Today's blog post is by Joanne Black, America’s top referral sales expert. Visit www.nomorecoldcalling.com for more articles, tips, and free resources. You can also find Joanne on Twitter: @ReferralSales.
George thought he’d nailed the link between social selling and referrals, but as it turns out, he had merely bought into the popular misconception that social media would do his job for him.
George knew lots of people who surely knew lots of people. So he decided to use email and LinkedIn to ask his vast network for referrals, but no one responded. The problem was that George had forgotten about the social part of social selling.
Sales is social, but too many people forget that the quality of their relationships, not the quantity of their connections, really counts. You can collect LinkedIn connections like baseball cards and get nowhere, or you make the connections you already have stronger.
Yes, George knew a lot of people, but he hadn’t been in touch with many of them for a year or more. He had contacts, not relationships. Now he needed to reconnect on social media and schedule time to talk – to find out how their circumstances had changed and in what ways he might be able to help them.
“That’s a lot of work,” he said.
Of course it’s a lot of work, but it’s our job as salespeople. If bringing in new business was as simple as pushing a few buttons, we’d have to find new careers.
Stop Typing and Start Talking
Who doesn’t love a good shortcut? While there’s much to be said for efficiency, however, you can’t get caught taking shortcuts when it comes to conversations.
The art of conversation is your competitive advantage. Conversation is the key to problem solving and relationship building, which are at the core of social selling. It’s also become an increasingly unique skill set. The digital world, as great as it is, has left an entire generation of salespeople afraid to pick up the phone and have real conversations. Text messages with truncated words or 140-character Twitter posts do not facilitate the kind of meaningful, effective dialogue that increases sales conversions or gets you referrals.
People do business with people, not with robots or tweets or any other fancy technology. Social media is the place to start a conversation and begin a relationship, not to pitch your services or ask for referrals. That’s like walking up to someone and saying, “Hey, do me a favor,” without even asking how the other person is doing.
Show up online as you would in person. Just because you’re online doesn’t mean social etiquette is off the table.
Referral Selling IS Social Selling
There’s a direct correlation between your personal connections, ability to generate referral introductions, and sales success. Referral selling is the most personal, most social kind of selling you can do. When I refer you, my reputation’s on the line, so I need to be sure you’ll take care of my relationship as I would.
Social selling is a great way to expedite the first few important steps in prospecting: researching potential clients and identifying referral sources. Engage people on social media, then pick up the phone and take the conversation offline. Find out how your referral source knows the person you want to meet. Explain the business reason you want an introduction, and then ask how you can reciprocate.
It’s never too soon (or too late) to ask for referrals, help someone, contribute to a conversation, say thanks, or just catch up. Step out from behind the technology curtain and discover the real world. It’s waiting for you.