People often ask me if sales got easier with the Internet and social media. I don’t have scientific backing for the following, but what is clear to me is that in an age of lightning-fast tweets and contract conclusions via text messages, old-school business integrity has declined significantly since the rise of the Internet in the mid-1990s. Trust me on this.
Perhaps it’s because of all the time wasted and time ill spent that the Internet brings with it. For apart from the indisputably remarkable access to all manner of information that the web provides, it also facilitates a flood of conversations whose quality wanes as its quantity waxes. The reliability of one’s statements has diminished; things are said offhandedly, and when it comes down to it, people have likely moved on to the next thing. This is especially true on social media.
Take LinkedIn, for instance. Those looking to do it right must do it in a professional manner. They must get professional advice. Otherwise, LinkedIn is no more than a great database for headhunters. However, those who simply hang around there and post for hours on end are essentially confirming that they have nothing better to do. Excuse my bluntness. Granted, I also use LinkedIn. But not to gab. On one hand, I do it to stay in touch with my seminar participants. On the other hand, I use it to provide new stimuli to my own group.
The 3 layers of your sales cappuccino
Essentially, though, selling over the web is a lot like a cappuccino. On the bottom you have the coffee, analogous to cold calling. The foam is referral marketing. And the chocolate powder on top is social media such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and many others.
The chocolate on top Is nice to have…
As for this top layer of chocolate, this is how it works: On the very top of your client wish list is a customer whom you have no idea how to reach. Let’s call him Coca-Cola. LinkedIn would be a channel through which you could now try out the law of reciprocity, that alien concept of “Give and you shall receive.”
You proceed to search through the database for someone who has once worked at Coca-Cola. You find a former sales director who in his new company is not only looking for capable employees but also seeking out practical literature on the subject of sales. Bingo. Naturally you write the man a letter, “Dear Mr. Coke, I see that you are looking for books on a subject that is of great importance to me as well. I can recommend a particular book to you that has proved very helpful to me. The title is NO Is Short for Next Opportunity, written by Martin Limbeck, whom the press has dubbed ‘The Porsche of Sales.’”
Nine out of ten people will write back and thank you for the tip. Three weeks later, you follow up: Was the recommendation useful? Did the book leave an impression on you? At this point things become interesting, because if this triggers an exchange on a subject common to you both, then a relationship is established.
Only at that particular moment, and not before, is the bond created. It is this very bond that serves as the basis for the following step and the crucial question, “Say, Mr. Coke, I see that you were the sales director for Coca-Cola. Did you train your successor yourself?”
The answer to this question will tell you what kind of relationship your contact has to his former company. If you’re lucky, he’ll say, “Of course, I remember my successor very well indeed.”
Then you ask, “What would you say is most important to your successor? The reason I ask is that I’ve wanted to contact her about . . .” And the rest is pretty straightforward. That’s how it works.
…But the coffee and milk foam come first
Let me be clear, however: As successful as the professional hobnobbing on LinkedIn can be, it is still only the chocolate powder on the cappuccino. The whole cappuccino also requires the grinding and brewing of the coffee beans and the frothing of the milk. You must know how each of these things is done. The basics come first. Sales means you actually have to sell, even today. That includes prospecting, initial contact, arranging an appointment, first meeting, needs assessment, sales proposal, objection handling, price negotiation, closing the deal, customer relationship management, and referrals. In other words, Selling 101 – with or without the Internet.
By Martin Limbeck is an international sales authority and sought-after keynote speaker, dubbed 'The Porsche of Sales' by the press. With his best-in-class German Sales Engineering approach, he helps sales professionals seal more deals. Martin has trained and inspired audiences in twenty-one countries for more than twenty years. The Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) has been honoured as Top Speaker of the Year 2014, International Speaker of the Year 2012, and Trainer of the Year 2011 and 2008. He teaches at Reutlingen European School of Business, Steinbeis University Berlin, and St. Gallen University, and is the author of several bestsellers, including NO Is Short for Next Opportunity: How Top Sales Professionals Think and Why Nobody Wants You to Get to the Top...: ...and How I Made It Anyway.