Social Selling – Success Doesn’t Happen By Chance

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#strategicsocialselling – Tony J Hughes

When I started selling – I wasn’t issued with a cellphone, let alone a smartphone or tablet. The internet was an infant. I didn’t have external email to talk to my clients. We still used faxes and mail. All we had was a desk phone and shoe leather.

Today, for an informed and tenacious sales person, the issue isn’t finding information, the issue is finding the right information and using it properly. The world and the people therein are accessible now with a few keystrokes.

Linkedin is a great example. If someone had said to me 20 years ago when I started my sales career that my prospects and clients would have a virtual resume, their entire network, and regularly communicate on this thing called the internet, I don’t know if I would have believed them. Now look – even our kids can instantly show the world what they’re eating for dinner as they’re eating it.

Social Selling is fast becoming an important tool for these savvy sales people. These sales people use LinkedIn, Twitter et al regularly to communicate with their clients and prospects.

The question is no longer whether we do or don’t use social selling within our sales toolkit (using it is a no brainer if you haven’t worked it out). The question is why and how we use it properly.

As mentioned, great sales people relentlessly use social selling techniques as part of their sales activity. They strategically use it. Social selling needs to be part of your and your businesses sales strategy – not something you just leave to chance for your staff to muddle their way through as is often currently the case.

Or as Tony Hughes refers to it #strategicsocialselling. So how could see social selling deployed strategically?

1. Business Strategy

The business needs to start by incorporating social selling in to its sales strategy. It needs to recognise the growing role social selling is playing in the reforming sales landscape and planning why and how to use it tactically. Forming a strategy on why and how to use social sales channels to connect with its existing and potential customers. The difficulty for many business is social selling is often referred to as ‘social media’ and falls under the management of a marketing person or team who manage a corporate LinkedIn or Facebook page(s). This is an important part of social selling, but only a part.

Your sales team are, can and should be interacting with existing and potential clients whose only interaction may be with that sales person. They too need to have the same expertise and knowledge that the dedicated marketing team have. They have a reach beyond the corporate digital footprint and message.

Recognising a business usually invests heavily in marketing and, increasingly, their social media portion therein – is it prudent to ignore their social sales activity by their sales teams?

2. Sales Leadership

Looking at the next step down – sales leaders within business need to be trained on how to coach their sales teams in managing their social sales strategy and execution. It can present significant challenges for sales leaders. It is often new territory. For many sales leaders, they often haven’t earned their stripes in a sales environment which involves social/digital sales techniques. For many, this is like parents struggling with their children’s native ability to deal with technology.

If there isn’t any strategy or training, it becomes very difficult for that type of sales leader to monitor and add value. They can end up being led by their sales team or ignoring it. Social selling can be the perfect disguise for the lazy sales person as an example. Sales leaders need a strategy and training around their teams use of social selling.

If a sales leader doesn’t know the difference between effective and ineffective use of social selling – how can they determine the productivity of their staff?

3. Sales Person Training

The sales team need a framework and training on how to operate in this space.

Some will already get it and be doing it well. Others will be well intentioned, but executing poorly (eg – those numerical quiz questions on LinkedIn – are you a genuis??). Some will be using it to hide their skill shortages in their other sales skills. Others won’t be doing it because they don’t know how, but want to. Some will jus be not interested.

You can’t leave your sales teams execution to chance – you need to train your sales team in this space. But here’s the catch – not so much control and rigour that the personality is sanitised out of the content. Social selling is still a person to person interaction. It isn’t about the mass repetition of a corporate message – this is what those corporate LinkedIn and Facebook pages are for.

Social selling doesn’t replace traditional sales activity, it accentuates the fundamental sales activity we are and should already be doing. It doesn’t make the phone call obsolete. It isn’t an excuse to sit behind your desk and punch out updates all day – hoping the phone rings as a result. It is a tool for a sales person and business. Therefore needs to be included in the sales strategy, processes, training and execution of a business, not just left to the individual sales person to navigate through.

Social Selling allows us to broaden our reach, increase our value, capture and utilise the might of our network, communicate key messages and participate in the new digital business community productively.

Why squander that opportunity by leaving it to chance?

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