Some sales people believe in cold calling/emailing, supremely confident in their ability to seduce anyone into buying their wares. Predictive Analytics people tell you to cold call but not just anyone — just the people they tell you that you should call/email. And the Social Selling experts instead recommend a long, slow process of courting leads by building a reputation on LinkedIn and establishing trust before moving in for the sale.
That’s nice but what works best? And where does Reachable fit in all of this?
I had a very interesting discussion with the Director of Marketing Analytics for a big company a few months back. He told me that large companies like his were looking for scalable sales processes because they had big numbers to meet. It gave me a clue to the answer to the question I just asked…
Cold emailing is scalable. And predictive analytics works in that context. Here is the process that proponents of persistent calling/emailing recommend:
Email or call anyone at least 5 times and you will ultimately get through and be able to build a qualified prospects list to sell to. The problem with sales people in their view is that they don’t call or email enough. Their view is that you should take a list of 10,000 people, email them 5 times, annoy 9,950 people, in order to end up with 50 very good leads (those who actually need your service but were too lazy or busy to respond the first 4 times you emailed.) If you get a little smarter on who you email, with the help of predictive analytics, you can reduce the list of 10,000 to 5,000 and still get 50 good prospects but a) you pissed off less people, b) reduced your email campaign costs, and c) 50/5,000 looks better than 50/10,000 so you must be doing something right (and keep buying the analytics!).
This is indeed a scaleable process, and it works within the current model of inside sales teams backed by research and appointment setters.
The Social Selling crowd is focused on a different problem. They are looking to find leads by having the leads qualify themselves and reach out to the sales team. This is done by leveraging the sales organization to do marketing, aptly called Social Selling.
Here is what the Social Selling experts recommend: Get on Twitter, follow the people you want to sell to, and when they post something be the first one to jump in and tell them how their post was amazing. The poster will appreciate your sincere compliment and reply. Based on that relationship with your new BFF you are assured to be able to sell a lot of widgets to him/her. You can do the same on LinkedIn by posting comments on people’s posts, comments that they will appreciate, and cause them to connect with you, allowing them to sell to them whatever you have to sell. You can do even better by turning your LinkedIn page into a billboard for your company’s products, with materials pushed to you in an online locker by your marketing department.
This is why LinkedIn streams are now streams of commercial messages. But if you post, post, post then when someone does click or respond, you can be sure they are interested in buying something from you. Or are they trying to sell you something and are trying to build trust…?
I think you may get the feeling that I have doubts that the Social Selling thing will soon replace cold emailing/calling. If it were then InsideSales.com would not be doing so well. After all, the Sales Solutions revenues at LinkedIn are still a drop in their revenue bucket.
What about Reachable? Glad you asked.
See, we are not trying to help you meet new friends. Reachable is the perfect complement to the cold calling/emailing sales process to make it a lot better. The marketing analytics folks or the sales managers can overlay Reachable on top of call or target lists that were built outside of Reachable. Reachable will analyze the lists and warm them up by showing you for each of your prospects someone inside your company, or someone willing to help, that can make an intro or give you the scoop on the target person or accounts. So, call or email, but not cold thanks to Reachable.
Reachable is going so far as integrating entire prospecting databases (like the people database of Leadership Directories and S&P Capital IQ) so that if you don’t have your list and need to build it yourself, then you can do it within Reachable.
So, going back to my conversation with the Marketing Analytics director, Reachable is the only scalable lead warming solution that we know of that complements existing sales processes.
And that is pretty powerful stuff.
Log in to your Reachable account now, or sign up for a free account now, and close deals faster. Stop wasting time and energy on blind leads when you can get the inside scoop and know whom to talk to, what to say and when to close your deals.
Laurent Ohana, CEO
The reaction to my “Everyone is in sales” blog was swift.
Comments included: “Salespeople are competitive with each other and don’t collaborate” and “People in organizations don’t want to help the salespeople because the salespeople get all the credit (and money) and the helpers just get extra work.”
There is a view that better let the salespeople be salespeople — lone wolves. Give them the latest gadgets to make them better hunters and get out of the way.
(“Mexican Wolf 2 yfb-edit 1” by Clark, Jim (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) – . Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/)
However, prospects are increasingly well educated about what they are looking for. Aggressive content marketing by competitors results in prospects having ready access to comparative information about products. Salespeople don’t have the information advantage, sometimes even about their own products.
To win, salespeople need to be capable of orchestrating the work of an internal team. Having visibility inside their enterprise to understand who has valuable insights to win a deal is critical.
(photo: Creative Commons)
Reachable started as a solution for lone wolves. The core Reachable product allows anyone to create an individual account, set up lists of targets, and let Reachable analyze their contacts from LinkedIn, Facebook, Outlook, and Gmail. It figures out their best connection paths to these targets along with valuable insights about people, companies and their relationships and affiliations.
We too evolved when we realized that the future is in Collective Sales Intelligence, and we added the Team functionality.
If you are interested in learning about how to create a Team for your company or a group of collaborators, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and ask. If you are not presently a Reachable user and want to try it, visit our web site and create your account here (of course, we have a video!)
Laurent Ohana, CEO
I was quite shocked recently when one of the leading bloggers/consultants of the Social Selling movement felt the need to write about what Social Selling was not. Basically, she correctly reminded folks that selling is hard — you need to get off your butt, get away from LinkedIn and Twitter, make some calls, visit clients, attend conferences and get yourself known in the community. With all the hype about Social Selling it was time for someone from the inside to send the wake up call — and implicitly make the case for Reachable. As one of our users exclaimed to his colleagues about Reachable on their Chatter: “this is money!”
Readers of the financial press are surely well versed in the analysis of balance sheets. However, there is a critical corporate asset that you are not going to find on any balance sheet: the Enterprise Social Capital. Now, thanks to the partnership between Reachable, Leadership Directories and S&P Capital IQ, the Enterprise Social Capital can be analyzed and systematically managed for the benefit of a business.
What is Enterprise Social Capital and what role does it play in the success of a business?
In order to scale, businesses had to develop task specialization. The founding team of the business scaled by dividing tasks in increasingly thin slices. Now the role of recreating the original “can do,” “we are in this together” and “everybody is in sales” attitude that made the business succeed falls on the management team and its culture experts, and modern Social Enterprise tools.
Social Selling tools emerged with the rise of Social Networks, in particular Facebook and LinkedIn. These tools are based on the premise that everyone is connected on a “social graph.” Social Selling tools posit that the nature of the social and professional links between people can be analyzed to generate insights about who would buy what from whom, and to trigger purchasing decisions by activating influencers.
There is strong logic behind this approach. There might come a day when businesses will buy from other businesses without human intervention, perhaps purely based on algorithms. But until that day arrives, relationships and the trust they carry have a distinct influence on what gets bought, from whom and how quickly. Relationships do matter.
But businesses are not leveraging relationship as well as they could.
Most Social Selling tools are geared to helping an individual connect to other individuals on a social network — mostly to people that they don’t know. That only goes so far. Relationships you make on a social network are superficial — it takes a while to know what to expect, what can be asked and what is proper. Often, people connect, exchange niceties and that’s that.
Further, corporate marketing departments are increasingly leveraging the personal accounts of employees as a channel. They want employees to push a corporate message. This commercialization makes Social Networks less and less the place where people develop genuine, trusting relationships.
Reachable takes a different approach. We start by analyzing the people you already know. We create a cloud-based contacts vault where you can store contacts acquired on Social Networks or off-line. Reachable’s algorithms figure out whether these contacts could be connectors to people and companies you are trying to reach.
To perform these complex analytics, Reachable has partnered with Leadership Directories and S&P Capital IQ to access its verified profiles of people and companies — millions of profiles that are developed and maintained with exacting standards. What these profiles tell us is where people have been and what they did there and for how long. Using big data analytics, Reachable is then able to create its own graph of professional connections for millions of people. Reachable can not only recommend connectors to people and companies but also explain why it would make sense to go through these connectors to reach a target. These “relationship insights” are essential in helping you navigate the opportunities that your connections can deliver.
But Reachable went a step further and tackled the enterprise challenge. Our “Team” solution enables a group of people to inter-connect their contacts without exposing them. No one in a “Team” gets to see anyone else’s contacts, nor can the enterprise that created the “Team” for its employees. This is the first time that you can get a complete view of the Social Capital of an enterprise — all the contacts of the company in a data set that can be analyzed and leveraged. All that is possible provided that the people who participate continue to own their data and no one can violate the privacy protections that are inherent in the Reachable platform.
The value of this new collective data set is immense. If you are looking for a connection to a specific person or company, you will be shown which of your teammates can make the connection. You can measure how well connected is your sales team to the entire list of accounts you expect to generate revenues from this year. You can hire people who truly have the connections you need to break into new accounts and keep existing customers. This can be done instantly and at enterprise scale.
This makes the enterprise “Team” a unique and powerful asset for the enterprise. But it’s an asset that you will not find on the balance sheet of any business.
In a masterful content marketing play (or ploy), a CEO posted a story on LinkedIn saying he would never hire a salesperson again and would basically do away with his sales team. This ignited a firestorm in the world of B2B sales with tweets, articles, counter-articles and all the usual hallmarks of a tempest in a teapot.
Let me grossly simplify the argument. Buyers are now extremely educated with all the reviews, comments, endorsements and brochureware available about every possible product. This is supposedly reducing the value of salespeople — pushing product just does not work. You need to let the customer come to you and then delight them in not leaving. So, instead of salespeople you need customer success staff.
For me the argument for having a B2B sales team to sell a SaaS product was definitely resolved by Mark Cranney’s on the Andreessen Horowitz blog. Your freemium strategy may get in the door at a client but once you landed, you need to expand. And that can only be done by salespeople who can translate what your product does into an articulation of the value that your product creates for your client.
The argument therefore should not be about whether you need salespeople or not but what type of sales force do you need and what are its objectives. And that is determined by the nature of the product you are selling and the competitive landscape. But I am convinced that at some point in the sales funnel, a conversation with a client will be required. It could be at the beginning of sales process — we are seeing lots of a traction in the model of companies like Insidesales.com which are combining predictive analytics with a methodological pursuit of sales prospects by inside sales teams. Or it could be later stages where a free product tier has identified motivated users who can be targeted for an up-sale.
At some point, you will need to ask someone for their attention and their trust and to help you navigate a selling process that will involve a decision by committee. That’s where leveraging relationships will be important and where Reachable will help you reach the people you must get to in order to open the doors to the kingdom.
-Laurent Ohana, CEO
Sorry to be to one to tell you. But it’s true. They are yours but they are not. It’s complicated.
You met Jane Peters* 10 years ago have been doing business with her on and off since then. She is in your Contacts in Outlook on your PC. You joined Allied Systems a year ago and uploaded your Contacts into the enterprise Outlook. You sent her an email about a potential deal. She thus entered Allied’s CRM. She eventually bought one of Allied’s services. Unbeknownst to her, Jane now belongs to Allied.
You found out because you left Allied to work at United. When you left Allied you tried to download a copy of the Contacts file from the enterprise Outlook. You were a shy person and during your time at Allied you did not meet a single person. So, the number of people in your Contacts was the same the day you left Allied as it was on the day you started: 1984. But you were locked out of the PC and you could not do it. No matter, you are the “always have a plan B” guy and you had a copy of the 1984 contacts on your iPhone.
United and Allied sell similar products so you thought that your old friend Jane should hear about United’s amazing gizmos. She agreed the gizmos were amazing and she took her business to United because she trusted you and your judgment. Unfortunately for you, Allied heard about this and did not like it. It sued you for stealing the Contact file and the customer (Jane) and it sued United for allowing you to upload stolen property unto their systems (i.e, your, or their, Contacts.)
You were a bit upset about all this so you uploaded all your contacts to LinkedIn and made them public. Allied was not amused.
I could continue this parable but you got the point a while back. Every time you enter your contacts into an enterprise system or into most social apps, the contacts acquire another life that belongs to someone else. There may be legitimate reasons for this of course. You may have consented to this trade to receive a free service. Businesses have a legitimate interest in keeping a record of communications with clients or prospects — in case someone else is assigned to work on the deal, or in case of a legal dispute with the client, etc.
At Reachable, we thought that this state of affairs was not good for the employee nor for the employer. After all, the fuss is about something that may not be that valuable. While I would not just hand them out, if you got a hold of my Contacts and started calling my relationships chances are you would not go very far. Your best chance of getting to them is through me. Still people do get sued about things like these.
Our response was to become the Contact Data Switzerland. Contact data uploaded into Reachable’s platform is date stamped and belongs to whoever uploaded it. A person can upload it or a company can. Until a court tells us otherwise, it belongs to whoever uploaded it.
Companies and groups can set up a collective pool of Contacts hosted on Reachable and use Reachable to datamine the data to find connections to targets without sharing the original raw data in the group. Employees join such enterprise groups with their data and leave with their data. Companies add enterprise data to the group and can take it away anytime. Everyone retains ownership of their data but the value of the Contacts can be exploited by the enterprise team while the employee is part of the group.
Every body wins with clear and simple rules and a technology solutions that embodies and enforces the rules — Reachable.
Laurent Ohana, CEO
* All names are fictitious of course, except for mine…
We all get them, and we have all made them. They are tricky.
In case you were wondering, the intro request conundrum preceded the advent of social networks by, I am sure, hundreds if not thousands of years. Social customs developed in every age to handle these requests. In the Victorian Era, for example, the Letters of Introductions were an elaborate affair with the choice of paper, scent and whether to seal them or not of major import, and the relative social status of the requester, the connector and the target dictating who could ask whom for what. (See how Benjamin Franklin dealt with it in Paris.)
I think that in the age of LinkedIn and Facebook there is an urgent need for some new rules. People are exposing their Connections wily nilly (though that may change) and connecting to lots of people they barely know. As well, the ability to hide behind a computer screen is encouraging intro requests. On the receiving end, showing off the size of your Connections list online exposes you to getting lots of requests, and having to figure out whether to grant them or not. What if you don’t want to help the requester? What if you don’t really know the person regarding whom the intro is requested?
Yes, I am aware that some people may be reading this thinking that this discussion is a waste of time because they would never ask for an intro. They are convinced that their abilities in the cold calling department are so hot that they can overcome the chill of any unsolicited call. Or their marketing automation tools are emotionless and they will continue emailing you forever anyway. This is completely missing the point! Consider this:
Rule #1. Go for Insight. Use the fact that I know a person or an organization to ask me for insights. You may learn something. (May be you are calling on the wrong person? How valuable would it be to avoid an infinite sales cycle with this account?) Use the new ease of, and lack of formalism in, communications to connect and learn.
Rule #2. Be Patient. Often it is better not to ask but wait for the intro to be offered. I know you are calling for an intro but don’t corner me. Allow me to decline without having to say no. I will appreciate it and next time you call, I will take your call as opposed to ignoring you for eternity.
Rule #3. Don’t Exclude the Connector. Asking for contact info so you can contact the target directly takes me out of the loop and excludes me (a bad thing unless I am seeking to hide my involvement). I may need or want to remain somewhat involved to make sure that all goes well and everyone behaves. Some people move me to bcc right away, others never do — somewhere in the middle will do.
Rule #4. Choose Who you Ask Carefully. Ask people you trust and let them introduce you to people they trust. Even if an “extra hop” is introduced in the connection path (using Reachable lingo), you gain knowledge with every hop because the trust factor leads to information sharing. Remember, your task is not to “get to this person,” it is to close a sale/deal with this company. Very different…
Rule #5. Reachable can help :). Yes, it’s a plug but I mean it. Reachable gives you information about the context of relationships — who knows who but also how they know each other and (using our algorithms) deriving how well they might know each other (our relationship scoring). Reachable gives you many paths to a target — you be the judge of who is the best connector to use in this context, we can’t really figure that out (thankfully for you we don’t read you mind, or your emails like other companies I won’t name…) Reachable protects the data of your teammates by only revealing metadata about their relationships not contact data and enhancing people’s expectation to privacy at work, not destroying it…
Relationships are tricky indeed but also very helpful. Only you can truly manage them but Reachable can help.