A Most Memorable Close: Sales and Marketing Management
ABC’s of Sales Leadership

How to Make Social Networking Part of Your Sales Process

Social networking is no longer a social phenomenon; it has become an integral part of a company’s sales and marketing process. A study released by Wetpaint and the Altimeter Group shows that companies that most utilize social networking to generate sales grew, on average, 18 percent last year, while companies that used social networking the least declined, on average, by 6 percent.

Below are five practical tips for improving the sales process with social-networking techniques.

1. Creating trust and rapport

Imagine yourself inside the mind of your sales prospect as he or she checks your credibility using social-networking sites such as LinkedIn.. Make it easy for your prospects to learn more about you.

Action tip: You can drag and move the information categories on the left to suit your needs. For example, if you are looking for a job, move your experience and education headings up front. If you want to impress your prospects, move your summary and your recommendations to the top. Make it easy for your target visitors to quickly find what they need.

2. Prospecting

Selling has moved from a pitch model to a conversation model. Prospects are not interested in taking your calls or reading your emails. Adapt your prospecting strategy to the opportunities created by the conversation economy. Don’t cold call, social call instead.

Action tip: Start a conversation or join conversations online. How? Create a LinkedIn group and publish fresh information about your product or service. Interview existing customers on a flip phone, upload their videos on Facebook or your blog, and tweet about it. Share your product/service PPT on Slideshare.com. Follow your prospects on Twitter and monitor their tweets. Too busy to set this all up? Subscribe to Inside View to get corporate and social information about your prospects on one screen.

3. The first call

Most salespeople use social-media introductions to schedule a phone call with prospects. A sales manager of a software company recently came up with the idea to leverage social media and have the prospect make the first call to the salesperson. How? His sales team searches daily for tweets that contain the company name or product name. His salespeople find two or three relevant tweets every day. Instead of connecting with prospects directly, the sales manager has set up a network of customers who are willing to tweet on his company’s behalf.

A recent example: The sales manager’s company noticed that someone from Starbucks tweeted a question about the company’s service. A sales rep emailed his closest customer contact in the same city – a Microsoft exec. The Microsoft executive then tweeted back to the Starbucks executive. The next day the two executives had lunch. After lunch, the prospect called the salesperson at the original company.

4. Navigating complex corporate organization structures

The larger the company, the greater the information challenges. Let’s say you want to sell to the head of research at IBM, and you want to identify the top five decision influencers. Twitter isn’t much help. YouTube features dozens of IBM Research videos. Facebook shows that IBM Research has more than 5,000 fans. LinkedIn offers an advanced search capability that will give you access to IBM executives who work in eight research centers around the world. In this unique case, it is better to first visit the IBM Research Website, read up on IBM’s history, then click on “people,” and you will find a list of IBM’s program directors, scientists, and staff members by location.

Next, go to www.vark.com and ask a question about the org structure of IBM Research. This new social-networking site sends out messages to all your connections and friends of friends. Chances are high that you will get the answer you want within a few hours.

5. Creative social networking: sales and marketing examples

Last year, Hyatt introduced a virtual concierge service on Twitter –#HyattConcierge – on which the company’s staff answers questions 24/7. The best part: Travelers save time, instead of chasing information; the answer is waiting for you on Twitter.

In LA, a company called KogiBBQ has four trucks that serve Korean Mexican tacos day and night. The company creates high-end food at street-level prices. KogiBBQ uses Twitter to communicate the truck locations and daily specials to more than 56,000 followers in the LA area.

Don’t underestimate the power of social-networking sites compared to your own corporate Website. For example, when Solidworks, a software company, featured a video of its application on its Website, more than 100 people clicked on the video. When the same video was uploaded on YouTube, more than 56,000 people viewed the video in the first year.

For information on this month's Sales 2.0 Conference in Boston on June 28th, please visit www.sales20conf.com/boston2020/.

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Twitter isn’t much help. YouTube features dozens of IBM Research videos. Facebook shows that IBM Research has more than 5,000 fans. LinkedIn offers an advanced search capability that will give you access to IBM executives who work in eight research centers around the world.

Charley Christman

This seems to be more apt for business to business applications than for the business to end user sales. We are a small Internet store which happens to have over 14,000 twitter followers (no other social), and we believe that a very small percentage of them actually see our tweets. But I still read all this with interest and hope. Keep writing. Very educational.

jamie campbell

Great points! Using social media is a great way to get your "foot in the door" by networking with people at a company and being "referred" to whom you would like to pitch a sale to. www.salesfuel.com is a sales prospecting platform that has over 36 million companies, with 32 million contacts, a built in CRM system, intergrated social networking and LinkedIN. Check it out if you have the time.

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