mortgage payments, groceries, medical expenses, kids’ braces, and so on, I can think of a lot of things I’d likely spend $6k on before forking it over to LinkedIn. Not only is it hard to conceive of a typical job seeker having that much extra money to spend on a job search, it is hard to conceive of the average job seeker being unwise enough to part with their hard-earned currency for the sake of viewing Ms. Pollak’s webinar.

It’s this disconnect, not understanding that both job seekers and businesses at all levels are just barely getting by, that pokes at me like a stick in the eye when I get various emails from LinkedIn announcing that services previously offered for free now must be purchased. Keep in mind that I am describing fee structures for individual memberships. On top of this revenue stream, LinkedIn is making money running ads that are paid for by LinkedIn members for services and products, as well as job postings paid for by search firms and employers. They also offer apps, such as reading lists that connect back to, which are bound to be revenue-generating to some degree.

Does LinkedIn have every right to do these things? Absolutely. However, the way it goes about its business seems to have the unintended result of creating disgruntled rumblings among the LinkedIn citizenry. And as we have seen in the news of late, you don’t want your citizenry to be disgruntled.

8: Bugs, glitches, downtime, etc.

I think what mystifies me the most is that a company that is clearly bringing in a nice steady revenue stream and isn’t offering a complicated online product (such as online multiplayer gaming) is regularly completely down or notifying me that I can’t read my messages right now and should check back later.

Yes, 90 million-plus registered users is a lot of people. At any given time though, a third of them are asleep. And a significant percentage of them created an account one day and never came back. I don’t recall having ever been online and having Facebook go down, and its members are sharing videos, large folders of photos, and doing live chat 24/7 — all 500 million of them.

You all are the tech experts. Are my expectations unreasonable?

9: Group members moving other members’ posts or ignoring posting guidelines

This is a tricky one. On one hand, group owners or moderators for the most part are hard working professionals who can’t devote all their time to enforcing group rules. I have actually given up ownership of a group simply because I was spread too thin and felt that I wasn’t doing justice to the group or its members.

As a recruiter, I get irked at other recruiters who ignore posting guidelines and post jobs in the general discussion section. And yes, I have flagged some as jobs. But I’m honestly bothered that members can police one another in this respect. Invariably, when I post a link to an article I have written here on TechRepublic, someone comes along and moves it to the jobs section because it’s about job seekers, improving national employment numbers, or something else that’s remotely job-related. The right solution would be for LinkedIn to require groups to have a certain number of active moderators per 500 members (or some ratio that makes sense). I don’t believe that LinkedIn really cares all that much how groups are moderated though, so it is left up to the discretion of group owners.

10: Interface/usability Issues

I got a variety of suggestions from users regarding issues like not being able to track individual discussions in specific groups or responses to questions or comments posted by other members. Some users wished there were ways to block certain kinds of updates from contacts while still being able to see others. Finally, some members weren’t all that impressed with LinkedIn’s contact or messaging functionality. Clearly, if LinkedIn goes public in 2011 as is rumored, there will be a few things on which they can spend their influx of capital.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Sales and Marketing: Energizing Brand Advocates Delivers 10X ROI

According to a new report by Zuberance, companies that systematically identify and energize Brand Advocates are getting at least a 10X ROI in media and sales value, our analysis of Zuberance-powered advocacy programs shows. In other words, for every $1 a company invests in energizing Advocates, the company gets $10 in positive WOM impressions and sales. %is 10X “Return on Advocacy” is signifcantly higher than the return that marketers get from paid search campaigns on Google and other marketing approaches.

Why Energizing Advocates Delivers High ROI

There are several reasons why energizing Brand Advocates delivers at least a 10X ROI:

• Consumers trust WOM at least 5X more than advertising, paid search, email, and other marketing tools, numerous studies show. As a result, conversion rates for WOM marketing programs that energize Brand Advocates are substantially higher than for other marketing campaigns. Companies energizing their Brand Advocates using the Zuberance Advocate Platform are getting sales conversion rates as high as 6%. This is more than 5X higher than standard sales conversion rates for traditional marketing approaches.

• Unlike paid media, companies do not pay Advocates to spread positive WOM. Advocate Media is a form of earned media, i.e., media that a company earns when customers become the channel for market communications. As we point out in this white paper, there are costs associated with a structured program to energize Brand Advocates. However, these costs are low relative to the value that companies get from these efforts and the typical investments companies make in paid media.

• Energizing Brand Advocates has staying power. Clicks and leads are perishable. But Brand Advocates will gladly continue spreading positive Word of Mouth about their favorite brands and products for years. Apple, TiVo, Harley Davidson, and Four Seasons Hotels are examplesof brands with “Lifetime Advocates.” In addition, the media created by Brand Advocates remains on the social web indefnitely, providing brands with ongoing SEO and WOM value.

Energizing Brand Advocates enables marketers to create a highly cost-effective marketing channel — the “Advocate Channel” — that they can leverage continuously and in multiple ways to drive marketing results.

Value/ROI Analysis

The company will get at least a 10X ROI from by energizing Advocates, as measured by:

1. Media value (impressions) from online and online recommendations. We estimate that this media value is $1,500,000.

2. Sales value (clicks, leads, and sales) that result from these recommendations. At a 15% margin, we estimate that the company will generate $24 million in sales and $3 million in profits by energizing its Advocates.

Sales Value

In addition to media value, the company also is getting sales value by energizing its Brand Advocates.
These sales are generated as a result of:

1. Advocates posting positive recommendations online (ratings and reviews, testimonials, comments, etc.) plus onine recommendations

2. Advocates sharing promotional offers with their social networks
Other Benefits of Energizing Brand Advocates

In addition to the media and sales value of energizing Brand Advocates, this consumer electronics company will get other benefits from turning its highly satisfied customers into a marketing force:

• Higher page rankings in natural search results from Advocate-generated media

• Important insights about Brand Advocates and their social networks

• Valuable customer feedback that can be used to guide product/service development

• Deeper relationships and engagement with Brand Advocates, a company’s most valuable customers

Developing Brand Advocates takes time and dedicatation. It's like running a marathon - you don't run 42 km never having run before. You start building slowly until running becomes effortless.

Turning Failures Into Opportunities and Eliminating Rejection

By Art Sobczak

At age 19, his application to Harvard Business School was rejected. He was devastated at the time.

However, exploring other options, he quickly regrouped and sent in a late application to Columbia, where two investment experts that he admired were teaching. He was accepted. There he learned the values and principles that guided his investing.

Today he is the second wealthiest man in America and the most famous stock investor in the world. Of course I'm talking about fellow Omahan, Warren Buffet. (No, I do not know him, and he does not call me for advice.)

Buffet is a big believer in looking for the opportunities in setbacks. Which is what all great salespeople do as well. In a Wall Street Journal article, Buffet said, "The truth is, everything that has happened in my life...that I thought was a crushing event at the time, has turned out for the better."

He said that with the exception of health problems, setbacks teach "lessons that carry you along. You learn that a temporary defeat is not a permanent one. In the end, it can be an opportunity."

Buffet has many examples of negatives becoming positives. He said when he was young he was terrified of public speaking--so much that he sometimes threw up before an address. Knowing he needed to do something, he enrolled in a Dale Carnegie speaking course, and says the skills he learned there enabled him to woo his future wife, who was a champion debater.

"I even proposed to my wife during the course," he said. "If I had been only a mediocre speaker I might have not taken it," meaning that the extreme negativeness of the situation is what resulted in the positive.

I have a process I have used for many years that enables me to keep my own personal attitude up during even the most difficult situations, find positives in negatives, and although it sounds cliché, turn problems into opportunities. I believe it would do the same for you.

Two Magic Questions

Whenever you experience something that you perceive as being negative--many fall into this category... really now, many people blow things way out of proportion--or, you are faced with something that truly is devastating, take a deep breath, stop, clear your mind, then ask yourself these two questions:

"What can I learn from this?"

"What good can I make from this?"
Begin implementing these two questions today, and I know you will view things differently, and see more opportunities where they might not have been there otherwise.

Eliminating "Rejection"

How about never experiencing "rejection" again in sales?

That's in the title of three of my books, and I've been berated by critics over the years for making that claim. Of course, those people never took the time to read the part of the books where I show exactly how you can avoid rejection. I'll give you the simple process right now.

What is rejection anyway?

Is it a 'no' you hear at the beginning of a call? Is it losing out on a competitive proposal. Is it being hung up on?

If you think it is, it is. Now, I'm not going to get all out-there-philosophical on you, but let's keep this simple:

-Stuff happening TO you in sales (getting no's) is inevitable, if you are placing calls.
-What HAPPENS to you is not rejection.
-Rejection is the definition that someone attaches to what happens to them.
-No one person or situation can cause you to feel rejected unless you allow it/them to.
-Change your definition of rejection so that it does not include getting a no on a call.
-After no's, ask yourself the two questions I presented earlier.
-Ensure you get a win on every call by accomplishing something, or even attempting something, regardless of how minor. This is what I call your Secondary Objective.

More than almost any other profession, how you feel when you are performing your job affects your outcome. Coupled with the fact that all day long we proactively put ourselves in situations where the outcome may not be the one we desire, there's little wonder most people would never consider sales as a career, and many have left because they couldn't handle what they defined as "rejection." This underscores the need to follow processes like I've outlined.

You are a special person for doing what you do. To continue surviving, thriving, and ensuring you will have your best year ever, implement these ideas for turning challenges into opportunities, and never experiencing rejection again!!

Here's to making next week your best one ever!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Top 10 tools for Small Business

If you are a small business, here are the top 10 things to implement in 2011:
1. CRM: How can you possibly know who you are selling to without it?

2. Twitter: Will improve your search engine ranking and introduce you to people you never would have met ither wise.

3. Linked In: Because your best referrals and potential new customers are from people you already know.

4. Blog: Become a thought leader, industry guru, a go to source for potential customers. How fun is that! 

5. Sales Training: If you have new employees or old dogs, sales training will net you more sales or help you realize you need to replace your sales force.

6. Monthly Employee Reviews: How else will people know if they are doing a good job or why they were managed out?

7. Employee Recognition Awards: Because this is the easiest low cost - high value campaign that will drive the right behavior.

8. Vendor Costs Review: Telecom, Wireless, office supplies – whatever your major expenses are. You are likely spending too much money. It may be easier to save a $ than earn a $ some months.

9. Customer Communication Strategy: If you aren't talking to your customers, someone else likely is. Email Marketing (like Constant Contact), Twitter, Face Book and phone calls help you be in the right place at the right time when folks are ready to buy.

10. Make your office fun! Comfortable and homey. It should be conducive to working, building solid relationships with colleagues and keeping employees on task. Life can be a hamster wheel. At least decorate the cage, maybe even offer a Hamster in a ball!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Social Media for Business: What are people saying about your brand?

Have you googled your business lately? Try different search words combined with your company name like love or hate. You may be surprised!

The conversations taking place on social networks can build or erode your brand, your reputation, leads, sales and revenue. Outspoken and respected individuals can influence masses of friends and followers to change their opinions about you. They can trash you or defend you. You can soothe them, cultivate them and turn them into your strongest advocates; or not.

Take Trip Advisor as an example or Rogers. Google "I hate Rogers" and you will see an entire web site dedicated to irate customers. There are videos on You Tube and even an "I Hate Rogers" Face Book fan page!

I am interested in hearing about what's working, not working and why for your social media business strategy.

Drop me a comment!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Social Media for Business

Where Are Social Media Marketers Seeing the Most Success? It may surprise you, but the answer isn’t Facebook

Source: eMarket Daily

More companies in the Inc. 500 are using social media as part of their business and marketing strategies, and they are seeing success and viewing social media overall as more valuable. These firms, which include the fastest-growing private companies, have been using a mix of tactics, with Facebook as the most popular. According to a study released in January 2011 from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research, 71% of companies used Facebook in 2010, up from 61% in 2009. Twitter, at 59% in 2010, and blogging, at 50%, are also still high on the list.

If a company has used social media, it has most likely also seen success, the study found. Eighty-five percent of companies viewed Facebook as successful, a significant jump from 54% in 2009. Yet Facebook hasn’t matched message or bulletin boards, with 93% reporting it was a successful tactic. foursquare also saw a significant increase in usefulness; it wasn’t even measured in 2009, yet in 2010, 75% of companies reported it was a successful tactic.

As social media becomes more prevalent and valuable, the perception of it is changing. More companies view it as important, with 86% reporting social media technologies to be somewhat or very important to their business and marketing strategies in 2010, up from 79% in 2009. And growth is even stronger among those who consider it “very important.”

These fast-growing Inc. 500 companies see social media as increasingly important to their businesses because of the success they’ve seen, and marketers will continue to test various social networking sites to find the right mix for their company’s strategy.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Seven Deadly Sins of Salespeople

In the late sixth century, Pope Gregory described the seven deadly sins from the least serious to the most, as superbia, invidia, ira, avaritia, tristia, gula, and luxuria. Translated from Latin, they are pride, envy, anger, avarice, sadness, gluttony, and lust. What do you think are the seven deadly sins of salespeople? Here’s Steve Martin's list, in order of least to most severe.

Chattering. Salespeople talk too much on sales calls for a variety of reasons. Some are nervous chatterers who just can’t keep their mouths shut. Others think they know more than the customer so they lecture the customer to death. Many salespeople feel compelled to recite their canned pitch regardless of the customer’s actual interest. You have conducted a perfect sales call when the customer has been persuaded to buy even though you listened far more than you spoke.

Gourmandizing. Millionaire railroad tycoon Diamond Jim Brady was a legendary gourmand who lived at the turn of the twentieth century. For breakfast he ate eggs, pancakes, pork chops, cornbread, fried potatoes, hominy, muffins, and beefsteak and drank a gallon of orange juice. Lunch consisted of two lobsters, deviled crabs, clams, oysters, beef, and several pies. A platter of seafood and carafes of lemon soda constituted his 4:30 snack. The evening meal began with three dozen oysters, six crabs, and turtle soup. The main course was two whole ducks, six or seven lobsters, a sirloin steak, and servings of vegetables. Dessert included a platter of pastries and often a two-pound box of candy. Does your sales organization include a “Diamond Jim Brady” who devours company resources to the point of gluttony?

Inactivity. Salespeople must be short-term thinkers and long-term planners. An inactive salesperson neglects the future and does not spend time on activities that build his future pipeline. Inactivity is not to be confused with laziness. Many hardworking salespeople are completely focused on the here and now. Unfortunately, they forget about next quarter and next year. Other salespeople place all their eggs in one basket, never really thinking about what will happen if their big deal collapses. They have been lulled into a state of inactivity and could be jolted into reality at any moment.

Obliviousness. Many salespeople don’t take the time to understand how customers fit within their own organization. I am continually amazed at the lackadaisical attitude many salespeople have about understanding the organizational structure of the companies they call on. When they are asked what a person’s title is, they will answer, “manager,” or something equally nebulous, when they should answer, “manager of application security who reports to the director of application development, who, in turn, reports to the CIO.”

Shallowness. Salespeople who don’t know their product well enough to build customer credibility cannot be expected to drive account strategy. How can you determine your next course of action if you don’t understand the customer’s technical objections and how best to emphasize the product’s strengths? Worse, in this situation you are completely at the mercy of someone else because another member of your company has to explain how your product works.

Presumptuousness. Assuming information you really don’t know is one of the worst sins for a salesperson. Salespeople who are not certain but make their best guess about who the ultimate and final decision maker is within an account are more than halfway to losing the deal.

Ignorance. Ignorance is the deadliest sin. If you do not have a spy within an account who is telling you what is happening in closed-door meetings, defending you when you are not around, and disseminating propaganda on your behalf, you will most certainly lose.

Your success is your responsibility. The road to the top is paved with hard work, diligence, and self-discipline. The salesperson who avoids committing these seven deadly sins is well on his or her way to becoming a Heavy Hitter, a truly great salesperson.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Prospecting is the Key to Sales Success

What a great article! 44% of businesses surveyed said they prospected less than half a day per month! That is 12 hours per quarter - Shocking! Check out  - fab site for sales tips!

By Colleen Francis of Engage

A recent poll of Engage customers revealed a shocking habit. When asked, “How much time per day do you spend prospecting” 29% responded less than 1 hour a month prospecting for new business, 44% less than half a day, and only 17% at least one full day per month. Pathetic!! Considering that prospecting is the number one secret to sales success there must be a number of struggling sales professional out there. I can't say this often or emphatically enough, “There is no sales problem that good prospecting skills can’t solve.”

I know that you are getting tired of me spouting off about this, it’s just that 80% of sales people still don’t get it.

I frequently coach sales reps who know exactly what to say, when to say it, and have terrific, well-priced products. But they still can’t sell. Why? Because they have no prospects waiting in their sales funnel to qualify and close. And if you don’t have any prospects, you can’t make any sales. Period. To ensure you have a steady stream of new business opportunities, the following is a quick two-step process that I use in many of my coaching sessions, which can help you be more proactive with your prospecting each and every week:

Step 1: Evaluate. First, how many prospects do you really need? In most industries, you can use the average metric of about 25 "suspects" - or 3 qualified prospects - for every sale. A suspect is a cold prospect. You have an inkling that they should be interested in your product, but you haven't talked to them yet, and they haven't contacted or been referred to you.

A qualified prospect is someone who you know has a need for your product, and a desire to buy it from someone. They also have the money to spend, and the power to make the transaction happen. To find out how many prospects you should have in your sales funnel, just multiply the number of new customers you need each year, by the number of suspects or qualified prospects it will probably take to get them.

Step 2: Execute. Once your target is set, you can start to work towards achieving it through the following four key prospecting techniques:

1) Get referrals. Referred leads are a profitable way to grow your business, as well as a good benchmark for how well you're building your business relationships. The “holy grail” in lead generation is to receive leads from your customers without asking for them. These unsolicited referrals are proof that you've earned so much trust and loyalty that your existing customers have become your sales reps! The more leads you get, the more satisfied your existing customers likely are, and the better the job you're doing.

2) Network. In any career, success or failure is a direct result of our networks, and the people we know. As the old saying goes, "take care of your people (or, in this case, your network), and your business will take care of itself.” For all their differences in approach, style and technique, the top 10% of sales people all have one thing in common: they are all more likely to employ a broad network of friends, family, acquaintances and connections to help them seize opportunities, and respond to challenges.

3) Be a Life Giver. Life Givers know that what goes around, comes around. They understand the power of reciprocity, and use it to their advantage. So don't hoard your contacts. Open your proverbial Rolodex, and start making introductions. Be the first at an event or party to provide a contact to someone you've just met, rather than waiting for them to give you something first. Once you start sharing your contacts and making connections with and for others, it won't be long before your clients and contacts start returning the favor in spades.

4) Make the calls. Last but not least, those sales reps who are at the top of their profession almost always have a short, precise "To Do" list, which relates directly to achieving their goals for the year. Right at the top of your list should be the number of prospecting calls you're going to make every day. And to make sure it gets done, keep your list short - probably no more than 4 to 5 items a day - and make sure it gets done first thing in the morning, before all those other inevitable little "fires" can create excuses for getting to work. By carrying out your To Do list each day without fail, you'll find your number of prospects will grow - and your business soar - faster than you ever thought possible.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Interviewing: The Reject and the Rock Star

Yesterday I interviewed 2 candidates - a reject and a rock star. So what separates the weak from the strong? To over simplify - preparation.

The Reject: Showed up with a wrong copy of his resume, didn't know what type of business we were in and could not articulate any details from past work experiences. When asked why he wanted to be in sales, his response "I just need a job".  Really? Is this the best answer you could come up with? It saddens me how ill prepared some 20 somethings are to enter the work force.

There is an enormous amount of information available on how to interview. What to wear, interview questions, tips and tricks. Endless resources!

The Rock Star: Showed up prepared, could draw parallels between past experiences whether academic or work related, asked specific questions of our industry and roughed out an action plan. I felt confident in his abilities to get the job done right and that he could deliver more than we expected.

Words of advice....If you are looking for a job, you only have one first impression. Spend 30 minutes and understand who you are going to see and prepare intelligent questions and answers.

If you have children entering the work force, teach them! Don't let your kid be the one who says "I thought it was better to show up with a wrong resume than no resume at all."