Overcoming natural shyness on social media to encourage action
Today, inbound marketing is seen as THE approach to generate sales, particularly in B2B marketing. Directory listings, newspaper and magazine advertising, cold calling, all the 'in your face' marketing methods are dying a death - apparently. Content-based, relationship marketing is what we should all be doing now.
I agree with the benefits of the inbound marketing approach, but we should ask what happens if we move too far the other way? I have a real concern that salesmanship (or salespersonship if you prefer), in the B2B sector is a dying art and social media is becoming a crutch, for those less confident in their ability to sell. I want to make a stand right here and now and suggest that we mustn't lose this important skill and that social media can be used to support it.
Many articles advising on social media will suggest that social selling is all about the long game, it's about sharing useful and helpful content, with subtle links to your website or other online portal and I agree these techniques have merit. However, playing the long game is great if you can afford the luxury of waiting the 2-3 years, on average, that it will take to raise your social profile to a level, where a healthy degree of inbound business enquiries begin to materialise for you - this is why you must be prepared to sell!
When I say you must sell, I mean you must be prepared to ask for the business, to guide and influence readers of your LinkedIn updates, tweets and Facebook posts, to act - to take action and visit your website and when they arrive at your site, there must be something for them to do - to download, to access, to enter into your sales funnel.
To become more effective at social selling think how it differs from simple social sharing and traditional sales. These social selling differences provide a useful summary:
5 tips and examples of techniques for social selling
How do you become more proactive, to move beyond the softly-softly approach? These are the approaches I recommend to help you turn social media sharing into social media selling. The social selling examples I use here mainly related to B2B selling over LinkedIn, but they can also be applied to higher involvement consumer products too.
- Be transparent - when you connect with someone on LinkedIn, send them a short message and tell them why you want to connect - 'Dear John, I'm looking to connect with forward thinking leaders in the sales and marketing sectors, within the Yorks & Lancs areas & came across your profile. Would you like to join me on LinkedIn? Steve' - Keep it simple & to the point. Don't just send vanilla invites saying: "I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn".
- Provide a solution - Do you clearly understand your prospect's business issues? Can you offer a solution? If lead generation is an important business challenge for them, do you have an article on your website, a blog possibly that provides 5 top tips to generate more warm business leads? What are the problems you can solve for your clients - share good content with your new connections, provide links to your content in your message.Make sure this information is truly valuable, it doesn't have to be your own content either but be cautious, there are a lot of people out there asking you to download very average content.
- Follow up - with your warmest prospects, make sure you have a plan to follow up. Periodically, send your prospect a message - include industry news and other articles that they would find useful, maybe share a case study of work you have done with a similar client, continually prove your value and worth to your prospect - again make sure that this content is truly valuable or you'll simply become a nuisance. Your goal is to create know, like and trust with your prospect at this stage.
- Call to action - Please do not add a note at the end of your content asking the prospect to visit your website if they 'would like more information' - they don't know what information is there so there's no incentive to go look!A call to action, must entice, it must suggest that by clicking the link you have provided, there will be an unmissable benefit to them. A call to action is: 'Need more sales? Download my new e-guide (name of guide) today. Limited availability, don't delay'
- Follow up again - I can't emphasise this enough. If you're not prepared to follow up then why market in the first place? You are better off marketing to half a dozen prospects and following these up properly than you are connecting with scores of new contacts and never following up any.My advice would be to use the content you have been sending as the reason for your follow-up call, email or letter: 'Hi John, we recently connected on LinkedIn. I'm calling a handful of my 1st degree connections regarding an article I messaged them with last week, i want to check if this kind of information is useful to you?' This is a great reason to call and it's a warm call also. Whatever the response from the person you call, you're into a conversation, which you can now control.
Don't confuse social media marketing and social selling, they are different - one will help raise your brand profile and in the process generate some enquiries - over time, these enquiries will continue to increase.
Social selling cuts to the chase, for example it says:
'Hi, this is me, I understand you might be facing these challenges in your business? I have helped other businesses, just like yours, to solve similar challenges and here's some further evidence of how I achieved this. Now, I'm going to offer you something of value, for free and when I've built sufficient know, like and trust with you, I'm going to call and ask to meet - I'll even buy the coffee!'
Few of us have time to wait for new business to come in and many companies have gone out of business by doing just that. Whether you're part of a sales team, run you own business or you're responsible for business development in professional services, you're in sales and you need a sales process supported by social media.