Great day today with inside sales professionals from across North America, focused on how inside sales teams are leveraging social selling strategies, tactics and test practices to find, manage and close more business.
I had high expectations for this event coming in, and the content exceeded my expectations. Great speakers, new ideas, proven strategies that people are putting into practice right now to grow their own businesses and pipelines.
Here are a few things I took away from the day in particular:
It’s not “done” if most of us (including the experts) are still learning
I’ve heard several smart people recently say they’re “done” talking about social selling, and attending events that focus on it. And yes, we’ve been talking about it for a long time. But it’s clear that not many companies are doing it, or doing it well, with results to show for it. Some of the most advanced social selling experts I know were in the room today, and even they were learning new things. This stuff is evolving so rapidly, but it’s clear that it works and can scale.
Social selling needs to be a daily discipline
Every speaker reinforced this in their own way. Jamie Shanks, for example, outlined a six-step daily to-do list to keep his network active via LinkedIn, including curating content, looking for trigger events, initiating social prospect campaigns, etc. The sales reps who spoke (and have built massive pipelines by mining the social web) make social selling part of their daily habits. If you can combine the general best practices with your own strengths and the nuances of your target customer, you then need to execute that consistently.
But you still need to find the time to do it
Several speakers talked about where to find time to make all this happen. It doesn’t have to take hours every day (some do it in 30 minutes or less per day), but you clearly need to be disciplined, focused and productive to make it happen in addition to everything else tugging at you in your professional and personal lives. In my afternoon talk, I outlined several productivity best practices from our Productivity Manifesto (free download here).
Innovation and ideation is moving much faster than execution
There was a palpable energy throughout the event, from innovative people thinking about breakthrough ideas and innovations. Of course, our ability to execute on those ideas is a little behind. But if nothing else, that’s a sign that there’s plenty of runway to continue driving growth and value, for the companies in the field currently as well as new start-ups that emerge in the coming months (and even years).
Strategy is easy, execution is exceedingly difficult
Sometimes strategy is quite difficult as well, but it was clear in the room that we all have a good sense for what, strategically, needs to happen. Boiling that down to exactly how to do it, then executing on that plan, that’s where it gets complicated and difficult. This event did a nice job of taking strategic ideas and boiling them down to actionable tactics. Putting that into practice, measuring and refining, across sales organizations at scale is the next big hurdle.
Few people are actually doing most of this
It’s really easy to assume, at an event like this, that everyone’s doing it all. They have the right software, the right mix of people, and they’re executing flawlessly. But if you talk to enough people, even those featured on stage, you’ll find they too are struggling with this. And further, the vast majority of the market and your colleagues aren’t doing most of this yet. We have a long way to go, individually and collectively, but in the end it’s not worth worrying about what someone else is doing. Focus on your opportunity, your execution, your growth first.
Everyone has best practices to share
Maybe it’s because we’re perfectionists, are too hard on ourselves, or focus too much on the things we’re not doing. But I lost track of the people who said today that they were intimidated by what others in the room are doing, then a moment later would share a brilliant best practice they were doing themselves. Everyone is doing something valuable that others need to hear about. Or, maybe better, has made mistakes that the rest of us would like to avoid repeating.
You really need a note-taking strategy for a conference like this
I have a relatively structured note-taking strategy when I travel, and thank goodness because I was typing, drawing and tweeting like crazy in almost every session today. That note-taking strategy has to not only maximize your capture of good ideas, but make it easy to take action on them when you get home.
You will be overwhelmed if you try to do all this at once (pick a few, triage the rest)
I spoke with a few attendees who were clearly both impressed and overwhelmed with what they’d just learned. They had dozens of ideas and best practices to get started on, not to mention the fire drills and existing priorities waiting for them back at the office. But instead of tackling everything, pick just 1-2 things. Put those on your immediate to-do list and table the rest (at least until next week). If you can be disciplined enough to continue making progress on that list over time, you afford yourself the luxury of not burning yourself out too quickly.
You’ve gotta be there
If you watch an event like this from afar, you can save a lot of time and money. But there’s nothing like being there. You can’t replace shaking people’s hand, seeing the whites of their eyes, and building real-world relationships. Thank goodness we have such wonderful communication and networking tools to accelerate and scale our ability to foster relationships. But those relationships often get their real start and acceleration in person.