Utilizing the appropriate social media to tools to improve sales performance represents an investment of time, and depending on the types of tools that you are using, money.
A common myth is that social media doesn’t actually work; in terms of driving the sales process forward. It does, IF, you have an open mind, you know what you are doing while participating online and you are very clear about the results you want to achieve.
That’s the rub. Too many sales people get started with LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Plaxo or any other social tool because someone else invited them or suggested that they should. Maybe that happened to you. Or, one of your bosses heard social media was cool, so they told you to get going. So, you dutifully went and signed up. You probably then said to yourself, “OK, I’m here. Now what?”
To make the most of your investment in the social sales space, here are 6 behaviors to avoid if you want to achieve sales success.
• Failure to begin with a social sales strategy. Yes, I know, planning is sometimes about the last thing you want to sit down to think about, but it’s critical if you expect to see an ROI. Failing to plan how you will use social tools is a recipe for failing altogether. If you don’t have a plan, how can you measure success? Would you really hit the highways expecting to get from Atlanta to Los Angeles without a map? Sure, you would probably end up there eventually (well, maybe not), but doesn’t it make a lot more sense to first determine where you are headed? Of course it does. Same thing with social media.
o Solution: Sales executives should schedule a social media planning session with their teams. Make sure that everyone on the team has the same understanding of what and why you are participating online. Discuss how you will measure and track results. Following that initial planning, discuss progress, lessons learned and share best practices during regular team meetings. This will help to keep everyone on track.
• Lack of buy-in from top management. Many sales executives (and their bosses) are, unfortunately, still living in yesterday’s business world. They either see social media as a passing fad or a threat to their view of how the sales process works. Fear of what they do not understand keeps them rooted in outdated approaches to acquiring new customers and serving the ones that they already have.
o Solution: Education. And, I don’t mean a Twitter training class. Bring in outside help to properly educate your management teams on the business value and benefits to using social media. Recently, Dell announced that they’d sold an estimated $6.5 million in products and services using Twitter. LinkedIn has 70 million+ users with 66% of them listed as “key decision makers”. Are your sales people in front of them?
• Lack of adequate training. Sales managers often assume that understanding and learning how to use social media tools is easy as learning email. Not so. Most of the tools themselves are fairly easy to figure out, but do your sales people understand how to create dashboards to “link” their various social sites, instead of having to visit them individually? Your sales team members probably understand how to invite colleagues to join them on LinkedIn, but do they know how to create dynamic lead generation lists that they can use for their prospecting efforts? Inadequate training is guaranteed to deliver lackluster results. Make the investment. It’s worth it.
o Solution: Provide the team with webinar training, classroom sessions, accountability telecalls and team coaching. The tendency is to go cheap, but the investment in proper usage training on the front end will give you a huge leg up in achieving your objectives. You may need to bring in outside help, and it would be a good idea to hire someone who has extensive sales and technology background. Anyone can teach your sales people to click on buttons, but I’m pretty sure you need them to understand more than that.
• Expecting immediate results. This, very unrealistic, expectation will bite your sales people in the backside fast. Using social networking to further your sales efforts takes time. By the way, this isn’t all that different from traditional offline selling. The likelihood that one of your sales people meets that next million dollar customer at the one networking meeting they just attended is pretty slim. Not to mention that sales people often attend meetings that probably will NEVER produce a sales result.
o Solution: Keep your focus on the bigger picture. More than ever, a sale is about building a relationship with someone that advances the sale forward. The more expensive your product or service, the longer the sales cycle is. You already know this, so why insist that if you use social media it must deliver a result today? Here’s the good news though. Using social sales tools effectively will SHRINK the sales cycle, because your sales people will be reaching the right decision makers faster without driving all over town. Isn’t that what every sales organization wants…to close sales faster?
• Sales people are supposed to sell not hang out on Facebook.
o Solution: Change your ‘tude. If your attitude is that your sales people are just “hanging out” then you either never helped them create their plan for being there, or you believe that this social media stuff is just dribble. Here’s the thing. If your ideal customer isn’t likely to be on Facebook then, of course, your sales people shouldn’t be spending time there. But, what if your perfect client does participate on Facebook? Shouldn’t your sales people be engaged where their buyer is likely to be? The answer is easy – yes! It is time to accept that integrating social tools into your sales process not only makes sense, but is critical.
• No time. This is a common complaint. The reason that people get hung up on the time thing is that they consider the use of social media an “add-on” to an already packed day. The reality is that there is wasted time on the calendar of every sales person in your organization. Meetings with non-decision makers. Networking events that fall flat. Chasing down leads that are poorly qualified.
o Solution: Put all your sales people through a time tracking exercise. Have them track every activity on a daily basis for one week. Each activity should note the length of time it took to complete. At the end of one week, I think you will be surprised by the results. If, at that point, your sales people haven’t found at least 30 minutes a day of wasted time that they can instead use for online networking – it would be a first. But, just in case it ends up being true for your sales team, please drop me a note. I’ll need to award you a prize to celebrate.