From connections to customers: how social media can boost the way you sell
By: Adam Gray, co-founder and head of intellectual property (IP) for DLAignite - a global strategy and training business that helps organisations to see social media as the platform for closing the distance between clients, prospects, remote employees and potential recruits.
Back in the mists of time, before LinkedIn, Facebook, WhatsApp and other social platforms, a salesperson who wanted to communicate with a potential customer started with a phone directory and a phone.
Now we have a world of possibilities.
Instead of a phone book, a seller has access to a vast digital directory. LinkedIn alone has 740 million members in more than 200 countries and territories - a phone book for the modern age - not just names, but job titles, responsibilities, companies, business contacts, employment and education history.
This is a goldmine, but it still takes serious prospecting, which starts with a structured plan to help narrow your focus on those who might be interested in what you have to sell.
On the whole, you can split your marketplace into three groups: the interested - your prospects; the not interested; and the others - your suspects.
In the old phone-directory days, you would cross out the names of people you had spoken to that weren?t interested; and you would add to your customer relationship manager (CRM) the details of those that were. (You would also cross out their names in the phone book.) Those you had not spoken to did not have a line through their names, so you were still free to call them. Simple, but despite the names being in alphabetical order, completely random.
Now, with social media, you have the perfect mechanism for turning a random approach into a targeted approach. Social selling lets you set out your stall, build recognition and trust, and narrow your focus. This is key because your digital shop window can be seen by an almost unlimited number of suspects.
Where the phone book gave you hundreds of possibilities, the internet provides a hitherto undreamt-of degree of scale to your messaging, but just like the old phone directory, a big list rarely moves you closer to actually selling something. For that there is the need for a process and procedure, in the same way as those needed for accurate forecasting, deal flow and revenue generation from the pipeline in your CRM.
Turning suspects into conversations, then prospects, then leads, pipeline and revenue takes time and energy. This does not happen by chance.
To target your search, set out your key performance indicators: connections, messages, views, posts, likes, comments, shares, and then note how these drive conversations, calls, forecasts and eventually revenue. The important thing is that there is a relationship between your social activity and revenue, if the right things are measured and promoted and the right lessons are learned.
To make sure your digital shop window is enticing, I would recommend focusing on the following:
Profile - does your profile say what it needs to say about you and your business? (This isn't necessarily what you want it to say or think it should say.)
Network - is your network focused in the right area? If you have no connections, or very few within your nominated accounts, your social behaviour will have little benefit.
Engaging - are you liking and commenting on the posts of people you want to be noticed by, and how would they regard your posts and profile?
Publishing - when you have started to build a network, regularly publish interesting comments and posts, so i) they remember who you are, ii) you maximise the chance of being in the right place at the right time, iii) they continue to build trust in you.
Skilled, ethical selling - promoting yourself as a member of your professional body - like the newly merged Association of Professional Sales (APS) and the Institute of Sales Management (ISM) gives you credibility and status.
Knowledge - sharing and commenting on the latest thought leadership, like the latest parliamentary report called Supercharging Sales: Investing in B2B selling for jobs and growth will demonstrate that you are across industry trends.
Spam - the more you publish, the more you?ll be noticed, but go for informed, interesting, targeted comments and posts. Think about your market audience and post for them.
Personal - If you post about who you are rather than your products and services, you are more likely to start conversations. Remember when you meet a prospect face-to-face, or now by phone or video call, you don't sell straight away, you talk about mutual interests, sport, children, pets, lockdown living whatever interests you have in common.
For complex business-to-business purchases a buyer needs more than a brochure. They need a connection. Social selling gives you the chance to project your image and role within your organisation to help you build a strong business relationship. In time, you customers will see you as a knowledgeable, trusted adviser because good communication builds business.