I had a project almost two years ago at an IT Consulting firm. The sales looked bad (as usual when I get a call…) and the owner wanted to do something about it. So immediately when I started to prepare for the interviews with the sales force it turned out that nobody from the company had ever checked the social profiles (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter…etc.) of the sales colleagues. In fact according to their social profiles in some cases they were not even colleagues as many of them did not update their social profiles with their current position or even if they did they left their side-activities there. So they were presidents of 1-employee firms, board members of no-one-heard-of organisations and in ‘looking for new challenges’ status according to their social profiles.
But the biggest problem of all was that they actively used the social networks to develop and even contact leads so they proactively called attention to their social profiles! So no wonder why there was a lot of effort in vain to try to engage with leads…
But it was in 2012, let’s say it was the ‘dawn of Social Selling’. That was the year Harvard Business Review came out with their famous article about the ‘End of Solution Selling’ and IBM has launched their ‘small’ pilot on Social Selling involving 1,700 (!) sales reps.
So a lot has changed since then…
…a lot, but not enough, so first: What is Social Selling? (and before I give you the promised top three embarrassments the second question will be: What is Social Selling to your company?)
So again: What is Social Selling?
A client of mine in Brazil told me: “…Social Selling is like Bitcoin. It is so new and different that few really understand what it is and what to do with it…”
So here is my personal favorite definition: “…Social Selling is a new layer on the traditional sales process…” So not a new methodology (strategic approach) or a new technique (tactical way) it is just a new, though rampant layer of tools and methods on our B2B sales processes.
Social Selling offers (1) a bit more and definitely cheaper info on our leads, due to our better intel we can design (2) a bit more personalized selling propositions and can help us with (3) better timing of our tactical selling moves.
More info, better message, better timing.
And getting rid of definitions here you come:
What is Social Selling for your company?
It is either an opportunity if it is performed professionally or it is a constant embarrassment if it is let to happen organically. (and believe me if the former is not in place by now, then the later is happening at this very moment…)
So what could possibly go wrong with Social Selling? How does Social Selling get embarrassing for our leads and through our clients how could social techniques take away from the reputation of our company?
It gets embarrassing not because it gets out of our control but because it is born and evolves far away from our control. According to my experience Social Selling starts its life as an individual initiative of one or some of our sales colleagues instead of being initiated, designed and orchestrated by our sales leadership.
So if it is not a significant part of our B2B sales methodology and if it is not proactively designed by the management and if we do not regulate the way how it is allowed or not allowed to be conducted then it is out of our control and it stays there. And it contaminates our company’s expensively developed ‘digital footprint’ in many ways.
Our digital-footprint is our image in the cyber space. Or rather our projected image. In the last century we rented spacious, prestigious offices, we furnished them expensively and hired pretty secretaries for the projected image of our company. And we did the same with our individual appearance: expensive clothes, luxurious watches and elegant cars were all crucial to convince others about our success and persuade them to do business with us. But today’s golf-clubs are the professional groups on LinkedIn. Our former popularity of being a great fellow and a big-drinker is the number of re-tweets, shares and likes we get. And our university alumni is the list of recommendations on our personal profile. Of course the last century still lingers around, but it was so easy to fake back then that the immune system of our today-leads had to evolve.
Who cares anymore what we have to lie about the size of our company on our own webpage, when they can check on the social networks the real number of our employees?
Who cares anymore how many logos we put on our own webpage calling them ‘references’ or ‘our clients’, when anyone can check if we have recommendations from them or at least we are connected to the decision-makers at those companies?
Am I saying that the old ways are completely out?
Am I saying that the social digital-footprint cannot be faked?
Far from it!
All I say that there are new ways to convince our leads to start talking to us, to take us serious. And this is where the embarrassment can start.
Would we have been embarrassed 10 years ago if our sales director had asked us in front of a prospect to leave a sales meeting earlier because he had another job as a cashier at a McDonald’s and he had to be there on time?
Why would it be different today when most leads decides whether to have the first personal contact with us by checking our and our company’s social profile? And at the same time our colleagues’ social profiles are out there with all the foolish unimportant side-activities and unprofessional comments on sports events and political views… etc.
So here are the promised list of the most embarrassing social selling mistakes your company can make:
Not having any company presence on social networks.
Having a major in-congruence between your webpage and your social presence (number of employees, CV’s , references etc.).
Having sales colleagues that are actively looking for other jobs, being open for new opportunities, connecting with several headhunters and following HR companies, joining job-seeker groups and at the same time they are trying to convince new customers about your products and services.
The list of awful mistakes could go on and on, but here is the positive ending:
Don’t worry, most of your competitors are in similar ‘Social Selling situations’ like you are!
So even today it is a great opportunity for you to gain a competitive edge by taking initiative on creating or re-writing the ‘Social Policies’ chapter of your B2B Sales Methodology.