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by Tim Hughes | @Timothy_Hughes | LinkedIn

At my previous company, we took the salesforce through a sales transformation, at the time we were under massive competitive pressure as well as making the move from on premise to cloud.  To do this we “ripped up” the existing processes and completely rebuilt sales from the ground up.

In terms of competitive pressure, while we thought a sales cycle was 18 months, we took on a salesman from a competitor that closed at the first meeting. Sales cycles dropped from 18 months, to 6 months to 8 weeks over a period of about 6 months. So how did we decide to respond to this?

This involved 2,000 sales people, 2,000 pre-sales (sales consulting) and 20,000 partners, across Europe.

Over the time we made a number of failures, we thought through the use of social selling and the fact that sales people can sell more for less effort they would be all over it like a rash.  Wrong.

Failure 1.

We got profile writers in, don’t all social gurus say you need a great profile…. and guess what? We got the guest profile writers in and nothing happened!

In fact people who were not chosen to have a profile writer, just cut and paste the “pucker”* profiles and used them for their Linkedin profiles. The whole point of social selling is differentiation and we paid a load of money, just for everybody to look the same. Did it change behaviour, of course not. There are still people with those profile, see if you can spot them!

Failure 2.

We organised a webinar, invited everybody and … nothing happened.

While the webinar was on, while I was sitting in an open plan office, I looked up and watched people who were supposed to be listening to the webinar. Doing email, eating lunch, doing approvals, you name it. Webinars are a great way to catch up on admin after all. While this wasn’t a waste of money as we didn’t use outside suppliers, it was a waste of time. 

Failure 3.

Next we ran Linkedin training to train people on the tool and guess what? …. nothing happened. Training people on a tool is in effect, knowledge sharing and we have all been on a course where we learn some new knowledge and then go back to our desks and the phone rings and we forget everything were taught. The demos just showed screens flicking in front of our eyes, no context to how we worked. While this wasn’t a waste of money as Linkedin did it as part of our contract, it was a waste of time. 

Why The Failure?

After each of these failed attempts at getting the salesforce interested in social selling people would come up to me in the corridor and say, “you know I was sitting in the session and saying “i got it” I didn’t.”

It wasn’t lack of motivation, people were up for learning something new, especially something that could enable you to sell more for less effort.  Some even wanted to sell even more, for the same effort. Everybody, got it was a tool and can press the right buttons, but people were scared. They would never admit that in a class, but here was a new and different way of working.  So often we place our own view of life and expect people to have the same frame of reference.

Social Selling is about Mindset Change

The secret sauce we missed was that this is about change, change in the way we work and change in mindset. What do we mean?

Sales has changed in the last 20 years, from sending letters, email, cold calling, in the past

 it was all about interrupting people and then broadcasting your message. How many cold calls have your received and the product or service they were selling was totally irrelevant to you.

Nobody gets up in the morning and says “first thing I need to do is talk to an aggressive and manipulative sales person.”

Learning from Failure

Here at Digital Leadership Associates (DLA) we have a program that works. And we know this from the failures of the past. It’s not about ticking a box, or knowledge transfer, this is a social selling program that promotes the habit change companies need to meet the challenges and disfunction of the modern buyer.

*London slang for amazing. 

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Taking action and why this is the barrier you face.

Why Leaving Sales Voice Mails is a Waste of Time

Why Social Enables You In Sales To Be There At the Right Time for Your Prospects

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