LinkedIn told CNBC that the top three tech skills in demand are artificial intelligence, big data, and cloud computing. However, they noted that many technology skills have a market value of only six years, so soft skills such as critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving should also be honed. In order for workers to keep up, they should avail themselves of courses from LinkedIn Learning or Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).
“It’s important for companies to
continue to invest in their people so that they are upskilling and reskilling
their people to keep up with the roles that are in demand,” said Feon Ang,
LinkedIn Vice President for Talent and Learning Solutions, Asia Pacific.
“But, at the same time, people need to continue to invest in themselves
and have a growth mindset,” said Ang.
At last month’s Tenbound Conference Mark Dean, Head of Sales Development-Americas for LinkedIn, noted that soft skills are becoming increasingly critical for employees. LinkedIn research found that 57% of leaders weighed soft skills over hard skills. In demand skills include creativity, persuasion, and collaboration. In short, he asked, “Can they tell a story?”
“In the age of continuous change, global competition, and the use of AI, the employees who will become leaders and visionaries are the ones who can communicate effectively and create connection within the organization. It is only when employees have a sense of shared purpose and connection that they will do what it takes to help the organization succeed. The best way to build this connection is through authenticity, vulnerability, and storytelling. Soft, human-focused skills are the currency of the future. Employees need to take it upon themselves to grow and learn on a continual basis, whether it’s finding a mentor or continually investing in their growth to hone these skills.”
Lynne Levy of Arena Consulting
For Salesforce skills, there is Trailhead which the firm promotes at both public forums and on earnings calls.
I’ve been sitting on a Harvard Business Review article written by Doug Camplejohn since March due to a surfeit of news. I figured that if I couldn’t slip it into my blog in August, I would never get to it. August is when the press releases slow and there is an opportunity to speak about broader topics such as how to write a press release (or not write one).
advice takes a long-run strategic approach to building and nurturing a social
network based upon ongoing engagement, asking for advice during transitions,
and assisting others. As such, his advice dovetails well with real-world
approaches to building relationship networks.
begins by recommending that business professionals build their network with
peers instead of focusing on seniority. A peer-based network grows over
one’s career, creating a network which matures with the professional.
Furthermore, senior-executive response rates are lower than mid-level
managers. Less than one percent of VPs and CxOs respond to cold reach
“People earlier in their careers respond most often to an initial message, while VPs and C-level professionals respond the least to people they don’t already know.”
Doug Camplejohn, VP of Product Management at LinkedIn
Initial messages should be short. Camplejohn recommends three sentences that can be easily read on a mobile device. InMail messages of under 100 words work best with response rates “decreasing significantly” beyond 500 words.
also advises a hook such as an alma mater, joint interest, or a mutual friend.
“According to our research, referencing a mutual connection boosts the
acceptance rate of these messages by 51%, second only to attending the same
school at the same time (53%),” wrote Camplejohn.
notes the value of asking for advice and leveraging transitions. In
fundraising, there is an adage, “If you go seeking advice, you get money; if
you seek money, you get advice.” Likewise, transition periods are an
excellent opportunity to build your network and seek advice.
“If you’re in a transitional period — starting at a new company, switching industries, or moving to a new city — recognize the opportunity to reach out to people, ask for their advice, and absorb their wisdom.”
Doug Camplejohn, VP of Product Management at LinkedIn
recommendation is to pay it forward. Don’t be looking for immediate
benefits or strictly reciprocal opportunities. Social networkers
recognize that they are contributing to the commons, whether helping one person
or adding to the group. Sales reps and others should also continue to
nurture their network, maintaining conversations with colleagues, clients,
partners, and mentors.
“The best way to build a relationship is to help
someone with joy and with no expectation of anything in return. It feels
good, it trains your own sense of generosity, and it informs you of what the
other person values. It also sets the stage for you to ask them something
in the future. You don’t have to offer to help in every circumstance, but
make yourself available as a resource to people, particularly to people who are
just starting out in their careers.”
Camplejohn concludes that online networking should be viewed as an extension of real-world interactions: “Connect with people personally by finding common ground, then build trust and long-term relationships, rather than one-time transactions.”
Determine who your audience is and write appropriately for the audience. For example common goals of press releases are media pick-up, attract new customers, educate current customers,
attract investors, populate Google search, etc. Write for the specific you are targeting and use vernacular they are familiar with.
Keep the release short – 400-600 words max
For best Google results, headline should be 70 characters or less (or else Google will cut it off)
Make sure company name is in headline
Make sure important keywords (that their readers would be searching on) are in headline and first sentence of release.
In headline, frontload the keyword at the beginning of the headline
First paragraph should include the 5 Ws and a good lead sentence
Have a boilerplate that is titled “About XYZ company.” Keep that paragraph fairly short and include a written out URL for their corporate website. Include social handles if they have
Add anchor text to first paragraph on first mention of company name or product so that reader can quickly get to their site
Add bullets for key points
Include your contact information including phone and email
If there are multimedia assets, consider linking to them in the press release
I’m not sure whether PR teams are getting worse or I simply read more press releases, but marketers have to start using Grammarly and observe basic grammar and style tips.
One issue is simply bad grammar. I write a weekly newsletter and most of the errors pointed out by Grammarly are found inside quotes derived from websites, collateral, press releases, and blogs. I wasn’t an English major, but many marketers were English or Humanities majors and should know better. It is easy to run your copy through a grammar/style checker.
B2B press releases are a prime example. They are often written by junior marketers with limited technical knowledge of the product. Unfortunately, press releases are reviewed by multiple departments with different perspectives and recommendations. The result is an often wordy, buzzword-filled press release that is incomprehensible to all but industry insiders (and sometimes we struggle as well).
I pulled the following opening paragraph from a press release (see image above) to call out common issues:
Long Titles — 120 characters is a Tweet, not a headline. BusinessWire suggests headlines run 70 or fewer characters. Google cuts headlines at 70 characters.
Buzzwords — “Account-Based Experiences,” “Predictive B2B Intent,” and “AI” are all found in the headline. I had to look up ABX. It is a variation on Account Based Marketing promoted by Adobe which recognizes that ABM is broader than marketing. So not only was the headline a buzzword salad, but one of the buzzwords wasn’t particularly buzzy.
Absurd Puffery — Puffery is a common practice in marketing so acceptable. Puffery that is bald-faced lying is simply ridiculous. You cannot credibly call yourself “the leading B2B Data-as-a-Service (DaaS) company” when you have 21 employees listed on LinkedIn and do not have the words B2B or DaaS on your homepage.
Muddled Opening Sentence — The opening sentence should be clear and capture the 5 Ws. It shouldn’t have nested parenthetical statements and be overly wordy. “Marketo LaunchPoint integration” is much clearer than “a new integration available through LaunchPoint by Marketo, an Adobe company.”
Failure to Proof Your Copy — Typos include misspelling a customer’s name (LogMeIzn), multiple TM symbols for the same product, failed parallelism in lists, and a colon after a preposition.
Poorly Named Products — eCHO is an affectation that reads as e-CHOW not Echo. It also needlessly drives spell checkers crazy. “eCHO Predictive B2B Intent for Marketo Engage” is a mouthful. How about simply “Echo Intent for Marketo Engage?”
Failure to Test Your Hyperlinks — A hyperlink to an information page takes the reader to a service login page.
Omit a Hyperlink to Your Home Page — Really?
Finally, can we improve the quotes put in the mouths of executives and alliance partners? They often sound like five people wrote a non-grammatical buzzword salad that says both everything and nothing. When I am quoted in press releases, I work closely with the company to ensure the quote is tight, grammatical, and meaningful. The draft quote is bounced back and forth several times with the vendor’s marketing team to ensure that each sentence and word adds value. Here is an example of a published quote and my rewrite:
“The best accounts to engage with are the ones that are already actively researching around your solution. eCho intent data from <Anonymous Grammar Offender> offers an opportunity for marketers to engage with accounts that have a high propensity to buy, ultimately delivering a more qualified pipeline to sales and increasing the speed of the sales process.”
Press Release Quote
eCho intent data from <Wordy Vendor> identifies accounts that are actively researching solutions like yours. eCho delivers an actionable set of highly qualified, engaged leads which help sales reps exceed quota.
My Alternative Press Release Quote
A press release is a key messaging opportunity. Failure to follow basic rules of grammar and clarity tells customers, partners, and prospects that you are a lazy company that cannot be counted on to do the basics. That is marketing malpractice. It would be akin to showing up late to an interview with a stained shirt and a sense of entitlement.
Drift, which has quickly established itself as a leader in the chatbot space, is upping the ante by integrating video and chat. Users will be able to share and record videos via a Chrome extension or mobile app. Recorded videos can then be dropped into emails and sent to customers or prospects.
are “private and secure” with single sign-on functionality from Okta, OneLogin,
and Microsoft Azure. Users can restrict viewing to a specific email or
email list and “everyone else will have to request permission, just like you
would with a Google Doc.”
suggests three sales use cases for video: as a conversation starter, as a
second chance to refine a message after a call, and as a group selling tool
Video provides real-time desktop and mobile notifications when viewed. Users
can immediately start a conversation while somebody is viewing their video “so
you can reach out and say hello or follow-up at the perfect time.”
is the immediate notification element which Drift claims to be its product
“There are a few good software products out there that make it easy to capture and share videos. But we took a look around the market and noticed one big thing missing: none of those products create a better buying experience because they don’t actually help you start conversations with potential customers. You still have to make a video, send an email, and hope to get a response. But with Drift Video, you can get a notification in real-time while someone is watching your video and then hop right in and say hello.”
starting Drift, we’ve said there are two mega-trends that would shape the
future of B2B sales and marketing: messaging and video,” said CEO David Cancel.
“Over the last few years we’ve built an industry-leading messaging
platform used by over 150,000 businesses, and now we’re expanding our
Conversational Marketing platform by adding video.”
is driving global IP demand. According to Cisco, one million minutes of
video will be crossing the Internet every second by 2020 and 82% of all
Internet traffic will be video by 2021.
video is available today as part of the Drift offering. There is no
surcharge for video functionality for up to ten videos per month with a chat
option embedded into the video. For $12 per seat per month or $120 per
annum, reps are provided with a Pro license which includes unlimited HD quality
video sharing and storage. Only the Pro version restricts video sharing.
features include Team Analytics, Book Meetings from Video, and integrations
with Salesforce, Pardot, and Marketo.
spent the last year working on Drift Video and it was one of the main reasons
for raising our Series C in April 2018,” stated Cancel. “In looking at
the market over that time, we saw that while there are many products that make
it easy to create and share videos, none of them were built to help to start
conversations and create a better buying experience. After a private beta
with some great early customers, that’s what we’re bringing to market today
with Drift Video.”
has integrated video in its own sales process with 50% of Drift revenue
“influenced by video in the selling process.”
is the greatest conversation starter in B2B buying,” said Alexa Nguyen in a
Drift video. “In a world of faceless phone calls and emails, video has
helped us build trust, and video has helped us close more deals.”
Video is another way for salespeople to engage with their prospects outside of the norm. Prospects are constantly bombarded with emails and phone calls asking for their attention. But it’s hard to cut through that noise because they don’t trust easily. In order to build that trust, you need to build a personal connection. And all personal connections start with a conversation. Video allows people to be personal, show that they’re human, and help build that connection that might be lost through text in an email.
Lacey Berrien, Drift’s PR Senior Manager
to research from Forrester and Boston Consulting Group, 75% of B2B transactions
have little or no sales interaction. Thus, video offers a valuable
channel through which sales reps can avoid being disintermediated. However,
sales reps could push this functionality too far. While chat
functionality sounds like the next step for video, reps should be careful not
to step over the line from personable to creepy.
prospects view an email, most understand that the act of opening an email
triggers a notification to the sender, but they don’t expect that the viewing
of a video will be treated as a real-time permission for a call or chat. Immediately
reaching out to customers and prospects may be viewed as a non-permissioned
extension of an asynchronous communication into synchronous. Drift does
not discuss GDPR in the announcement, but this seems to cross the boundary into
non-permissioned communications and the release of personally identifiable
is viewing your video. Call immediately”). The video privacy
permissions are focused on the seller (ensuring they aren’t shared with
others), but there does not seem to be any functionality to limit the “call me
back” immediacy of the service. If anything, the immediate messaging will
drive down the open rate of all embedded video and kill its efficacy.
I raised this concern to Drift, they offered a best practice to address this
issue. Lacey Berrien, Drift’s PR Senior Manager, suggested that sales
reps could either wait for the contact to initiate the chat or use a message
such as “Thanks for watching my video! I’m here if you have any
questions.” This approach makes sense. By utilizing a generic
message that sounds automated, it feels less invasive. This may be a
situation where a generic message may be welcome as it serves as an invitation
to chat while a personalized message may be off-putting.
The user can take one of two roads — proactively engage with the video viewer while they’re watching via the chat functionality OR not engage at all and allow the video viewer to chat with them at their own discretion…Other customers have gone the route of not messaging and just offering the viewer another channel to engage with them outside of email or a phone call. Buyers have all of the power. And the ultimate goal is to meet them where they are…and to always be available to help.
Lacey Berrien, Drift’s PR Senior Manager
appears to be a Gresham’s
Law of MarTech (“Bad money drives out good”); an effective channel or
marketing tool quickly becomes overused or misused, resulting in lowered
efficacy. Embedded video could quickly convert a golden channel into
chaff through overuse and perceived creepiness. What makes embedded video
so compelling today is its ability to personalize and deliver a relevant
message on a 1:1 basis. If embedded video overwhelms prospects or is seen
as inviting immediate, unwanted contact, it will kill the golden goose. A
softer touch is likely the best practice. If viewers maintain the control
and opt into contact, then it will enhance the value of a video by providing a
Call to Action that the prospect controls.
The Greek orator Demosthenes was said to have treated his speech impediment by talking with pebbles in his mouth and shouting above the roar of the ocean waves.
In high school, Larry Bird would shoot 500 free throws every morning before his first class.
When I started my professional sales career in 2004, I wrote out every opening, iteration, objection handle, and closing approach. I then recorded myself speaking them until I was comfortable. I iterated on each talk track 20+ times until it was authentic and the language flowed naturally. Then I ditched the scripts and went to work.
What can you do outside of your day to day operations to be exceptional at your craft?
SalesLoft CEO Kyle Porter (LinkedIn Post)
SalesLoft CEO Kyle Porter is a strong advocate for authenticity. Simply knowing your pitch is insufficient. Sales reps have to master their craft and infuse it with authenticity. This means developing a deep understanding of how to sell your product and service but then combining what is unique about your story (both personal and corporate) with passion for the product or service you sell.
It also means that you cannot be giving a robotic pitch or a one-size-fits-all spiel. Great salespeople adjust their message and approach to the prospect. This adjustment is across many dimensions:
Job Function – What is their department and role within the department?
Job Level – How high in the organization are they?
Industry – What is your value proposition with respect to the purchaser’s industry? How do they benefit?
Buyer Role – As part of a purchasing committee, are they the economic buyer, technical buyer, influencer, etc.?
Prospect Knowledge about Your Offering – You need to understand how knowledgeable they are about your offering and those of your competitors and then speak to that level.
Concerns – The larger the value or strategic importance of a B2B purchase, the greater the FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt). FUD is also higher if the total cost of ownership or switching costs are high. If you are inauthentic, you can raise the level of FUD. If you can connect authentically with the buyer, you build trust and drive down the level of FUD.
Individual – What are the individual concerns of the buyer? What is the buyer’s communication style?
Scripts work well for novice reps and those learning a new product category or vertical, but they should be viewed as building blocks towards a polished, authentic sales voice.
One should also avoid focusing on features. A feature-focused monologue says to buyers, “you figure out whether my product / service will help you because I don’t understand that myself.” The focus should always be on benefits and value with features only used to justify your value proposition or to address concerns of technical buyers.
And the conversation needs to be interactive. Meeting intelligence analytics display who is talking during a call. A sales rep can visually review whether he / she controlled the conversation or it was a true conversation.
Sales trainers have begun emphasizing the value of storytelling as a way to connect with the emotional buyer. Marketers long approached consumer sales as an emotional pitch and B2B as a rationale pitch, but are now arguing that rational B2B pitches ignore the inherent FUD involved when making strategic purchases.
As sales reps begin to be coached by sales engagement analytics (directly and via feedback from managers and trainers), they should shift away from controlling conversations and become more interactive, present, and empathetic.
While most of my blogging is published here, I also write commissioned blogs where I own the editorial. This provides me with additional channels for discussing sales intelligence, sales engagement, and B2B DaaS.
Here are my ConnectLeader blogs with their opening paragraphs:
Marketing Approved Templates and Scripts, “For at least a decade, there have been discussions about sales and marketing alignment and the inability of sales and marketing teams to provide a unified go-to-market strategy. Marketing is concerned that sales reps fail to use their leads, share their copy, or conform to the company’s positioning.”
Drive Sales Productivity with Integrated Sales Engagement, “At their recent Dreamforce show, Salesforce rolled out a Sales Cloud upgrade called High Velocity Sales which helps “identify the best leads, eliminate busy work and boost pipeline.” High Velocity Sales adds customized sequences for sales teams which incorporate best practice sales cadences within Salesforce. Features include email and phone sequences, templates, and call scripts.”
Closing the Loop on Inbound Leads, “My career began as a tele-support rep for an insurance agency automation system. Our role was to quickly return calls from customers and help resolve their system problems. Speed was paramount with emergency calls placed at the top of the queue. Because inbound calls were categorized with brief descriptions and codes, we also gave priority to problems that could be quickly resolved (while it was good for our quotas, there was also no reason to make customers wait an hour for a two-minute fix).”
How to Improve Your Sales Productivity Using a Sales Engagement Platform, “As soon as I submitted my last blog on Sales Productivity, CSO Insights published an update to their quota attainment research. The good news is global sales rep quota attainment rose from 53.0% to 54.3%. The bad news is that it falls within the range of error, so we probably won’t know if sales productivity is truly improving for another year. Even at 54.3%, sales reps remain well below the 63.0% quota attainment level of 2012. When CSO Insights Research Fellow Jim Dickie looked at the underlying metrics, 22 of the 23 operational metrics declined over the past five years.”
How to Think about Sales Productivity, “Research performed by CSO Insights found that sales reps are failing to meet quota at alarmingly high rates. Global B2B quota attainment was a mere 53% in 2016, dropping ten percent over five years. That means that only one in two sales reps is likely to meet quota this year with only a small percentage entering Q4 confident that they will reach quota.”
What GDPR Means to American Firms?, “Back in May, there was a good deal of news coverage around the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Unfortunately, most of the coverage was hyperbolic with a focus on penalties and how few companies had complied. While the GDPR fear mongering has died down, there is still a need to understand GDPR and comply with the law, even if you have no operations in Europe.”
Local Presence: Handle with Care, “Sometimes, the most effective sales approach may be the wrong strategy. One of these techniques is local presence. For generalized telemarketing, it can lift call connection rates and revenue, but for strategic selling it may result in a negative return on investment”
LinkedIn recently adjusted its feed algorithm to identify more salient topics instead of viral content. The goal is to encourage conversations and promote niche conversations over broad topics. The modifications place a higher premium on member interest signals.
“Our mission is to help people be more productive and
successful, and it is what drives us daily,” said Senior Director of Product
Management Pete Davies. “We strongly
believe that people need their professional communities to help them along the
way, whether that’s current or former colleagues, peers in the same industry,
or those that share similar interests or career ambitions.”
LinkedIn prioritizes posts from connections and follows along with their likes, comments, and posts. Other factors include group posts, followed hashtags, and events “all with the goal of showing you the content and conversations that you care about.” Prioritization is given to direct interactions; stated interests and experiences; and “explicit signals” such as with whom you’ve worked.
Davies provided the following tips to encourage conversation:
Post things that encourage a response. For example, if you’re posting a link, express an opinion with it.
Think about using the best type of post for the topic. Despite the rumors, the algorithm doesn’t favor any particular format. We have video, images, multi-images, text and long-form articles. More are on the way.
Use @mentions to pull other people you know into a conversation when you think they’ll have something valuable to add. Be thoughtful: only mention people that you think are likely to respond, max five is a good rule of thumb.
Engage in the conversation, respond to commenters and encourage back and forth.
Davies also recommended the use of hashtags, but no more than
three. Hashtags should be specific vs. general
(#performancemanagement vs. #management).
Finally, Davies emphasized authenticity. This is a theme that Kyle Porter, CEO of SalesLoft, keeps going back to.
“Authenticity is key: all the tips above work out better when members talk about things they truly care about, in a way that’s natural for them. Genuine conversation around real experiences spark better and deeper conversation. Better conversation, in turn, leads to stronger community and connection,” blogged Davies.
Usually, I hate listicles. They are one of the laziest formats for blogging and feature articles, but Gong.io put the format to good use in a recent LinkedIn post titled “The 7 most horrifying sales call mistakes of 2019.” I would have gone with the “Seven Deadly Sins of Sales Calls,” but that is a minor editorial nit. Unlike most listicles, the post contained seven in-depth discussions of sales errors with supporting data.
And this data both supports the sales efforts of its clients and prospects and demonstrates the value of its Conversation Intelligence platform which assists with new rep onboarding and play recommendations.
For years, it has been gospel that sales reps should focus on a product’s unique value proposition and benefits. Features should be discussed when the prospect asks HOW, but should not be the focus of a sales pitch. In one graphic (see above), Gong has backed up this recommendation. What is amazing is how quickly a feature dump can sour a deal.
Feature dumping is to sales what bad breath is to dating. It kills “what could have been.”
Chris Orlob, Senior Director, Product Marketing at Gong.io
Chris Orlob, Senior Product Marketing Director at Gong, argues that “Most salespeople are overtrained on their products and undertrained on sales skills.”
My experience is different. It’s not that sales reps are overtrained on features, but that they aren’t trained in how those features map to benefits and their product’s value proposition. They also lack specifics around use cases and how their product provides value to specific industries. This causes them to take a least common denominator approach and hope a feature resonates. It’s the proverbial spaghetti on the wall. But this strategy leads to feature dumping and relying on your prospect to map features to benefits and benefits to value. Reps need more sales training, but they also need to understand their value proposition in the context of each prospect.
Sales reps that understand the concerns of their prospect by industry, job function, job level, and company size and can map those concerns to buyers across the buying committee don’t engage in feature dumping. They focus on their product value in the context of the customer. Features are discussed when they are must haves (“We are GDPR compliant”), but only in detail when the technical buyer or end user requests such details.
I don’t want to recapitulate what is a very strong post from Orlob. Instead, I recommend that you go see what he has to say about steamrolling objections, grand finale product demos, and four other sales sins.
Your ideal customer profile (ICP) defines who are your best customers and prospects. It is defined by firmographics, intent data, technographics, business signals, etc. ICPs are focused on Accounts.
Your question implies that the firm has a single decision maker. But that is generally only the case at small firms. Generally, B2B mid-sized and larger procurement decisions are made by a buying team which can consist of multiple individuals at different levels and functions / departments. For these, you should define a set of personas that cover economic decision makers, users, influencers, reviewers (e.g. technology gatekeepers).
Many of the ICP vendors support contact searching for ABM accounts. Once the ABM list is defined, they allow users to prospect for contacts by persona (job function/level/title) at ABM accounts.
These vendors include emails and direct dials for contacts along with company profiles, sales triggers, financials, technographics, family trees, filings, etc.
While LinkedIn Sales Navigator does not offer an ICP tool, it includes a Buyer’s Circle which allow sales reps to quickly identify potential contacts at accounts and drag and drop them into their role. They can then review all open opportunities, including buying committees, via a single-pane Deal report which combines LinkedIn intelligence with Salesforce or MS Dynamics.