Social selling is nothing new. It's been occurring in some form or fashion since the dawn of selling. Family members would ask other family members which salespeople could be trusted. Neighbors would ask neighbors about their experiences with products. Dissatisfied customers would tell anyone who would listen about their negative experiences. All of these are examples of social selling. Prior to the explosion of social media, these conversations took place in very limited circles, and were largely imperceptible and impenetrable to salespeople. That has all changed.
The New Social Circle
For eons, a person's social circle was largely limited to the people who lived within walking distance. Advances in technology first brought mail service, then telephone connections. Even then, the conversations people had were largely with people they already knew, limiting the impact.
Today's social circles include every person connected to the internet. A conversation about a brand or salesperson can go "viral" on social media channels, reaching millions of previously unconnected people in a matter of hours. A single positive or negative experience can change the impressions of millions of people, many of whom could be potential prospects.
The new paradigm of social selling allows salespeople to monitor and penetrate these conversations. Doing this in an obtrusive way could easily turn the conversation against you, so care must be taken. Being pushy or reactionary could turn the entire social media channel against you. People come to these channels to socialize--if they feel like you're only there to push a product, things can turn ugly fast.
Good social selling involves monitoring brand mentions and responding quickly and effectively to any issues that may arise. It also involves providing useful, relevant information to prospects on a variety of social media channels. This information should not be focused on selling, but focused on creating a more informed pool of prospects. There are prospects out there who want your products, have budgeted for them, and have a timeline for purchasing--they just need to find a trusted provider. Good social selling establishes you as that provider.
Making Social Selling Work for You
Social selling offers you an opportunity to establish a personal brand, separate from the products you're selling. Prospects can go to a thousand different sources to find out about your products. They have fewer options for finding out about you. Social selling allows you to establish the trust and rapport that used to be developed on the sales floor.
You can do this by engaging in genuine conversations with your prospects and customers. Providing them with timely information about things that interest them shows that you actually care about them beyond their wallets. Responding to questions or concerns establishes your value as a go-to person for pre- and post-sale questions. Social selling is your opportunity to differentiate yourself from all the other salespeople that your prospects could turn to.
Double Edged, but Worth the Effort
Everyone has seen social selling mistakes blow up on the internet. There are entire websites devoted to disastrous social selling efforts. These get a lot of attention, and can scare salespeople away from social media altogether. What doesn't get as much attention are the millions of successful social selling efforts that take place every single day.
Almost all of these disasters can be traced to poorly conceived efforts and reactionary behavior. A well-planned and consistently executed social selling plan won't experience these types of meltdowns. Thoughtful responses backed by relevant information will defuse even the most dedicated internet trolls. Plan ahead, focus on success, and social selling will become an invaluable tool for your sales efforts.