Have you been wondering how to up your sales?

Barbara Giamanco is President and Social Sales Strategist of Social Centered Selling, and 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, she is a mine of information on ‘social selling’. She agreed to share her insights in a two-part interview.

What’s your message in your book ‘The New Handshake’?

The main message of the book is that, as a result of the internet and social media platforms and technology, sales is undergoing an evolution.

The organized process of selling hasn’t changed much in over 100 years and that’s the big problem today. Unlike in years past, our prospects have easy access to information…about us, our competitors, products, services, what their peers are saying, what your customers are saying and more. They expect you to understand their business, and they want you to demonstrate to them how you actually add some real tangible value to the process. Buyer expectations are very different but, unfortunately, across many sales organizations people continue to do what they’ve always done, and then wonder why sales continue to decline or are stagnant.

HOW you sell today is more important than WHAT you sell, so the book focuses on a new way to network, prospect, build referrals, generate leads, do pre-sales call research and more. Social media does not replace great offline sales practices, but smart salespeople are figuring out that if they don’t master the art of using technology to their advantage, they fall farther behind.

What’s the difference between using social for marketing and ‘social selling’? Where does marketing become selling?

Great question! In fact, I wrote a blog post about it.

I don’t believe that marketing ever becomes selling in the true sense of the word. Marketing is defined as the activity and process for creating, communicating and delivering offers that have value to customers and prospects. A sale is the act of selling a product or service in return for money or other compensation.

In other words, marketing creates broad-based awareness for the company. Their job is to pull people into the sales funnel with interesting offers or campaigns and to nurture the prospect along until they show signals that they are ready to buy. At that point, leads are handed-off to sales whose goal is then to follow the lead through to close. The relationship between the two groups needs to be a symbiotic one and that is now critically important when integrating social media into the business of sales and marketing.

Social media marketing continues to focus on cultivating brand awareness and loyalty. Social selling is all about salespeople using the technology to get to the right buyer – with the right message – more quickly. If you work in a company where sales leads are provided to you, then technology can be used to do a little homework to craft a more relevant message before engaging with your prospect. And your message should not be a sales pitch!

Sales executives still say that their biggest challenges are: getting more leads into the pipeline, improving win rates, and shrinking the sales cycle. Using tools like LinkedIn and InsideView you get ahead of the sales curve. Instead of waiting for opportunities to come to you, you can more pro-actively surface them before the competition does.

Let’s get to the practical! How does a business go about social selling? What are the steps to implement?

Aside from the fact that they can call me (LoL) to discuss their sales goals and how social selling might fit, here are the things to be thinking about when getting started.

  • Plan – define what you want to accomplish and why. Set goals that can be measured. Ensure that social usage policies are established. Get your folks training. Determine how marketing will support sales with content and determine how social media leads will be handed off, measured and tracked as part of your normal lead generation/CRM process.
  • Target – your audience must be clearly defined; otherwise, you will have trouble finding groups and social communities where your prospect goes for assistance and the sourcing of crowd recommendations, help and support. To get ahead of the sales cycle, in other words, position yourself as a valuable and credible resource to members of key groups and that will pay you dividends in terms of new connections, leads and sales deals.
  • Choose – you don’t need every tool out there. If you sell B2B, LinkedIn is a good place to start for your networking. Augment LinkedIn with a good business intelligence tool. We use InsideView because it works seamlessly with LinkedIn, but it is also sourcing real-time information from across the web every minute of the day. That real-time information can make the difference between getting in front of a deal and not having a shot at it at all. In full disclosure, we are partners of InsideView. Use this link to check out the incredibly powerful free version to get started.
  • Implement – like anything else, if you do not consistently implement and execute upon your plans, you’ll flounder around. In the world of social selling, visibility is the key. If you cannot be found, you lose. Sharing valuable content – yours, the company’s, industry experts’ – helps you become known as a thought leader in your field. That leads to people seeking you out for business.
  • Measure – it is important to track how your social selling activities are working. In the plan I mentioned earlier, you should have defined those goals for sales/marketing and salespeople. What will you measure for sales in total? More leads, increase in net new sales appointments, increase in size of collective sales network, etc. What about marketing? Is it a certain amount of content per month, their ability to identify/qualify leads that get handed to sales, total influence generated for the company, etc. For salespeople it may be increasing the size of their personal network, doubling the number of new sales calls they need to make, generating X number of new leads in the pipeline and more. The idea with measurement is to ensure that certain tactical activities are working and that people remain accountable for undertaking the activities that lead to the goals that have been established in their respective areas.

Want to know a great LinkedIn tip that will speed up your sales? And the typical mistakes that businesses make when selling? Then stay tuned for part two of Barbara’s interview! 

Liz Wilson
Liz Wilson writes copy in the Marketing Communications team at Orange Switzerland and used to edit this blog. She likes talking about content, copywriting and social media on her personal blog.

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