July 15 by Marie Francis
Be honest: how much time do you spend on social media every day? How many times do you open Facebook or LinkedIn on your phone? Once, twice, five times a day?
If you are anything like the average American, you are probably spending about an hour and 45 minutes on social media a day, according to one study. On average, more than a quarter of our time online is spent on social media. That’s great news for social media giants like LinkedIn and Facebook, but it should also be music to the ears of salespeople. Here’s why.
It’s Time to Get Personal
Salespeople need to take a new approach to close deals. By the time a prospect gets to a conversation with a sales rep, they have already educated themselves about your company and your products. So being an “explainer” or “order taker” salesperson—someone who is providing information or just delivering on what has been explicitly asked for—does not add compelling value to a deal.
To stand out from the competition, sales reps instead need to demonstrate understanding of their prospects’ businesses and even their buyer’s individual needs. This is where social media becomes an invaluable tool. People and businesses are telling you just about everything you could want to know—their needs, priorities and interests—and it’s just a few clicks away.
Connections and Content
Social media boils down to two things: connections and content. Connection is why people get on social media in the first place. 73% of social media users report that they share information because it helps them connect with others who share their interests. Sharing content is how they do it. 68% of social media users share content to give others a better sense of who they are and what they care about. And 25% of social media users share links to articles and personal recommendations of things they like.
So here’s the big takeaway: Being a content resource on a topic of interest can make you extremely valuable and help you build a connection with a contact.
Do that, and you’re on your way to becoming the most valued type of sales rep: the trusted advisor.
How to Do It
There are a lot of social media sites out there, and it’s easy to lose time on any one of them. Here are a few tips to help you be targeted and successful when leveraging social media for sales.
1. Pick Sites Based on Your Goals
There are a huge number of social media sites, each with its own angle. LinkedIn is excellent for learning about companies’ brands and the professional profiles of individual buyers. Twitter is valuable for seeing what customers have to say about companies they buy from—and identifying where customer pain points are. Facebook can help you discover the personal interests of specific targets. And those are just the big platforms. More targeted social media sites like Foxwordy, Instagram, and Pinterest and BizSugar offer deep mines of information about individuals, brands and industries and should not be overlooked.
Get up to speed fast on the major social media networks with this article from Fast Company and this one from Small Biz Trends. Then decide which networks are going to make the most sense based on your goals.
2. Do Your Homework
The whole point here is to see what you can learn about your prospects. So take a moment to dive into pages and profiles before you reach out. Don’t make the mistake of treating social media just like another way to blind email somebody.
Before you contact someone on social media, try to answer these questions: What are the 2-3 topics or themes that come up repeatedly for this person or business? What image are they projecting? How do they share or engage with content?
For example, if someone repeatedly shares content that they have created about being an industry leader in health care research, you wouldn’t send them a beginner’s guide to understanding the health insurance market, even if it’s the newest piece your company has produced. In this example, a better way to reach out would be to reference an expert piece they have written and ask how you can learn more.
Social media behaviors are constantly evolving, and you can use this to your advantage. Stay ahead of curve with Mary Meeker’s annual Internet Trends report.
3. Don’t Be a Salesperson
The trick to being successful on social media is to be an authentic connection—not necessarily a salesperson. An authentic connection doesn’t lead with a pitch or pivot to what you are selling halfway through a conversation. Instead, an authentic connection acts as a resource on a topic of mutual interest and facilitates connections and conversations.
Now, here you might reasonably ask how you can be authentic while also trying to make a sale. But if you are just looking to make a sale, you are taking the wrong approach. Social media is a doorway into entire networks of businesses and people with mutual interests and similar needs. Do you want to make a sale to one or two people in that network, or do you want to become a trusted resource to that network? Which goal do you think will lead to more sales over time?
4. Nurture Your Contacts, but Watch the Clock
Social media is not a one-off activity. You need to nurture your relationships over time to get the results you need. That means ongoing engagement to keep up the momentum. How likely are you to stay engaged with a contact you only hear from twice a year? With social media, you get out what you put in.
But we also know that social media can easily become a time-consuming distraction. Try setting an alarm or blocking a limited amount of time on your calendar specifically for social media selling to make sure you don’t lose hours watching Ted Talks during the work day—or more likely, cat videos.
Finally, social media is a great place to show an attitude of gratitude. Every contact you make will not turn into the sale that makes your quota. That’s a fact. But every contact you put effort into nurturing can become a valuable resource for you in your professional network. So be thankful for people’s time and engagement when you get it.