Sales and marketing expert Grant Leboff has a new book, Digital Selling: How to Use Social Media and the Web to Generate Leads and Sell More (Kogan Page, September 2016). It’s a must-read for anyone selling in today’s radically transformed digital environment. It’s a crisply written road map for navigating this new terrain. Using illuminating anecdotes and helpful analogies, Leboff takes a canny look at what’s changed, and offers effective, digital-savvy strategies.
Leboff is the founder of a global consultancy, Sticky Marketing Club Ltd., a powerhouse sales and marketing resource that’s rewriting best practices for selling online. Similarly, his latest book combines big-picture intelligence with serious nuts and bolts. Leboff’s stance is that to succeed in an entirely different world requires an entirely new perspective as well as new tools. As he shows, it was a long trajectory, but a complete shift in everything from how we communicate to how we decide to how we buy. Everything is different for sales and marketing, includes the necessity that each work with each other. And, as he proves, small steps won’t cut it. The companies that are selling more are those that understand the paradigm shift and embrace it.
In essence, this is a world gone entirely social, with constant conversations and connections through multiple channels and platforms. The web is a social environment but it’s also an overloaded one, overflowing with information and choices. Everyone has their own channel, and anyone can be an influencer — what Leboff calls a “narrowcaster” as opposed to a broadcaster. One facebook post, one “like,” one tweet, or one mention can have enormous impact. Individuals have tremendous sway over their immediate network of family, friends and colleagues, who in turn have sway over their own networks, and so on.
In this arena, that classic salesperson’s gold — word of mouth — is still key. But social proof matters in far more profound and immediate ways — and we have little control over it. Since we share information via conversations, not publication, selling becomes about harnessing that power of social media to create the connections and build the leads that create sales opportunities. Selling is about finding our way into the conversation.
And yet, as Leboff points out, salespeople are still using pre-digital methods and wondering why they don’t work. He points out the folly of cold calling — completely ineffective in an era when customers have “unprecedented levels of information and choice,” he explains. And why, he writes, do people “still insist on pedestrian presentations when prospects can, and do, obtain all the standard information on the web?” Or rely on a sales funnel model developed in 1898? In the new digital environment, what’s critical is not volume, but engagement. The sales funnel actually looks more like the contours of a snowman — the middle is the widest part. To sell takes attention.
Digital Selling paints a clear picture of how people make purchasing decisions circa the here and now: When we want to know what to buy, we do two things: we ask everyone we know (and trust), and we search the web. Customers don’t wait for salespeople to help them decide what to buy, they don’t need salespeople to provide them with information, and in some cases, a blatant sales pitch will merit a fast exit. So what matters is capturing attention, gaining mindshare — that sweet spot of consumer awareness that’s increasingly hard to come by. The big difference is that we can’t buy it any more. We have to earn it.
Leboff weaves in developments like globalization, tracing profound changes in suppliers and markets, from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the explosion of business in China and India. He discusses how the web has triggered a personalization of knowledge — where we filter news and information through the channels we prefer. He traces the history of lead generation from salespeople knocking on doors to an entirely different reality, where an overt approach is a social faux pas. And he cautions against using social media to push volume: the strategy will alienate far more than it will attract.
Leboff has an easy, convincing authority that’s clearly based on professional expertise. As an insider, he spends ample time detailing new strategies for from a business and management perspective. He explains how to refocus marketing to look more human (since people dislike interacting with a faceless brand). What he’s done with Digital Selling, in essence, is put a friendly and empathetic face on a shrewd and revelatory guidebook.