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Does Your Favorite Brand Follow You Back?

Posted on September 26, 2016 at 12:53 PM Comments comments (0)

At the beginning of the 2014 NFL season I posted a short article related to NFL teams Follow-to-Follower ratios on Twitter.  That score card showed that most NFL teams, like most major brands, don’t follow-back their fans or customers: 

As you can see on the 2014 score card, the average NFL team was following back just 0.46% of their fans.  That ratio now stands at 0.27% which means the odds of your favorite team following you back are actually decreasing.

“This Copyrighted Broadcast is the Property of the National Football League”
Most major brands, including NFL teams broadcast on Twitter; they don’t follow-back for purposes of personal engagement.  That strategy doesn’t seem to hurt them either.  For example, the Dallas Cowboys follower base grew from 900K to 1.9M over the past two years and they went 4-12 last year!  Does the brand manager for “America’s Team” even need to show up for work?
“Winners never quit, and quitters never win.”
~ Vince Lombardi
Winners never follow, and followers never get followed; unless it’s the Broncos.
When it comes to sports we like to follow winners.  The Panthers follower base grew over 550%, although they still lost the Super Bowl last year.  The Super Bowl winning Broncos grew over 320%.  Surprisingly, they follow back over 6K of their fans ranking them third in the league.  Deflatgate or not, the Patriots at 12-4 last year grew 275%. 
There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.”
~ Mark Twain
We don’t follow losers, they follow you; go Chargers!

The Chargers finished 4-12 last year.  They also continue to lead the league by following back 5% of their fans which comes to over 29K profiles.  That’s less than half the capacity of Qualcomm Stadium but it’s far better than any other team.


The U.S. Constitution doesn't guarantee happiness, only the pursuit of it.

Posted on September 13, 2016 at 8:09 AM Comments comments (21)

My great-great-great-great grandfather John See was in winter quarters at Valley Forge with Washington.  When John was only 8 years old his father was killed at the Muddy Creek massacre in Greenbriar Co., Virginia in a conflict with Native Americans.  My great grandfather homesteaded on the eastern plains of Colorado where my grandfather was born in a sod cabin.  My parents were raised on farms in central Iowa and northern Missouri.  Neither had indoor plumbing and my mom did not have electricity.  Neither of my parents were able to finish high school, in fact my dad join the USMC when he was 17 during the Korean Conflict.
I finished high school and was lucky enough to be able to put myself through college and graduate school.  My son is a US Army veteran and struggles with PTSD.  He volunteered shortly after 9/11 and was part of our “boots on the ground” in Baghdad, Iraq.  Conflict and struggle are a part of life.  The U.S. Constitution doesn't guarantee happiness, only the pursuit of it.  We live in a great country.  It’s not perfect and it never will be.  But I can’t imagine living anywhere else.  I’m thankful and proud of the pioneers who went before me.  I’m also encouraged and hopeful for the generations to come.  They are the cornerstones for my reason to “never forget.” 

Are you losing ground in the social economy?

Posted on September 7, 2016 at 10:09 AM Comments comments (189)

Is your company losing ground in the social economy?  Your HR processes might be the cause.  Take 90 seconds to actually "listen" to your boiler-plated job applicant rejection letter and think about it.

I’m interested to learn more about you.

Posted on September 2, 2016 at 11:56 AM Comments comments (167)
I’m interested to learn more about you, period.  Yes, you should have ended your “Quick Question” message right there.  But no, you then went on and on about your company and your solution.
Hi Alan,
Thanks for connecting on LinkedIn; I’m interested to learn more about what you do.  I’m VP of Sales at XYZ Company and our solution blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah let me know what day and time works out best and I’ll set up a call.
Does it seem like I went overboard on the “blah, blah, blahs?”  I didn’t, your message really did go on and on selling even though you have no idea if I’m really a qualified prospect.  You suspected I might be qualified and decided to skip all rapport building, and the establishment of your credentials.  In your mind selling isn’t about TRUST, it’s strictly about NEED and PAIN POINTS.  As long as you present compelling facts and figures you’re hoping I’ll make a totally rational, data-driven decision.

I’m sorry to have to inform you, but even executives are human.  Yes, we have emotions and we make trust-based decisions.  We do business with people we know, like and trust.  Now that you know you messed up with your first-contact “Quick Question” message, what’s your plan for recovering the relationship with your new LinkedIn connection?


Is freedom to fail a myth at your company?

Posted on August 25, 2016 at 12:01 PM Comments comments (18)

Is the freedom to fail a myth at your company?  Can you name one person in your organization that has had major visible failure?  If so, is that person still employed there?  If they are, is their career still on track?  If your business culture is risk adverse you may not be able to name even one person. 

Oh sure, you’ve read plenty of success stories in which the protagonist had to “overcome challenges.”  But I’m not talking about mere challenges that surfaced in a situation that ultimately was marked as an accomplishment.  I’m talking about when the lesson learned is “dismantle that thing, it won’t work.”  A few years ago it happened to me, and quite frankly I thought I might be labeled as damaged goods as a result.  But that’s not how this story ends.
In the mid 90’s a major consulting firm recommended to NCR Corporation that they create a professional inside sales organization.  Not just a call center or telesales group, but actually transition field-based, complex solution selling account management roles to a group that would not travel or engage in face-to-face sales meetings.  It sounds very easy now, but this was before the Internet and NCR’s hard charging field-based sales culture did not like the idea of being downsized.  I was asked to lead that initiative with a pilot program and after one year was then directed to dismantle it.  It turned out to be an idea before its time, but I learned some good lessons during that pilot and I wanted to document and share the experience with the organization.  That’s why I used a “learning history” format for my final report.

Learning History defined:   

A learning history is a unique approach for helping an organization learn from the experience and implications of its own learning and change initiatives.  All efforts to transform organizations sooner or later run up against the challenge of proving their value.  Yet traditional assessment approaches, reacting to everyday pressures, can easily undermine the original learning effort.  As people become aware of being judged and measured, they seek to satisfy the evaluation criteria instead of improving their capabilities.  The intrinsic motivation which drives learning is then supplanted by the desire to look successful.  Yet evaluation is vital to learning as a feedback process that provides guidance and support.  Learning histories were invented in response to this dilemma.
Creating an environment where it feels safe to fail is very difficult.  I suppose that’s why most business cultures are not really bent that way.  When you combine that with the fact that most of us are terrified of the prospect of individual failure it’s a wonder any risks are taken.  A learning history won’t change that fear.  But I can report that if you approach your change initiative leveraging a learning history point-of-view and format that the expression “experience is the best teacher” will come to life.  You and your organization will actually capture some learning from the project, and that helps take the sting out of failing.

The executive you’re targeting isn’t going to tell you their “biggest challenge.” Learn why.

Posted on August 23, 2016 at 11:34 AM Comments comments (141)
“What’s your single biggest challenge?”
I wish I had a dollar for every time I was asked that question because I’d be able to retire immediately.  It’s right up there with:
“What keeps you up at night?”
And let’s not forget:
“What’s your burning platform?”
Why do executives cringe every time they’re asked those questions?  Because just about every solution-based qualification call on the sales training planet includes one of those questions, and that means they can see your sales prospecting pitch coming from a mile away.  You’ve just shown them all they need to know.  You aren’t really interested in earning your place as one of their consultative trust-based partners.  That type of relationship nurturing would take way too much time and patience.  You merely want to quickly qualify them as either in or out of your sales funnel for your month end report.

Hey, that’s fair enough, they understand that time is a valuable and non-renewable resource.  They don’t want to waste your time, but nor do they want you to waste theirs.  Look, I’m not saying executives will never answer that golden question.  It’s just that your timing is terrible because you’re asking too much, too fast.  Think about it; do you really think an executive is going to open up to a total stranger and disclose their biggest challenge?  I don’t care if you do work for one of the Fortune 500; they don’t KNOW you PERSONALLY, and that means they’re not ready to TRUST you with their greatest struggles.  That would give you too much power and let’s face it; executives like to stay in control.

To be able to get an answer to that question you need to take your executive prospecting strategy out of microwave mode and learn how to build personal trust over time.  Smart sales and marketing people pursue this goal of becoming the “most trusted” source, expert, or problem solver in their industries and here is how they do it:
1. Trust takes time. Trust may sometimes be forged in moments of great drama, but it is more likely to be formed by many small, moment-to-moment, encounters.  If possible, connect with your targeted executive across more than one social platform in order to increase your trust-building exposure.  If your target is on Twitter focus there first.  Twitter is designed for quick moment-to-moment encounters and is less formal than LinkedIn.

2. Is your social media content consistent or erratic?  If your posts are confusing, indecisive, or inconsistent, your targeted audience is going to have a hard time taking you seriously.  Remember, when it comes to social media, you are always on and first impressions count.

3. A key to getting trust is giving it first.  Recruit your prospects to be a part of your inner circle.  Get serious about leveraging authenticity and transparency to help your contacts build confidence in you as a thought-leader.

Why You Should Be Hiring the Best Sales and Marketing Athletes over Industry Experience

Posted on August 21, 2016 at 10:58 AM Comments comments (2)
“You don’t understand. Our business, in fact our entire industry, is different.”

I’ve heard that statement a hundred times.  To be honest, early in my career, I’m sure I said, and believed it myself; but not for quite some time now.  After decades of working with sales and marketing organizations across several industries I can tell you with confidence that when it comes to the basic mechanics of your business you’re not that unique.  Believe me, it’s OK for us to agree to disagree on this topic, and I’m sure many will.  But in my opinion there is nothing magically different about your company, and the fact that you insist on only hiring individuals who have “industry experience” is the very reason you will fall behind your competition.

How do I know you value industry experience so much?  First of all, it was obvious in your job post:
  • “Please do not respond if you do not have deep [name industry] knowledge.”
  • “Must bring a rolodex of contacts within [name industry]”
You don’t have to read between the lines to see your thought process.  Industry experience equals rainmaker.  When asked which is more important, picking the best qualifications or selecting a player who presents the strongest industry background, most hiring managers will say I want both.   Yes, they are both desired.  But if you had to favor either industry experience or best qualifications which one would you choose if you were serious about maximizing the impact of your team?
From my point of view, put your money on the organization that drafts the best athlete.  Uncertainty reigns, and in today’s business environment a rolodex can become outdated before your new player finishes reading your new employee manual.   In addition, even if their contacts remain current there is no guarantee your new player will maintain their industry standing.  After all, their reputation was established under a different brand and that in no way guarantees that they won’t need training, or will make a successful transition to your particular environment.

At best, strict industry experience comes across as desperate pleas for quick sales or a statement of “we don’t like change.”  Of course, anyone who has carried a quota or launched a marketing campaign knows Quick Hits and Low-Hanging Fruit are never as quick or as low as everyone believes.  And “more of the same” is certainly a creativity killer.

What statements might you find in a job post that focuses on the best athlete?

  • Follows consultative approaches.
  • Leads from the front and team builder.
  • Ability to network and manage complex cross-functional relationships.
  • Can build a vision and create unique content.
  • Passion, courage, and confidence to get things done fast.
  • Credibility and rapport building skills that fosters trust.

The best athlete understand how persuasion really works and know that human beings still make buying decisions based on doing business with people they know, like, and trust.

They are capable of creating narratives with ultimate designs on increasing their social capital.  And they are able to consistently create content that their audience values.  In short, they can figure out how to build key relationships and add value across any industry, not just drop names and quantify the costs.

If you want to grow your business, stop worrying about how much industry experience your job candidate has.  Just hire the best sales and marketing athlete. 

    The world is looking for “no excuse” individuals

    Posted on August 16, 2016 at 9:26 AM Comments comments (0)

    Plebe summer 1977 at the United States Naval Academy and there were only six verbal responses I could give a senior. 
    1.      Yes, sir.
    2.      No, sir.
    3.      Aye aye sir.
    4.      I’ll find out, sir.
    5.      No excuse, sir.
    6.      Or the correct answer to his question.
    When you’re 18 years old those are not exactly the type of responses that flow off your tongue.  That was nearly 40 years ago and as I look back at those responses they still don’t feel natural.  “No excuse,” in particular.
    “Alan, why were you late for our meeting?”
    No excuse … becomes “The traffic was bad.”
    “Alan, why wasn’t this proposal delivered on time?”
    No excuse … becomes “The printer broke down.”
    “Alan, why didn’t we win their business?”
    No excuse … becomes “Our prices were too high.”
    Why accept the responsibility when you can pass it off to someone or something else?  After all, bad traffic, broken printers and high prices are all good reasons for missing the mark.
    But can you imagine the shock and awe in your boss or customer’s eyes if you responded, “there was no excuse for my failure.”
    I know what you are thinking.  Isn’t an apology just as good?  Perhaps, but somehow “I’m sorry, but the traffic was bad” doesn’t come across with as strong as a conviction to do better in the future as “There’s no excuse, I’ll leave earlier next time.”  No excuse is more than just an apology.  It makes a statement that screams “I fell short and take full responsibility, and I won’t let it happen again.”
    I admit, taking responsibility for situations that seem unfair, or out of your control, is not something that comes easily.  But that’s what leaders do.


    Don’t sell alone. Build your network early.

    Posted on August 15, 2016 at 2:56 PM Comments comments (0)
    To: Sales Manager
    Ref: No Network Connection
    I am writing in response to your request for additional information.  In my sales pipeline report, I put “no network connection,” as the cause for my sales pipeline miss.  In your email to me, you said that I should explain more fully.
    I was prospecting alone on a new account.  During my visit, I discovered I had competition, and lacked access to the decision maker.  Rather than research potential networking connections that might provide an introduction to the decision maker, I decided to dazzle my contact with the feature functionality of our solution.  I presented our company and product information talking slowly to make sure my contact was clear concerning our value proposition.
    Due to my surprise of their lack of interest, I lost my presence of mind and recommended we move forward with a demonstration.  Needless to say, the meeting came to a rapid end and I was escorted out.  On the way out, I met our competition coming in.  Not taking this lightly, I broke into a rapid dialogue reiterating our product functionality, not stopping until our competitor had passed.
    Fortunately, at this point I regained my presence of mind and was able to suggest a special deal hoping to skip right to a proposal.  At approximately the same time, however, we reached the lobby.  Without access to the decision maker I was on my own and time was running out.  As you might imagine, I began a rather rapid dialogue concerning after-sales support fearing my opportunity was slipping away. 
    In the vicinity of the front door, I met a well-connected consultant walking side-by-side with the decision maker.  This encounter with the consultant and decision maker slowed me enough to realize I needed help.  I’m happy to report, as I walked across the parking lot, unable to continue my sales call, watching the consultant walk off with the decision maker; I had the presence of mind to make a networking request with the consultant.  Once I develop a joint value proposition with the consultant I should be back on track.
    I hope I have furnished the information you required as to how my sales cycle stalled because, “I’ve been trying to sell alone.”

    Reputation Reviews for People on Twitter

    Posted on August 12, 2016 at 11:45 AM Comments comments (0)
    Yes, it’s true; you can monitor professional reputations on Twitter.  So, if you are in Human Resources why bother asking for 3 references when you can quickly access hundreds or even thousands of short reviews on the executive you are vetting.  It’s kind of like reading customer reviews on Amazon, and just as easy.
    Here is what you need to know.  Back in November 2009 Twitter launched an interesting feature called Twitter Lists.  In short, Twitter Lists allow you to organize the profiles you’re following into groups.  The filtering aspect of this feature is helpful if you are trying to zero in on something specific, such as Twitter users based on job title, industry, or any other relevant background information.  You can create as many lists as you need, and yes, if you’ve caught someone’s attention you can be “LISTED.”  If you’ve been LISTED something in your bio and or the content of your tweets has made an impression.   In the future, the person who listed you will be able to find you quickly because they filed your profile under a group name they intend to monitor.  In other words, your reputation or influence has been noted.

    This screen shot is taken from the TweetDeck ( ) interface.  The search on my name reveals my profile showing that I currently have 86,450 followers and have been LISTED 4,653 times (my LISTED ratio is 5% of my followers).  I like to review this number every month to gauge how quickly it is growing.  If the growth is heavy that means my profile and content is continuing to make an impression.
    Now, drill down to look at how they’ve named and described the list that they have placed you in.  This will give you an idea if your content or tweets is projecting the type of persona you desire.  There can be worst things in life than to be called out for “Marketing Legends” or “Inspiring Leaders,” so in this situation I can be assured that my social media reputation and influence is trending in a positive direction.

    Alan See – List Sample

    In our social economy your social media reputation is your calling card and bond.  And we all know the digital world places a high value on trust and reputation.  Good or bad, how you are LISTED or labeled is a quick gauge of whether or not your reputation is helping you build trust.
    Let’s take a quick look at our presidential candidates.  They both have millions of followers and have been LISTED thousands of times.  In a few cases how they were LISTED was probably not in their favor.  We are in for an interesting election.