By Tracey E. Schelmetic, TMCnet Contributor
Sales has never been an easy job for the faint of heart, and keeping up with new technologies is part and parcel of the job. No one likes to be called a “dinosaur,” but sales professionals who aren’t engaging with the latest channels – social media in particular – risk being left behind, unable to even find the prospects, let alone engage with them. Customers today aren’t on their phones, and they’re certainly not in their postal mailboxes. (If you’re still sending out direct mail pieces, stop now and apologize to a forest.) They’re not even in their email inboxes anymore (that’s SO 1990s). They’re on the smartphones and tablets, they’re on Facebook, and they’re on LinkedIn (News - Alert).
In a recent article for Business2Community, Sarah Goodall writes that in the business-to-business (b-to-b) space, “selling” is no longer enough. There is a broad swath of research that suggests the business-to-business sales cycle is up to 80 percent complete before a buyer engages a vendor. This is because prospects are doing their own research, seeking out peer reviews, examining the competition and reading case studies before they even speak to a salesperson.
Social selling involves looking up any prospects on LinkedIn, connecting with them, acknowledging any interaction you’ve already had with them (such as at a trade show), reading their profile, constructing a picture of what they might be looking for and drafting an optimized way to engage with them digitally. This, of course, means that you also need to build your social media profile to high professional standards. (As cute as your kids are, leave their pictures off your profile, unless you sell toys for a living.) By building up a personal network, you have it available to tap for warm prospects, according to Goodall.
“Rather than hitting the phones and cold calling a list of names, social sellers are actively searching their own network and identifying people who are second connections to them,” she wrote. “They’re looking for likely referrals and warm introductions that they can contact. They’re searching within their network to grow their network and build stronger relationships.”
Successful social sellers know how to engage with prospects digitally to build a relationship: sharing a news item with a prospect, for example, helps keep you in the prospect’s mind and shows you understand what that prospect’s needs and interests are. A sale is a one-time event. A social selling relationship is ongoing.
“They [social sellers] don’t just pick the phone up to their customers when they need another order in the pipeline – social sellers are ‘always on’,” wrote Goodall. “They make it their job not to ‘sell’ but to ‘provide value’, becoming the expert on behalf of their customer. They read, research and share useful information that will help their customer make better decisions.”
Welcome to the brave, new world of sales.
Edited by Rory J. Thompson