In past lives, I have both been a sales manager, and I have also worked for a number of sales managers. Not all of those were created equally …
- Some were also accomplished salespeople whereas others had never sold. I call these non-selling background managers “sales administrators”.
- Some sales managers handled their own selling duties in addition to managing others.
- Some were great leaders, coaches, and trainers while others … not so much.
- Some liked salespeople while others … Hell, even those of us who like salespeople, don’t do so … always.
Regardless of what kind of a sales manager you may be, you will be faced with having to consider the potential impact that social sales could be having on your sales organization. If you have been waiting for it to hopefully pass away as a fad, thereby negating the need to meet it head-on, guess what? It ain’t goin’ nowhere.
Why do it?
What do sales managers need to know about social sales? It is important that we first must understand how our customers are changing. While they may be busier than ever, they are also smarter than ever because they have the internet, and they know how to use it to research potential purchases prior to even contacting you. Your absolute best chance of being approached by, or attracting, these qualified buyers lies directly in your ability to engage socially and social sales is a part of this process.
Additionally, in order for a company-wide social selling initiative to have any chance of being successful, it has to be championed by those who are above your sales teams including managers and applicable c-suite executives. Without these levels of support, it will either not happen, will ultimately fail, or you may end up having your salespeople flopping around independently as they attempt to initiate their own programs. You will have little to no control over these disparate efforts, and that alone should provide you with the necessary incentive to be proactive regarding a controlled implementation.
The really great news is that selling socially is not asking you or your people to do anything differently than you are already successfully doing now. It augments, rather than replaces, your existing methods and it will allow you to …
- Increase your sales. Statistics will show this but, beyond those, quality sales related activities have always increased sales. Social selling might bring new tools but, it continues to adhere to tried and true rules regarding their application.
- Develop closer relationships with your existing customers. You’ve earned these people so for goodness sakes, don’t deed them to a competitor by failing to continuously solidify your good will.
- Discover new opportunities in terms of both product sales and potential clients. The reach and search capabilities that are associated with social sales are quite literally without limitation.
- Create an inbound sales arm where you might not have one now. I have always been an outbound salesperson. Imagine my delight in discovering that inbound commissions (people who find and come to me via my web presence) spend equally well as do outbound commissions.
While all of this sounds really great, you still might not be ready to move forward. If this is the case …
What’s stopping you?
Many of the reasons why we don’t venture into new territories are based on misconceptions. Social sales are no different! I was one of those people who dismissed the concepts pretty much offhand. Finally, I said to myself … “best to take a closer look so that I can at least make an informed decision.” With this in mind, let’s explore both the reasons that are causing us to hesitate along with the truth that lies behind the mysteries.
- “It’s change and all change is uncomfortable.” True but, change also means growth.
- “What happens if it doesn’t work?” Certainly, if not implemented correctly, it won’t work. However, with careful planning and by taking slow and measurable steps, any risk will be both minimal and worth the effort!
- “It will take time away from selling.” Social selling is selling. It includes activities that are should be viewed no differently than your existing sales activities such as making phone calls and visiting with customers.
- “Even if I want to get on board with this, our salespeople won’t.” I guess that we will see what kind of a salesperson you are. Honestly, the possibility of earning additional commissions is a powerful aphrodisiac for most professional salespeople.
Here’s a big one … “This looks like fun rather than work.” The perception may be that social sales is 99.9% socializing and .01% selling. This philosophy is based on a Farmville mentality. Has selling always been a social activity? Of course it has. This only changes the name. Not the actions. Not the goals. Not the desired results.
What will it take?
- Be prepared to lead from the front. It’s “Follow me!” rather than blowing the whistle commanding subordinates to charge from the bowels of a WWI trench.
- This is an investment, not an expense. It will have a return.
- It is going to take time. Be prepared for the long haul. In my lifetime of experience, nothing great has ever happened for me overnight.
- Be flexible, supportive, and open-minded. There are going to be times when you are going to have to stop zigging and instead start zagging.
- Define your metrics, establish benchmarks, and set goals. It will be difficult to measure your successes without first understanding what it is that you are measuring as well as where the starting point for the tape is to be placed.
- Get up to snuff yourself on social sales, train your staff, and be prepared to provide training on a continuous basis in order to ensure maximum success. One-off training sessions are rarely, if ever, effective by even the most generous of measurements.
If it were me, I would start out slowly. Determine where your customers are and ensure that you have a unified presence there. For example, if you are B2B, there is a fairly good chance that LinkedIn may be your honey pot but, you will need to verify that. Make sure that your website is up-to-date, displays connections to your social accounts and, if you don’t have a blog, start one. If you have a blog and the last article published was in 2009, renew your commitment to add new content weekly.
Start out by calling a meeting with your salespeople in order to explore the topic and then to gauge their thoughts and reactions. Assure them that, if they are willing to give social selling an opportunity to increase their commissions, you will be there to support them. Social sales has the potential to excel in a number of areas but let’s start with just three to get you started right now and we will use LinkedIn for our example. I suggest that we keep it simple.
- Meet new people – Set goals to increase your team’s followers/connections by “x” people weekly.
- Learn about others and begin to develop relationships – As you connect with others, you will have full access to their social profiles. Take the time to read these and to, review what they are sharing. Engage (converse) with them on this platform.
- Educate – Share with your connections educational articles regarding your product or services that can be found on your website in addition to industry educational articles that can be found on other trusted source sites.
All 3 of these areas support the social sales model. Easy breezy and you are doing all of this, at least to some extent, already!
Ultimately, as a sales manager, you’re going to be concerned with one thing, and that is revenue. Activities and efficiencies are critical in achieving this goal and in order to be able to track all of these elements, you are going to need a good CRM and a socially oriented CRM would be even better. Getting started, today, with your social selling initiative would be a great first step, so I would suggest that you might proceed with shuffling said feet!