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Monday, August 15, 2016

Social Selling Is Not About Where You Went to Dinner

Using social media in selling takes a much more sophisticated approach and mindset and requires an investment of time to learn what it really is and how to use it.

The premise of the disappointing stats over social media converting more sales is it isn’t making deals happen faster. It won’t make it happen faster, but it will help you retain your pipeline prospects, stay on top of deals, and put you top of mind with them vs. your competition.

Social media for sales DOES NOT mean to be online tweeting and sharing silly things, it isn’t trolling someone’s Facebook profile waiting for them to say they want to buy a supply chain management platform or agree to a meeting they don’t want regardless if you had an airplane write it in the sky.

What social media DOES:

  • Lets you “listen” to what your prospects and their companies are doing.
  • Lets you “watch” what they are getting involved in, groups, etc. that tells you their stage of discovery.
  • Allows you to “add value” to your discussion with them based on the above.
  • “Fills in white space” that would normally be radio silent between you and your prospect and hence deteriorate the impact of the first discussion.
  • Allows you to become “involved” in a more meaningful way in their buying process and thus give you greater influence.

The other thing about social media is there is an element of giving back, relationship building, engagement. Unfortunately my experience has been that unless a sales rep has that spirit of just helping people, they aren’t into the “social” aspect of social media. So they will do something on it if there is a high level of WIFM (What’s In It For Me?)

The problems with pipeline management are numerous and multi-faceted, but one of them is that sales teams aren’t incentivized to build relationships. Management doesn’t celebrate identifying a huge deal 9 months out, and no one wants to spend the time on it. So they throw it back into the “marketing automation bucket” if there is one, and plan to engage later if it bubbles up. Usually what happens is they might reach out in 9 months to find they lost the deal. So they blame marketing for giving them a lousy lead and move on to the next one.

The statistics in one of the articles about the lack of results actually build the case for getting more involved.

  • The number of calls it takes to reach a prospect isn’t going to change–that is just due to being busy. No short cuts there. There is no holy grail to make people easier to access, persistence is the holy grail.
  • Sales cycles are longer–all the more reason to monitor what they are doing
  • Closing percentages are lower–so treat each prospect with value and engage

Early stage opportunities are actually ones where you have a lot of potential influence and aren’t coming in to try and displace a relationship they have with another provider and is late stage. I have very astute client sales teams that work with us and know how to stay engaged and get the business. I only work with companies that “get” the relationship building aspect of 500K+ deals.

The problem with the stated premise is social media doesn’t close deals, is if you are only looking at what transactions directly map to a deal through social media activity–that is not the right measurement. A better measurement is to look at the ones you kept track of in a meaningful way and acted on that information–how many of those did you not lose to the competition?


Stop Talking While I'm Interrupting

This statement gets back to the quantity versus quality leads. Lead generation companies making buckshot calls to countless companies hoping one will hit the target. A bit of research may reveal that not only is this company you are calling NOT a potential client, but that they may indeed be a competitor offering the same services.

This reminds me of tradeshow, webinar and other “guest” situations. Periodically, I’ll bring a customer or partner to tradeshows and other sponsored events as my guest. Their company name is usually included in the registration, yet no one vets the list so perhaps up to four years later our main line is receiving calls seeking out our “guest” as if they work for our company. Did you read this part: “FOUR YEARS LATER.” How big was that event list? Chances are a bit of research on LinkedIn would have revealed they are currently a VP at a large software company and has been since the time of the past event.

Along the same line of thought, has this happened to you? When I’m a visitor to various websites, behind the scenes there is a script generating notifications that someone has crossed their online boundary, triggering the “follow up” system, creating a new lead in their CRM, even though I have tripped the alarm on this site several other times – also generating a new lead. The phone rings within minutes and the call is from the company whose site I’m on. There are actually companies sites I no longer choose to share their content because every time I do, I get an email and a call within an hour without specifically expressing interest in receiving a call. The total lack of caring about the 15 other times they called for the sake of MAYBE this time I might be interested, has turned me off completely to a point I deliberately avoid the sites and the companies. These companies have so much thoughtless automation in place without checks and comparison  that it has led me to not only avoid their sites, but to make a mental note to not recommend this model to clients ever.

The good thing is as long as this is the type of outreach that goes on, my company remains in high demand. But what is going on in the industry continues to reinforce the distaste people have for salespeople. With all the great tools in the sales enablement space today, reps continue to disable themselves by not using them right. Part of the hiring process for companies needs to be surfacing their personal views on prospects and their view of them as people, and how they make sure they personally add value to their interactions. In fact, one of my hiring questions is “Tell me about a time you went above and beyond for a company you worked for.” I had one guy tell me “Wow Mari Anne, you are really making me stretch my brain here….” Evaluate your hiring model to make sure you aren’t hiring someone that couldn’t care less about your prospects you invested in to aquire. And then evaluate your training and monitoring to make sure you aren’t having a complete break-down on the front lines of customer engagement. I did a blog post a while back about that Last Mile of Engagement, and that is where the majority of lead generation investments are lost in how they are handled by reps.