Episode 64: Susan Mann – Building an Ecosystem Around Sales
In this episode, we are joined by Compass Sales Advisory President Susan Mann, where she stresses the necessity of building an ecosystem around sales and how it will enable you to become a better resource to your clients. Listen as Susan explains why it’s essential to realize that a key part of the sales process is helping your customers advance their business — instead of just connecting and pitching — even when it’s not going to be through you, but through some other resource that you know.
Susan Mann 00:00
Making sales social to me has become much more about building community. Not necessarily only with your prospects or with your customers but really building an ecosystem around sales. And it was really accentuated through when everyone is in lockdown with COVID and everything. I think people were really seeking out ways to foster connections with other people.
Welcome to the Making Sales Social Podcast! Featuring the top voices in sales and marketing. Join host, Brynne Tillman, and Bill McCormick, as they discuss the best tips and strategies they are teaching their clients so you can leverage them for your own virtual and social selling. You can also listen to us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and Google Play. Here are your host Brynne Tillman, and Bill McCormick.
Bill McCormick 01:02
Hey, welcome to Making Sales Social! I’m Bill McCormick.
Brynne Tillman 01:05
I’m Brynne Tillman.
Bill McCormick 01:06
So Brynne, who’s joining us today?
Brynne Tillman 01:08
I am so excited to have Susan Mann joining us today. I met her through Gina Stracuzzi at IES who works with the “Women In Sales” and you know, Susan and I have a wonderful conversation and I thought man, she’s got some incredible insights around sales, outsource, sales management, and my favorite that I hope we’ll get to today, which is virtual selling. So we’re excited. Welcome, Susan to the show!
Susan Mann 01:37
Super! Thanks for having me. Brynne, Bill.
Brynne Tillman 01:40
Tell everyone a little bit about yourself.
Susan Mann 01:42
So as you mentioned, Brynne, I am an outsource sales leader. You know, in my past life I worked, I’ve had the unique opportunity to work both as a corporate executive running global sales, and then also work in a small business and in the process of scaling. So now I actually straddle the fence between the two of those, and I work with small and midsize businesses to help them put the infrastructure in place that they need for predictable sales.
Bill McCormick 02:09
That’s good because that’s a lot of the folks who listen to this. You just described them so that’s wonderful. Susan, we’re happy to have you here. So we ask everyone the same question to start off, Susan, what is making sales social mean to you?
Susan Mann 02:23
You know, if you had asked me that maybe a year ago, I may have had a different answer for you. But making sales social to me has become much more about building community. Not necessarily only with your prospects or with your customers, but really building an ecosystem around sales. And you know, I think the way Brynne and I met is a great example of that and it was really accentuated when everyone is in lockdown with COVID and everything. I think people were really seeking out ways to foster connections with other people. And so when I think about making sales, social, I think about that sense of community and contributing to each other’s community.
Bill McCormick 03:07
Alright, I’m going to come back to “Sales ecosystem” But first, I just want to talk just a moment about you know, you’re working with small to medium-sized businesses and the owners and diagnosing their sales challenges. What are some of the sales challenges you’re seeing right now in this current state we’re in, that the folks are facing?
Susan Mann 03:28
One of the big challenges is what I would call a strategic challenge. And this isn’t necessarily only as businesses emerged from COVID, but certainly, it’s accentuated them because if you can remember before we went into this pandemic, the economy was incredibly robust. And so a lot of businesses were super strong and that kind of high tide can cover a multitude of problems. And so I think now, as businesses are really starting to, economies are starting to open back up, people are starting to see where they have holes. And strategy, I think is a big one in terms of who is really my ideal customer, because oftentimes, in smaller mid-sized businesses, there’s an overly broad view of who that is because there’s a hesitancy to be limiting. And it’s kind of counterintuitive, you know, to think that, if I’m actually much more narrow and specific, my business will grow faster and stronger, and I will develop more loyal customers that really value what I do. It’s counterintuitive because businesses want to think, well, I can provide all of these different customers, all of these different market segments. So I think that’s a big challenge for people to get really crisp on the strategy. I think, you know, to the point you made earlier, I think, Brynne, you brought up in this whole virtual world. I think that’s a challenge for a lot of salespeople not In the small and midsize business arena, but I think the transition to and management of sales in a virtual environment is challenging.
Brynne Tillman 05:11
What’s one or two tips that you can give salespeople that are feeling still a year in challenged by selling virtually?
Susan Mann 05:20
I’d say the first tip is a mindset tip. Because I am a big believer that this is not going away, it’s not a matter of well, “Gee, now you know, economies are opening back up, restrictions are being lifted, Woah! We can all get back to doing what we used to do!” I think there’s been a fundamental shift in the Buy-Sell relationship in a lot of ways. And so for sellers who get good at both, and recognize that there’s going to be parts of their sales process and their approach that they have to do virtually. So that’s the first challenge is to get over the mindset. The second piece I would recommend is to learn how to build rapport virtually. And it starts by being human. You know.
Brynne Tillman 06:09
I love that, you know, we talk a lot about authentic social selling about being an authentic social seller. And when you talk about, you know, it starts with being human, whether you’re selling, or meeting and building relationships on LinkedIn, or via zoom, we do see this challenge where people flock to cold calling versus relationship building. They flock to connect and pitch or even I get on a Zoom call and I don’t know how to build rapport like I would have if I were sitting next to someone.
Susan Mann 06:45
Right! Here’s the problem, Brynne is that you have to be much more intentional in a virtual environment. So things that would happen organically, when you’re face to face, don’t happen that way on a zoom call. And so people go right to connect and pitch. And you have to actually plan for and carve out time, to build rapport, to talk to people, to get to know them, to know more about their challenges and where they’re coming from, or even what they did over the weekend. I mean, nurturing that kind of a relationship has to be much more intentional, virtually.
Brynne Tillman 07:25
I love intentional authenticity.
Bill McCormick 07:27
Yeah. And I think one of the things even you know when we would go and meet someone in person, we would maybe walk into their office, or we’d see something in the environment, that that we could comment on, that would be a point of contact, a point of reference for us to begin to build that rapport. And I think it’s important to point out that the LinkedIn profile becomes that for us now, you know. Finding some things that we can talk to them about, so that we’re not just starting the meeting just from the ground and go and let’s, you know, “Okay, so what did you want to talk to me about?” So I think that that’s very, very important.
Susan Mann 08:04
Yeah. You know Bill, what happens is, timing is compressed and people don’t have these cues in the wild, you know, in the natural environment to pick up on to be able to build rapport should they go right to the guts of the pitch, or talking about business.
Bill McCormick 08:24
Yeah! And I think it’s important to point out and I agree with you that this virtual environment’s not going away and I forget the company that put the report out, but they asked buyers and 75% of buyers said that they would prefer the first meeting with a sales rep to be virtual because it’s just so much easier. I know, I like sitting in my office at home rather than having to drive, you know, 45 minutes or an hour for a meeting and that’s a short commute. I know some folks on the west coast that, you know, do spend three and a half, four hours in a car. Right? Brynne’s in Philly, I mean, it’s a different world. I want to switch gears here a little bit and you mentioned before the sales ecosystem and I’ve heard you know, this was one of these words. So what do you think? What’s your definition? Or what are the components for you of a sales ecosystem?
Susan Mann 09:16
So when I think about a sales ecosystem, I think about not just prospects and customers, but also who are related service providers or resources for those customers. So if you’re a manufacturer, who are the equipment suppliers, or the logistics suppliers that are supporting your customer base, or if you’re a professional services firm who are you know, if you’re an accounting firm, who are typically you know, the legal resources that are supporting your client or the human resources that may be supporting your client. So, that’s what I mean when I refer to that kind of an ecosystem because I think that it enables you to be a better resource to your clients. Because part of I’m a big believer that part of what we do is not necessarily just as Brynne put it, “Connect and Pitch” but to be able to help our customers really advance their business. And sometimes, quite honestly, that’s not going to be through me or through you but through some other resource that you know, in your ecosystem,
Brynne Tillman 10:30
I love that. We often say that social selling is about building relationships, providing insights, and being a resource, knowing that the sale will come when the time is right. But I also love that, you know, as a resource, that also means, you know, if you’re not the right one, to solve their challenge, that you are the right one who introduced them to the right one, right. (Susan: Exactly! Exactly) And so I love that ecosystem and quite honestly, our business has thrived on sales trainers and other sales professionals referring our business, but we are really, really good at referring business out. And so I think it’s when you’ve got that balance, you know, you talked about work-life balance, but referral balance can really have a big impact on growing your pipeline.
Susan Mann 11:25
Brynne Tillman 11:26
One more thing, you know, a long time ago, we talked about… I’m starting to bring this backup. where when you’re prospecting, it’s like fishing with a pole, you have one pole, one line, one hook, one fish, you’re going after one prospect at a time. But when we build, you know, a group of these referral partners where this ecosystem right where you can pull from, it’s like fishing with a net. It’s like this, It’s your network. How about that? It’s your network, you’re fishing with the net because, you know, once you have these relationships going and you’re bringing value to a newer resource to that network, they’re now filling your pipeline with referrals as well.
Susan Mann 12:07
Bill McCormick 12:09
Well, let’s talk about prospecting because I’m a part of a couple of masterminds and I’ve got a poll right now on LinkedIn, asking, you know, what are some of the things that few sales leaders are needing help with. Prospecting right now is two to one. In my sales mastermind, a few weeks ago, we talked about what we’re struggling what people are struggling with, hands down, everyone said “Prospecting.” What are some of the things that you’re advising your clients to do in the area of prospecting in this current environment?
Susan Mann 12:38
You know, so Bill, the first piece is something I mentioned before, go be clear about who you’re going after, who are your ideal prospect.
Bill McCormick 12:45
Not everyone is your client.
Susan Mann 12:47
Because not everybody, not everybody is going to value what you do. And the sooner you get real about that, the better off you are, it’ll make your prospecting more focused. The second thing I recommend, and this seems like a simple thing, but make it a daily habit. Salespeople don’t invest like full days of prospecting but make it a daily habit, if you carve out a half-hour every day that I’m going to prospect. And one of the keys, you know, in this environment where there’s so much automation, I’m not a big fan of prospecting through automated means it’s the human element can’t get lost, and use a variety of different ways to reach out to people. Reach out to him by email, reach out to them by this old-fashioned thing that we all have called a telephone, reach out to them through LinkedIn, and use the combination of those tools to make it personal.
Bill McCormick 13:45
Go ahead, Brynne.
Brynne Tillman 13:46
I’m just ready for you to quote your favorite. Bill, you’re Thomas clear?
Bill McCormick 13:54
James Clear, right. And so if you’re familiar with “Atomic Habits” and it was in my brain as soon as she started talking, because we have to be consistent with it. And what James Clear says is, “We don’t rise to the level of our goals, but we fall to the level of our systems” And so as salespeople, we don’t have a system in place to prospect, we have all the goals, we want that we’re going to make X amount of calls or X amount of touches this week. But if we don’t have a system in place, it will never ever happen. (Susan: Yeah!) This is, you know, very, very important and I totally agree with the variety piece of you know, you have to use every club that’s in your back, you’re never going to use a putter off of the tee box. You’re never going to do that but there’s a time and a place for that. So there’s a time and a place for the phone, and there’s a time and a place for LinkedIn, there’s a time and a place for email. And boy, I love what you said about the automation piece, you know because using automation to prospect nowadays, especially on LinkedIn hurts you so much because when you’re using it on the phone, all they see is a phone number. When you’re using an email, they see an email they delete, when you’re doing it on LinkedIn, they see your face, they see your name, they see your company name. You know, just before I got on this call, somebody reached out to me, because they help pest control companies get 25 times more appointments in a one-month period. Well, I haven’t been in pest control in 25 years and when I went back to the guy with that, he went, “Oh, yeah, sorry.” And I said, “Yeah, you’re using automation. This is why it didn’t work. Here’s the link to some resources, I’d love to help you” (Susan: Exactly!). When you miss, you miss big!
Brynne Tillman 15:36
Yeah. And if he happened to be hitting the right person with a message that hits them the wrong way, you’re now isolating potential prospects. And to the automation piece, I always like in LinkedIn as a networking meeting, you know, treating the other person on the other side of the message the same way you would if they were on the other side of the table. But, I think it’s really important too as we’re looking at this when we go okay, well, automation will help me speed this up. You wouldn’t send a robot to a trade show. (Susan: Yeah, yeah!) Unless you sell robots, but you wouldn’t, right but you don’t. You can’t build relationships with a proxy, right. You build relationships. On your own.
Susan Mann 16:21
Right. There is no proxy, for building a relationship. And I love the point that you made that when you miss, you miss big because you don’t just miss but you actually harm your potential moving forward because you can undermine your own credibility by the things that you mentioned.
Bill McCormick 16:40
Amen, sister! Yeah, absolutely. So let’s talk for a moment about the plans that you help these companies implement. So I know prospecting has got to be part of that plan. What are some of the other plans that are parts pieces of that plan for growth for small to medium-sized businesses?
Susan Mann 16:59
So lot of small and midsize businesses lack processes. So they don’t have a prospecting process, but they don’t have a sales process, either. They don’t know how to move someone from, you know, systematically move a prospect through a proper discovery, introducing them to a solution and closing the business. So I work with them on the process side and then also on the execution side. Coaching salespeople, setting metrics, setting goals, devising comp plans, things of that sort. Oftentimes, what I see with smaller midsize businesses is that either there’s not a sales leader in place, maybe there’s the owner, wears two hats. An owner usually wears more than two, but they’re wearing a sales hat as one of the many things they do. And they don’t have the time, the experience, or the resource to really focus on getting the most out of the sales team. So I worked that full gamut from the strategy through to the execution side.
Brynne Tillman 18:04
I’m going to just ask one last and then… as you were talking to right now, business owners, entrepreneurs, sales professionals, or even sales leaders. What is the one tip in this new digital economy, that you would say is just a real tactical thing that they should be doing that can have an impact on their prospecting?
Susan Mann 18:31
Hands down and without a doubt, using LinkedIn. (Brynne: Oh, Nice!) And you know, how you use LinkedIn, you guys are the experts at this. But some of the recommendations that I give, I find people use LinkedIn as a resource, maybe just to check out somebody before I meet with them. I’m going to look you up, I’m going to find out a little about you and that’s the extent of it. But there’s so much more opportunity to use LinkedIn as a way of building rapport, which is a really hard thing for salespeople right now. You can use LinkedIn to build rapport and engaging ongoing conversation. It’s also super important to use it as a resource, to do research, to understand you know, what kind of groups people individuals may be involved in or look up and understand what kinds of things they’re posting about that gives you insight into how you can engage with them, whether it’s virtual or in person.
Brynne Tillman 19:35
We call it social listening.
Susan Mann 19:38
Oh, well, see, I told you, you would know more about those.
Brynne Tillman 19:41
No, not more, but I think that’s great. I mean, there’s so much that we can do. The last piece on that topic that I want to mention is shared connection. That is a powerful way, you know if you see you have a few shared connections, and you’re going to be having a conversation with this person the next few days. reach out to them and see if you can get any insights. And if you get someone that knows them well, starting a conversation with “Hey, Bill McCormick says, hi!” changes the whole plain field.
Susan Mann 20:09
Yeah, absolutely, the whole conversation is different from there.
Bill McCormick 20:13
Yeah, come in with much, much higher credibility. So, unfortunately, we are at the end of our time together. Susan, thank you so much for being with us here today, tell our listeners how they can stay in touch with you and take advantage of getting further and more insights from you.
Susan Mann 20:29
Perfect. Thank you very much for having me. You can find me on LinkedIn, you can also reach out to me at www.thecompasssolutions.com. And I would be happy to offer any of your listeners. If people are stuck in their sales. They’re stuck with an underperforming sales team and can’t figure out how to break through that. Or they’re just trying to scale their business, I would offer your listeners to do a complimentary discovery call and see if I can help get them unstuck. I spent a lot of time on diagnosis, and I can’t promise I can help you. But I can point you in the right direction help you figure out your root cause and how to get unstuck.
Bill McCormick 21:06
Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for that very generous offer. And thank you to all of our listeners for being with us. And as you’re going about your week this week, don’t forget to make your sales social. Bye-bye!
Welcome to the Making Sales Social podcast! Featuring the top voices in sales and marketing. Join hosts, Brynne Tillman and Bill McCormick as they discuss the best tips and strategies they are teaching their clients so you can leverage them for your own virtual and social selling. You can also listen to us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and Google Play.