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.
Many sales people don’t fully understand the power of social networks in the sales process or they relegate to some sort of digital prospecting tool at best.
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 qualified prospect often shares invaluable buying signals and data via social channels.
My first job out of college was a sales job and I recall my first sales mentors, my father, 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 whom 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 has become commonplace in the sales environment, 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 might find an open invitation to start a conversation with a prospect.
Your lead mining toolbox should include:
- Twilert – a service that sends you alerts via email when your search terms are used on Twitter.
- Talkwalker Alerts – a free service that sends alerts for your chosen search terms when they are found in Google.
- Hootsuite – a free app that allows you to monitor Twitter for search terms and follow selected lists of Twitter users.
- Feedly – a free tool that allows you to 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 phone 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 growing relationships before and 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 Feedly reader to create industry specific feeds.
- Using tools such as Storify or Scoop.it to create custom topic 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.
Another essential mining skill is the ability to go deeper inside the organizations you serve or hope to serve. How many accounts have been lost over the years because the salesperson had a great relationship with a buyer, only to see that buyer move on?
By mining social networks to get a bigger view of your “buyer’s world” you can start to build relationships around them and potentially uncover new opportunities. If you’ve built an advocate in your original relationship, you may find that this approach makes it easier for them to open doors for you rather than simply asking them to make a referral.
It may not make sense for you to build a relationship with your contact’s boss’s boss, but it may be a very smart play for you to connect your boss’s boss with that person.
Social networks, such as LinkedIn, are very good at revealing connections between individuals as well as highlighting the basis of the connection. This information can become very valuable as you begin to work on a targeted prospect.
Another very important reason for going deeper into organizations is to understand how a deal really happens. Have you ever had one of those deals just grind to a halt and eventually fade away just when everything seemed to be going great – your client was all thumbs up and talking about getting the PO ready to go?
Chances are the deal was killed by stakeholders you were not aware of – and the bigger the organization, the more stakeholders involved.
If you’re selling a software solution to a purchasing department, there’s a really, really good chance that IT, Sales, Operations and maybe even Finance are going to have a say in the who, what, when and where of the deal.
Use social networks to construct company “stakeholder maps” and start connecting with and understanding those crazy guys in IT as part of your mining. This doesn’t mean you’re going to start pitching everyone in the organization, but there’s a good chance that you can actually help your “buyer” better understand the real buying process better when you take this kind research approach. (That sounds like adding value and insight doesn’t it?)