I had the good fortune to be a guest on a recent #SalesEU Twitter Chat and Hangout On Air hosted by Martha Neumeister and Richard Young in which we discussed the topic of sales hacking. The conversation spanned social selling, tools, and methods (i.e. hacks) for salespeople to accomplish more with less.
What sparked the idea of sales hacking was this growing feeling that hacking was becoming a part of the everyday efforts of salespeople, marketers, and businesses. Just search sales hacking, and you will see what I mean. There are websites, conferences and courses dedicated to the idea.
The word hack is increasingly being used to garner attention because it conveys the idea of a shortcut or quick win — or even innovation and disruption. Rightfully, there is skepticism. Was this just another combination of buzzwords like Big Data or Social Selling? Maybe. It depends on whom you ask.
Buzzwords or not, there is something afoot. People and companies are increasingly facing the necessity to do more with less.
Companies are jettisoning employees and not replacing them — leaving the workload to be absorbed by the remaining employees. They have to produce more, faster, and more efficiently in order to survive and compete.
During the chat and hangout, attendees raised the question, “Aren’t some of these hacks just tools or social selling techniques?” In some ways, the answer is yes but my take on sales hacking and hacking overall is much broader.
There has always been the application of innovative methods and tools to do more with less, but we are seeing the pace of adoption increase dramatically. As you can see by the chart below, it took 38 years for radio to reach 50 million homes — and only 50 days for the Draw Something App to reach 50 million users.
In my grandfather’s lifetime, he saw the introduction of the automobile, manned space flight, eradication of several diseases, and people walking on the moon, all of which took place over nearly a century. Just think about what we’ve seen happen ourselves, just in the past decade.
This dramatic pace of change has also meant consumers have access to an increasing amount of information and associated knowledge that are empowering them in their purchase decisions. There was a time when sellers held all the cards, but the pendulum has swung the other way. Now consumers have the upper hand and can exert their power during transactions.
With this shift in knowledge and power, salespeople and marketers have had to adopt social selling activities in order to influence those decisions through content marketing and thought leadership. They have also used social selling techniques to increase their referrals and avoid relying on the dreaded cold call by leveraging their networks.
It is those trends and activities that I would argue are sales hacks. Consumers are using them and salespeople and marketers, as well. We now seem to take for granted the powers and capabilities for researching or influencing purchase decisions. We understand the new reality.
This rant by Louis C.K. is talking about “Everything is amazing, and nobody’s happy” and illustrates what I mean.
Consumers empowerment means salespeople and marketers must enhance their capabilities, expand their knowledge, and increasingly use new tools and techniques (i.e. hacks) to engage and influence purchase decisions. While that may sound like doing business has become more challenging, we need to remember the past.
I used to work in film and television and the only way you could land production work was by who you knew and who, by extension, they knew. However, you didn’t know whom they knew unless you asked them. Over the last decade, we now have the luxury of social networks that reveal who our connections’ connections are. We can ask for introductions and referrals — the genesis of social selling but more simply a new way of getting a referral, one of the earliest sales hacks. We just don’t seem to appreciate the dramatic influence that social networks have brought about.
How did we keep track of our customers and our prospects before? How could we confidently forecast revenue? How could we ensure that we did not miss opportunities? CRM solutions were themselves early sales hacks, but we don’t see them that way at all today. Again, we take for granted the new capabilities and ways of accessing information.
We forget that a single iPhone has more computing power than the computer that landed a man on the moon.
I think we can all agree that we can now work faster and produce more with just a mobile phone, a laptop, and productivity software tools than we could with a roomful of computing power back in the middle of the last century.
Let me add that sales hacking does not necessarily depend on tools or technology. In fact, I would argue that it is more about a mindset. We need to remind ourselves of the power and capabilities that we now have — but continue to be observant so that we don’t miss sales hacking advancements and innovations that are on the horizon. Being forward-looking will enable salespeople, marketers, and companies to keep pace with the change and remain competitive.
Illustration source: http://www.digitalbuzzblog.com/infographic-2013-mobile-growth-statistics/