The effective use of social media to increase sales has tremendous potential for companies of all sizes, but notice that I started by saying “effective use”. Many executives fear letting their sales people use social media, because they have concerns that nothing will get done. And they will be right, if the approach isn’t well thought out, there aren’t guidelines in place for what’s OK and what isn’t, training isn’t provided, use isn’t monitored and there is no tracking mechanism to measure results. Venturing down the social media sales path requires these 5 things: purpose, plan, participation, persistence and patience.
Purpose - if you don’t know what you want to accomplish using online tools, you might as well stop right now. You will only flounder around. One of Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is “begin with the end in mind”. That’s what you need to do when you start thinking about how to best integrate the use of social media/social networking into your sales activities. What do you want to achieve? What is the message you want to communicate? How will you represent your brand? Questions like these and more must be answered.
Plan - this is a topic covered in books and articles by writers more skilled than me, but bottom line – no plan is like deciding to drive from Atlanta to California with no map. You may eventually get there, but you are certain to waste time and get lost along the way. You need to chart a well thought out course and then follow it.
Participation - I hate to break the bad news to anyone naive enough to think that popping up a LinkedIn profile today results in an immediate sale. It doesn’t! The art of the sale has always been about building a relationship with someone who gets to know you and trust you..over time. When you actively participate in social communities by contributing to the conversation, you gain visibility and help people get to know you. For me, it’s a daily practice of weighing in on questions posed in LinkedIn groups, sharing information on Twitter, commenting on blogs or writing my own articles. The more active you are – the more you begin to stand out.
Persistance - in short, it is all about follow up, follow up, follow up. Over on the Hubspot Marketing Blog, Pete Caputa talked about the phenomenon of people attending networking events, collecting a lot of business cards and then doing nothing with them. The same is true of the online world. When you make connections on LinkedIn, as an example, stay in touch with people. Drop them notes, tell them about a question they may want to weigh in on because it fits their experience, make a connection for them, recommend their services to someone else. David Mason, author of Marketing Your Small Business for Big Profits, told me during a radio interview that it is all about persistence and consistency.
Patience - just because you have something to sell it doesn’t mean that your potential buyer is “ready” to buy. That’s what far too many people totally miss. You must be patient, but not invisible. That is why it is so important to participate often in appropriate online forums. I’ve also had people tell me that they thought sending a newsletter twice a month was too much of an intrusion on people. It isn’t if you provide information that is of value to your readers. Buyers are not buying on your sales cycle, so you have to be top of mind when they are ready to purchase what you offer. Everyone these days has a short attention span, so if you are not front and center in their minds – you lose. I have picked up speaking engagements, consulting opportunities, referrals and more, simply because I’m active online, I give to receive, and I am patient!