In order to begin this discussion, we must first acknowledge that many folks have a negative view of salespeople and of our profession in general. Adjectives such as slick, pushy, shifty, and dishonest come to mind. While I would label these descriptors as being stereotypes, even stereotypes generally have some basis in fact. They didn’t just pop into the social conscious, they were earned.
These attitudes are born of the traditional adversarial selling model that pitted salesperson against buyer in a test of wits and will. One winner, one loser. It was the art of the close and how to uncover and conquer any and all objections hidden or visible. Mind you, you still must be able to address customer concerns and to ask for the order.
One of my clients said something interesting the other day … “We are not in the selling business. We are in the customer acquisition business.” This was in the context of the fact that their product revenues are largely based on repeat business in contrast to my background of selling larger ticket items that were often “one and done” projects. It does strike me, however … are we not all in the “customer acquisition” business? As a professional salesperson, do we not seek to develop long-term relationships with ALL of our clients? Even if this is a one-shot deal, might they at the very least refer us to others?
Still, professional “relationship” salespeople are a dime a dozen. Let’s just say that ALL salespeople are consummate professionals who exhibit ALL of the behaviors that are associated with top producers. This certainly does not lessen the problem. It exaggerates it. Somehow we must find ways to not only separate ourselves from the losers but, from the winners as well. I will tell you this. Most, if not all, of the best salespeople that I have ever met could still be that much better! Last time I checked, none of us had achieved perfection.
While the topic of this column is social sales, it’s very difficult to address this area without a discussion of salesmanship in general so, let’s think first about the qualities that we associate with really great salespeople and then move the conversation forward from there. Here are but a few so please feel free to add your own!
- Great listeners
- Displays empathy
- Fun to be around
- Displays confidence yet humility
- Has my best interests at heart
- Helps to set reasonable expectations
- They know a great deal about our company and how we work
- They don’t sell me, they solve problems
- They don’t sell me, we have conversations
- Helps me in ways not related to his or her business
- Shows me better ways to use his or her product or service
- They involve me in decisions that affect my business and the use of their product
- Keeps me informed
- I never call them to find out where we are. They always beat me to the phone!
- Since they know so many people within our company, some think they work here!
- Doesn’t just meet our expectations. They exceed them!
How many of these qualities do you display consistently? Display consistently to your customers and prospects? Of course, how we perceive ourselves and how others may perceive us can be, and often is, quite different. In other words, you might ask your customers about how they might match you up to these performance areas.
Assuming you have some things to work on, where do you start? It starts with ATTITUDE, progresses through PRACTICE, and then results in REFLEX. I want to do better. I will practice the right things. With practice, these right things become reflex. Reflex is the only difference between “knowing” and “doing”. And, as practice makes permanent rather than perfect, it is important that we practice the right things! There is no question in my mind that, if you practice these principles, you will separate yourself from the rest of the herd but, let’s now take five of these qualities and apply a “social element” to each in order to achieve even further separation.
#1 – Likeable - Who do we buy from? We buy from those we know, trust, respect, and like. Social media is a great way to display the likeable (personal) part of you and of your company. It’s quite alright to talk about business but not advisable to do it constantly. While the suggested ratio of business to personal updates will vary by network, suffice to say that business related conversations should be held to a much lower percentage on Facebook than say on LinkedIn. It is also important to point out that people buy from you, then from your company, and finally your product or your service.
#2 – Has my best interests at heart – What might you think of regarding the best interests of your clients? Is it bringing them donuts? How about … helping them sell more stuff! Socially, you can do this by ….
- Connecting them to others who may need their product or service
- Promoting them, their products, and their companies via the social channels
- Conducting keyword searches on the networks to uncover opportunities for their business
#3 – Helps me in ways not related to his or her business – Your customer’s business faces a variety of challenges every day and not all are related to your services. News flash. If you really want to be seen as a member of the team, and not as a vendor, you will seek every opportunity to assist them in any way that you might be qualified. For example, if you are competent with social media and they have not yet even started, offer to help them to get going. If you don’t already have one, get a good “reader” (I might suggest Feedly), subscribe to articles pertinent to their business, and then email them great reads as you find them.
#4 – They involve me in decisions that affect my business and the use of their product – As much as you want to be viewed as a part of your client’s company, they just as badly want to feel that they are a part of yours. Participation leads to “ownership” and, when a customer feels that they have a vested interest in you and your company, it’s “game set match”. You listen to their concerns and you ask them for their opinions, their suggestions, and their help in finding ways to serve them better.
This might involve a well-managed and engaging Facebook page. Maybe it means bringing them into a Google+ Hangout with other valued customers and/or key members of your team. How about a private “users” group on LinkedIn where they can share best uses and practices with other clients? A key element in all of these scenarios is a feeling of exclusivity. Who doesn’t want the keys to a “by invitation only” organization? Nobody, that’s who.
#5 – Since they know so many people within our company, some think they work here! – This is just smart business based on so many levels! Think Inside salespeople/advocates, protection should your key contact ever leave, multi-departmental opportunities, hierarchy mapping, and just the simple fact of being viewed as an integral part of the organization. Yikes!
Start with LinkedIn and move to the other social networks as needed. Connect with everybody (as would be appropriate for your needs) within that organization, engage socially with each, and then move these relationships up the ladder to successive levels. Use LinkedIn to monitor position, headline, and skill changes in addition to updates which may identify needs, otherwise known as opportunities, that you may be able to fulfill. Use tags to organize these important contacts and use LinkedIn’s new reminder feature in order to make sure that you consistently make the necessary touches.
How about you? Please tell us what you are doing to separate yourself from your selling peers?