The 6 Basic Core Skills of Social Media
These are the very basics of social media I call the Core. They all start with C.
They are a more detailed analysis of the 6 Core Skills mentioned in What
These are the basic skills of social media and apply to any social media platform:
- Call to Action
Skill 1: Complete. The obvious rookie to social media is the one who never even puts their picture on their profile and wonders why nothing is happening. The next sign of a rookie is a picture that is so small or of so many other people that nobody can see who you are. Follow the 7 P’s:
First define your Purpose: Why use social media? Many want to follow someone famous, or catch the latest news on Twitter in 140 characters, or just connect with their friends and family. Others want to listen to their customers, promote a good cause, grow their business by generating interest or leads, gain a following, or become a thought leader. If you know the why, you can figure out the what and the how.
Second choose your Platform(s): LinkedIn is for business, my platform of choice. Facebook is for personal use and consumers, though many consumer companies use it well for business. Blogs are the true platform for serious authors and thought-leaders. Google+ is the key to your message showing up in the search engine owned by the same company. Twitter amplifies and broadcasts your message. Pinterest and Instagram promote the images of your thought and expression. Each platform plays specifically to your purpose, or lack of purpose. Choose wisely.
Third form your Plan: There is a lot of learning that comes first. I recommend spending time searching Google for How-To’s, Best Practices, Tips, Tricks, Top Mistakes, etc. The one article that really opened my eyes to the light of perfecting my original blog www.KenKrogue.com was 31 Days to Build a Better Blog by Darren Rowse of ProBlogger. This got me serious about my social media adventures. It gave me a plan; 1 thing to do per day for a month.
This was my inspiration as I wrote my own Forbes article called 31 Twitter Tips: How To Use Twitter Tools And Twitter Best Practices For Business that has become a top article globally on the keywords like Twitter Tips, How To Use Twitter, Twitter Tools, and Twitter Best Practices. I did a similar one on LinkedIn Tips and one on Social Nurturing that might be helpful as you plan. Set down your plan and goals in writing to accomplish your purpose.
Fourth Prepare your resources: Once you have your purpose, platform, and plan. Now start preparing your resources for the other social media skills and stages. Most important is continuing to prepare your knowledge and experience by daily and weekly study of thought leaders and what is working. I will mention resources at later skill levels and stages.
Fifth Prioritize your resources: Many social media platforms allow you to Tag, Circle, Group, or List people by categories. These categories should reflect your purpose and plan. LinkedIn connections should be targeted to your market and community. Facebook Groups allow you to follow, like, and share with likeminded people by hobby, interest, locale, etc.
Sixth complete your Profile: Now you are ready to begin using social media. Take the time to incorporate all you have done into the structure of your profile. As already mentioned, use a nice closeup picture so people will recognize you. If your purpose on LinkedIn is to promote your business, then don’t make it look like an online resume that is trying to get you a job. My good friend Koka Sexton, the #1 Social Salesperson in the World has curated his Epic list of LinkedIn Profile Tips… start there.
Seventh Persist: Consistently work your plan.
Weekly is a minimum, daily is ideal. The reason so many people feel that too much time is wasted on social media is because they aren’t accomplishing their purpose, or they have no purpose. That is the definition of wasted time.
There are many tools like BufferApp and Hootsuite and TweetDeck that provide incredible leverage so that very little time is wasted.
Persist until you complete your Profile. Discipline yourself to define your Purpose, choose your Platform, make a Plan, and Prepare and Prioritize your resources.
Skill 2: Content. There are several levels of content you need to deliver.
First is the content for your own profile. If you are a good writer, speaker, or videographer, you can generate your own content. If not, you can do just fine by curating, or shaping and promoting other peoples content.
As you get more advanced you learn to pull all of the skills and content together in specific campaigns to promote your purpose. Even more advanced skills and influence allow you to collaborate with other strong content generators to dramatically enhance your overall effect. Follow the 6 B’s:
Your Bio. Tell the world who you are. This is your elevator pitch. When someone asks, “So tell me about you.” You have 30 seconds… go! If it is on Twitter you have 3 seconds and 140 characters to do the same thing.
Your Background. Why should somebody believe you? Do you have credibility? Do you inspire confidence? Are you real? Share pictures and videos. Show (don’t just tell) where you came from: your family, your friends, your education, your work experience, your hobbies, your passions, your mistakes, your successes. What have you done?
Your Backstory. This is the deeper part of your background, your struggles, your growth, your setbacks, your success. This is your heart and soul. Don’t be afraid to share some of this to your audience so you become real.
Your Beliefs. Share your own unique slant on things, your opinions, what makes you unique. Don’t be afraid to open up. I’m not a fan of political correctness, because it of itself is too politically charged and skewed, it doesn’t allow people to be themselves. Don’t be afraid to stir the pot a bit by speaking out. A little controversy is ok. The best conversations are when you take a stand with a strong opinion. My Death of SEO article was number one on all of Forbes for a week because I believe the whole profession of grey or black hat search engine optimizers who game the Google system are a blight and I knowingly or unknowingly called them out. Google rewards real great content, not fake content. I stated it and stirred a hornets nest with over 500 comments. Be yourself. Be you. Most of all… be real.
Social media is about real content.
Provide a Bridge. The word rapport comes from a similar root to the word rappel. Rappel is to throw down a line and climb down a mountain or cliff. Rapport is to throw a line across to another person. It is a common connection. Some of my specialties are inside sales and social selling. I also like to get sales leaders and marketers talking. I call this a bridge. The best conversations I have on social media is when I constructively connect to people that I don’t normally connect to within my everyday communities.
I also recommend bridging or moving from passive media to more assertive media. Tweets or Instagram pictures are passive, personal messages are more assertive. Moving to a LinkedIn connection request from an email is a bridge. Scheduling a phone call is more assertive, meeting face-to-face is even more assertive.
State the Benefits for following you.
Why should someone join your conversation?
What’s in it for them?
What memories, knowledge, gossip, ideas, prestige, or career advancement do you offer?
My personal blog took off to number one in the world on the topic of inside sales when I decided I would give away every tip, trick, best practice, and idea freely. In fairness most of my fellow thought leaders in the space make a living doing this, so they need to hold back their core value and only provide teasers for free. For the core they charge a lot of money. My purpose has been to help grow industries: first inside sales and sales acceleration, then to provide a framework to assist anyone accomplish their core purpose in using social media.
I quickly learned that all that really matters is value.
Value is key.
What value do you offer?
What stories can you tell?
What content can you share to help others?
Don’t preach… coach. Don’t teach… mentor. Help people do… not just know. Respond when others ask questions. Don’t just tell why and what, show them how. Think of everything you do as a blog. Whether it is WordPress, or LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter, Pinterest or Instragram, YouTube or Vimeo. It is all a blog. Be consistent, be relevant, be real.
There are more advanced content strategies like the ACQUIRETM model of Social Selling, Social Nurturing, and the 7 Levels of Content.
Skill 3: Community. Now that you have completed your profile and filled it with your content, it’s time to target your communities. What is a community? A community is a group of people with common experience or interest:
- Hobby Groups
- Networking Groups
- Common Passions (aka Mac owners)
A good strategy as you join or rejoin communities is to start with your past, move to the present, and plan for the future. The best communities are those that already exist with common interest or common experience; they may just need boundaries put around them.
I focus on business communities, but these Core Skills apply just as readily for individuals, families, non-profits, churches, gamers, or hobbyists.
My friend Trish Bertuzzi formed a LinkedIn Group years ago called Inside Sales Experts. As of this writing there are 38,752 members who are active in the inside sales profession. It’s the strongest single networking group in the inside sales space, the fastest growing segment of sales and marketing. As one of the top consultants in the space, she tapped a river of need and put a name and rules of engagement to it. Rising trends tend to create communities.
We at InsideSales.com recently coined a name for a new industry we call Sales Acceleration. Companies or applications that offer products, services, or solutions that increase the velocity of the sales process. It is now an exciting new community.
Community Resources. Just the past week I decided to reconnect with my former classmates at the United States Naval Academy. Where did I go?
My yearbook… A yearbook not only gives you a list, but pictures, events, memories, and written words of advice from people long since grown up. There is nothing more fun than sharing the comment some goofy teenager made in your yearbook decades ago.
Community content builds immediate rapport, common purpose, common experience.
I scanned in sections from an old poster from Woods Cross High School from my junior year when our marching band celebrated it’s prowess nationally. Those pictures on Facebook sparked dozens and dozens of comments from my old classmates.
Find content that naturally appeals to your community.
The internet rewards extreme strategies; business that are the ultimate in stack it deep and sell it cheap like Amazon, or tightly focused boutique stores around one specific kind of product like Organic Wheatgrass Growing Kits.
I learned this when I decided to write my blog, www.KenKrogue.com, about inside sales. In 2007 inside sales was a niche, now it’s a canyon; the fastest growing segment of sales. I went to Google in 2005 and typed in the keyword phrase ‘inside sales’ and there wasn’t a single competitor, not a single Google Adword, but there were 40,000 searches a month and tens of thousands of companies hiring inside sales reps.
An inside sales community was forming.
Choose your target community to accomplish your purpose.
Skill 4: Connect.
Connecting to other people is a skill all it’s own. When I first started as a newbie on my own LinkedIn account years ago I tried to connect to people everywhere, whether they knew me or not. I just about got banned because people didn’t know me and wouldn’t connect. I soon learned that to connect I need an existing connection or relationship. They needed to be aware of who I was or they wouldn’t approve my connection.
I learned to bridge from other media, messaging, or meetings to an immediate follow up in LinkedIn. When I received or sent an email to a person not on my LinkedIn I mentioned, “Oh, by the way, let’s connect on LinkedIn, shall we?” I did the same thing with voice messages, or at events when I received somebodies business card.
Now when I speak or write something new I get dozens of LinkedIn Invitations within minutes. With help from my team we try to respond to every one.
Our research at InsideSales.com continues to reinforce that it takes about 5 interactions before somebody will think of you on their own. Here is a typical interaction:
1- I had a conversation at a trade show, and received a business card.
2- I went back that night to my hotel and reached out by email and asked if I could connect on LinkedIn.
3- I would reach out by LinkedIn with a personalized message in my Connection request.
4- I tagged their account and made notes so I would remember them.
5- Shortly thereafter I would follow up with a personalized message that would start with a question based on the interaction we already had.
I just had a family reunion from my mother’s side of the family and I took my laptop with me and we built a Facebook Group with all of the pictures we took at the reunion as well as Photo Albums with pictures and stories of our grandfather William E. Baker. This got many of the aunts, uncles, and cousins to immediately connect, some I hadn’t interacted with for years. Some even joined Facebook just to be part of the conversation… more conversions to the gospel of social media!
One of the key ways to get people to connect is to offer content around a mutual common interest or experience. Even more powerful is where all who participate shares content.
Start connecting with people in your target community.
Skill 5: Comment.
Comments are the basic element of interaction on social media. Comments start engagement.
Politicians have a rule from years ago when people still really wrote letters and mailed them through the US Postal Service. They learned that somebody who was willing to write a letter was worth about 2500 people who felt the same way but didn’t have the commitment to actually write and send a letter. Social media is much easier, and therefore probably isn’t worth 2500 people, but it is still very valuable to make and receive comments. A comment is an extremely valuable way to measure opinion and engagement.
I compared the value of comments on Forbes to views and social sharing in an article called The Currency Of Digital Media: Views, Shares, and Comments where I found a comment is worth 472 views.
How should you comment?
Be thoughtful. Show that you have read or viewed their content. Don’t just make what I call a “drive-by comment.” Ask a compelling question or make a strong statement that begs a response and starts a conversation.
A conversation is the key to engagement. A Conversation is two-way comments going back and forth.
How do you get others to comment?
- Ask a question.
- Request feedback.
- Stir the pot.
- State a strong opinion.
- Prime the pump with a first comment.
Practice by making comments on Facebook posts, blogs, books reviews on Amazon, and articles on Forbes. As you do so invite the author or other commenters to respond to your comment, if they do you now have a conversation, which is the measure of good comments.
Skill 6: Call to Action.
A Call to Action is key to using social media to accomplish your purpose. The simplest call to action is to ask a question or to elicit a comment.
Next would be to get someone to follow you, friend you, share your, pin you or to fill out a form to capture an email address, or to bridge to another media like email, or the phone.
If your purpose is generating leads, a call to action would include offering a valuable piece of content in exchange for a name, phone number, and email address. The offers you make should align with your purpose.
If your purpose is supporting a cause, a call to action would be to join a group, or perhaps to make a donation, or provide a referral.
Practice by asking people to do something.
Once you have the 6 Core Skills of Social Media under your belt you are officially ready to join and shape the world conversation.
Now you can begin progressing through the rest of the 7 Levels of Social Media and convert others to the cause you espouse.
What is a Social Media Missionary in Business?
Guy Kawasaki is regarded as the father of evangelism business. It is a religious term. And with religious fervor he was the Chief Evangelist of Apple. He got the job through his Stanford roommate and was Chief Evangelist for four years. He drove loyalty to Macintosh computers by converting followers to the gospel of Apple. It worked so well that this loyalty is akin to a religious belief and carries on unabated today.
In his books The Macintosh Way, The Art of the Start and How to Drive Your Competition Crazyhe praises evangelism as the act of wanting to make the world a better place by building a critical mass of support for a technology or product.
His latest theme book Enchantment extends his evangelistic crusade. It is done out of pure belief and hope, doing it for money may even offend the pure evangelist.
So it is with being a Social Media Missionary.
You can’t help but share the gospel of social media. You are drawn to it. You love it. It doesn’t work without converting friends, family, and following celebrities, colleagues, and business prospects.
Some regard it as a mission, a crusade, others aren’t offended at all by huge amounts of money that come their way as a result of being a social media missionary.
The whole point of social media is sharing. Nobody would spend so much time on Facebook, LinkedIn, Blogs, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest, or Instagram if there wasn’t some deep passion driving the process.
The problem with social media is that it is surrounded with hype and chaos; many don’t know why they do it, what to do, or how to do it.
A lot of people are worried about safety on the internet, for them, their kids, or their business. Business leaders, parents, and some children are worried about wasting time on social media, and many, without a productive plan or purpose waste incredible amounts of time.
Others listen to social media to check the pulse of their reputation or gauge the loyalty of customers. Conversations are going on, the question is whether they will participate in the conversation that is happening with or without them. Proper conversion to the gospel of social media allows one to participate in and shape conversations around the world.
What is often lacking is a clear strategy.
Here are 7 Levels of What to do to Be a Social Media Missionary:
Level 1: Core. Most people don’t get past Level 1, or the Core Skills, of which there are 6 that we will focus on:
- Call to Action
Level 2: Coach.
Now that you have the basics down it is time to preach the gospel of social media. Now it is time to share. Coaches are more powerful than teachers because a coach teaches, demonstrates, models, provides feedback, and stays with their subject over an extended period of time to make sure they know how to do the skills, not just understand the skills… big difference.
Teachers help pupils understand.
Coaches help their players learn… they share what they know how to do.
Sharing is what social is all about.
Help someone learn to do all 6 Core Skills, now you are a Coach.
Level 3: Curator.
What a strange word. Where do you find a Curator? In a museum, or an art gallery. They arrange content , usually from other people. They shape the flow of people to optimize and maximize enjoyment and education. They arrange content to increase value and engagement.
I noticed years ago on my own blog that people would read one article and leave.
I wasn’t giving them anything after the foyer of my own content gallery other than a side door right out of the building. I started listing my favorite articles I wanted them to enjoy. They would start at the top and read 3 or 4 more. These articles gained the most views by default. Some avid inside sales professionals would come back and read every thing I wrote. I learned to curate my own content to maximize value for my readers.
Forbes offers their Most Popular articles across the entire site as well in every section. People come to Forbes from all directions, and they stay and browse and enjoy. Other publications, authors, data feeds, and site crawlers from around the world to come to watch what is trending on Forbes and add similar content on their own site.
Guy Kawasaki was a founder in massive curation website called Alltop.com, in which his staff summarizes all of the top headlines on the web; a perfect way to have a voice in shaping what is seen of other peoples content. Many people get their news from Alltop.com
An online Curator can shape thought all around the world.
Curate other people’s content on your own social media platform aligned with your purpose.
Level 4: Contributor.
A Contributor writes or generates content instead of arranging content from other people. Forbes.com calls their non-staff writers Contributors. They contribute well-written content in categories with which they have expertise. For years those who wrote in a recurring fashion for print magazines or newspapers were called columnists, because they wrote enough to fit in one column.
The most powerful content rides a wave of existing need or traffic.
Divert a river, don’t dig a well.
Write about trends or needs that already exist instead of trying to cause a trend. Google is probably the most powerful river of existing traffic that there is. The Google Keyword Planner Tool will tell you the amount of searches that exist for any given keyword per month. You can see if anyone is actually searching on or caring about what you want to write about.
Celebrities or big name brands or great ideas already have traffic flowing, I call them a shark.
Swim with the sharks.
There are two kinds of fish that swim with sharks. Pilot fish swim with sharks and don’t get eaten because they give benefits back to the shark. Remoras or sucker fish attach themselves to the shark for a free ride and give nothing back, they are a parasite.
Always give back. Be a contributor.
The Internet has lessened our attention span and many find that an article with 400 to 600 words is about ideal for a blog; the key is consistency. Writing weekly is about the minimum cadence for people to want to follow you. This blogging mindset is important.
Write an article aligned with your purpose or take a picture that is interesting to your target community and share it.
Level 5: Campaigner.
A Campaigner is someone who can pull it all together with a clear strategy and cause action, lots of action. There are seven steps you have to address for a strong campaign, I call it the CLOSERS Model.
C = Campaign strategy
L = List or leads in your target community
O = Offer your valuable content
S = Skill in your writing or content generation
E = Effort, lots of effort
R = Reporting on the results you cause
S = Systemize with process and automation
The Campaign is the strategy, based on your purpose and plan. Without this you have chaos.
The List is probably the biggest key to the Campaigner level. The bigger and better the list of followers, the more powerful the results. A Lead has need, a List has interest. A Lead comes to you, while you target a List with your content. A Lead is typically someone who responds to the content in a Campaign.
Setup a full campaign with a strategy, a list, an offer, your own skill in Curation or Contribution, lots of effort, reporting on your results, and a system that you can duplicate in the future.
LEVEL 6: Collaborator.
Now that your campaigns generate results, it is time to increase the effect by aligning with other social media missionaries.
My favorite story about collaboration is Lindsey Stirling, the dancing dubstep violinist with 700 million views that is one of the most popular stars on YouTube. Her most popular original music video Crystallize alone has 104,152,469 views. Crystallize – Lindsey Stirling (Dubstep Violin Original Song)
Her backstory was that three years ago she was thrown off America’s Got Talent and rejected by normal music labels as too different. No market … Wrong!
She tried her hand at YouTube and did her first Collab music video with Devin Graham, known as Devin SuperTramp; the master videographer. Her followers followed Devin, and his followers followed her, a true win-win.
Devin had already made a huge name for himself on the team with the Orabrush videos that went viral, claims to have finally solved bad breath, and drove sales through every Walmart in America. Clients soon followed like Ford and Mountain Dew and crazy extreme video projects like filming the Worlds largest rope swing (24 million views!)
She tapped followers from well known video game communities with her rendition of music themes from Zelda , Pokemon, Halo, Assassins Creed as well as lovers of Phantom of the Opera, Star Wars and Mission Impossible.
Watch closely for more from Lindsey Stirling and Devin SuperTramp!
Level 7: Consultant. The final level is the one that helps others through the 7 Levels of Social Media. Now that you Coach others through the Core Skills and have proven you can Curate, Contribute, Campaign, and Collaborate, it is time to Consult to help individuals and organizations do the same. When I consult with a client I ask “What would I do if I were you?” Then I help them accomplish their purpose with a plan. I guide them through the pitfalls and accelerate their learning curve.
Many of my friends like Jamie Shanks and Jill Rowley make a full time living consulting and spreading the gospel of social media. Others evangelists like Koka Sexton, the product manager at LinkedIn on the Sales Navigator product, share their own flavor of the 7 Levels of Social Media to help people take advantage of their products and services.
7 Principles Lindsey Stirling Can Teach The Best of Us
1- Divert a River, Don’t Dig a Well
She knows there is a huge river of traffic already flowing from fans of Skyrim, Star Wars, Assassins Creed, Zelda, Halo, Pokemon, Lord of the Rings, Phantom of the Opera, Lzzy Hale, Game of Thrones. Why create need from scratch?
2- Swim With the Sharks
She taps the amazing traffic already there by collaborating with the likes of Pentatonix, Peter Hollens, Alex Boye, Kuha’o Case, Imagine Dragons. Her brand soars as she leverages every one of theirs. Why not collaborate?
3- Know Your Audience
She makes sure she is true to the details that fans of Zelda, Assassins Creed, Peter Hollens would know as well as everyone she collaborates with, right down to the exact costume and setting.
4- Be Absolutely Unique
Piers Morgan said a dancing dubstepping violinist could never make it, but with such unique innovation she could never fail.
5- Be the Underdog
Bouncing back by being cut from America’s Got Talent in 2010 showed her David and Goliath story would be a favorite. 102 million views in her top video proves her strategy.
6- Don’t Compromise
She doesn’t have to follow the de-Disneyfication Hollywood formula of every single teen star having to shed their pure image with every imaginable form of stomping on the image that made them famous.
7- Tell Your Story
Every single new musical work has story woven throughout it and she and her producers tell it masterfully with every touch of media, to the tune of 675 million views, check out Lindsey’s Top 10. She not only insists on every story being authentic, she was not afraid to share her own battle with anorexia.
Way to go Lindsey!
Level 6 Time Management: Week At A Glance PDF
This is a resources page for the article I wrote for Forbes called Level 6 Time Management: Managing Change And Trends.
Week At A Glance planning tool. This chart I have developed is one of the most powerful tools I’ve ever used. We have used it for years at InsideSales.com to help people plan their week, which Covey recommends to be both effective and efficient.
Date Range: do a new chart for each week.
Weekly Tasks: This is a place to capture (list) the main things you want to do that week.
Week At A Glance Calendar: This is where you arrange the events of your week to accomplish the tasks.
Top 6 Weekly Tasks: This is where you grab the top 6 in order of priority from your Weekly Tasks list above. Then you arrange your Top 6 Weekly tasks by day in bold or all CAPS so they are obvious. Then flow in the rest of your Weekly Tasks above by day.
Priorities: This is where you remind yourself of what or who is most important that week.
Notes: This is a place for key notes related to your week.
Key Recurring Actions: Notice there are five columns, one for each day of your work week. The top row is just to mark that you planned and marked each day below.
Here is where you list your Top 7 Key Recurring Actions which MUST occur daily or 1-3 times a week.
6 Keys to Change Management: VitalSmarts Bestsellers ‘Influencer’ and ‘Change Anything’ Even Explain How to Lose Weight!
(This is an expanded version of the second article on managing change and business transformation… and weight loss! — Ken
Why is it so hard for companies and people to change?
My long time neighbor Ron McMillan recently co-wrote two amazing books on change: Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change, and most recently, Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success.
Ron helped found Vitalsmarts and he and three other colleagues are probably most known for writing the New York Times landmark bestsellers as Crucial Conversations and Crucial Accountability. Ron was unavailable for an interview but his co-author David Maxfield joined me for half an hour on the topic of change management for companies and individuals.
I was sitting on my phone, taking notes in Evernote at a table at Roxberry, drinking a green smoothie to lose weight as I listened to David.
I had already heard he and his colleagues speak several times on these critical topics at BYU Education week every August.
The book Influencer is already on it’s second edition and is currently ranked in the Top 20 on Amazon in three categories.
Influencer stresses the importance of leadership in helping others change.
Change Anything is about changing yourself.
I asked David, “Why did Vitalsmarts choose the topics of change leadership and changing oneself?”
David responded, “Because change management isn’t working.”
“The Standish Group says 9 out of 10 large scale IT engagements don’t deliver on time, within budget, or to the specs that were promised.”
“At the more mundane personal level, we spend $2 billion a year on diets, but 19 of 20 people lost nothing but their money. Stanford studied the top 3 diets available and found that they all work… if you stick with them. But almost nobody does. We can’t live up to the change commitments we make.”
I said, “Wait, don’t call weight loss mundane! I represent that remark!” I at least lost 13 pounds on my last very expensive dietary adventure.
I go on, “So let’s attack both directions; how to change an organization and weight loss. Every day we have leaders in companies come to us to help them change their technology, but they don’t want to change their behavior or their culture. They’ve been working under the traditional sales model for decades. They have salespeople going face-to-face all over the country. They are faced with competitors who are generating web leads and inside sales people on the phone and they are getting hammered. They pull me aside privately and admit they don’t have the skills to actually change.”
I continue, “They buy salesforce.com, they hire sales trainers. They try to get marketing to stop worrying about un-trackable advertising and branding and start generating web leads, but nobody wants to change. They can’t get the reps to make the calls, to use the CRM, to follow the skills training. They can’t get marketing to focus on all that matters… leads!”
He laughs. “There are two forces at play here. Those things like technology, tools, and skills are above the water line. You can see them. But then there is everything below the water line: The cultural norms, what people do, the internal politics, the things you have to do to get things done. Change stops when it hits the iceberg below the waterline.”
“Here’s an example,” he continues, “Hospitals in the US are all trying to get 100% hand hygiene. There are 100,000 deaths a year in the US alone because people don’t wash their hands enough in hospitals. We stress what we call 200% accountability; for you, and for everyone else.”
“If you are a housekeeper cleaning the window, you wash your hands. And you better speak up to the surgeon who hasn’t washed her hands who walks in the room with the patient. But that is hard, very stressful. That is countercultural. Housekeepers don’t speak to surgeons, nurses don’t even speak to surgeons.”
“Unless you change that norm you don’t get hand hygiene. Putting up posters doesn’t work. But if you can change this one thing, you change all other areas of patient safety and cost control because you address personal factors, social factors and the environmental factors of change.”
I joked about drinking my Roxberry and my own crazy cycle of weight loss in a high stress environment. I asked David next, “So tell me about these six sources of influence.”
He responded excitedly, “Before the six sources of influence you ask two questions: Can I change? And, will it be worth it?”
He goes on, “Then you dive into personal motivation and ability, whether others around you enable or disable you, whether there is a system of incentive and if your environment makes it easy to do the right stuff, or tempting to do the wrong stuff.”
From his book, “Influencers do three things better than others. They are clearer about the results they want to achieve and how they will measure them. They focus on a small number of vital behaviors that will help them achieve those results. They overdetermine change by amassing six sources of influence that both motivate and enable the vital behaviors.”
The Influencer teaches how to master six sources of influence from psychology, social psychology, and organizational theory:
1- Personal Motivation: Help Them Love What they Hate. Work to connect vital behaviors to intrinsic motives.
2- Personal Ability: Help Them Do What They Can’t. Build personal ability to do behaviors through deliberate practice.
3- Social Motivation: Provide Encouragement.
4- Social Ability: Provide Assistance
5- Structural Motivation: Change Their Economy. Attach appropriate incentives or sanctions to motivate people to pick up or stop vital behaviors.
6- Structural Ability: Change Their Space. Things such as systems, process, reporting structures, visual cues, work layouts, tools, supplies, and machinery support vital behaviors.
Combining all six of these sources of influence help an Influencer overdetermine change.
I ask, “So tell me about your newest book, Change Anything.”
He responds, “We challenge you to escape the willpower trap and evolve a plan that works perfectly for your subject: you.”
He goes on, “When people can’t change, it’s rarely because they lack the will. They are blind and outnumbered: They’re blind to all but 1 or 2 of the 6 sources of influence… and there are far more sources under the waterline working against them than there sources acting for them.”
“People who see and use all six sources of influence are 10 times more likely to change and create change.”
“We all think we have the power to change just through our force of will. We know we should change. We want to change. But we don’t change!”
“That calls into question the belief that we actually do have power to change on our own. We call it agency.”
“The numbers say we don’t have as much as we think we do!” I pipe up.
He continues, “In the book we quote research that shows: 85% of efforts to drive new behavior in organizations fail. 87% of employees have suffered economically because they didn’t change. Only 1 in 5 American adults are financially prepared. Only 1 of 10 couples in marriage counseling actually stay together. 90% of those getting coronary bypass surgery are back to the same behavior within 2 years.”
Then his tempo increased, “4 years ago we studied 5000 people who tried to change. 4400 failed. 600 succeeded. How much more successful were the 600? As I said, they were 10x more likely to change. Why? They did 6 things better.”
He lists them, so I number them:
- They learn to love what they hate.
- They learn skills to do that they couldn’t.
- They recruit accomplices to help them change.
- They remove the accomplices that stop them from change.
- They use or lose incentives to help them change.
- They control their space, their surroundings, to make it easier to change.”
“They focus on the 6 sources of influence, 6 levers they can pull, rather than endlessly tugging on willpower alone.”
So I stop him, “So where do you begin? How does a business leader start?”
He responds, “Ask first… is the problem worth solving?”
He laughs, “My dad always said, ‘If something’s not worth doing at all, it’s certainly not worth doing well!’ So build a business case. In the hospital example we call it a clinical case. Is it worth it? Or more important, what happens if you don’t change?”
“Ouch!” I say, “I better stick with my green smoothies! So teach me to lose weight, what would you tell me to do?”
He eagerly responds, “Start with what we know. Calories. Eat right and exercise. Track progress. If you are normal you will encounter setbacks. Instead of being frustrated, turn a bad day into good data. You are a scientist. What were the ingredients of the setback?”
“Let’s say you stop at Starbucks, you are late for a plane, you order a beverage with 3000 calories. Then later you say, Dang! That was a horrible thing to do for my diet. What was I saying to myself? I skipped lunch. I’ve been standing all morning, I deserve it. I’m worn out, I’m tired.”
“Should I say something else to myself?
“Identify crucial moments when I fail. The 6 sources come in when I light up an exercise strategy. Are there obstacles that I can turn into advantages. My plan is to run an hour for 3 days a week. Personal motivation. What do I dislike most? The place I run. Indoors? Go outdoors.”
“Do I love music playing? Download your favorite songs to your iPhone 5s. Get a carrying case to strap on your upper arm. Maybe there are a new pair of shoes to make it more pleasant.”
“That us Personal motivation.”
“Personal Ability? Learn more about running groups. Learn a new exercise for when it’s raining or my knees are sore.”
“Social motivation. Partner to run with, email a partner when you run. Have them email you also.”
“Social ability side. Maybe I need to work with my spouse to free up time with me in the morning, she fills in, then I help her out in another time…”
“Structural. Incentives work. If I can find short term rewards for myself it makes a big deal. Also, put skin in the game. Put something at risk.”
“My neighbor is on the Olympic Nordic combined team. His coach asked him to lose 10 pounds. Strict diet. Weigh food. Exercise. He decided to put a pile of $20 bills on the mantle. Every Friday his wife and daughter would evaluate whether he did good. They would so something fun or burn the $20 bill in the fireplace. Yale expert Dean Carlin studied that and found it is very effective.”
“Structural Ability. How about a heart monitor. New shoes. Identify more trails. Moving to a location on a trail. That is changing your environment to help you succeed.”
I interject, “So I’m stacking the deck every possible way for my success! Where does building a predefined plan fit in?”
He responds, “It would fit into defining Vital Behaviors. We often map out a plan, it really starts getting meaty when you get setbacks. Here is a crucial moment when you combine 6 sources of behavior.
“Who is the german general said there is no war plan that withstood the first battle? You have to extemporize. It was often cited by Henry Kissinger.”
“No plan of operations extends with any certainty beyond the first contact with the main hostile force.” – Helmuth von Moltke the Elder
I’ll try and find the quote. With the interview coming to a close, I ask, “Of the 6 variables, which is the one they don’t do? And what are the easy ones?”
He chuckles, “Couple of different answers. Easy answer, people are different. That is a copout. I was working with the leader of an addiction center. He said he can put all sources in place for a Hollywood starlet, but they have to want to change.” Personal motivation is first. Agency, or what little they have.
He went on, “The ones they underplay the most is the social support. Adding a social element, getting a partner. Many times the people you think of as friends, are accomplices. They enable or discourage the wrong stuff. Your friends won’t tell you to lose weight, if you give them permission they will help you. If you don’t, they won’t.”
It finally dawns on me, “So I guess I get my friends involved, especially my wife Crystal. So what’s first, how to get started? Where do you begin?”
David concludes, “Is it worth it? What is your default future? If you don’t lose the weight, what will happen? Where do you want to be? Can you visit it and make it tangible?”
I start thinking that it’s hard to lose weight. But it’s also hard living life without losing weight. Which life do I want?
“Ok,” I respond, “I’m in.”
Long interview, breakfast is over. I order another green smoothie for lunch. 132 calories, light and lean. Fresh Pineapple, celery, other green stuff. I wonder if I can do the same for dinner.
Time to change.
The Seven Trends of InsideSales.com
I get asked all the time what makes us so successful… As I’ve thought about it, We find, ride, and sometimes even cause trends. We need all the leverage and help we can get. Always build a new business on upward trends. The first article I wrote for Forbes shared a few ways we look for trends: 3 Google Tools to Check Before Starting a Business.
My favorite sales and marketing maxim is Divert a River, Don’t Dig a Well. What does it mean? Think about it.
We are told a good company rides one trend, a great company rides two; we are trying to ride and drive seven notable trends at once.
- Cloud Software and Telephony: We were the first company to combine CRM software with dialer technology in the cloud. When Dave and I founded InsideSales.com together he had a web development shop, I was at the last company I helped found called inContact. He had hosted customer database technology, I had hosted dialer telephony solutions. We blended the two together in a new kinds of hybrid application that opened up all kinds of new synergies. Thanks to salesforce.com, who really put cloud computing on the map, and who is our favorite and best business partner, we have enjoyed riding this extremely powerful trend. We also new this new combination of technology would play best in the emerging new world of inside sales.
- Inside Sales: 10 years ago we new we wanted a very powerful name. We went out to Google and typed in the phrase ‘inside sales’ and found 40,000 companies hiring people, but not a single competitor, not a single ad. We knew we wanted our company name to be the name of the new category of business that was emerging. Everyone else saw it as the name of a department in a company, we saw it as a new industry emerging out of a profession. We are now the leader in automation technology for professional sales people who sell remotely. Inside Sales as an industry is growing 300% faster than traditional sales. Right after the crash of 2008 a research study done by infoUSA and Dr. James Oldroyd showed that what was now the emerging inside sales industry was growing 15x faster than tradition outside or face-to-face sales. it was counter-recessionary, actually growing in the worst economy of our lifetime. Now it is still the fastest growing segment of all of sales and marketing.
Internet Lead Response: Google and the Internet has changed the way leads are generated for business and we invented and patented the ability to respond to web leads within seconds instead of two days like companies do on average. We found through research that there are incredible benefits to be gained by responding very fast to web-based inquiries. This trend came after the landmark 2007 research study by InsideSales.com and Dr. James Oldroyd while working at MIT. It was done again by he and our own CEO, Dave Elkington, and a brilliant professor at Harvard Business School by the name of Kristina McElheran. It was called the Short Life of Online Leads. We were excited when the research was again published by Inc. Magazine. Eric Markowitz is a well known writer for Inc., Vanity Fair, and the Washington Square News and summarizes the research of Dr. James B Oldroyd and our own CEO, Dave Elkington. His Inc. article on July 6th, 2011, is entitled “How to Best Harness Inbound Marketing Leads.”
- Gamification: When Dave and I started the company we were both enamored with the book called The Game of Work by my friend Charles Coonradt, who I call The Grandfather of Gamification in a fun Forbes article I did. We have helped turn sales work into a game for nearly ten years and were recently ranked the 7th best platform for Gamification overall and the only one focused on helping sales people specifically. We find sales increases nearly 10% using gamification principles, but engagement in system usage increases upwards of 50%. The Millennials and surrounding generations grew up on video games, World of Warcraft and Mario Kart. Make work fun, keep score, provide immediate feedback, display personal and team achievement, and good things happen.
- Predictive Analytics: We have used predictive analytics for 7 years to help sales people know who to call and when to call to dramatically increase results. After the research by Dr. Oldroyd, we wrote algorithms that moved the predictive capability out of the old predictive dialer model and into the database. Instead of predicting how many lines to call at the same time to annoy people at home during dinner time, Dave and I felt we would rather move use predictive analytics for professional salespeople and help them know who to call, and when to call. We knew we were on to something when our Predictive 2.0 model tripled sales against the leading saas predictive dialer at the 2nd largest home security sales company in the world. Since then we have added machine learning and even artificial intelligence capabilities and things are getting more predictive all the time.
- Big Data: We not only use internal data to predict but we now tap live feeds from incredibly huge external data sources like the weather, stock markets, gas prices, and much more to increase our predictive capability as well. We hire PhD’s in areas usually reserved for think tanks and academic circles to feed Dave’s passion for data and the need for smarter technologies in the world of sales. Sales has been slowest of all to bring in these new technologies, but sales is the last to shut off the light when things struggle, and the key to success for every business. So when sales engages, look out.
- Sales Acceleration: Several disruptive trends in the market have combined to create massive demand for InsideSales.com sales acceleration technology. There are dozens of software applications in nearly 20 categories of sales automation that has been called the sales acceleration category. We are the only sales platform in that space that ties together many of these different applications in one place to dramatically increase the velocity of selling.
One of my favorite thinkers, Clayton Christensen, tells of an eighth trend surfacing that we are now gearing up for. I call it Disruptive Consulting. Read about it in his awesome article called Consulting on the Cusp of Disruption.
Brad Pitt, Oakland Athletics, And Moneyball: Still The Model For Change Management, Business Transformation And Predictive Analytics
This article about the winningest team in Major League Baseball this year made it to #5 on the Forbes Most Popular list. – Ken
I started writing this article from a hotel room in Oakland, California. I’m within walking distance from the stadium used by the Oakland A’s, the only professional baseball franchise that shares their playing field with the local pro football team in the country.
The Oakland A’s changed the way the game of baseball, and all professional sports are played. They transformed an entire industry forever by using math and statistics to choose players and make decisions.
Science over 150 years of art.
They figured out they are in the business of winning.
Just how good are they?
Billy Beane, who was played so convincingly by Brad Pitt in the movie Moneyball, is the General Manager strapped with one of the lowest budgets in the country out of 30 teams, yet they are tied for the most wins of any team in the 2012 and 2013 seasons combined (94 + 96 = 190 wins.)
As of today, half way through the 2014 season, they have 59 wins and 36 losses, the top record in all of Major League Baseball.
Is it working?
Results over time don’t lie.
A decade after the original Moneyball book written by Michael Lewis shared the secrets of using math to make decisions, the strategies are still paying off.
I loved the movie when it came out in 2011.
It told the story of the 2002 Oakland A’s, with a payroll of $41 million, who had to be competitive with larger market teams like the New York Yankees, whose payroll topped $125 million the same year. They were not only competitive, they tied with the Yankees at 103 wins, won the division and 20 straight games that year, and forever changed the world of professional sports.
In 2013 the Los Angeles Dodgers started the season with a payroll of $213 million, the New York Yankees close behind with a payroll of $210 million. Oakland paid out 60 million.
If you own or run a business, watch Moneyball. If you’ve seen it, watch it again.
The Oakland Athletics, led by Billy Beane, have mastered the concept of change.
We invited Billy to keynote our 1st annual customer conference in Park City at the end of May this year. He held us spellbound for over an hour. He swore us all to silence, so I won’t breath a word about the amazing stories and strategies he told.
Not a word…
Suffice it to say he is the real thing. Business, and entrepreneurs in particular, can learn a lot from Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s about change.
A lot of skeptics have come and gone. In 2011, Sports Illustrated ran an article, “The Art of Winning An (Even More) Unfair Game” with the introduction:
“Eight years after it forever shifted baseball’s tectonic plates, Moneyball is a Brad Pitt movie, but its ethos has changed. Intellectual firepower is mandatory, but no guarantee of success now that the game’s financial giants have cracked the code. Competitive advantage: Red Sox.”
Let’s see, hmmm, Red Sox 43 wins and 53 losses so far in 2014.
Billy Beane has changed things again.
What is change? It is to make a difference, to become different.
A person changes.
A team or business transforms.
When a consultant helps a business change they call it transformation because they can charge a lot more the bigger the word or phrase they can coin. You can’t copyright and trademark simple and clear concepts.
In education change is called learning.
In religion change is called repentance.
Youth want to change the world and still think they can. Their elders worry they are too old to change, yet they often have the power and wisdom to effect big change, though young entrepreneurs who are successful often gain the power to affect big change, we just hope there is some wisdom also.
Technology is the lever of young entrepreneurs to make change. Science tries to explain why the technology actually works and whether it can continue to work.
The predictive analytics model that Billy Beane and staff use they call Sabermetrics. They find undervalued players who are much better than their paychecks indicate… using math.
Now I know what to tell my kids when they don’t like doing their math homework.
Stay tuned, this is 1 of a 3 part series on Change Management and Business Transformation
The Two Riskiest Things I Ever Did in Business
This article just appeared on page 33 of the Summer Edition of Business Q Magazine, it was an interview I gave to Brianna Stewart.
The two riskiest things I ever did were two sides of the same coin: working for myself, and working for somebody else… let me explain.
I have always been a serial entrepreneur, but in one early company I went out on my own way too early, before I knew how to run a company. I lost a lot of money. My first big adventure was when I worked with a partner in a computer consulting company and we bought out the previous owner, only to find my new business partner was not honest. I lost $70,000; about what a nice graduate degree in business would cost me.
I call it my MBA from the school of hard knocks.
I wasn’t ready.
I didn’t know what I was doing. I should have learned my strengths and weaknesses on somebody else’s dime. I figured out later that I excel at the strategic side of sales and marketing, not managing business. I went to the Naval Academy and I love military strategy. It took me a while to translate that knowledge by mapping it onto sales and marketing strategy.
It’s like when I coached 9 years of youth football. 8 of those 9 years I coached the defense, my love, my background, and my skill. I can count the games we lost in those 8 years on both hands. The year I tried being a head coach I don’t think I even had a winning season. Find your strengths and bet on them.
My second big mistake was working for somebody else too long. I started the original inside sales department at Franklin International Institute. In the early 90’s we were the 2nd fastest growing company in the US, before they merged with Stephen R. Covey’s company. I built a massive organization for them and didn’t have enough ownership equity to buy a car. I risked all of my hard work for very little. To me the biggest risk is to have somebody else in charge of your future.
My dear friend Oliver DeMille reminds me that a hundred years ago 90% of Americans owned their own farm, shop, or business. They were entrepreneurs.
They were owners.
Now 90% of Americans work for owners and entrepreneurs and control very little of the variables that affect their lives.
They are employees. To me that is very risky.
The next opportunity came and I co-founded what is now inContact. I gained enough equity to launch my future, and I was in a position to help control the variables that put that future at risk.
After that Dave Elkington and I founded InsideSales.com. I learned to join forces with an absolutely brilliant business partner that was world-class great at the things I was not good at. While I was able to bring my strengths into focus and really excel at what I am great at. It was very little risk. Being an owner when you know what you are doing is very little risk. And having a little help from upstairs is the least risk of all!
Cloud Computing, Predictive Dialers, Gamification, and How We Got the Name InsideSales.com
This is section 2 of The Story of InsideSales.com
CLOUD COMPUTING AND TELEPHONY
One of the very first things we did after we started InsideSales.com and built out our technology was that we calculated how much it would cost a company to purchase this technology in-house, it came to nearly $650,000; we offered it for rent for $135 a seat plus 2 cents per minute. We handled all the headaches and hassles of security, maintenance, upgrades, and uptime. We brought enterprise class technology to any size business without an enterprise-size IT staff. We soon found that IT loved to wash their hands of those pesky salespeople and turned it over to us who do it for a living so they could focus on the core of what they do for a living.
In 2004 we partnered with my old company inContact but they had their business to run which focused more on inbound call centers rather than sales, so we decided to build everything we needed from the ground up. Dave had Thomas Purdy and Rob Christensen who pioneered a rapid application development platform that completely blew my mind. We got projects done in days and weeks, not the months and years I had seen it take at my previous companies. I would come up with an idea and Dave would have it in production in a couple of weeks. Within six months the whole platform was working.
We showed it to 5 companies, 3 of them bought it, 1 was PeopleWise, a subsidiary of LexisNexis.
Dave and I both agreed on a few main things, we hated telemarketing, and we loved the Salesforce.com model.
Telemarketing used a 30-year-old technology called predictive dialers. Aggressive marketers abused it so bad the FCC had to dramatically limit it’s use and we wanted no part of it. You know, it’s that call you get at dinner time with a pause, click, and voice comes on and says, “Please wait for the next available representative”, and you think, “Wait a minute, you called me!” It’s that call where you have to say “No!” seven times before they let you hang up.
It’s why Do Not Call was implemented. As I mentioned, “Tele” was and still is a four-letter word.
We decided to take a different approach.
We wanted to call businesses.
There was no dialer technology at all for for B2B.
We wanted B2B and large ticket B2C only, no telemarketing.
So instead of using the brute force predictive technology that predicts how many calls to make at a time in hopes of getting a live answer to route to a rep, and hanging up on anyone else who happens to answer, we decided to use a more elegant Power Dialer strategy that puts the salesperson in charge of the experience, and moves the Predictive Analytics into the database. We called it Predictive 2.0.
Then we would build all kinds of little “power tools” we called them, to leverage everything they did. Our favorite was a voice messaging tool where a salesperson could record their own voice in a library of messages for every situation, and when they got to an answering machine, they would wait until the “Please leave a message at the tone” and with a single click of a button, leave their 30 second message and already be on to the 2nd or 3rd call before it even finished. And the person at the other end didn’t realize it wasn’t the salesperson who took the time to leave them a message.
Dave and I firmly believed we could build a whole new kind of experience that didn’t burn out salespeople or their prospects.
We also decided that we loved the Inside Sales way of life: Work hard, play hard.
Put in a good day, then go home and have a life. It fit who we were, and all the Millennial’s who we were hiring. Dave and I love a book called The Game of Work. It was the story of Charles Coonradt, who consulting with companies to increase their productivity and employee morale. He noticed that the same employees who plodded their way through the day at work, would all scramble out to the parking lot during lunch hour and put their heart and soul into winning a pickup basketball game where they didn’t earn a dime. Then come back to work and trudge through the end of their day.
I had done some research while at Franklin where we were trying to find what made our best performers. I had interviewed nearly 400 people and had 70 great performers: A background in athletic achievement. Great athletes turned into great salespeople. I think it is the practice, the repetitions, keeping score, watching the numbers.
So from the very beginning we tried to use these principles to Gamify our software solution. We tried to give the data to the salespeople long before the Gamification craze came into being in 2010. We started with the Athletic model from the Game of Work, and folded in the Game Mechanics model when we realized every Millennial on the planet grew up playing Mario Cart, Starcraft and World of Warcraft.
Charles made quite an impact on our company! I recently wrote a Forbes article calling him the Grandfather of Gamification.
We needed a name.
I told Dave that the best possible name would be the name of the web category we were creating… InsideSales.com. We tracked down the guy who owned it, he first wanted over six figures. Dave put his negotiating chinese water torture techniques to work and the guy called us back right before Christmas and said, “I need $3000 today, if you can get it to me, it’s yours.”
We went out to Google and typed in “Inside Sales” and there wasn’t a single ad, it was blue ocean.
There were 40,000 companies in a row trying to hire professional inside sales people, we knew there was a serious trend building. The 1st week of January in 2005 we brought up the website and got 8 leads the very first day. Today we get 750 inquiries a day. We had built the ultimate cold calling technology, but never made a single cold call the first several years of the company, we were to busy responding to leads from the web.
Inside Sales was already a profession, but it wasn’t an industry. People like Trish Bertuzzi, Anneke Seley, Art Sobczak and many other notables had already spent years solidifying the inside sales profession.
There were people making cars by hand before Henry Ford built his assembly line and put a conveyor belt on it. But he built the profession into an industry and built the American middle class.
Our strategy was to help form an industry out of what was still perceived only recently as a 2nd class department that was taking the scraps off the table from the old timer field salespeople who had been in power for 100 years.
We saw change coming. We didn’t know that the crash of the economy in 2008 would be the biggest catalyst for change of all.
A few years later we got fully behind Bob Perkins and Larry Reeves, the founders of The American Association of Inside Sales Professionals. Their isn’t anyone with more passion and care.
We believed if there was a trade association, inside sales was an industry.
We had no idea.
Go back to read Section 1 of: The Story of InsideSales.com
Dave Elkington, Marc Benioff, Salesforce.com, Philosophy, Hyper Growth, and Shrimp Tacos
Dave Elkington and I met early in 2004.
He had graduated from BYU with a degree in Philosophy and had already been working at Deutche Bank Alex Brown, an investment bank and a venture capital firm through the dot com era. He had a strong sense that web software, and especially software-as-a-service was a huge opportunity. He had tasted a small win or two and had dipped his toes in the entrepreneurial stream with an early Bluetooth company. He went through the dot com crash and saw the future of internet-based companies but knew they would need to have a strong financial model.
We often would laugh at companies with great ideas but no way to monetize them.
He wanted to start his own company in that space but wanted to grow it out of revenues, so he went back to BYU and started a graduate degree in computer science. He had already seen ignorant founders of companies who didn’t understand enough of the technologies who couldn’t guide the outcomes of their IT staffs and who sold their souls too early to raise money and then had new bosses before they even hit critical mass.
While doing this he started a web development company and began doing all kinds of projects as he zeroed in on what he wanted to focus on.
He knew he wanted to use machine learning, artificial intelligence, and what he called “set theory” to do things that had never been done before in business. He had seen many companies’ come and go and was especially watching Marc Benioff plow the deep snow in application service provider platforms (ASP) just when the phrase Software-as-a-Service (SAAS) was being tossed around from the waves being made by saleforce.com.
Dave would talk about his philosophy degree and how it had taught him to think. That was one of the strongest things we both held in common; philosophy, and how to think. I was amazed out differently we thought, but we agreed on many common areas. Though we disagreed strongly on others. Dave believes strongly in what he calls “pragmatic relativism,” he has some pretty compelling arguments and has almost convinced me… almost.
He and I have warmly debated that topic from about the first few days we met each other. I believe much more strongly in universals principles and laws; I worked under the guidance of Hyrum Smith and Stephen R. Covey during my days at FranklinCovey, and my philosophic mentor had been Dr. Chauncey Riddle since I was just out of college. I had moved my family to Provo, Utah, and audited his last BYU class; the only class I ever took without getting a grade. I remember I felt my brain hurting from the rigorous Socratic method and System Thinking and strategic methodologies he shared. I regard it as more valuable than everything I studied at the University of Utah and the Naval Academy combined to help me be successful as an entrepreneur.
It was from this that I distilled the Systems Model we use:
Analyze > Design > Implement > Evaluate.
Or in one word: Test.
Dr. Riddle challenged me to learn how to think, not just what to think and when to think.
Dave had gone through a similar level of rigor and the two thoughtful backgrounds combined to make very animated discussions. We found when we could both engage we would distill things down to almost their very essence and spent many late nights doing just that.
I had gone to the Naval Academy and when we started this company in 2004 I had already been in the world of sales and marketing for 16 years, I had pioneered the use of inside sales at Franklin Day Planners when they were the 2nd fastest growing company in the US. My plans had abruptly changed from being a Naval Aviator and flying the space shuttle to pioneering professional sales over the phone and through the web. I had learned through sad experience that hyper growth was a unique animal all it’s own. We would set appointments and invite training directors at 115,000 companies with 100 employees or more to see a Franklin seminar and turn it over to the field sales teams. Then we started proving we could close them ourselves.
Our department was gaining the nickname “Telesales,” but I recoiled at anything with the phrase “tele” in it. To me it was a four letter word. We coined the phrase “Inside Sales” which was just beginning to be used.
I told them I would stay 5 years or until we did a million dollars in a single month. I knew I had a long way to go, when my first month sales was just over $27k. I told them we would use college kids on the phone for 60k to sell what their 300k salespeople would sell. We started with six phone reps transferred out of the call center on old furniture out of the warehouse. I researched to see what new outside sales Account Executives would close in the first six months…
We beat it by 127% at a small fraction of the cost.
They closed at two to three times better ratios, but we made seven to eight times more contacts. Sales was a numbers game, and still is.
We made a ton of the old timer outside sales people very mad at us. They first tried to crush us, then control us, then cooperate with us. It was so stressful I would wake up in the mornings with what seemed like little pieces of rock in my mouth; the edges of my own teeth. But much of the problem was me, I needed to grow up and so did my people.
We were dialing by hand but still doing great. Franklin struggled so badly with technology at the time they actually made us dial a 10-digit account code in the phone system after every phone call to track and charge us for any personal calls. It was a policy of the accounting or “sales prevention” department and it drove me nuts. I initially wanted a dialer technology just to store that dang account code under a single button, but I remembered my earlier days at Quota Marketing Centers where we invented one of the very first “power dialer” technologies as we generated leads for Toshiba copy machine dealers all over the country.
I had all kinds of ideas to leverage inside sales, but no technology, just a big leather book. I would go to lunch with Mike Shelton, the Telecom Director at Franklin and we would brainstorm new ways to save time. Next thing I know, he had left the company with some developers and built many of the very things we had talked about. He sold it for millions of dollars; I never got my dialers.
I left Franklin four years later to the day when we did our Million Dollar Month. I left with my dear friend Paul Jarman, who was one of my first two sales reps at Franklin to start what became a long distance company. After being there about 5 years I went to a meeting one day to buy another company and there was my old telecom guy from Franklin seated across the table. He had already sold his first company and was working on rewriting the same code to be the first call center technology in the cloud. He wanted to launch the first SaaS telephony company.
We saw the possibilities and a year later we bought his 2nd company and eventually changed the company to what is now inContact, the top inbound SaaS contact center company in the world. But I hated inbound, I loved going outbound; causing sales… not catching them.
Talk about destiny, now we owned the very technology I had sketched on napkins in the Franklin cafeteria. Within weeks I started pulling together the single most powerful inside sales technology ever invented. The problem was we didn’t have a way to handle all of the leads. We tried embedding the dialer technology into Act!, then Goldmine, but it took them right to their knees. I had a consultant helping me and he called me and said I needed to go to Springville, Utah and meet Dave Elkington, who had just finished a massive lead management database in the cloud.
I called and we went to lunch at Bajios, we had shrimp tacos and horchata.
We soon realized he had the database technology, the drive, the financial expertise, a crushing discipline, and an ability to execute with charisma like nobody I had ever seen before. I had the dialer technology, the strategy, a clear vision for the future of inside sales, and way of buffering to hold it all together.
We soon decided to build the world’s first customer database with built-in dialer tools in the cloud (though the phrase ‘cloud’ hadn’t been used yet.) The database had the qualitative data, the call center tools had the quantitative tools and we had a feeling that the two together would open up a whole new world by letting us see things in a new light… the light of data.
Dave and I both knew this synergy of predictive analytics, big data, and artificial intelligence would change sales and marketing forever.