The Hired Gun

By Sander Biehn | May 3, 2014

Sander Biehn is founder and CEO of Thought Horizon, LLC. After a successful career in sales at AT&T, he founded his company in 2013 helping organizations to build, manage and succeed using social selling.

The snow and ice is again enveloping Atlanta and it seems everyone is staying home. We have learned from the last storm. On the phone with a colleague who has taught me countless lessons on what it means to be a sales professionals over the past two decades, we commiserated about the weather. He then told me about a strange request he recently received from a client.

She wanted his assistance in helping her company win a large “gorilla” account. The account has been with their competition for years and the sales vice president is fed up with hearing his sales team’s latest woes in making in-roads with the account’s buyers and executives. The sales vp wanted action and was ready to pay a sales expert to come in and assist. My friend politely declined.  While the offer was tempting  he saw two major stumbling blocks.

First, he knows that sales is about relationships. He has plenty of ideas on how to market and sell to the customer, but wasn’t sure how to gracefully do the job for a period of time and then hand it off to the ‘actual sales team.’  Bluntly put, you cannot create a relationship for short term gain. Both parties need to be invested in a positive outcome and the fruits of the sale. The other problem he saw was the ego of the existing sales team. The sales team’s assistance would be needed to understand the history and the opportunities at hand. Without it, there would be a lag as my friend, the hired gun, gets up to speed on the business drivers and personalities of the prospect.  Besides, why would a sales team want to help an outsider who claims to have the goods to win the client over? Presumably, only one person will be credited for the win and that person is not the existing sales force.

Interestingly, social selling offers solutions to both of these pitfalls.  Therefore,  social selling may be ushering in the era of the hired gun in Enterprise sales. While no one can build a relationship  for another person, the pace and physical distance that social selling offers allows a higher level of coaching than previously imagined. Helping a sales person post content and creating the content to capture the imagination of targeted prospects is easily done without the prospect ever suspecting the salesperson is being coached. Response on social media is not instantaneous. There is plenty of time for a social team to collect responses to posted content and for a salesperson to receive assistance from the social team with the proper reaction.

But what about gaining acceptance from the sales team? Sales people love getting help with their accounts especially if it means a sale. Gaining the trust of sales teams is as easy as bringing them along for the ride. Put them in the drivers seat. Allow them to assist with the strategy and messages. Ultimately, let them call the shots, but apply a healthy dose of advice on how to navigate the social channels where the customer reside. Once again, a social selling approach makes this a snap.

Coaching or mentoring a sales team on the steps needed to rope in the big fish can have a lasting impact. Once the sales person knows how social selling works and that it is effective, she is in a perfect position to try it with other customers or to mentor another sales team. By spreading knowledge organically, based on social selling success, you can maintain energy around the program and push sales teams to achieve greater goals with each new engagement. It is probably about time that legacy sales forces consider using a hired gun to help them win the big prizes. Technology and social selling now offer a means to overcome the previous challenges of creating a campaign to win a big chunk of new business with the help of a hired gun.

Has your organization longed to win a specific account? How would such a win affect the entire market? Do you think a social selling approach makes such micr0-campaigns more feasible? Why?

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