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The internet is becoming more and more social every day. And so is sales. Originally, companies looked at the web as a way to digitize sales collateral. Websites were designed more like product brochures that broadcasted the merits of a brand. It was a static, one-way form of communication.
Today, such static messaging in isolation may not be effective at reaching your target audience. Customers don’t want to be sold; they are eager to interact and engage with the companies that may be able to help them with their needs. Social media allows for this bi-directional interaction between buyers and sellers, brands and customers, and experts and novices.
Many sales people feel that social media is not for them. They may have been used to selling a certain way for quite a while and don’t see the value spending time with these online platforms. However, such reluctance can translate into both lost opportunity and irrelevance as the channels for communication with buyers continue to broaden into social media avenues.
If you are sitting on the sidelines or hesitant to embrace social media fully, consider these reasons to get on board:
Social media expands your network.
The internet makes interconnectedness easy. The contacts in one person’s network and those in another are easily shared. You may have a lot of contacts in your network, but imagine how quickly this can expand by connecting with those contacts in the networks of your friends, colleague, clients, and partners.
For the business-to-business sale, gaining exposure through other people’s networks is especially important as you seek an audience with decision-makers. Social media business sites like LinkedIn make it easy to broaden your network within a relevant pool of contacts. If you apply yourself and work to grow your network, then finding the right people to exchange value with is convenient and can be part of your strategic approach to bypassing the gatekeepers and getting direct access to the decision-makers.
Social media is less about technology and more about building relationships.
The job of a sales professional is to drive revenue through relationships. When you consider how connected people are these days, your prospective customer is likely going to be looking at their mobile device or sitting in front of a computer quite frequently. This is where their attention is focused. If you use the phone or face-to-face meetings as your sole way to build relationships with your client, then these can be much less convenient for many buyers. A phone call can be disruptive, and a meeting can be premature, but working through social media allows the customer to control the interaction, so that you end up with customers who are far more engaged and want to be part of the conversation.
It is important to connect on social media and build relationships by bringing consistent and valuable information. It’s a great way to grow trust and gain permission for more intimate connections, such as phone and in-person meetings. If you are exchanging valuable news about your industry on Twitter and your followers are used to tuning into the value you bring, then over time, your name becomes familiar and trust develops. It may have started around common topics of interest, but the nature of the online conversation means that generic topics can quickly and easily turn into more individual conversations with prospects of interest.
Social Media Enables You to Get Ahead of the Competition.
People enjoy the consumption of stories and news. We love learning about the drama of Apple and the backstory of Steve Jobs over the years. Tom’s Shoes promotes a cause and helps kids around the world benefit from the purchase of their shoes by raving fans.
Social media is an avenue that removes the veil between the ivory tower corporate positioning and the customer. The brand of a company becomes more human when its people are engaging with others as ambassadors. Every company will be different in its encouragement of social media based on its marketing and legal policies. However, if the channel is open, then there is the opportunity for you as a real person to help outsiders understand things such as what it takes to build your products, who makes things happen at your company, and what is important to your team in the marketplace. Such differentiators help to create intimacy and make you stand out from the competition as your prospective customers come to understand your value and messaging in an engaging way.
Social media also provides an easy and public way to be helpful and demonstrate your commitment to excellent service standards. As people are expressing their questions or concerns, you can address these immediately for the benefit of the person posing the question and the broader audience observing from the sidelines. Monitoring your company’s Facebook or Google+ stream for the interaction between people or watching for keyword triggers on Twitter about your company and products can alert you to times when you can provide value and service.
The Commitment to People
The whole idea of social media may be unappealing because of the fear of engrossing yourself in something new and the time it will take away from your “selling time”. It is not something to be feared or shunned but rather embraced and used as a channel to connect with customers. The conversations are happening every day, and there are missed opportunities for the sales person who does not participate.
When people want to know what kind of equipment to buy for a trip, they simply post a question to their friends on Facebook or Twitter. If an executive wants to understand the downside of implementing a technology, they can post on their LinkedIn for feedback. If you are not in these conversations and your competition is, then they will become more visible and be able to procure more prospect relationships.
Social media is ultimately about people and helping them in a responsive and collaborative way. The best way to start is to use one tool. If you are in B2B sales, start with Twitter or LinkedIn. If you are in B2C sales, start with Facebook. Keep it professional, and just follow conversations for a few weeks. See how people interact. When you gain a comfort level, engage where you can be helpful or post resources to your networks that add value.
Over time, you can measure your ROI and see if it is making an impact on raising your brand awareness. You are not merely committing to technology. You are committing to people and to your own brand.
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