What’s free on the Internet may cost you

I’m disturbed by the increasing amount of misinformation that’s available on the Internet around the subject of business-to-business selling. I’m not suggesting
it is disinformation, which intentionally deceives. It’s just that so much of what is available — what you and your people are reading to gain insight and knowledge — is simply wrong.

There is valuable content out there, available for free from proven experts. The challenge, of course, is to discern what will contribute to you and your team’s success and what will inhibit or even prevent it. And unless you spend your time performing or availing yourself of independent research, it can be hard to see that, although the points being made in that blog post seem to make so much sense, they are patently incorrect.

What I look for

One of the first things I look for in an article or blog post is whether the author understands the difference between strategy and tactics. You see, the B2B sales world is generally long on tactics and short on strategy. The price we pay for this shortsightedness in sales productivity is significant. I’m sure
you’ve seen the same statistics I have.

Here are just a few ways that this tactical view manifests itself:

•  Salespeople can’t articulate what their plans are to win each opportunity in their forecast

•  Sales managers hire salespeople entirely subjectively, without any process or plan

•  The sales team doesn’t have a documented, pragmatic sales process to follow

•  Sales training is delivered tactically (a half day of presentation training at the kickoff meeting, for example) without any intention of providing support for the ongoing successful execution of the sales process.

Any “expert” that provides lists or videos of tips and tricks — tactics without any mention of the overlying strategy — is causing you more damage than good. And, if your company doesn’t have a strategic approach to selling and learning, your people will forever surf the Web, on their own, looking for that silver bullet — that one ever-elusive “thing” that will turn them into sales winners.

I want to see a clear delineation of strategy and tactics from B2B sales experts/authors. Any individual article can discuss strategy or tactics or both,
but I need to be certain the author understands how those functions interoperate.

I tend to look at the “About” page first, before I commit to even scanning through a blog post. I want to see bona fides. Credentials. Don’t interpret that as me requiring the author to be a certain age or of a certain background. I just want to make sure they have earned the right to have me invest time in reading or hearing what they have to say. The “expert” who has never sold or who has one or two clients is a non-starter for me.

Understand the motive

During the course of less than a decade, blogs (originally Web logs) have transformed from often folksy, ongoing personal stories and observations to highly produced, effective marketing platforms, almost always with something to sell. Most often, those are the products or services of the author’s company. You’ll need to determine whether the author is providing you with the truth — what’s correct and relevant for you to get the job done — or whether he or she is just trying to sway your thinking toward theirs to grab business.

I take white papers very lightly. Ultimately, they are written to promote a product or service. The promise is to provide you with an education, some insight or a perspective about that business driver, challenge or opportunity that’s preventing you from achieving your business plan. I haven’t seen a white paper yet that touches on what the company that produced it can’t do. So they potentially either, 1) awaken you to challenges and opportunities you don’t have, but the vendor can solve, or 2) provide you with the vendor’s perspective, which may or may not be what you require to solve your problem.

I’m not suggesting not to read white papers, blogs, articles or view YouTube videos. Just be as objective as you can in understanding the credentials of the authors and the possible positioning that is being done to you.