Earth to Sellers: Get Real about Social Media

No matter who you are in sales—whether you’re managing a team or selling in a territory—you know you need to go where the customers are.

If I met you at a conference and I told you that all of your best prospects were gathered right now in the meeting room next door, you’d waste no time getting in there to start working the place. Of course you would. Because selling is social and personal. 

So why then do so many of you keep treating social media like it’s kryptonite?

In fact, just as recent as last month (January 2019 in case you think this article was written in the 1990’s)  I’ve witnessed companies implement a complete block on social media traffic in the workplace, working from the misguided belief that it’s a productivity killer or that it’s not worth the liability risk because an employee might say something foolish online.

That way of thinking displays a complete lack of understanding about the worth of social media, plus how you are training your staff, about what you expect of them online, how well you understand today’s changed marketplace, and how to use the right tools to effectively reach prospects in a profitable manner.

I’ve worked with too many sellers that are hamstrung without the right tools, or training. It’s time to get real about social media.

Use Content platforms to engage    

The point of social media in a business setting isn’t about wasting time talking about yourself and watching cat videos. It’s about connection: being useful to others and serving them in a way that matters to them. I’m especially fond of LinkedIn for that reason. It’s a B2B goldmine with over half a billion members, and 40% of monthly active users who log in daily looking to connect with experts and content providers in their areas of interest. Why can’t that be you?

Make social media training a prerequisite.

You train your staff before you let them work in customer service or sales or accounting, instilling in them the values you have as a company, and showing them what is and what isn’t acceptable behaviour when working with customers. Social media is no different in a corporate setting. One client of mine has a mandatory training program for all staff before they earn the right to affiliate themselves with the firm in their online profile. It’s only 90 minutes and highly effective because it gives sellers the tools they need to be purposeful in their social media activities. It also instils expectations and a sense of responsibility for upholding the company name in all interactions online. Once trained, this company’s president opens up her contacts and generously makes introductions to the right sellers and the right companies. It’s no doubt that they are growing faster than the market this year.

Social media is how you get seen by your customer now.

In today’s changed selling landscape your customer sees you before you see them. And social media is the best place for that to happen. LinkedIn alone today has over 8.2 million C-level profiles. Each of them is someone you can keep in touch with and share what you know about a subject you’re passionate about. Your social media training for sellers needs to cover the kinds of posts that should be written and shared, all with the intent to engage your audience in a meaningful conversation. Keep in mind the fact that 75% of B2B buyers and 84% of C-level or vice-president level executives use social media to make purchasing decisions.

Social media is warmer than a cold call.

People choose for themselves when they want to log into their social channels and interact with others. They communicate on their terms, and thus are more receptive to what others have to say. You want to know where that’s not happening? On a cold call. Even if a buyer picks up your outbound, unsolicited phone call (and most of use voicemail as our personal gatekeeper), you’re going to have someone on the other end of the line who will not appreciate your interruption. The facts confirm this: one study found that 90% of decision makers today say they never respond to cold calls. Not sometimes. Never! Cold calling today is deader than a cast of zombies in a horror movie. Stick with the living.

People research everything first online – including you!

As a seller or a leader of sellers, you know that your customer today is better informed than ever. They come armed with facts and opinions about your product or service even before you start talking about it. Where are they getting all this information? Online. One study found that 94% of B2B buyers conduct some degree of research online before making a business purchase, with 55% conducting online research for at least half of their purchases. Some are Googling for answers. But plenty are learning from conversations they have with others online via social channels. Why in the world would you ignore this opportunity to be part of that conversation? Instead, be ubiquitous. Have a presence in all social media channels where your customers are flocking. Whether it’s LinkedIn groups, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube how-to videos or podcasts, be there. And be there often.

You are what you post online.

People don’t only go online to research products and services. They research you, too. Your social channels are your resume. They tell others what you know, what you’re interested in learning more about, and how you deal with others. That last point is especially important, because plenty of people can have great looking credentials on paper, but none of that will matter if they are impossible to work with. Be generous with others. Share what you know. Be understanding and diplomatic with those who are a little disagreeable online. This is your reputation we’re talking about, after all.

Social media isn’t a time waster. Nor is it something you can afford to ignore. Online is where your buyers are now, looking for solutions and people they can interact with. Your social channels are an extension of your branding, your marketing and your prospecting efforts. They are your reputation. It’s time to recognize these facts and change the way you engage with others.