I have been thinking a great deal as of late as to why so many of my B2B contemporaries have been loathe to adopt social selling. Most don’t want to talk about, let alone even consider, it! Whether or not you or your company will succeed with implementing a social sales initiative, it starts at the top (C-level), rolls down through the middle (managers), and ends up with your …
The missing element?
Salespeople. More specifically … hungry salespeople. People who prospect like crazy and who aren’t afraid to dig in the dirt to get where they need to be. Coincidentally, this is what we often find missing from traditional sales teams. Funny how that works.
When I was a sales manager, I was always focused on finding salespeople who could, and would, make the calls. My theory and I think it to be sound, was that if you could at least make the contacts, we could teach/help you to become proficient at the rest. However, if you won’t make the calls, we have nothing to work with since I can’t/won’t make them for you.
This all comes back to the success triangle. A great salesperson will have all three attributes while a mediocre model may get by with only two.
This success triangle comes with a warning. While we can teach knowledge and skills, attitude is something that comes pre-installed at the factory and is not subject to modification. It is attitude that drives and controls prospecting instincts. It is attitude that will direct whether or not an individual is open to new ideas like … social selling.
If our salespeople are not performing as needed for traditional selling, there are, of course, many possible reasons for this. We may have people who are (but, certainly not limited to) …
- Lazy or undisciplined
- Confused about their duties and your expectations
- Ill suited for the position
- Overwhelmed by their other responsibilities
- Poorly trained
- Too busy (or stubborn) to entertain new ideas and/or direction
- Suffering under weak leadership
Please note that at least half of these ailments point directly at management but, that is for a different article. Now then, if I don’t have salespeople who are willing or capable of doing what it takes to be successful with traditional selling, what is there that could possibly make me think that they would be any more effective, let alone enthusiastic, about social selling? The answer is … nothing. But, let’s say that we are lucky enough to have a sales team that will embrace these changes?
The birth of the “salesketer”
I am not by nature, education, or experience a marketer. I am a salesperson. Now, to my great dismay, social selling requires a new set of skills, and that includes assuming many of those duties that have been traditionally relegated to marketing.
I don’t even like marketing, and I’m barely social. I much prefer the challenge of the hunt and the thrill of the kill. Nevertheless, by the grace of God I have somehow managed to transition myself to this new reality. The simple reason is that I am motivated by the results rather than the activities. Maybe I sound a little like you?
As a salesperson, it has always been your task to generate new business. Marketing generates leads for the company that are then assigned to salespeople for conversion. Salesketers (hybrid sales marketers) use many of these same basic marketing techniques and strategies to generate leads for themselves which they, in turn, convert. We have had limited tools for this task in the past (actually, nonexistent) but, not anymore!
Good salespeople have always been strong networkers and, as a result, they generally have (should have) developed a profitable referral base. Now, substitute the words social marketing with social networking. There, it already sounds better.
Marketing that works for sales
You don’t have to do everything that your marketing department provides but, you should be willing to leverage some of that and this begins with attraction. Think of attraction as being prospecting in reverse and, yes, this is a marketing activity that now becomes your activity as well. Instead of you finding the customer, the customer now finds you. It pays the same commissions so what’s not to like!
If you want to be able to attract potential customers, you will first need to recognize and accept that …
- The rules have changed and particularly as they relate to buyer behavior. Simply put, they are busier, smarter, and better informed. They are now using the internet to research products, services, and suppliers before they even think about contacting you. What happens if you are not there? Same answer as in the previous paragraph … nothing.
- You are now valued by your ability to educate your potential clients rather than to sell your product. If you do not provide this service, someone else will and they will be happily spending your commissions.
- Your focus moves away from the pitch and toward the conversation.
With these three things in mind, what simple marketing activities should you be involved in?
- Your company has a brand and now so do you! Take the time needed to make your social profiles completely professional and take the steps needed to ensure that they will demonstrate your value and your expertise.
- Content marketing (blogging, slides, videos, infographics, etc.) – Since you likely are already accomplished with telling your company story verbally to your customers, why not give those talks some extra added legs.
- Email marketing – Honestly, the toughest part about creating a monthly newsletter or a product announcement is building your mailing list itself. One thing for certain is that, if you don’t get started, you’ll never cross the finish line.
Web based articles and presentations work for you 24/7 and 365 days a year. Leverage that! In fact, your marketing department likely has an entire library of suitable content that they will happily allow you to use to attract new prospects to your inbox. Take those slides and add those to SlideShare and then add those to your LinkedIn profile. While you are there, use LinkedIn publishing to create a new article (or copy and paste an existing one), also to your profile.
Traditional selling on social steroids
Social marketing and traditional sales actually work quite well together. A very enticing part of social sales is the assertion that “cold calling is dead” and there are not too many honest salespeople who would not be excited about that possibility. I’m not going to dance around with semantics or theory here but, prospecting is certainly not dead. It may have evolved but, being willing and able to call on customers remains a selling necessity.
- Step up your networking and expand your circles by doing both
- Build customer relationships through education and expanding their networks.
- Discover new opportunities via social searches.
I am going to suggest that you not do one thing, and that would be to obsess over social analytics and statistical results. This type of activity will drive the average salesperson batty, you likely won’t be much good at it anyway, and you will never have the time to sell anything.
However, measuring the results of your efforts is important, and your marketing peeps love this stuff so … ask them politely to please take care of that for you. Certainly, enlisting their help in formatting your messaging is highly recommended (it will also ensure that your messaging is on point) and, as this will be positive for your company, they should be enthusiastic about pitching in.
How about you? How do you see marketing playing a role in your social sales activities?