On a conference call recently, I was reminded of how often people confuse social media marketing with how to use social media over on the sales side of the business. I can understand why this happens. Just yesterday, I received an email from a company who is selling social media training and their blurb says that they can help you to increase revenue. But when you look more closely, the program focuses on helping you put a social media marketing plan together. That kind of messaging has confused people. Make no mistake about it, marketing and sales are different disciplines and how you apply social media to each of those disciplines is also different! Before you assume that you’ve got social media covered because someone in your company is responsible for social media management, be sure to look carefully at what they are doing. I’ll make a big bet that the focus is on marketing and not selling.
The American Marketing Association defines marketing in this way…
“Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”
Wikipedia defines sales in this way…
“A sale is the act of selling a product or service in return for money or other compensation.”
While sales and marketing should have the same goal of generating sales, revenue and profit, the two departments are approaching the goal in very different ways. As a salesperson, I’m the one who meets with prospects, crafts an actual solution to their business problem and negotiates and closes deals. Marketing is doing none of that. Their efforts are largely campaign driven and while their role is vitally important to the process of generating revenue, they are not actually selling anything.
Social media can be applied to the sales process on the front-end of the sales cycle. Using tools like LinkedIn and InsideView, the focus is on network and referral building, prospecting for new opportunities, conducting research that leads to identifying key business initiatives (or drivers) that may be the trigger for why your prospect should by from you, better pre-sales call research and more. In other words, using social media to drive sales opportunities is not marketing to build broad awareness, it is being used specifically to get to the right person with the right message at the right time, thus shrinking the sales cycle and moving more quickly to close.
On the sales side, I’m not giving away an iPad to generate “likes” on the company Fan Page. That’s marketing. As a salesperson, I’m using social tools to:
-Create a targeted list of potential prospects to pursue
-Dig into my prospects LinkedIn and InsideView profiles to learn more about them. I’m looking for the best point of connection. Who do I know that they know? What have learned about their company or their industry that might lead to securing that first meeting?
-Participate in groups where my prospect is likely to be and then contributing to discussions to create visibility for myself and demonstrate my expertise in my field.
-Do detailed homework before the first meeting. I’m learning as much about their company as I can, which will demonstrate to my prospect that I understand their business.
As you think about how to put social media to work for your company, remember that you need to focus attention on both the sales and marketing side of the business. And always keep in mind that the goals and practical applications of social media for sales versus marketing should compliment each other, but the “how” you use the tools will be different and serve vastly different purposes.