The problem is many salespersons, or their managers, see the word ‘selling’ and mechanically assume certain behaviour has to follow. Social selling begins with social marketing and should be implemented as such. One cannot skip Baltic to get to Boardwalk. Social selling is undeniably a sales technique and one of the tools at the disposal of the modern sales organization; however, for it to function it should be treated as relationship building with a long tail. Given the tools of social media, the seller learns about the habits, likes and lives of the prospect and gets to work being helpful and relevant. For example, if the prospect is ‘liking’ a certain type of charitable action online then the seller can bring opportunities to be involved and help with the cause to the prospect’s attention. Perhaps the prospect shows a keen interest in a certain vertical or industry. Then it makes sense to share insights or experiences within that industry with the prospect. It is about bonding with the person. The salesperson can be on the lookout for questions the prospect poses and bring answers to the table. In other words, one is not selling a good or service initially; one is selling a relationship and connection by being relevant and helpful. It is by giving value that one hopes to elicit value. It is by showing expertise that one hopes to elicit a favourable picture of oneself as a worthwhile advisor.
The key here is that knowledge of the needs and wants of customers is finally available in such a way that the keen and observant salesperson can micro-target his or her efforts in a relevant way. It takes consistency of course, but customers are typically advanced in their buying cycles before contacting sales nowadays and, as such, their social activity may be providing an early view of their buying intentions. Listening and reading is learning and gaining a tactical advantage. It is a spectacular method of researching one’s prospects, targeting customers and customizing the approach to leads and potentially even monitoring prospects’ and competitors’ interactions.
Contrast this approach with what often passes as social selling: someone connects with or follows a prospect on social media. Then soon enough comes the request for a conversation or a demo or a meeting and that after one ‘like’ or whatever and nothing more. The sales pitch is crude and not taking advantage of the facilities of social media.
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