My biggest gripe with the latest crop of experts is that their platitudes would have you think that social selling somehow stands apart from the entire sales process. Social selling is not an entity unto itself. Social selling merely represents the use of a set of tactics – using social channels – to aid sellers in their networking, prospecting, referral building, lead generation and research activities. Done right gets you in the door. What happens next all depends upon your sales abilities. In large part, that means – how well you listen, solve problems and communicate value from the buyer’s point of view.
Activity is NOT the same thing as effectiveness.
Experts want you to believe that social selling tactics are all you need. The problem is that social channels are just that – channels. They are alternative communication vehicles. If email and phone calls aren’t working, using LinkedIn strategically might do the trick. Then again, depending on your approach, it might not. Pitching through bulk emails and phone calls is not the answer. Learning how to engage with people in a relevant and authentic way, that’s the answer!
You need a strategy, skills and consistent execution.
If you aren’t following an organized approach that is integrated into the rest of your sales process, results will suffer. Start with a plan of action to follow. If you never created one, these questions will help.
- What are my objectives for using social selling to achieve my sales goals?
- Who is my target buyer? What do they care about?
- What social channels are they likely to use?
- How will I track social interactions and nurture relationships?
- What problem does my product or service solve? Hint: NOT features!
- How will I communicate my message?
- Are my sales and technology skills top notch? What training do I need?
- How and what will I measure and track? Is it net new sales meetings? More referral sources?
Skills come next. This is the point where personal reflection and brutal honesty are needed. It doesn’t matter how many years you’ve been selling, you need to keep upping your game. As Marshall Smith talked about in his book of the same name, what got you here – won’t get you there.
Where is improvement needed?
- Networking effectively
- Qualifying opportunities
- Planning for sales calls
- Presenting your solution
- Negotiating terms
- Closing deals
What about the technology? Do you understand the benefits of using the various social channels to fit your specific goals? Do you understand if your target buyer is likely to engage there? Contrary to some expert wisdom floating around, you don’t necessarily need to use every channel out there. And, don’t assume a great profile or clicking on a few buttons will lead to sales results. More likely, it will only lead to you proclaiming that social selling doesn’t work.
Finally, execution. Here is where the rubber meets the road. It requires disciplined behavior to engage in the right activities consistently and use social channels in the right way. You are as much a brand as your company. How you choose to represent yourself online will lead to sales opportunities – or not!
Connect and Close?
Maybe if you sell at $10 widget. Social selling is part of the bigger strategic picture, which is simply known as selling. I combine social activities with offline approaches like speaking at events or on webinars.
In the end, if you don’t follow a process, you keep using social channels to pitch or your sales skills have dulled and rusted, using a few social selling tactics won’t do you much good!