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Topics Covered: <a href='/resources/search/?query=Social media'>Social media</a> | <a href='/resources/search/?query=Podcast'>Podcast</a>
Marketing & Tech
Canadian Professional Sales Association, Social Media & Tech Series lock
In this episode of the CPSA’s Social Media and Tech podcast series, we are going to consider if social media connections are the same as prospects.


Our guest today is Paul Watts. Paul is Founder and Sales Performance Coach at Base Over Apex. As a sales trainer Paul combines effective sales strategies with personal accountability to produce results for the companies he works with.

Paul's key focus is New Business Development and Social Selling. A pillar of Paul’s training is teaching salespeople how to increase their effectiveness by finding and accessing an account’s decision makers.

In his 15+ years as a salesperson Paul received numerous sales awards for his ability to find and influence the key decision makers (such as CEOs and Senior VPs) of a potential client.

As a trainer he shares actionable examples on how to do this directly from his successful sales career. Paul trains sales professionals how to use social media such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube as part of a disciplined sales process.

Paul, welcome to the CPSA's Social Media and Tech Podcast. It's great to have you today.

Paul Watts: Thank you very much Bill. It's my pleasure.

Bill Banham: Paul, let's jump straight in with the questions because we've got a lot to cover today. Firstly, please tell us a bit about your career history up to founding Base Over Apex.

Paul Watts: Wow, how long have you got Bill?

Bill Banham: Probably not long enough.

Paul Watts: All right, let's do it very briefly then. I started out actually as an electrical and electronic engineer working for a grinding machine manufacturer in the UK. I did that for about six years before I finally realized one day that I wasn't an engineer. I remember buying a newspaper and sitting at my desk one lunch time looking through the wanted ads and the vacancies, just trying to figure out what I was going to do next. I saw a job role vacancy for a sales engineers position and I thought, "Wow, that might be cool." I went for a couple of interviews. I didn't get the first job that I applied for, but I learned my lessons quickly and I did get the second.

I actually spent the next 16 years in technical sales roles both in the UK and here in Canada. But during my last position I worked for a company who had a distribution network that was in need of sales training. I developed and delivered a sales training program which is what made me realize that I love coaching and mentoring sales people. It was then that I decided to start my own sales training company, and I haven't looked back since. I've been doing that now for about three years.

Bill Banham: What does an average work week look like for you Paul?

Paul Watts: What does an average work week look like for me now? That's an interesting question. I spend a lot of my time working with organizations, helping them to improve their sales teams performance. I'm spending a lot of time in the classroom with sales people on coaching calls, coaching sales people, which I absolutely love because I really enjoy talking to sales people. That's kind of my week sounds, what my week is like.

Bill Banham: That's a lovely lead into my next question which is, how do you work with salespeople to help them become social selling stars?

Paul Watts: How do I help salespeople become social selling stars? I guess that's a very interesting question. The main areas that I would focus on with salespeople to help them become effective in social selling I guess there's probably three main areas. The first one would be building client centric social media profiles. I'm stealing that phrase from my friend Jamie Shanks, but I would help them to build client centric social media profiles, profiles that speak to their potential future clients rather than to a potential future employer. Your LinkedIn profile is not a repository for your resume, it's a profile that should speak to a future client. We help clients, we help sales people build client centric social media profiles.

I guess the next area that we would help salespeople with would be to create social currency. What I mean by that is helping them to create content that provides great value for their potential clients because if you give great value, then you can extract great value. So creating social currency. Then ultimately helping salespeople to build social media programs. To run a successful sustainable social media program there's much more involved than just teaching someone how to use LinkedIn. There are many, many more elements at play.

Bill Banham: Let's now define what connections and prospects actually mean Paul, within the context of the sales funnel. Often when one talks about connections, people will often think of LinkedIn, but what's the bigger picture here? Can you tell me about some other networks and online content forms where a salesperson can connect and engage with others? Can for example your YouTube subscribers be considered connections on some level?

Paul Watts: This is an interesting question Bill. Let's start by defining prospects. I think it depends how you define prospects. Some people define prospects as people who have a need for their products and services and are within their geographic territory and have money. Now if this is your definition of what a prospect is, then not every connection or follower that you have in social media is a prospect. However, if you define prospects as people who have the potential to amplify your company's message to the world, and ultimately may themselves be connected to people who have a need for your products or services within your target geography and have money, then everyone who follows you or is connected to you within every social media network is a prospect. I think it really depends on how you define prospects.

Bill Banham: What would you say Paul to a salesperson who thinks it's a great idea to invite everyone in his or her email account to connect through Facebook or LinkedIn or Twitter? What are the dangers of such a scattergun approach?

Paul Watts: Interesting. What would I say to somebody who thinks it's a good idea to invite everybody from their email account to connect through social media? Well I guess first of all it depends how selective they've been in developing their email account list. But if they haven't been very selective, then they may end up with people in their social media network who they wouldn't necessarily want to be associated with. I think in that case it's important for people to learn how to sever connections in social media and on LinkedIn, because in some of the social media networks it's not very apparent how to remove connections. I think it's important that they learn how to do that in case they have inadvertently invited someone into their network who they really don't want there.

Bill Banham: Yeah, that would be a bit of a nightmare. I'm sure there's also lots of ways that one can segment contacts once they're in different social media forms as well, so Twitter lists and so on, but that would be a discussion perhaps for another time. Within the social selling ecosystem, what's the difference between a world-connected sales person Paul and a sales person with “influence” (in inverted commas)?

Paul Watts: Wow, I really like this question Bill. I mean in terms of well-connected sales people and people who have “influence” I mean you can have 20,000 connections who pay you no attention whatsoever in social media or you could have 200 connections who are actively engaged and interacting with you and your content regularly. I would suggest that it's the latter that would be a sales person with influence.

Bill Banham: How can you go about segmenting your online community generally between existing clients and partners and potential clients and partners and other key groups such as perhaps media and influences?

Paul Watts: Well I'm sorry Bill, this one, the mood is going to change a little bit now. This is a real moot point for me this week, because LinkedIn has always had a feature called tags. Not many people have actually come across this feature, and it's a real shame because it's a fantastic feature. So if you were to go into one of your connections profiles in LinkedIn, underneath their profile picture there is a tab called the relationship tab. That tab is only visible to you, and in that tab there is some wonderful CRM like features built in. For instance, you can write notes about your contacts. I could say here I'm connected to Bill Banham. Bill is from Norfolk in the UK. Bill has a podcast. I could write some notes in there, and when I log back into my account and look at your profile again, those notes are visible to me and to me only. I can write all kinds of great notes about my connections that help me to build rapport and expand my relationship with them.

Another feature that is in that relationship tab is a feature called tags. Tags, you can create custom tags. You could actually create a tag for clients. You could create a tag for key clients. You could create a tag for partners and you could create a tag for prospects. What's really wonderful about that feature is that you can then go through your network and inside LinkedIn you can filter by these custom tags. It's a phenomenal way to segment your online community.

Now why I'm really, really frustrated and upset is that LinkedIn are removing that feature. I got a notification just this week from LinkedIn to say that they're removing that feature from the free version of LinkedIn and they're pushing it up into the premium version. Now I do have the premium version but I'm very frustrated because I think that that's a wonderful feature that should be available and accessible to everybody in LinkedIn.

Bill Banham: I agree and I think it also talks to the point about the use of CRMs by salespeople. Without that kind of feature being available without paying for it, the way that you can segment and sort your data becomes a lot more difficult and perhaps it necessitates the use of other CRM tools. But again, we could chat about that a lot more another time. A component of what you teach Paul is how to get to those all important decision makers through your social selling channels. What sales channels work best for reaching those who make budgetary decisions? In the B2B space, how does the approach taken to engage in decision makers differ compared to attracting genuine interest from a wider set of job titles in target sectors?

Paul Watts: Well for me in the business to business world I would have to say that I feel LinkedIn is arguably the most powerful social media platform for reaching those key decision makers. I personally I use the filters that are in the premium edition of LinkedIn to help me to quickly identify and reach those key decision makers within target accounts that I'm looking at. Within the premium edition what you can do is you can filter on job function, seniority level, what the people are interested in, their company size, the list goes on and on. Then you can use this information and use the information in the person's profile and any potential connections that you might have in common to build an approach strategy for how you're going to reach out and connect with that individual.

In terms of engaging with decision makers I'm again going to defer to Jamie Shanks who I think puts it best. He suggests that in social media we need to become content curators. What we should be doing is try to identify influencers who our target audience are following and then curate and share their content in social media, perhaps sometimes even commenting and adding our own thoughts to this content. This way we position ourselves in the sphere that our target audience is interested in, and eventually through consistently doing this we will actually elevate our status in the space and our target audience will begin to associate us in the same sphere of influence as the people that they've been following all along.

Bill Banham: You said eventually there, and I guess it's how long is a piece of string, but if you were to give some advice to a salesperson who were curating and sharing content and commenting and trying to get in that space and they asked you how long will it take me before I'm seeing as a resource, a trusted place to go to get new opinions, are we looking at a year, are we looking at longer than that Paul?

Paul Watts: You know what? That's a great question, and I think I wish I had the answer to that. I think it really depends on how frequently that person is sharing that content in social media, which platforms we're talking about in terms of ... But I think it could take as long as 12 months, maybe even longer for somebody to actually build that kind of presence, but it certainly doesn't happen overnight.

Bill Banham: You often talk about social selling being a two-way street, a fully developed lifecycle sales model you sometime suggest brings value to both parties through a relationship, not a transaction. Talk to me a bit about that.

Paul Watts: Well in my mind social sellings are digital conversation. I believe that the best social sellers are the ones who are able to engage and communicate with their connections in a way that really allows them to build trust and credibility online without necessarily ever having to meet the people that they're interacting with. I think a large part of that credibility is based on your authenticity and your intent. Now James Muir, he speaks a lot about intent. This is an area that I myself am currently focused on trying to improve. I think it really comes down to your authenticity and your intent that really helps sales people to be seen as that trusted advisor online.

Bill Banham: Do you think that connections a salesperson has made in person or over the phone, conversations like you and I are having right now, always have more weight and greater possibility of leading to a sale compared to those people who engage purely in the virtual world?

Paul Watts: Yeah, personally I think so. But I also think it really depends largely on the products or services that are being offered. But I personally think we've gone a little too far into the digital world and I'm seeing more and more sales people hiding behind technology. I think in the future, in the not too distant future we're going to see a bit of a course correction on that. I think we're going to see more sales people getting back out, I hope we're going to see more salespeople back out face to face in front of clients because I believe sales are made face-to-face, toe-to-toe, knee-to-knee.

Bill Banham: We're coming towards the end of this particular show. Before we wrap up just a couple more questions for you today Paul. This next question kind of summarizes everything else we've been speaking about. It's the basis of the whole episode here today. In your opinion are social media connections the same as prospects?

Paul Watts: In my opinion, in my world yes, but again I think it depends how you define prospects, but in my world I'm looking to use my network to amplify my message into the marketplace. In my world yes, my social media connections and followers are prospects. But I think it really depends how you define prospects, but in my world yes.

Bill Banham: Awesome. Thank you. This takes us towards the end of our podcast. Just finally how can our listeners learn more about you and connect with you Paul?

Paul Watts: Well Bill, they can connect with me on LinkedIn. All I would ask is, if they want to connect with me on LinkedIn, can they just please send a personalized invite, letting me know how they found me and I will always accept a personalized invite.

Bill Banham: Okay, thank you very much. You've been an awesome guest today. Thank you. Thank you for joining us.

Paul Watts: Thank you for having me on the show Bill. It's been my pleasure.

Bill Banham: Listeners until our next time. I've been your host, Bill Banham. This has been the Social Media and Tech Podcast brought to you by the CPSA. Thank you very much for listening.

About the Canadian Professional Sales Association

Since 1874, we’ve been developing and serving sales professionals by providing programs, benefits, and resources that help you sell more, and sell smarter.

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