Social Selling – A Whole New Toolkit

Social Selling – A Whole New Toolkit

Weren’t we cool? Be honest, how many of you carried a pager on your hip before the rise of the cellphone? (I’m old enough {barely}, but I had one)…Part status symbol, part business tool, the pager kept us somewhat connected with the home office and other contacts while also communicating to everyone around us, “I do important stuff.” When the digits appeared on the screen, we rushed to the nearest pay phone like the apocalypse was upon us, urgently responding to the message/number left by a client, colleague, or afternoon cocktail companion. Of course, the pager was only an intermediary in our quests to stay connected; we still had to make the call, schedule a meeting, track down requested information, send the package, etc. How many of those little black boxes are at the bottom of our landfills these days?

With the rise of smart phones and connected devices and a host of social media channels supported by said devices, our connectedness to our network has never been so intimate and immediate. In the business environment, connectivity continues to expand “social selling.” Now keep in mind…we’re ALL in sales – whether that is part of your title or role formally or you’re focused on operational business functions, it is our job to serve customers and ensure the success of our organization. When businesses and its leaders connect with their network – with both current and potential clients through social media channels and beyond, the potential for expansion and sales grows tremendously. In fact, 78% of social sellers outsell their colleagues who rely on traditional sales approaches.1 By sharing information, offering advice, answering questions, and directly interacting with the lives of clients and prospects through social media, leaders tap into the power of relationships and intimacy. If a sales leader appears relatable and authentic – appropriately intimate – the potential for growth is immense. Conversely, if the connections forged by the sales leader feel contrived, then the client is probably going to take their business elsewhere – people do business with those they like and trust and WANT to do business with. In my own network engagement, I deploy the power of social media to keep the fires of connectivity burning with old and new connections alike. Has social selling worked for me? Yes. I have a history as the top social seller in multiple organizations.

Social SellingLet me share some tips:
Do Your Homework
If you are ready to take the plunge into social selling, spend some time understanding the various social media channels used by your clients and prospects. Also, research the individuals and the companies themselves – I can’t tell you how many connection requests and irrelevant sales pitches come in with zero research about my organization or without understanding my background, experience or my own personal brand (fastest way to lose me as a connection). Be comfortable reaching out to those new and unknown, but please do your homework first!

Build and Maintain your Network
Make sure you are connected on LinkedIn with your WHOLE network – your clients, target prospects, industry peers and influencers (and heck, why not those you meet during your personal interests and hobbies??). Many believe in keeping an extremely tight and regularly culled network, and some even limit it to a fixed number of connections, but in my opinion, this is an area to go wide and broad; in an era when 6-degrees of separation shrinks daily, and people change organizations with much greater frequency, why limit yourself?
This is your network, among the most powerful assets that you have as a business professional. Harness it. Nurture it. Cultivate it. Serve it. Social networks are highly efficient tools for maintaining contact and building relationships with those in your network and I mean ALL of your network – not just sales prospects. Interacting with clients positively online contributes to retention. Helping prospects understand and define their business challenges attracts them to you and your solutions. Building relationships with peers and industry influencers keeps you informed and referable.
People notice when you pay attention to them. When you invest time in paying attention to and promoting others, it triggers reciprocal behavior. People do business with people they like, and they trust, and they WANT to do business with.

Be Authentic
Authenticity is always the key to successful social selling. Most people can smell a fraudster from miles away. “Liking” every client post or responding to every tweet conveys desperation. If you want to succeed in selling, learn to appreciate the humanity of your clients. Learn about their families, their aspirations, their challenges, etc. I’m not saying you need to become the digital BFF of your clients, but you need to connect in a way that is genuine. If a part of your client’s story resonates with your own story, share those points of resonance. If your expertise can help a client with a personal challenge, offer your expertise without expectation of remuneration. Be vulnerable. Sharing snippets from your family trip, gym woes, significant anniversaries, etc. communicates to the client, “Victoria’s family and life are a lot like mine.” That’s intimacy.

Consistency
Yes, I know you’re busy, we’re ALL busier than we’ve ever been it seems. For those who have followed my postings or seen me speak, I live by the phrase #NoExcuses…quite simply, “where there is conviction, there is capacity.” I’ve mentioned before how important consistency is – it is viewed as an essential quality of being an effective leader. While the heart of your brand is determined by how you show up every day, consistency is hugely important in establishing and maintaining your personal brand online. Posting regularly, aligned with your brand messaging, keeps you top of mind of your contacts, and limit yourself to topics that reflect your personal brand’s values. Your social presence and social selling IS part of your leadership mandate, so I’d encourage you to schedule time in your calendar daily if multi-tasking your way through doesn’t work.

Social SellingBrand YOU
If the objective of social selling is in fact to sell, then don’t forget to market what you do or what you’re offering. You are your brand – you must sell YOU. However, convincing people to buy what you’re selling comes down to a few factors: first, the strength of your network and the relationships you have with people in it; second, your presence, visibility and reputation among people within your network; and finally, your ability to differentiate yourself and what you’re selling from others.

I miss the pager (sort of), but I love my devices and all the social media platforms they support. A generation from now, 95% of our sales will be generated through virtual communities, not brick and mortar spaces. If you haven’t tapped into the potential of social selling, assume you’re being lapped by your competitors.

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