Known by clients and friends as “The E-marketing Maven”, Sarah possesses an ability to deliver the precise information and services that small businesses need.
Helping them to achieve true success through their online marketing efforts.
Sarah recently launched a networking website, WomanInBusinessInVaughan.com, which she co-founded with an associate. WomanInBusinessInVaughan.com has quickly become an invaluable resource for business owners. The site contains informational articles, job boards, event announcements and a wealth of networking opportunities.
Bill Banham: Sarah Zeldman, welcome to the Social Media And Tech Podcast, brought to you by the CPSA. It's great to have you with us today.
Sarah Zeldman: Thank you, it's great to be here.
Bill Banham: Sarah, to start with, please offer a high-level overview of what you consider to be social selling. Maybe suggest a few tools or networks which that encompasses.
Sarah Zeldman: I like to use a definition that I found at a great social selling blog, SalesForLife.com. Social selling is the process of developing, nurturing, and leveraging relationships in a digital environment to sell products and services. I really like this definition, because developing, nurturing, and leveraging relationships happens in a digital space, but it's not all about technology. Because social media, social selling, is an extension. It's not something outside of ourselves, it's extension of all of our human relationships.
The main difference between social selling, or networking, in the real world and online is that you have to learn to use the features of each social media site to do what we usually do as professionals anyway. No matter what business or profession you're in, sooner or later we all have to develop and nurture and leverage relationships. With social selling, you learn how to do that in a digital environment in addition to doing it in the real world, and go back and forth between the digital environment and the real world. In fact the whole process is very similar to going to a real life networking meeting. That's kind of a high level overview of social selling. You're networking online basically, and going back and forth between the online world in social media and the real world.
In terms of the tools and the network, it really depends on the industry and your goals. Obviously LinkedIn is usually the main site for business-to-business social selling, and second runner-ups for me, on my book, Twitter and Instagram seem to be the second place for B2B social selling.
Bill Banham: Thank you very much. You spoke a moment ago about the similarities between in-person networking and engaging with people through social media. Can you elaborate on what some of those similarities might look like?
Sarah Zeldman: Sure. If you're going to a real-life networking meeting, you don't just roll out of bed, head on over, and walk up to somebody and launch into your sales pitch. You would approach it a little more strategically. First, before you even go to the event, you'd be sure to dress appropriately for the event. If it's jeans and a T-shirt, if that's the nature of the networking event, then you would dress that way, and if it's suit and tie, you would dress in a suit and tie. That's similar to getting your social media optimized to get it ready for social selling. You want to make sure that your profile is appropriate and set up properly for networking on social media.
Then, after you're dressed and now you're ready to go, you probably take a look around for somebody appropriate to approach. You may have different visual cues in a room full of different business owners as to who you might make a connection with, or who your target customer might be, but basically you'd look to expand your network in a targeted way. In the same way, you do that on social media. You look to expand your network in a targeted way by trying to find your target customers and contacts on whatever site you're on, whether it's Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn, or Facebook, or whatever.
Then next, if you saw a group of people talking, you wouldn't just walk right over and jump into the conversation. You'd probably hang back a little, quietly listen in to the conversation, get a feel for the people, learn about what they're discussing, until you found an appropriate place to make a comment. You do the same thing when you're social selling. You don't just jump in with a sales pitch. Hang back a little, learn about your targets, learn about your prospects, and then you'll be able to have a deeper, richer, more appropriate a conversation. Then, when the time is right, you strike up a conversation with somebody, you look to engage with them in an authentic way. Again, you don't launch into a sales pitch.
Then finally, after you have a conversation, you've connected with them you would look to stay in touch with your contact, and follow up when appropriate, and probably try to call them again or meet them again. You do the same thing with social media. A real life networking meeting can really provide a good framework for social selling.
Bill Banham: What would you say to a salesperson that thinks that they don't need to have a big social media network, because they've got an in-person network from events that they've attended, and they've got lots of business cards on their table, and they think that, "That's enough business cards, thank you very much, that's going to keep me going"?
Sarah Zeldman: I think that they're kind of like the railroads that didn't worry about their industry because they thought people are always going to travel on railroads, and they didn't anticipate airplanes coming. And how the newspaper industry is slowly dying off, they didn't anticipate, or they're not sure how to keep up with, social media. This is where the industry is going. Even if you've got those business cards and you've got a great in-person network, even the industrial manufacturing businesses I work with, they're all waking up to the fact that they need to be on social media. They need to be on social media in a different way than the business-to-consumer companies. This is where the industry is going.
The bottom line is, there's multiple statistics to back this up, but the one headline I love to show from Forbes Magazine, I think it was from last year, 78% of salespeople using social media outsell their peers. Time and time again I'm seeing statistics like this, and I'm also seeing the stats that say that today's buyer might be anywhere between 60% to 90% of the way through their journey looking for solutions for their business before they even reach out to a vendor. A Rolodex full of business cards just isn't enough any more. You definitely want those connections in the real world, and you want to follow up with them and maintain them online as well.
Bill Banham: Thank you. Let's now move on and imagine that that salesperson has accepted the value of being active everywhere, in person and online. Where should they be in terms of the social media ecosystem, if they want to become a social selling star? What types of content should they be sharing, what networks do they need to be super active on?
Sarah Zeldman: The networks themselves, really depends where their target audience is. I would guess it's usually, if it's a business to business audience, it's usually LinkedIn first, but sometimes industries can surprise you. Sometimes an industry can be active on Twitter, or even Instagram, more than LinkedIn. You may find more active people there. You might find less people there, but more active people there. To answer that question I would really have to find out what industry it is, and then do a little research to see where that target audience is hanging out. For the purposes of discussion we could say LinkedIn almost for sure.
In terms of what they should be doing, I have a four-step routine for them to follow. They don't have to do all four steps in one day, that's too much. You could actually schedule to do one each day, but you'll see things will overlap. There are four different activities. You want to look to expand your network in a targeted way, and you do that by using different strategies to find your target customers and target companies on the site.
Each site usually has an advanced search features, and LinkedIn has an amazing one, and by learning how to use the advanced search features, that's one way to find your target customers on the site. There are so many ways, I could do a whole podcast just on that alone.
Then, like I said a little earlier, once you've found some prospects, some target customers connected with some people, you want to really observe their activity and learn about them more. Learn about their interests, learn about their skills, learn about the projects they're working on.
Look for trigger events. Trigger events are news you can use to start a conversation. Have there been mergers or acquisitions? Have them or their company won awards? Are they working on something new? Something you can use to strike up a conversation.
Then once you've done a little observing and you've got a trigger event, something you could use for conversation, or just know a little bit more about them, you look to engage with them in an authentic way. I've got a three-step formula for doing that, and I'll go into that a little bit more in a minute if you want me to.
Once you've engaged with your connections in an authentic way, then the fourth step in your social selling routine may actually surprise you, because it's actually to take the conversation off of the social media site. That's really our ultimate goal. Our ultimate goal is to get the conversation started or keep it going on social media, but eventually to take it more off social media with either an email, a phone call, or an in-person meeting.
That's kind of the four activities that you want to be doing: expanding your network in a targeted way, learning more about your contacts by observing and listening to them, engaging with your connections in an authentic, non-salesy, non-spammy way, and then moving that conversation off of social media with an email, a phone call, or an in-person meeting.
Bill Banham: Wow. I've got this image in my mind of this spider web linking up to lots of different activities, all going back to social media in some way. Or maybe another image in my head of a traditional sales funnel, where you've got social media towards the bottom there being this wonderful filter when you're looking for, like you said, those triggers, for example.
You've created a powerful personal brand, you've complimented it with the company brand, you're generating lots of conversations, interest, and sales, but how do you manage all of that now that you are a bit of a social setting star? Are there any ways that you can automate or pre-schedule some of your activities to take some of the strain away?
Sarah Zeldman: Yeah, actually I'm glad you brought that up. Because I think ideally we'd love to automate everything, but you can't automate all parts of this, because then it won't come across as authentic. You can automate parts of my three-step formula. The three-step formula is for engaging your connections.
This formula I came up with when most people who were coming to me for help had already set up their social media accounts, and they had already gotten some likes or followers or connections, and then they didn't know what to do on a regular basis to promote their business. I realized that you're always doing one of three things to maintain your social media account. You're always either posting your own original content, sharing other people's content, or mingling: starting and jumping into conversations. It's that posting and sharing part which actually can take the most time and be the most challenging, that's actually the part that can be more automated. If you automate your posting and your sharing, and you chunk the creation of your posts, or the sharing of your posts, you do that in a chunk of time, and you schedule it to post and share throughout the week, then you can show up a little less often, two or three times a week, on a social media site, check in, respond to comments, and look for places to start and jump into conversations.
In terms of automating that process, with posting, if you're doing social selling you're really not going to need to come up with a lot of your own original posts. You're mostly going to be doing a lot of selling, especially on LinkedIn. Because studies show that 60% of the professionals there, they're really interested in industry updates, and they're interested in content that's going to help them be better in their jobs, and better professionals. If you can find articles and share them, that is just as good as having to come up with your own original content if that's not in your nature. For a lot of people, it's just not something they want to do.
Automating that, I love to use a tool called Buffer. Buffer allows you to connect your social media accounts, and set times of day that you'd like to post. For LinkedIn you don't want to post more than twice a day. You can even do once a day, like 7:30 in the morning. If you want to do a second one, do it at 2:30 in the afternoon. You pre-set that, and you drag their little extension to your browser bar so that, when you've found a great article to share, you click on that extension and a little screen pops up, and it allows you to type a little introduction to the article. That's really critical when you're sharing good content. You always want to tell your target customer, by introducing the article, exactly why they're going to find this article helpful or interesting to them. You type a little introduction, and then you can choose to share it right away or put it in the buffer to share at the next pre-scheduled time.
I know a lot of professionals, their social media routine, and there's another great tool to help with this, it's called Google Alerts, you can get great blog posts and articles about any subject you want sent right to your email inbox every day. In the morning, over their coffee, they get their Google alerts, they open up a few articles about their industry, review them, fill up that buffer by typing a little introduction, and now Buffer is sharing for them throughout the week. Now it looks like they're on social media all day, but they're not.
If you can automate that sharing process, and Buffer will also allow you to create original posts in Buffer if you want, so if you automate that posting and sharing process by using the Buffer tool, and using the Google Alerts to find those industry updates and great articles that'll be helpful to your audience, you do that, then Buffer can post for you throughout the week or the month. Then you show up once a day, once every other day, on the social media site of your choice, and look to respond to any comments that have been there, answer the messages in your inbox, and then look to start and jump into conversations, either by sending a message to your prospects or getting involved in a conversation in a group, and there are many other ways to mingle on each network.
I know that was kind of a long answer, but I like to give the complete picture.
Bill Banham: Right, it was a fantastic answer, so thank you for that. So far we've been talking more in a focused manner on social selling, talking to our salespeople audience. More generally in business, what are some of the benefits of being well-connected on social media? Is it possible, for example, to become seen as a trusted resource, and a thought leader? What does that bring you, if you get to that level of stardom?
Sarah Zeldman: You can absolutely become a trusted resource and a thought leader. Moreover, you can really build genuine relationships. I constantly have this experience where I'm speaking to a room of professionals, where some are active on social media and some aren't, and even the ones that are active, they're not quite doing it strategically. I tell them this, that when you're on social media, and you're liking and commenting and sharing on other people's posts, that's one way to engage with them and show that you're paying attention to other people. You're liking, commenting, and sharing their posts, and maybe there's a message that goes back and forth.
If I met somebody, let's say at a live networking meeting, and then I'm liking and commenting and sharing their posts throughout the next three months, and maybe there's a quick message, and I send them an article, and then let's say three months later I meet them at another networking meeting, or even run into them at the grocery store, all of a sudden it's like, "Sarah, how are you doing!" It's as if we never dropped the connection, because we maintained that connection through social media. Whereas if I had met them at a networking meeting once, and then I met them at another networking meeting three months later, they would probably barely remember me and we wouldn't feel as connected as we do, because we have been interacting on social media. Even if that interaction doesn't look like very much, it helps keep you top of mind, and it helps to build relationships.
Whenever I say this to a group of people the active social media users in the room are always nodding their heads, because everyone who uses social media actively really knows this. They know that even just the lightest interaction on social media, sustained over time, keeps you more connected than if you never contacted them at all. It helps turn that dreaded cold call into a warm call, and it really starts and deepens relationships. To me, that's the biggest benefit of using social media. When you're constantly putting out good content you will find that, out in the world, people will come up to you and thank you for the content that you've been posting. "I love your post. I love what you posted last week." It's another way to make a connection and stay top of mind. We all know that when you're top of mind, you're on the tip of someone's tongue when they're either ready to make a purchase from you, or when a friend or colleagues asks for a referral. You cannot put a price on the value of really being top of mind in such a cost-effective way.
Bill Banham: Thank you very much. Sarah Zeldman, we're almost at the end of this particular Social Media And Tech Podcast. Before we wrap things up, can you tell our listeners how they can learn more about you?
Sarah Zeldman: Sure. Please feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn, that's Sarah Zeldman, and you can follow me on Twitter, @TheEmaven.
Bill Banham: Wonderful. Sarah Zeldman, thank you, again, so much for being our guest today. This has been awesome, and I'm sure we're going to get you on again very soon for another episode.
Sarah Zeldman: Thank you so much, it's been a pleasure being here.
Bill Banham: Listeners, I've been your host Bill Banham. This has been the Social Media And Tech Podcast brought to you by the CPSA. Until next time, thanks for listening.