I don't know about you but recently I have found myself getting more and more distracted by the latest trend and fads, especially the social media phenomena. My reason for this is that I have been trying to get my head around social media and specifically, the impact on the sales profession.
As you may have gathered, I like to keep on top of what is current, what is emerging, and what is still an idea. This is why I make time each week to do research as it helps me navigate my way around the present and into the future. However, I am finding there is so much to read, so much to get my head around, and so much to integrate into my business that it can take up a lot of time... and it only seems to be increasing.
I read recently that 20 years ago information was doubling every 5 years, 10 years ago it was doubling every 18 months and today it is doubling every 9 minutes. There is a plethora of information - the trick, however, is knowing the right information to access.
For example, getting your head around the social media space and how Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and other online groups impact on the sales profession is a big job. This is why I think it is timely to stop and review the information I have gathered so far, make sense of it (where possible), and determine whether it can be of value to me and my business moving forward.
This is why I want to get back to basics.
As I wade through all of the information on social media, I predominantly want to get answers to a few simple questions:
- How can it help make us more and better quality sales?
- How can it help forge better relationships with our clients?
- How can it help us be more effective and competitive in the market place?
- How can it help our competitive advantage?
- How can it support our business strategy and make our lives easier (work smarter not harder)?
- How can it support our brand and increase visibility?
From my observation, there seems to be a great deal more written about social media and the Business to Consumer (B2C) space (simpler, transactional sales) than has been covered in the Business to Business (B2B) space (more complex sales interactions). As is my nature, I am usually the first to want to incorporate new things into my business and learn how it can add value, however once all the hype and excitement boils down it is important that we weigh up energy expended and value added.
From our discussions with other businesses, I am finding that I am not alone in my enthusiasm for social media or alone in my reflection of the time spent. Now, I am not proclaiming that we should go back to the Dark Ages pre the internet and shut out social media rather that we take a moment and consider how we can integrate the regular sales activities such as prospecting, face-to-face meetings, building real long term relationships and social media
While there are fantastic benefits to social media, many of our B2B clients are reporting that their sales teams are getting distracted and ignoring the tried and true tasks required to grow sales.
Getting back to basics in the B2B sales space means:
- Defining what type of clients you want for your business
- Knowing: WHO you need to be in front of? HOW you need to make contact with them for? HOW OFTEN you need to do it?
- Use your networks (where appropriate) to research and target specific referral sources, prospects and industry contracts
- Prospect, prospect, prospect for new business opportunities- for most people that means picking up the phone and calling both new-to-business and existing clients directly to make an appointment and secure a meeting
- Meet the client or prospect- find out what they really need and how they want to work with you
- Deliver on what you say you will
- Follow up with a blend of purposeful phone calls, face-to-face meetings, emails and other valued add support that they can benefit from
- Don't make assumptions- speak to people directly and regularly communicate in person
- Use resources such as Linkedin, social media and a CRM with purpose to help you forge meaningful connections and networks
Getting back to basics does not mean throwing the baby out with the bath water, it just means that while we integrate new methods into sales, we need to make sure we are still doing the necessary 'basics' to keep the sales momentum going. At this point, some of the main things we see social media adding great value in are building networks, getting a message out, getting access to information and opinions, getting your brand out there, and stimulus response activities.
But as yet (and quite possibly never), do I see social media as a replacement to purposeful prospecting, purposeful client meetings, and purposeful business relationships.
The key word here is purposeful. Social media is most effective in sales when it is applied with purpose and in context of a bigger picture and plan. So as we go back to basics, I think we need to question ourselves as to the purpose of our actions. For instance, with more people accessing Facebook and LinkedIn are we building business networks that will lead to better business opportunities via qualified contacts or are we just building networks for the sake of showing off a large number of contacts i.e. I have the most number of 'friends' syndrome.
So, I ask you these questions:
- How purposeful are your social media activities to your business?
- How can we make social media work for us in business rather than becoming a slave to it?
- How can social media enhance or hinder the sales efforts of business, especially B2B?
The social media phenomenon reminds me somewhat of the early days of the dot.com boom and how businesses were jumping in and riding the wave only to come crashing down, some learning a great deal, others worse for the experience.
I am not suggesting this will happen with social media but perhaps we should hasten slowly and make sure we do not throw out good, sound business practices for the sake of the new. I urge sales people to continue with the fundamental, basics that still give a real return and begin to integrate, where appropriate, these new tactics into sales push and pull strategies.
Does this mean ignore social media? No, not at all but it does mean that we need to put it into perspective. So, let's get back to the basics that make us real sales, real money and real relationships with the clients we want to work with.