How to Avoid Cold Calling with Social Selling

by Gerry Moran

Social selling can eliminate the cold call. Only if you add value and start to teach your clients before you have your first live interaction.

You who are on the road must have a social selling code that you can live by. Can the classic rock and folk band Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young teach us a social selling lesson? Probably not, but they can certainly inspire how today’s social sellers teach and coach customers to help them make more or save more money for their businesses.

Recent CEB research from their CEB Sales Effectiveness Solutions indicates:

  • Sales executives’ administrative activities have increased by 33%
  • Post-sale activities, such as account activation, have increased 16%
  • Sales executives are spending 15% less time in front of customers than in prior years

Your initial takeaway might be a correlation between the pre-sales and post-sales pieces of research, both of which might be taking away from in-person customer time. That relationship might, in fact, be true. However, additional research also indicates something surprising. CEB research indicates that the best reps are spending less time in front of customers; 10% less time!

How are these selling stars using their time, and where does social selling fit it?

3 To Activate Social Selling

1. Get in on the buyer’s journey earlier

With 70% of a buying decision, per SiriusDecisions, made before a sales executive is contacted, sellers must become a part of that conversation earlier. The ‘secret sauce’ of being in on the earlier conversation is the ability to help frame the customer problem and define the solution’s requirements. More and more customers are obviously bypassing contacting sales execs for information. (Hint: they are searching on Google, using Twitter, reading blogs, and visiting LinkedIn along with visiting company Web sites). Star sellers earn the right to be a part of that earlier conversation by jumping in with these 3 social selling techniques.

  • Twitter. Be an active tweeter to be positioned as a thought leader to Twitter-using customers. Knowing when to tweet, reply, mention, retweet, and direct message will help a seller go a long way!
  • LinkedIn Updates. Sales executives need to be using their 2 daily status updates to get on the radar of their followers and 2nd- and 3rd level network with their blog posts updates curated content. Company-based news .. that is all relevant and not ‘salesy.’
  • LinkedIn Group Messaging. Sales executives need to execute the 12:51 strategy (nine to one) to get on customers’ radar. In other words, you need to contribute nine thought leadership insights to a LinkedIn Group before you ever ask for anything, whether it’s a direct or indirect ask.

2. Frame customer needs and defining purchase requirements

Star sellers use social selling techniques to engage with customers earlier, framing their problem and co-developing the purchase requirement. Insinuating into the buyer journey earlier will help a sales executive become a trusted resource. This trust, however, is not built overnight and must be sustained before it pays out. Key social selling activities to help springboard this success are:

  • Having a presence in LinkedIn Groups and communities where customers engage. Insightful content, message tone, and relevant questions are great ways to be positioned as a consultant who can help frame a problem vs. a shark who can sell!
  • Following and engaging with Twitter-using customers. Engaging with Twitter using customers with links and articles that help define their needs is a great way to position yourself as a solver and not a seller.
  • Providing a POV on a blog. Blog posts are a great way to help point customers to questions they need to ask to frame their buying needs. No, it’s not a replacement to a seller’s face-to-face, but it gets them thinking. And what a great link to pass on to a social media-using client with an offer to provide an even more tailored deliverable.

3. Teach the customer during their buyer journey

With star sellers spending 10% less time in front of customers, they invest time into developing tailored insights and teaching and coaching customers. What are they teaching? They are focusing on their differentiation that maps to purchase requirements (that they helped to structure), how to build consensus within an organization, so all stakeholders’ needs are met, and how to activate the solution across the enterprise measurably. Key social tactics used to provide this customer teaching include:

  • Closed Communities. Communities deliver a secure, social collaboration solution for sales executives and customers to collaborate. Within a private community, sales executives can share relevant and secure information with their customers.
  • Blogging. Blog posts are a great way to articulate industry or product insights and their impact on a buyer’s decision. Blogs should play a strong part in every star seller’s social selling strategy.

Do you have another key behavior or social selling tactic that can be mapped to one of these three key behaviors? If so, please share them below. Or, contact me at gerry@marketingthink.com.

At every point of the selling process, star sellers need to teach the customer well with relevant messaging, content, and insights delivered on social media rails, harmonizing their traditional and social selling tactics … like a great Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young song! And if you do not want to be a star seller, just sit back and complain how your 33% increase in paperwork kills your ability to exceed your quota!

Gerry Moran is a social media and content marketing strategist who's worked for large global brands and digital agencies. He's spent significant time in hands-on marketing leadership roles with HBO, IKEA, Ralston Purina, Kodak, and numerous digital agencies. He spent his last ten years working at SAP and Cognizant, where he built their content marketing operating models, developed social media training programs, and helped thousands with their LinkedIn makeovers and personal branding strategies.

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