Social Selling Seriously Shortens Sales Cycle
By Thomas B. Cross @techtionary
As you can see by the chart to the right these are key areas where social selling can have a serious impact on the sales cycle. As you can see each stage of the sales process is complex and lengthy. In the case of enterprise sales recent surveys suggest that it is often 2-4+ years depending on the application. The reasons for long sales are many, however include pre-existing issues delayed for years due to limited budget and high costs, personnel changes, reorganizations, uncertain benefits, CIO priority changes, M&A-mergers and acquisitions, cybersecurity attacks taking precedent and many others. In the “yellow’ you can see the many areas where a social selling approach can guide the many players involved in the decision to the desired goal. By answering questions, building custom content, live and archive webinars to get all “on the same page,” adding customer testimonials, custom business cases and proposals along with pre-contract terms and conditions and increased transparency has proven to shorted the sales cycle.
This following discussion on how social selling can reduce the sales cycle and other issues including:
1 – Challenges faced by sales efforts of low performance/productivity or “slow uptake” in the sales/revenue cycle, and staff turnover and its often-negative impact on customers.
2 – Communications challenges faced by training staff and executives. In reality, this is any manager or any business.
3 – Solutions proven to:
– Seriously shorten the sales cycle by weeks or months
– Increase the revenue “uptake” or performance level cycle,
– Reduce customer support costs,
– Increase customer satisfaction and
– Increase user service/product usability-acceptance.
Challenge #1 – Poor performance by sales staff.
The never-ending challenge faced by any manager is staff turnover and then the initial/retraining required for the new hires and others. One key point is that just adding more sales staff does not by itself increase productivity. In many situations, excessive churn in staff has proven to have a negative impact on customers. However, for anyone in management, the ultimate challenge is to predict, manage to and grow revenues. That’s easy to say. Whether sales, support or any other kind of training, the “uptake slope” or “ramp slope” (think of a ski slope in reverse) is both enigmatic and frustrating. The “perfect day” of ramp slope is when revenues and productivity both ramp to 100% of forecast and beyond rapidly. The “perfect worse case storm” of sales and productivity ramp is 0% and continues forever. Somewhere in between these “perfect” situations is where staff, execs, managers and C-level’s live. The perpetual “hire-fire” cycle continues unabated unless solutions are found. Figure 1 depicts the problem resulting from slow “uptake.”
2 – Communications challenges
Second, you will never know all the people involved in the sales decision process but you need to sell all of them. By providing social selling tutorials to show that once the initial sales call or presentation, a decision-maker goes through a series of private evaluations which you are generally not aware of or involved with. Here are some of the communications challenges faced by sales executives in closing an enterprise or any sales with more than one decision-maker. In reality, this is any sale. Some of the steps might include: decision-maker & CIO talk with others including finance, operations, etc. Then a review by consultants and procurement, then joint meetings with staff, consultants and legal to review and then final review by decision-maker, CIO and consultants. There may certainly be more steps depending on the project. One solution is social selling presentations which can be shared easily, quickly with greater quality, consistently and more accurately. The documented benefits are, among others, 1) getting everyone on the “same page” is proven to reduce the sales cycle by “two weeks” and 2) these tutorials can also significantly increase your sales close rate.
Third, you will never know how much users really know but you need to train all of them to make sure they are all at the same level. However, it’s not just new-hires but staff at all levels who need training and re-training. In reality, this is any training program. That is, there is a lot of training required by all the players and you don’t know who they are. It begins, however, with an initial assessment of each user. Next, the user and their manager talk or meet to see what training is required now and in the future. This may also involve other departments such as finance, operations, etc. In today’s outsourced environment, you may also need to train consultants and channel partners. This may likely require additional meetings and delays with staff, consultants and legal. Then a final meeting or review by decision-maker, CIO and consultants. Finally, a closing call or meeting with decision-maker for a decision. In one recent training project, the legal department delayed the training for more than sixty days reviewing the SOW-statement of work. The remainder of this will focus on potential solutions to this problem.
3 – Solutions proven
One viable solution is with video and online animated multi-media presentations which can be shared easily, quickly with greater quality, consistently and more accurately. The documented benefits of social selling presentations are, among others, 1) getting everyone on the “same page” faster has been proven to reduce the “uptake cycle” by two weeks and 2) these tutorials can also significantly increase productivity or uptake rate, reduce support call times and reduce user errors.
In evaluating social selling tutorials, numerous C-level sales consultants, have noted its three immediate benefits.
First, when social selling animated or video tutorials are presented on complex concepts such as telecommunications, internet, integrated access, outlook integration, VoIP/SIP, and many other complex systems training presented in an easy-to-understand format. In a number of tests, a number of consultants noted that a “pictionary” presentation increasing knowledge and productivity and significant reduces user errors.
In Figure 2 demonstrates the benefits of social selling video and animated tutorials on uptake and reduced errors.
Second, support centers often receive large bursts of support calls, forcing many callers to give up their efforts to obtain explanations for their queries because call center agents are “under-trained.” That is, agents have not reached a level of knowledge to be effective and efficient and then calls are escalated further frustrating the caller as they have to explain their problem over and over again. One customer commented that “installation social selling animations on products saved a substantial amount of time because support calls don’t come in one-at-a-time; there are often blasts of calls.” In addition, calls don’t come in just from people with computers; they come in from many places where laptops are not ideal and where multi-media tutorials for portable/mobile/pad devices aka BYOD are highly desirable.
Next, customer support costs can “break-the-bank.” It isn’t the first or second phone call that causes support costs to skyrocket. In addition, with high customer staff turnover and new-hires, often two people call in about the same problem, one consultant added. Social selling animations provide a pictorial approach that greatly reduces the number and length of such phone calls, thus saving thousands of dollars while at the same time providing cost-efficiency and insuring increased customer satisfaction. That is, animated user training for internal user can be extended to external users to allowing them to “self-help” themselves. This has also proven to reduce “communications errors” resulting from “misunderstood” verbal communications.
Third, when it comes to client satisfaction, customers seek a relationship with a vendor who will respond during the after-sale period. They want to be sure that new features can be added or changed as new services emerge. Social selling videos and animations easily meet these and other business challenges. A user who is convinced by such new video and animation tools for use in training is Fred Johnson, Director of Technology said, “These tutorials virtually eliminate users’ training problems. They reduce the hours of classroom time and problems with scheduling. They simplify how and when to provide classes for those who missed a training session.”
First, aside from quality HR screening in the hiring function, we think that effective, focused and timely training of both internal staff and channel partners can have the most significant positive impact on revenues. With regard to technology sales and management skills, technical skills tests aid in “weeding out the meek.” Translated, this means that IF the user, sales exec or channel partner does not complete these courses successfully, they are not authorized to sell – end of story.
Second, in other words, if you don’t pass the drivers license exam, you don’t get to drive. If you don’t pass the pilots exam, you don’t get to fly. So why let anyone sell who don’t have the right answers and are not even aware of what they don’t know or be allowed to talk to or present to customers. They are wasting thousands of dollars of time and risking possible good client relationships when they don’t know what the need to know and fall into that category so aptly referred to as “loose cannons”. Doug Green, Editor and Publisher of Telecom Reseller News, the leading channel partner as well as enterprise publication said it best, “you can’t sell what you don’t know.” In other words, don’t waste any money or worse, irreplaceable time, on people who don’t know or what they clearly should know. In addition, “users can use what they don’t know.” This means if they don’t understand how to use an application or system, they will call, often overload, the helpdesk.
Third, create and build social selling aids to educate and inform customers directly instead of waiting for internal execs and channel partners to help educate the client for you. In other words, build tools that customers can “sell themselves” on your products. The days of traditional selling are over and there is a critical need to build compelling exciting tools that don’t rely on the “hand waving” and “charm school” of the sales person. We know this works. “We have built social selling tutorials for channel partners” that according to James Kilgore, CEO “reduced the sales cycle by two weeks.” These same tools can also increase the sales close rate percentage by a significant amount. Using social selling tutorials, “you have just illustrated one of the more obvious problems no one ever wants to address” noted Peter Meyer Executive Sales Advisor. He added, “There is an eternal gap between the hiring, training and firing. This repeats again and again forever. The key is determined and continuous training of the existing sales staff to continue on the upward revenue trend with, with new tools as those that are available.” This means you can sell more and sell it faster. The bottom-line for this program is – wasting money is one thing but to waste time is another.
Summary of Findings
During this brief presentation we discussed 1) hire-fire cycle, 2) communications challenges faced in all sales efforts and 3) potential solutions provided by video and animated social selling aids.
To summarize, social selling concepts are able to:
1) Reduce the impact of sales churn resulting from bad hire, slow-uptake turnover or hire-fire cycle for staff or channel partners.
2) Reduce the training cycle for all (customers, channel partners, staff) by improving “visualization” of product/service being provided.
3) Improve accuracy of presentation for all players in sales cycle such as manufacturer, channel partner(s), agents, customer and internal decision-makers.
4) Reduce customer confusion regarding customer support and provide training tutorials for use anywhere on any device aka BYOD aka bring your own device.
5) Increase user retention on product/service training.
Bottom-line results – faster “uptake,” fewer user errors, lower support costs and increase in immediate customer benefits as well as long-term customer satisfaction.
I hope these three tips have been of help. These is more on selling anything in the new Social Selling Seminar below.
Remember what Doug Green Publisher of TelecomReseller notably said “you can’t sell what you don’t know.
If you really want to sell more, sell faster and retain customers longer gets social selling smart.
This is both an introduction and taking action seminar and certification program designed to not just “talk the talk” but “walk the walk” in changing the nature of sales, channels and most importantly customers in the way they explore, evaluate, decide, purchase and deploy new and expanded versions of solutions in their business. This is both a half-day onsite or full-day onsite seminar delivered in the U.S with webinar options available. If you prefer to get started with a social selling strategy scroll down to after the seminar. For scheduling email email@example.com
Social Selling Certification testing is an optional testing program after completion of the Social Selling Seminar.
Introduction to Social Selling – Morning Session for Professional Selling Professionals
Session 1 – Customers Bain or Boon
This session will drill in to the customers mind and not react or predict but direct them to your strategy:
– Social Selling and Social Media Explained – presentation to everyone on what it is, what works and what leads to failure. Social selling concepts helps getting people “on the same page” a horrendous task yet without this effort, factions often arise to derail the process.
– Core Customers – potential, fans, fence-sitters, ignored, end of life – are customers “listening to what you say on social media and are you really listening to what customers are saying” – who is the real buyer and who are other key decision-makers?
– Build customer personas and map to social media platforms based on product/solution. In addition, an evaluation of customer buying cycles, alignments, down to the branch level. Also, what do they know, think, believe and need to know about you.
– Communications Media Channels – product/solution messaging and mediums used for current sales. Understand role of sales-marketing interfaces for specific campaigns, events and other sales activities. Specifically, evaluate how social selling would fit into the organization including support, product and other areas. In other words, is there a “black hole” that could impact social selling solution to derail the process?
– Evaluate Sales Channels of Distribution – channels and partners are just one part of the means to an end, evaluation of “hot spots” and “dead zones” including self-service social selling and indepth analysis of CAC-customer acquisition costs and buying cycles (seasonal, annual, government, other).
Session 2 – Build Strategic Customer Assessments
Explore the following:
1 – Customer type – vertical, specialty, distribution, OEM
2 – Content – what are they saying, selling telling their customers, what do they know about you (what research are you providing them to help them evaluate you) – explore their Omnichannel purchasing processes including multi-source social content syndication news gathering.
3 – Media Channels – what mainstream and other media channels are they using?
4 – Channels of Distribution – build “agile” channel models adapting to known and emerging technologies.
5 – Apps – are customers using app(s) for selling/supporting?
6 – Technology – what social selling/media and technologies are they using – did they build or buy.
7 – Organization – where is their organization going – merge, divest, domestic and international.
8 – Brand – is their brand something that is important to you?
9 – Random – what regulatory, political, environmental factors have on customer buying now and in the future.
10 – Vision – where are customers now and where are they going and how can you “walk in their moccasins” now and in the future.
Session 3 – Taking Social Selling Action Today
Develop and build new Social Selling Strategy on specific elements making each element “more social” than pure selling.
– Start selling – build new social “cold calling” build new social selling newsfeeds.
– Upsell – build new means to selling “dogs” and finding “happy meals.”
– Pitch-sell – build new social selling “pitches.”
– Re-sell – integration of social selling with resellers, VARs, channels, direct, partners and anyone else.
– Cross-sell – exploring ways to social selling multi-vendor solutions.
– Follow-up selling – is social selling working, “mid-course” corrections and testing multiple approaches?
– Shorter selling – build ways to shorten sales cycle, integrate CAC-customer acquisition cycles and building selling cycle calendar (no point in selling Christmas trees in January).
– Outselling – not really outsourcing options for social selling but soliciting other “sources” to help in sales.
– Support selling – “constant courtesy” – integration of selling and support
– Cool selling – can toys, movies, and fun be to use
– Develop funnel buying stages.
Questions & Answers
Session Evaluation: “Taking action, building real call to actions and engaging actions were just some of the actionable efforts I put to work immediately after the seminar making social selling exciting and actually works.” Jeff D.
Advanced Social Selling – Afternoon Session for Corporate and Sales Management
Session 1 – Selling Social Selling to the Organization – The Hardest Part
– Organizational integration of social selling – review of where social selling “fits in” to the current organization.
– Organizational marketing “socializing social selling” to other departments – often internal selling is harder than external and what internal roadblocks emerge to divert or block the social selling strategy.
– Incorporate industry and competitive research and other “thought leadership on who else is talking about social selling?
– Evaluate social selling and integration with current/proposed compensation plans.
– Integrating Social Influencer aka KOL-Key Opinion Leaders involvement into the pilot program.
– Discuss critical elements of the implementation program include:
– Social media “word of mouth” social sales
– Social selling is really an extension of, not replacement for being a great sales person and great selling processes, what, where and how will social selling be used to extend that process will be developed.
– Social Influencer and Leadership – “you cannot manage a sales force, you lead it” and social selling leadership development will be included.
– How internal social selling leadership and external social influencer programs are integrated into content development and delivery.
Session 2 – Critical Social Selling Concepts
This session focuses on management and the changing nature of management in the future including:
– Connections – how to create and connect with other social media influencers.
– Curation – review and curate company content, provide guidance and enhanced thought leadership via influencer team.
– Content – how to create content to have compelling “thought leadership” knowledge.
– Collaboration – learn how to collaborate with internal and external social leaders.
– C-Level – get help from C-levels to gain access to and assist and guide others on their social media efforts along with gaining-retaining followers.
– Concerns – learn key points in responding to concerns expressed by global crisis issues, cultural issues, terrorism, customer comments and others including social media. Learn how to build and monitor system for sales, support/service, IR/PR and compliance issues.
– Build tools to track results for monitoring, managing, auditing and making the most of your social influencers and KOL-key opinion leaders program.
Session 3 – Corporate Management and Social Selling
Here are some of the key issues addressed:
– Integration of organizational compensation systems with HR for personnel management – hiring/firing is the often the greatest challenge — integration of social selling is key to an overlay or replace to current selling processes.
– Crisis – discuss having a crisis response team to address 7×24 tracking to avoid situations such as Uber (sexual harassment) Target (hack attack), Wells Fargo (internal corruption), Chipotle (incompetence) and learn how to other respond to corporate devastating consequences with live “tweetchats” demonstrating responsiveness.
– Develop a social selling approach based on key elements in the buying cycle and what customers need to know at each stage, accelerating where possible, testing concepts if possible to evaluate what works, doesn’t and viable social selling “best practices.”
Ongoing audit and assessment KPI factors – no selling or social selling practice is viable without some form of auditing and key metrics. Albeit social selling metrics are more about social media engagements, likes and other mentions and postings. Social selling engages with various customer types is just one kind of metric. All content factors will be included in the assessments.
– Integration of KPI factors with other organizational KPI metrics.
– Explore the new social selling organizational structure.
Questions & Answers
Session Evaluation: “For me the ability to scale management of staff channel managers and 100s of channel partners was worth ten times the seminar fee. I now run multiple Linkedin groups and Twitter accounts that extend my reach providing great ways to make people “get and stay on the same page” cuts communications chaos and speeds the sales process.” John D. VP Sales
Social Selling Corporate Strategy
This seminar is part of a comprehensive social selling strategy. Click on image for complete presentation.
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