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I recently interviewed several members of a law firm as part of building their LinkedIn profiles. I asked each of them, “Why do you do the work you do?” After a brief pause, they answered with a variety of comments, but at one point or another they all landed at a similar place. “I have the opportunity to represent very smart people who are deeply committed to their profession.” What a great answer.

As I left, it got me thinking. This is exactly why I love sales. I have had the opportunity for the past twenty-five plus years to get to know, engage and work with deeply committed business owners and leaders who create, develop and distribute products and services. I’ve gotten to know them and learn how their businesses work, how they’ve been successful. I guess you could say I wanted to get beyond the transaction. I never wanted the transaction to be the center of why we did business.

Sales as a profession is completely misunderstood. It’s often seen as a career that has significant financial upside with little professional training. This certainly is partially why so many think they should be in sales. It is a profession that levels the playing field on educational status. I’ve met many a well-educated individual who couldn’t sell a pen or pencil and others who may not have had any education beyond high school, who could influence you to buy an iceberg, even if you live in the deep south.

The sales playing field has changed though. The required skills are far greater, more nuanced and unfortunately not as easily recognizable as hiring managers and leaders might hope. Today, social selling and business development are the buzzwords that make us wonder what happened to sales.

First, selling has always been social; it’s a prerequisite of good sales. We, as people, are relational beings who like to engage and work with other people. Social selling is providing your key client audience with insight, research, understanding and authenticity so they take action to engage with you and your organization for a business purpose. I’m not sure that is poetic but that’s how I see it.

Buyers are now at least 70% along the way in their buying journey before they engage with anyone in business development at a company. If you find that statistic alarming, you should.

You see, today’s selling environment requires you to educate, entertain, engage, and nurture. It requires listening, commenting and collaborating. Your past success is no indicator of your future success unless you work for a progressive organization who takes business tools like LinkedIn seriously; who understands how social business engagement works and how content drives influence and credibility. If your organization hasn’t done this then how are YOU going to do it? You may need to take the lead.

Yep, it may be up to you. You will need to take a stand on selling for today’s buyers if you want to be successful, meet your quota, insure deeper, more profitable client relationships and provide for the long term well-being of you and your family.

If not you, who?

If not you, consider your competition. If you’re not doing, they might be. This puts you at a clear competitive disadvantage.

Your goal should be to stay ahead of the curve, or at least on par. Wait too long and you fall far behind quickly.

How do you amp up your sales leadership and influence?

  • Ask your leadership team about their vision and plan for generating LinkedIn and digital influence?
    • If they don’t have a plan, ask them their timeline.
  • Check out your competition, bring it close to home.
  • Are they creating content, thinking about video, reaching out for testimonials and case studies?
  • Have YOU considered blogging? Content, well thought out and written, will set you apart from your competition and colleagues. Remember, you are a brand.
  • Have you carefully considered who is in your digital networks?
    • Who are you connected to on LinkedIn?
    • Are you random or purposeful? Go for purposeful every time. It will make a difference.
  • Understand how buyers buy today. Buyers have researched you before they will take your call or meeting. Don’t underestimate this.
  • What percentage of leads and new business are you responsible for generating on your own? A recent study by CustomerThink determined that on average, marketing is responsible for 30% of lead generation for sales. That leaves a whopping 70% or more squarely in your area of responsibility. How are you uncovering, nurturing and closing your leads?
  • For most of us, it’s less about quantity and more about quality. This means understanding your optimal, most profitable potential client; once you determine that it’s knowing how to find the most relevant people in your extended network and looking for an entry point by personalizing your approach.
  • Look around you. Connect with people and weave a web of influence. Your network is not a group of transactions but people who have the same intention as you – to be successful.
  • Understand the ebb and flow of good online interaction. Know when to join in and when to calm down.
  • Read my post: Reinvent Yourself—37 Ways to Stay Marketable

You see, much of this social selling is about doing the same things you may have always been doing, just in a new venue and format. In his post, 15 Things I Would Train Salespeople on Instead of Social Selling, Anthony Iannarino outlines 15 must-haves for successful sales work. I agree with almost everything he says except for cold calling. There is a place where traditional and contemporary meet relevant and efficient. I want to hit the center of the ven diagram as often and quickly as possible.

Showing up, being prepared, listening carefully and knowing when to join the conversation is nothing new. If you tell me that you get that but you and your leadership just don’t like this new venue, I will kindly respond with, “It just doesn’t matter what you like.” The adage “buyer beware” is now “seller beware.”

Interested in more on this topic? Check out our other blogs (go to our website >> blog >> search “sales” to see more posts on this topic). Let us know your thoughts on how you are merging the traditional sales process with new social strategies.

And, happy selling, it’s the best when it’s on track.