I’ve always been very impatient. I guess I’m far from being unique, as in the current world of instant gratification, we want everything and we want it super fast, preferably yesterday. We want overnight delivery, taxi arriving in 2 minutes, books downloaded to our Ipad in 1 click. We close the website that is loading too long (longer than a couple of seconds) and put things back on the shelf and leaving the shop if there is a queue at the cashier. With immediate gratification as a default response, it is getting harder and harder to be patient and think long-term. Whether we like it or not, a lot of good things take time. I took me 9 months of pregnancy, giving birth and 2 years of a daily 24/7 training with a personal very demanding teacher, to realize and embrace that as a positive thing and I’m finally (sort of) getting there. I have a feeling though, that I might have enrolled in a life-long course in patience. The most important thing that I have learned about patience is that you have to stop focusing so much on the end result and start enjoying the journey.
It turns out, that patience is also one of the most important components of Social Selling, though definitely the hardest to implement. Social Selling consists of several important steps and being impatient in Social Selling can be very dangerous. Pitch your product too early, and your potential customer will ignore you or will be lost forever. For an active salesperson, this is hard to grasp. No matter the industry or the product, there is always a tremendous pressure for salespeople to sell NOW. It’s understandable, as the sales are the blood of the business. No sales, no business. But Social Selling doesn’t work like this. Social Selling can be a very effective tool, but it is not a fast lane for overnight success. You have to allow relationships to develop. You have to take the time to research, listen, engage and share. Social Selling can be a game-changer, but if you try to ‘sell’ through it, and don’t have the patience, it won’t work.
Social media has given us instant access to almost anybody on the social network -it takes just a couple of clicks and you can hit the button Send invite on LinkedIn. The paradox of social media is that we seem to be so connected that it creates a false sense of accessibility. For an eager, hungry for success salesperson, used to active sales techniques, who spent most of his life cold calling and getting hold of decision-makers no matter how many gatekeepers were on his way, this seems like a gold mine. And it sure can be. But Social selling is not just about gaining access to contacts but about building relationships, providing value and strategically listening for the right moment to join the conversation so you can present yourself as a solution to a current problem, addressing a pressing need to make your potential customer’s life easier rather than becoming just another annoying spammer to ignore and delete.
In the traditional model, the salesperson told the customer what he wants and why he wants it and if he was persuasive enough, he closed the sale. The more aggressive the salesperson was, the more cold calls he made, the more no’s he received, the closer he was to achieving his sales quota. It was hard but doable. And the salesperson had a sense of being active, of being in control. Compared to traditional sales activities, many of Social Selling steps might seem to be passive. In reality, though, those steps are anything but passive. And this is the thing that Salespeople have to constantly remember. It’s the effectiveness of the steps and the end goal that has to be clear to the entire team that can help build the patience imperative for success.
In order to have a clear end goal, you have to start with a strategy and a plan. It’s not enough to decide one day- let’s engage in Social Selling. And then post something randomly on LinkedIn and feeling accomplished go back to do doing things that “actually generate sales”.
There’s no denying that it takes extra work and time to restructure an entire business around Social Selling. It just seems so much easier to keep doing what you’ve always done. But the reason why companies engage in Social Selling in the first place is that they are not getting the same results they used to get before with the traditional approach. The traditional sales approach is becoming less and less effective now that buyers are more active in gathering information. The source of information about a service or a product used to be a salesperson and his tools to get into the same room with the prospect was cold calls and/or emails. Not anymore. 90 % of decision-makers would not reply to a cold call or an email but more than 80% would gladly engage with a salesperson through a reference or a friend and most importantly, who provides value. There is a pretty common misconception, that serious business people are not using social media. Well, they might really not be sharing pictures of their cats and dogs on Facebook, but 86% of them would use social media for professional reasons. And one of the places you would most probably find him is LinkedIn. 3 out of 5 decision-makers would research product and technology on social media. But the most important fact, that actually changes the whole process is that more than 57% of the purchasing decision is made before your potential lead even meets your salesperson. Some surveys say this number can be as high as 90%. Think what does it mean for your business if you are not there where your customer is. Chances are he would not know or remember or care that you exist. And if your competitors were doing a better job, you most probably would never hear about this lost sales opportunity. You probably would be just fine if they’re just couple of them that you miss, but in a long run it is not if, but when this trend would become a serious issue in your company that starts to affect your bottom line not exactly in a way that you would like it to. This being said, 2/3 of the companies do not have any sort of social selling strategy in place nor do they invest time in training & educating the sales teams to understand the value of Social Selling and give them tools necessary to execute the strategy.
Customers today know what they want and why they want that. When today’s buyers have questions, they search for answers online instead of relying on information from a salesperson. The game has changed and your number one priority is to be there, where the game is taking place. And you have to know the rules of the game. Deciding to try Social Selling model is a good start. But making it really work involves dedication, time and most importantly significant changes in the business processes. One obstacle to integrating Social Selling into a sales process is that doing Social Selling well requires a lot of research (whom to talk to, where to talk to them and what to talk about), a lot of time spent listening and a lot of high-quality content creation. In our busy life’s filled with urgent operational to-do tasks, it is difficult to find the motivation to take on another quiet time-consuming task and be patient about the fact that you will not see immediate results. But you can’t spend five minutes a day sharing one post just for the sake of sharing something and then going back to your ‘real’ job and expect significant results. It just doesn’t work this way. It’s only once the relationship is built and the trust has been well established, can the real sales work begin. Your goal in Social Selling is to establish relationships that will eventually lead to a sale, not to make a sale on first contact. Building a connection with a potential customer by simply following them, engaging in their conversations and figuring out what they appear to be interested in, and constantly looking for ways to patiently deliver value to them without expecting an immediate result is a new and quite intimidating approach for many people(including myself). But in today’s world, it is the only approach that works long-term.
The good news is that when Social Selling is implemented properly, it can become a significant driver of success. And by proper implementation, I mean going from random acts of social activity, where everybody is on their own, to creating social media and social selling strategy, policy & guidelines, training your people and giving them supporting tools and resources, which will help them to build their personal brands and through personal brands under your company’s umbrella spread the stories that will make your customers fall in love with your brand.
Businesses that embrace social selling are increasing organizational success. It’s time to adapt and thrive.