I'll always remember a conversation I had with a senior sales person who has 30+ years experience selling in the IT Services industry, and at least another 10 to go. He told me he preferred the old days when the only prop needed was his phone and likened the atmosphere of selling to the excitement of a trading floor. He knows he should embrace Twitter but hasn’t so far, however in the last year he has been using LinkedIn as an Inbound Marketing tool - progress! - recognising that salespeople who use social selling techniques outperform those that don’t.
Am a bit like a parrot when I tell people that if you don’t have a strong social brand, your business and you suffer because people jump to the wrong conclusion. If you neglect your social presence, what else are you not paying attention to?
So …. does social selling mean never picking up the phone again? Thomas Ross says that this is one of the most asked questions he gets and that it deserves a proper answer. So here it is.
The idea that the entire sales process is now conducted online is simply a fallacy (That should put millions of professional sales people at ease). Will it get to that point remains to be seen, but even if it does — human interaction and professional selling skills will always be in demand and critical in helping customers make informed decisions.
So then how does social sales fit into the sales process?
Sales is comprised of what we like to call phases and has been traditionally captured by use of this sales funnel as the example. For all of you sales people this is old hat and hopefully you follow this model every day with every lead.
For all of you senior managers, executives and owners, this will help you to make sense of all the noise.
Sales phases take us through the customer journey from lead to close and depending on how complicated or simple your sales process is, can have many phases. Going into an in-depth definition of these phases and why they are so important to sales is not the point here. Suffice it to say that these phases are as important now as they were before customers began researching everything online. The difference is that by the time they enter the sales process they are usually much further along and much better qualified, improving sales conversions but more importantly reducing sales cycles and COSTS.
What is all the hoopla about social sales?
Ah, now it gets interesting. Social sales is not about what we do to help a customer through the sales process. It’s not about all the professional sales skills needed to help a customer make an informed and successful decision. It’s about how we got them into the sales process in the first place!
Traditional interruption based sales relied on activities such as cold calling, trade shows, email blasts (more commonly referred to as spam). These activities along with others are still in use and even relied upon by many, however they simply don’t provide the results they used to.
It’s really that simple. Customers and key contacts no longer answer phones, in fact many will outright tell you that. Trade shows have become more expensive while returning much less in the way of leads. They are now more important from a promotional perspective, ie, promoting new products, technologies and services to markets.
Email marketing has been less and less effective for quite awhile now for many reasons that range from government legislation to anti spam technologies. The final nail in this coffin is the fact that email is being used less and less as organizations use real time social tools to communicate with staff, vendors, suppliers and customers.
So is the use of the phone over, will we never call anyone again or answer our phones?
Of course not, in fact the phone is still a very important tool even though it’s more likely a smart phone than the traditional desktop model.
The difference is we use it after the customer and the lead have been developed through social engagement.
By the way, while the idea of cold calling through endless lists of contacts until we get a few meetings is hopefully losing any value. Cold calling can still be an effective way to try and reach a target and researched contact that you are not able to reach any other way.
Think of social sales as the funnel OVER your traditional sales funnel. It provides the leads and engagement we all so desperately need but in a much more productive, informative and effective methodology.
Hopefully this helps to put to rest the question of what Social Sales is and why it is so important.
Selling skills are still critical to the success of your sales team but they won’t matter much if they have zero leads and potential customers to engage with!!!
Author is Thomas Ross | Twitter handles are @TRsocialselling and @ExpoSalesLtd