In his new book To Sell is Human, Daniel Pink talks about information asymmetry in the sales process. He points out that the reason people have historically distrusted salespeople is because salespeople had all the information and the buyer had none. Thus the term caveat emptor (let the buyer beware). 

Mr. Pink contends that we are now in the age of information symmetry. The buyer and seller both have a balance of information. However, I contend that we are currently in a state of information asymmetry where the buyer now has more information than the seller. In fact the asymmetry has become so significant that the ability of the sales rep to do their job is greatly at risk.

This is why I argue that social selling is required to succeed. And when I talk about social selling, I’m talking in much broader terms than making sure that you’re connected to someone on LinkedIn, or are following someone on Twitter.

I am talking about arming the sales rep with the same or better information than the buyer. And I contend that the responsibility of arming the sales rep falls in marketing’s lap. It’s the CMO that owns the responsibility for providing the sales reps with better information than the buyer.

We understand that the buyer gathers information from a wide variety of sources (usually online). We can even find out where the buyer gets their information and how they perceive that information. Historically, marketing has been working on influencing the perceptions of buyers via engagement (often on various social media channels).

The new imperative for marketing is to share with the sales organization the same information that the buyer is gathering. In other words, marketing needs to take all the tools they are using to collect information about the company’s products and services, and the perceptions buyers and customers have about the company’s products and services, and the provide that information to sales.

How Marketing Must Help

What I’m really talking about here is having the marketing organization enable the sales team to have a deep understanding and empathy for the buyer as they proceed through the customer journey. Sales should fully understand what information the buyer is being exposed to and how they’re reacting to it. The sales rep now has an opportunity to meet the buyer exactly where they are in the customer journey with a full understanding of what they think and feel about the company’s products and services.

Armed with that information, with the ability to empathize with that buyer, the sales rep can now play the role of a valued advisor to the buyer. The best news of all, is that this is the role the buyer wants the sales rep to play.

In fact, the sales rep who achieves a deep level of empathy with the buyer can move from a valued advisor to a trusted advisor. This can be accomplished when the sales rep acknowledges the issues and concerns that the sales rep know have been uncovered and discussed by other buyers who have shared those issues and concerns with his buyer.

The sales rep who treats the buyer as a highly informed person, will earn the trust of that buyer. But the only way to treat the buyer is a highly informed person is for the sales rep themselves to be highly informed.

Marketing already has the data collection and reporting tools at the brand level, now they just need to aim those tools in a way that collects the information that is most meaningful for the sales team.

When marketing proactively brings these insights to the sales team we will eliminate information asymmetry in the buyer’s favor, increase the value of the sales rep in the buyer’s eyes, and enable the sales rep to have the impact we are paying them to have.

 

Are you taking advantage of LinkedIn Groups?  We recently ran across an article that gives these helpful 5 tips for doing so effectively.

  1. Don’t be a party crasher
  2. Don’t join too many groups
  3. Use the “Share” feature to post to multiple groups
  4. Join groups for your target market
  5. Ask questions systematically: polls

Read Join the LinkedIn Party: Five Tips for Using LinkedIn Groups Effectively in it’s entirety here.

My following post was recently featured on Social Media B2B:

Most of our B2B clients have staked a claim on Google+, but they don’t invest  in it. Why? Because they consider it a ghost town. They say Google+ is  irrelevant. They invest in Facebook and Twitter and (more and more) in LinkedIn.  But you know what? Recent studies indicate that, while many companies were  asleep at the switch, Google+ has emerged as the killer platform for B2B social  media marketing.

B2B marketers need to understand these four reasons that Google+ is the next  killer platform for marketing, and why it should be an important part of your  B2B marketing mix.

1. Number of Active Users

According to GlobalWebIndex, Google+ now has 343 million active users,  more than any other social network besides Facebook. Google+ is far ahead of  Twitter, and light years ahead of LinkedIn.

Notice that qualifier: “active” users. The 343 million number is not a  measure of the number of people who signed up for Google+ accounts, and who may  or may not ever log on. Rather, it is a measure of the number of people actively  participating on Google+. Over a very short period of time, Google+ has  confounded critics and become a platform that cannot be ignored.

2. Circlecentric Marketing

Google+ circles enable you and your B2B company to market in a more intimate  way to people who are following your company.

Consider this: because Google+ users can circle your company page, it means  they have opted in to receive information from you without having to fill out  any forms or communicate via email. That’s true on other social networks, of  course, but what’s different is how you can then interact with them.

On Google+, you can do research on the person who has circled you, circle  them back, and (most importantly) add that person to unique circles based on how  that person fits into your target market. This means you can provide that person  with highly useful and specific information, instead of just a general  communication blast.

Furthermore, B2B companies can begin to interact with that individual in  other, more personal ways. And this means that, in addition to creating a better  communication channel, you can make those users feel like you notice and care  about them. For example, by sharing that individual’s content and inviting them  to private communities, private events, and private hangouts, you don’t just  send them a message; you build and strengthen a relationship. And this is a  cornerstone of any marketing mix.

Martin Shervington provides a more detailed description of circlecentric marketing.

3. Better Organic Search Results

In Google Chairman Eric Schmidt’s upcoming book, The New Digital  Age, he is quoted as saying: “Within search results, information tied to  verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such  verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top  (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be  irrelevance.”

This is the clearest statement yet from Google (which tends not to be very  clear) highlighting how authorship is becoming extremely relevant in search results  on Google.

This essentially means that if you are posting on Google+ correctly, your  content will be ranked higher than content posted elsewhere. Furthermore,  because of Google+’s tight integration with the Google search engine, your posts  are treated much like regular webpages (unlike posts on other social networks),  and will therefore rank higher in search results.

4. Google’s Long-term Vision

Google+ is a social destination and a social layer across all Google  properties. The integration they have made is breathtaking. It places a social  layer upon:

  • Gmail
  • Google Maps and Local
  • Google Now
  • Android
  • Google Wallet
  • Google Offers
  • Google Chrome
  • Google Search
  • Google Adwords
  • Google Calendar and Events
  • Google Play
  • YouTube

What Google is really saying is that “Google+ is Google.” And this  integration will only go deeper and become stronger over time.

It’s no secret that Google’s business model is to sell advertising. There’s  nothing wrong with that and, in fact, their strategy is a brilliant one. Google  wants to provide more and more relevant search results to users, so users will  do more searching on Google. This means advertisers get better value from  Google, which means Google sells more advertising.

Google has created Google+ to be the killer platform for B2B social media  marketing. What is your B2B company doing to take advantage of it?

 

Humanizing your brand builds brand/customer loyalty by allowing you to create an emotional connection with your customers.

We recently ran across an article with these 5 steps to help guide you in the process:

  1. Have a plan
  2. Know thyself
  3. Create brand ambassadors and evangelists
  4. Don’t forget your netiquette
  5. Hire for humanization

Check out the article in it’s entirety here.

 

We recently ran across this awesome cheat sheet of image sizing for social media that is sure to make your life– or at least your graphic designer’s life much easier.  LunaMetrics has compiled this handy guide of specs to optimize your images from the top social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube.  This is a keeper for sure!

View the cheat sheet/infographic here

 

With 2013 well underway, are you staying ontrack with your online presence?  

We recently ran across this good reminder list from Marketing Profs of do’s and don’ts for your online marketing activities.  Here are just a few:

Don’t: Substitute a social media page for a website.
Do: Get a professional website

Don’t: Build a “flashy” mobile website.
Do: Invest in a mobile-friendly website and skip heavy  design elements, like banners or videos in Flash, which might slow down the load  time, or not load at all for some mobile users

Don’t: Forget that happy customers are your best  advocates.
Do: Ask some of your best customers to share their positive  reviews, whether written or via video, to use on your social media pages,  company blog, and website to establish credibility for your business.

Read the full article here

I just read an interesting Forbes article which talks about the most sought after marketers are those who  enhance their skills with the knowledge of Big Data and Digital Marketing.  Today’s game has been transformed.  Where consumers were annonomous previously, marketing now targets individual consumers whose behaviors and preferences can be known and predicted.

In addition to your traditional skills now is the time to garner new digital skills.

 

Read Seeking CMOs: Must Know Big Data and Digital Marketing here

 

 

I recently came across an article that offers a good quick overview of social selling.  While it is aimed at individual reps and not companies, these 3 key elements are important:

  1. Mining
  2. Connecting
  3. Engaging

Check out the full article here

 

 

McKinsey’s recent article on how to sell in emerging markets boils down to three key issues: 

  1. Get on the ground
  2. Overinvest in the right partners
  3. Build talent for the long term

We see things a little differently:

  1. Get on the ground – and bring back the real story to corporate. We will film “a day in the life” of a consumer or buyer and bring that information back to corporate so they can “be there”. Imagine, for example, a rural Chinese male with a computer living in a home that has only enough electricity for that one computer, while the others in the home (parents and grandparents usually) live without electricity because they want success for the youngest male – who will support them all. Capturing that on film is priceless.
  2. Overinvest in the right partners – and help the local teams determine who the right partners are. We have built “Partner prioritization tools” for our clients that combine the collective knowledge of the corporation, but leave room for full local customization. Based on that local knowledge, you can build the right partner programs.
  3. Build talent for the long term – and give them a reason to stay. McKinsey talks about the reluctance of some firms to train due to high turnover. Solve the turnover problem by creating long-term incentives (not just economic) for those who help the company grow.

What have you learned from your experiences in emerging markets?

 

In today’s world of information overload how do you stand out in the crowd?

Humor is a powerful way to make that initial connection and a great way to deliver results.  Let’s face it, introducing humor in your B2B marketing mix can be a bit scary and feel risky.  We found this recent Social Media Today article with some helpful ‘digestable’ ways to think about diving in.

  1. Think witty, not comedy
  2. Stories, stories, stories
  3. The truth is funny
  4. Vet internally
  5. Get thee to a great ‘writery’
  6. Measure the ‘right’ things
  7. Start somewhere, even if it’s small

 

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