Guest blog post contributed by Robert Pease; hear him speak on Tuesday afternoon at 3:30 (breakout session B: “New Customer Acquisition – Sales + Marketing”) at the Sales & Marketing 2.0 Conference and again on November 15 at the Sales Strategies in a Social & Mobile World Conference in Santa Monica.
The good news about social media is that prospects are, in effect, further qualifying themselves on their own. This means that salespeople and companies are now dealing with a more informed prospect who is likely to have specific questions.
The bad news is that many of the skill sets and methods of selling must be refreshed and revised. Today, it’s not about what you are selling, it’s about what someone is buying.
Many people will say that salespeople need to participate in social media by doing the following:
- set up a Linkedin profile,
- write a blog,
- answer some questions on a few forums.
All those things are important – but they’re not core selling activities. Good salespeople want to sell, not engage with the community.
The goal is to listen and listen carefully. Listen to what people are asking about, and answer those questions when appropriate. Nothing will get you ignored faster than shameless pitching of your product. There is a huge difference between someone sharing frustration with a current product via Twitter versus someone actually signaling demand by asking for recommendations for a product from their social graph.
Your goal is to be part of the extended “trust graph” (an extension of the basic social graph) which means engaging in a real way to help answer the question being asked or responding to an open invitation to showcase your product. This raises the bar for a salesperson and puts less immediate emphasis on closing a sale.
That said, closing remains the goal, so it’s imperative to have filters that help you detect the right time to engage and avoid sinking time into conversations that lead nowhere.
You can’t hide your competitors from a prospect. You can’t ignore a negative review in a forum about your company. You can’t turn a deaf ear to questions being asked to you or about you via social channels.
If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile yet, then set one up right now; but understand this is not social selling. Your online self (your LinkedIn profile or Twitter timeline, for example) gives prospects reference data on you. When you engage, they can quickly check these sites to see if you’re worth a response.
Tune into the buying signals being broadcast online and be ready for a ride that has no regard for what label you want to assign someone in your CRM system. Buyer-centric selling is nothing new, but now that everyone can have a voice, you ignore social media at your own peril.