Well, 2014 has come and gone, and what I’ll remember most is the noise that is the term social selling. For all the hype last year about how social selling is the gateway to attaining revenue goals, the truth is that many sellers’ social selling activities yielded less than stellar results. Here are seven reasons why that’s likely happening.
- Jumping straight to tactics with no strategic plan of attack. This is more than a small problem. Tactics without a plan is like me trying to drive from Atlanta to New York without a map. Start by addressing the integration of social activities into your overall sales strategy. Who are you trying to reach? What is your core message to them? What platforms do they use? What kind of content will you share and why? What’s your process for managing information? What are the ultimate outcomes you seek to measure? Answer these questions and more, then build your social strategy plan, which includes tactics and execute consistently.
- The nuances of social networking are not understood. There is an art to knowing how, when and where to engage with prospective buyers. Experts may tell you to hop onto Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest, but is that where your buyers are hanging out? When you invite someone to connect, are you simultaneously pitching them what you sell? That’s a no-no! Are you prepared to invest the time social selling takes? Like other aspects related to selling, how you leverage social channels takes work. If you view them as additional mediums to “pitch”, you will only be ignored and deleted.
- Content sharing lacks consistency, relevance or is too “me” oriented. This is why the upfront planning is so important. You need to know what content your prospective buyer will find valuable. That means you need to know something about them. You also need to know the specific issues related to their industry or their competitors. Your content needs to be about them – not your brochureware. Finally, you need a system that lets you keep tabs on people, companies and industry trends. I use LinkedIn and InsideView, because the more you know about the people you want to work with, the easier it is to customize your messages and approach to engaging them online.
- Measuring the wrong things, if you are measuring at all. Honestly, it doesn’t really matter how many LinkedIn connections or numbers of Twitter followers you have, what matters is the quality of those connections. Numbers are just numbers. What you want to ask yourself is – are you connected with A) your targeted decision makers and B) other people with strong network contacts who can be a referral source for you? And, are you measuring the outcomes – new leads, new meetings, new deals in the pipeline – of your engagement and communication. In other words, how are you determining if all those emails or LinkedIn InMail’s you send are working? You might be surprised to learn that they are falling flat.
- Lack of training. Working in a socially connected world requires a complete shift in your mindset. You have to think differently about the way that you connect and approach people. You need to understand two things: 1) how and why buyer behavior has changed and what that’s mean for you as a salesperson and 2) how to strategically use social networks to achieve your objectives. Whether your company is investing in social selling training or not, invest in yourself!
- Pitching instead of demonstrating that you are a valued, trusted resource. Broadcast spam is a killer. Literally. Assume you have one chance to make that great first impression, it is important to get it right. Your focus is on developing long-term relationships and cultivating a reputation as a valued source of educational information. This approach demonstrates your capability and credibility. Become a content concierge and check out this LinkedIn post that gives you 17 ideas for doing just that. What you want long-term are sales, and though counterintuitive to many, you win by not selling!
- You ignored the power of referrals. Person-to-person contact remains critical to selling. You can’t just spend your days cranking out tweets on Twitter or sharing a few LinkedIn status updates. A Direct Marketing Association Response Rate Trend Report reveals that buyers respond less than 9 percent of the time to cold calls. An average response to an email offer is less than 1 percent of the time. You need another way in. The question is how much time are you spending using social networks to cultivate relationships that can lead to introductions and referrals? Salespeople seem to place the least emphasis on using referrals to gain access to targeted buyers, but it is a strategy that leads to much higher levels of success. Consider that buyers who were surveyed by IDC, said:
- 76.2% prefer to talk to vendors recommended by someone they know.
- 73% prefer to work with sales professionals who have been referred by someone they know.
- 63.9% are open to introductions to new people.
Many salespeople gained some serious sales traction by integrating social usage into their sales process. They did so because they began with their strategy, amped up their skills and executed on a consistent basis. Using social channels to build your brand and share your message takes time and patience, but I assure you, it truly is worth the effort!