Can social selling revitalize the image of sales?

Sales is undergoing the most massive changes since many decades. Compare it to the change from Hawkers tray to selling in tie and suit. Or the transition from horse drawn carriages to taxis. Yet 90% of the experienced sales people will deny that change.

Here is a process we introduced about 2 years ago with good success after lots of learning:

Social Selling as a process one can learn

1) Identify the companies you are going after.
2) Then look up the company in LinkedIn and find employees that may be relevant or influential to what you want to do.
3) Consider other business networks depending on the country (Xing in central Europe, RenRen in China…) .
4) Find other presences of the people you want to build relationships with in Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, FourSquare…
5) Follow them on Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest (do not even try to connect at this point).
6) Visit their profiles as they may track visitors, try to join groups they are active in.
7) Think as if they may be a potential friend for sharing some hobbies.
8) IMPORTANT focus entirely on the personal side or whatever challenges they expose. Know what is on top of their mind.
9) Once you know them, start being helpful. Completely forget that you want to do business, forget about the pressure to sell and so forth. Keep in mind nobody want to be sold. RT their content, like their posts, but be honest and not linking stuff you don’t like or have no clue what they are talking about. Make helpful comments or make meaningful introductions.
10) After two weeks see if you have a relationship :) You will have a dialog with more then 50% of the contacts if you DO NOT sell AT ALL (compared to a 1% success rate on cold calling).

11) From here on everything else is a piece of cake: You know everything about the person, and they know everything about you if you are open and if they are interested. You even know if they are in the market – way before your competition goes through the old pattern of “Budget, project, authority blah blah blah”. Most importantly: The prospect will initiate the business conversation with YOU instead of you selling to THEM (which is the beginning of the end in 82% of sales engagements across industries and markets).

12) The entire negotiation process which is not only about terms and numbers, but an important way to get to know each other is now significantly shorter which improves the sales efficiency quite nicely. More so forecast accuracy grows and deal stability is entirely different – I’m sure you know many of those deals where you think the buyer is a friend of your competitor, you still don’t know exactly and so forth. Now you are a friend in every single deal.

NOTE: While it is still a process, it is far less mechanical than the traditional cold call or sales initiation process. “Social Selling” is way more human and it can be learn in a similar spirit as we learn to make friends of find a partner in life 

Seven Skills that you will develop over time

1) Digital body language (It’s like your first introduction to physical body language)
2) Network Time Management (how many, how much, how often, when, where…)
3) NCP handling (Network – Contribution – Participation) How big should your network be, what contribution to the network works best, how do you measure network success?
4) You will develop skills to significantly grow your network WITHOUT scarifying relationship strength or depth
5) You will get more face to face meetings then ever before but less with the same person
6) You will develop more people skills than can be explained in this one post
7) You will develop networking skills and senses that you only develop when you are “in”

 

What is so successful on that process?

Emotionally it feels much better but economically you may wonder: a very successful cold caller can do over 100 calls a day with immediate response, while our social sales person will take two weeks to get to a relationship. But after two weeks the actual result summary looks very different:

Traditional sales:
100 cold calls a day, 2 successes equates to 20 successes in two weeks

Social Sales:
300 touches a day, every other day = 600 people in two weeks
50% response rate = 300 people and 20% success rate out of that = 60 successes

BUT: There is no free lunch! Implementing this process is not easy

 

Why is it so difficult to implement?

Even though it may look very natural and obvious to many, it is very difficult to implement in a business with traditional sales processes. The number of business who can’t implement this outnumber those who can:

1) You can’t mix and match hard core selling with social selling. It’s almost like allowing to preach Buddhism in the Vatican. Obviously a single cold call would blow the the process in a second.

2)  The larger part of a sales organization, in particular the more experienced sales people will have a hard time to adopt this new technique. It took them years to practice and perfect their sales techniques to eventually master it. Almost starting from scratch is an astronomic burden – unless they understand how fast they actually can adopt and realize that the past experience is actually very helpful in the adoption process and getting them back to a “master” in a year, while junior sales people may still learn 3 to 5 years to get even near that level.

3) Most of the times it requires to change KPIs and how the sales team is compensated, even redefine what is success etc. Many highly experienced sales executives won’t take that risk.

The social selling technique remains to be an option only for the most agile companies on the planet. From a macro economic point of view it maybe actually a good situation as it helps small companies to outperform large organizations. And that in turn provides the much needed growth of mid market businesses.

If you want to know more about it in greater details, feel free to ping me any time. In the next few weeks I will turn this into a white paper with much more details.

Here is my social presence:
http://xeeMe.com/AxelS

 


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