At the Social Sales Strategies Forum last week, one of the speakers referenced a writer who didn’t seem to think much of this whole social selling thing. Although I cannot remember the exact quote shared with us, it was along the lines of…
“Social Selling is hogwash. Nothing is a substitute for human interaction.”
Comments like that frustrate me a little bit. I’m just wondering who ever said that human interaction was kicked to the curb using a social selling approach? Nothing could be farther from the truth. Contrary to what some may believe though, you can “interact” with other human beings online in a meaningful way. Does that mean that I would only converse with someone over LinkedIn email to discuss, negotiate and close a deal? Of course not! That next step in the sales cycle after initial engagement is talking to your prospect real-time.
The real hogwash here is the misinformation being spewed about. Let’s talk about what social selling really means.
My definition is this…
Social Selling is an evolved sales process that is focused on what buyers want and leverages technology to put a sales rep in front of the right prospect - with the right message - more quickly.
At the end of the day, a Social Selling approach helps sales leaders to address their 3 burning priorities:
- Get more leads in the pipeline
- Improve win rates
- Shrink the sales cycle
To turn your sales organization into a Social Selling machine, you need to do these 9 things:
- Accept that buyer behavior has changed. It is indeed vastly different than it was 10+ years ago. Your salespeople must change their sales approach and you must help them learn how to do it.
- Create a social selling plan. Engage marketing as part of your process but marketing doesn’t own it for sales. Be careful not to default to LinkedIn training without having thought through the bigger picture.
- Establish usage guidelines. People must know what is expected. And don’t assume that they know. You need to make sure that you help your salespeople understand what’s appropriate to say on behalf of your company when they are using social networks as part of their daily work.
- Choose the right tools. We encourage most B2B sales reps to start with LinkedIn and InsideView (or whatever data intelligence tool that your company may use). Twitter also plays a role in terms of the research and competitive data you can gather and use, but start small before moving on.
- Invest in training. Sales behaviors have to change and salespeople need to understand the technology in the right way. If you use the platforms to do nothing more than spam, you have not only defeated the entire purpose of a social selling approach, but you just put your brand at serious risk.
- Participate consistently, often and remember that first impressions matter. Today’s buyer surfs for information before reaching out to have a discussion with sales, so your salespeople need to be visible and easily found. Their online presence needs to rock and say…look no further…you definitely want to have a conversation with me about your business needs.
- Focus on the right ROI. No, your LinkedIn profile sitting there all by its lonely self will not bring the deals to your doorstep. I find it surprising that sales managers are not asking about the ROI of the time wasted at unproductive networking events. Or, what about the damage being done to the bottom line when salespeople are being allowed to send out some of the most poorly written sales propaganda I have ever seen to prospects? As a sales leader, are you policing the email communication your people are sending out? You should be!
- Eliminate outdated sales approaches – cold calls and cold e-mail. Yes, you need to get on the phone with people but you should do that once you spend even 5 minutes doing a little homework before you do. If you want to speed up deals in the pipeline, learning how to engage a prospect properly the first time will take you a long way.
- Be realistic in your expectations. No canned sales tricks will get you there. A little sweat equity needs to go into putting these changes into action. If I meet someone offline at a conference event, it is highly unlikely that we close a deal as a result of just that first meeting. OK then, the same goes for using social media and social networking. You still have to court the process along, but the great news is that you can also move more quickly when you combine offline and online networking to get to your end goals.
Social Selling is about selling more, more often using a new approach and new tools to get you there.
You want to sell more, right?
OK then…time for you and your team to do things differently!
Note: image credit to www.kokasexton.com