The fine art of social engagement is something that many sales professionals I talk to are struggling to figure out. When is the right time and what is the right approach to use when engaging with a new prospect in the online space? In other words, when is it OK to move the conversation beyond information sharing and into a sales discussion?
Sharing knowledge and information for the betterment of the entire social community without the expectation of an immediate sales return is a core attribute of the savvy social sales player. The ebb and flow of give and take in social communities is expected and important. At the same time, we are also sales people who have quotas to achieve each month. It’s natural to wonder when the time is right to move beyond sharing goodwill and asking for a sales appointment. While the “right time to engage ratio” will vary due to the actual situation, I can tell you that the first several times you show up is much too soon. You make your mark – over time – demonstrating your willingness to share your expert credibility for the benefit of others.
How long does it take to make your mark, you might ask?
My personal experience is that it takes about 30 to 60 days for people to begin to know who you are. It’s possible to gain sales traction more quickly of course with increased frequency of participation, but be careful not to rush the process. Your goal is develop credibility in the eyes of your ideal buyer, because people do business with people that they know, like and trust. Selfless participation in social networks gives you the opportunity to let people get to know you, like you and trust you, which can shave weeks and/or months off your sales cycle.
Ready for a challenge?
Commit to one core group (it should be the one with the highest potential for return on your sales effort) for a month and make it part of your day to comment on at least one question. Keep track of the people who reference you in their subsequent comments. This will help you determine who’s getting to know you and help you understand what topics tend to generate more interest and dialog.
While you might be thinking, how can I squeeze this into an already packed day, the bigger question is can you afford not to? Buyers are discussing what products and services to buy. If you are not visible, how can you expect to be front and center in their minds when they are ready to make their decision? The social savvy sales winners are those professionals who understand that consistency is an essential ingredient to their online sales approach. Contribute quality content and thought leadership and the buyers in your group will soon recognize that you are someone they need to know.
There aren’t any shortcuts; you have to put in the time to become known. Do the work and reap the rewards. Done with purpose, a plan, patience and active participation, the return on your sales effort is absolutely worth it!