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There Are No More Blind Dates

salesmanThe socially powered Web has become the tool of choice to find business and personal information about the people, products, services, and companies we are considering doing business with. Because people know they can do a quick bit of research and often discover additional information before making purchase decisions, it’s become a standard part of the process for both buyer and seller.

This creates tremendous opportunity while raising the bar for anyone that sells a product or service.

I’m presenting to a group of sales teams at a major technology conference later this summer and here’s what I plan to tell them.

There are no more blind dates. Your prospects can know more about you, your products, your company and your solutions than you with very little work. And the same holds true – you can and should know all about a prospect’s challenges, strategies, peers, and constraints before you ever pick up the phone to call them.

Social media and search have irreversibly merged the worlds of sales and marketing. Where the marketing message and the sales relationship building tactics begin and end is a moving target and you must adopt a new set of marketing related behaviors to thrive in this new order.

There are two distinct paths, find and be found, you must develop whether you are creating a marketing focused lead conversion system or you are a remote salesperson trying to become more effective and valuable to your customers. Many organizations are using new tools such as LinkedIn to find and connect with prospects, but they are missing the ability to go deep into the world of the prospect in order to understand their needs and priorities. Few sales organizations, however, understand that prospects are using the web to discover more and more about the individual making the sales call. After all, that may be the person they need to trust to ensure what was promised gets delivered.

Today’s marketing and sales teams must work together to master both.

Find

  • You must create and deploy simple listening routines
  • You must get very good at understanding how to network online
  • You must know more about the industry, company, prospect and challenges than your competitors
  • You must learn how to filter and aggregate the sea of information to turn it into context and value

Be Found

  • You must claim lots of digital real estate and profiles in your name and that of the company
  • You must start to produce your own expert content and engage your customers to do the same
  • You must connect with and be a connector for your customer community
  • You must own 10 of the first results in Google for your name

You must own and grow both of the above skill sets in order to be the most effective marketer or sales person. It’s no longer enough to have a great product or solution. Getting in front of the right prospect in an environment where you have credibility has become very difficult. Even if you manage to do so, the final decision to go with your solution may ride on what a prospect finds online just before they push the buy button.

Image credit: megananne

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  • http://thelostjacket.com Stuart Foster

    So true and such good advice.

    Research, research and research are key to building a client base.

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    Don't forget listen, listen, listen and build, build, build!

  • http://smallbusinessshift.com Chris

    I like these suggestions – and maybe it was taken as a given, but it should be said that providing a great experience for your customers is an important part of this process.

    A lot of customers are going to be looking for information about your company that you did not create – and even if you grab as much online real-estate as possible, it's impossible to completely erase customer reviews and feedback online. Prospects are going to see this stuff, so it's critical that your company provide a great service, and effectively handle those situations that might result in negative commentary.

    Do a good enough job, and you might get a large enough quantity of positive remarks to bury everything else.

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    Probably shouldn't take anything as a given, but yes, that's the expectation for sure. Since some of this is out of the hands of the in the field sales folks it makes creating a good offensive position even more important

  • http://www.grizzard.com/author/epratum/ Eric Pratum

    I like how you phrase it “there are no more blind dates.” Working in nonprofit marketing, we often tell our clients that 70% of people check a charity's websites before donating for the first time. A growing segment of the population wants to know to whom they are giving money and why they should even be doing so. If that cannot be conveyed in a believable manner, they will move on to the next organization that has a full, legitimate online presence.

  • http://www.adrianswinscoe.com/blog/ Adrian Swinscoe

    Hi John,
    It's becoming more and more common and I am sure that it will become ubiquitous that we will use the search engines to check out everyone who we are due to meet and potentially buy from. There is less and less room for excuses about not having enough time to create content and not knowing what to do etc. Managing your brand online is an essential part of the pre-sale process,
    Adrian

  • http://www.carronlinemediallc.com Virginia Small Business

    “You must start to produce your own expert content and engage your customers to do the same.”

    Couldn't agree with you more. In many cases, people/businesses expect to be viewed as experts simply by having a large presence. While this might make it easy for them to be found, they ultimately fail because they've forgotten to provide the quality content that keeps people coming back!

  • http://twitter.com/rampbusinesses Scott Aughtmon

    John – Great post. I especially like…

    # You must claim lots of digital real estate and profiles in your name and that of the company
    # You must start to produce your own expert content and engage your customers to do the same

    I'm really coming to believe these are key actions that every business owners should take.

    BTW – I'm reading your book “The Referral Engine” and really liking it. Thanks for all of the thought and work you put into it!

  • Lloyd Burrell

    # You must get very good at understanding how to network online
    # You must know more about the industry, company, prospect and challenges than your competitors

    True. The more online marketing evolves, the more flexible we must become in order to properly adapt to what is going on. The problem with the competitors is that keeping updated with their changes and moves is time consuming. There's a good (and very difficult to find) balance between how much time to spend learning about them and how much information you actually need.

    Lloyd Burrell
    Publisher
    http://www.officedeskreviews.com

  • http://www.danieldecker.net Daniel Decker

    Indeed the game has changed. I remember being in sales several years back where I'd go meet prospects at their office and try to strike a common bond by looking for items in the office that might serve as a lead to tell me more about them (glancing at photos in frames on their desk, etc). Trying to find a common point of interest.

    Now, I just jump on Google before I have a phone call or meeting with someone and often I can find much more about them. Many times people are quite surprised by what I know when we chat but for me it helps me better serve them by knowing, in advance, more about what makes them tick.

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    Shame on any salesperson who fails to take this advice

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    I actually think that one of our roles as marketers is to provide information filtering for our clients

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    Thanks Scott, hope you can put some things you read into action. Expert content takes work, but it's the key to being found.

  • StevenSJohnson88

    Indeed, we are fortunate to benefit from the fast-paced innovation in technology. Getting and sending information in a blink.
    http://www.nextgenbluetoothmarketing.co.uk/

  • http://www.skylinetradeshowtips.com/ Michael Thimmesch

    John,

    You are so right. We've seen this same dynamic change the way people interact at trade shows. Before the internet and social networking sites, attendees would walk into exhibitors' booths and start the conversation at the beginning: who are you, what do you do, what are your products. Now attendees can learn a lot about exhibitors' products online before they go, so they want to meet the people and hold the products to see if they are as good as they expect. So trade show interactions are further in the sales cycle.

  • http://www.custwin.co.uk/custwin-blog Andy Harris

    There is so much in this article that could be easily divided into several articles but picking up on one point – that about being aware of what people say about your company …

    I have a client that's a restaurant and they wanted me to make them highly visible in Google. That part was easy.

    However, I highlighted to them that there was some negative feedback about their business and that was highly visible in Google. We discussed the exact situation, which turned out to be someone who had a vendetta against them and wasn't really justified.

    So, my advice was to implement some processes that would avoid people having such an urge to be negative about them online, as well as flooding the search results with lots of positives about them (to push down the negative).

    So what did they do? Chose to ignore the advice and instead throw more money at making them more visible, even though the negative feedback was still there on the first page of Google.

    It's an insane situation – why spend more money on raising visibility when it just takes a bit of effort to sort out the real problem, which was the negative feedback that would be losing them so much potential business?

    Andy Harris
    http://www.custwin.co.uk/custwin-blog

  • http://www.yuregininsesi.com yuregininsesi

    There's a good (and very difficult to find) balance between how much time to spend learning about them and how much information you actually need.