Today’s guest post is from Philip Bokan, regional sales director for RainKing. He’s a no-nonsense but very successful enterprise sales professional, and I was fascinated with how he’s interpreted and leveraged the social selling opportunity in combination with “traditional” sales techniques to consistently hit his number.
Social Media can be an instrument of good in your career, but it can also backfire. This all depends on how you play it. I’ve been an astute user of social media since it came about and have seen much more sales damage through others’ behavior than good.
A few weeks ago, I met with some former coworkers for drinks. A lot of time has passed and at one point we were competing in the marketing sales tools space. Amongst all the laughs of how it “used to be” we got on the topic of social media. “Social selling”, specifically. We got on a topic that I couldn’t tell them when we were competitors; it was an eye opener for them.
Me: “Wow… you guys gave away everything. I knew every prospect that your firm was working with due to your tweets.”
Them: “Uhhh, yea, we didn’t even realize it at the time.”
I firmly believe there is not one ounce of selling product involved in effective Social Selling, but rather it’s more about selling yourself (brand) and minding your business/protecting your own interests.
When Twitter started to be prominent as a marketing device and potential lead channel, sales reps in the beginning all thought they were doing their prospects a favor by tweeting complementary messages or even retweeting interesting content. What the majority of people didn’t realize is that they were actually opening up their playbook. “Look at me” has never been more prevalent and annoying in the social forum. However, there are still some valuable lessons you can learn from social listening.
I’ve spoken with hundreds of reps at Fortune 500 companies and they all say the same thing. They “hope” they can get something from social selling, but haven’t seen an order as a result yet. Pretty sure they are all still waiting. You won’t win, but can easily lose a deal and an exponential amount more (ie. your job, family life, etc, which is a different topic altogether) if you aren’t mindful.
So while “social selling experts” are pandering to executives, trying to push this snake-oil, it brings me back to watching a close college friend. There was one particular night that said friend called this girl he met briefly at the bar, 27 times in one evening, thinking it will get him somewhere… ANYWHERE! Messaging today is out in the open for everyone to see, always remember that.
My personal do’s and don’ts:
Twitter is great forum to tap into potential synergies with the people you want to sell to. Finding that common bond can be powerful; perhaps your prospect loves the Pittsburgh Steelers, cheers for the Duke Blue Devils, maybe likes adventure sports or you can find other commonalities. These are always good ways to build personal bridges and add color to personalize your facetime with them.
Tweet approved topics from your place of business. If you work for a public company you can potentially (negatively) influence areas that you have no business talking about. Accidentally speak on a subject that can swing revenue in a bad direction, there can be a lot of collateral damage, from which you may end up in a legal issue.
Do not tweet directly to executives asking for their time. You may be able to engage them on a topic, but don’t overstep that engagement publicly.
Tweet smartly timed messaging countering a competitor’s message, without saying anything negative. We all have particularly aggressive competitors that don’t “play fair”. Don’t be afraid to leverage their messaging against them, in a respectful way.
Mind your tone.
This one is tough. Twitter is the snarkiest arena in social; it can be fun to spar. Since you can never tell the tone in an email, it’s fair to assume that someone will always misread what you posted or make an assumption of tone.
Listen with your eyes, not your fingers.
A complementary tool like TweetDeck allows you to follow multiple topics and companies, without actually following them. Smart competitors can see who you follow and may make assumptions on your client base. That’s the paranoid sales guy in me speaking, but it’s also an unfortunate reality.
Tweet at your own risk.
You can never take it back, ever. Say the wrong thing and you can be fired. This goes way beyond tone and is in a literal sense. Whatever you say is now out there, even if it’s been deleted, it’s not going anywhere… unless you work for the IRS. Kidding aside, future employers will also potentially see your messaging.
Some points on other useful social channel pitfalls:
I tend to steer clear on business topics if possible. Contributing to likes on company pushed info is legitimate. In my experience, people view this as a personal space and you are basically shilling if you do post business information on the facebooker outside of a company page… so tread lightly.
Fire away on posting business topics. It’s a true public forum on the Googlemachine, you can privatize your personal messaging and compartmentalize your work life balance.
The dreaded roundfile. Ever happen to look over a power Executive’s shoulder at their Linkedin header?
They probably have many more than the 90 unopened InMails. Always assume that a LinkedIn message will not reach your target. With the overwhelming majority of email through LinkedIn going directly to peoples’ personal email, high probability that it may be sitting in with the countless other pieces of spam they receive.
LinkedIn is a valuable tool, the connections and correlations you can gain are immense. But also keep in mind that this site was designed as a job board for recruiters. Of note on this subject, the phone number that is listed on someone’s LinkedIn page is often their personal number. Do not ever dial that number without permission.
When you see something interesting about one of your prospects (a funding event for their company, a promotion, them being featured somewhere socially), it’s a reason to call. In that process, complement them genuinely.
In my follow up emails, I will usually reference the post that I saw of them and even take a small screengrab and include it in that email. Being attentive and caring about your prospects helps to win business. Like the classic Roosevelt quote states, “People don’t care how much you know until they know that you care”…. Truer now, than ever before.
In closing, your presence on social media is what you make of it. Listen carefully for hints on how you can speak in an educated fashion and personalize your interactions.
Be mindful, it’s easier to slit your own throat than you think. Social media is a great tool to personalize your interactions and the best mechanism to listen… just don’t assume you are winning anything with it. Nothing trumps value and benefit when you are speaking with your potential buyers. Small talk about personal preferences assists, but how you can make/save money and/or time is what your prospect really wants to hear.