I conducted social selling training to startup founders via the organization Sales4Startups here in Los Angeles last month.
Sales4Startups or “S4S” is an international organization focused on teaching technology startups all about sales. They accomplish this through their educational events, hands-on SalesLab workshops, and blog content in which they feature sales leaders and professionals from startups all over the world.
It was inspiring to see the students learn what sales is and how they must define and master a process to be successful.
How to Use Social to Sell
1. What is your professional background and how did you get into sales?
I first formally got into sales when I began booking artists at Columbia Artists Management about ten years ago. I was fortunate to be trained by old school sales guys who taught me the art of the sale.
2. What does “Selling” mean to you?
Selling is about knowing what you want, knowing how to get it, and un-qualifying people who you’re not going to be successful with. And, these principles of selling can teach us a lot about how to be successful in our own lives. It’s good to know what you want in life and who can help you achieve it. Like Daniel Pink’s Book says, “To Sell Is Human”. So, selling is about having skills that help us to be successful in both our professional and personal lives.
3. What does “Social Selling” mean to you and how has it inspired you to become an expert?
Social Selling is about having influence over your own destiny by utilizing social networks to have influence over others. That may sound grand, but it’s true. It used to be that we all functioned under the auspices of the company we worked for, and the only channels were billboards, print and TV ads and radio spots. Now, we are all our own channel. That’s profound. But with that opportunity, comes responsibility. For example, the number one thing that all my clients have in common, is that they’re all experienced, credible, experts in their field, but they often don’t share that well online. And, with 70% of the buying process being done online today, we all need to be sharing our expertise if we want others to consider working with and buying from us. I like to say, “Don’t let people underestimate you.” And they will if you don’t have a great LinkedIn profile and your competitor does. Equally important, you need to be listening to your buyers online. Social networks provide an opportunity to share your own voice one-to-one with your buyer and future customers. And with that opportunity, comes responsibility to care for your own brand and engage with others.
4. What are the steps a sales professional can take today, to become a social seller?
If you have an entrepreneurial approach to sales – which is that you educate yourself about your industry, and are willing to build your own relationships, ask questions and participate in discussions online, you will succeed as a social seller. So, the first step is being willing to “own your own brand”. In practical terms, start with improving your LinkedIn profile and make sure it projects what your customers want to read. A common exercise I have my clients do is to ask themselves this question: “What questions am I most often asked about my services or industry, or product?” If you can answer those questions in your LinkedIn profile or demonstrate that you have the answers to those questions, people will consider it worth their time to return your call or email. The second is to get a Twitter account and start following hashtags related to your business. For example, #branding, #sales #CRM #energy, whatever keywords that are the core of your product, service or industry. Listen to what people are saying. The reason you do this, is because your BUYER is doing this. They are doing a ton of research about their buying choices, before talking to you. So should they call you, it would be crazy if you didn’t know as much or more about the competitive landscape and the advice your buyers are hearing. It’s essential you turn that competitive intelligence into your strength as you discuss why your product or service is a better choice for your buyer’s needs. Third, always Google someone before you pick up the phone to talk to them. Check out their LinkedIn profile and find something that connects you to them – a person, a school, a Group. Connectivity breeds familiarity and comfort and trust. And trust increases your likelihood to get the sale.
5. What are the common misconceptions that people have about social selling?
The word “social” implies a conversation or relationship. Social selling isn’t about sending someone an innocuous InMail about your product. Just knowing that something exists doesn’t mean they’re going to be interested in it. Social implies that a conversation between two interested people might lead to a win-win transaction.
6. What are your recommendations around social tools to master?
For B2B, LinkedIn and Twitter. LinkedIn is for people you know and Twitter affords untethered access to decision makers. Also if you can muster it, a blog. I’d bet any salesperson with a blog is probably doing better than her peers.
7. How do you believe that social media has impacted CRM or sales automation software?
Social is at the heart of successful selling today because it helps us build relationships with people online, as a means of replacing the way we used to more often build relationships (in person). Social has helped sellers see leads and prospects as real people, in unprecedented ways. The better you understand your buyer, the better chance you have of overcoming their fears and getting to them to close. The CRMs and sales automation software applications that put social at the forefront will have a brighter future.
8. Which CRMs have done the best job at integrating or perhaps building their system around social?
I’m not sure I can fully answer this question. Nimble is a great example, however, of a CRM that has social at its epicenter. The CRM that shows a person’s LinkedIn information and their latest tweets next to their phone number and email is doing a good job helping the seller use social to their advantage.
9. How do you believe the platforms like Twitter and Linkedin can drive better inbound leads as well as outbound prospecting?
Sharing great content on LinkedIn Groups or on Twitter (with targeted hashtags), is a key component to social selling. It’s difficult for salespeople to think of themselves as mini-marketers, but if they share content on these platforms, they’ll not only brand themselves as knowledgeable in their area of expertise, but they’ll receive inbound leads regularly. Quick Tip: Check out Who’s Viewed My Profile on LinkedIn for potential leads.
10. What is your take on the usefulness of Facebook as a B2B sales tool?
Good question. I know some have been successful in this space. However, I think today you’ll need a good-sized budget to really make it work. Even if people wanted to regularly see your content, in order to make that happen regularly, you’ll have to pay for sponsored posts and a great content marketer to run your Page. Then you have to ask yourself, “What has this significant financial investment done for me? Could I have accomplished my B2B marketing goals better elsewhere?” And that leads to the second question you should ask yourself, “Do these business people want to login to their personal accounts to participate in a business-related community conversation? Could a LinkedIn Group (or even Twitter chat) perhaps serve a similar purpose – and provide the added benefit of allowing the participants to easily network with each other?”
11. What does the future of social selling look like?
Everyone will increasingly have access to any information they want online, and the seller, more than ever will need to evolve into educated guides that can build trust with buyers to help them make purchasing decisions. Social selling, as described as developing thought leadership, building relationships and demonstrating credibility, is at the heart of that new reality.
12. What tips would you give an early stage startup about getting started with social selling?
Social is free!! Every time you pick up the phone to call someone, look them up on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Google. Find one thing about that person and mention it. “From your LinkedIn profile, I see you used to work at X. My brother used to work there…” Use the information to build a relationship. Being in a startup is most often about selling something people don’t understand because it basically never existed before. Therefore your sale is uber-dependent on educating and creating trust because you’re leading customers into the unknown. People will buy from you because they like you. Therefore don’t be afraid of making the sale a very personal interaction because that will make the difference for you. Lastly, for startups (and a lot of companies) it’s easy to fall in love with your product and forget about the buyer. Use your buyers to get important feedback about how you can improve your product. In the end, they will determine your fate. Get a social media manager. Founders should be on Twitter. Look at Dennis Crowley of Foursquare to see how it’s done. Your users will share their love on social, so you need to be there to listen, thank them and love them back.