My podcast guest Phil Gerbyshak is the walking, talking definition of a social connection. Phil takes great delight and is a master at using all things social to help businesses gain that next great client by making authentic connections.
For Phil, it’s not that Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn are the end all and be all of social tools but instead Phil’s focus is on using the social tool of your choice to get to know and connect with your peers, clients and the world around you. By being valuable and by sharing what you know, you open up the door for opportunity.
We had a great conversation about social selling and what that can mean for agencies today:
- Social selling: getting people to convert for you
- Making a connection with someone online (this isn’t a follow or a like)
- Why keyword targeting isn’t necessarily the best path to success
- Why Phil actively connects people he thinks should know about each other
- How Phil uses LinkedIn as a powerful sales and research tool
- Why you have to share content that isn’t your own
- Why you should congratulate your competition — and why you need to be genuine about it
- Phil’s strategy for creating content people need and starting conversations
- Cultivating and leveraging testimonials
- How to use your pinned post wisely
- Things you can do right now to start putting into practice the ideas from this episode
- Phil’s podcast “Conversations with Phil”
Phil Gerbyshak is a speaker and a trainer, who delivers programs on the power of technology, social selling and connection. With a unique speaking style—part technology and sales expert, part entertainer—Phil keeps his audiences awake and engaged while providing micro-tactics to help you get more leads, earn referrals, and improve your business. When he’s not traveling, speaking, or making new connections, Phil writes. He’s published 5 books, including “10 Ways to Make It Great” and “#TwitterWorks,” more than 2,500 articles, and has been interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Financial Times, and more.
To listen – you can visit the Build A Better Agency site (https://www.agencymanagementinstitute.com/phil-gerbyshak/) and grab either the iTunes or Stitcher files or just listen to it from the web.
If you’d rather just read the conversation, the transcript is below:
Table of Contents (Jump Straight to It!)
- Defining Social Selling and Connection
- LinkedIn and Other Social Selling Tools
- What an Engaging Content Strategy Looks Like
- How to Leverage Your Social Profile to Get Speaking Engagements
- How to Start Social Selling (Action Steps)
If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits too? Welcome to Build a Better Agency, where we show you how to build an agency that can scale and grow with better clients, invested employees, and best of all, more money to the bottom line. Bringing his 25 plus years of expertise as both an agency owner and agency consultant to you, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.
Drew: Hey there, everybody. Drew McLellan here with another episode of Build a Better Agency. So glad that you are with us today. If this is your first podcast, welcome. If you’ve been around for awhile, you’re gonna love this episode, hopefully as much as you have loved all the others. My guest today is a dear friend and someone I have known for, gosh, over a decade for sure. I met him back when blogging was very uncommon. Marketing and sales people, all those kinda people weren’t really blogging back in ’06,’07. And Phil’s one of the very first people that I met sort of in that genre, and I will tell you that his topic is one that I think is super important for agency owners and agency staff to understand. And he lives it and he breathes it, and that’ll come through, I think, throughout our conversation.
So let me tell you a little about him. Phil Gerbyshak believes in the power of social selling and connection with a unique speaking style, which I have enjoyed many times, part sales expert, part entertainer, Phil keeps his audiences awake and engaged while providing actionable steps to bring in more leads, more referrals, and more business. When he’s not traveling, speaking, or making a new connection, he writes. He’s published 5 books, including “10 Ways to Make It Great!”, “#TwitterWorks”, and more than 200…sorry, 2,500 articles, and has been interviewed by everybody: “Wall Street Journal”, “USA Today”, “Financial Times”, and more. So Phil, welcome to the podcast.
Phil: Hey, thanks, Drew. It’s great to be here, man. I can’t believe that it’s been over 10 years. Holy cow.
Drew: I know.
Phil: Seems like yesterday.
Drew: It does, doesn’t it? Well, I’ve always said that blogging years are sort of like dog years.
Phil: Absolutely. Well, they’re long and sometimes they’re lonely, but I can tell you that I’ve made some of the best friends in the world because of my blog. So I’m so grateful for it.
Defining Social Selling and Connection
Drew: Yeah, me too. So, let’s talk a little…let’s define first this idea of social selling and connection. You know, a lot of agencies sell social and a lot of agencies do social, but in many agencies it’s sort of relegated to an intern’s job or something like that. And they’re just sorta cranking out, you know, articles or things like that, but they’re not really engaging in the way that, I think, you talk about. So, let’s define first social selling and then we’ll talk about connection. Because in my mind, although they’re linked, they’re obviously pretty different.
Phil: Yeah, they’re definitely different, so that’s good. Yeah, let’s talk about social selling. So social selling really is about getting people to convert for you. So that could mean getting them on your newsletter list, that could mean scheduling a face-to-face phone call, that could mean actually responding to your email, that could be being okay with maybe going in with some sort of a demonstration of your work, could even be as simple as agreeing to have a cup of virtual coffee with you over Skype, or Zoom, or some other session.
But it’s about going beyond the typical, “Hey, look at me. Be aware of me, I’m really good.” And really gets to the point where you’re actually converting them and have an opportunity earn their business. Seldom does the actual conversion, the transaction of money, take place online. But often once they’ve seen enough of your information and touched you enough times, just like any other sales tool, social selling now offers the ability to really go deep, and to really make a difference, and to really convert people so they can make an informed decision about yes or no, are you the person that I want to do business with? Are you the agency that is going to do business with me?
So all of the social selling type stuff really penetrates to the heart of where the sale happens, and I think a lotta agencies end up signing clients by luck more than they do through any sorta process or any sort of deliberate social means online, right? Offline they have some great programs, they have some great tools. I bet they probably have amazing pitch decks, but they don’t really have that same philosophy when it comes to online tools and doing that social sale.
Drew: Okay, so let’s define connection and then we’ll go back and dig into social selling first.
Phil: Sure. So connection, really, that’s kind of the first step, and connection is more than just, you know, someone liked your fan page or someone is following you on Twitter. Connection is where they actually give you that first glimmer of starting that persona of a real email address and answer some real questions, and often the connection piece is where you now finally become a LinkedIn connection and now we have some more richness of information. And that connection will take place because there’s something in common. And when we think about a connection, if it’s you and I, Drew, we have some third thing that we’re both interested in either because we love it, or because we need it for our business, or because it is of interest to us in our world.
But there’s something else that connects us together typically. It’s not just you and me, it’s something else. And so that’s where a lot of the social tools make that very easy to make a connection because people don’t just share business stuff unless they’re really boring and put people to sleep. They’d share their passions, and that’s easier to connect with. Or they share their interests. Maybe they are interested in food, or beverage, or wine, or beer, or whatever it is that they’re interested in. And that then is the basis for which a connection is formed. It’s that third thing that’s out there between a relationship, between you and I, that starts because of something that we can connect to.
And in our case, many years ago, it was the blog. And as you become more and more connected to someone, you find that there’s more and more things that you have in common and small talk becomes more meaningful because we can get beyond the superficial, “Here’s one thing in common,” and we can find out what’s really important that’s in common and how that aligns with our values and our message.
Drew: So, I’m guessing that for some of our listeners, they’re hearing all of that and they’re going, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, but oh my god, that sounds like it takes forever. And I want to sell somebody something today.” So talk about the speed at which all of that can and does happen.
Phil: Sure. So it can be fairly rapid. It doesn’t happen in a day unless there is…unless you really do some digging and really find a need. Seldom do people directly say, “Hey, I really want an agency to do my work.” It’s not typically how it works, okay? Now if it…
Drew: Be awesome if they did.
Phil: Yeah, wouldn’t it?
Drew: Just a sign on their forehead.
Phil: Yeah, you know, if they put a help wanted sign on…
Drew: It could be like Pokémon Go where you just walked around looking for them and then you just, you know, threw something at ’em.
Phil: You know, yeah and that’s what people do though with social, Drew. It’s funny you say that because that’s often what we do, right? We key in on those keywords, that automation. I can tell you that I get automation targeted all the time on Twitter and it drives me nuts, you know? I gotta…I mention something about, “I hope that works out,” and I think I said “workout” instead of “works out”, so of course 12 gyms followed me and sent me messages that I should really check out their fitness gym because it’s clear that I’m passionate about fitness.
Drew: Ha, okay.
Phil: Hm, no, not so much, right? I hope that works out? Hm, no. So if a human being had read that, they would see that I was not talking about working out, but rather work out, right, works out, hope something gets better or has a positive outcome. And that seems obvious when I point that out, but so many times we keyword target and we think that’s the fastest path to success. We use some… There are tons of tools out there that help us better target our people and we create these great personas for our agencies of, “These are the things, and if people say these words, oh my gosh, let’s jump on ’em.” And we hope that’s going to convert to an immediate sale. And that’s really, that’s what people hope, but I can tell you it is seldom that somebody is that obvious about what they need.
So it does take a little more time, but it takes a lot less time than you think. I mean, it’s not a…you know, it doesn’t draw the sales cycle out to be a year or 10 years or anything like that, but it does require more attention to the right things, to actually what people are posting. What is the intention of their tweets, of their LinkedIn posts, of their information is. And paying attention, I mean, we do see clues that can lead to faster change. So if we’re watching the news stream of some of these companies, on LinkedIn let’s say, and we notice that they suddenly hired, you know, 20 or 50 people, or even 5 people in a small company, now might be an opportunity where they might need some help. So if we’re paying attention to that, and we’re connected to them, and we’re excited about their news, and we have some listening tools set it up, it does actually speed it up. This does not slow down the sales cycle at all. It makes it more meaningful and gets you to the point where people can say yes or no much faster than before.
Drew: You know, when I hear the word “connection”, especially when I hear it in relation to you, for me connection is about making connections. And I think one of the ways you’ve built your business is by being, as Disney calls it, aggressively friendly. You have gone out of your way many, many times to make connections between people, saying, “Hey Drew, I think you would love getting to know Babette,” and then making that connection, and then stepping out of it. So it’s not really about you but it’s about finding like-minded people and bringing them together. But I also have to think that being the connector, A, positions you in the marketplace, but B, creates opportunity for you because they’re, I’m guessing, that in the universe out there, when you connect me with someone else, I…and that’s a valuable connection for me, I sort of consciously or unconsciously sort of keep tally in my head that I sorta owe you, right, and that I want to return the favor someday. So again, it’s probably I’m not thinking about it every night before I go to sleep, but I am looking for and recognize pretty quickly the opportunity to introduce you to someone that I think would helpful to your business. Don’t you think?
Phil: I do think so. I think that does help. I think at first that was very unintentional. I really do…I light up watching people that I care about connect. It’s really amazing, whether I care about them personally or professionally, watching that connection get made is so much fun. I get a lot more joy from that then I get from a referral fee, you know? And some might say, “Well, dude, you don’t pay your mortgage with good will, but…”
Drew: With joy.
Phil: Right. But you do though. And I say that because here’s the thing, there are a lotta people that I can connect that even if I wanted them to do business with me, they likely wouldn’t, not because they don’t want to either, but because right now there might not be a fit. And so instead I go out of my way, as you said, to be aggressively friendly, aggressively connecting people. And absolutely that pays back because what happens is then when there is a need, people think about that. The other thing that happens is when the first thing that those people talk about is me when I make that connection, “So how do you know Phil?” “Well, I know Phil because of this.” “Well how do you know Phil?” “Well I know Phil about this.” And then, you know, often sparks a totally different conversation because they never…they know that I would not refer them business if it was something that I did, but now, as you said, you think, “Well, he referred that business away,” or “he connected that nice person to me. Boy, I wonder what Phil needs?”
And I can tell you I have an amazing network with you, of course, Drew, and very near the center my friend, and who are always helping me and always willing to make a connection for me. So seldom do I have to ask, and if I do ask, here’s the other thing. By making valuable connections, even when sometimes they go awry, and I’ve had a couple times where people that I had mad respect for have forgotten the social part of sales and gone right for the, “Hey, you look like my perfect target, will you promote my blah-blah-blah?” And they copy me in and I’m like, “Oh my gosh, really, dude? Did you really do that to that person that I’m connecting you with?” And I don’t say that, but then I get the nice private message back from the person that just got yakked on that says, “Hey…”
Drew: “What the heck?” Right?
Phil: “…what happened here?” But they give me a little more grace than they would if this were the only connection or if every time I made a connection I thought it was because they could do business together. Sometimes I make that connection just because I think they’re great people or you have something in common, again, that third piece. Yes, on one side it’s me, but on the other side, once you get past that, I mean, I’m not, you know, I’m not an egotistical person. don’t expect that somebody’s gonna spend an hour talking about me, I expect there’s gonna be some value.
Drew: There could be some awkward stories if they’re talking about you for that long.
Phil: Yeah, well that was even with my mom. So if you’re connected to her on Facebook… No, I’m just kidding, Mom doesn’t post that embarrassing stuff. But yeah, I expect that there’s gonna be a third reason. You know, there could be a need that I saw because I do pay attention even if it’s not me. If I see someone, you know, needs PR help, or agency help, or design help, or whatever, I am not shy about making that recommendation if someone, I think, can best serve, and I think, absolutely, Drew, that definitely serves me well.
Drew: Well and you know what, in my opinion it works as well offline as online. One of the things I always recommend to agency owners is that they create some sort of an event where they…it’s sort of a private event where they have all of their clients come and are invited, and they also invite some of their best prospects. Because as you say, the one…the very first thing that they’re gonna say is, “Well, how is it that you’re here?” “Well, Agency ABC has been my agency for years and they do this.” “Oh, really, tell me more about that.” So it’s a great way to have other people sell for you without asking them to or without it being manipulative or feel yucky, you know? So when you’re making connections for other people, a lotta times when they’re saying, “Hey, how do you know Phil,” I suspect sometimes when the person says, “Oh, well he does XYZ for me,” the person goes, “Oh, I didn’t know he does XYZ,” right?
Phil: I was just gonna say. Yeah, absolutely, that’s often kinda the collateral benefit, is people don’t realize all the services that anyone provides. It’s really…it’s impossible that anyone does, and if nothing else, it serves as that proof of, “Oh yeah, Phil does do that. Oh yeah, that is a value,” and absolutely that collateral proof without asking for it. If I just said, “Hey Drew, will you go say three nice things to this person for me? Well, maybe two, but…not sure about three,” as opposed to, “Oh yeah, and Phil does this and that and this, and here is some of the results he got for me. What’s he doing for you?” And then somebody’s like, “Oh, well I’m thinking about…” “Well you should definitely use Phil because he’s a great pick for that.” Yeah, absolutely. Great collateral benefit for sure.
Drew: And it’s… You use the word “collateral benefit”, and I think that’s one of the keys to creating, being a connector is if you’re connecting simply to make a sale or to have people talk about you in their mutual introductions, that doesn’t work. You have to be connecting them because you genuinely want to help both of them and you think that there’s value for each of them in the connection, right?
Phil: Absolutely, absolutely. Even if they… I mean, really, I don’t know what their conversation is. I don’t care. I don’t monitor that. I do my best to remind people that once I make that connection, “I’m out unless you need me.” Absolutely, that’s never my goal, I would… That’s manipulative. That is shady, and frankly, if that was my intention, it would be a lot more forced and a lot less genuine. And then, frankly, it wouldn’t work.
Drew: And honestly, it wouldn’t be fun. I know you and I both love connecting people. And for me it’s fun to watch those connections sort of bloom and people to create new relationships. I like that, and typically I’m connecting people that I like and respect. So why wouldn’t I want two people that I like and respect to like and respect each other?
Phil: Absolutely, absolutely, that’s the key. That… When you think about connection, again, that’s that…the joy that I get from the connection, and I know that the joy you get as well, Drew, that’s so important because the last thing I want is more work that doesn’t pay, right? I don’t need more work that doesn’t pay, I have enough, thank you. So when I can get some joy instead and make a genuine, authentic, fun connection between people that I know will hit it off, man, there’s nothing better.
LinkedIn and Other Social Selling Tools
Drew: So I think in today’s world when people hear “connection”, they immediately…their brain flips over to LinkedIn. Is that a tool that you use a lot, and if so, how do you use it to serve your connections there and your business?
Phil: Yeah. So, absolutely. LinkedIn is one of the most powerful tools in my tool belt for sales. I am out there just about every day. I’m looking for things to comment on where I can add value to the conversation. A lotta times I get the best insights into things to write for a blog post because of things that I see on LinkedIn in the stream. I’m able to fill my social channels up with other people who have similar thoughts to what I do that either validate or maybe that challenge my way of thinking. And those are all great ways and those are sometimes a little bit passive ways to do it. And by passive, I don’t mean that they don’t require work. I mean, people have to be finding me to do that.
But then the other way is I’m intentional about those connections. So, if I see something that is valuable, or something that I can add great value to, if they are looking for something, if I do get that random, “Hey, what the heck? I need this,” or “I noticed this,” then absolutely I’ll send ’em a message. But often LinkedIn gives me the ability to research a company or an organization that I wanna work with so much more rich than anything else because I can get the whole organization view really quickly. I can tell you that in a sales organization, if the top dog in the sales organization is someone who is not very active on social, chances are the opportunity for me to go in and train them is nearly zero. So, that doesn’t work, it’s not worth my time. Doesn’t mean that I might not pay attention to that company if they’re in my target range, but it does mean that I’m not going to invest a lotta time now. But what I’ll do instead is I’ll use LinkedIn to make connections with others in the organization that I know could be my advocates and try to share articles with them.
I’ve got a financial adviser that I’ve worked with. I know that their office is not very social at all. The head of the office has been a financial adviser for 35 or 40 years, could give a crap about LinkedIn. But I’m connected to the junior partner in the group because eventually that junior partner is either gonna grow up and become a senior partner, or that junior partner’s gonna go somewhere else where I’m gonna be able to help them in another way. So actively cultivating that network, actively sharing my content on LinkedIn and actively being part of conversations is really important and really one of the biggest tools that I have in my tool belt that grows my business each and every day.
Drew: So as you’re saying that, agency owners across the land are going, “Crap, one more thing to do, and I don’t have time, bladda-bladda-blah.” Are there some… Can you give us A, a sense of how much time that takes you, and B, are there tools that you use to make that more efficient or effective?
Phil: So, you can add as much time to it as you have or you can just take 20 or 30 minutes a day. And that’s really what I do in a couple different chunks. I’ll typically take 5 minutes here, and 10 minutes there, and 15 minutes there and make it happen. And if you distribute that amongst your agency, you have a lot better chance of being successful. Because if every message comes from the president of the agency, you’re really missing out on a lot. So instead, distribute that to your team. Get others involved. Use some employee advocacy to share the message. And then from there it’s really important that you’re consistent more than that you do a lotta time. So what I mean by that is show up every day. Show up a little bit every day. Even if you have five minutes, pull out your phone, spend five minutes each and every day on it.
And as far as tools that work, frankly the LinkedIn mobile app and then the LinkedIn, you know, desktop app are the two you need. The mobile app does a great job of surfacing the popular things that show up in your network, and a lotta times I’m gonna see that. I’m gonna pay attention to that. It’s gonna show me that somebody just celebrated an anniversary, somebody just changed jobs, somebody just did something to their profile, somebody did something that pops up in my stream as the first thing, and I see all the people that I might wanna connect with. So on the front end, as you take some time, connecting your mobile app first to your calendar, really important because if I just had a meeting with Drew, I want then after the meeting, hopefully it was successful, to then connect on LinkedIn. So we can, you know, deepen that relationship and make a real connection on that. I typically do not do that before a meeting, not because people don’t accept those connections, seldom do people mark them as spam because I personalize them, but I do it after the meeting as a follow-up of a, “Hey Drew, I really had a great meeting. I thought we discussed some important topics and I’d love to connect with you on LinkedIn and see how we can help each other.” And now, by personalizing that, then that shows up, once you accept that, it shows up in my inbox.
So now on LinkedIn, now I might not talk to you for a week or a couple of weeks via LinkedIn, but I go back and I’m like, “Oh yeah, that’s when we had that meeting.” And because I connected LinkedIn to my calendar, LinkedIn mobile will prompt me. It says, the day before the meeting, if that…if you have that person in your meeting request, so use your email in the good way, actually invite people to meetings, it will come up and say “View Profile”, or if you’re not connected, it’ll say “Connect To Them”. And that is so valuable because now I can do that extra minute or two of research before the meeting that shows, “Oh yeah, maybe they did post something this morning that’s gonna give me something to talk about.” And I could say, “Hey Drew, I see you just posted a blog post about, you know, your travel woes. Man, I have some travel woes, too.” And now we start out on a common foot instead of starting out as strangers.
Drew: Right. And as you know, common woes is one of my favorite posts, so. And now I wanna shift it to social selling. So, Phil, I will tell you, and if you’ve watched most agencies, the way they use social is they use it as a broadcast medium. So they are, A, pumping out too much information about themselves: awards and stuff like that, but B, if they’re not talking about themselves they are pushing out third party content or potentially content they’ve created themselves. Is that good? Is that bad? How should they be using social if they actually wanna use social to sell?
Phil: Sure. So, first, you have to share content. I mean, absolutely that’s important. You wanna show up as a person of value. If you just go in and spearfish and try to sell, sell, sell, that’s not going to work. So content does matter. People do look for people that are of value. People do look at your profile to make sure that it’s up to date, to make sure that the picture of you, you know, matches who you are in person if they’ve met you, or…
Drew: Is not your high school photo.
Phil: Right, right. Yeah, quick sidebar here. I had someone who wanted to be my client really bad and we got together. We had the first meeting and, like I said, I don’t connect to people before we meet. So after we meet I sent a LinkedIn request, and right after I sent it I see, “Wow, this picture’s kinda old.” So our next meeting I said, “Hey, so when is that…” Meeting. “When’s that picture from?” And he says, very proudly, “Well Phil, that’s when I first became an insurance agent in 1973.” And I said, “You know, that’s the year I was born and I can tell you, you know, that doesn’t look anything like you.” He said, “Well I just…I never invested the money to ever get another picture taken.” And I can tell you he’s not my client for that very reason, because he refuses to change. He does not wanna invest the time or the money in order to do that, and that is ineffective social selling. So that’s something you also need to think about is, you know, how does your team look as an agency? Do you look similar? And by that I don’t mean are you all whitebread people from the Midwest, I mean do your pictures have the same energy? Do they have… Is everybody smiling?
So those are things that kinda…that precede the sharing of any content. So I would say people don’t pay you to get dressed in the morning, but I can tell you that if you showed up to a meeting naked, they would be like, “Dude, really? Put some clothes on. Like, get dressed. Be appropriate.” So it’s the same way on social. So those are kinda the first things. So you get dressed, then you share some content, and then when we think about, you know, what that’s better to do or what we can do that is more effective? It’s about making those connections and finding that to happen. So take the content that you have, look for a group that that might be valuable in, and try to start a conversation. Don’t be a link and leave person, right? Liz Strauss, a long time ago, said, “Don’t be a one link stand.” Don’t just post a link and run away from it. Instead, really genuinely try to start a conversation.
So what’s controversial about that great content that you just produced? If it’s only informative, that’s great and people might find that and that might be incredibly useful for clients or prospects interested in looking to make a decision. But remember, less than 3% to 7% of people are in a buying mood at any one time. So if there’s 100 people in a LinkedIn group, you realize that there’s less than 10 people that are gonna buy anything at this present time, right when you post that. And of those 10 people, probably only 2 of them are actually logged into LinkedIn to see what the heck you posted. So instead, you have to be a little bit more edgy, a little more controversial if when you’re posting content.
You have to think about, you know, how does this tug on an emotion? Maybe it makes people mad, or it makes them happy, or it makes ’em sad, or it makes ’em, you know, really feel something. And by controversial, I’m not insisting that you post anything about race, or sex, or politics, or anything like that, but I do mean take a controversial stand on something and have an opinion. Because there’s enough crappy content out there that, you know, if you’re not taking a stand, you know, you’re just informing people and that’s okay. I mean, my posts are not always controversial, but sometimes they are and I can tell you the ones that are get a lot more play than the ones that don’t. I just wrote an article about, you know, you can do better than, “Congrats on the new job, hope all is well,” because I got…when I put my podcast on my LinkedIn profile, I got 300 people that mobbed me with a generic default LinkedIn message.
Drew: Yeah, it takes three extra seconds to type out…type a personal message.
Phil: Yeah, yeah, if that.
Drew: Well and I think from an agency’s perspective it doesn’t necessarily have to be controversial in a social way, but it’s a take a stand on a marketing practice or a tool, or, you know, whatever it may be, but have a strong opinion. Because again, hopefully what you’re doing in social is you’re modeling how you would behave in a business relationship. And what clients want from agencies is they want somebody who has expertise and isn’t afraid to speak out and provide direction and counsel. So why wouldn’t you do that in a social setting as well?
Phil: Exactly. Yeah, that’s exactly right, Drew. And that’s where, you know, let your voice shine through. Have that opinion. To your point, it is not controversial for controversial sake, but do take that on. My friend, Stephen Shapiro, wrote a book called “Best Practices Are Stupid”. Well, you read the book and you realize he’s right on the money, but even having a title like that, Best Practices Are Stupid”? Holy cow, that’s controversial and worth talking about just on that. So if there’s something that you have like that, that can be not controversial for controversial sake, again, but controversial because it’s true but it’s just a little different way of looking at the agency…
Drew: Yeah, it’s about taking an edge, right?
Phil: That’s right, yeah. Pick an edge and go after it. Don’t be afraid.
What an Engaging Content Strategy Looks Like
Drew: Yeah. So, okay, so my agency is sharing content and, you know, were… Is it just about pushing out content? Is it also reaching out and engaging with other people’s content? What else does that look like?
Phil: Yeah, great question. So it is not just about pushing content, because if it’s just your stuff, you’re gonna do a lotta navel-gazing. And while you might attract some people to you and you’re being controversial can get you some results, you do need to engage with other people’s information. So if Drew makes a really good post, going out and commenting on that. Because here’s what happens. There are people that are considering Drew’s agency and that are considering my agency, and if I comment on that, they look at that and they say, “Hmm, I agree with Drew,” or “I agree with Phil,” or “You know, I agree with both of them, but I can’t afford Drew,” or “I can’t afford Phil.” Maybe that, you know, a third person comes in and they click around and they look and they’re like, “Oh yeah, you know what? That Phil, he’s all right, I should check him out now more.” So yeah, absolutely.
Engaging with your competition’s posts is a great way, even sharing them and offering them kudos that they did something fantastic. You know, “Congratulations to, you know, to Drew and his company for landing this big client, well done.” Well, really? Somebody’s gonna be excited about that? Well that client is already won. You’re not posting, “Hey Drew, I really hope you get this business for me.” No, no, you already got the business. “Congratulations, dude. I know you worked your butt off on that. Congrats. And, you know, will you share some secrets on what you did and maybe write that as a blog post?” And now, Drew shares “7 Insights Into How to Land the Client of Your Dreams”, and I see, look, there’s one thing there that really resonates with me, one thing I disagree with, and one thing I can add. And I can write a counter blog post and I can say, “You know what? I’m really excited for Drew that his agency won this, but now I’ve got something else.”
So it’s really kind of infusing more than sharing your content and making that, you know, making that shine in such a way that you don’t put other people down. I would never trash a competitor online. So that’s one thing that I would…that I just recommend you never ever ever do. Even if you think they’re being shady, it just makes you look bad to ever trash anybody else. So not just about sharing and creating your own content, you know, remarking on others, sharing other people’s content. You know, believe it or not, most people when you share content, even if they click through and read the article, which most people don’t do, even if they click through and read the article, they think you wrote it. They don’t even realize that anybody else could possibly be the author of that. So it indelves that in their brain that says, “Phil writes great articles,” even if Phil isn’t writing that article. So it is helpful to do. And then, again, go out there and look for people. Let’s not forget about the social piece of social media. Who are you trying to connect to? Which companies have employees that are using social? Connect to them, look at them, congratulate them, be part of their success. I can tell you some of the best results I get, some of the best clients I get, is as a result of genuinely, and this is important, be genuine in my congratulations of them. I am very excited for them. One of the first things I do every day is I wish people a happy birthday on social, or I pick up a phone and I call them because nobody calls anymore. Everybody is so, oh, they write “HBD” on somebody’s Facebook wall. Well “HBD” is no BFD, right? Who cares? So pick up the phone, call somebody. You know, or better yet…
Drew: I had to think for a minute to figure out what that… I’m embarrassed to admit, to go, “What the… Oh, I get it, happy birthday,” okay.
Phil: Right? And some people think that’s enough, Drew. I’ve seen that. In fact, some people are so lazy, they just put “HB”. Like, seriously? Why are you even doing that? Does anybody look at that and say, “Wow, man, you really impressed me with your use of two letters instead of taking the time to genuinely wish me happy birthday. That is killer.”
Drew: Right, right. Well I know you call people because we have a lotta people in common. And every once in awhile I’ll see on Facebook or somewhere, you know, on somebody’s birthday they’ll say, “Oh, my birthday started out great. Phil called me,” and bladda-bladda-blah. So I have observed the impact that that has. Obviously those are people you have a more personal connections with because you have their cell phone number, but still it’s a….your point is well taken. That if you’re gonna make the effort, go the extra half step and make it authentic, and genuine, and feel real as opposed to automated or without thought.
Phil: Yeah, absolutely. And Drew, they don’t have to be people that I know exceptionally well. I do pick up the phone and call business people as well. And I make it really short and sweet. “Hey Drew, it’s Phil. I know you’re really busy, but I recognize that today’s your birthday, buddy. I just wanna wish you a super happy day.” Now a lotta times I leave a voicemail on that, and still though that’s fine. Of course, the ones you see are mutual friends, but I can tell you I get business outta that, folks, because people, if they remark that I’m thoughtful enough to call them on their birthday, they know that I’m gonna be thoughtful enough to care and feed their business just like it were my own.
Drew: You know, I’m sure agency owners are listening and thinking, “This sounds like a lotta time.” How do you… Are there tools that you use or… So for example, let’s say there’s an agency out there and they specialize in Ag equipment: tractors and stuff like that. How would you recommend to them that they identify who they should be connected with in social? And are you talking about Facebook, are you talking about Twitter, are you talking about LinkedIn, are you talking about Instagram?
What tools are you suggesting that they use and how would you go about coaching them to find… Because it’s not about quantity right? It’s not about having eight bazillion people connected to you on LinkedIn or Twitter, it’s about the right people. So if I’m an agency that specializes in big equipment for Ag, what would you tell me to do to use my time most effectively in terms of connecting with people, finding and connecting with people?
Phil: So, first, really draw that out. So what…where do they work? Think of some companies. Come up with a list of 50, 100, you know, companies that they work at, even 5, doesn’t matter. Come up with a list. Then go out to each network and do some searching. Look for them. Be really slow and methodical in this though. So here’s why. Go to Twitter, you find someone. Twitter then says, “Well, you’re now following Drew McLellan. Here are six other people you might wanna follow.” Of them, three or four are people at that company. Often, one of them is the social media manager at that company. So now you follow them. So now I follow the company, now I follow three employees, and I’m slow and methodical about this. I’m paying attention. I’m taking some notes, and I take some of those people back and I look to see who are they following. So now I take, you know, half an hour, and I do this research and I think, “Wow, one connection, half an hour,” but I draw out this client profile and now I see first, their corporate accounts. So all the corporate news, because most big Ag companies, most big companies, to be honest, they post mostly corporate news on their Twitter. Not a lot of opportunity for engagement, but great opportunity to get custom news about these companies on Twitter.
So you add them to a list, a private list, called, you know, “Potential Customers”. And you put ’em there and now you follow three or four of these employees that are recommended by Twitter, and now you follow them, you put ’em in the same list. And now you start looking to see who they engage with, you add them to the same list, and now you’ve got your own custom newspaper. In fact, you could even add a tool like Nuzzel, N-U-Z-Z-E-L, Nuzzel, to actually send you a daily email recap of that twitter list that then says, “Here’s the things that they shared.” And now you’ve got a list every day of the things that they curated that they think are newsworthy. And you look through that, and you might, you know, it takes you five minutes tops to scan that. You might see that, you know, they all just post company news? Well that’s probably not a good channel. So now you take those same people and you go to LinkedIn. Now you might… Again, you distribute this amongst your sales team. You might use LinkedIn Sales Navigator. Sales Navigator’s a great tool. Right now an annual subscription runs you about 800 bucks a year per person. So you set this up, and I would say, you know, two or three people in an organization is probably enough. Again, you do the same thing, you follow the company in Sales Navigator, and now you start looking for those people that you connected with on Twitter on LinkedIn. And often, they’ll be the same but not always, and if they’re not, then you add those other people, those other influencers. Often more senior people take LinkedIn seriously, so now we add them on LinkedIn, now we’ve got another curated news source.
And again, if we’re methodical about that… Now periodically we might see that they left something that I can add value on. So I might see that Drew just posted an article about something, a question that I can answer. I’m gonna go and answer that. And better yet, I might write that up as a blog post, mention that company, and then send that to that person. I might comment on their post and save that for later. And now, I’m trying to start a conversation because I’m gonna do the same thing I did on Twitter if I can, I’m gonna connect to that individual on LinkedIn, and LinkedIn does the same exact thing.
LinkedIn says, “Well, seeing as you connected to Drew, here’s seven other people you might wanna connect with.” And on the bottom right, you’ll see people also looked at these people. So whether they’re in your company or not, now we see, “Oh yeah, look at that, there’s the CMO. Oh yeah, look at that, there’s the CEO. And look, people also look at the vice president of operations. Boy, that’s not someone I’d normally think about.” I go look at their profile and I see that’s because they’re looking at overhauling their whole web platform. And now, as an agency owner, now I have enough information that I can go out and I can target them, and I can say, “Hey, I see you’re changing your web platform. Can we have a conversation about that? Because I’ve got some ideas and the best practices on how to do that. Saves you time and money, and you’re under no obligation to do anything with me, just would love a convo.”
So now we have a chat. Now hopefully we meet in person, and now we can then take that to Facebook. We can say, “Okay, well, you know, I know, you know, we’re kinda friendly now…” Just try to be Facebook friends. They’re not gonna block you. The worst that happens is they ignore you. But if they say yes, now you get that third view into their world. So now as you’re doing that prep for that meeting, as you’re doing that research, now I’ve got a Twitter list that has curated news.I’ve got LinkedIn Sales Navigator, which has got that curated people, and now I’ve got a couple people at that organization maybe on Facebook that I’ve connected to, so now I can see three different views into that organization all for less than an hour per company, per day. And really, if a big Ag company’s gonna invest, you know, 10 million dollars in me, heck, I’m gonna give ’em an hour of my time a day, absolutely, and I might distribute that amongst my team so it’s 20 minutes here, 20 minutes here, and 20 minutes there.
Drew: Well, and, you know, I’m a big advocate. Agencies don’t need 10,000 new clients, they need 2 or 3 great, perfect fit clients a year to keep growing a business by 10% or 20%. So, you know, really, if you had a list… One of the things I teach is that they need to have a list of 25 “I will die of joy if I get these people as clients”. And you work them for as long as it takes until they either A, get a restraining order or B, hire you, right? So again, if you narrow it down to 25, that’s an awfully manageable number to be able to cultivate a relationship the way you’re describing.
Phil: Absolutely, yep. It’s never about numbers, it’s always about quality because quality wins the game. Shooting a shotgun is not a good marketing plan and it’s a worse sales plan.
How to Leverage Your Social Profile to Get Speaking Engagements
Drew: Yep, absolutely. So I have a couple more quick questions. I’m mindful that we’re sort of getting to the top of the hour here, but you speak a great deal. How do you use social to create speaking opportunities for yourself? A lot of agencies want to present themselves as thought leaders in the vertical or the category where their agency has expertise. How do you leverage your social profile to get speaking gigs?
Phil: So first, the fact that I do speaking engagements, I am not shy about asking people for a testimonial on social. So I’m gonna ask them for them to write me up a LinkedIn endorsement. Many times it comes unsolicited, I’m grateful for that, for those who do that, sometimes though you have to ask. So I ask and then I take that and I turn that into an image. I turn that into an image and I’ll post that on my Instagram, I’ll post it on my personal Facebook, I’ll post it on Twitter, I’ll post that on LinkedIn, I might write an article around that. And I’ll share that because I want people to see that other people find me valuable, and that’s important.
And then the other piece of that though is the video. You have to post some video. You need to put together kind of a greatest hits package and you need to post video as often as you can. Even if it’s not the best quality video, hopefully you have quality content, you can show that people are laughing and engaged with that. Those are great ways to do that as well and that certainly helps me with that social proof. And then, you know, I’m not afraid to ask for help on that. So I might, you know, I might share something, and I might, you know, send a private email to a couple people, “Hey, would you mind, you know, boosting that out? Would you share that?” And that gets some exposure as well. And then let’s not forget about the power of the pin post. So whether that’s Twitter or whether that’s on Facebook, on our page, we can pin a post, the most popular post, the one that we want people to see. So yes, I often will tweet out my link to a speaking video and that’s great. But that’s only if people catch it. That’s like catching rain. It’s really hard to do, but instead, not always, but sometimes I’ll take that pinned post and I’ll make that my speaking video. I’ll make that my kinda page about my speaking profile. I’ll make that, you know, an event that I’m speaking at, and I’ll add that to my email signature as well.
I’m doing a talk in Colorado Springs in about a month. So I’m talking to the Cherwell Global Conference, and I’m excited about that. So I added that in the P.S. of my email signature to let people know that A, I’m excited about being there, B if you bring me in, hey, guess what, I might promote that, and C, oh yeah, that’s right, Phil does speaking. So it’s simple stuff like that is really key. And then I use it again for the same sorta research that I do, so I’m…that I’m talking about before. I’m gonna look for organizations that are having an annual conference and I’m gonna reach out to them. I might, again, try to build a relationship. I’m gonna share their event, I’m gonna be excited for them, because really, I am excited. Course I’d be more excited if they hired me to speak at it, but I’m genuinely excited because many organizations do not invest any money in outside speakers. They think that they can get vendors to talk and what vendors end up doing is they often just talk about their product or service and they’re not that good. So I show that as, you know, “Hey, I’m excited.” And then they come back and they look at my profile and guess what? Hey, ring a ding-ding, there’s my pin post that says, “Hey, Phil Gerbyshak is doing speaking.” Huh, puts that in their brain, and then I just ask. You know, I ask ’em, “Hey, are you still looking for speakers?” Or I’ll look and I have Google alerts and mention alerts set out for requests for proposal for speaking, so I’m gonna fill those out and that’s another way to use social because a lot of those go out via social media. So you absolutely need to do that.
I also use a tool called Social Quant, Social Q-U-A-N-T, thesocialquant.net, and that allows me to target the right Twitter followers. So I’m paying attention to them based on the words in their profile. So I have Meeting Planner, I have Event Planner, I have Speakers Bureau. I wanna see what are they writing about, and I’m gonna listen to them. They’re gonna show up in my stream now because I’m gonna follow them first, I’m gonna listen to what they have to say, and if they have any value, I’m gonna….heck, I’m gonna stay followed with them, and I’m gonna start a conversation. And I’m gonna do my best to remind them that, “Hey, if you need a speaker, I am your guy.”
How to Start Social Selling (Action Steps)
Drew: Yeah, great. Great advice. So we barely scratched the surface, but I’m sure people are getting off the treadmill now or they’re almost to work, so I wanna kinda wrap this up. If people have been listening to us and they think, “Okay, I can do this. I wanna jump into this, but I need to sort of tiptoe into the water. I can’t leap into the deep end,” what are one or two things that you would recommend that an agency owner, or a new business dev person, or maybe a senior account person who’s trying to create…build out their own network, what would you recommend? Two or three things that they can do on their own right now to sort of begin to wade into the water of the things we’ve been talking about today.
Phil: So the first thing they need to do is they need to understand who their perfect customer is. They need to understand as much about them as possible and do that research on social. Pick a channel that you’re comfortable with or that you’re willing to invest the time to get comfortable with. I don’t care if that’s Twitter, or Facebook, or LinkedIn, although I recommend LinkedIn or Twitter simply because there’s often the most business there. And really spend some time in the platform. Connect to the other people in your office, connect to other agency owners, make some conversation, join a few groups. Just get involved and get comfortable kinda floundering around there. Because if you’re not comfortable yet, I promise you, in 90 days, if you make this a priority, you can get comfortable. So you do that, you get comfortable with that, and then I want you to be intentional about the connections you make from there.
So of course maybe your first 50 or 100 are random people, people that show up as people you might know, and you customize every one of those invitations and that’s great, or you follow them on Twitter and you make small talk with them and that’s great. But then you have then that great customer persona, you’re comfortable now on that platform, now I want you to go and hunt. Find the right people and try to engage them in conversations. Not telling you to try to add them on LinkedIn or force them to follow you on Twitter, but I am saying take a look at their profile. See if there’s things that you can remark on, see if there are things that you can use to pick up the good old fashioned telephone and call them about.
If there are, then I encourage you, make the next steps you take to be very intentional. Where’s the value that you add that they need? Get that in front of them in a phone call. Get that in front of them in an email. You can’t do it in a LinkedIn connection. LinkedIn does not allow you to send links in your connection, and you don’t want to. I’m not telling you to sell. I am telling you to show value, so make those clear. Write up those lists. Think small, think impact, so that ultimately you can influence people’s thinking to get them to consider you, and then at the very end you can turn those connections into conversions and increase your agency’s income by knowing where you’re valuable and knowing why people want to do business with you, and giving them the opportunity to convert.
Drew: Awesome. So before we go, I want you to tell everybody a little bit about your podcast, because it is packed with good advice, and interesting people, and it should be on everybody’s radar screen. So can you give everybody just a quick snapshot of your podcast and where to find it?
Phil: Absolutely. Conversations with Phil is what I call it. I talk to smart people like Drew, like other people that we wanna talk to that are…
Drew: You might wanna give a better example just in case.
Phil: Alright. So other people… You know, I’ve talked to Tim Sanders, Bob Burg, Michael Port, talked to Lisa Hannaburg. I’m talking to a lotta people, some that you’ve heard of, some that maybe you haven’t. But every one of them shares insights and actionable tips that you can have in your business or in your life. My first episode was with Dan Griffin. Dan Griffin is a men’s recovery specialist and just action-packed insight into how you can actually, you know, start healing yourself. I’ve got other folks that are all about kinda healing your business and making that better. But it’s really about the stories and the actions you can take. Every episode is only 20 to 30 minutes. I don’t go long. I’ve got a couple that are longer only because, holy cow, I could not believe how fast the time went. But I encourage you to visit conversationswithphil.com is the easiest place to find that.
If you follow me on Twitter, @PhilGerb. Of course, I’m tweeting it out often. Comes out Monday’s and Thursday’s at 7 a.m. Eastern time, 6 am Central, 5 Mountain, 4 Pacific. Check it out. Let me know if there’s a great guest that you think should be on the show. Please let me know. Send me a note, really easy, [email protected] Can always text me, 414-640-7445. I’m still old school. The last four of my cell phone, my phone, still spells “Phil”, so it’s kinda cheesy but it works, and I’d love to hear from you.
Drew: I love it. I love it, I love it. Okay, so you have demonstrated for the last hour exactly what you’re talking about. By being valuable, by sharing what you know, without expectation, you open the…you open up the door for opportunity, and hopefully our listeners have caught on to that. All of the things that Phil has listed throughout the show, so all of the different tools he talked about, all the different ways, including his personal cell phone number that he gave you, all of that will be in the show notes. So if you didn’t…if you weren’t able to jot it all down fast enough, have no fear, just go to the show notes and it will all be there. Phil, my friend, as always thanks for bringing 120%. I am grateful for how much you are always willing to share. And certainly for over a decade of friendship, thank you so much for being with us today.
Phil: It was my pleasure, Drew. Thanks for having me, buddy.
Drew: You bet. Okay guys, that wraps up another action-packed episode of Build a Better Agency. Hopefully you took some rabid notes and you are out to make connections as soon as you’re done with the podcast. Please remember that we are here every week. So if you have not subscribed…. Let me try that again. If you have not subscribed, do so, so you don’t miss an episode. I will be back next week with another great guest who is gonna help you build a better agency. In the meantime, if you’re looking to track me down, you can find me at [email protected] I’ll talk to you soon, thanks.
That’s all for this episode of Build a Better Agency. Be sure to visit agencymanagementinstitute.com to learn more about our workshops and other ways we serve small to mid-sized agencies. While you’re there, sign up for our e-newsletter, grab our free e-book, and check out the blog. Growing a bigger, better agency that makes more money, attracts bigger clients, and doesn’t consume your life is possible here on Build a Better Agency.