Today’s post illuminates the need for salespeople to become leaders in social media in order to keep their Trusted Advisor status.
Salespeople, especially those selling technology products and services, have always sought to achieve the coveted Trusted Advisor status, the holy grail of relationships with customers. Put very simply, trusted advisor status is earned by being exceptionally relevant to customers. Salespeople must be trusted to impart wisdom most relevant to the customer’s current and future vision and, at the same time, also be trusted to deliver on expectations.
As I think about all the extraordinary salespeople with whom I’ve been associated, it seems the best ones were always the ones that gave the presentations, wrote the white papers, developed new ideas, educated their customers, and earned the title of trusted advisor. (On the flip side, there are salespeople who had their sales engineer give the presentation, had marketing write the white paper, shared few original ideas, let the competitor educate the customer, and therefore fell short of earning trusted advisor status and the sale.)
Social media has changed the way customers educate themselves and absorb and synthesize new ideas. In the future, then, it is clear that extraordinary sales people must harness social media to establish their credibility as “expert”, communicate new ideas, tap into the enormous flow of social information, and educate customers.
Keep in mind that participation in social media cannot be limited to retweeting other people’s opinions and “liking” others’ articles. To be effective, salespeople must generate original ideas, write them down, and post or publish them for the world to read. Imagine, when executing lead-generation activities if you could open with “Here’s the latest post from my blog. In it, I describe 3 customers in a similar situation to yours and how my team and I helped them solve…” as opposed to “attached please find some third-party data that shows my company is the leader in…”.
“Sell yourself first, your company second, and your product or service last”. All salespeople have heard this adage at some point in their careers. If this is true, and I believe it is, we should hire, coach, and enable sales people to be front and center when it comes to social media marketing. As a salesperson, “selling yourself first” means, in part, establishing your own credibility with customers. Do you write a blog that positions both you and your company as thought leaders for your industry? Do you use twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ to demonstrate that you are in touch with the trends…that you are relevant? Many make the mistake of leaving the lead-generating activities of social media to their marketing departments and wait for their leads to roll in. Salespeople, you should take matters into your own hands, start using social media to build your credibility and create your own leads today.
Agreed? Agreed. So, now what do we do?
Corporate blogs and social media programs, especially in technology companies, are traditionally owned by marketing departments and serve to enhance the company’s credibility and identity. Company leaders and marketing departments can proactively help salespeople be efficient in creating their own social impact.
- Train them on how to get started and how to be relevant using social media.
- Empower them to be your ambassador. Train them to be masters of the message you desire customers to hear.
- Create collateral. Make that collateral available and use templates to make it easy to incorporate in their posts.
- Provide tools that enable sales people to have an opinion and share it easily.
- Create corporate guidelines. Share best practices.
- Most importantly, make it simple. Sales people are busy.
Salespeople, if you don’t have a Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+ profile, sign up now. Start writing today and write a little bit every day. Write a customer success story. Write an opinion on trends that you and your customers see in your markets. Offer a counterpoint to something you read. Be insightful. Be creative. Be humble. Be funny. But, be warned and be aware that you represent your company with every keystroke. Publish something every week. Comment on things you read every day. Most important, get started and build this into your daily routine.
Sales Managers and Directors, please lead by example. Get plugged in. Start writing. Set expectations with your team and become an expert. Incorporate social media deeply in your lead-generation and account-management plans. Target and hire socially proficient candidates. Make investments in CRM and informational tools that leverage the wealth of intelligence that pours into social media channels every day.
In summary, remember that customers have more access to more information about your company, your products, and your competitors than ever before. They get bombarded with phone calls, spam, and email blasts every day. Differentiation becomes very difficult. So, why should you, as a sales person, sell yourself first in a social media world? Because, YOU, their trusted advisor, ARE likely the differentiator that will make or break your company’s success. Therefore, you need an opinion. You have to tell the world what you believe to be relevant to the world. Today and tomorrow, the vehicle to tell the world what you believe will be social media. Better get started.