Over the years, I have worked with a number of sales people. In fact, before marketing and social media, my background initially was in sales. I was a sales representative in a direct sales organization for more than eight years and worked my way through college with in-home sales presentations. I learned so much in that position -- this was before social media, but what I learned help to lay the foundation for working with people, building trust and increasing sales.
Sales is a people business and social media hasn't changed that. But the way we communicate and can now build relationships with clients and prospects has changed.
Here are my five rules for making the most of social media if you are in sales:
1. Build rapport. I remember those in-home sales I used to make, I never started with what I was there to sell, I started by talking about their home or their kids -- asking questions about them to put them at ease.
Somehow with social media, many sales people have forgotten that fundamental skill and how important that foundation is for any sales transaction. I encourage anyone in sales to pick up a Zig Ziglar book. Zig was the king of training sales people. He used to always say, "People don't buy for logical reasons. They buy for emotional reasons."
I am reminded of this time and time again when I see a customer completely zone out because a sales person is simply rattling off a list of features and hasn't taken the time to build rapport or worse yet -- listen.
Social media has given sales people this incredible megaphone, but I encourage anyone in sales to turn that megaphone around and use social media as a listening tool.
2. Get past the numbers. You have to get past your quota, or your goal to call on a certain number of prospects each day. I know you probably have a manager expecting results and managing everything from calls to leads to closing, but to effectively leverage social media in sales you have to take a few steps back.
Too often, I see sales people tweeting something like, "Interested in (product/service), contact me today!"
That type of posting in social media -- whether it is Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn doesn't work. So what's a sales person to do who wants to expand their network, reach the decision makers, and at the ends of the day -- close more sales?
3. Each network is different. Every network can be used in different ways to help in the sales cycle. LinkedIn is a great place to start. Make sure your profile is updated with your current information and a professional photo. When you first meet someone in the sales cycle, this is a perfectly acceptable place to reach out to him or her. Send them a private message that you customize for them and ask to connect with them. Something as simple as "Hi ____, It was great talking to you today on the phone. I'd love to connect with you here on LinkedIn." This is a great first step because it's professional and starts the process with getting connected to that person via social media.
Also make sure you have a few recommendations on your LinkedIn profile. I always say, give to get. Give three to five recommendations a month of clients and many times they will return the favor.
4. Get organized and use lists. The next step is Twitter. Early in the sales cycle, search out the person you are chatting with on Twitter. Can't find them on Twitter? Google them -- i.e. "(Name) on Twitter." Follow them on Twitter -- again, this is perfectly acceptable. Look at their tweets. If they are active on Twitter, re-tweet or engage with them right away, but make sure you are doing so in an authentic way.
Create a private list on Twitter called "potential clients" and add them to that list. Then once a day every morning, scan that list and see what your potential clients are tweeting about. See something that resonates with you? Re-tweet or comment. The goal here is not to talk about your product, company or service at all. The goal is to build a relationship with them on a platform they are comfortable with.
5. Dig deep on other platforms. Pinterest and Instagram are always fantastic platforms to find out more about your potential clients. Typically, people who are active on either platform will share a fair amount about their interests. You'll get to see if they have kids, if they love wine, when they travel, their hobbies. This is tremendously great information to have. If you know they are a wine lover and visit Napa frequently, you may be on the lookout for a great article about Napa Valley wine to share with them on Twitter.
Making a good salesperson great
What makes great sales people great is that they don't "act" like a sales person. They don't act pushy and annoying. They understand the value of building rapport in an authentic way. Yes, the goal is at some point to make the sale, but to do so in a genuine way. People like to buy from people who they know, like and trust and social media is one of the best ways to do this.
So where does Facebook come into play? Facebook is a great source of intelligence about a company and what they are and aren't doing. Before you get on a call with a prospect do your homework and know about their presence on various social networks - especially Facebook.
Should you friend request your clients?
I recommend waiting to send that friend request though if you are too early in the sales cycle. Sending a friend request too early gives off the "creepy" vibe -- and no sales person wants to be creepy. Once you've gotten to know them and they become clients or you've met them several times in person or online, then it can be appropriate to send them a friend request. In this instance, again I'd make sure your profile was updated, put them into private "potential clients" lists and look at that list once a day. Interact authentically.
The other huge opportunity with Facebook is to join into conversations about your brand or industry. Consumers and your potential clients are in groups on Facebook. Utilize Graph Search to see who you can connect to. Join the conversation -- remember give to get and don't go in for the kill too soon.
At the end of the day, sales is all about building relationships and regardless of what industry you are in, social media is a natural tool to build relationships and build business.
I'd love to hear your feedback. Are you in sales and successfully utilizing social media? Leave me a comment below!
Follow Katie Lance on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@katielance