The Future of Sales Is Social
Still not sure if you should incorporate social media into your sales process?
Many companies don’t fully understand the power of social networks in the sales process and relegate it to a digital prospecting tool. That line of thinking needs to be retired, filed away, and left as scraps for a pack of hungry dogs to fight over.
It’s time to jump off the fence and understand that social media is an increasingly influential driver of consumer behavior. In a previous column, I discussed using it to tap into the powers of influencer marketing. By gaining buy-in from relevant, influential people, social networks can be used to help spread your message or provide positive feedback. However, its value doesn’t end there.
Social media can dramatically increase the performance of your sales team, that is, for those who understand how to utilize it fully. While I realize there is a high level of anxiety associated with letting your sales team create and communicate their own messages and brand assets, the downside of missing out on incorporating this powerful approach should provide far greater concern.
What is social selling?
Social selling uses social media to directly interact with and research prospects. The approach has been bouncing around the sales space for some time now.
Social channels are often the easiest way to find qualified leads and monitor them for buying indicators or signals. They give access to unique information to target your leads that otherwise is hard to obtain, helping you fill in the gaps and gather data about potential customers that will allow you to cater to their needs in a more personalized manner.
One parking professional who has mastered that art of social selling is John Conway, SVP of Parking Forward. He has worked in the parking industry for more than 22 years, 20 of those in a senior level business development or sales role. He credits much of his career success to being able to find the right people to connect with and build long-term relationships.
“I use social media to mine for information, connect with leads and engage with prospects,” Conway said. “It’s a great place to dig deep and connect with multiple layers of an organization and build stakeholder maps.
“It’s also a non-invasive platform to initially connect with leads and then, over time, to engage them in a conversation that will build trust.”
What is this information on social media that’s so valuable for your sales team?
Buying signals. People share everything on social media. This includes publicly expressing their buying needs or purchasing intent. These signals can range from the obvious (such as a posting or a tweet stating directly they are looking for a parking meter vendor) to the implied (such as what do you look for in a parking meter vendor).
Background information. You can learn about your lead’s preferences, interests and commonalities. You’d be surprised what valuable data you can glean from public social media profiles, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Instagram. This information can be lumped into three groups:
1. How to relate to a prospect. Any commonalities you can find between your prospect and yourself can help you relate to the other person or serve as a good ice-breaker for a first conversation. Are you both animal lovers? Do you both belong to the same groups on LinkedIn or Facebook? Do you have any mutual connections? Just be careful not to come across as a creepy online stalker.
2. Understanding targeted company and industry. Have there been any trigger events within the company such as hiring or laying-off sprees, investment announcement, new office openings, or product launches? Within the industry, is there investment or M&A activity? Is the industry going through a tech disruption, or are there trends that would affect purchasing decisions of your products or services? Not only will all this information allow you to target your lead better, but you will also impress your lead with your comprehensive understanding of the industry and company.
3. Understanding your prospect’s pain points. Particular things to pay attention to include group memberships on LinkedIn; types of content and subject matter a lead engages with on Twitter; and mutual connections on all social media sites. In particular, keep an eye out for a prospect discussing a challenge that your product or service can solve.
Using social networks for sales equips you with ammunition to more effectively close a deal. Building relationships is the key to sales, and social media is a free resource that can provide more comprehensive information that will help you understand, relate and speak to your lead.
Today, it’s just common sense that sales should be social.