Smart salespeople have learned to tap the power of social media, but sadly, many companies still see social media tools and networks as a pointless and even scary place for their sales teams to focus.
It’s amazing to me that this mentality remains. I realize that there is potential for confusion if sales reps are left “out in the wild” to create their own messages and brand assets, but the downside of restraining this powerful approach is far greater.
Today’s qualified prospect is often far easier to find and reach using social channels.
Today’s prospect often shares invaluable buying signals and data via social channels.
My first job out of college was a sales job and I recall one of my mentors coaching me on the ways to scan a prospect’s office for clues to information that might provide conversation starters and common ground. Things like diplomas, photos and awards were data points for relationship building.
Today this data, as well as information about buying patterns, challenges, company culture and news that may impact purchasing needs, is often shared freely in social networks.
There’s a famous saying that’s often applied to the world of business – It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. The influx of social behavior in the sales environment has transformed this equation to – It’s not who you know, it’s what you know about who you know.
And it’s never been easier to know a great deal more about who you know.
While the process of sales may always involve face to face education and persuasion, many elements of prospecting, relationship building and adding value can be greatly aided through the consistent use of social media.
Blending social media data into CRM systems is becoming commonplace, but smart salespeople are taking it much deeper by mining networks like Twitter to develop and save searches related to their products and services. When someone complains about or asks about something related to their search they may find an open invitation to start a conversation with a prospect.
Your lead mining toolbox might include:
- Twilerts – a service that sends you alerts via email when your search terms are used on Twitter.
- Google Alerts – a free service that sends alerts for your chosen search terms when they are found in Google.
- TweetDeck – a free app that allows you to monitor Twitter for search terms and follow selected lists of Twitter users.
- Google Reader – a free tool that allows you subscribe to and read RSS feeds. By subscribing the blogs and news feeds of prospect companies you can scan for important nuggets. I also use the Reeder app on my iPhone to make it easier to scan and share content I find.
Mining social networks is only part of the equation. Social networks are all about connecting and, in many cases, discovering who is connected to whom. Using research tools such as InsideView or SalesLoft can open unlock potential opportunities for connection.
A particularly useful tool for following job changes, a tremendous network connecting practice, is JobChangeAlerts.com. This tool mines LinkedIn and alerts you to profile changes in your network.
A great deal of relationship building energy is focused on getting and closing the deal, but as most sales professionals know, the long term money is in continuing to grow the relationship after the sale. This is where loyalty, repeat purchases and referrals happen.
This is where socially enabled tools for content sharing, filtering and curating shine. One of the best ways to establish increased value is to provide value in ways that may be, or at least seem to be, unrelated to the products and services you offer.
I believe that some service providers are being chosen these days based on their ability to find and share the good stuff in addition to making sense of the changing stuff.
Your Engaging toolbox might include:
- Using your Google Reader play to create industry specific feeds.
- Using tools such as Storify or Scoop.it to create custom pages.
- Using Q and A sites like Quora to hone in on key industry challenges.
The changing world of sales has in some ways become more complex and in others more open, but one thing will likely never change – the sales professional that consistently finds ways to offer more value will win.