There once was a man from Nantucket… This is the most well known first line of Irish born poetry, known as the limerick. Wikipedia defines the limerick as a short, humorous, often ribald or nonsense poem, especially one in five-line anapestic meter with a strict rhyme scheme (AABBA), which is sometimes obscene with humorous or entertaining intent. And because the poem is so short, it must be clear and concise in order to tell an interesting and witty story. The limerick form is believed to have originated by poets in the County Limerick, Ireland in the early 18th century. It was popularized by the Englishman Edward Lear in the 19th century, although he did not specifically use the term limerick to describe his work. Limericks began to gain popularity in the United States in the early 1900’s as a parlor game and then as an established literary art form. In the US, there is an annual Sales Limerick Challenge sponsored by Jill Konrath, a noted sales author (Selling to Big Companies, December 2005 ) and a strong proponent of using Social Media for the modern sales process of Social Selling. One of my favorites from the 2011 competition was:
There once was a sales guy named Jack
Who just loved to yakkety yak.
He made customers itch When he delivered his pitch
Then wondered why no one called back.
It certainly speaks to the issue of not listening to your customers. Limericks are often synonymous with the Irish act of “kissing the Blarney Stone”, which is a block of bluestone built into the battlements of Blarney Castle in County Cork, Ireland, right next to County Limerick. According to legend, kissing the stone endows the kisser with the gift of the gab (great eloquence or skill at flattery). The word blarney has come to mean “clever, flattering, or coaxing talk”. John O’Connor Power’s definition is succinct: ‘Blarney is something more than mere flattery. It is flattery sweetened by humour and flavoured by wit. Those who mix with Irish folk have many examples of it in their everyday experience.’
So enough with the Irish history lesson. What is the connection between Limericks, the Blarney Stone and Social Selling?
First let’s propose a typical sales process:
The Five Step Sales Process
- Actively listen to your prospective customer to understand their needs and wants, so you are clear on what is of value to them. Actively means searching for information and asking good open ended questions.
- Tell your prospective customer something they don’t know that helps to provide value (see # 1). Prospects will pay for value, and price will not be the dominant issue.
- Ask for the order, and deliver the value to your new customer, on time and on budget as promised based on the order.
- Continually ensure that your customer is satisfied with your product and service to ensure repeat business.
- Return to step number 1, and continually and diligently repeat to create a relationship.
Selling to a prospect is still an art form and does require the smooth and witty flavour noted above in the Irish history lesson. A sales proposal must be compelling (a good story), entertaining (with flair and drama), clear and concise and deliver interest or value. Limericks, the Blarney Stone and the smooth talking Irishman seem to be an important and desired component of an effective sales person.
Social Selling … The Brave New World
In this brave new electronic world, prospective customers now have access to huge amounts of information, making them more knowledgeable than ever before. Prospects and customers can now learn all about products, services, and the companies that provide them. As a result, they are taking a more proactive part in determining whose customer they will become – typically long before they are engaged by a sales person. This new information source is “The Social Media Universe”, often synonymous with the term “Big Data.” So, why is Social Media / Big Data so important going forward for the sales person? Even more significant than prospects researching possible suppliers, these prospective customers are out there identifying their own needs, preferences, performance, and much of their individual profile information. This information is most often authored by themselves through Social Media Services like LinkedIn, Quora, and many others.
These prospective customers want the world to know them, they want to be found.
Like their prospects, the sales person must also be proactive, and The Social Media Universe can help provide that proactive edge. Sales people must do research to better understand and know their customer, well ahead of the sale. If they don’t, sales people risk being left out of the sales cycle before they are even aware of the customer opportunity. For sales people, listening is even more important than it used to be, but now it takes place both in customer interaction and online research. The combination of the historical “confident and articulate sales art form” mentioned above, along with the use of online listening tools and related research and analysis of this information, is the new selling process, or more accurately, Social Selling. Social Selling still abides by the basic sales steps mentioned above. But the key difference is access to The Social Media Universe supplied “Big Data” and the subsequent research and analysis of this data to create rich prospective leads. It is ArCompany’s view that information and intelligence technologies are moving at a faster pace than many organizations can keep up with. The social media universe is the untapped conduit for raw, customer-volunteered information. It is high quality and often unseen by many companies. Social Selling is becoming the order of the day.
ArCompany Blogs on Social Selling
Over the last three months, ArCompany has published a number of Blogs addressing the use of Social Media by Business, particularly for Social Selling. As a recap, some of the “Business Social Selling” themed blogs include:
The key reason for this ArCompany focus is because the relationships between provider and customer (for both B2B and B2C) are dramatically changing and Social Media is playing an ever increasing role. This is true in both the sales relationship and in the post-sales relationship. Much of our previous blogging provided evidence for the use of social media in searching for leads, researching prospects to develop comprehensive dossiers, using social media to create chains of individuals to cause successful introductions, and collecting data on competitive products and services. These are largely “front end” steps in the Social Selling Process; you must also consider the “back end” or the customer service component of a customer relationship, because it is critical for repeat business.
Social Customer Service / Social Care
According to American Express survey results from May 2011, consumers who have used social media for customer service are more engaged and vocal in speaking about their experiences than the general population. This cuts both ways: while these respondents claimed to tell more people about a good experience than the general population sample (42% vs. 15%, on average), they also would spread the word at a far greater rate about bad experiences (53% vs. 24%).
Historical Customer Service is evolving to Social Customer Service often know as Social Care. Consider that success with Social Selling, particularly for repeat business, is based on establishing relationships for customer loyalty; a key component for great relationships is excellent customer service. As the world is changing for sales, so it is changing for customer service. In fact, I would suggest that providing great customer care is not a separate activity from selling, but rather an integral step of the sales cycle process. Or more appropriately, the new Social Care is an integral step of the new Social Selling. The message here is that good front end sales coupled with back end customer service and execution is what fosters a long and successful customer relationship. And good relationships generate long term ROI. The Social Bakers Q2 2013 Social Survey on Social Customer Care had this to say about social customer care and its impact on sales revenues:
“76% of the worlds most socially devoted companies say that social media customer care is a driver of ROI.”
A recent blog by Maximizer Software related Social Customer Service / Social Care to sales, as follows:
“Using social media technology to enhance existing customer service strategies not only improves your marketing reach, but keeps the wolves of competition at bay by inspiring your sales team to stay in the conversation, come what may.”
My blog was intended to introduce how important the new Social Customer Service / Social Care is as a component of the new Social Selling Process. Future ArCompany blogs will address the Social Care area in more detail, but it is clear that well executed Social Care is a key element to stronger customer relationships and repeat sales. In conclusion, I offer my limerick on the subject:
There once was a sales person from Anywhere
Whose company leveraged social media for customer care
Their customers loved the service
Their competitors were very nervous
And their sales were way beyond compare
Or for the Accountants, the last line could read:
And their sales were well over quota, producing great margins, EBITDA and ROI that would enable the company to declare significant dividends, thereby ensuring happy shareholders and local governments that would continue to offer radical tax breaks because job creation was exceeding expectations. Please see our 2013 Annual Report in which …
Accountants never did understand anapestic meter with a strict rhyme scheme of AABBA (that would be a limerick). Oh, and contrary to the Sales Profession, the Accounting International Sanctioning Body does not permit kissing of the Blarney Stone! Let me know what you think and please share your experiences.
As VP of Sales at ArCompany, Bob’s experience has focused on transforming sales and marketing organizations into tightly knit customer relationship account teams for Global Enterprise Clients. With prior senior leadership roles in Telecom / IT with Bell Canada, AT&T, and Allstream, he was instrumental in developing stronger, synergistic cross-functional teams to provide high value for Fortune 1000 customers. He is also an accomplished systems engineer with experience at General Motors, IBM and continues to be a “serial entrepreneur” in start ups with Internet and mobility business directories, innovative software security, telehealth solutions, petrochemical process control systems and social media companies like ArCompany. His “credo” is “listen to your customers and delight them with innovative solutions they haven’t seen”.