Over the past year or so, there has been a new ‘hot term’ doing the rounds within the sales industry:
People have started to sell courses on social selling, debates have been broadcast on the benefits of social selling and some even claim that sales people can meet their targets solely by using social selling.
But, what on earth is social selling?
Social selling is simply the act of sales people developing relationships with the prospects during the sales process. In this modern technical age, this is normally conducted on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and most predominately on LinkedIn. This is done by direct communications between a prospect and the sales person, by writing blog posts or conversation starting blogs and trying to appear as the expert in the field.
At this point in time, it is very clear to point out that social selling is not a new phenomenon. For years, decades perhaps, direct selling companies (C2C) have worked tirelessly to develop relationships with their customers and used it as a clear cut tactic to help sell their wares. However it is only in recent years that those in the B2B sector have realised that behind every business is a person; an individual with feelings, emotions and desires. Many sales professionals are now trying to develop relationships with their prospects using social selling as a vital tool in their arsenal.
Should you be that concerned about social selling? Sort of.
If you look behind the science of social selling, then of course you should be using social selling techniques as part of your sales process. We all know, that people buy from people. If a buyer has some form of rapport with a seller, and there is a familiar ground that they both sit on then there is a likelihood that a purchase will occur. As mentioned earlier, this is not anything new and has been used for decades. However with the advent of social media platforms social selling has been given a new lease of life with many people now swearing by the technique.
However, do not get sucked in to the debates that seem to spur off about social selling vs traditional sales techniques. Some argue (and it is normally those trying to sell social selling courses bizarrely), that sales people can these days sell solely on social media using social selling tactics. However, many will counter that sales people still need to pick up the phone, attend face to face meetings and actually close a sale. The problem here, is that the truth of the matter is that both social selling and traditional sales techniques are successful and a successful sales person should be using every tool at their disposal to make a sale; not just relying on one tactic.
I am a massive advocate in relationship development during the prospecting stage of a sale, and even the continuation of a relationship after a sale is made or lost; one of the many reasons why I wrote Relationship Selling. If you are trying to make any sale without trying to develop some form of relationship or trying to show any kind of familiarity with your prospect then you will find the sale will be a massive uphill battle. So for me, social selling does hold a place in the sales world and should be used as best as possible.
That being said, please do not get caught up in the romance of social selling. Don’t feel you have to attend courses on social selling willy nilly if all that you will be taught is how to use LinkedIn and how to edit your profile (yes, I have seen these courses being sold for an awful lot of money). Also, do not feel that you have to spend hours and hours on social media, commenting needlessly on posts. There is nothing I hate more than seeing people commenting on posts saying ‘congratulations’ when there is a massive doubt that they actually mean it – it just looks fake. On the flip side of that, don’t just feel you can make sales without any form of social interaction either on the phone or on social media. Still to this day I see and hear sales people trying to make a sale with a prospect when they have no idea what their prospect does, wants, or even likes.
Social Selling, in a nutshell is nothing new. It is the ability for sales people to interact directly with their prospect and to develop a relationship. This is nothing new. Social media has allowed for a whole new host of sales professionals to find social selling and to try to bring it into the modern age. If you are interacting with people on social media, sending them cards in the post, phoning them up and sending them personalised emails the chances are you are social selling without even knowing it.
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