Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Can't We All Just Get Along

I remember a few years back initiating a conversation in a LinkedIn group. What I thought was a topic that would inspire thought leadership turned into a war of opinions. I remember thinking to myself, "I'll never do that again". Not many things remain consistent in the ever-evolving world of social media, but my apprehension to participate in LinkedIn group discussions has.

Here are 3 trends that put a sword through the heart of the intended purpose of LinkedIn Groups:
1. "Vendors" use a "buyers" search for a solution
as an invitation to showboat
2. Personal indiscretions derail healthy debate
3. A discussion is created to bait competition

Why Decision Makers Only Passively Use LinkedIn
I remember being in an interview just out of college. I was nervous. I met a hiring manager at a run down motel to talk to him about his business. I think they supplied roofing materials to various hardware stores....? After being berated with questions, the "roofing guy" asked me if I had any questions for him. I asked him one in reply of which he went into (another) 10 minute diatribe that ended at something worlds away from the question I had asked. I didn't get the job but I learned an early professional lesson: Being a self-important jerk is no way to succeed.

...which leads us to a fundamental failure in LinkedIn groups. In order to aid an educational seminar I was conducting, I asked a question in a LinkedIn group. A person replied in terms that related completely to the company I worked for and his perception of us. He did not answer the question because he saw my request for collaboration as an attempt to sell something. Though my intentions were genuine, I can't say that I blame him.

You Suck (and other contextual abuses)!
I'm not sure I have heard the above noted 2 word salute in any given LinkedIn group but I can tell you it's come close!

Here's how it works:
1. A well-intended late adopter of social media builds up the courage to ask a question of the group
2. The sharks smell blood in the water
3. An argument over which vendor's solution is better ensues
4. Personal indiscretions arise from the thread

The aforementioned 4 step process emphasizes why decision makers shy away from social media. Like the "roofing guy" some see a request for information as a right to advertise.
Social Media is not a place for salesmanship! If you think that you are going to close a deal by touting your solution, website, and cell phone number in a LinkedIn group you are high as a mofo!

There are a slew of people (and you know who you are) who get a pay check from a "vendor" but pretend to be independent consultants. They bait the competition, the sharks bite, and they use their political science degree to dispel the over-aggressive sentimentality. I can't say I blame them either.
Influence is not for Sale!

I think it is really important to consider this when participating in LinkedIn groups:
1. Direct selling in social media is a one way ticket to hackville.
2. Until "vendors" start acting like adults in social forums, your buyers are not going to play in your sandbox.
3. The internet is written in ink.

I petitioned several times to be a speaker at a variety of conferences. I was consistently denied because I framed my intent so as to downgrade my competitor’s solution and promote why my widget was better. Over time I learned that people spend time away from their families at conferences because they want an outside source to tell them why their job is important. That is what differentiates a partner from a vendor.

So I took on the practice of sitting in on conference sessions and gauging the presumed buyer’s reaction.

Here's what they hate:
1. Product dumping
2. Promotion of the products of the company who paid for your flight and hotel room
3. Death by PowerPoint
4. The speakers abuse of the attendees time by thinking he/she knows more than they do

And then the doors opened...

* I learned to stop talking and to start listening.
* I learned people hate so-called experts.
* I learned that people who buy things and people who sell things share the same passion.
....and that most sales people have a knack for destroying this commonality within 5 minutes!

We are all in this together. The reason why it seems otherwise is because your bravado caused your audience to instantly distrust you!

Don't Forget to Remember!



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