It’s been a crazy first half of 2020 and we’re in for a rocky road for the next 6 months too.
So how can companies get back to growing revenue?
One starting point is to acknowledge that, right now, everyone is in sales.
In this episode of the B2B Rebellion, Tom Abbott, Manager Director of SOCO Selling, shares why everyone in your company sells and why LinkedIn is a critical platform.
Andy Culligan: Hey, guys. Welcome to another video in the series, The Sales Rebellion. Really, really happy to have Tom Abbott on today. So myself and Tom have been speaking over the past couple of weeks, and it's funny, we just came across one another on LinkedIn. And Tom mentioned to me, he said, "Hey, your messaging resonates very well with me." And I was like, "Hey, your messaging actually really resonates very well with me."
So we managed to catch up and over the past couple of weeks, we've done a podcast together. And now I'm really happy to have Tom on to give some really actionable sales insights. So Tom runs a company called SOCO Selling, the Sales Optimization Company. And I won't do it enough justice, Tom. So I'll let you go ahead and give yourself an intro, as well as SOCO Selling.
Tom Abbott: Sure, will do. Yeah. So thanks, Andy, for having me on. I'm really excited to be here and you said it bang on. We both... What we talk about resonates with the other, so I think there was just a really great fit here.
So for those of you who don't know me. My name is Tom Abbott, and I'm the founder and managing director of SOCO Sales Training. Also known as the Sales Optimization Company. I founded this company over 20 years ago in Vancouver, Canada, where I'm from. And in that period of time, the last 20 years, we've been working with market leaders, multi-national companies all around the world, helping their sales teams to optimise their sales process.
We relocated to Singapore in Asia, just over 10 years ago, and in that time we've been delivering programs to regional sales teams in about 10 or 15 different countries around APAC.
So in addition to the sales training, I also get engaged to deliver motivational sales keynotes at company sales kick-offs. So I've spoken to audiences as large as 12,000 people in Jakarta, for example, a couple of years ago. So sales is in my blood.
In sales, when I was younger and loved everything about sales from B2C, B2B, different industries. There's just something about working with people and helping people reach their goals. I love those kind of conversations. Figuring out what's their problem, what's going on, what's holding them back, and then offering a solution. For me, I love those sales conversations. So I'm just excited to be here today to share a few tips. So thanks for having me.
Andy: That's awesome. You bring a massive amount of experience, 20 years since you founded SOCO, that's quite a bit of experience you bring to the conversation today. We live in challenging times, let's say, at the moment. But I can see things getting a little bit back to normal, at least where I'm based in Vienna in Austria, things are starting to open back up again, and I guess in Singapore where you're based, it's a similar story.
But just in terms of sales and what sales and marketers can be doing right now or just for the next 6-12 months, are there any tips that you'd give people? Like what are you telling your customers right now? What are you telling your audience right now? Are you telling them, "Put on the seatbelt, it's gonna get wild." Or are you're saying, "Hey, keep it slow and steady." What are your tips?
TA: Look at the end, Andy, no one knows anything. We can't predict anything. Things are opening up, of course, around the world. Mostly, things are slowly opening up, and in some places it's opening up fast or maybe even too fast. But we can't predict if there's gonna be a second wave, how the economy is going to handle all of this.
So we've got multiple layers of uncertainty around us. So as soon as we were first hit with this global situation, back in February, I told my team right away. I said, "Yeah, put on your seatbelt. We're in for a rocky road. But it's not just the road that's rocky, I want you to put on your seatbelt, because we're gonna take it to another level. I need all hands on deck. Everybody on our team, you're now in sales. Congratulations. And I need everybody to focus on how we can generate more revenue for this company."
So it was a concerted effort for everyone to just assume and adopt a sales role. I don't care what your role is... And we've got a staff. We're a small team, about seven or eight people, and not everybody's designated as a sales person. But whether you're in sales, marketing, operations, web design. I've got a guy that handles our website, every single thing you all do... Finance, our accounts receivable person, everything everybody does needs to be sales-focused and customer-focused.
So that was a big, big push. So what I would tell everybody out there right now is, "Look. Don't plan for the next four or five months." To me, that's ridiculous. "You need to be thinking about not how do you survive for five months, but how do you succeed in your business for the next five years or more?"
I think the world has shifted and even if we go back to the way things were, it won't be 100% the way things were before. It's gonna be a hybrid. You are going to have customers that will still prefer to meet virtually on video or email, WhatsApp, Telegram, Instagram, WeChat, LINE, you name it.
I think face-to-face meetings, especially overseas, international, where travels involved and borders and different health requirements and whatnot, there's gonna be less of an appetite for people to travel for business, for sure, quite frankly. So I think any sales professional or anyone in marketing that really doubles down on social selling, social media sales, and building their presence on social, they're the ones who are gonna win.
Andy: Okay. So social selling, you see being as... It always has been a trend, but now it's really on the up, right?
TA: And we use the word trend... And you're right, you're right, Andy, that it's a trend. Let's not confuse trend with fad.
TA: Because a lot of people felt in the early days that social media was just a fad. It was something that's gonna just come and go. Now, some platforms have come and gone, but social media, social selling as a concept hasn't. So for anybody that says, "Should I get on board with social?" I say, "Well, only if you wanna make money."
Right? Oh, and you really wanna be successful in sales. So it's just like, if people ask me, "Tom, should I be on LinkedIn?" I say, "That's like asking me if you should have an email, or if you should have a phone." To me, these are not discretionary things.
Your audience, your audience is online all the time, and they're looking for things, they're looking for answers to questions, they're looking for solutions to problems that sometimes they don't even know they have, or they're actively researching, and if you can't be found on social, you're gonna lose out to someone who can, it's just that simple.
Andy: For sure. And if the people that you speak with from a customer perspective, your own customers, do you use, or have you in the past up until now, struggled to try to get people to really buy in to the social selling thing? Is it difficult?
TA: Well, and it depends on the company, it depends how hierarchical they are, or how bureaucratic or structured they are. And it depends on the industry as well, because we do some work with companies in banking. Some of our biggest customers are banks, so they have compliance and privacy concerns, and they're always worried about what should our staff share and what can or can't they share?
But the reality is, anybody in any industry should, for example, have, at the very least, a LinkedIn profile. At the very least, a LinkedIn profile, and you should be sharing content, number one, that your company actually puts out there. So I don't care what industry you're in, what company you work for and what compliance issues you have to deal with, you could just hit the share button from your company's page and just share that and post that to your profile.
That's totally fair game, because it's in the public domain already, all you're doing is hitting the share button. So it always baffles me when reps are just not sure, "Am I allowed to post this or not?" It's like, "Dude, they're already shared it, just hit that one button and you're good." Now, if you wanna go a step further, you can add a little commentary to it.
Like, "Hey everyone, here's some interesting news about interest rates," or "Here's a different perspective on where the economy's going." And then if you wanna go another step, you could say, "Interesting take on this, I have a different position and here's what it is." Or you can take it to another level and forget sharing that entirely and just say, "Hey everybody, here's my position on such and such." And now you're a 100% thought leader, so there's a progression of sharing and thought leadership, and I think people just need to start at step one and just be visible on social.
Andy: Yeah, absolutely. It's interesting hearing that from you as well because you work in such a diverse region, so Asia or APAC, there's so many different countries, different languages, I guess, different platforms which you could be focused on. What are the challenges in that for you personally, and your company, and trying to get people to uptake onto social?
TA: Yeah, so that's a really interesting question, Andy. So, how do you answer that? What I typically encourage people to do is ask your top 10 customers and you could just do it right now.
WhatsApp them, send them an SMS or drop them an email. Email you're sure everyone's gonna get it. So drop your 10 best customers an email and just say, "Hey, I just wanted to check-in. I'm starting to build my presence on social media and I'm just trying to figure out what's the best platform for me to really focus on. What's your preferred platform? What's the best way for me to connect with you online?" And just sit back and wait for the answers.
Andy: We did that years ago. We're always checking in with our top customers to figure out like, "Where do I need to be, what type of content do they want?" Just check in with your top 10 customers. Even five if you're lazy. Top three, if you're just super lazy, but just pick your best customers and just ask them, "What's the best platform to reach you?", and then go there.
So we asked that question and it... You have this hypothesis already, this assumption of what might work, and we've always thought it would likely be LinkedIn because our audiences is B2B, business to business, we sell to companies 'cause we do corporate sales training, so that seems like a natural fit. But you still wanna confirm your hypothesis, that just makes sense. 80% of them said, "Yep, Tom, LinkedIn's the platform." Great! So then you double down on that platform, you go all in.
TA: Now we're on all platforms, to be honest with you. We're on Twitter, you could follow me on Twitter at SOCO Sales Coaching, you can follow me the same handle on Instagram, we have a Facebook page, WeChat, LINE, Telegram, we're everywhere. But where are we gonna put most of our energy to make sure that we're creating the best content for a specific platform? Where do we want to engage in conversation and discussion with people? What platform do we use to actually research our customers and dive deep into their company and start building a connection and nurture?
For us that's LinkedIn. Go all in on that platform. A single person right now, the first thing they need to do is they need to beef up their profile on LinkedIn, that's number one. It's the basic. Get yourself a great looking head shot and start beefing up your profile so that when people land on it, they're immediately sold, okay?
So beef it up, and then the next thing I want you guys to do is to start pumping out some content. Start sharing content from your business, from your brand, start creating some content of your own, so that you build the following and you get seen as an authority in your space. And then the third and final tip for you guys, is I want you to start reaching out to people on LinkedIn.
Take a look at your ideal target customer, look at that avatar, that buyer persona, do some searches on LinkedIn, start coming up with a target list of about 10 people, and slowly start building connections and building relationships with those people. You put those three steps into practice right now, I guarantee you in one month you've got at least one new closed deal.
Andy: That's perfect. That's really good advice. And I think a lot of people actually shy away from going down that social route, and when they do get there, they actually shy away from posting and shy away from connecting with people and... Thank you.
TA: Yeah, you're 100% right. They shy away from it, Andy, which is great news for those that don't, because especially LinkedIn, it's not a crowded place right now, there's room for you, so go take it.
Andy: Perfect. Tom, thank you so much for that. It's been a pleasure.
TA: Thanks, Andy.