Late last year I was looking around the office at my fellow sales colleagues and realised that unless I changed and transformed my approach to selling, I was at risk of becoming a dinosaur. We all were. And in the words of Ginni Rometty, “Be prepared to transform everything about yourself except who and what you are”.
So after some research, conversations and thinking, I realised that I wasn’t that far off what I needed to be and came up with a more complete approach on how I could apply social selling strategies to my existing kit-bag of interpersonal & communication skills, solution selling experience and the fact that I had been successfully doing this already for 20 years.
To me, social selling is about engaging with clients via social networks and methods, in a way they like to buy, and ensuring that I am part of the learning and information gathering phase of their buying process.
Leveraging social selling strategies is about getting insight into what clients are interested in, what they are thinking about and what is important to them. It also provides a modern way of informing and educating, along with what I call passive engagement.
Social selling means replacing cold calls and door knocking, with a focus on understanding clients before you reach out to them, being able to find the right client, and being able to fashion a unique, tailored and relevant approach, preferably via personal introductions.
So where to start.
Build a personal brand that will make people want to reach out to you
That means making your public profiles customer-centric and ensuring that they inspire confidence, are informative and highlight where you have helped clients previously.
To remain relevant to your target audience think about information and content that matters to them. And remember that incomplete, basic and self-focused profiles do not inspire trust and confidence.
I would start with LinkedIn and Twitter. Remembering you are better off doing two platforms well than three or four badly.
There is some much more I could say about personal branding here, but this is a good start.
People want to buy from people who can help them achieve their business objectives; not just sell them something.
Think about your own buying process. Before you even talk to a salesperson or supplier you do your own research around what’s out there, the options you might have, product reviews, online product demonstrations and articles comparing products across different vendors.
Gone are the days when the only way to access this sort of information is via the sales rep. So to be included in the conversation, you need to demonstrate a relevance to your audience around their solution requirement, when they want and when they get started.
Creating and sharing content that informs and teaches is a great way of demonstrating relevance to your audience and a way of participating in the client research process.
The right sort of content sharing and commentary demonstrates to your audience your relevance to them and capability around a business issue or technology trend. If you can inform and teach, your audience will see you as someone who can help them rather than simply someone who wants to sell them something.
Content is King
Sharing content and building your own content is important in achieving this because it allows you to participate in the early phases of the clients buying process. And remember, if you’re not participating here, you probably won’t be in the mix when they come to buy something.
As highlighted above, to be relevant to your target audience think about what sort of information and content that would matter to them, assist them, and then start sharing that.
As an example, if you are in the cloud services business share content around cloud services, key trends and directions, pitfalls and things to watch out for, on top of case studies and use-cases. These are the sorts of things that will be of interest to someone researching for a cloud services solution.
Often the best way to demonstrate to your audience that you understand a subject area or solution type is to show them. And doing that via curated content, participating in online user forums, commenting on their posts or just participating in the general online conversation, is the way to start doing this.
Make 75% of what you share relevant to your audience and the other 25% professionally relevant. Be consistent and regular. And when you share an article, don’t just share the link, but write an insight you took out of the article or why you’ve shared it. This will demonstrate capability and insight to your target audience, and help you drive relevance with your audience.
If you really want to demonstrate thought leadership to your audience you will need to create your own content. And the best way to start doing this is finding something you are passionate about and writing about it. Make sure it is relevant to your audience and show them your capability in that area.
This is only the start and there are a few really good books on this subject already. But please let me know what you think and if this has been informative. Be really interested in getting your feedback.