While technology today is more sophisticated than ever, selling remains the same.
If you're already using cold calling, email and newsletters as part of your marketing efforts, increasing your presence on social media can help generate leads, improve contact with existing customers and break the ice with new prospects.
Prospecting is a cornerstone of selling, yet it's also one of the biggest challenges salespeople face. Many sales people dislike it, making it their lowest priority, while others avoid it altogether.
Simply put: If you can't prospect, you can't sell. Making this connection with people is vital to sales success. If you don't have any prospects, you aren't going to have any customers.
The first rule of prospecting is figuring out where your potential customers are. Since nearly everyone today can be found on some form of social networking, it's logical for sales people to establish a presence there.
Social media can greatly improve your odds of making a sale by connecting you with a large number of people she might not otherwise have reached.
Connecting with prospects on a social network doesn't mean that you can abandon all other prospecting activities, however. Your social network is likely to contain a small handful of viable prospects and a deluge of "suspects," unqualified leads that will never result in a sale.
Reliance on a Facebook post or a tweet to take the place of more proven prospecting practices such as cold calling is a recipe for disaster. This is why it's critical that you continue all of your other prospecting activities.
The use of social media, in all its various forms, is a powerful tool to add to the your arsenal but it requires many such tools to build a solid, lasting sale.
The great thing about social media is that it fits so well within an effective sales methodology. In the Track Selling System™, it works with the first step: Approach, where the you introduce yourself, get to know the prospect and establish rapport.
Creating a presence on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram provides an opportunity for you to introduce yourself to prospects. It's also a good way to help your prospects solve problems they confront daily.
There's also an opportunity to interact with your prospects and customers and for those individuals to interact with each other. This can be a boon since the more they get people talking, the more they'll learn about what they need.
Developing your social media presence doesn't happen overnight. Like other prospecting tools, it takes time and persistence for your effort to pay off. If used properly, though, it will increase the effectiveness of all your other prospecting activities.
Relationships on a social network should be handled with professionalism. People buy from people they like, so it's important to be as likable as possible.
It's unrealistic, however, for you to expect that using social media will guarantee sales. At its core, social media is a venue for building relationships.
"I tell clients to think of Twitter and other forms of social media as a cocktail party," says Angela Daffron of Daffron Marketing. "You don't use a hard sell approach at a cocktail party. You talk and get to know people while allowing them to get to know you. You give back by LISTENING!"
You may feel you don't have time for social media. Smart salespeople, however, can take advantage of social media by becoming informed and using their time efficiently.
With a bit of research, you can educate yourself about relevant keywords to include in posts so they will pop up on search engines. There are hundreds of articles available online to build this skill.
Well-placed keywords in a single post can drive traffic from search engines right to the your blog or website. If you focus on topics that are important to your prospects, they will get more mileage out of your posts because readers are more likely to share that content.
You should understand that while your community is always looking for fresh ideas, it isn't necessary to reinvent the wheel. Repurposing content from your blog or current newsletter, for example, is a great way to create solid, well-written posts while not having to do a lot of creative writing.
"Salespeople who are the most productive with lead generation through social media make a consistent effort to participate on a frequent basis," says Lee Odden in "How Should Salespeople use Social Media?" "They'll set up a recurring reminder in their calendar to spend 15 minutes each morning to ask and answer questions and collect, aggregate and share useful links."
Odden suggests that spending a consistent amount of time on social media activity over a period of several days makes the task of prospecting reasonable and productive.
Prospects may dislike the hard sell but they love a knowledgeable expert. Social media offers the opportunity for salespeople to position themselves as thought leaders sharing useful and credible information with their network.
Whether the salesperson shares brief nuggets of expert advice on Twitter or articles, infographics and other food for thought on LinkedIn, internet communities crave helpful, timely information.
Expert information doesn't always have to come from yourself. Using a tool like Google Alerts will bring information on topics that interest prospects right to the salesperson's inbox. This keeps a wealth of information coming in and makes it easy to share links to articles and blogs.
Because most social media offer limited opportunity to relay in-depth information, you may want to establish a blog on you (or your company's) website and provide a link to it. That way you have room to share more lengthy information, and you can include a link in a short post to drive traffic directly to the website.
Social media can help with the most crucial step of the sales process - the approach. It can make prospecting easier and help salespeople build relationships with individuals they might never have otherwise reached.
While it can never replace the tried-and-true tools of a solid prospecting practice, the use of social media can help you establish yourself as an expert, share helpful information with clients and prospects and build relationships that can lead to greater sales success.
What are you doing to improve your social media presence?
Good luck and good selling. Ron.
[Note: Thanks to Roy Chitwood for his contributions to this article.]
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