The invention of the telephone minimised the need for door-to-door salesmen, prompting the rise of cold calling. In the modern era of sales, the internet has forever changed both the way we interact and the way we buy, which means that salespeople must once more adapt to survive.
Information about every possible gizmo, gadget, and service is available at the click of a button. This abundance of knowledge and choice makes it easier for buyers to seek out the services they need to make their own choices. The result is that the cutting-edge techniques of yesterday are in decline; according to InsideView over 90% of CEO’s said that they never respond to cold calls.
Though speaking person to person is still a vital element of sales, the start of the game has changed. Reaching out to customers now means establishing a relationship and differentiating yourself, often as a precursor to the first call. You need to be where your customers are, and with digital communication only set to increase; salespeople need to start getting social.
Find your niche
Where once the only way to research your prospect was to establish direct contact, social media profiles mean that more information about customers and competitors is freely available than ever before. A quick look at your prospect’s Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn account will tell you about their position, interests, products, and their views on the services they currently use. Utilising this information to its maximum potential requires careful planning:
- Firstly, there are just too many sites to maintain an adequate presence on each one. You are going to invest time and resources, so you need to find out where your customers are. Find the best site for your service and sector, and start there.
- Secondly, don’t waste time trying to be too hip. If you are working for a gap year company, then a platform like Facebook, where the average user is between 18 and 25, is definitely for the right fit. If you’re B2B, you are better off with LinkedIn; the place where professionals come to share ideas and to network.
Change the cycle
Undoubtedly, there is a still a definite place for real conversations in sales. But it might be time for the phone call to come a little later. Social media not only presents the opportunity to gain valuable information about your prospect, it also provides a means of contact. A report titled ‘The Rise of Social Salespeople’ shows that over 78% of people using social media to sell outperformed their peers who were not, so how can you do the same?
- Develop your ability to use the information afforded by profiles to enhance your sales capability. Use the insight into their interests, needs, and buying habits to start with cold social prospecting instead of calling.
- By initiating contact with your customers via the technology that has become second nature to them, you are talking to them in their environment with their chosen medium.
- Don’t send out a blanket message to every LinkedIn contact hoping it is relevant for someone. Social selling is hard work and you need to research. Identify and cultivate relevant prospects individually, building a relationship into a sale.
Keep it useful
When you begin to view posts in LinkedIn discussions, customer service rants on Twitter, and Facebook comments as leads, a whole new avenue of selling is open to you. However, moving that cold contact from the dial pad to the keyboard also comes with a new set of rules:
- Online engagement is a delicate courtship. Consumers have their pick of products and services, so your approach needs to be both useful, relevant, and considered. An outright pitch will not resonate with digital customers; you need to engage and build trust.
- Your communications need to provide prospects with information that is useful and relevant. This means responding to client posts and discussions with insightful comments, developing a professional relationship with your lead, replying to tweets with helpful suggestions; the options are endless.
- Make yourself familiar to your prospect and to establish yourself as a trusted adviser, rather than an unknown salesperson.
For the sellers who are prepared to get monitoring, tweeting, and connected, a new realm of social selling possibilities awaits. In sales, staying ahead of the curve means constantly developing and adapting your skills. By meeting the needs of a new generation, social sellers will be in prime position to make the most of the digital age.
By Catherine Luff, Silent Edge