The Challenges and Opportunities for the Sales Industry

April 28, 2014


Let’s jump back to twelve years ago when I was at Eloqua when I was handed me the worst sales territory imaginable. Many companies were starting to consider the strength of social relationships (“social proximity”) when assigning accounts. I didn’t have any social capital or social proximity to the contacts in these accounts and many of them were not a good fit for the product I was selling. I knew that I wasn’t going to be the number one sales rep in 2012 because I didn’t have the opportunity in my territory. In fact, halfway through my year I wasn't even close to making quota. I asked myself, ‘why put all of my effort into something that’s not possible?’ That’s when I decided to set a goal that wasn’t directly relevant to how I’d be measured in my job.

During that time, I had also gotten clarity on my passion which is to enrich other people’s careers and elevate the profession of sales. I read everything I could get my hands on about Social Selling, I listened to everyone I could find who had an intelligent point of view, and I talked to as many people about the new world as I possibly could. I started training 100 sales professionals at Eloqua on everything social: social research, social networking, social selling and social proximity as a territory model. That was when I started to get noticed by industry experts for what is now coined “social selling;" in fact, CEB used my profile as an example of a role model for Social Selling.

The day that Oracle announced it was acquiring Eloqua was my “FML” moment. At 5:30 a.m., my phone rang with news of the acquisition. My first text was at 5:40 am to my No. 1 client, It said, “I’m sorry.” I knew the acquisition threw Salesforce for a loop. But then the President of Oracle Mark Hurd came up with an idea I couldn’t refuse. Because Oracle was dealing with a large increase of new salespeople, he wanted to build a sales school that was in part based on my social selling techniques. The idea of going to work for the enemy was a hard sell. But I thought, “if I could go into a $37 billion dollar, 35-year-old company that didn’t know how to spell ‘social’ and make an impact, that’s big.” So I took the bait.

When I left Oracle I asked myself: How do I reinvent myself and what am I going to do next? I knew I never wanted to run sales but I didn’t have clarity on what it was, and that’s hard. Do I teach 20,000 at one company why they should do socially selling? Or do I cast a wider net and teach the world about socially selling? I decided I wanted to do it for many. So I ate a big bowl of courage for breakfast and launched my own consultant company

The truth is, I should have left months earlier because it was a mismatch the entire time. I had spent the last ten years helping transform the way companies market to the modern buyer, but you can’t change a culture if they’re not willing to evolve with technology. I spent an amazing 10 months and 17 days at Oracle and I’m proud of what I was able to accomplish. At Eloqua I trained 100 reps. At Oracle, 23,000. What’s next 200,00? Maybe 2 million? We are at the tip of a spear of creating and defining a new space in the sales world and I get to be a part of that revolution. If I didn’t get thrown a curveball early on, I wouldn’t be doing what I love to do.

The best way to see how social selling can impact your sales process is by doing it. I leave you with three tips to grow your career as a sales professional:

1. Invest in your professional brand.

That requires really thinking about who you are, what you care about, why you do the things you do and what subject matter expertise you have. What you publish on the web is who you are. You are what you eat / you are what you tweet.

2. Business cards are LinkedIn connections and new people to follow on Twitter.

I encourage people to socially surround the buyer, the buying community and their sphere of influence. Who does that buyer trust? Where does that buyer learn? To whom is that buyer connected with? What LinkedIn Groups is that buyer a member of?

3. If you want a different job start doing that job.

You are not going to get that job experience until you start doing it. So if you want to move from sales to marketing start demonstrating your marketing expertise start blogging, start a podcast, ask if you can help with a campaign, create Twitter lists. Don’t wait until you get the job to do the job. Do the job that you want and you are more likely to get the job.