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by Adam Gray | @AGSocialMedia | LinkedIn

As Winston Churchill once said “I’m sorry I wrote you a long letter but I didn’t have time to write a short one” so I apologise about the fact that this is a 1000 word article rather than a 400 word one.

I have been in business for 30 years and during that time I have been on many training courses and seminars (and more recently webinars) and one thing that characterises most of them is that they didn’t make me noticeably better at what I did. They did for some people (not many, but some) but for me and most of the other people they simply didn’t work.

It could be that these programmes didn’t resonate with me at that time, or it could be that they didn’t engage with the type or learning that I needed. Or it could be that that they simply weren’t very good. Whatever the reason was, what they didn’t do was turn me from who I was in to a superhero. In fact I never saw them create a significant change in anyone, I hear anecdotally that they sometimes did, but I never saw it for myself.

The problem is that most of the training sessions I have ever been party to, certainly in a work context, are predicated on the idea that if the teacher delivers some knowledge that the student doesn’t already possess…the student will use this knowledge.

My experience is that they won’t.

I think that there are a number of reasons for this. Key is because when we’re sitting in a training session everything seems so simple and straightforward and makes perfect sense. Then when we get back to our desk we’re not quite sure what the person demonstrating did and it seems to be much more complicated than we expected it to be and we’re not quite sure that it’s as applicable to our business as it seemed when the expert was standing in front of us.

In addition to this issue of empowerment there is the issue of habit, Getting people to do something different today is (relatively) easy, getting them to do something different EVERY day is extremely difficult…and it isn’t achieved through those knowledge-transfer sessions whether by webinar or face to face. It is only achieved through a much more personalised and intimate delivery method and therefore a more expensive one.

Sadly though, organisations often don’t see the difference between cost and value because the cost of making a change is what’s viewed rather than the benefits that it might bring.

Effective training is expensive because it isn’t putting 100 people in a room and transmitting for a day, rather it is about taking each of them on a journey to learn the things that they as an individual need to learn. Nowhere is this more obvious than in social selling and nowhere in social selling more than in LinkedIn.

This requires work to get started (writing their profile) and ongoing work (being visible and writing things) and this simply won’t happen via webinar. Webinars are what people do whilst eating a sandwich at lunch time and even if they do learn some facts and techniques the work required to implement will seldom be done.

The way to successfully deliver this is with time. Time with face to face teaching. Time with telephone mentoring. Time for the student to think…and do what’s required. Moreover there must be an expectation that people will actually do what’s required.

For us at Digital Leadership Associates we don’t “pass” people for attending one of our courses, we pass them for doing the work required to be successful at social selling and that is about changing long-established (and often outmoded) habits for more modern, efficient and effective ones.

So what have I learned from this method.

I have learned that we get a very high success rate. I have learned that attendees often say “this has totally changed my thinking on sales” or “this is so simple and obvious why hadn’t I thought of this before” or they say “I have just smashed my number.” I have also learned that people who travel through the Digital Leadership Associates social selling programme usually have better things to do with their time than sit in a two day seminar or a webinar which changes nothing and I certainly have better things to do with my time than deliver a two day seminar or webinar that changes nothing.

So why should you invest money and time in this type of training to encourage your sales force to adopt social selling?

Because, as I’m sure you know, CEB (now part of Gartner) identified that the “average” buyer is 57% of the way through the buying journey before the seller is even aware of their existence. They point-out that during this 57% of the buying journey they are going online end self-educating from various (largely social) resources – YouTube, forums, groups, social sites and they are gathering all of the information they need to make a decision (or at least make a shortlist) and they very well might miss you if you’re not there. CEB also pointed out that the “average” buying team for a complex (large) purchase is now 6.8 stakeholders. That’s 6.8 people who might each be going online and doing their own research and forming their own conclusions. The worrying thing is that in this scenario, with 6+ people involved in the decision making process there’s only a 31% chance that anything will actually be purchased…which means that not only are you fighting with your usually competitors for the business the biggest competitor is inaction.

As you know, we at Digital Leadership Associates firmly believe (and can prove) that social selling is the solution to this buyer disfunction and that to be effective in an increasingly competitive world you need to be using these techniques. But to think that empowering a person, or a team, or a complete salesforce to be skilled at social selling is the job of a 2 hour webinar, a one day seminar or even a LinkedIn training course is bordering on delusional.

The reason I say this is because if it was easy EVERYONE would be doing it, and clearly they’re not. If it was possible to change people by simply telling them facts, then every training course would successfully train people, and they don’t. And if it was possible to change habits and behaviours on an ongoing basis with a simple one-day course then there would be no need for personal trainers, dieticians, or addiction clinics. You would simply tell people and they would change.

People who read this article also read these:

Why Social Isn’t Another Chocolate With a Different Wrapper

Social selling led to a change in my vocabulary and tone of voice.

We empower YOU to be great.

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