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Social Selling Tips from a Pile of Wood

Posted by Carole Mahoney on 8/27/13 1:00 PM

Plus Another Key Takeaways from #Inbound13

One of the books I read recently was Small Town Rules: How Big Brands and Small Business Can Prosper in a Connected Economy. There are lots of great lessons and tips for both small businesses and enterprises to grow in the connected economy. It reminded me of all the things I had experienced and observed living and working in a small town.

The first thing you learn in a small town is that transparency is just a way of life. You might as well be an open book, because you are not fooling anyone. The majority of my friends today are friends that I have known since pre-school. A lot of the businesses I use are ones I have used since I was old enough to ride my bike there. (My bank is the same one I opened my first passbook savings account with.) Is it because there aren't other banks out here in the boonies? Or do you think it is because through this transparency, I trust these relationships?

Sales tip: Trust requires transparency. If they trust you, competition is a moot point.

I also buy local whenever it is feasible and rely heavily on the recommendations of friends, family, and neighbors because I prefer the personalization of not just being another customer. I also research and shop online because I use technology to enhance my real life. Does this sound like some of your shoppers, buyers, and decision makers?

It's just a common fact that most buyers today are going online when researching a product or service. The internet has made the world smaller and more connected, and so the rules of business have come full circle. Now the rules of engagement are much like how small towns and businesses have always worked.

These sales tip examples came to me when I bought our winter heating fuel from the guy 1/2 mile down the road from me. Let's call him Mr. Nick. I run past Mr. Nick's place every other day and have seen the wood he has cut locally, knew when it was cut and therefore how long it had been drying for. Because I have heated with wood for a long time, I knew which wood would generate the most heat, how long it had to dry before it could be used, and how much of it I would need given the predicted winter cold we were going to get (according to Farmer's Almanac.) I was a well educated buyer, or so I thought.transparency in the sales process photo resized 600

Direct access is why buyers demand transparency in their buying process

On one of my runs past Mr. Nick's, I stopped when I saw him outside and asked him how much the seasoned wood was selling for. He knew me, we negotiated a fair price and a delivery schedule.

The buying part was easy for me. I was experienced and educated and knew the product. I just needed someone to deliver it.

When Mr. Nick made the first delivery, he showed up with his wife and mentioned repeatedly how he wasn't really making any money this season, that he was so busy- as if to imply that he wasn't charging me enough. Any trust he had built with me was immediately destroyed.

Sales tip: Nothing should change just because the boss is listening. The delivery process should be as easy and delightful as the sales process.

Then I saw this post on a friend's Facebook wall that resulted in this exchange.

Facebook request for wood











Facebook request for wood reply resized 600






Sales tip: Social selling is about others doing the selling for you- whether it is through social media or word of mouth (aren't they really the same anyway?).

The point of sharing this exchange is not to talk about the power of social media and word-of-mouth in sales, though true. The point is that as well educated as I was, I started to doubt my buying decision. She found a lower price. This was significant to me not because I didn't believe I had gotten a fair price, but because of my experience with my first delivery. The fact that someone had found seasoned wood cheaper gave me some leverage should he try that "I'm not making any money on this." line again on the second delivery. Direct access and information empowered me and I secretly dared him to try. After all, I needed an ending to my story here.

Sales tip: Don't assume objections are just about price.

What Embracing Transparency Means For Inbound Success

Sometimes people will surprise you if you give them enough rope. On his next delivery, Mr. Nick showed up on time as agreed and alone. After I paid him what we agreed, he thanked me for the business and asked if I needed to have the chimney cleaned too. (Guess what I said...)

Sales tip: If you are always closing, you may miss the signs that they are not delighted with you. If you are acting transparently and always helping, you are more likely to delight them with every interaction.

When I asked him if he was still super busy with orders and how could he have the time to do the chimney as well? He replied that he was catching up now. I told him of the friend on Facebook who was looking for wood, but found it at a cheaper price. (I couldn't help myself...) It seemed to surprise him that I knew that and he quickly blurted out that sure, Richard in the next town over was charging less, but his wood was mostly birch which burned quickly. I shared with him what I knew about heating with wood and once he realized that I was experienced at this as well, he started to point out to me the different types of wood and how there was more oak in his wood so it would burn hotter and longer. And while this helped to ease my buyer's remorse a little, it didn't change the fact that his chance for a referral was lost.

Sales tip: Thinking short term (getting the biggest sale possible right now) could cost you future sales that were worth much more.

I was also a little worried that he was only telling me this now when it seemed I knew something. Not before when he thought I knew nothing. If I had known the difference between his wood and Richard's wood, would I have shared that with my friend to help her make the best choice? Or if I knew why his wood was actually better, would I have appreciated that he was charging me so much less without him having to repeatedly point it out to me? Because the delivery was a disconnect from the sales process, it reduced the chances that I would take any of those extra steps. My experience with the first delivery did not make me look forward to the next one.

Sales tip: Educate your prospects early and often to keep competition at bay and nurture them into advocates for you.

What sales tips would you offer based on this retelling?
If you were at #inbound13, what messages about transparency, trust, and treating prospects and customers like people and not dollar signs resonate with you still?

Topics: inbound, social selling, sales tips