Full Frontal LinkedIn

For B2B firms, Freelance consultants and corporate or not-for-profit professionals, LinkedIn is the preferred social media platform because it is strictly business. Members create a profile that is essentially an expanded resume. There are opportunities to receive recommendations from colleagues with whom one has worked. One can create and upload a SlideShare presentation to provide an overview of company products and services and describe how they benefit customers.

A portfolio that showcases examples of one’s best work can be created and uploaded.  The company blog and/or newsletter can be added to the profile and all connections will receive notice of publishings. If that’s not enough, LinkedIn ProFinder helps to match prospective clients with Freelancers in search of project work (I’ve had a couple of almosts but no contract yet, after 6-8 months of sporadic follow-up to prospect inquiries).

There are those members who claim to make money directly from their LinkedIn connections (other than the ProFinder feature), but I don’t know anyone who’s done so. Still, LinkedIn seems to be a worthwhile investment.  I think presence on the site lends legitimacy and I suspect that prospective clients who are evaluating whether to hire a Freelancer (me!) for a project visit the LinkedIn profile as an element of due diligence.

LinkedIn users

According to the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions Blog, of the 500 million LinkedIn profile owners, 61 million are senior-level influencers and 24.5 million are in decision-making positions.  Millennials are also well-represented on LinkedIn. Globally, 87 million members are Millennial generation and 11 million are in decision-making positions.

Content Marketing

LinkedIn’s Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to LinkedIn  reports that LinkedIn is the top choice for B2B content marketing and that every week, LinkedIn content is viewed 9 billion times. While 94% of B2B marketers (including Freelancers) use LikedIn to distribute content, 89% use Twitter, 77% use Facebook, 77% use YouTube and 61% use Google + for B2B content distribution. Surprisingly, only 3 million LinkedIn members post content once a week or more.

When marketing executives (i.e., the Freelancer’s prospective clients) were asked their choice sites to search for relevant, high-quality B2B content, 91% voted for LinkedIn, blowing away Twitter (29%) and Facebook (27%). Decision-makers who have the authority to green-light projects and send billable hours your way trust LinkedIn.  How-to posts and lists receive the best reader response, according to OKDork.com.

About 45% of LinkedIn article readers are managers, directors, vice presidents and C-suite dwellers. Have you published articles in legitimate media outlets, or written white papers or case studies? If so, upload examples of your writing to your profile, since nearly half of LinkedIn article readers are senior level decision-makers. Furthermore, OKDork.com investigated LinkedIn viral posts and discovered that the sweet spot for content length is 1900 words. Don’t shy away from long-form content.

In your articles, be certain to include images (photos, graphs, charts); eight images emerged as the magic number.  Yet videos do not impress LinkedIn readers as they do visitors to other platforms and OKDork.com recommends that article writers avoid videos.

I’ve made this blog available to my LinkedIn connections for the 10 years of its existence and I’ve gained followers and regular readers as a result. Get busy, people! If you think about it, you’ll find that you have relevant content to share with your community every two or three weeks, at least.

As mentioned earlier, LinkedIn encourages members to take advantage of SlideShare as a storytelling and sales tool. According to TechCrunch, 70 million LinkedIn members visit SlideShare each month and 18 million pieces of content have been uploaded (does that mean there are 18 million SlideShare presentations on LinkedIn? I guess so.)

I have a SlideShare presentation that was uploaded some time ago and it’s a good way to tell the story of your company, or to detail why, when and how customers can benefit from using your products or services. But LinkedIn won’t allow edits to existing presentations and it’s aggravating.  I’d like to do an update.

Lead generation 

When tallying B2B leads generated by social media, LinkedIn outperforms all contenders, with 80% of B2B leads derived from LinkedIn and only 13% through Twitter and 7% through Facebook. Moreover, HubSpot reports that LinkedIn produces the highest visitor-to-lead conversion rate of all platforms, 2.74%, almost three times higher than Facebook, which produces a 0.77% visitor-to-lead conversion rate, and Twitter, which clocks in with a 0.69% visitor-to-lead rate.

In short, LinkedIn delivers more prospects who are more willing to do business.  The ultimate validation is that 65% of B2B companies have acquired a customer through LinkedIn (I’m still waiting. I should go back to ProFinder ASAP, because I do receive bidding invitations).

So here is my call-to-action. You’ve read the post (thank you!) and I hope you are inspired to step up your LinkedIn activity. It’s OK to start small. Do you have a profile photo? Add a photo and attract 21 times more profile views and receive 36 times more messages. I added a new photo today.

Thanks for reading,


Photograph: John Pilkington (2006) Loading salt at the Taoudenni salt mines in northern Mali, 400 miles north of Timbuktu and approaching the Algerian border. The mines have operated since at least the 1500s.

Content Marketing Survey Findings

In 2016 the PA based marketing services company Clutch surveyed 300+ producers of online B2B content to obtain insight into how readers find, engage with and act on digital business-themed content.

The Clutch Content Marketing Survey 2016 interviewed 300+ expert content marketing writers from across the U.S. to determine how those who produce B2B content can most effectively create, publish and promote content for their organizations.  Key findings were:

  • 88% of online B2B content consumers read business content at least once a week
  • 45% of online B2B content consumers read content to stay current with trends in their respective industries
  • 20% of online B2B content readers use content to help make decisions about whether to purchase products or services
  • 45% of online B2B content consumers read about technology, 24% read about small
    business and 21% read about workplace/ HR topics
  • 87% of online B2B content readers visit search engines to look for business content
  • 85% of online B2B content readers commonly find business content on social media

Robert Rose, Chief Strategy Officer at the Content Marketing Institute in New York City, emphasizes that “Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable information to attract, acquire and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience, with the objective of driving profitable customer action.” In other words, the goal of your content marketing posts, videos, podcasts and images should be to develop a relationship with your customers, using relevant content to win them over.

main goals for content marketing

Furthermore, the expert content marketers surveyed advised that target audience personas are the most important attributes to consider when developing your content marketing strategy. “Most businesses have an idea about their audience and how it is segmented but, when it comes to taking those audiences into a content marketing strategy, they often flounder,” said Quinn Whissen, Marketing Director at Vertical Measures, a content marketing agency in Phoenix, AZ.

types of content enterprise companies create most frequently

Although challenging, clearly identifying and defining target audience personas is the foundation of an effective content strategy.  Understanding who will read the content determines the information to include and the best platforms for presentation.

content that performs best

Content marketing can be an effective tool for creating brand awareness and generating leads that convert to sales or billable hours, but realize also that it can generate benefits that go beyond a page one article ranking in Google or driving traffic to your website. Consider how content might help your organization to meet key business objectives.  How can your content increase sales?”

HubSpot, a marketing services firm based near Boston, MA, found that the more marketing content a potential customer reads on the company website, the more likely s/he is to buy their software.  Jeffrey Vocell, Senior Manager of Product Marketing, reports that HubSpot follows up with a customized email after a user reads three or four articles.

Metrics matter

  • Expert content marketing writers prioritize their brand story, mission statement and content types when creating their content strategy
  • 49% say that brand awareness is their main goal for content marketing
  • Research/original data, infographics, product reviews and blog posts are the most effective types of content
  • Metrics that reflect sales (32%), content readership (29%) and lead generation (29%) are more important than content sharing metrics (10%)
  • Paid advertisements outperform organic efforts when promoting and distributing content

content marketing metrics

Survey findings yield three core recommendations for content marketing:

  1. Tailor all marketing content to specific audiences.  First identify the different reader personas, then create content that matches their needs, interests, aspirations and behaviors.
  2. Identify the business goals you aim to achieve and consider how your content can enable that. For example, if you want to obtain more links back to your website, be sure to generate research/original data, infographics, product reviews, videos, blog posts and case studies.
  3. Spend less money on content creation and more on distribution.  Creating high-quality content is useless if you don’t dedicate enough effort or resources to getting it in front of your target audience.  If you can’t afford paid advertising, focus on media outreach, such as traditional journalists and influencers.

tactics used to distribute content

Regarding the most effective content distribution methods, the survey found that expert content marketers most often use paid advertisements  including pay-per-click (71%), organic social media (70%) and traditional marketing channels (69%), i.e. print media, TV, radio and direct mail.

Distribution and promotion of the content must be customized to the target audience.  For example, “If content distribution and promotion is done for recent college graduates, it has completely different channels and focuses, compared to content aimed at executives,” explains Andrea Fryrear, Chief Content Officer at Fox Content of Boulder, CO.

Finally, remember that content marketing can deliver benefits to your company that go beyond achieving a page one Google listing for an article you’ve posted or driving traffic to your website. “We don’t simply want to have an impact on marketing, but rather on the entire business unit within that organization,” said Chad Pollitt, Vice President of Audience at Relevance, an online content marketing publication based in MD.

Thanks for reading,


Photograph: Vaudeville and film star W.C. Fields as a carnival sideshow barker in Two Flaming Youths (Paramount Pictures, 1927)

Client Acquisition Tips

According to client acquisition coach and best-selling author Brian Hilliard (Networking Like A Pro [2017] with David Alexander and Ivan Misner), the most vital task for B2B service providers is to organize and articulate your company’s services in a way that makes it easy for prospective clients to understand what you do.  As the in-house marketing and sales expert, the Freelancer must create marketing messages and sales pitches that enable prospects to figure out how and when to work with you.

Yet the unfortunate tendency is for Freelancers to present their services as all things to all people, preventing prospects from getting a handle on what you can do for them (and I’ve done this, BTW).  Casting a wide net may seem like a winning strategy, but in reality it often results in a bewildered and frustrated prospect who doesn’t know how to use your expertise—so they don’t. It’s essential to help prospects see solutions in your services if you expect to make sales and build a client list.  Getting specific is the way to do it, Hilliard says:

  • Promote your services to prospects with the motive and money to do business
  • Define your services using terminology and selling points that the prospect will understand
  • Demonstrate that you can deliver requested services and ensure desired outcomes
  • Price at a level that clients accept and also generates a good profit for you

In your next prospect meeting, when you’re asked “Tell me more about what you do?” give an example of how you’d implement the basic option and the premium option of a service that fits with what s/he might need.  Since you will have become specific, you can expect that your prospect will then become comfortable enough to reveal specifics about his/her reason for speaking with you.  When you hear the details, you can then provide  more precisely tailored versions of your basic and premium options.

Next, although it will take both courage and discipline, stop talking and let the prospect ask questions or provide feedback on your proposed solutions. Expect to be asked if you’re able to further customize a solution and of course you’ll gladly do so.  Whatever you can do to add value will increase your chance of getting the sale.

Finally, there will be the price negotiation.  Ask for the amount of the project budget, to increase the chance that you’ll present an acceptable (verbal) estimate for your services.  If it seems to you that in order to provide the requested services your estimate might somewhat exceed the client’s budget, be willing to negotiate.  When you’ve shown the prospect that you can speak to and address what s/he needs, you’ll probably sign a contract and a new client will join your roster.

Thanks for reading,


Image: Isidor Kaufmann (1853-1921, Austro-Hungarian) A Business Secret, 1917      private collection

In the Belly of the Beast: Selling to 4 Types of B2B Buyers

Sometimes, decisions are made by committee—groan!—and that means a lot more leg work for a Freelancer who’s trying to sign a contract or a sales professional trying to sell a product or service.  When you must gain the confidence of several staff members, you may never know whose opinion really controls the sale (although you can ask).  All you can do is be prepared by understanding the kind of information that the designated contact person in each department is likely to appreciate and make sure that you deliver it.


When the Finance Department contributes to buying decisions, you have to know that tangible and intangible value received in exchange for dollars invested is the primary concern. Therefore, present your product or service in language that communicates the expected ROI of the purchase, over the short and long-term, and indicate whether the organization will save or earn money when the product or service is introduced.  A case study to illustrate the financial impact of your product or service on a reasonably comparable organization (in terms of operating revenue or type of business, for example) would be greatly appreciated by the this team.  If Finance does not have confidence in the pricing or ROI of what you’re selling, you will be asked to make monetary concessions or the C-Suite execs will decline the project.


If your product or service will require technical support, this decision contributor will want to be assured that its set-up and maintenance will be easy and compatible with other systems currently in use.  Provide the team with information on how to integrate the online requirements of your product or service with the existing technical infrastructure and software.  Reliability is another IT concern and the fear of system crashes lies just below the surface.  Present data to demonstrate that the online component of the purchase will be dependable and low-maintenance.  Finally, a show-and-tell to illustrate that the system is intuitive and user-friendly, thereby minimizing staff training time or frustration of the end-users.


As you might expect, C-Suite executives, including department heads, are the most important of all those with input into the decision-making process because they have the power to green-light your proposal or kill it outright.  When selling to the higher-ups, it’s important to learn which factors matter most and whose opinions will have the most sway on their opinions (usually the end-users).  If the end-users clue you in to the hot button issues, then discuss them and keep your message simple and clear.  Emphasizing high-level value, as the executive defines it, is probably a useful guideline.  A case study that makes you and your product or service look particularly brilliant, especially regarding the most pressing issues, would be a good selling tool.  Be aware that C-Suite executives are usually too busy to process a complicated sales narrative. Think of soundbites that communicate impactful and tangible benefits.

End users

These team members will use your product or service most often.  Their opinion carries a great deal of weight and their approval of your product or service is a priority of the C-Suite.  Key selling points for this team revolve around the functionality, practicality, ease of use and time-saving potential of your product or service.  Seek feedback from this team as to what they consider the most relevant features and benefits and as well, how you might best promote your sale to the other decision-makers.  You may be able to convince this team of the benefits of certain add-ons and upgrades, which will enhance the user experience and the amount of the sale or billable hours.

Take time to demonstrate and ensure that your product or service will reliably meet or exceed the expectations of the end-users because if it does not, this is the team guaranteed to express concerns that will damage your credibility and the potential for future business and referrals.  Your in-house advocate will be found in this department  (try to cultivate a team member with a title that confers authority) and if you cannot convince the right person to step forward and take on the role of champion, then your sale or contract will most likely suffer diminished prospects for approval by the ultimate judges in the C-Suite.

Thanks for reading. May many billable hours find their way to your door in the New Year!


How B2B Clients Do Business Now

Keeping up with the evolving mind-set and practices of your current and prospective clients has long been a challenge for Freelance consultants and continues to be so in the “new economy.”  Signing a good client is not easy, what with the penchant for not spending money being all the rage.  We Freelancers can prosper only by staying one step ahead of the client, always positioned to neutralize the temptation to keep a project in-house or let it languish and eventually die.  Knowledge is power and we need strategies that will turn on the spigot and pour out billable hours.  Here are trends that B2B products and services purchasers are following now.

They do research

A recent survey of employees who make B2B purchases for their organizations was conducted by the global consulting firm Accenture and showed that 94% of purchasers (that is, your clients and prospects) research possible solutions for business needs in advance, to learn about the options, availability and pricing of solutions and to save time and money.  By the time Freelance consultants and other vendors are approached, the hoped-for client has done most of the upfont legwork. S/he already has a good idea of what might be provided by service professionals like you and your competitors and maybe even knows what a reasonable ballpark figure for your services might be.

The entrepreneur and marketing expert Danny Wong, co-founder of the online men’s apparel company Blank Label, recommends that Freelancers acknowledge the elephant in the room and simply ask your prospect about research that may have been done and what you might be able to verify or clarify. Don’t ignore the tsunami of information.  Ride the wave and earn respect for your candor and knowledge of client behavior.

They’re skeptical

Unfortunately, some sales “professionals” and unsavory Freelancers have been known to misrepresent that which they sell.  As a result, many B2B purchasers prefer to buy online and bypass you and me.  The practice was confirmed recently by Forrester Research, in a survey that found that nearly 60% of B2B purchasers preferred to buy independently, without the assistance of a salesperson.

Wong points out that demonstrating expertise, as well as an appreciation and respect for the prospect’s goals and situation, confers to you credibility and helps you to earn their trust, an essential process when competing for assignments and sales.  They won’t do the deal if they don’t trust you and why should they?

No matter how desperate you are for billable hours, don’t rush the deal.  Take the time to understand what is needed and how your products and services can help or for that matter, if they can’t  help.  Avoid being perceived as an aggressive salesperson.  Do present yourself as a trustworthy adviser who wants to make the prospect look smart to his/her superiors and other colleagues.

They’re in no hurry

No, it’s not your imagination that closing a deal is taking longer than it used to.  Another study showed that the length of the average B2B sales cycle has increased by 22% over the past five years.  While the prospect is working the worry beads, Mr. Wong recommends that you do what you can to stay at top of mind and try to keep the project from falling into oblivion.  A Freelancer’s main competitor is not one of our rivals, it’s the client’s inertia.

Send information that can support (and speed up) the decision-making, but don’t overwhelm—curate.  Inquire about a timeline and deadline for the project and suggest what might be a reasonable starting time.

They trust the advice of anonymous “peers”

So do you and that’s why you research hotels and restaurants on Trip Advisor and Yelp and search for a contractor on Angie’s List.  Accenture reports that almost 25% of B2B purchasers make their decisions based almost entirely on information gleaned from online “social” rating sites.

If your Freelancing skill is one that would send prospects to Angie’s List or a neighborhood blog, attempt to establish a presence on those sites and build credibility that will help you get hired.  LinkedIn and Facebook could be helpful once a trusted source has referred a prospective client to you and then your online presence is researched before you get the call.  Nevertheless, create a good profile on your chosen social media sites and make yourself look knowledgeable and trustworthy.

They appreciate relevant content marketing

The longer buying cycle gives the advantage to Freelancers who produce long form content—a monthly newsletter, a weekly blog, case studies and other white papers that appear on your website, videos, infographics, or podcasts—that may grab the attention of prospects.  A FAQs page added to your website that details how to do business with you could  be helpful. Impartial and instructive content is what content marketing is all about. Produce your own and position yourself as an expert who is qualified to get the job done.

Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukkah,


Six Steps To A Successful Marketing Campaign

Numerous times I’ve advised Freelance professionals to launch a marketing campaign to promote themselves and their services. How about we touch base regarding the core components of a successful marketing campaign?

I.   Identify your target audience

Step One, you must understand who you want your campaign to reach and influence and that would be those clients and prospects who are most inclined to use your product or service. It is possible that along the way others may become interested in what you have to offer and new or niche markets can be recruited, but target market groups must have the motive and money to use your category of product or service.

Step Two, decide the channels that you will use to reach current and prospective clients. Marketing campaigns are most effective when they broadcast the message through various media: print display ads, videos, testimonials on your website, or a case study. Social media can also be part of a well-designed marketing campaign, if you can engage current and prospective clients through those platforms. The members of your target audience could be reached more than once and that is a good thing.

There is also the indirect and ongoing marketing campaign that Freelancers are advised to conduct. Providers of B2B services especially should periodically attempt to line up an appearance on a webinar, a panel, or at a conference podium as a way to enhance the value of the intangible resources that you sell, that is, your expertise and judgment. Sponsorship of a local charity is also a good choice for some. Remember to send a press release to the local newspaper to try for yet another channel. A newspaper (or online) item is more believable than a print ad, because it is perceived as unbiased.

2.  Know the competition

As you create your marketing campaign message, keep direct competitors in mind. The marketing message should promote the expertise, experience, judgment and attributes that make you superior to others with whom clients and prospects might do business. Your message should be designed to overcome current or potential objections to you and persuade those with motive and money to choose you because hiring you will make them look good.

3.  Identify the key marketing message

What do you need to make known to current and potential clients that will help them to develop the trust and confidence needed to do business with you? Refer to your knowledge of the competition and also refer to client hot buttons and address those issues clearly and convincingly.

4.  Build the brand

In the marketing message and campaign, find ways to enhance your brand, that is, your reputation. Clients do business with those they know and like; they do even more business with those they trust and respect. Building up your image, or (tactfully) bragging about your already noteworthy image is a key element of your marketing message.

5.  Create a budget

Time and money are among our greatest resources. Once you have your version of the ideal marketing plan in draft form, calculate the financial cost and a roll-out timeline. Make sure that the campaign ROI makes sense for your venture. Tie your marketing efforts to expected sales, to the best of your ability and don’t squander your resources on fruitless strategies.

6. Track performance

I’m a little bit backward in that an important step in the campaign will be mentioned last. Establishing goals and objectives for your campaign are a must-do. This process will guide you in making decisions that shape what the campaign will consist of and furthermore, will help you understand what kind of influence you can wield through marketing. Decide what you want your marketing campaign to achieve and confirm the metrics that will measure and acknowledge its success or failure.

Thanks for reading,


The Buying Process Is In Effect

In 2012,  the global research and advisory firm Forrester Research reported that clients are as totally in the driver’s seat as we all knew anecdotally and that product and service providers have much less influence over purchasing behaviors than we enjoyed a decade or two ago.  We have left the era of the sales process and entered the realm of the buying process.  It is time to readjust your approach to marketing and sales in response to the new reality,  because what was will never be again.  Our clients are making decisions largely without our input.  Many sales professionals and consulting specialists aim to present ourselves as  “trusted advisers”  who guide the sales process and influence customer choices,  ideally for the good.  Say goodbye to all that.

According to the Forrester report,  clients now discuss product and service needs and options with their own team of trusted advisers,  which may include unknown third-party  “experts”  they find on websites like Yelp and Angie’s List.  How far along in the buying process that clients proceed without us varies by industry,  but the report indicates that 65% -90%  of the research process is often completed without assistance from sales professionals or consulting service providers.  By the time the client is ready to make a purchase,  much up-front research has usually been done and only vendor price quotes are needed.

Clients like the control of being in the driver’s seat.  A mistrust of sales practices perceived as unsavory,  combined with access to technologies that allow clients to rather easily research product and service needs once they’ve been identified,  are the driving forces behind the client independence.  Many are leery of being manipulated into paying for upgrades and add-ons that do nothing for their objectives.

In the flip from sales process to buying process,  your marketing strategy will become more prominent and your approach to sales will change.  Your marketing must first create visibility and awareness,  so that prospective clients will find your firm’s offerings and second,  create and sustain demand through exquisitely targeted messages and narratives dispensed through channels that clients trust and follow.  Content marketing will continue to grow in influence as it is distributed through your website and all social media outlets that clients trust.

Develop your content marketing to explore and discuss motivating factors that compel prospective clients to research your products and services,  solutions that you provide and benefits that clients receive,  frequently asked questions and how to buy from you.  As has long been said in academic circles,  publish or perish.  When not generating content,  do what you can to get in front of an audience and teach a workshop,  moderate a panel,  or give a presentation and further your brand as a source of expertise.  Remember also that traditional media outlets may still be important to your clients,  so the art of the press release should not be forgotten.

Whither the role of sales?  Rather than being reduced to mere order takers,  consulting service providers and sales professionals will apply their well-honed communications expertise to identifying networking opportunities and building relationships.  Content is king and having lots of good things that demonstrate your expertise come up in a search is a wonderful thing,  but in my town,  no one hires anyone that they don’t know.  If a prospect does not already know you,  then an introduction made by someone whom the prospective client trusts is the next best thing.  No amount of artfully written content will convince anyone to hire an unknown.

Networking will be the queen,  as you meet potential clients and referral sources and take the time to build relationships,  taking an interest in others’ concerns and offering to give before you receive.  The B2B buying process is a tall order for a Freelance consultant,  but we are determined to succeed and we will rise to the challenge.

Thanks for reading,


Highlights of The Social Business Benchmark Study of 2013

Last year Leader Networks,  a Boston area consulting firm that specializes in B2B social media and the global not-for-profit think tank Society for New Communications Research,  teamed up to conduct a comprehensive and global study of the usage of social media for B2B interaction.  Fifty-five mostly for-profit organizations of various sizes participated.  The study examined the following topics:

  • How organizations are currently leveraging social business efforts
  • The use of social media tools,  internally and externally
  • The readiness of organizations to utilize social media tools
  • Intentions of social business strategy
  • Social media marketing strategy and the ability to leverage and operate same as social business initiatives

Companies studied were mostly present on LinkedIn,  Twitter,  YouTube,  Facebook,  Google+ and their company-sponsored blog,  in that order.  The study distinguished between social media marketing,  which it defined as the use of social media platforms for marketing and social business,  defined as using customer information gleaned from social media marketing to enable more efficient and effective decisions,  actions and outcomes within the organization.  The study also developed a continuum of social media use:

  • Socially Familiar- organization is present on at least one platform and has policy guidelines;  the organization is experimenting to learn what works
  • Socially Present- organization has minimal or limited social media staffing, strategies,  or policy guidelines;  brand advancement forms the core of information communicated
  • Socially Enabled- social media platforms form the basis of customer outreach;  moderate to significant levels of budget,  staffing,  policy guidelines and strategies are in place and utilized optimally
  • Socially Integrated- organization has significant use of the above indicators;  communication is two-way,  with much customer engagement;  information gleaned is incorporated across the organization

Companies usually approach social media involvement through a few Socially Familiar staff members who experiment with various platforms to figure out what works best for company objectives.  After about 3 – 6 months,  those staff members will present their findings to direct-report management and request approval to advance to the next level.   At the Socially Present stage,  selected social media platforms are used to broadcast brand awareness messages and marketing campaign information.  Communication is primarily one-way.   This period usually lasts 6 – 24 months.

At the Socially Enabled stage,  communication is primarily two-way and information is deemed actionable.  Social media staff gather and disseminate information from social media communications deep within the organization,  where it impacts R & D,  customer service,  technical support,  marketing campaign strategies,  sales distribution choices and other functions.   Social media may play a role in nurturing relationships with organizational partners and suppliers.  Tangible social media ROI is recognized.  The final stage,  Socially Integrated,  is only rarely achieved at this point.  In fact,  this stage may not fit the objectives of most businesses.

Insights brought forth from the study were what one would expect.  C-suites executives are rapidly accepting the inevitability of social media and budgets are being made available to support staffing,  which is based in marketing departments.  Social media strategies are being developed and social media guidelines are being drafted (by legal departments).  Brand reinforcement,  rather than customer engagement,  is the primary goal of B2B social media strategies at this time,  but lead generation (sales departments),  R & D and customer service (operations departments) are emerging as important players.  Linking the social media strategy to business needs and performance metrics to measure ROI is becoming more common.

Nevertheless,   in most cases,  funding for social media initiatives remains low.   More than 50%  of respondents reported that their companies spent 5%  or less of their IT budgets on enabling social media platform tools.  23%  reported that their organizations had no plans to spend on social media.

Thanks for reading,


Challenge B2B Sales Assumptions

A new hypothesis on how to succeed in B2B sales has exploded onto the scene and Freelance consultants had better take notice.  “The Challenge Sale”  (2011),  written by Brent Adamson and Matthew Dixon,  has turned received sales wisdom onto its head.  According to the authors there’s no such thing as Santa Claus,  the Easter Bunny is dead and relationships don’t mean much  when you’re trying to make a sale.

These  startling findings are based on extensive research.  Adamson and Dixon studied 700 sales professionals and then followed up with a global analysis of 6,000 sales people who make their living in complex B2B sales.  They first identified five selling styles:

The Hard Worker                      self-motivated;  goes the extra mile,  won’t give up easily

The Problem-solver                focuses on service issues;  detail-oriented;  excellent with post-sale follow-up

The Relationship-builder      very customer-focused;  generous with time and attention

The Lone Wolf                            self-assured,  follows his/her own instincts

The Challenger                           has a different perspective;  understands the client and his/her business;  loves to debate

When it comes to B2B sales,  Challengers blow everyone else out of the water.  According to the data,  40%  of top-performing B2B sales reps are Challengers.  A mere 7%  of Relationship-builders can claim that distinction.  How do Challengers do it?  They display six game-changing attributes and trying to be the client’s friend ain’t one of them:

1.  Offers the client unexpected options on how to get the job done

2.  Has strong interactive communication skills

3.  Knows the client’s value drivers

4.  Knows the organization’s economic drivers

5.  Comfortable discussing money

6.  Willing and able to pressure the client

The wily Challengers mix these attributes well and have come up with this recipe for the sales-winning cake they bake:

Teach for differentiation

About 53%  of what drives B2B purchase decisions  (like the awarding of project contracts)  is the Freelancer’s /salesperson’s ability to teach prospective clients something new,  to challenge their usual way of thinking,  the standard approach.  Challengers persuasively deliver information and methods that lead clients to see their situation in a new light that  (they think)  will help them improve competitive positioning,  make money,  save money or do whatever it is that they want to do,  all in a way they didn’t know was possible.

Tailor for differentiation

To win a contract today,  the Freelance consultant often has to build consensus and win over a group of stakeholders who have varying amounts of influence on the hiring process.  Job-seekers grapple with this reality also,  as they face down search committees that now control the hiring for nearly every position, no matter how lowly. 

Adamson’s and Dixon’s research shows that Challengers respond to this environment by treating each stakeholder as an individual client,  learning how each one’s role fits into the organization and tailoring a sales pitch specifically to that role and its attached priorities.

Take control of the sale

As our ailing economy drags on,  the authors estimate that 80%  of business is lost to no decision at all.  No,  it’s not your imagination.  Most sales  (or proposed projects)  really do just die on the table for lack of client follow-through.   When it comes to complex buying decisions,  clients have become paralyzingly risk-averse.  Many economists and business experts have pointed out that this practice does organizations more harm than good,  but there it is.  

Furthermore,   Freelance consultants also know that many,  if not most,  clients use the ailing economy as a pretext to get our expert labor on the cheap,  always scheming to wheedle a discount out of us when a contract does get offered.  Challengers are  not swayed by this tactic.

Rather,  s/he sidesteps requests for price cuts and re-directs focus away from price and onto the value of the product/service.   Challengers know that a solid value proposition makes clients more willing to pay a premium.   S/he sells their service’s  (or their product’s)  unique ability to meet or exceed expectations,  meet crucial deadlines,  solve a difficult problem,  or save/ make money for the organization.

Adamson and Dixon claim that the combination of teaching,  tailoring and taking control draws on constructive tension throughout the sales process.  Challengers teach clients how to build consensus for the sale  (project)  by engaging the right stakeholders with the right message.  They don’t cave in to pressure to cut their price.   Moreover,   they do it all in a respectful,  never aggressive manner.   Are you ready to Challenge?

Thanks for reading,