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Salespeople and the Significance of the Digital Footprint


There’s a question I’ve often asked CIOs and other executives: What is the worst thing you can hear from a salesperson when they’re pitching you an idea, product, or solution? Their universal answer, regardless of industry: Tell us what your priorities are and where we can help.

In this hyperconnected, knowledge-sharing economy we now live in, chances are your prospect has already put a huge amount of effort into putting out there what they need to be successful. Take my friend Kim Stevenson, the CIO of Intel. She’s on Twitter every day. She blogs. She has a video series. Imagine if a vendor walks in and asks her to repeat all of that from scratch.

Doing your homework

If I could give one piece of advice to salespeople it would be to pay attention to, know, and understand the digital footprint of whom you’re selling to. Your target customers and prospects, especially the social ones, can tell within seconds whether you’ve done your due diligence prior to that first engagement.

People want to work with those they trust. Some of the best ways to demonstrate trust is to show competence, confidence, and character. When you do your digital homework and take the time to learn about a prospect or customer, you show them competence and confidence, and it certainly speaks to your character of doing good work first.

It also gives you the chance to bring value to the table from the start. Instead of the usual high-level firmographic data about the industry or market, you have deep knowledge that can help nurture a relationship and create a long-lasting one. The willingness to connect and learn is the hallmark of some of the best salespeople I’ve worked with in the past.

Going both ways

There isn’t a week that goes by that a family member, friend, or colleague doesn’t say to me: “You’re one of the most boring people I know. How is it that you have 100,000 Twitter followers?” My answer to this and an important life lesson for me — aside from the fact that I need to find better friends — is that if you’re interested long enough, you become interesting to some.

You see there’s an element of generosity on social media. Most people aren’t getting paid to share. It’s simply about taking the time to learn, and if something interests us, we share. Along with paying attention to the digital footprint of customers and prospects, make time to build your own.

If I have the choice of buying from two people, and one of them I have a good idea of their core values and guiding principles because of what they share regularly on social media, I don’t have to tell you who is going to win the deal. As the world becomes more connected, I believe that sales is going to be more about cultural fit than anything else. Social sharing allows you to offer that level of transparency so valuable to buyers of today.

Forgetting digital exhaust

You don’t know how many times I’ve made the mistake of walking into a sales executive briefing center event, touting the New England Patriots, the Boston Celtics, or the Red Sox winning, only to find out that the chief experience officer had just flown in from New York and is a die-hard Yankees fan. It’s an innocent and forgivable mistake, especially since I’m a Boston native, but I bring it up to highlight something potentially more harmful: digital exhaust.

All of us leave digital exhaust behind: blog comments, shared Snapchats or Vines, Facebook or LinkedIn comments. While a digital footprint is usually deliberate, there’s often little or no mindfulness around exhaust. One of the unintended consequences of being a connected person, and in this case, a connected sales professional, is that this exhaust follows you. Take care that it doesn’t haunt you down the line.

Your target customers and prospects, especially the social ones, can tell within seconds whether you've done your due diligence.”

Vala Afshar | Chief Digital Evangelist, Salesforce

Learn More

How to Craft the Perfect Sales Pitch By Annie Simms,
Account Executive, Salesforce
The Simple Client Meeting Rules Every Salesperson Should Follow By Laura Stack,
President and CEO, Productivity Keynote Speaker and Author, The Productivity Pro, Inc.



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