This might come off as a bit of a rant, but I have been hearing a lot about social selling lately, and I am starting to wish I could ban it. It reminds me of what happened when marketing realized they could use this whole new social network dynamic to make more noise and annoy more people.
What we called engagement and targeting an expanded audience was thinly veiled advertising. (Yes, I meant we. I was guilty too.) And like sales now, marketing then was concerned over the time wasted on social media and the ROI of using it. The reason that their time was wasted is that they usually did the "show up and throw up" model. Show up in a group discussion, and throw up all over everyone everything they needed to know about you...
The paradox is, that just like the mavens of social media told marketers to stop thinking of social media as another marketing tactic, so must salespeople stop thinking of social media as just another sales tactic. Mark Roberge said two things in relation to this during his Inbound 2014 session on social selling:
“Modern sales feels more like a Doctor/Patient relationship than a Salesperson/Prospect relationship.”
“Sales people need to be their own thought leaders.”
Image credit: Schoolofthinking.org
In order to accomplish both of those things, it is going to require a new kind of sales strategy and execution.
For B2B salespeople, the social media channel king is LinkedIn. Here are the five basic strategies I use:
1- Do things to get noticed.
This is really where most of your ‘work’ will happen. There is a lot of noise online, and LinkedIn is not any different. Some might argue that the recent LinkedIn changes have raised the level of noise on the platform. The cocktail party rule still applies; talk less about yourself, more about others, and have something valuable to add to the conversation. If it is an outside site and you can use a web address with your comment- always use your Linkedin profile. (See #2 for why)
Comment on and like others posts. This applies not just to posts on LinkedIn, but also on their blogs, in groups, and forums outside of LinkedIn like Quora. Seek opportunities to be helpful and share your insider insights freely.
Create your own content. And do so in multiple places like on your personal blog, your company’s blog, on LinkedIn, and offer to guest write for other’s blogs that could be referral partners, affiliates, even those who some might think are your competition. And not just blogs, but video and graphics, podcasts. Content comes in many shapes and sizes.
Be in as many places as you can manage. The more places you are, the more likely you are to get noticed.
2- Who’s viewed your profile?
Pretty much everything you do online is to get people to check you out. Check this at a minimum of once a day, sometimes twice. It’s narcissistic, it’s the end game- the whole why you do all the other steps things I recommend you do online. When you are trying to stand out from the noise, seeing who has viewed you is the start of a conversation.
And remember, that it is just that- the start of a conversation. It’s not time to sell. Beginning with things like, “I work with people like you and help them with… Would you have time to set up a time to talk and see how we might help each other?” should be banned. What your reader is thinking is - "Oh, this is someone trying to sell me something." At best, you get ignored. At worst, they label your InMail as inappropriate.
I know, you have sent that email. I have sent that email. It’s time to evolve. Try 3,4, & 5 below instead.
3- Check them out, find 3 things in 3 minutes.
The 3 things in 3 minutes is a phrase I picked up from a sales session at Inbound 2014 recently. (Sorry, I can’t recall who- if it was you, or you know who help me give the kudos.) When looking at someone’s profile, there are a few things that you can learn. Here are some of the things to look for:
Summary. How do they describe themselves? Do they talk about themselves in the third person (John Smith is an experienced….). Is it short and sweet and to the point, or long, descriptive and drawn out?
Connections. Who are they, how do you know them, how do they know them? Did they work together, in the same groups?
Education. What did they go to school for? Where? When? How did their career advance since then?
Recommendations. Who has recommended them? For what? Who have they recommended? For what?
Content. What have they written? What news do they follow? What groups are they in? What do they share and from where?
Sometimes, there isn’t much info to go on. Even that can tell you a few things. Maybe they are new to LinkedIn and online interactions? Maybe they are private people who keep things close to their chest? If you really need something to go on, check other sites like their company, their Facebook, Twitter, etc. Once, I found out that a tough to reach CEO liked big haired rock musician Nikki Sixx on Facebook. That was something I could relate to!
4- Don’t be so quick to connect.
It seems counter intuitive, but connecting with anyone and everyone is not a good strategy. It is the quality of the connection that matters. Your LinkedIn connections are the currency of your online reputation and presence- but only if they count. Only if they know who you are and what you stand for. Make it a personal policy to only connect with those that you know, have spoken with, met, and actually respect and like. This strategy of playing hard to get, meaning it, and telling people up front about it will make you stand out from those who are only looking to boost a number. Ask to have a conversation first.
5- Get a premium account.
A premium account allows you to send InMails, get introductions, and use Advanced Search.
Send InMails. If you have nothing or no one in common with the person: “Hi, John. I noticed that you were on my profile recently. What brought you by?” If you do have someone or something in common, I will reference that. “Hi John, I noticed that you were on my profile recently and that we have Mark in common. Is that how you found me? How do you know Mark?”
Get introductions. If you have someone you know well (because you followed #4) then asking for an introduction shouldn’t make you nervous. But remember to make it easy and never assume they know what to say. First start the conversation just as you would with someone who has viewed your profile. “Hi Joe, I noticed that you are connected to John. How do you know him?” Let the conversation go from there and find out if Joe is the best person to make the introduction. If they are, don’t try to sell through them, just get the introduction.
Advanced search. Use both outbound and inbound. As Trish Bertuzzi, another Inbound 2014 sales speaker said, “It’s the cold that dead, not the call.” You don't have to be afraid of going outbound when you have done your homework and found those commonalities.
What is your take on social selling and what is the strategy that you use on a daily basis to stand out and be helpful? How are you establishing your credibility and visibility as an expert and thought leader in your world? Isn't this what the new sales person looks like?