Whether you like it or not, when buyers are so influenced by social media, social selling training should be part of any sales development plan.
Progressive companies now ensure that social selling is now an integral part of their sales process, tapping into the sales intelligence that the social networks provide to both buyer and seller. Never since John H Patterson created his sales training methodology for NCR, have sales people needed to adjust their sales skills, due to the fact that the more traditional forms of selling such as cold calling have diminishing results. Training to release the power of social selling can have to engage buyers is now a core activity, not a gap filler.
Selling and buying has changed. The profile of a typical business buyer along with their needs, values and how they purchase goods and services has altered completely from 10, even 5 years ago. A business should use social selling as a genuine touch point to share insights, research, information and content before engaging in any sales conversations. Social selling is a learned skill (how long does it take to master other sales tactics – months, even years?), it is not a fall back method for sales people to spam sales messages on Twitter, Facebook, on LinkedIn groups. Nor is it a means to plaster vanilla flavored sales messages across groups and connections. The tactic of connecting and building a network of connections just to send sales messages is NOT social selling.
The biggest tip I can convey is that for social selling to work you need to build value over time with your social network by sharing relevant, quality content that people find useful and helpful. So, in time when a sales person reaches out with a personalized social touch point to a prospect to engage in a sales discussion, the chances of progressing a relationship will be greatly enhanced.
Part of the training should be about learning the social selling habit loop, a daily routine to connect with your social network community with news, articles, research, videos and snippets of information. They also need to learn, Givers Gain, starting with ways to connect your network together (as this provides value) and offering to help others connect. A good example of this is that a sales person sees a message posted on LinkedIn that says, “Where could I find some inspiration for a key note speech I have to deliver?” Instead of posting of reply such as, I would be interested in this myself or have you tried PowerPoint? (True reply!). Now, the sales person finds someone in their social network that is a presentation expert and offers to put the person in touch with them. Nothing in it for the sales person, other than to build their credibility as someone who is a conduit, a connector who brings value by taking the time to listen and connect their social network. To quote “Covey”, these are a lodgements that pay off in the longer term.
Never forget that selling at its most basic is simply the act of communicating and gaining commitments. Now, more than ever, to be successful in sales, we need to understand that (a) selling is all about building relationships and (b) providing value. With a well-planned out social selling program, a business will gradually drive more sales then cold calling or cold email will ever achieve.
Always remember that all selling is inherently social, so social selling is really nothing new, but rather a new communication channel. So, look at social selling as an additive process, a sales tactic to help you sell more effectively that will evolve over time.
A process worth following is to separate ‘social selling’ into two main areas:
(1) Direct Social Selling and (2) Indirect Social Selling.
The direct side of social selling is utilising the various social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Instagram to look for conversations where one would share content/articles. A pathway to connect with people a business wants to target or nurture a relationship with. Taking the example of a CIO who tweets about their focus on reducing IT costs in the coming year. The sales person in return now shares some articles or research on reducing IT. As the interaction builds (assuming the sales persons product or service can help with reducing IT costs), they can at an appropriate time, reach out with their first social touch point – by sending a highly personalized connection request. After a series of planned touch points, the sales person can now reach out to explain the value they might be able to bring to the buyer’s goals. Please note: this is a shortened version of the process but the point is to look for information about what prospects or companies are doing or saying so person or business can be highly relevant to them when they reach out via the social channels.
The indirect side of social selling has to do with a sales person building their own personal brand so over time their social audience (connections and weak ties) eventually value their insights, comes to view them as a valuable industry expert, not just another weak sales person. However, it’s important to note that this does take time and does not provide some instant results that some sales leaders think should happen these days. The reality is social selling is all about adding value to a target market, share not sell, help not hinder, be useful not useless.
We write these articles on sales to try to add some value by not just talking about the theory of selling or business but actually giving you some useful tips on sales, marketing and business (hopefully). On our social channels, we share suggestions on what to do and how to do it. We also regularly post or re-tweet articles from other sources not just about sales but about business topics that we think are important to sales people and business leaders.
We practise what we preach, on a daily basis we review discussions in our groups in LinkedIn or Facebook, we strive to provide honest answers to questions people ask without promoting our business or telling them how wonderful we are.
To finish up, please take the time to think through the goals, expectations and vision for any social selling program you plan to put in place. Apart from training, spend time looking for articles, news and research you can use to connect with people without interrupting them while at the same time position yourself as a thought leader by sharing quality information that is relevant. This will help you or any sales person in the digitally influenced buying/selling process, regardless of what you sell.