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Stick to it!

By Richard Doyle | @Deverons1

Reading a recent management journal, I came across a new article by Ken Blanchard that reads “Too often companies spend too much time finding and peddling the hot new management concept. How many leadership programs do you need to make a positive difference in your organization? Only one if you stick to it.”

Putting aside that all leadership programs (ill defined concept that it is) are not all equal and that very few are applicable in many organizations, Blanchard is right. The phenomenon he mentions is very prevalent.

Repeatedly, organizations get on a management philosophy / leadership style / innovative concept bandwagon, and devote enormous time, money and energy to learn and implement a new way of doing things.

But that initiative rarely lasts.  After one or two months the enthusiasm from the leader’s motivational speeches ends and everyone goes back to square one to wait for the next wagon.  And of course, each failed implementation of a promised panacea reduces the credibility of management and the belief that things will ever change.

Blanchard suggests that many of these failed programs would likely have been beneficial, if only the organisation stuck to it.  That might be so, but unless they were ever implemented, we’ll never know whether the programs were indeed effective or not.

Staying the course with social selling

And this brings us to the key issue in this ubiquitous organisational performance problem. “Sticking to it” is easy to say; as if it’s just the result of the managers not trying hard enough, or lacking the will to persevere. But this attitudinal or personal characteristic of not completing new initiatives misses the real problem.  

The real problem is almost always because the organisation, not just the manager, has neither the inherent means nor the skills to implement change.  Irrespective of whatever initiative was on the bandwagon, the organisation was unable to instill the new way of doing things in its operation.

Today, social selling is an opportunity for companies to more effectively engage with customers and avoid the challenges of unreturned cold calls, deleted emails and unrequested office visits.

A good social selling strategy and process will provide the opportunity to get to customers you didn’t even know existed with proper targeting and relationship building.

Get support from the top

That said, whether its social selling or any other initiative, if the top does not support it and constantly inspect the process, the strategy is for naught.

Social selling is a great opportunity. In order for it to be effective, everyone in the company must embrace it and the only way that happens is if the top embraces and uses it.

Also, don’t think that your current team is capable of making this happen. If they were, you would already be realizing the tremendous return on your investment as opposed to small incremental growth each year.

Social selling is transformational and a game changer. To truly become a leader in this area, find a reputable firm to support your people in the implementation.

Digital Leadership Associates: We are Global Social Media Management Consultancy. We do three things:
Social Media StrategySocial Selling and Social Media Management. Drop us an email or call one of our founders on 00 44 7823 534 557 and let’s talk about how we can make an impact on your organisation.

Black Christmas: Good or Bad for Customer Experience?

Black Christmas: Good or Bad for Customer Experience?

By Daryn Mason | @CxDaryn

Black Christmas is the period that starts when the big UK retail brands decide to launch their Christmas TV campaigns and ends on Black Friday (or Cyber Monday if you have any cash left!). You’ve never heard the term ‘Black Christmas’? That’s because I’ve just named it. So now it’s a ‘thing’ my friends.

I’m sure some people love this period –  ‘retail therapy’ addicts, serial bargain hunters, or just the Wizzard fans who “wish it could be Christmas every day”.

But despite its undoubted popularity, is Black Christmas good or bad for customer experience?

It’s a peculiar and relatively recent phenomenon. And there’s only one motive for Black Christmas: Wallet share.

The start of black Christmas season

Black Christmas begins when the UK retail behemoths decide to start it. You know who I mean … John Lewis, Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s to name a few. The Halloween Trick-or-Treaters have barely shut your garden gate behind them and the embers of the Guy Fawkes bonfire are still glowing. (Less poetically, this was around 7th November in 2017.)

Christmas TV advertisements suddenly invade your living room. These are no ordinary ads. They’re monster productions with no expense spared, ensuring they go ‘viral’ and get talked about across the country. They need their brand to be front-of-mind as we enter the pre-festive season of Black Christmas.

Most consumers have a fixed amount of money to spend at Christmastime and the big brands want to grab it from your wallet before the next guy. They don’t really care whether this is online or in-store.

But it’s a long haul from early November to Christmas Day so it’s difficult to maintain a consumer buying frenzy for six or seven weeks. Enter Black Friday.

Black Friday: A sale without a cause

Black Friday has been around in the US since the 1940s. It’s the day after Thanksgiving and so falls on the last Friday of November. It’s the closest US equivalent to the our [UK] Boxing Day and offers turkey-stuffed consumers a reason to get out bed and hit the shopping malls.

The inconvenient fact that Thanksgiving is not observed by the majority of Brits has not dampened the retailers’ enthusiasm for a big discount event. And if you have any cash left to spend then Cyber Monday will help mop up those remaining pennies.

Here’s the thing … It seems you need a reason to discount perfectly good stock. You can’t just reduce prices across the board willy-nilly. Otherwise consumers would be asking themselves why prices aren’t so low every day. And after all, retail needs to pump up those margins during the Christmas rush when there is a compelling event forcing people to buy at full price.

It was Amazon that crept in first. They started to offer UK customers the same Black Friday discounts as their US counterparts in 2010. Not many people noticed or cared. But in 2013 ASDA (owned by the US retailer Walmart) held a Black Friday sale offering huge discounts. And it worked.  Very soon other retailers yelled, “hey, you’re stealing some of OUR Christmas wallet!”  And so in 2014 the floodgates opened.

Black Friday has well and truly gripped the UK. It’s the “sale without a cause”.

This year, consumers are expected to spend £10.1 billion over the Black Friday weekend, 4% higher than last year. So it’s big business.

Full disclosure

I admit, I love Christmas. But like many others, I detest Black Christmas. I feel like I’m being forced into thinking about a festive feeding frenzy way too early. I simply can’t maintain festive cheer for that length of time. December is enough.

Although I’m very resistant to the concept of Black Friday, who doesn’t love a bargain? But as a CX professional, I ask myself “is this trend ultimately good for consumers?”

The dark side of black Christmas: Four reasons for brands and consumers to think twice

With all those great discounts around over the Black Friday-Cyber Monday period, what could possibly be the problem with Black Christmas from a customer experience perspective?

There is a darker side to Black Christmas for both brand and consumer. 

  • Experience: It removes the X-Factor from CX. By mega-discounting, brands break away from those carefully cultivated customer journeys and go against everything they’ve striven for the rest of the year. It’s incongruous to say for one weekend that, “Oh, we were wrong. Price is everything.”
  • Brand image: There is good PR to be gained from social media videos and news footage of crowds streaming through the glass doors of a department store. But they don’t stop filming when the scene gets ugly and customers start trading punches over a bargain plasma TV. Last year, several major retailers’ websites buckled under unprecedented traffic volumes. Again, this has a major impact on brand reputation.
  • Margin erosion: The festive season will make or break the trading results of any major retail brand. By grabbing a big share of the customer’s wallet by heavily discounting, retailers blow their one chance in the year to deliver bottom line growth.
  • Consumer choice: As margins get salami sliced, some retailers won’t survive. Smaller independent traders are particularly vulnerable as they lack the purchasing power and economies of scale of the gargantuan multi-national brands. Ultimately this reduces choice for consumers. This not only happens online. Just look around any modern shopping mall and you’ll see the same retail brand names with very little variety and few independent traders, if any.

The genie is out of the bottle.  Consumers are being trained to expect big discounts over the Black Friday weekend. The latest UK October online trading figures confirm that conversion rates are slowing down as customers browse in readiness for the Black Friday bonanza.

Despite my dislike for festive cheer in November, and the long term negative impact on customer experience for all of us, I fear that Black Christmas is here to stay.

What do you think? Are you a fan of Black Christmas? How do you think it impacts customer experience? I’d love to hear your views.

Digital Leadership Associates: We are Global Social Media Management Consultancy. We do three things: Social Media StrategySocial Selling and Social Media Management. Drop us an email or call one of our founders on 00 44 7823 534 557 and let’s talk about how we can make an impact on your organisation.

The Best Advice I Ever Got

The Best Advice I Ever Got

By Richard Doyle | @Deverons1

“Richard, not everything is black and white!”

Those are the words from a great mentor of mine, Jim Wallace. At the time and over the years, they have served me well. He was the President at S. J. Johnson Canada and I was the Director of Sales. Our discussion was about a sales program we were initiating, and I was as usual defining the situation as it either was (or wasn’t).

Jim sat back, looked at me and stated those words.

He was right, everything in life is not black and white. THERE IS GRAY. Gray is described in the dictionary as: of a color intermediate between black and white.

OK Richard, so what is your point?

I see, hear and read so many opposing points of view about selling today. Everyone has a new panacea to ensure that they are the ones to help you grow your sales dramatically. Some are adamant that is it about cold calling, others emailing, others social selling, others about Pay Per Click. They do not see gray, they see black and white.

Well guess what people, it is a little bit of each of these things, but ultimately as it has always been, it starts with relationships. It starts with being social!

When was the last time you walked into a networking event and shouted; “Hi everyone, I have this great new product to sell?” I am sure never. Why, because everyone would run for the hills. You need to establish trust first. No one buys from someone or a company they do not trust. Therefore, we first build a relationship. That is how we have always sold.

Today our environment is fast paced and people do not take the time to answer cold calls, they reject emails that shout; I have this great new product to sell. Why because there is no relationship. If you can establish a relationship, then the phone call and email will be accepted, because you have built a relationship.

So how do we do that? Social selling!

Today buying decisions are 57% down the road before we even discover them. Companies are doing their homework researching vendors and people. Our job is to make them aware of who we are, and then establish a relationship that gets us out of the starting gate. Developing a social presence is the start of that process. Without it, you are left in the starting gate.

It is not about a great web site. Use LinkedIn and Twitter to establish yourself as an expert. Try some of these tactics:

  • Write articles, posts and tweets that demonstrate your expertise and knowledge in an area. Don’t sell, be informative.
  • Link your web site and those articles to each other.
  • Find contacts on LinkedIn that would benefit from your product or service and connect with them. Don’t sell them. Find something you have in common by reading their profile and comment on it through messaging.
  • Once you have a connection, if they are looking for someone they will reach out to you.

There is much more that you can do that I am not going to cover here, but let’s go back to the beginning of the article. There is cold calling involved, but through social. There is emailing involved, but through social. There is relationship building here, but through social.

So, you see, there really is gray

It is not all black and white and if you examine the process closely, everyone is right, it is just how you do it. We still need sales people to close the sale face to face once all of this hard work is completed, no one will lose their job, in fact they will be even more successful.

Yes, the world has changed, but the best sales people and companies adjust to ensure they remain relevant to their vendors and customers. It is 2017 and social selling is a way to do it.

Digital Leadership Associates: We are Global Social Media Management Consultancy. We do three things: Social Media StrategySocial Selling and Social Media Management. Drop us an email or call one of our founders on 00 44 7823 534 557 and let’s talk about how we can make an impact on your organisation.

Social Selling: Five Things I’ve Learned

Social Selling: Five Things I’ve Learned

By Richard Doyle | @Deverons1

I was recently engaged by a client to develop their customer base. They manufactured a product that needed to be sold through non-traditional channels of business. Although it has been years since I have actually had to develop a virgin customer base, I thought no problem, I will use the tactics and processes I have employed for years to develop their business. I would use the three things that had made me successful in the past:

  • Cold calling
  • Email
  • Personal visits
Here’s what happened:

Cold calls: It was easy to make 100 or more in a day! Why? Because no one was answering their phones. Yes, the receptionist answered and put me through, but I got voicemail. So, I diligently left messages and asked for a return call. I averaged three out of a hundred return calls. OK, so I did get three out of 100, but then most of them were not interested in the opportunity.

Ultimately if I got 1 person a week to listen and explore the opportunity I was doing well. Of course, I continually called the others back, and they continually ignored my message. Because I was calling them back, I was not getting to as many new prospects. The results got poorer and poorer.

Emails: Well at least with cold calling there was a personality leaving the voicemail. There were just no replies on email. I know, you will tell me that my subject line was poor or that my message was poor. Let’s assume that is the truth for a minute, even the worst pitch gets some response. You can cut and paste the message all you want, if it is not personal, the rate of return will be even lower.

Personal visits: I have always relied on the fact that I am an engaging person and much of my sales success over the years has been due to the relationships I have developed with my customers, many of whom are still personal friends to this day. Well it was a whole new world. While I did get a few people to see me on a cold visit, the results were less than spectacular. First, I had to get past the gate keeper. They are damned good at what they do today and can be quite protective. Once again, the cost of the travel and time allocated to this, did not provide a return.

OK so now what do I do? I have a client who wants to grow their business and they have engaged this supposedly experienced person to launch their product into the North American marketplace. So, I began to search the internet for articles on how to become better at cold calling. Most of them just regurgitated what I already knew. In 2017 there had to be a better way.

That was when I met Tim Hughes and Adam Gray from Digital Leadership Associates. They were plugged into social selling and were very accomplished at it. I spent a day with them.

That day changed how I will look at selling forever

By doing a few simple things that they taught me in a few short hours, I was able to acquire more inbound requests for business that day, than I did in months of cold calling, emails and personal visits. I was stunned and a convert. A few weeks later I continue to use their tactics to grow my client base and develop business.

I am not going to go into a long dissertation about what I have learned, but here are a few nuggets:

  1. Develop your LinkedIn profile. In the past you got to know the person, created a relationship, and then you got the opportunity to sell. You have to do the same on LinkedIn. Be personable, tell people who are you and what you like. If people can relate to YOU, they are more likely to buy from you.
  2. When you decide to connect with someone make sure that they can help you build your business. Connections for the sake of connections are useless. In this case less is more. Make sure that you can help them accomplish their goals, before you ask them to help accomplish your goals.
  3. When you do connect, DON’T send an immediate email back selling them your product or service. They don’t know you yet. When that happens to me, I immediately block the person. They don’t want to know me, they want to sell me.
  4. Be on multiple platforms. Just like there are many routes to take to the office, there are multiple social platforms out there and you do not know which one the prospective customer will take.
  5. Be an expert! Write articles about your area of expertise. Don’t sell, just be an expert at what it is that you do, your industry, your discipline and your product category. People want to do business with experts. Today, 57% of the purchased decision takes place online before a customer contacts you. If you are out there and are considered an expert at something, you are more likely to have been noticed in that decision-making process.

There is much more. I will leave you with this. social selling is not new. We have always been social in our selling. It is just that social selling today is done on a different platform than in the past. You still have to create a relationship. It is how you strategically approach that process that will determine whether you enhance your close rate or not. If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got!

Digital Leadership Associates: We are Global Social Media Management Consultancy. We do three things:
Social Media StrategySocial Selling and Social Media Management. Drop us an email or call one of our founders on 00 44 7823 534 557 and let’s talk about how we can make an impact on your organisation.

North America Lags At Social Selling. Why?

North America Lags At Social Selling. Why?

By Richard Doyle | @Deverons1

In many subjects, we in North America are very myopic. We see ourselves as being on the leading edge of various technologies. And while it may be true that we are on the leading edge sometimes, our ability to lead by adopting new approaches is often lacking.

Socials selling is a great example of this. While many social sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook were founded in North America and are wonderful social opportunities for business, we can learn a great deal from how Europe and the rest of the world have adopted these sites for business gain.

In sales, we understand that cold calling: knocking on the door of a physical office and emailing is becoming an extremely difficult task in order to reach your potential customer. Call if we must, but I don’t answer my phone and just dump the voice mail. Email is becoming annoying and it is easy for me to block the emailing spammers today. Just try and get past my gatekeeper at the reception desk in my office.

So how can we navigate in the new world to get access to our desired customer?

The answer is social selling. I mentioned earlier that Europe and the rest of the world adopt technology quicker than we do when it comes to business. While we continue to jam our sales people with time consuming CRM (the products that are supposed to improve productivity) the rest of the world is using an easy and effective business tool to beat us to our customers.

Social selling is not a fad, it is an effective and productive way to use our time and drive sales. Today decision making is already 57% complete before we even find out that the opportunity exists. Why? Because companies are doing their research on line before they contact us. Today 75% of buyers now use social media to research vendors.

If we want to be great at social selling here are a few quick tips:
  1. Develop a personal profile that tells people who you are, not what you sell.
  2. Write articles and posts to help people understand that you are the expert and knowledgeable in your area, so that they see you as an advisor, not just a sales person.
  3. Grow your social network by identifying potential customers and connect with them to establish a relationship. Find commonalities between you and them and start there. Think of this as our networking event. You don’t start by selling, you create a relationship first.

There is much more that can be done to support our selling efforts, but if we chose not to adopt the new way of doing business, the rest of the world will continue to pass us by.

Digital Leadership Associates: We are Global Social Media Management Consultancy. We do three things: Social Media StrategySocial Selling and Social Media Management. Drop us an email or call one of our founders on 00 44 7823 534 557 and let’s talk about how we can make an impact on your organisation.

Pic credit: By André Zehetbauer from Schwerin, Deutschland – Leichtathletik WM 2009 Berlin, CC BY-SA 2.0,

How to beat the AI robots at work? Get more human and social!

By Andrew Ford | @AndrewFordUK

Artificial intelligence is the next strong phase of technology innovation around the world. It has generated momentum in startups and established businesses, as the gold-rush across a number of sectors continues. AI will have a huge impact on a number of industries, such as health, education, transport, energy. The list goes on.

It has and will also spawn many new businesses. Apple, Google and Amazon already use AI to provide a much enhanced customer experience. Organisations such as CognitionX and Seldon in London are examples of AI catalysts for the next wave of creative thought and engineering for startup business models.

What to do about the unstoppable march of AI and machine-learning, whether physical moving metal and plastic, or embedded in the internet, such as chatbots, or within work-based ERP systems. There has been much talk of the impact on incumbent businesses and public sector organisations, with the knock-on demise of a number of jobs around the world.

Statistics say that 47% of all employment opportunities will be occupied by machines within the next two decades.” As Robots Rise, How Artificial Intelligence Will Impact Jobs, Forbes, April 2017

Up-skill your professional abilities

One option for workers everywhere would be to book a one-way EasyJet flight to a sunny clime, and hope that savings and some bar work will sustain you through to retirement. This may be rather hit or miss, and a touch seasonal. The economy would also crash.

A second option is to up-skill your professional abilities, and those of your team or organisation, with softer, warmer, and significantly more human behaviours. Robots or bots cannot adopt these behaviours – at least not for a very long time. They are unique to man and woman-kind. They are the emotional and cultural quotient sparks of life that run through our DNA and spirit.

“It’s these human capabilities that will become more and more prized over the next decade.  Skills like persuasion, social understanding, and empathy are going to become differentiators as artificial intelligence and machine learning take over our other tasks.” The Rise of AI Makes Emotional Intelligence More Important, Harvard Business Review, February 2017

Get the best from yourself – and others

Before the internet, email, Apps and other digital channels and media, people would answer or call on the telephone, or walk into a retail store, or meet customers at a service desk. Humans used to interact with one another face-to-face or immediately communicate on the telephone, which after millennia of evolution came naturally. We get the best from ourselves and others by engaging and interacting – at least most of the time!

Human interaction has, though, evolved, with the advent of social-media across a number of platforms, with which we interact with every day, through a number of different devices.

We love using social-media for engaging with friends and family to share holiday, wedding, birthday and pretty much any subject of photos and videos  – on Facebook and Instagram. We use LinkedIn for professional and career aspirations, Twitter for tweeting and sharing thoughts, and WhatsApp and Messenger for instant communications and engagement.

Future-proof yourself at work against artificial intelligence

So you use social media for your own individual needs for fun and finding jobs, but what about using it to enhance your productivity and performance at work? And do the things robots cannot do.

For example, all along the commercial spectrum, marketing to business development to sales, and then to the post-sales experience from customer-service to post-sales support and in some sectors to product returns and software updates, social-media must play an integrated and complementary role in engaging with customers. In whichever function you work, demand social-media as a priority aspect of your personal development plan.

In particular, marketing and HR should play a strong role in enabling the organisation to put social as a core component of the CX, which brings together teams and functions, and structuring employee learning and development so that it becomes a natural step for everyone in a business.

Sales leadership and teams have an immense opportunity to demand and prioritise the use of LinkedIn and other social tools to building relationships with prospective and existing customers every day, to drive short-term quota targets and longer-term top and bottom-line numbers growth.

Future-proof yourself and humanise yourself with social-media skills at work. It’s the best way to complement the rise of AI in the workplace.

Digital Leadership Associates: We are a Social Media Agency. We do three things: Social Media StrategySocial Selling and Social Media Management. Drop us an email and let’s talk about how we can make an impact on your organisation.