On Wednesday, I have the honor of speaking to a group of salespeople from a large company. They’ve asked me to explain how to use social media for sales. While I will certainly touch on several sales techniques, the real approach to using social media for sales is to treat it as a networking event, not a sales pitch.
The analogy I’ve often used to understand how to use social media for sales is the networking event. Imagine you’re attending a business networking event hosted by your local chamber of commerce. Even if you don’t know anyone in the room, you migrate around the room, listening in on the conversations of the various groups already talking until you find one that seems interesting or features people you’d like to meet. You stand near their circle until they notice and expand it to include you.
Then your first opportunity market (not sale) happens: someone introduces themselves. Now you can say who you are and what you do. Those there hear that you sell whatever it is you sell and make a note of it. They may never ben interested in buying that, but they may.
If you were to walk into that room saying, “Buy My Stuff! Buy My Stuff! Buy My Stuff!” they would have you removed. But you introduce yourself, get to know the people there, come back to the next meeting and continue the relationship building and so on. You may find an interesting article in a magazine that reminds you of one of them and send it along as a good gesture. You may set up a separate time to come in and talk to them about what it is you sell if it appears they might be interested. But you don’t just turn away. You work the leads until you know they are or are not going to buy.
Why does anyone think that social media for sales is any different? You listen to conversations to find those relevant to you. You introduce yourself and participate and build a rapport and relationships with the people in the conversation. Eventually, you single out those most relevant and follow up with sales calls or opportunities. Social networking online is no different than networking offline.
Why are we making this hard?
The fundamental thing sales people need to know about social media is that it is not a channel where direct sales is the most effective approach. This, like networking events, golf outings, charity fund-raisers and the like, is a channel where marketing — laying the foundation for future sales — works wonders.
So try approaching your social network like you approach your community networks. You don’t try to sell to everyone because you know not everyone is a customer. You build relationships with lots of people until you identify those that are potential customers and extend those relationships to closing a sale. As they say where I’m from, “It ain’t rocket surgery.”
Are you a sales professional that has played your hand in social media? Do your experiences tell you different than me? Jump in the comments and tell me how you “sell” through a medium many believe to not be an effective sales channel.
For more insights about social media for sales, I recommend David Meerman Scott’s book, The New Rules of Sales and Service. I reviewed it when it came out a few years ago over at Social Media Explorer.