Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Why should Sales People use Social Media?

Sales and Marketing perform very different functions within a business. Marketing is about awareness, brand and long term commitment; marketers are about “feeling the love”. Sales people on the other hand are hunters; they are there for a specific purpose and that it to make a sale, to close the deal and bring in the bucks.

This is an over simplification of the variations and complexity of the sales funnel so making the statement that Social Media is a toolset for the marketers while more traditional media, including the website, is more of a sales tool risks the same inconsideration. Having made this comparison we have to ask ourselves why sales people should bother to use Social Media?

Sales people have been using tried and tested techniques for years to engage and close deals with customers. They perform what is arguably one of the most important functions in the business cycle; in ensuring businesses maintain cash flow. Research indicates that sales teams that use Social Media proactively have a 17% greater win rate, is this enough to convince “traditional” sales people to adopt Social Media. I would hope this should be enough to spark some interest at very least.

I am definitely a convert of the power and potential of Social Media. It does live up to the hype at some level but it is not the answer to all our business needs by any means. If used in conjunction with other tried and tested marketing and communications strategies given its ubiquitous and global reach, it becomes a serious contender for our future client engagement strategies.

Let’s compare some of the more popular platforms with more traditional communications mechanisms:
  1. Twitter: This can be compared to the “Coffee Break” chat with colleagues. Small sound bites of information in an on-going and seemingly random stream of conversations. Much of the chatter is immaterial, sometimes interesting, and occasionally highly relevant. Filter the conversations and engage with those who are either able to assist your needs or be helped by you and it’s a money maker. If you keep at this, and it does take time, Twitter will be less noise and increasingly relevant to you, your interests, and your industry.
  2. Facebook: Compared to the conversation that is Twitter, Facebook shows itself to be the full coloured expression of people’s lives, dreams and hopes. Videos, photos and discussions with friends are there to be shared and displayed for all invited into their worlds. To the older generation (Baby Boomers back) this can be the step too far – after all we know how few real friends we really have and our lives are our business. These fears are valid; many careless Facebookers have become victims of their inability to keep their lives personal and private losing the respect of real friends and the confidence and trust of loved ones.  Lessons have and are being learnt about the rights and wrongs of self-publishing but the enormous network potential of over 600 million active users can’t be ignored. One thing to keep in mind is that the Facebook Profile (You) and the Facebook Business Page are quite separate things. The old saying, “do not mix business with pleasure,” applies here. They should and can be two very separate things.
  3. LinkedIn: This is best compared to the Tradeshow. You go along the meet likeminded folk who have a shared knowledge and interest. I often refer to LinkedIn as the “Grown-ups Facebook”. It is designed for professional networking and ideas exchange. The many groups and forms, some open, many closed, are typically focussed on a specific subject. As a rule of thumb “connect” with anyone you would normally give your business card to.
So what’s the answer, do you use it or not? If I were asked outright for a yes or no answer the answer is yes.

What no-one can do though is make you. You need to “get it” and have a clear strategy or purpose for what you are trying to achieve. This may be simply that you want to have one form of authentic exchange with every one of your major clients each week. It might be to allow your customers an opportunity to learn from your experience by writing regular blog posts that will assist them in their own endeavours. It may be that you can use your highly developed networking skills to introduce customers to others in the industry they should know.

Whatever the approach you take, if it’s genuine, it’s focussed and consistent, it will pay.

No comments:

Post a Comment