It seems that sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees. Or, maybe it is that we neglect the obvious, the people who are already around us while we diligently search for new business. Not that long ago, a member of my networking group asked during a meeting … “Does anybody know anybody who works at company X?”
While nobody present could provide an introduction, I was up at the front of the room on my laptop conducting a search on LinkedIn and discovered that my group member was already first degree connected to an employee of that company. Dense trees. The fact is, social sales, and everything that goes along with it, can be a powerful ally for clearing vegetation and zeroing in on your target.
Everything in sales starts and ends with relationships. I can’t speak for you but, my experience has been that people tend to work better with each other, and for each other, when there is a shared relationship in place. This is accomplished via a mutual respect for what each contributes to the other’s success.
Because we all want this success, it pays to keep a close eye on our buddy’s back. If you ever watch military documentaries, you will find a common theme among soldiers. They don’t fight for their country, the government, God, or even for Mom’s apple pie. They fight to protect the guy next to them. Since sales can be war, camaraderie can be a tremendous asset and an even better strategy.
The fact is, we are surrounded by people who have the potential to assist us in finding new business, provide introductions and referrals, and to amplify our content and messages. Call them your business development team but, who are they? We want to ensure that we connect to the right people.
Internal team members
Sometimes the best hunting grounds can be discovered in your own backyard. One very powerful way to build these relationships is by spending time in each other’s departments. As an example, ride-alongs with sales or spending the day with marketing. Why not take a walk in your team member’s moccasins and gain an appreciation for their duties and for their talents? We need to break down silos.
Sales – I will tell you this. If you are not socially connected to your fellow sales team members … you are seriously missing great opportunities and introductions! Just a simple profile view on LinkedIn will identify common connections.
Marketing – Battles between sales and marketing are the stuff of legend but, perhaps no department is in a better place to support sales development with leads, collateral, and brand messaging that can be used to secure new business and increase existing account penetration. Get past these barriers and communicate. Communicating with each other would be even better.
Customer Service and Support – Both of these departments represent incredible opportunities for new business and particularly from existing accounts. They can easily identify when a customer might need to upgrade their existing products and/or when add-ons may be recommended in order to get the most out of that customer’s current investment.
Product Research and Development – There needs to be three-way and dynamic lines of communication between sales, customers, and product development. Think about it. When your customers become involved they are not only gratified to be asked the questions; they begin to feel more as if they are a part of your team. Not only that, they are sharing their wants and needs and these should all be shared with sales as well as be considered for future developments. They are opportunities.
Human Resources – In many cases, HR will be charged with providing ongoing training and these services will often result in increased selling opportunities for you. HR can also be critical in developing programs for high-performing collaborative teams.
Accounting – Among other things, if a customer is struggling to pay their bills, this is something that you want to know about! Additionally, your accounting department can be instrumental in creating pricing, customer retention, and financing programs that can really drive new sales.
Project Management – Include manufacturing and shipping and installation in this mix. Everything that potentially affects your relationship with your customer must be shared with all parties and in a timely manner. Failure to communicate in any aspect of a customer’s journey with your company will quickly result in a lost customer, any hope of future business, and potential referrals. On the flip side, issues that are handled promptly and correctly will result in an even stronger relationship with that client because they know that you will perform in all areas to ensure their satisfaction!
External team members
These folks can be income generators, cheerleaders and advocates, and advisors.
Customers – Of course your customers already buy from you. You want them to buy more. This is often called customer lifetime value (CLV). Your existing client base should be your best source for new recurring revenue and this will happen providing you don’t just close the sale and then move on to new opportunities. Build these relationships and social is a great way to do that!
Prospects – Even those prospects who don’t end up buying from you can connect you to people who can and will. Providing that you have done a good job for them but, your solution is just not a good match at this time, many will even feel obligated to ensure that you receive some sort of a reward for your efforts. Incidentally, just because they were not able to buy from you today, does not mean that they will not buy from you tomorrow!
Referrers and Influencers – Who would you rather have … somebody who buys $10,000 worth of goods and services from you annually or … somebody who annually refers you to ten deals worth $10,000 each yet they never buy anything for themselves? Me, I want both but, you can work the math. Influencers certainly have the ability to connect you with the folks who you want to be connected to.
Friendly Competitors – Even your competitors will run into deals where their offering may not be the right solution for this particular customer but … your’s might be. So … instead of throwing rocks at each other, maybe you team up on occasion. There is nothing wrong with that. This being said, connecting socially with your competitors might be a bit dicey as you will likely be exposing, at least, a part of your client list to those who might best appreciate your gestures of kindness and sharing. There are certainly pros and cons.
Power Partners – Power partners are even more effective. In most cases, these folks are selling to your identical market and buyers. A good example might be a telephone systems, I.T. services, and internet services. While there can be some crossover, having these relationships in place, along with a few ground rules, can yield outstanding results!
Vendors – As a vendor to your company, it is in my best interest to see that you are successful so that you can buy more of my stuff. Simple. If I can help, your salespeople sell more of their stuff … this is called smart business. Then, when the favor is returned, it might be love.
Networking Groups – The old-timey networking, or leads group, is still in fashion. I should know since I own and operate one. The leads and referrals that are shared by this group are mind-boggling. They get nose to nose and toes to toes weekly and this, my friends, is how relationships are initiated and cultivated. I would strongly suggest, if appropriate, that you consider a group that limits membership to one person per industry classification and where the membership shares your target market (B2B or B2C).
Tools and strategies
What follows are but a very very few tools and suggestions …
Shared CRM – Now, I sell CRM services and I am somewhat puzzled by the number of companies who want to lock down records to only be seen or edited by specific people. For example … this record belongs to salesperson “x”. While I get it, it also effectively blocks what we ultimately wish to accomplish, and that is to leverage shared information that is pertinent to this prospect or account. Putting up a moat and tall walls might keep out marauding Mongols (even that did not work as envisioned) but … it will also prove to be short-sighted on more levels than the stones that you used to build your castle.
Connect on Social Networks and In-Person – Everybody, internal and external, that you meet knows somebody who could use your services. Your challenge is to find out who those somebodies are, and it will be very difficult to do so if you have not connected with these folks in some meaningful, personal, and consistent manner.
LinkedIn TeamLink – TeamLink (part of the Sales Navigator Team Edition premium platform) can leverage your company’s network to uncover the best way to get introduced by allowing you to see who within your company is connected to your leads and contacts.
LinkedIn Lookup – This application will allow you to learn more about the people in your company and who might be in the best position to assist you with a particular need.
KiteDesk – Kitedesk is an extremely robust application with way too many features to list here. However, among its capabilities is a proprietary algorithm which will help you to identify which of your connections will be your best bet to reach your target connections. Check it out!
GaggleAMP – This is a great resource for leveraging and amplifying messaging by your team member (this site uses this service). GaggleAmp will allow you to create an on-brand message for easy sharing by all users.
Maximizing your effectiveness
Managing all of this could be your biggest challenge. You will potentially be presented with a wealth of data from a number of internal and external sources and how are you going to manage and coordinate your efforts? Failure to do will result in a dramatic decrease in overall effectiveness at best and a completely disastrous outcome at worst.
It will require tools, training, and consistent use by all team members involved. I would have to say that much of this starts with a central database (CRM) that will be fed by a number of exterior components including marketing automation, support site/help desk, and content generation and dissemination. Perhaps some of you have suggestions as to how this might best be accomplished? If so … please share it with the rest of us by leaving a comment below!