In addition to creating and promoting a corporate presence on various social media Web sites, it also makes sense for sales professionals to become familiar with social media, and to use it for the benefit of their business.
Getting involved in social media can offer value to sales professionals, without requiring hours of time. In fact, there are a number of benefits to be gained by spending only minutes a week on popular social media sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter.
Take advantage of these six guidelines for engaging in social media as a sales tool:
1. Connect with and make better use of your professional network. Sales is a relationship business, and professional social media sites (such as LinkedIn) provide an additional way for account executives to enhance their relationships with clients and prospects alike.
Social media offers you another platform - beyond more traditional email and telephone conversations - for connecting with key contacts that you wish to reach out to and engage with further. Not only will you learn more about them, but they can gain a better understanding of your expertise, your thought leadership and the value you have to offer. Social media is also a useful way to obtain referrals and recommendations from your contacts, helping you grow your network.
2. Learn more about your prospects and clients. Social media also offers an excellent way to gather intelligence from your contacts. Pay close attention to the professional profiles of your clients and prospects, looking for anything that can make you more successful in conversations with them.
The intelligence that can be gleaned from a prospect's or client's profile can help to identify common ground and enhance the sales conversation. For example, examine their previous experience - maybe they have worked at another company in the past that is a client of yours. Or read more about their education, as you may find something you can use as a way to begin a conversation or make a connection.
Also, be mindful of the fact that your professional contacts - prospects, clients, other colleagues - are likely using social media sites to learn more about you and your company as well. Therefore, it's important to ensure that you are displaying a complete and professional profile.
3. Identify decision-makers and other appropriate contacts within a company. Professional social media sites provide a wealth of information on organizations. First, many people are connected to their colleagues. By taking a closer look at the profiles of your clients and prospects, you may be able to fill in some of the blanks regarding decision makers within a company.
Company profiles also offer intelligence on key individuals within organizations. These can help you identify the appropriate contact within a company, especially if your initial contact has left and you are having trouble getting in touch with anyone beyond the receptionist.
4. Gain new work-related insight. Groups, message boards and other social media sites are an excellent way to discuss relevant industry topics with likeminded professionals in group settings. At its core, social media is a conversation, so identify groups that are relevant to your industry and expertise and participating in the discussion.
By joining a group or getting involved in other social media sites, you have the opportunity to learn from other professionals within your industry, contribute to discussions on topics that fit well within your area of expertise, and differentiate yourself and your company as a consultant and a thought leader.
Consider focusing your efforts on making thoughtful contributions to the most relevant topics - you do not need to respond to every discussion within a group. Ensure that your comments are adding value and presenting your company in a positive manner.
5. Remember the basics of social media. While participating in social media can be beneficial to sales professionals, it is important to respect it as a communications platform. Don't abuse it as a way to push a sales pitch. Remember that social media is a two-way conversation, and ensure that your actions are providing value.
6. Offer guidelines for effective use. Sales and marketing management should consider holding training sessions or developing guidelines on how to effectively use social media as a sales tool. In addition to providing guidelines on how to create accounts on relevant social media sites, you can offer examples of demonstrated best practices for utilizing social media resources for professional use. It would also be valuable to emphasize the importance of spending the right balance of time on it, and demonstrating how it can be a powerful tool in the sales process.
For businesses, social media offers an unprecedented opportunity to engage in conversations with their audiences - both customers and prospects. Take advantage of social media tools to foster positive relationships with your clients and prospects, and to support your overall business goals.
Despite all the attention social media has received lately, I still think it is underutilized as a sales tool. In addition, many who are using it as a sales tool are doing so by being too self-promotional instead of using it to be informative or to promote communication and collaboration. You have given great advice here and I plan to you one of the social media channels, Twitter, to call attention to what you have written.
Some interesting thoughts above. I have commented on many of these ideas on my blog at http://chrisabutler.worpress.com and I guess it would be easier to have a quick look there rather than to try distill all my thoughts here. I think that the real points to make are not to push market too much - people just hate it and to listen, make available channels for your clients to contact you and to make their views known to the world and to have patience. We have a whole pile of tools for people to use to generate real business from the social web which specifically don not entail push marketing of any sort. Please take a look at http://www.wecando.biz, I hope we strike a chord.
We're proud of the work Moss Appeal did to help DIRECTV's ad sales team be one of the first to really enter the television/sat space on a B:B basis. They are established now with a couple of innovative apps on their Fan page ( see "Meet the Family" tab, for example, as the way we helped introduce the sales team to facebook visitors at facebook.com/directvadsales ) and we created a game at http://www.directvadsalespromo.com to offer a fun and hopefully viral way to have the trade interact with content.
Moss Appeal, with roots in ad sales marketing, has always been "bullish" on social media as the natural way to humanized the SALESpeople behind a brand.
Thanks for spelling out the benefits in your good article.
Excellent tips on utilizing social media as a communication/sales tool. I use alot of the tips that you
wrote about. Feel free to read my articles on my blog
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I will be biased here, Angie, and say that the subject is indeed a timely one...and I certainly agree with your approach.
One reason: I did Part I of post with a similar title [but slightly different focus] on 2/8/10, entitled, "The New B2B: Social Media as Your New 'Sales Tool'"... http://wp.me/pxdCJ-lw [Part II is on the way...]