In part one of her interview, Barbara Giamanco, President and Social Sales Strategist of Social Centered Selling, set out the basics of ‘social selling’. Here Barbara, a leading thinker on the evolution of selling, co-author of The New Handshake: Sales Meets Social Media, author of the Harvard Business Review article Tweet Me, Friend Me, Make Me Buy, and publisher of Social Sales Talk and Women in Sales and Marketing on Paper.li, gives actionable tips on how to optimise the new sales process.

What mistakes do you typically see businesses making when they try social selling?

These are the common mistakes: no plan for what they are trying to accomplish, unrealistic expectations about the return on investment, confusion about where marketing fits and where sales fits, using social platforms to crank out their traditional sales spam, not providing training to their people, no clear guidance for salespeople about how to represent the company online, no follow-up or accountability on the part of sales management to ensure that people are using the tools as intended in order to drive to the desired sales results. These are a few of the common challenges. There are others, but they generally all lead back to not have clear vision of what needs to happen from the beginning.

I mentioned unrealistic expectations and along with that goes patience. I’m not sure why there is an expectation that if I jump on social media for a week the deals will come pouring in. Let me be the one to say that no, throwing up that LinkedIn profile doesn’t automatically guarantee that million dollar contract. Just like traditional offline networking, prospecting and referral building, it is a process that needs to be worked in order to provide benefits. The great news is that the time invested online does in fact speed up the sales cycle IF you approach it in the right way.

What do you attribute these mistakes to?

Sales management is under some serious pressure to generate revenue, so that pressure often leads to a transactional selling mind-set.

There is also a bit of stubbornness from salespeople, especially those that have been very successful. They are thinking that what they’ve done thus far worked, so why change. But in many cases, if you look carefully, you will see that the sales techniques of the past have far less effectiveness now. Social selling isn’t just about learning new technology, it really requires a shift in thinking about how to approach the process of sales in today’s evolved marketplace.

Finally, I would say that many sales folks have some serious misunderstanding about how social media works for business. They see their kids’ texting or Facebooking all day and think that’s what social media is all about. The biggest mistake of all is not making the time to learn how important social media is in general, but also how it is a critical investment that sales management needs to make in order to increase revenue, decrease sales cycle times and improve those deal win rates.

How can businesses identify the right social networks for them?

It goes back to your plan and target audience and the type of business that you are in. For example, people are SO worked up about Pinterest, which I love, by the way. But Pinterest works if you have a business that is more visually oriented and appeals to a specific type of market. What I mean by that is that Pinterest is 90% women (in the US anyway) and the brands actually making money are those in home décor, anything to do with weddings, parties, family events, food/beverage, cars, etc. But if you are trying to reach the Chief Security Officer at a company, are you going to be using Pinterest to find them, talk to them and network with them? Probably not.

Before choosing any platform to invest time in, understand what is it designed to do and what market it specifically appeals too. My mantra is to go where your customers are likely to be.

If getting your social selling process right takes time, are there any quick fixes for generating more leads or sales?

Actually, I don’t like the words “quick fix” but I can offer at least one LinkedIn technique that will speed things up for you right now. The caveat is that what I’m about to share with you will depend on the size and quality of your network and the LinkedIn groups that you subscribe to.

  • In LinkedIn, use “Advanced People Search”. Start by clicking on “advanced search” at the upper right of the navigation bar
  • Next, build your lead list. It can be based on title or keywords. Choose industry, break down by 10, 25, 35, 50, 75, 100 mile radius of your business zip code
  • Run the search based on first level, second level and groups. I don’t worry about third level, because it is tougher to reach those folks. And, here is where choosing the right groups (with your target buyer in them) that are also large in size helps your search results
  • After you set up your criteria, click on search and view your results
  • The most important thing to do now is to SAVE that list. With LinkedIn’s free version, you can save 3 separate lists. Why save? Because now, week to week, LinkedIn sends you a summary email with a list of all the new people joining your network (first, second or groups) during that week. You don’t have to keep searching over and over again for individuals. You get the technology to work for you
  • This weekly list becomes a vehicle for engaging with your prospects quickly. This tip alone will speed up the sales process for people using LinkedIn.

What is the publishing goal/goals of ‘Social Sales Talk’ and ‘Women in Sales and Marketing’?

Content is what drives visibility and creates a perception of credibility in the minds of others. I want to share my own content and do, but I also know that if everything always came from just me, it would be boring. I believe in providing value to the people in my networks and my potential customers. For that reason, I follow and share the content of other thought leaders in the worlds of sales, marketing and social media. I don’t profess to know it all, nor does my company deliver every conceivable service that someone might want. I like to be in a position to connect people to resources, in addition to mine, that will benefit their business. In doing so, I continue to be viewed as a resource for important, relevant and real-time information about these worlds.

How do they fit with or into your marketing (or sales) strategy?

Visibility is first. Sharing great content is second. Sharing content through a mix of vehicles makes sense, because you never know at what point someone enters your sales funnel.

Do you have a publishing process?

Yes. My process includes using technology to organize and automate certain types of content. Paper.li is one of the tools that I use and it is awesome because I cued up the people and type of content that I wanted to curate and it is automated, so that daily my papers post on Twitter as part of my automated process. I don’t believe in bots and mix in real-time messages during the day!

But I do believe in managing time and that’s the biggest challenge that most salespeople face. How do I do all of this and still have time to sell? I also use Hootsuite to organize all of my Twitter information and post to and monitor my various social sites.

What tangible return do you see from your papers?

First, there is the WOW factor! I’ve showed the papers during several recent trainings and keynotes. People think they look cool but love knowing that once it is set up, the work happens automatically. Two, people are definitely picking it up and re-tweeting and sharing. Finally, I use it as a vehicle to send to new prospects as examples of what customers will learn about during training programs we are discussing. By the way, it is worth investing in the premium version to remove the ads. I love that my papers are branded with our logo in the background, which further reinforces the brand.

Questions for Barbara? Post them in the comments below.

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