Recently, I was lucky enough to attend the AA-ISP Leadership Summit at the Palmer House in Chicago. It was a great event which was well attended by many great companies and thought leaders within the inside sales industry. I came away thinking about two things: the inside sales role is truly evolving and many organizations realize they should have a social selling strategy, but most don’t realize how to do it or what to do with it.
I had the pleasure of listening to multiple social selling strategies and was impressed with how some of our nation’s larger companies were piloting new social selling programs. With the evolution of the inside sales role and the ability to close business from your desk with tools like GoTo Meeting, Postwire and Docusign, it’s only natural that social selling becomes a larger part of the inside sales evolution process. The ability to find prospects who have a need, prospects who are raising their hand because they are already 70% of their way through the buying process and prospects who feel comfortable engaging with an inside sales rep.
When it comes to social selling, it shouldn’t be thought as being different than any other “live” or face-to-face selling scenario; it’s still about building a relationship. During one of the sessions, there was a great panel discussion with Jen McClure, Liz Gelb-O’Connor and Jill Rowley. Jill had mentioned her “ABC’s” of being social: Always Be Connecting. I loved the idea, concept and acronym! I think it’s brilliant from an individual sales reps perspective, but wondered how you could implement that ideal from a corporate standpoint.
It got me thinking about social selling strategies. When asked about social selling, I have always said it starts with monitoring, listening and engaging. With the whole concept of “social” networks revolving around building relationships and companies looking to take advantage of the real-time intelligence and data that exists within these social media channels, what is the best strategy? Keep it simple and think about any other strong relationship you have online or offline; just go the extra M.I.L.E.
Monitor- It all starts here. You must first begin with monitoring social media networks. Utilize tools like Hootsuite or Radian6 so that your organization or inside sales reps have the ability to monitor what is being said on these channels. Even social networks like LinkedIn, probably the #1 social media network for B2B markets, provide professional groups that should be monitored for discussions where your sales team can add value to the conversation (very important and more later). It is important to first gain visibility into these channels, but which ones do you dedicate resources to?
Identify- Once you have the ability to monitor what is being said in these social media channels, it is important to identify what networks to focus on. Organizations need to identify where their prospects exists so you don’t dedicate resources to the wrong networks and you must identify who are your prospects on these channels. In B2C markets you may emphasize Facebook and Pinterest, while B2B markets may find LinkedIn and Twitter are where their potential customers exist. Either way, identifying the right social media channels to monitor is an important piece of the process, but what does your organization do once they’re on the right social media networks?
Listen- Your organization has committed to investing in tools that monitor those social media channels which have been identified as the appropriate channels for your product or service; now you need to be actively listening to what is being said. Listening to your prospects and understanding what pains they are experiencing has always played an important role in the sales process. The virtue still holds true within social media networks. Listen to what is being said in real time to increase customer acquisition, retention and service. Remember we have two ears and only one mouth for a reason.
Engage- This is the final leg of your mile long run; and this is what separates the organizations or individuals who recognize how to properly utilize social media outlets for social selling and those who don’t. This is where the relationship building begins. Your organization is monitoring the appropriate channels where you’ve identified prospects and been listening to what is being said. Now it’s time to engage with your prospects, but how? Easy, you engage by providing value to the conversation without being self promotional. Take action on what you are hearing and respond appropriately as a thought leader or by providing best practice responses. Those who are listening to you will naturally research who you are and appreciate the fact that you withheld your sales pitch.
Social Media is all about building relationships and social selling shouldn’t be viewed any differently. During the panel discussion I mentioned earlier, Liz had mentioned that organizations have approximately 24 months before there will be so much noise on these social channels that social selling may no longer be an option. Liz was dead on in her assessment; organizations will take advantage of this platform and begin inundating these channels with more noise. Let’s try to avoid this by properly using these channels to support our brands and customers and continue to strengthen the relationships we’ve made within our communities. Take the time, make the effort to go the extra mile and forge relationships that will yield better brand awareness and more opportunities for your organization in the future.