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Interview: Grant Leboff, Author of ‘Digital Selling: How to Use Social Media and the Web to Generate Leads and Sell More’

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gleboff-123-photoIt was a pleasure to talk with Grant Leboff, a sales and marketing strategist with a new book, Digital Selling: How to Use Social Media and the Web to Generate Leads and Sell More (Kogan Page Ltd, 2016). In it, Leboff makes a clear case for taking a whole new approach to selling online, and then he shows us how to do it and succeed.

In your new book, Digital Selling, you lay out reasons why traditional sales methods no longer apply. Can you talk about that?

In this digital world, customers have more access to information and choice than ever before. This means that much of the purchase journey is undertaken before they ever interact with a salesperson. If a salesperson merely presents the benefits of their product or service, or attempts to go through a consultative ‘diagnosis’ of the prospect’s challenges, it’s likely that the buyer has already done it themselves. So that approach won’t influence the buyer’s ‘criteria of purchase,’ which is what differentiates a salesperson from an order taker. It takes new techniques to interact with prospect effectively now.

You talk about how the sales funnel has radically changed its shape. Can you explain?

The traditional sales funnel was cone-shaped, with a wide top and narrow base. The wide top was based on the idea that you had to approach as many relevant prospects as possible, assuming that only a small percentage would be in the market for your products or services at a time. So the response would always be small.

The old funnel worked on the assumption that ‘attention,’ in relative terms, was easy to obtain: we could interrupt people through advertising on TV, radio, magazines or via their mailbox and telephone. But now we live in a world with an abundance of information, and attention is now the scarce part — obtaining it is far more challenging. The shape of the new Digital Sales Funnel reflects the fact that ‘attention’ is difficult to obtain and therefore must be kept once a salesperson has it. It is also a response to the reality that salespeople can stay in contact with many more prospects, using digital tools, than they could when every interaction required one-to-one communication.

What are some social media must-do’s for anyone in sales now?

Remember that social media is a person to person communication tool. Individuals are far more effective communicators on these platforms than brands are. So companies should be equipping salespeople with the tools and skills to utilize these networks. And once on these platforms, a salesperson’s primary focus should be to provide value to the audience: insights, hints and tips, ideas. People will only interact if they get something out of the exchange.

The other must-do is to make the customer the hero. Communication should be all about the customer, not the salesperson. By making the customer their central focus, salespeople are more likely to be able to engage their prospects, and have their content shared by their audience.

Why are sales and marketing so closely related now? Is it because of the transformation to digital?

Marketing should be about creating leads and opportunities for a purchase to take place. Sales is about converting that opportunity into a transaction. Traditionally, marketing would communicate from a brand to person perspective, over TV, radio, newspapers, magazines and mailings. Meanwhile, sales would concentrate on person to person conversations while attending trade and networking events, and literally knocking on doors or making phone calls.

Now the channels are merging: both sales and marketing need to utilize digital, as this is increasingly where customers are looking. So sales and marketing departments need to be far more closely aligned.

Is there any value to making cold calls anymore?

I think it’s futile. The numbers speak for themselves: the response rate of cold calling is in permanent decline as people no longer sit behind their desks answering land lines. And since customers already have access to an abundance of information, cold calls don’t hold as much value. People are therefore less receptive to them.

Ultimately, it’s about opportunity cost: time is every salesperson’s most precious resource. And there are more effective ways for to use your time than making cold calls.

What’s the key to social sharing online? Why is it so important to the digital selling process?

People share material that enhances their own social capital. If I send you content that makes you laugh, moves you emotionally or provides you with a new insight, you’ll think more of me. Social sharing is important because, in a world where everyone owns media channels, it is how information is distributed online. And it’s the most credible route to reaching an audience. Instead of telling prospects directly how good I am, it’s implied by peers whom they already know and trust, who are sharing my content. Word of mouth has always been the most powerful marketing channel. Social sharing is word of mouth, gone online.

To learn more about Grant Leboff or his book, Digital Selling, go to his web site

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About Patricia Gale

Patricia Gale has written and ghostwritten hundreds of blogs and articles that have appeared on sites such as Psychology Today, Forbes, and Huffington Post, and in countless national newspapers and magazines. Her "beat" is health, business, career, self-help, parenting, and relationships.