You've only got to check out Google Analytics or Google Adwords and see the volume of searches for the term 'sales training' to recognise that sales training courses are still selling like hot cakes. Unfortunately, it seems that many of these courses are pedalling sales approaches which found their origins in the 1970s and 80s, incorporating such inspirational approaches as the ABC (Always be closing) of sales!
Your customers have never been so informed
Fast forward to the new millennium and it is no longer acceptable to assume that your customers have a level of intelligence and naivety akin to stone age man - the reality is that your customers have never been so informed.
Should we replace the salesperson?
Consider a purchase that most of us will make, several times, during the course of our lives, the motor car. Chances are that when you go to purchase your next new car, you'll know more about that vehicle than the salesperson does. Information required to purchase virtually anything these days is easily accessible, in seconds, simply at the click of your mouse. So what is the point of a salesperson - should car dealerships not simply set up terminal screens, like the banks, where we, the customer, can input the make, model, specification and price of our new car and place our order without any fuss? No and here's why?
If people buy from people, why is it taking some businesses forever to understand social selling?
People still buy from people. When 2 products of significant value are stacked up against each other, in all aspects, including price, then the decision to purchase, 9 times out of 10, will come down to the relationship the salesperson has with the customer. If this belief holds true then why is it taking some businesses so long to grasp the concept of social selling?
Social selling takes time, social selling requires effort, patience - social selling dictates that you enter into dialogue with your clients based on previous points of connection. It requires you to understand the issues your clients are facing in their day to day business lives, it needs you to nurture them with content and quality content at that.
Here are 5 ways you should be interacting with your most important clients and prospective customers on LinkedIn:
1. Next time you invite a potential client to connect, explain why you are doing so.
2. Once connected, follow up promptly with a non-salesy and informative piece of content marketing - yours or content you have curated from elsewhere.
3. Learn from their profiles and their activity posts, what's important to them, what issues are they facing in their business today? Respond with solutions, advice, help, support - do not overtly sell.
4. Diarise a timeline of future communications with your new connections so you can message them - sometimes with useful content marketing, other times ask them a relevant question. For example if you are in selling marketing services, you could ask: 'I notice from your LinkedIn profile that you operate in these specific sectors, what are the top 3 challenges you face in engaging effectively with decision makers in these sectors?'.
5. Bring your LinkedIn connection in-house. Add their contact details to your own database and CRM system and then consider what other means of communication you can employ to continue to build a relationship with them.
If the above points seem like too much work, then social selling is probably not for you. But recognise this, your clients are demanding that you nurture them - they will go elsewhere, at the drop of a hat, unless you are prepared to build a relationship with them - do so and you'll probably have a customer for life.