In line with the methods of generating opportunities, at the opposite end of a mass e-mail and a cold door would be Social Selling. It is a hybrid method where you can achieve some scalability and some customization. It exists between Inbound and Outbound since it uses both attraction and direct messages.
I find Social Selling to be a holistic approach to the new capabilities that technological innovations offer to find, develop and generate business opportunities.
Social selling is a systematic approach to the generation of opportunities, using the technologies and means available to make the sales function more efficient.
While the term social selling was driven strongly by LinkedIn, it is not just LinkedIn where social selling occurs. It includes other networks – Twitter of course – and any others where you find customers such as on Google+, Pinterest, Facebook, forums, Meetups, etc. It allows you to use available technologies for the qualification, approach or conversion of potential clients.
Social Networks and sales? The evolution of the sales function.
Some traditional sales circles have mocked or stigmatized social networks as if they were something alien to them, or even a threat. How grave a mistake to romanticize your way as the right way when the market cares not about your feelings. Sending a tweet or waiting for an invitation on LinkedIn is not what social selling is all about. It is about using the props that exist to aid in the sales process. If those props are social networks, so be it. There is nothing better than visiting a client, but what happens when you can’t physically do that? Isn’t knowing something about them far better than knowing nothing at all before you make an initial phone call?
In the end this is about reputation and common sense. The social world online is not far different than the face-to-face. When we find something or someone new, we are cautious; we have to judge if they’re trustworthy, and that happens little by little based on what they say and what they do.
If it makes sense we go ahead. If they sell snake oil or do not respond then we cross them out. If they come with some previous references (they’re a friend of a friend, they have recommended them to us, or we have seen that they know our subject, etc.) the better, the faster we will trust. But still we have to see for ourselves. Only after a while can they make our “trust” list, and being removed from that list can happen really quick. But this step is IMPERATIVE to use on the list of candidates for any potential business relationship.
Recently, the Corporate Executive Board has carried out a study on the performance in complex sales in which it analyzed 6,000 salespeople in 83 companies distributed among the main sectors of activity, the results of which provided the core arguments of the book “The Challenger Sale” by M. Dixon and B. Adamson http://www.executiveboard.com/
When the report on vendor styles and endangered types of sales was published, it was not surprising to see that the reactive, passive dispatch, is in crisis. But strangely so is the aggressive, which is to go selling by cold calls to unqualified lists who showed no signs of interest – the equivalent of interruption marketing.
“60% of buyers seek the information from a contact with the company and prefer to be the ones who initiate the contact”
But the most surprising thing about the sales success study is that the relationship builder, the relationship seller, is the one with the least presence among successful marketers.
This can be interpreted in several ways. My stance is not that the relationship with the client no longer matters, but that you have to do more and extend the relationship to finer layers to accomplish more. It used to be that trust was the one and only key. You are my supplier for everything (consultancy, etc.) and you take care of finding me the best product at the best value.
Nowadays there is an explosion of services, possibilities, and specialists, so it’s not always the usual provider who is up to date. They may have non-aligned interests. The customer can no longer trust that his usual supplier is always the best option for him. In Spain this is the case with some seemingly “trusted” financial institutions that placed preferential bonds of very high risk to retirees, in many cases who were very scarcely informed, just before the collapse of the price on those assets.
In addition, the customer has greater cost-focus and wants to put suppliers out to compete, which decreases loyalty to any one in particular. This means there exist more competitive stages open to more opportunities to win business.
The result is that it’s not just the deep, lifelong relationship that matters but also other factors, such as having the capability to demonstrate that you know how to solve a specific customer problem.
What does this imply for the salesperson hoping to win this business? SPECIALIZATION. Being able to provide solutions to a variety of client problems, or at least be perceived as experts in reacting to potential customer pain points, will win sales. And to find out about those insights, you have to dive into the ocean of data where customers talk about their pain points.
At the same time you have to cover many more accounts to generate Leads. ?? [seems out of place]
As we said in the direct sales section, it is not a question of reducing the role of the salesperson to reach these requirements, but of expanding their capabilities with technology and new processes to scale up their effectiveness.
Next generation sales – dominate the social networks, its brand image and the new tools of Martech stack (marketing technology). ?? [seems out of place]
78% of salespeople using social media perform better than their peers (Forbes)
What is Social Selling good for?
Most people use professional social networks for any of the following reasons: Finding information about other professionals, developing their network of contacts, and building their own image or professional reputation.
Professional networks generally help in all three areas described above. The utility for the first two is obvious and there isn’t a company on the planet that hasn’t at some point checked the profiles of their clients on LinkedIn. We all send and receive connections from those that we know or follow the ones that interest us.
But it’s often the third point that sounds like something meant for more advanced users. However, sharing content or commenting in a group is in fact what fosters our professional image more than the subjective quality of how we feel our LinkedIn profile stands up to others.
How can we do that, then, in a directed fashion to help us achieve our professional or sales goals?
- Find information on other professionals (Get Insights)
- Create lists of potential clients
The most basic and primary function is the help we have to create lists of those who may want what we’re offering. In the Social Selling chapter we will go into detail on how to detect those signals of interest.
- Being up to date on our network of professional connections and those of our clients
For changes in their titles, new responsibilities, new departments or moves within companies at large. Also for mapping departments, tugging at the blanket of relationships, seeing who is in contact with who, who is the boss, who works most, etc. Most great salespeople know that when you pick up a new account, the first thing you do is be crystal clear on their organization chart, formal and informal, and that is a lengthy task where social networks can really decrease the workload.
- Knowing what interests your clients?
In addition to keeping abreast of organizational changes, it allows you to find out what they care about, what they are looking for, what they need or are interested in – both current customers and potential customers – before coming into contact through the activity they develop on the internet. What they’re sharing, what is popular, where they comment. You can use it to share in that same area or simply send it others, knowing that they will also find interest in it, position yourself in that field as a reference for information.
- As such it is a fountain of competitive information, as much to protect yourself when you view your clients’ new relationships, as it is to go after the people your competition follow, or the competition your client follows.
- Following up on your history of interactions.
Relationships have to be nurtured, especially client relationships, so remembering the last comment or message you wrote, or in which network you are not connected is important. Getting this wrong is very embarrassing. Copy-pasting a personal message on the same network or another, is something that given the avalanche of messages among multiple networks and contacts is very easy to do. If we use automation to scale, it is essential that our supplier has that functionality, too. Networks such as Linkedin or Twitter do not currently offer this, but we will see in Chapter 3 how to combine messages between networks and with email in a “safe” way.
- The advantage of interactions in digital media is that they allow very effective tracking. Knowing if your client or target is reading the content you send or not, whether it is the first time they visit your website, or if they have already been viewing the price page, etc. are very valuable bits of information in the sales process that can be easily obtained with very affordable tools.
- Develop the network of professional connections
The concept of some merchants accumulating business cards has quickly become obsolete and displaced by the accumulation of connections online. While digital connections are marginally better thanks to scaled technology, by themselves, however, they do not lead to much more than the old-fashioned business card.
Most of us have contacts in our Rolodex or LinkedIn connections that we don’t recall where they originated from, if they’re old colleagues, university friends, or whatnot. This is not entirely a bad thing, but if they have nothing to do with your target customer or they’re not relevant for you, then all they really are is more noise on your wall.
In contrast, developing contacts in your industry with a proactive mindset will prove far more fruitful: information, opportunities, and in the case of potential clients a much less saturated channel than email (they are legal even without prior consent). Direct messages have a greater response because they require a previous connection, which means built-in filtering. But in “cold door” mode, despite higher fees, the results are still lackluster. In the chapter dedicated to social selling (Chapter 3) we will see how to improve this exponentially and that you can send messages not only to interact with customers.
- Building your professional image (Reputation)
Having a profile on a social network is better than not having it, but if you leave it abandoned and have not returned since the day you set it up, it’s utterly useless.
“If you’re not active, it’s as if you don’t exist”
It’s fine that you follow any one of the recommendations that talk about optimizing your profile on LinkedIn. For me, especially, the best place to begin optimizing your LinkedIn profile is your headline, the title that is being read every time your profile appears on a search, within groups, on the timeline when you share something, and in the notifications that LinkedIn and Twitter send when you interact with someone.
If that title says something related to the need of someone who might view it, you have an opportunity for them to possibly initiate a contact or ask you something. And that’s exactly the definition of an opportunity.
And that will definitely happen for you, but don’t expect that it will happen by just “being” on LinkedIn, without doing anything. The likelihood of serendipity occurring is largely zero by just “being”. If you are not active, commenting and sharing things, no one will see you. No one will interact with you. No one will be interested in you.
On the other hand, when you’re involved and commenting and in general your actions, even if they are as minimal as giving a “like”, create a constant flow of micro-expositions of your “brand” that serves to maintain a “mind share”, a sharing of your presence and opinions in and on your network, things happen. People remember you, and that will slowly bring you opportunities.
Another thing is the time it takes and how to do it at scale. That will be the topic in chapter in social selling (Chapter 3).