Social Channels to Engage Sales Prospects

by Jon Ferrara

jon ferrara, social channels to engage sales prospects

Buyer behavior has changed. Today’s buyers are web and social-media savvy, informed about your offering – and your competitors – and starting the sales process without your salespeople and marketing messages. If you aren’t in the customer-influence discovery loop, you’ll find yourself locked out, and with multiple social channels available to engage prospects and their influencers, how do you determine who matters most, how to engage them, and how to manage it all?

Webinar Transcript

Jon: Hi, my name is Jon Ferrara. I'm the CEO of Nimble, and I'm super excited to be with you here today at the Social Selling Summit to talk about something near and dear to my heart: relationships and the power of their ability to help you reach your personal and professional goals. Now, I've been involved in the relationship management business, seems like, all my life, having helped invent a company called GoldMine that helped pioneer CRM some years ago.

And I got back in this business because I had a personal need. I began to use social media and saw its immense power of how I was going to change the way customers make buying decisions and companies and people engage with them. And so I set out to find a tool that will help me to do that. I couldn't find it. So I started a new company, and I call it Nimble.

But I'm not here to talk about Nimble today. I'm here to talk about you and how you can reach your personal and professional potential goals, either as an individual or as a company. Because ultimately I truly believe that the brand of company is built on the summation of the brands of the individual team members. So here's a dear friend of mine, Nick Colette. He's been a friend of mine since back in the GoldMine days. He's an entrepreneur like myself, and he totally understands the power of relationships, the power of personal brand and professional networks. And I truly believe that your network is your net worth, that the sum of your personal brand plus your professional network enables you to achieve your professional goals, so that you can connect to people at manner to turn connections into conversations and relationships into mutual beneficial business outcomes. Now, notice, I don't talk about revenue because ultimately a relationship shouldn't be about revenue. It should be about you helping somebody else succeed, helping others grow.

So let's talk about how your personal brand plus your professional network can help you connect with others to do just that: help other people grow. Because I truly believe that service is the new sales. So if you do a good job of building your brand, then you're going to grow your network. And your network isn't a collection of business cards, your Facebook Likes, or, God help you, your LinkedIn connections. It's a collection of people that you've taken the time to build a pay-it-forward relationship, that you are out there helping to help that person grow and serve that other person.

How many times have you gotten a LinkedIn connection, where they didn't even take the time to personalize the introduction or the invite, and they essentially just used the generic, "Please join my LinkedIn connection."? What does that say about that person or their desire to truly connect with you? What it says is they haven't taken the time to understand who you are, what your business is about, and how they might help you, how they might serve you. Because as I said, service is the new sales. So if you do make a connection, whether it's a Follow, whether it's a LinkedIn invite, personalize it, and then follow up and follow through. Because ultimately I truly believe in what Zig Ziglar said, "The more people that you can help grow, the more you will grow."

And so how do you do that? You need to do your homework. You need to understand who people are and what their business is about. In the old days, we used to do that by going in somebody's office and looking at their walls, looking at the books they read, the degree, the school they went to, the knick knacks they collect. We did that in order to understand who they are, what their business is about, and to develop the intimacy and trust that is required for them to open up to your about their business issues, which as a professional, you could then solve.

Today, we are doing that electronically. The problem is we're doing it in six different tabs in our browsers and three different apps in our desktops, and none of it's connected. It's hard to manage our contacts and our conversations in our over-connected, over-communicated world, and this is just the beginning.

Heck every day there's something new, a new channel, where people are beginning to have conversations and engage, and it's an ever-exploding network of places where your customers are having conversations. I call it the social river because outside your office today are literally millions, if not billions, of conversations, where people are seeking information about how to be better, smarter, faster. And your job, as a business professional, is to stand out from the crowd, demonstrate your ability to help them grow, and I know that many of you feel like this: outside of that stream looking in, wandering wide-eyed and bushy-tailed, "How the heck do I get started?"

Well, I can tell you stories about the Internet's early days, about how companies would lock the Internet browsers away from their team members, their employees, and basically tell them they can't get on the Internet because it's just going to be a waste of time. And they didn't even build websites because they said, "Our customers aren't on the web. We're a brick-and-mortar company." Well, guess what? I have one word for you: blockbuster.

Today, if you are not building your brand and nurturing your network individually or as a company, you'll be dead tomorrow, just like them. And many of you are out there actually trying to do these things, and you just want to scream. Because it seems like there's just too many places to be, too many places to connect, and it's hard to understand how to stand out from the crowd.

But ultimately if you don't stand out from the crowd, you're done. And you're not going to stand out from the crowd by telling people how great you are. Nobody cares. Don't tell people how great your products and services are. Teach them how they can be great. And nobody likes to buy from Slick Willy. They want to buy from a trusted advisor, somebody who can help them be better, smarter, faster.

So how do you do that? How do you participate in the new customer journey? Where in the old days, we used to yell at our customers about how great our products and services were and expect them to line up like lemons in front of our salespeople, who would bag and tag them to get the order and then shove them off to the customer service 800-number, who would do their best to minimize the conversation.

Well, today, customers and prospects don't want to talk to salespeople. They don't want to read the marketing material. They're having conversations amongst themselves about what they're going to buy. And then they begin to yell back at the company on whatever channel they want to, whatever department they want, and expect an authentic and relevant response in a timely fashion. And most companies' idea of dealing with this is to hire a 25-year-old kid and give him a Hootsuite or some other social media dashboard, so that they can react to the people yelling at them or, worse yet, for them to use social media to yell at customers, again, how great that company's products and services are.

I truly believe that what you need to do is you need to inspire and educate your customers. You need to be able to set yourself apart as somebody who can help them grow. And it's not about marketing. It's about inspiring and educating. And so ultimately if you can align the promises that you make and the experiences that you deliver in your products and through the journey with your customers, you can truly grow your company.

And so let's take a look at the typical journey of customers through our companies. Now, this is a sales funnel, and many of you may recognize the funnel idea itself. Did you know that the sales funnel was invented in 1880, and it hadn't changed up until, I'd say, about five years ago? And this was about the most current model of customer lifecycle that many people would subscribe to, and let's talk about it a little bit. So to get a customer's attention, in the old days, we used to advertising. Today, we use a variety of tools to get their attention. Many of it is inspirational and educational.

Once we do get their eyeball, what we want to do is engage with them to stay top of mind, so that we either get a purchase, a referral from that purchase, or retain them after the purchase. And so there's a whole cycle of things that we would do. And I'm not going to go into the detail here, but many of you are familiar with the old things that we used to do, like Yellow Pages and advertising and newsletters, etc. Today, more and more, customers don't want to see advertising, where you tell them how great your products are. They want to be inspired and educated.

And this brings me back to a story about content that I really find fascinating. There was a company called Defender Milk. And this company had this powdered milk product that they were trying to sell. And there were literally hundreds of powdered milk products on the market. And so how did they stand out from the crowd? They began to advertise, and that was growing sales to a certain extent. And then they began to get letters from customers' moms, who were feeding their children the powdered milk, and they wanted to understand a little bit more about it, understand what the benefits, what the pros and cons were, and how to use it.

Well, somebody in the company was smart enough to collect all those letters and actually answer them. And then they compiled all the letter and the answers and made a book out of it. And it became the number one selling book in the world, and eventually set that company apart by building a brand through inspiration/education content about how people could be better, smarter, faster in feeding their children with the powdered milk.

Now, the reality of this is that that company did this in 1880, and they became so successful in the powdered milk business that they went on to grow to be a multi-national company and are now a multi-billion company called Glaxo Wellcome, which is a global pharmaceutical company. And all that started because somebody began to inspire and educate the customers, instead of advertising to them.

So if this is the old model of the funnel, what's the new model look like? Well, it's actually more like a pretzel, or a cycle. And there's multiple ways for you to get involved with the customer through this customer journey. And so let's take a look at this journey for a second.

So initially when you make a decision to purchase a product, you consider the product, and you want to go out and do some evaluation. Back in the past, we used to walk into a store, a Sears store, or look at the catalog or go to a Best Buy. Today, we go online and we read reviews, we talk to our friends, we see what other people are thinking and liking. And then we go and evaluate, and then ultimately we make a purchase decision. And even after the purchase decision, we're still making some sort of consideration after the purchase to reinforce our decision, to make sure we made the right decision. And then even after we've bought, there's a loyalty loop, where we'll consider buying it again or telling our friends.

And so if you think about this customer journey, you have ability to connect with customers through this entire journey of the initial consideration, the active evaluation, their moment of purchase, their postpurchase, as well as their loyalty loop, and what I call the itch [SP] cycle. An itch cycle is essentially a period of time between when somebody buys something and when they might consider buying it again. For an automobile, that's three years. And so what you want to be able to do is be able to inspire and educate, participate in the journey, so that when they do consider a product or make a buying decisions or consider recommending something, they consider you.

And so here's a deeper model of that journey. I won't go into the details, but I will say this is a McKenzy model that I highly recommend you Google McKenzy customer journey and read this in detail for yourself. But what you can see is that a smart company today is practicing the inspirational/educational content and then engagement. And they shouldn't be doing it just with their marketing people. They should be doing it with their entire team because I truly believe that content is more trusted when it comes from another human being than when it comes from the company or the brand. So at Nimble, we share content, not just on our Nimble brands on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Foursquare, Google+, etc. We share it across our team members' brands because I truly believe that a company brand is made of the sum of the team members.

And why are we doing this? We want to stay top of mind. We want to influence customer behavior. And the number one thing that influences customer behavior is recommendations from people they know. And so if all you are doing as a company is engaging prospects and customers, you're making a huge mistake. What you need to do is engage the community around your customers. At Nimble, that's editors, analysts, bloggers, influencers, third-party developers, investors, advisors, and prospects and customers of various sizes.

So what we do is we go out and identify people that matter. We reach out and build pay-it-forward mutually beneficial relationships, so that we can then engage with those people to understand them a little bit better, and to help them grow, share a little bit of our passion plan and purpose. And they then become evangelists for us and start spreading and sharing our visions and words, and that's what helps us grow. In fact, at Nimble, we haven't spent a dime on advertising. All of our 70,000 unique visitors per month are driven to our website through content and conversation with the community.

And that reminds me of this famous entrepreneur. Many of you know her as an actress. She said, "Out of sight is out of mind and out of mind is out of money, Honey!" And that was Mae West. This is a truism that goes back to my GoldMine days, where there was a guy named Jim Cecil, who is the doctor of Nurture, and he said similar things. And so how do you stay top of mind with your customer in their journey? And not just the customers and prospects, but the influencers thereof. I say you do it with the 5 E's of Social Business: Educate with Content, Enchant by being Relevant, Engage with Authenticity, Embrace with Intent, and Empower Your Customers to succeed. This is the gospel according to how you can help grow your company and your brand because I truly believe if you teach people to fish, they will figure out you sell fishing poles.

And so stop talking about your products and services. Start figuring out how you can help people be better, smarter, faster at scale. And I truly believe that you can best do that by empowering your team members to educate and inspire and share knowledge that can help other people grow. In fact, if you want to see how this is done, just go Google #socialbiz IBM, and you'll see that IBM team members around the world are sharing content on a daily basis to build their personal brand and to build the company brand. And sometimes, I feel like the Don Quixote of relationship management because I've been saying the same thing for 30 years, teaching about relationships, teaching about how you can connect with the influencers of your customers, and to grow your business.

And to demonstrate that, I want to tell you a story, a story of my first startup called GoldMine. So I was an entrepreneur just like you, working for a startup company out in Boston. And I worked in their Dallas field office. They gave me leads on sheets of paper. I'd cold call them and make notes on those papers. I'd put the appointments in my Day Timer. I'd communicate with my team with pink While You Were Out slips, and I did my Sales Forecast with spreadsheets. And I thought, "There's got to be a better way to do this."

And as a computer technologist, I had gotten my degree in computer science and math and worked my way through computer stores back in the early 80s. I knew there had to be a better software program to do this, and lo and behold, I searched and I couldn't find it. This was back in the days when file record locking, when network software just started, when client-server computing and notebooks were just starting. And there wasn't software that helped a busy business person manages relationships by integrating their email, their contacts, their calendar, and sales and marketing automation.

And so at 29 years old, I was too dumb to know any better. I quit my job, and I basically started a company that pioneered what we know of today as CRM, SFA, Salesforce Automation, and Marketing Automation. GoldMine had marketing automation before it was even a term, something called automated processes, which you might want to look up because it was amazing technology that was much more powerful than simple email marketing. I ran that company for 10 years, and it gave me the opportunity to take some time off and do something that many dads don't have the opportunity to do, is to be a present father and husband and raise a few kids. And I'll tell you what. It was a priceless opportunity, and it enabled me to grow and learn more about relationships, about myself, than I had ever learned in the previous 40 years as an entrepreneur.

And it taught me that what I truly believe that we're on this planet to do, is that we're on this planet to grow our souls and help other people grow theirs. And we do that by being present with other human beings by sharing our passion, our plan and our purpose. And through that conversation, through that vibration, we empower each other to succeed. And that's all we leave this planet with are the moments that we're with other human beings and the connections we make and the vibrations we leave. So don't waste your life. Make sure that you're present with the people that you're connecting to. You're sharing your respective passions, plans, and purpose, and you're figuring out ways that you can help other people grow to be better, smarter, faster. And I think you'll be a happier person because of that.

And so it also gave me time to swim in the social river, and I started to see the immense power of social media and how it's going to change the way people work and play. And I started to look for a relationship platform that would integrate contacts, email, calendar, and social lists and engagement. I couldn't find it, and what I also found is that most people didn't really have an effective tool for managing relationships. They were given CRMs at work, but I don't think the CRMs are about relationships. I think they're really about reporting and management. In fact, I think CRM should stand for Customer Reporting Management, not Customer Relationship Management.

Did you know that there's 225 million global businesses out there, and less than 1% use any CRM? Most people's CRM is their spreadsheet or their email inbox. And so what we spend our time doing is looking people up and logging what we know and logging what we did. And I think that the biggest cause of failure of CRM is lack of use because it doesn't really do anything for you. I think it's more about command and control to keep the finger on the pulse of the business and the hand around the neck of the salesperson. But as business people, we need to have tools to help us with the customer lifecycle, to take connections and conversations and relationships into revenue.

And I'll tell you what. This is a model of how a modern technology company uses marketing and sales automation to manage leads. And I'll tell you what. It's a lot of work. But ultimately I truly believe that if you treat the people around you like a garden and you nurture that garden on a regular basis to set yourself up as a trusted advisor, to focus on how you could help people be better, smarter, faster, that you won't have to advertise, that people will pick up the phone and call you and they'll drag their friends with them.

And so I'm going to tell you a story about a garden. This was a garden in my personal yards. It's my wife's garden. And she took me out in the yard to go and look at this monarch butterfly caterpillar. And I said, "Well, what's this monarch butterfly caterpillar doing in our yard?" And she said, "I've designed a self-sustaining garden that doesn't need pesticides and watering. It's designed to attract the right kinds of species and insects and birds and other things that make it so that it takes care of itself. And I said to myself, "Well, gosh. That sounds like a modern social business, where you're trying to identify the right people to reach out and build pay-it-forward relationships, so that you can create a self-sustaining business around you."

And so you can't focus on prospects and customers only, and you can't just do it with salespeople. You have to use everybody in the company to list and engage, to build their brands, to nurture their networks, to connect with, in our case, editors, analysts, bloggers, influencers, third-party developers, investors, advisors, and prospects and customers, find ways to help people be better, smarter, faster. And you will grow amazingly.

So let's take a few minutes out and take a look at how I do this personally because I think a picture tells a thousand words. So we've got a few minutes here left, and so let me take you on a personal journey of my vision of relationship management. So I truly believe that before you engage with another human being, you need to do your homework. And so what you do is you go and Google people. You look them up. And inevitably you go into their LinkedIn profile, and you go and check them out.

Now, I think that my LinkedIn resume is pretty good. I have a nice picture of myself, and you can see my eyes. I think people connect with faces and eyes. I have a little bit of personality behind it. When I sold GoldMine, I went back to school and got a degree in photography. And I like to personalize my social media profiles with a little bit of my passion, plan, and purpose beyond my business aspects. But if you really go and look at my LinkedIn resume, what you'll see is what I want you to know. And yes, you'll learn a little bit about me and what I'm passionate about, but if you really want to know me, you need to know me across multiple identities. And I think you could learn more about me in five seconds by going to my Instagram to figure out a little bit more of my passion, plans, and purpose than you can in five minutes on my LinkedIn resume.

But certainly you need to be able to have access to information across multiple different identities to be able to truly understand who somebody is. And I call that insights. That you need insights into a person in a company before you ever engage, and you need context. Context is essentially the history of engagement and interactions. Now, today, your insights and context are not in a place that's easily accessible. If 99% of us live in Outlook address book or Google Contacts, let's explore what kind of a relationship manager these platforms are. So if I go into here and I look at a contact record in Google Contacts, I don't have the history of email and calendars, let alone the social insights I would need to understand who they are. But more importantly in Google Contacts, you don't have a shared contact database.

So if you are using Google Apps for your company, which many people are, you don't have shared contacts, which means that everybody has their own contact database. And your contacts don't have the history of conversations or the history or interactions, the email and calendar activities because they're all separated. So basically if you go to the calendar and you see that you have this meeting with Ian Cleary, well, who's Ian? What's their background? Or if you go to your email and you see that you have this email from Nikki, well, who's Nikki?

And so ultimately for you to understand the background of another human being, you need the context of that person wherever you're looking at them. So if I'm looking at Brad here and I see he has a work anniversary and I want to engage with him, I could comment on here and say, "Hey, Brad. Congratulations on two years at Lee and Associates." But you know what? Everybody else is going to do that. What I want to be able to do is I want to be able to have the context of who Brad is and the history of our relationship.

So to have that, you need to have the history of all conversations and interactions that you and the team have had in email, calendar, and social. And so one way you could do that is you can go to your inbox and then go look up all the emails. You can go to your calendar and try to find all the appointments that you've had with them. You can go to his various contact records and look him up. But that's a lot of work. I think it's more interesting to be able to get that context and insights everywhere you work. And that's one of the reasons I use tools to be able to do that, to be able to manage, not just the history of interactions across social, like this does.

So I can go ahead and see any time Brad's ever talked about me or my brand or my team. I can what he's saying to the world. I can go and add value to what he's saying and ultimately take the action necessary right here to be able to follow up and follow through. Because I might see that he's been working two years at this particular place, and it might give me the opportunity to follow up and follow through or to connect with him. I may even want to message him and be able to tell him something. But I know if I send him a message here on LinkedIn, he may not see it, so I may decide to send him a message on whatever channel makes the most sense for Brad. And so for me, if you're going to be out there building your brand and nurturing your network, you need to be sharing content that is inspirational and educational so people see you and your company as a trusted advisor who can help them become better, smarter, faster.

And I was showing you earlier how IBM is doing this at scale. And if IBM can do this, I think that anybody can do it. And so let's take a look at that. So here's IBM who's sharing content, and they're doing it across a variety of team members around the world. And what's interesting is that essentially you, as an individual, can do this on a regular basis. So how can you begin to share content, to teach people to fish so they'll figure you sell fishing poles? I'll tell you the way I do it. I identify content that's inspirational and educational. And the way that I do that, I use a number of different tools to do that.

One of the tools I use is a tool called Tracker. And Tracker is a tool that I use to identify thought leaders and social selling. And then what I do is I would then go ahead and take these people and go and build a contact record for that person, go and tag them a specific way, go and connect with them on various identities, and then begin to walk in their digital footprint and add value to their conversation. And then what I would do is I would go and take their RSS feed, that's their feed from their website, and I'd begin to share the content at scale. And one of the tools that we use at Nimble is a tool called Bundle Post. And what Bundle Post enables me to do is to take the RSS feeds from these people.

So let's see what a RSS feed is. So if I go over here to Kim Garnst, I can go ahead and find her website. And on her website, what I'd find is there'd be a feed for her blog. And from her blog, I'd be able to take the RSS feed from the blog and be able to feed that into my Bundle Post, which would then assign hashtags that make sense for it, attribute that particular person, and allow me to queue that up on her various identities, where we would then begin to share that.

So if you go and search for @Nimble or @JonFerrara, what you'd see is we have a mix of content that we're sharing to inspire and educate other people. So we'll share other people's content, and always put a picture in there, and we'll also share a little bit of our own thing. So it's about 70% other people's content, 20% our content, and 10% of us sharing with other people our wins. And what that does is it generates these engagements of people that +1, Like, re-tweet, or otherwise engage with us. Then what we do is we take these people that are biting on our fishing lures, that basically bite on the content that we're sharing, and we reel those people into our platform. And we begin to engage with them because the last thing in the world that you want to do is to go out and share content and not engage with the people that bite on that content.

So the whole idea of social selling is to be able to share content to inspire and educate other people about the power of how you can help them grow better, smarter, faster. Then to be able to engage with other people, to set yourself up as a trusted advisor, so that when people do make buying decisions, they not only think of you, but they bring their friends. So to do that, you need to be able to share content across whatever channels your customers are having conversations on. For us, that includes Twitter, Facebook, Google+, AngelList, CrunchBase, Instagram. We manage that with a variety of tools to listen to people engage with us. And then we use our own tool Nimble to fish the people out of the social river, who are engaging with our content and immediately add these life profiles to our database to begin to nurture those relationships. And then we begin to turn these connections into conversations and relationships into revenue.

I can go on for another 30 minutes on a number of different topics about how you might be able to build your personal brand and professional network. But I've got 30 minutes here, and I've run out of time. So if you want to learn more about me or our company, feel free to go to and check out how we might be able to help you to grow better, smarter, faster. Also, follow me on Twitter. My identity is Jon, J-O-N, _Ferrara, F-E-R-R-A-R-A. And I share content on a daily basis to inspire and educate other people and help them become better, smarter, faster. So please let me know how I might be able to serve you, and thank you so much for the opportunity to connect here today. And please be sure to listen to some of the other amazing speakers in the Social Selling Summit.

Thank you so much to Jamie Shanks and his team at Sales for Life. I appreciate the opportunity to get up on my soapbox and do what I love to do, is inspire and educate other people about how they can grow. Thank you, bye bye.