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I’ve read a number of articles as of late that have been coming out against social sales. Adjectives like … buzzword, overused, cliché, and broken promises. Opinions stating that it really is marketing and not sales (the lines have blurred) and that the hype far exceeds the results. These statements are coming from sales professionals. Smart salespeople whose opinions I both like and respect.
All of this is true. Much of this backlash is based on the hype of what social selling will do while there has been very little talk about what it won’t do. Of course, we also have to address what people think it will do. Poor information leads to unrealistic expectations leads to an overall dissatisfaction with the results.
Today, most will find themselves in one of three camps regarding their attitude toward social selling …
- Traditionalists who refuse to consider that there may be something here.
- Dreamers who think that selling socially is roughly equivalent to the second coming.
- Realists who recognize that social sales are a way to augment and improve on many of their traditional efforts without actually replacing those.
What’s new? Not much.
Social Sales, and at least two monikers that preceded it … Relationship Sales and Consultative Sales, all have something in common. Sales have ALWAYS been social, relationship, and consultative in nature. Well, at least it should be. The adversarial model (only one person wins) went out the door with “Death of a Salesman”, “Tin Men”, and “Mad Men”.
Still, snake-oil social sales pros will give people the impression that “You don’t have to know how to sell. You just need to learn how to ‘social sell’”. Sit back and count the orders as they tweet in. This, of course, is pure b.s. The process may have evolved; buyer behaviors may have changed but … you still need to know how to sell!
In a sense, this goes back to what was maybe the first rule that I learned about social media …
Social media will not make you something that you are not. It only magnifies and amplifies that which you already are.
So, a good salesperson becomes a better salesperson with social sales whereas a bad salesperson becomes … a highly visible bad salesperson.
What social sales won’t do …
- Nurture relationships to the levels that will be found in real life. The goal of any social media relationship has to be to continue to develop it into a real relationship. That might be meeting for coffee, a conference on Skype, or a phone call.
- It won’t close for you. Almost universally, and particularly in B2B selling, closing should be done in person. The higher the ticket, the more critical this becomes. Closing is an extremely personally activity that requires all of your senses in order to correctly assess buyer response.
- It won’t take the place of your traditional skills. Social sales is a tool. Nothing more and nothing less. You still need all of the traditional instruments in your toolbox.
- Electronic eyes can’t replace nose to nose and toes to toes. You can see a lot on social media mind you but, you can’t see it all. Am I smiling right now or am I sticking my tongue out at you?
- It won’t replace your brain. You still need one, and you still have to be able to demonstrate that you have one that actually works.
What social sales will do …
- Amplify your reach. Building your network will allow you to reach more people. Building your network with the right people will increase your sales.
- Expand your centers of influence. I don’t care how good you are, how many people you know, or how long you have worked a territory. If you still have competitors, your potential circles of influence has not even been touched let alone tapped.
- Demonstrate and establish your expertise. Social selling will allow you to create and to promote brand you. As you do this, remember that today’s selling model is based on educating your potential clients as opposed to hitting them on the head with a club and then dragging them into your cave.
- Replace many cold calls with warm calls. “Never make another cold call” is more hype than fact. Certainly, by monitoring trigger events, learning to listen socially, leveraging your shared connections, and a host of other techniques and strategies, you will make less and these calls and they have a good chance of being warm rather than cold.
- Allow you to be found and attract others to you. This one gets an “absolutely!”
- Learn more about people in your target market(s). Knowledge leads to sales.
- Begin to establish and nurture new and existing relationships. Notice the emphasis on the word begin. Social selling is a great way to make taps and touches. It also allows you to perform these in new and creative ways. Once again, you need to take these relationships to real life in order for them to reach their full potential.
- Discover new opportunities. Amen, brother! There are a gazillion ways to find new opportunities via social sales.
Selling just got tougher!
What!? What happened to “selling just got easier”!? Selling has always been hard work and selling socially may be harder still. Whereas before salespeople always seemed to be scratching for business intelligence, today we have an overabundance of it right at our fingertips. In order to be able to leverage that, you will need to be able to …
- Sift through it (a ton of it). This can be the tricky and time-consuming part. First you need to be able to filter out network noise and traffic in order to be able to concentrate and focus on your intended. Next you need to be able to discover and listen to their social signals. All of this takes discipline but, the good news is that there are tools that will help!
- Connect the dots while following multiple trails of bread crumbs. Social networking can be very much like a spider web, a creeping vine, and the Minotaur’s maze. There are lots of different paths that lead to different results and sometimes they lead to nowhere. Better get out your “Inspector Clouseau” hat and magnifying glass.
- Study and interpret that which you come across. It’s not enough to engage with others. You will need to look closely at those who are choosing to engage with you. Who are they, what’s causing them to engage, what are they responding to, and how are they responding? This is only a beginning list.
For salespeople who rely on being fast on their feet (read little to no pre-call preparation), maximizing the effectiveness of social selling will be very challenging. It takes practice, careful planning, and developing winning routines. Do this and the returns can be enormous!
The other day a gentleman followed me on Twitter. Looking at his profile, I could see that he was a strong proponent of social selling. After following back, he sent me a very nice personalized direct message, and it finished with “… are we connected on LinkedIn?”
What’s wrong with this picture? I responded by suggesting that this was a question that he perhaps should already have the answer to and then … I chuckled to myself. It’s very much like the calls I get from people and the first words out of their mouths are “What do you do?” While you were getting my phone number off of my website, did you even take a minute to look at it? The unfortunate fact is that I see this kind of thing all the time and, even worse, sometimes I see it when I’m looking in the mirror. Yes, now your customers expect that you will have done your homework.
Which leaves us with one last important question … What do we call it? Since selling is always evolving anyway, maybe we just call it …“sales”. What would you call it?