I've been reading reams of predictions for selling in 2015 and it seems that 99% are about social selling and predictive analytics. Peter Ostrow, from Aberdeen Sales Effectiveness Research, is however right on the money with this comment. "The traditional emotion-driven, gut-driven sales coaching that we so often see with reps and their bosses is going to be replaced - or at least augmented - by the use of pure analytics and data. We're seeing a lot of movement in the marketplace where organizations are using data to drive a kind of coaching, training, sales effectiveness and career management that we've never seen before."
But technology is not the message - it's simply the medium because selling is about engagement and great sales management is about coaching in strategy and disciplined execution. The best sales managers will help their sales people become effective in building personal brand and leveraging big data analytics for better monitoring and targeting. Great leaders understand that a person's personal brand is their most precious asset and that time is their most valuable resource.
2015 will be the year where big data analytics enables the intelligent application of sales effort and also when sellers will mature in using social media for brand building and effective early engagement to create valued conversations within communities. Here is where it all comes together most powerfully... social listening. That's what matters most for B2B sellers - social analysis, social research and social listening for trigger events.
For brand-building in social, it's not about the technology or broadcasting messages. Retweeting or reposting links to other people's content is not enough. Yes there is value in being a content aggregator but only if the people who matter are following you. It's all about connection through genuine insight. But resist the temptation to quickly seek to prospect or sell on the back of touch-points - this is a sure-fire way to cause people to disconnect.
Go back to the future in 2015. B2B is really H2H (human to human) selling so blend the old with the new. Study and embrace the time-honored traditions of solution selling, value selling and insight selling. Become a disciple of strategy gurus such Jim Holden and Art Jacobs. Embrace methodology leaders such as Keith Eades and Miller-Heiman. Then carefully think about how social and technology can be leveraged within your own process for creating pipeline and creating early engagement. If you're a sales manager, go back to what matters most - helping your people have great conversations with senior people early in the buying/sales cycle.
But here is the most important 'back to the future' skill of all if you want to succeed in the world on business and commerce - learn how to write powerfully. The most effective method for doing this has always been reading... voraciously! Most people read one book a year but research shows the average Fortune 500 CXO reads somewhere on the order of 60. Read and write every day and discipline yourself to carve out 30 minute once or twice per day to read long form, especially. Turn off all the devices and digest an entire white paper, hard hitting news from The Economist, an inspirational biography on Churchill or book on military strategy. Reflect upon it. Apply its wisdom practically in your life and career. Remix it in your next LinkedIn Publisher posts drawing parallels. I love Stephen King's perspective and wholeheartedly stand by it as a permanent student of life, "Books are a uniquely portable magic."
Being a good writer can be your key differentiator in the ever competitive markets of 2015 and beyond. Now imagine becoming a great one! Those who can write well, inoculate themselves against technology rendering their station obsolete. Cialdini would agree, that the art and science of influence must be accomplished on paper as well as with words. Hone your ability to logically create emotion, tell stories and convey insight online and on paper. We are all standing on the shoulder of giants so...
"Whoever tells the best story [still] wins!" - Annette Simmons
Tony Hughes is ranked as the #1 influencer on professional selling in Asia-Pacific and is a keynote speaker and best selling author. This article was originally published in LinkedIn where you can also follow Tony's award winning blog. Also visit Tony's keynote speaker website at www.TonyHughes.com.au or his sales methodology website at http://www.rsvpselling.com/.
Main image photo by Flickr: JD Hancock
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