Prefer to listen versus read helpful information on social selling and sales prospecting with social media and content marketing? Well today you’re in luck. Recently Tyler Anderson interviewed me for his Casual Friday podcast where we talked in depth about what social selling is and isn’t.
Today I’m sharing that with you and for those of you that prefer to read vs listen, I’ve transcribed the entire podcast word, for word and included it here.
Transcript of Tom Martin Interview on the Casual Friday podcast
Tyler: And joining me on the line right now is Tom Martin. Tom is the founder of Converse Digital. He’s a keynote speaker, and he’s author of the new book, “The Invisible Sale: How to Build a Digitally Powered Marketing and Sales System to Better Prospect, Qualify, and Close Leads.” Tom, thanks for joining us today.
Tom: Oh, thank you for having me, Tyler. I appreciate it.
Tyler: So, Tom, for the listeners out there who may not be familiar with your background, why don’t you go ahead and share with them how you became this authority on social selling, as someone who came from kind of the traditional marketing space?
Tom: Well, I grew up in the ad agency business. I was always an account guy. But about halfway through my career, I began to become really invested in and focused on business development within the ad agency space. So, I was always the new business guy. I was the guy out there pitching all the new accounts. And so while I still was working in that marketing and advertising space doing client work, I was also actually the sales guy for the agency.
And I think that background, 20 years of doing that, of having one foot firmly planted in both sides of the marketing and sales equation, gave me a really interesting lens to look through and a different point of view. And that ultimately led to what I’m doing now, which is showing companies how to use the digital toolsets that are out there – email, content, social media, and in some cases, combined with their traditional efforts of networking and advertising, etc. But how to combine all of that into an inbound painless sales prospecting system where it’s less about the cold call and the cold meeting and more about the warm qualified lead that you are really spending your time closing more so than spending your time selling.
Tyler: So, when did you see the light at the end of the tunnel or the a-ha moment, I guess? How did you make that transition yourself?
Tom: Well, for me, I started seeing the light way back in probably 2007, 2008, when social was really beginning to percolate and you could just see that something very special was about to happen in the marketing and selling space. The world was about to change significantly. So I really began to focus on it.
But the a-ha moment came as I stepped off a stage at Tulane University here in New Orleans after giving a 45-minute talk. And I looked down at my phone, and there was this Tweet from this guy I’d never met. And I don’t follow him on social. I had no idea who he was. And it said that two people had told him to call me about this international speaking gig – which long story short, I ended up getting to go to Malaysia for a week and doing some pretty lucrative speaking gigs.
And it came to me. It arrived in my lap.
And as a guy who had spent his career working on these arduous RFPs and countless hundreds of hours putting together presentations and actually at one point scheduled the birth of my second child around a pitch, to walk off a stage and have in the palm of my hand a qualified, hot lead that in short order converted to a lucrative gig – really the light bulb went off in my head. And I started to figure out, “Okay, let’s go backwards. Let’s tilt the dominoes back up and figure out how did this happen. And then more importantly, can I build a system that will make that activity occur in a somewhat projectable, highly repeatable process?” That started it And that was early 2010. And in May of 2010, I started my own company, Converse Digital, specifically to explore freely without the reigns of a traditional ad agency around my neck, but to say, “How can you really do this?” And so that’s what I’ve been doing for the last four years is really exploring the theories and proving that they work. And then, of course, last year, we put all that into the book.
Tyler: So, obviously, then, you saw the light at the end of the tunnel here on how the sales cycles changed a little bit. But why don’t you, if you can, touch on how digital or social media, as probably being the big driver, how that has changed the sales cycle. How are buyers now compared to how they were seven, eight, nine years ago?
Tom: Well, I think now the biggest change you’re seeing, and there’s just reams of data to support this across almost any industry you can pick, is that today’s buyer is really self-educating. They have, with technology, been freed from a buyer research process that we, as the sellers, always loved. It used to be that if I wanted to know about a company or a product, I kind of had to talk to somebody at that company or product in order to get the information I needed to evaluate the product or the service that I was thinking about buying. That was 10 years ago. Now, I don’t have to do that.
I can turn to a computer, a tablet, my phone, in some cases, and I can do my research without (a) letting the company or its salespeople know that I’m in the market for their products, so I’m not pestered by salespeople. But I can do it in a way that really is how I want to do it – at my pace, when I want, not during normal business hours, etc. And so what that’s done is that we, as buyers, are instinctively Googling it or tossing it out on our social networks to our friends and colleagues. We’re pre-analyzing those purchases, and we’re choosing not to actually allow a company to realize I’m in the market for their product until we have come to a mental shortlist of options. And then, at that point we finally decloak ourselves and begin to engage in conversations with those companies. But for many companies or products, that’s a lost sale that they don’t even know they lost because they didn’t see the person in the market to begin with.
Tyler: So there’s kind of three takeaways there. It seems like (1) if you’re a business or you’re an entrepreneur out there, and you don’t have that much information out there, and not just general information on your company, but just quality information that’s going to maybe help that customer through this purchasing process on your website, you’re probably missing out right there. Because it sounds like you’re telling me that they’re out there. They’re actively doing this research, and they’re basically creating the shortlist.
Tom: Yeah. If you’re not putting digital content out that can be found – and I don’t just mean on your own website. I mean on other people’s websites. This podcast is me creating digital content and putting it out there on a relevant podcast or website or whatever you would want to deem it so that people that are doing their research and are searching for information about social selling and those kinds of approaches, they might consume this podcast, and they’ll find my content portion of the podcast in the form of my answers. And so, as a company, if you’re not doing that, then you’re effectively just sticking your head down a hole and praying that the world will change. And it’s not going to. Pandora’s box is open and it’s not going anywhere. I mean, people are moving down this road. So, the way to really sell today is first and foremost to just realize that your job really isn’t to sell. It’s to help a consumer or a buyer make a buying decision. And when I say that, people say, “Oh, you’re just mincing words.” But I’m not. I don’t try to sell people. You don’t try to sell people. But you do help them make a buying decision. You anticipate the questions they will have. You anticipate the information they will need. And you provide it, but then, obviously, you’re providing it to them in a way that, hopefully, positions you or your product or your service as the ultimate solution for the problem that they’re having. You’re tilting the field in your favor, so to speak. So, if you’re not out there trying to tilt that field, you can be darned sure your competitor is. And they’re going to be tilting those buyers towards their solution, not yours.
Tyler: And I would imagine, too, if you’re obviously helping them and you’re doing so in a genuine, authentic way, that’s just building that much more credibility for you or your product or your service.
Tom: Oh, absolutely. I know that for a fact. I have business today, clients that I work with, that, back in my agency days, when I worked in larger agencies, you just had to be a bigger client in order to hire those agencies due to the budgets that were required to work with them. I would get these inbound calls, and I would sort of triage them and see if they were real. And I would honestly tell people, “Look, you could hire us, but honestly, I’m going to have to put a really junior person on your account and do this and that in order to make it financially viable for us. What you really need is this solution over here, something that looks more like this.” And here I am now, years later. I’ve got people coming to me and saying, “Hey, you’re now that solution you told me I need.” Or somebody that they know is hiring me and saying, “Well, eight years ago, you told Client A this, and he never forgot that honesty and that authenticity and that willingness to help him make the right buying decision, even though it wasn’t you.” Some people call that karma or whatever, but that approach, that ability and willingness to filter and help the buyer filter so that if they do buy you, they are buying you because you truly are the best solution, to me, that’s where sales is going to go. Because you just can’t bullshit people anymore. It’s too easy to be found out through digital technology.
Tyler: Absolutely. So, you were talking about the shortlist. And it seems like when people are doing this research, they’re kind of making this short little list of who are these potential vendors or businesses that they’re willing to move forward with. Do you have any statistics on that? What is it? Is it like three or four? I would imagine back in the day you set up RFPs. I mean, I remember a lot of businesses did that, and there’d be 15, 20 people pitching for business. But, now, if they’re doing this research, I got to imagine it’d be a small, little window there where they’re pretty much 60% closed with you, correct?
Tom: Well, in the B2B space there’s research out there that shows that 51%, so slightly over half of buyers, are getting all the way to that shortlist stage before they bother to alert anyone that they’re in the market for the product or service they’re purchasing. So that shortlist, that’s definitely a B2B-flavored approach to buying. On the consumer side, there’s numerous consumer studies that I don’t know if you’d really call it a shortlist, but there’s certainly numerous consumer studies that are showing that consumers are visiting anywhere from as few as 5 locations to as many as 18. In the case of vacation planning for tourism, I had a report I was reading the other day. People are visiting over 30 online locations before they get down to making a decision as to where they’re going to go. So, they may not be really shortlisting, per se, like you would in a B2B environment, but mentally they certainly are cycling through a whole lot of content to get to one decision.
Tyler: Yeah, and it’s funny you say that, because just over the weekend I saw someone on Facebook basically just go out there and ask, “Hey, I’m interested in getting a Fitbit. Which one would you recommend or comparable products?” And that person’s list was basically then crowdsourced through their friends. And three or four people gave back various models of Fitbits. Somebody recommended the Nike+ FuelBand and somebody recommended another product. But that basically then gave the starting point for that person to go out there and shop.
Tom: Oh, absolutely.
Tyler: So, I definitely liked what you’re talking about. As opposed to having to go out there and do all this homework and research without really knowing if they’re good or not, they’re first going to their friends. And then from there they’re going to go and then research the products.
Tom: Oh, absolutely. I needed a laser pointer, a clicker, for giving presentations. I decided I wanted to have my own so that I didn’t have to rely on conferences to provide one. I thought I wanted a Bluetooth one so that it would free up my USB port, and so I said, “Anybody know of something like this?” And it was a picture of a Logitech wireless presenter, clicker. “Something like this but in Bluetooth.” And, boom, because a lot of my friends are also fellow speakers, within 10 minutes, I had a shopping list. And the shopping list was (a) don’t get a Bluetooth, because they’re horrible. (B) get the one that you took the picture of that you put up on your Facebook post. And 10 more people right behind going, “Yup, that’s the one I use. Yup, that’s the one I use. Yup, that’s the one I use.” Well, guess which one Tom now uses? And I didn’t have to spend hours, because I had just 10 of my friends who do as much, if not more speaking than me say, “That’s the one I use. Go buy that one.” And it was like, “Well, okay. If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me.”
Tyler: It’s your social proof.
Tom: Yeah. And they did my research for me. I crowdsourced my research, my buying research, which I think that’s really the beauty. We have a restaurant client. I see people do it on Twitter all the time. They’ll come to New Orleans, and there’s such a plethora of great restaurants in New Orleans that you could literally spend days wading through all the Yelp and TripAdvisor reviews to find three or four restaurants to eat at while you’re here. I see it all the time. People will be, “Hey, I’m going to New Orleans. Where should I go eat?” Or, “Hey, I just arrived in New Orleans. Where should I go eat?” We have a restaurant client, and we monitor for that language and obviously try to insert our restaurant into that conversation. And it works a lot of times, because people are looking for that shortcut. If you think about it, it’s sort of a digital form of branding. It used to be that’s why you invested so much money in building a brand is because that became a shortcut for a consumer to not have to do all of their research. They could just go, “Oh, I know this brand. It’s a good brand. I’m going to buy that version of this product or service.” Because it used to be so hard to do that research. Well, now, it’s so easy to do that research that brands maybe aren’t as defined as they used to be or strong, but this social proof, this ability to quickly and easily get your research done online, is sort of the new form of branding, if you think about it.
Tyler: So, you mentioned a little bit about helping, and I kind of want to shift this into helping versus selling. So, what are some tips and suggestions that you would put out there for a business who’s struggling, and they’re saying, “Well, our product is pretty straightforward.” How do we really help people around this? Do you have any advice on how to create some content or just provide guidance to help audiences on maybe some of those industries that might be a little harder?
Tom: Yeah. I mean, every product is a means to an end. The old adage is “I don’t buy a drill bit, I buy the hole in the wood or the steel that I’m trying to create.” So, where your product is very simple, how you would help versus sell, is that you would then maybe help them be smarter or be better from a contextual standpoint of what they’re using your product to do. So, for instance, one of my favorites is Lowe’s did a Vine. And Lowe’s is a retail store. They sell products that you need to do things around your house. One of their Vines was how to get a screw that you’ve stripped back out using a rubber band. And it was very simple. They just showed the stripped screw. They put the rubber band on top. They put the drill bit back in, and boom, it backed out the screw, because it gave it that added bit of torque that it needed. Super, super simple, helpful tip. Now, does that mean I’m going to buy all of my drills and screws and everything at Lowe’s? No. But it surely helps keep Lowe’s upper in my consideration, so that certainly makes me feel more positive about them. Similarly, if you were a webinar software company like a GoToMeeting, once you kind of get into the webinar software, it does what it does. It’s pretty simple. Here’s the feature set. But there’s a lot of art and science to putting on better webinars, to getting more people to sign up for your webinars, to how to use webinars in marketing. There’s all kinds of content that a Citrix could do around a GoToWebinar product that has nothing to do with the product itself.
Tyler: Those are great examples. Actually, I have not seen that Lowe’s one. I’m going to have to go look for that.
Tom: Oh, yeah, that one’s great. And I’ve used it. It actually works.
Tyler: I was just thinking about that. I was putting some things together about two weeks ago, and that would have been very handy. So, obviously, then, I think the takeaway there is really anybody can produce content that can educate or inform – how-to’s. You just got to get a little creative in thinking about what that is for your industry. And then, I’d imagine the next step, then, is creating that content. What about the various ways of doing so? Why don’t you talk to us about integrating video – photography versus audio.
Tom: Wow, man. That’s a whole other podcast in and of itself. I think the biggest think is that people don’t think about how to repurpose their content as they’re creating it. They don’t think through, “I’m about to do something.”
So, for me, I do a lot of speaking, obviously, which is how we met. And I have a practice of, provided that the conference will allow me to do this, I will always record my presentation using ScreenFlow. And I wear a separate lavalier microphone in addition to the one the conference provides me. And my microphone is jacked into my computer. So by simply just having that software on the computer, hitting record before I start speaking, hitting the stop when I’m done, I now have taken my presentation, which is a real world piece of content, and I turn it into a video piece of content that I can put up on YouTube or Vimeo or anywhere so people can relive it. I turn it into a lead gen piece of content, because I offer everybody in the audience the opportunity to get a copy of the video, which is my voice synchronized to the slides – which if you’ve seen slides these days, obviously there’s not much use for that voice 9 times out of 10. So that’s a lead gen tool. I can take that, and I can cut it up and do a highlight reel. I can put that highlight reel on my blog with a little outline of what I talked about and why it’s so valuable. “And, hey, by the way, if you would like a copy of the entire presentation, fill out this form and I’ll send you a link where you can download the very presentation that you weren’t able to see.” I can strip the audio out and turn it into some sort of a podcast. I can take the podcast, upload it to SpeechPad, and turn it into a complete transcript that could then be maybe a small eBook or a really long blog post or pieces that can be torn out and used in an email campaign. I mean, what did I just do? Six or seven?
Tyler: I counted about 10.
Tom: Okay. So I’ve got 10 pieces of content all because (a) I preplanned it mentally and (b) I took one step. I put ScreenFlow on my computer, and I recorded the presentation as I gave it.
Tyler: That’s actually a great tip. And I actually want to go a little deep on that for a second. One thing that some people might be out there if they’re in an industry where they are giving presentations. I, even, for one, can admit that that seems a little bit more complicated, but it probably isn’t, because ScreenFlow is a very cool, easy, affordable tool. And then, what, you said you had a lavalier mic. Was it like a Bluetooth one that went into your computer?
Tom: No, it’s just a simple wireless. It’s got a transmitter pack that I wear on my belt just like a regular… And then it has a base station that I plug into – in my case, I have to use the USB port, because Apple decided to disable the mic-in port on the new MacBooks. But it used to be I would just put it into the microphone-in port, and I would tell ScreenFlow to use that as the audio-in. And I would tell it to capture the screen. I would tell it not to capture any other audio unless maybe there was an embedded video or something like that I wanted to capture. And then, literally, you just hit “Go.”
Tyler: That’s awesome. That’s a cool tip.
Tom: It’s super simple. Anybody that’s giving sales presentations, presentations, webinars, whatever – if you’re presenting things from a computer and you’re not capturing that using a ScreenFlow or a Camtasia, if you’re on the PC side of the house, and then using that to create video and audio and text and emails and so forth – I mean, it’s just such low-hanging fruit, it’s so easy that you’re silly not to do it. And it’s something, literally, you could hand to an intern.
Tyler: And I’m sorry to interrupt. I’m thinking that if you’re out there and you have a traditional B2B type business, where maybe you’re even giving a sales presentation online, even though it may be customized for some person, even if you’re recording those, there’s still probably got to be little bits and pieces that you can plug out of that and turn into content.
Tom: Absolutely. If you think about it, let’s say you pitch in the tourism industry. And so you’ve got your standard little sales pitch document that you take people through. That document, if you’re helping versus selling, is probably going to have some really good, meaty information content. Well, just snip that part out, and that becomes your blog post or that becomes your YouTube video, your lead gen. And then that lead gen form might not be to get the whole pitch, but like a “if you think this could be a solution that could work for your company, call us, and we’ll take you through the entire 30-minute presentation” type of thing. So it’s super simple, super easy. Like I said, when I go, I record mine on a portable flash drive. And when I get back to the office, I just toss it one of the interns and say, “Here. Do what we do.” And they have their little checklist of things they’re supposed to do, and they do it. And then it’s processed. It’s simple.
Tyler: That’s awesome. So, let’s kind of shift over to the platforms for a little bit here. I mean, when people think social selling, my first gut is, “Oh, that’s primarily just LinkedIn and maybe a little bit of Twitter.” But I’m imagining you’re going to tell me it’s way more than that.
Tom: Yeah, it’s way more than that. I think it depends on your industry. There’s some work we’re doing in an industry right now where we’re fielding some research. And I was seeing the early returns of that research, and it clearly is a LinkedIn-based industry. They’re really not heavy Twitter and Facebook users. But for myself, my number one platform is Facebook. I’ve derived more inbound client work from Facebook than any other platform, Twitter or LinkedIn. And it’s just because I’m in a couple of private Facebook groups where most of the other members are client side folks. And, again, I go in there and I just help. I don’t sell. But it gives me the opportunity to have really big ears. I hear of a lot of client pain points that other people in my industry don’t get to hear. And then I can quietly go back through email or phone or whatever and just say, “Hey, I saw you were talking about this in the group. You know, I can help you with that.”
Tyler: So, I’ve got to ask, then. If you’re a business, a B2B type business, and you’re in sales and you want to leverage this, I would imagine it’s got to be better to use this from your personal profile versus the brand page.
Tom: Oh, absolutely. Oh, yeah. I just laugh when people want to tell a company, “Oh, you need to get a corporate Facebook page. That’s going to solve everything.” It’s not going to do anything. You need to have your sales staff actively in there at a personal level. And you have to teach them how to social sell in Facebook, in LinkedIn. Because the biggest challenge I find is that sales guys and gals try to close too fast. They still believe that sales is an “I sell you something,” which is me actively causing you to do something. And in social selling, to me, it’s completely the opposite. It’s helping you make a buying decision, but more importantly, it’s really based on seduction. Your job in social selling is to be the seductress and to get the other person to, through what they believe is their own volition, come to the decision that “I need to buy that” or “I need to hire that person” or “I need to hire that person.” It’s a much slower process, I think. It’s more disciplined. And so it’s really about that. B2B company – sales guys and gals have got to be in these channels, but they have to be trained or retrained so that habitually they function in a way that you need to function in these channels in order to pull that buyer through the channel versus “I’m going to close this guy before the quota on March 31st.”
Tyler: Got it. So, I guess kind of wrapping it up there, you just answered my last question, which was, how do you close the deal on social. And if I’m hearing you correctly, you’re saying you’re not. You’re basically just helping them with that ultimate buying decision.
Tom: Yeah. My closes since I’ve started using this system is there’s always a few questions that just need to be answered, or they just want to talk to you face-to-face or on the phone or via video conference because they just need that feeling. Like, “I just want to see you and look you in the eye or hear your voice and know that you’re an honest, trustworthy person that I can do business with.” Or they say, “Man, we’d really like to buy it, but we have to have it packaged a certain way.” Or “I need you to call it this” or “I need you it to be built like this.” But they’re all buy questions. They’re all people that are already ready to buy. You’ve just got to help them cross those last couple of hurdles to get their business. And, to me, that’s really the beauty of it. I know when I was in the old-fashioned ad business I was closing maybe 25% of our leads and pitches. And I was doing really well, and everybody was very happy. Now, it’s more like 85%, maybe 90% of our leads close. I’m much happier. And I don’t schedule the birth of children around this kind of stuff anymore.
Tyler: Absolutely. I remember – I came from sales, obviously on the traditional side – and back on day one, it was always, “Know your numbers. How many calls do you need to make to get X amount of potential leads? And how many leads will close?” It’s definitely changed night and day with social media. So, let’s see here. I guess the last thing I just want to quickly touch on. Tell us a little bit about the book. What can the listener expect if they go out there and purchase the book? What are they going to get out of it?
Tom: Well, it was written as a field guide for any company or person that wants to augment or replace their existing sales system with more of this inbound digital. It’s written in four sections. The first section is all of the statistics you need to make the case to your organization. There’s a great case study. So, it’s really, “Here’s why we need to do this.” The second section is all about how. It lays out exactly how to build a digital sales prospecting platform, understand the science, understand how to build it, where to build, how to build propinquity, etc. The third section is all about content, like you talked about. So, one chapter for each type of content – video, photo, etc. We interviewed professional creators in each of those spaces for the tools, the tactics, the programs, the tips, everything you need. And then the last section is the close. How do you actually close a self-educating buyer differently than you close a traditionally non-self-educating buyer? And it really helps people understand what I call Aikido Selling, which is that process to bring that self-educated buyer to conclusion. It’s a field guide. It’s a how-to. It’s very actionable. It’s not what you need to do and why, but it’s what, why, and more importantly, how.
Tyler: That’s awesome. Well, full disclosure – I have not read it yet, but it is purchased on the Kindle. It’s on the queue there, so hoping to get to that in the next month.
Tyler: So, Tom, as I told you before, in the preshow we do have a fun little feature here that we wrap up our podcast with, and we’re going to go ahead and get to that right now.
Tyler: Okay, Tom. There’s no beers here, but it will give people some pretty good content if they ever see you at a conference, so they go up and talk to you.
Tom: I love that.
Tyler: Six simple questions. You just got to give us a simple answer. Okay?
Tom: Okay. Tyler: All right. What’s your favorite color?
Tyler: Have you ever solved a Rubik’s Cube?
Tyler: Would you consider yourself an artist of any kind?
Tyler: Want to elaborate?
Tom: Just in the creation of presentations and pitches. I really overplan environmental cues, photographic cues, etc. I think there’s an art to building great presentations.
Tyler: So, you got some skills.
Tom: I think.
Tyler: All right. Do you know how to change the oil in your car?
Tom: I do.
Tyler: If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Tyler: You’re actually living in a great place, so…
Tom: Yeah, I’m in a pretty great place. I don’t know. San Diego was pretty awesome when we were out there for Social Media Marketing World. And I’ve always wanted to visit Australia, though I don’t know that I would want to live there. But I definitely want to visit it.
Tyler: I live in San Diego. Obviously, I love it. Now, we’re recording this here the Monday after all the wildfires last week, but I’ll still take it.
Tyler: All right. Last one – how many pillows do you sleep with at night?
Tom: How many pillows or pills?
Tom: I thought you said pills. I was like, “Wow, that’s getting personal.”
Tyler: Some Ambiens, yeah.
Tom: Pillows – two pillows.
Tyler: I think that’s the average. Awesome. Well, Tom, very cool stuff. Thanks again for taking the time to join us today. Is there anything else out there for our listeners?
Tom: No. I just appreciate the time. If they like the book, go pick it up at Amazon or TheInvisibleSale.com. And if you ever see me at a conference, please come up and say hi, because I am a horrible introvert, but I love talking to people. I’m just not very good at going and starting the conversation. So, please come and say hello.
Tyler: Absolutely. For more information on Tom, check out his website, www.conversedigital.com. Of course, you can check him out on Twitter, too.
Tom, what’s your Twitter handle?
Tyler: @TomMartin. There you go. Tom, thanks again for joining us.
Tom: Thanks for having me.