Many reps will look at the chart below and think, “That’s not happening to me. I’m dialed into my customers. I know their trends and tendencies.” And you could be right. Or you could be losing opportunities you didn’t know existed. Competitors could be “gleaning” these opportunities from under your nose.
Gleaning was a practice where farmers left some of their crops in the field post-harvest. It was left purposefully for the poor to come and “glean” the excess. This practice was essentially a form of charity or welfare. I assume your organization is not in the business of welfare. Leave gleaning to the farmers (agrarian type – not the sales type).
By the time a customer contacts you, they’re 60% through the buyer’s journey. Your fears have been confirmed – you’ve been squeezed out. You now have a 40% window where you used to have 70%.
How do you combat this new trend?
Your organization needs a strong digital presence in your industry. If you aren’t maximizing your online presence, assume competitors are “gleaning” your opportunities. As a sales rep, you can’t rely solely on Marketing to develop your presence. Their efforts will help, but aren’t a solution. This is your personal brand and reputation, and you need to forge the way.
Building a strong digital presence is key to Social Selling and is a consistently growing trend.
For those of you still in denial, think about your last major purchase. Chances are you began your research online. You then probably narrowed down your choices before even picking up the phone. Your prospects and customers are doing the same.
Let’s assume you have a meeting with a big prospect. What are they going to do before the meeting? They’ll jump online and look for you and your company. What will they find? If they find you, what will they see?
- A LinkedIn profile without a photo?
- Unflattering pictures from this weekend’s playoff game?
- Or, a detailed professional bio that presents you as a thought leader?
Social media profiles should sell your strengths. You want your prospect to find a profile that conveys mastery of your industry. Otherwise you might just receive a “too busy right now, let’s reschedule” email.
Two Strategies for Building Your Brand Right Now
1) Start Creating or Refining Your Own Brand
- Create LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ accounts – This is your first step to engaging your customer base online. Give them the ability to find you instead of finding your competition. Think of this strategy as developing your own intellectual property. These accounts are the foundation of your campaign. Make them your own, and leverage yourself into new opportunities.
- Get Noticed – Once you have established a personal brand, you’ll begin to get noticed. And once that brand extends across multiple social media channels, the floodgates will open. This allows you to move away from traditional disruptive sales tactics (i.e. cold calling). Make no mistake; it will also result in more opportunities and conversions.
- Be Consistent – Don’t simply create these accounts and allow them to go dormant. Leverage them to their fullest by continually updating and growing your network. Share your expertise via company blog posts, press releases, trade articles, etc.
- Research – Stay up on best practices to make the most of your brand. HubSpot has great “how-to” resources, including this one on using LinkedIn for Lead Generation. Remember: Being socially active is about creating brand recognition that captures prospects’ attention during the discovery stage.
Vince Koehler can also provide key insights on protecting your network from predatory efforts by competition. The primary recommendations are 1) Effective gate-keeping, and 2) locking down your contacts.
Are you doing these things? If not, competitors who are ahead of the game are probably gleaning your opportunities.
2) Utilize Your Marketing Department’s Expertise
This strategy overlooked by most quota-carrying reps, but it’s by far the most productive.
- Make the Right Contacts – Approach the head of marketing (if accessible) and find out who oversees Lead Generation. Get to know that person. Discuss your brand, and gather any and all insights on improving it.
- Capitalize on Corporate Efforts – By working in tandem, you can utilize organization efforts to build your own brand. Your company’s internal content marketing efforts should support and enhance yours. . Corporate marketing tools should be more than enough for you to master your own brand. You’ll also avoid the temptation to prospect in isolation. This is a common mistake that can lead to wasted time and lost opportunities.
Don’t let competitors glean your opportunities by outdoing you in Social Selling. Embrace the digital age, and use it to your benefit.