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Social Selling: The Sales Process Will Never Be the Same!

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June 18, 2011
Sales & Marketing
Carol Verret - carol@carolverret.com

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It is apparent that social selling has arrived when Geoffrey Gitomer has a new book out on the subject. The technology and the reach of social media is morphing faster than you can say Zuckerberg.  The infusion of Goldman Sachs capital into Facebook has spawned enormous changes in the social network – more specifically changes that now make it a B2C selling channel.

Facebook is not the total story; social selling involves using all of the social network platforms and blogs to deliver a consistent and compelling message.  “I don’t believe there is one platform that is more effective than others. I do believe that all of them must be interconnected in order to create real success in business social media,” said Gitomer in a recent Forbes interview (Dan Schawabel interview, April 15, 2011).

Apart from the OgilvyOne white paper mentioned in this author’s previous article in Hospitality Upgrade and Geoffrey Gitomer’s book, most of the information on social selling comes from blogs.  As a social media/user generated content vehicle this would appear to be appropriate.  Social media is changing so fast that by the time a book is written social selling will have almost moved on to another form with new tools.   

eMarketer.com has been tracking the use of social media in customer acquisition and conducting surveys to measure the effectiveness of various social media in generating leads on both a B2C and B2B basis.  In addition, companies are measuring the cost per lead and preferred method of follow up using social media.

Sales has always been about relationships but according to an InsideView blog, “Social media has greatly increased the scale and reach of our relationship networks (people with whom we maintain some degree of one-to-one contact) and peer networks (people we don’t know but whom we see as people like me, or in the case of B2B companies like mine.” (InsideView blog, March 2011) The universe of prospects is now within reach, not limited to the ones in the backyard.

When we reference social selling, we are not talking about marketing but actual selling processes – measurable and quantifiable.  Let’s start with a B2C example and then move to a B2B example.

Facebook.  Facebook’s’ switch from FBML to iFrames has made it possible to use Facebook as a booking channel.  A recent article by Lorraine Heller writing about a study by PhoCusWright revealed, “66 percent of travellers are on Facebook. Facebook referrals are far more likely to convert into bookings than are referrals from travel review sites.” 1  If that is the case, imagine having an interface to the hotel’s booking engine directly on the hotel’s Facebook page. 

Social media and the booking widget on Facebook can also level the playing field for independent hotels. Katarina Doumeng, director of sales, marketing and Internet, Bolongo Bay, a small independent property in St. Thomas told HotelNewsNow, “In the last four weeks, for example, we had 207 people on Facebook who either booked or checked rates. That is big, since we are a 62-room property.” 2  This makes Facebook a distribution channel that is measurable, quantifiable and, not least of all, free.

LinkedIn.  LinkedIn is the planet’s biggest B2B prospecting tool.  It goes well beyond the network building and discussion groups.  The search feature in LinkedIn is its most powerful tool.  “At this moment in 2011, business social media is still in its infancy, but a random job title search on LinkedIn in a defined geographic region will not only net hundreds of new prospects, it will also tell you how these prospects are related to you and who in your network might serve as an introduction – thereby making it a warm call,” said Geoffrey Gitomer in the same interview mentioned above. 

However, to make yourself found in search you need to include the keywords that people would search for. If your job title is chief imagination officer, while an interesting title, it may not appear in a targeted search.  If someone is looking for services you or your company provide remember to put yourself in the mindset of the person that may be doing the search and use those keywords in your profile.  

Participating in groups by posting interesting articles and asking questions increases your profile appeal  as well as pushing out to your network of contacts items of interest also increases interest in you.  How do you measure the success of your visibility on LinkedIn?  It’s right there on the right side of your home page that tells you how many times you have appeared in search and how many and who has looked at your profile. 
Once you have found that prospect on social media, how do you engage them and follow up? eMarketer also did a survey on how companies and sales people can engage and follow up with socially generated leads.  It would only make sense that a lead generated on social media would be amenable to having the follow up conducted on social media.

Does this mean never having phone contact with a prospect? No, of course not but it means that the approach to a new prospect comes with an introduction from someone they know or through familiarity with the sales person through their social media engagement.  

Does this mean that the cold phone call is dead?  If you are making cold phone calls from lists or to people that never answer their phones or return messages, let’s hope so! 

Carol Verret and Associates Consulting and Training offers services in the areas of sales, revenue management and customer service. She can be reached at (303) 618-4065 or by email at carol@carolverret.com.

1 (PhoCusWright, Lorraine Heller, April 19, 2011)
2 (HotelNewsNow, Christine Blank, 3/23/11)

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