Contributed Column

Marketing 101

by Christine Miller, Miller Consulting LLC

Social selling to your clients

Social selling: It’s not asking about your clients’ weekends or their kids. It’s about using social media to increase sales. Do you know how it works? And should your sales reps even care?

Selling has always been about doing business with people you know. Networking and leveraging relationships through the likes of meetings, conferences, and organizations has been the traditional path for creating connections. The advent of social media has changed this model.

Social selling is the use of social media for generating leads and advancing sales. It is based on relationship-building, the aim being to have customers know who you are before you engage them in the sales cycle.

Through Sales 2.0 technology, customers can obtain company and product data long before they meet with you. Considering that the majority of prospects never — or almost never — take a meeting from a cold call or email, progressive salespeople need to know how to go from click to closed.

But to begin social selling, you need to understand it. Social selling leverages social media in order for you to identify with your customers and their influences. Traditional techniques are time consuming and limit the exposure a rep can achieve with a client base. Social selling enables salespeople to expand their reach exponentially simply by using technology that allows them to socialize on a grander scale.

Easy steps to social selling

• Find out where your customers “hang out” online.

• Be present in places that are relevant to them, not you! Visit their cyber haunts (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, etc.) and read their posts and comments.

• Sign up on their sites and add their social profiles to your customer-relations management tools. Signing up is like asking for someone’s business card. It will allow you to become more aware of that person’s needs, wants, and interests, and you’ll be able to learn more from that content than you can from some face-to-face meetings.

• Follow blogs. Set an RSS feed on your clients’ blogs and on their industry blogs. They may give you give the best information about your customers or their industry.

• Listen, listen, and listen! One of the toughest tasks for a salesperson is to know when to be quiet and let the customer have the floor. Those silent times allow the client to think and speak and share info that we desperately seek. The same principle applies to social selling. Don’t immediately jump on a site and start your sales pitch. Listen to find out what your customers are saying — about themselves, their companies, their problems, and competition.

• Gather information by creating Google Alerts for customers and their competitors. Prospects and customers will voluntarily, and publicly, scatter sales clues if you listen actively.

• Finally, reach out and make contact. Leave a message on a wall or share a tweet. Introduce your customer to other professionals who can be an asset, or share a great link. Respond to a blog. When you see a problem you can help with, reach out. Make yourself available in any medium where your customers are comfortable — online, on the phone, or in person.

With social sales, intelligence is key. Social media is changing the way people shop, and your salespeople need to know how to engage them. This is the new reality of sales. •

Christine Miller is president of Miller Consulting LLC, which helps small businesses identify, qualify, develop, and close targeted sales leads, and helps organizations find more value in existing relationships. She can be reached at chris@millersalesconsulting.com.

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