Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Conversations with Anneke Seley, a Sales 2.0 and social selling thought leader, surfer, questioner of the status quo

As the thought leader of the Sales 2.0 and social selling methodology, a surfer, twelfth employee of Oracle and CEO and founder of Phone Works, Anneke Seley questions the status quo, promotes sales 2.0 best practices and social selling. Her team at Phone Works, improves the operations of sales organizations ranging from global multinationals to start-up organizations.

This interview with Anneke is the twelfth in our series about learning, games, social media, crowd-sourcing, and work performance.

RD> First, on behalf of the PAKRA team, we would like to thank you for being completely instrumental in us selling in the Sales vertical and also being a mentor and adviser to us.
AS> PAKRA’s time is now. I’m glad to collaborate.

RD> So! Are you a gamer?
AS> I play scrabble through Facebook. I am definitely a crossword puzzle fan. I was introduced to Kinect by my cousin’s kid last Thanksgiving, particularly the Dance game. I can see myself playing this especially in the cold weather. I’m a Farmville wife. Once in a while, I look over Jack’s (my husband Jack Oswald) shoulder and he lets me play with some sheep and fertilizer.
RD> He does? Jack constantly plays Farmville, at least according to his Facebook posts. Working with bio ammonia in real life – well! He has to live his brand in a game. We all should live our brand in games.

RD> When I first met you in virtual space, I was very intrigued with the tagline of your personal brand on LinkedIn: "Questioner of the status quo" --- Why is it important to you to question status quo?
AS> It’s important to me because it is very easy to get comfortable with the way things are. If we don’t challenge ourselves, if we don’t change, if we don’t evolve, then we don’t improve. We don’t progress.
RD> So! Is the challenge and change that you are referring to only in your personal sphere, or are you also translating that in your work ethic and customers?
AS> It is not just about my personal life but also I use this mantra in the business world. More importantly, I am always looking for opportunities to improve organizational performance, improve a function, improve a group of people and their skills sets, improve business processes, implement new technologies. There is always room for improvement. Until and unless we question the status quo and the way things are, we cannot evolve nor progress.

RD> This brings us to Sales 2.0. Of course you are THE thought leader in both practice and theory. A quick question about that: Because there are many functional silos that customers have to navigate, what is the start and end step of a sales process in the Sales 2.0 world?
AS> Traditionally we think of things in very structured buckets. In today’s world, that does not work any more. There is so much interconnectedness and collaboration. There is across-the-board customer engagement. That is what sales is all about. The sales process can start differently for different people. It can start online; it can start with social media. It starts where the customer engages with your company. Hopefully, the process never ends. In fact it is more important after the sale as the customer is well qualified to continue to buy either different products and services or additional products and services. A lot of companies have different functions - new business reps and reps that focus on customer successes and nurture the existing customer base.
RD> Do you think that there is one story to be had? For instance, a Sales VP wants to get some part of the sales cycle done so they make a compromise to complete that part or should there be specialization in the Sales process?
AS> I think it is hard for one person to participate and play the entire Sales process role and play each part really well. It is very hard to manage an engagement through to the closing process, especially as one’s company grows, leading to the need to specialize. Also, people tend to be better at one part of the sales cycle than another part of the cycle. Some are better at engaging customers early on and some are better at closing. Specialization will happen.

RD> If you look at your own experience and the experience of your 300+ clients, what are the key factors to both deploy Sales 2.0 principles appropriately and to sustain it? In other words, what are the critical success factors for sustainable user adoption to Sales 2.0?
AS> I think many organizations try to change things very quickly involving too many people. I truly believe that if organizations start small, hand select and involve a small group of people who are very innovation-oriented and who are excited about trying something new and improve their productivity and in turn of course make more money, it is a better start. In my own career at Oracle, there was no way we could have come in and said, “we are going to implement an inside sales team globally and now you have to share your accounts.”
- The trust has to be built; the experiences have to be had. The field reps had to see that inside sales would not ruin their customer relationships and would only enhance the relationships. And once the field sees more revenue to be had, then the middle adopters come more easily.
- Also, you need the right executive sponsorship.
- Metrics and process are not intuitive and this makes it hard for people to rally around it.
- Also the implementation has to be consistent and requires lots of discipline.

RD> I also find that processes, metrics and a visible accountability system –are not liked by many folks in different levels of management (especially first-line managers, supervisors). That is one the biggest resistance we find in users adopting our PAKRA system.
AS> Gerhard Gschwandtner of Selling Power Magazine quotes Warren Buffet: "It's only when the tide goes out that you learn who's been swimming naked." That explains it. When I interviewed Stu Schmidt (formerly at Cisco WebEx) for my book he said that it took him a year to get the sales team to really embrace a new Sales 2.0-style sales process, based on their buyers’ buying cycles. That first year, the intensive focus was to get the first line manages on board. It takes practice.
Also, there is a perception that in some accounts, especially those located here in Silicon Valley, who fancy themselves as being innovative and creative, that if one implements process and metrics the creativity will somehow be hampered.
RD> You are now going down my memory lane of the entire Lean and Six Sigma Operations life that I led prior to PAKRA. There is some truth to that last belief because there are some people who like “check-marks” and who make it very bureaucratic. In fact, one of the things I always point out to my team, “over my dead body will you collect data on things that do not give us direction to improve and change.”
AS> You’re right. There has to be a structure that allows room for creativity to blossom. But with no structure at all then all the creativity in the world is not going to be productive in the business world.

RD> How do you define social selling?
AS> Essentially the same way that I define Sales 2.0. It is a more efficient and effective way of selling and buying for both the seller and the buyer, enabled by technology – in the case of social selling, using social technology.

RD> You are involved with Social Selling University. Tell me more about it.
AS> It is a program sponsored by InsideView. It includes in-person workshops, webinars and online content for sales professionals at all levels. It is being rolled out this month. I will be speaking on March 24. It is the first of its kind to help companies understand the opportunity of social selling and develop strategies and implement a social media process and metrics. My particular interest is in developing a track for executives. There are great examples of grassroots activities, but almost all are at the individual level. The opportunity is to capture the best practices such that we can enable and scale sales, marketing and customer success at organizations.

RD> Do you think the accountability of sales managers changes with social selling implementation? I perceive that the organizational structure to manage the process of acquiring and retaining a customer becomes flatter. Do you agree?
AS> I recently read an online post where this question was posed: “Why are we hiring social media managers? We don’t have email managers, or fax managers. This is just another channel.” This is just approaching a customer via different channels. Is that what you are asking?
RD> Well! Let me give you an example. Let’s say I work for a company that sells in different verticals. I sell to the Education market. I belong to a LinkedIn group, where a prospect wants something in the Healthcare vertical, which I know that my company also sells. Right now, I am not incentivized to promote that information and it ends up being a lost sale for my company. The chances of me encountering that request are much higher than before. I see an opportunity to create a new incentive and accountability structure that does not let this opportunity die. Who is held accountable for taking actions on these encounters?
AS> It takes a village or a corporation to communicate with customers. Lots of people are using social media channels and they have a higher chance to meet a buyer. Is everyone then a salesperson? I absolutely agree that the organization become flatter. gives the example that in Chatter, someone who is an entry-level salesperson can now chat with Marc Benioff because some online engagement allows them to do so. It takes away the hierarchy. Social technology is the great equalizer.

RD> What kind of resistance are you seeing when you talk to your clients about effectively implementing social media?
AS> There are several objections:
- We see skepticism that social media is for kids and personal views and there is no place for it in business and waste of salesperson’s time
- We see the lack of strategic initiatives. There are more grass-root level initiatives that are not scalable and repeatable across the organization
- We have poor metrics management, as most don’t know what to measure to appropriately monitor success
- We see the need for a process that is integrated to the sales workflow and sales process

RD> How do you learn?
AS> I ask questions. I read and I write. I have conversations. I go to the theater. I put myself in sometimes challenging and uncomfortable situations. I practice and I repeat.

RD> Do you think the current training providers and practices are meeting the needs of today’s salespeople especially in the context of Sales 2.0?
AS> My perception is that: like in Sales 2.0, if the idea is to customize the message to the buyer in different parts of the sales cycle, then should we not develop learning content and deliver to the learner when they need it in the learning cycle and deliver the right information at the right time in the right medium - the way they want to engage in learning? There is a huge opportunity here. There is also an opportunity to introduce process and metrics in training content. I think giving people a fun and engaging way to learn the content is important. And I also think that this is how most learners, me included, want to learn and practice. All of this leads to a huge opportunity and that's where I think PAKRA is positioned well.

RD> You have a career where it seems that you do all kinds of fun and innovative things driven by this “we’ll figure it out” attitude. What is next for you? Give us an exclusive scoop.
AS> I’m learning to snowboard. My friend Sarah Cooper started this company called Adventurous in San Francisco that uses the Endless Slope and provides a really cool way to learn snowboarding. It’s a technology enabled training device. It is all about muscle memory and I am completely hooked on it.
RD> I am checking out this site as we speak… This looks awesome! You can avoid the cold, dry wind, and snow and still you can get this simulated experience. This is really cool.

RD> Games! Simulations! Practice! Learning! Grand finale to our chat. Thank you for your time Anneke. This was most lovely.
AS> You are welcome! Talk to you soon.

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