Sales is sales. It’s about finding people who should be interested in your product, educating them on the value proposition, developing relationships with them and hopefully doing business with them. It’s not rocket science. It can be a lot of fun and also hard work.
15 years ago in 1999, I was selling online advertising for a company called pogo.com, which was eventually acquired by Electronic Arts. Online advertising was booming though still fairly new and our audience demographics were interesting to advertisers. Also we could offer some targeting based on registration information, which was unusual at the time. It was an exciting time to be in online ad sales and the parties were amazing.
Being cutting edge in San Francisco and dealing with lots of digital agencies, we had the “latest tools” at our disposal. We communicated via phone and email and used fax machines to get our signed contracts back. We even used the brand new Salesforce.com CRM. None of that is radically different then how we sell today, but what is different, and vastly better, is we now have social media at our disposal. Social media is a game changer for salespeople that use it strategically and carefully.
Here are three reasons why salespeople should get up to snuff on the social platforms:
Now take a moment to think about how much email crosses your path in a given day. Your prospects and clients are getting as much email as you and probably more as they are being contacted by your competitors. One of the ways that you can stand apart is by using other channels to connect with the people you need to reach. Those channels are the social media platforms.
Here are some of the things I do today that I didn’t (and couldn’t do) 15 years ago:
I follow my prospects and partners on Twitter and retweet them when they say something interesting. This can be a great way to get on someone’s radar in a casual and helpful way. Often people will follow you back out of courtesy which not only creates a bond, but also, in a pinch, you can direct message that person privately.
I look up prospects on LinkedIn before I reach out. I can see where else they’ve worked, if they changed careers, where they went to college, and if they’re connected with anyone I know. If they have posted a status update, I can also see what they think is interesting or possibly even what they are working on. Doing this allows me to not only show up as someone who does research but it also strengthens a new relationship as we find threads of commonality.
I can find out if any of my Facebook friends (which are people I am closer to than many of the people I’m connected with LinkedIn) are friends with someone I’d like to meet for business reasons. The graph search tool on Facebook can show you if your friends know someone who worked at a similar company, for example. All you need to do is go up to the search box and type in something like “My friends who have friends who work at [company x]” and see what appears. You’ll probably be surprised at what turns up.
Connect with folks at conferences by watching the Twitter stream via a conference hashtag. You can see who else is attending, share great timely content and scare up a meeting or two. For example, you can tweet, “Hey @personx! I’m also at #sxsw and would love to meet. Do you have 5 minutes for quick convo?” People are at conferences to connect with folks so this is a great way to take a non-existent or virtual relationship into the sphere of face-to-face, which is so helpful for doing business.
As Captain Kirk said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” I mention this because although we have all these wonderful new ways to connect, we need to do it judiciously. We don’t want to cross that line from being pleasantly persistent into annoying and off-putting. The social media channels are really about developing relationships and that is something that can take time.
Embrace the 80/20 rule, where 80% of your posts consist of valuable content and 20% can be more sales oriented. It’s not so different from a lunch meeting with a client where you spend a little time getting to know each other before you dive into the pitch.
If you are interested in learning more tips like these about how salespeople can use social media in business, take a look at my e-book Social Media for Salespeople. It’s a tactical manual that walks you through step-by-step on how to present yourself effectively, what the most powerful tactics are on the three primary platforms and how to do it all in less than 30 minutes per day.
About the author
Alice Myerhoff is author of the new e-book Social Media for Salespeople: A Step-by-Step Guide to Increasing your Leads and Sales and a business development/sales/marketing/management executive with over 18 years of experience in industries ranging from online games, educational technology and Social business to online news media, real estate & mortgage. She has worked at EdSurge, Electronic Arts, Inman News, Pivot Conference, Philips Professional Publishing, Countrywide, Princeton Capital, and the Tomorrow Project. Her party trick is being able to count to 10 in 6 languages and she is fluent in German and French. Connecto her at @motodot, www.alicemyerhoff.com and www.linkedin.com/in/alicemyerhoff.
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