Beat Sales Competition with Social Selling

by Craig Elias

craig elias - beat sales competition with social selling

The three steps to dominating your competition are 1) Be first 2) Be preferred 3) Be chosen. In just 30 minutes Craig will share how you can do all three using different elements of Social Selling

Webinar Transcript

Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening everybody, depending on where you are. My name is Craig Elias, and in the next 25 minutes, I'm going to show you three simple ways to beat your competition to the punch by using social selling. I'm going to share with you how you can use social selling to be first, how you can use it to be preferred, and then how you can use it to be the one that gets chosen to provide the product or service that you are selling. And right at the end, right near the end, I'm going to share with you the power of a term called "propinquity" and its ability to also help you close more business. 

So my name is Craig Elias. And for about 20 years, I was just the lucky sales guy, and I am number 15 on the Forbes list of the most social salespeople on the planet. I am LinkedIn user 3,956. I had my 12 year anniversary back on May 13. And when you hear other people during this series talk about trigger events or triggers, I'm the guy that, in 2002, figured this out and wrote a book all about this. If you would like my slides in their native PowerPoint format, and the book, all you need to do is go to the website called; S-H-I-F-T-S-E-L-L-I-N-G,, and I will email you the slides, and also an entire copy of the book. 

So first piece of this is all about how do you be first. And in the summer of 2002, I did some reflection on my biggest wins, all my six, seven, eight figure deals. One of the things I figured out was the power, impact of being first, and also the challenge. And what I realized is that when we're all out there selling, the people we're selling to are always in one of the three different buying modes. The first one is called "Status Quo". You can think of this as path dependency. These are the people that are happy with what they have and see no reason to change. They've done the same thing for so long, it's just simpler to keep doing the same old thing. So these are the people that are happy with what they have and not looking to change. 

I don't think I'd get any argument when I would say that the odds of someone who's in the buying mode of status quo becoming your customers in the next little while, pretty close to zero. Now, on the other end of the spectrum are these buyers that are actively engaged in a process of searching for alternatives. I've seen different research. Xerox in 1979...sorry, heard of Xerox's research, haven't seen it. I've seen Aberdeen's research that says, "If you get to people while they're in this buying mode of searching for alternatives, unhappy and doing something about it, the odds you get the business is about 16%, so one out of six or one out of seven deals. 

And for those of you that have read the challenger sale, I took something off of their website back in February, and I agree with them. It says, "Today's purchasing behavior has forced us into a spot where you've got to be first-in to even stand a chance". So the question is what's first-in? Well, what I've figured out is that first-in, is first-in it with somebody who's in what I call a "Window of Dissatisfaction." These are the people that are unhappy with what they have, but they're so busy solving other problems, they haven't gotten to this problem yet. I did some research for my first company that won a billion dollar idea contest and got a million dollar prize. And I asked senior executives and also senior salespeople, "If you were first-in, what are the odds that you win the business?" 

When I did this in 2003, the number I got back was 75%. Forrester has done similar research 10 years later, and it's almost exactly the same. So you want to be first-in with those people that have just become unhappy, but have not started doing anything about it yet. And then when you get to these decision-makers, when you're first-in, and you win the business, they tend to be way more profitable, way more loyal. And if you ask, they'll act as a reference, and they'll give you testimonials. 

So the whole thing about being first-in, I did a webinar earlier this year, and I asked a question on that webinar. "Of all the deals you lost, what percentage of those do you think you could have won if you had been first- in?" And half, half of the people on that webinar said they would have won at least 40% or more of the deals that they lost if only they've been first-in. In the summer of 2002, this was something I was trying to figure out. How could somebody be in this buying mode of status quo on Monday, be in the window of dissatisfaction on Wednesday? I started searching for alternatives on Friday. What was different? What had changed? What I realized, it was based upon a sequence of events, very specific triggers that would cause someone to move between these different buying modes. 

The first event is when somebody wants to change. When you focus on these people, it will fill your funnel with high value leads. The second event is when someone can all of a sudden afford the time to look at what you've got or afford the money to buy it. And when that happens, it moves people down your funnel. But it's not until they have a third event, when they can justify the purchase to other people, that they actually do anything about it. So they have to have all three events; I want to change, I can afford to change, I can justify the change. When they have all three, they will then buy. 

For years, I talked about this. Then luckily enough, in 2009, McKinsey came along, and they did some research. They figured out almost exact same thing. Their loyalty loop, the thing in the middle, is my status quo, and that people leave the loyalty loop when they have a specific trigger that creates interest in doing something different, and that when they have that initial event or trigger, they create what's called an "Initial Consideration Set". And then they start the process of active evaluation, and then they can decide, justify. The only thing that's different between what I figured out, and what McKinsey talks about, is that I don't think people start the active evaluation until they have the afford trigger. They can afford to look or afford to buy. 

Then lucky enough, in 2011, Google came along. They came out with something they call the "Zero Moment of Truth." That's my window of dissatisfaction. This zero moment of truth is created by a stimulus. The stimulus in my world? That's a trigger event.

Demand Generation got a man, Andrew Gaffney, did some research in 2013. And they asked decision makers, "Of the last major purchase that you made, how many of them were unbudgeted and unplanned?" It turns out that in 80% of the cases, the new B2B purchase was not planned for at the end of the fiscal year or even in the budget. Something came along and made things more important. And all of the sudden, they took budget from one place, and they put it somewhere else. So everybody gets it. But the question is, do salespeople get it? So Andrew asked the question of senior decision makers. Of the last major purchase that you made, how often was it a salesperson that reached out and initiated the process? And you have four choices here; 53%, 33%, 10%, 3%.

Now, we'd all like to think it's 53% or 33% or even 10%. It turns out that only 3% of the time, it's the salespeople that are reaching out to decision makers and initiating the process. Now, a lot of people say, "I don't want to call. I don't want to call, because they don't want to talk to me. They want to do their own research on their own." There's a group called IT Services Marketing Association, and I actually asked decision makers, "What percentage of you want to talk to salespeople during the early stages of the buying process?" And 70% said they wanted to talk to a salesperson during the early stages of the process. 

Now, sometimes people say one thing but do something else. But the truth is they do exactly what they talked about. Seventy-five percent of decision makers discover or did some research, and they found out that 75% of the decision makers took an appointment or attended an event based upon a well-timed outbound email or call. 

So these events that make people want to change, what are these events? Well, it turns out that these events come in three forms. The first one, we've tried already. You pick up the phone, you call someone, you try to bust the status quo. Challenge, it's what the challenge of sales is, right? You try to use things like, "We're better, faster, cheaper," you'll avoid risk. The only thing I've found that really works is if they have to change, they will. Risk avoidance, maybe. The research I've seen, that if you try to challenge the status quo, if you don't have a phenomenal relationship, and if there hasn't been something that busts the status quo, you might get first appointments. But the research I've seen says that less than 7% of the time, we actually get a second appointment. If you want to get the second appointment, you need to focus on the next two events that I'm going to share with you.

First one is when someone has a bad experience. They have a bad experience because, let's say, there's been a change of salespeople or customer service people. Maybe even someone in accounting within your competition. Maybe they changed the product and the customer is no longer happy, or maybe there's a material change in that provider, very often, caused by a merger or an acquisition. Awareness is what we try. Bad experiences is what happens to the competition, but I'm a big fan of what happens inside our prospects. This is when there are changes inside the organization, a change in people, places, or priorities. And the big one for me is a change in people, a change in decision makers. 

I did some research, and again, asking senior decision makers about stuff they'd done when they took on a new role. About 40% of the ones they talked to or surveyed said they made decisions worth a million dollars or more within the first year on the job. And of those people that make a million dollars worth of decisions in the first year, 80% of those made those decisions within the first 90 days in their job. So the question is, how can you use social selling to find a way to be first-in when decision makers change their job? Well, it turns out, LinkedIn has a really cool feature called a "Saved Search." You go to LinkedIn, you create a search. You can then save that search. And then, every week-- if you say every week, you want to be updated-- every week, it will email you and say, "Hey, guess what? There's new people on this list." 

When I started doing this, I was getting about 1,200 different opportunities every single week. I got to cherry-pick who it was that I actually went and talked to. So the question then becomes a little bit about, who do you cherry-pick? So for me, the next step, versus be first, the next step is how do you become the person that is preferred? I'm a big believer that people, no matter who they are, make decisions based upon emotion, but they justify their decision with logic after the fact. And if you want to be preferred, you need to be what I call the emotional favorite. There's an entire chapter in the book, all about how do you become someone's emotional favorite? If you are their emotional favorite, you're the one that they prefer to do business with, you're the one that they know, like, trust, and more importantly, the ones they want to see succeed. 

But building these kinds of relationships takes time, and it takes effort. So for me, the question is, who the people are that are worth taking the time to build relationships with? Who do you want to be the emotional favorite of? In the book, there is an exercise that I lead you through, that talks about who the people at the very top that you want to get to? These are the people that have money, authority, and influence. And the reason that these people are so important, is remember those three events? I want to change, I can afford to change, and I can justify the change. Well, the cool thing is the people that have money, authority, and influence, they only have to have the first event, and then they can become your customer. 

So what I have done is just give you an example here. I picked the CFO of a specific size of organization. Now, maybe there's not enough of these, and you need to figure out who is on the path of becoming the CFO of the manufacturing company that's $10 million to $20 million. What I've realized is that 80% of the time, it's someone from a smaller organization with the same role that moves in and takes on that role. Twenty percent of the time, it's on the right, that's from within the organization. Again, if you go through this list, and you now want to be the emotional favorite of more people, do the exact same exercise. These are the people that either have money, authority, and influence, or on the career path of highly likely to have, at some point in the near future, money, authority, and influence. 

So you need to find a way to be the emotional favorite of these people. And even when you're the emotional favorite, when something happens, and they want to buy, and they think of you, odds are they don't have your business card around. So one of the things I love to do is I want to make it really easy to be found on social media. I have social media profiles on all kinds of different places, because people, odds are, in front of their computer. More times than not, they're going to go to Google, not LinkedIn, not Twitter, not Facebook, not Pinterest or Google Plus, and say, "Where's Craig Elias?" They go to Google and type in Craig Elias. And you want your name to show up everywhere they go, and one of the ways to make that happen is to have all these different social media profiles. This is something that I think everybody should do. It doesn't mean they're looking for you in Twitter and Facebook, but that's where they're going to find you. 

Then when they find you on LinkedIn, one of the things you want to make really easy is for them to be able to reach you. What you'll notice, down the bottom left-hand corner, it says "I am LinkedIn user 3,956, and the best way to reach me is phone/text". You want to make it really easy for someone to be able to contact you, not just find you. I'm a big believer that your phone number, your cell phone number more specifically, should be everywhere that you can put it. 

Now, above and beyond that, I've also put a little bit about myself. Who am I? I'm a guy who lives by integrity. I value family, creativity, persistence, and my motto is, "No regrets". Let people learn about who you are, not just what you do. A while ago, quite a while ago now, a guy named Charlie Green wrote a book called "The Trusted Advisor." I saw a white paper, he did a few years ago, that talked about the people that are most trusted. And it turns out, the people that are most trusted are what he calls, "The Doer." These are the people that have reliability and intimacy. So they do what they say they are going to do, but they also have this incredible ability of getting the other person to share information that can be valuable in the selling process. 

So my question is it's not just about focusing on people that have money, authority, and influence, you need to see if there is what I call a "psychographic match." The question is, "How well do those you're trying to become the emotional favorite of, how well do they know your interests? What do you like to do?"

One of my favorite stories is of an account I was trying to get into. They were doing $10 million for three of my competitors. And they were doing, I figured it was $30,000 or $60,000 with us. I looked at that account and said, "That's where I'm going to blow my quota, and I'm going to smoke all of my competition. This is where I need to go spend more time." And I started spending time within this account, and I learned very quickly that a whole bunch of the guys in that account, the engineers who are responsible for speccing my product into something they would then sell, all loved to mountain bike. 

I arranged a mountain biking trip in Whistler, and very shortly after that mountain biking trip, there were 19 of them that showed up. We went from the 30 or 60 grand to almost $3 million. And once someone understands your interests, then you need to try and see, is there some sort of fit between your values? Do you share the same values? For me, it's family, creativity, and persistence. Those are the things that I care about. Then for me, the next step is once you've gone to that step, you want to share your aspirations. How do you want to make the world a better place? Because when there's that alignment between you and the other person, they're much more likely to choose you.

The question though is, "How can you do this also using social selling?" Well, it turns out, LinkedIn has a really cool place where you can talk about your interests. So I have that on my LinkedIn profile. I talk about the things that I do, the fact that I'm a Cub Scout leader. I'm one of these crazy guys in my neighborhood who when it's minus 20 degrees, I am out at an outdoor hockey rink, either making the ice or driving a Zamboni. We have our own Zamboni in our neighborhood. And when I talk to decision makers, very often, who've seen my LinkedIn profile, it's amazing how often the conversation of either hockey, Zamboni, outdoor hockey, or even cubs comes up in the conversation. 

As soon as that happens, the conversation is a whole lot easier. It's not just about my selling to them, it's about getting to know them. There is an academic term for this. It's called the "Johari Window", J-O-H-A-R-I, Johari window, created by two guys named Joe and Harry. One of the flaws, to most salespeople's approach, is they try to figure out what are other people's interests first, and then say something about themselves when there's a match. The problem is it takes too long, and not very often will people share their interests. I think the best thing we can do, as salespeople, share our own interests. Put ourselves out there. As soon as we share a little bit about ourselves, the other person shares more about them.

So that's all about be first, right? Be preferred. But the last piece is all about, "How do you find a way to be chosen?" This is some stuff based upon what Neil Rackham came up with. So you want to be first, you want to be preferred, but the whole piece about being chosen is that people right near the end of the decision making process, they look at the risk of being your customer. They have to justify their decision to other people. 

So there's five ways that people generally justify a purchase. It's what I call "RIPES", and I'm going to start at the bottom. The first one is simplicity, or time, one of the ways they justify it. Expenses, putting less stuff in, getting the same stuff out. So lowering expenses, same output. Next one, productivity. They put less in, but get the same amount out. Fewer inputs, more outputs. Image. Whether we like it or not, people very often buy based upon image. Now, some of these are ways that people justify it to themselves, some of these are how they justify to others. But the last one is risk avoidance. This is the one that is most powerful. Most decision makers, right near the end of the process, become very risk averse. This is where I'm going to share with you the power of this interesting thing called, "propinquity". 

Propinquity is the impact of nearness. And the fact that people are more likely to trust somebody, or view them to be less risk if somebody is just like them; same industry, same job, same aspirations, values, interests. Someone who is near them from a geographical perspective or someone they have a really good relationship with. One of the ways you can use LinkedIn to be able to do that on social selling, pick any person you want. I picked, in this case, Jamie Shanks. I went to LinkedIn, and I said, "Who do we have in common?" So you can see here, it says "shared," 441 people in common. There is a search button right next to that empty box. I actually did a search button, and I said "Okay, I want to get in to Microsoft, or I have Microsoft as a customer. How do I use my Microsoft contacts to get to Jamie?" It turns out, these are all the people that Jamie is connected to. 

So when I talked upfront about the power of testimonials and referrals, if you get them on a regular enough basis, what you can do is when you figured out, "Oh, I want to get to Jamie, let's go to my Microsoft person, and let's either ask them if they're willing to be a reference or ask for some form of a testimonial." Now, while I get the endorsements on LinkedIn are great, I have 9,000 myself, but almost 1,000 just for lead generation alone. But for me, it's all about the power of testimonials and referrals. And when you're first-in, people are more likely to act as a reference, give you testimonials, or give you referrals. 

So that's my 25 minutes. It's all about being first, it's all about being preferred, it's all about being chosen. And if you would like my slides and a free copy of my book, just go to, fill in the form, I'll send it all to you.