Remember in the old days (like 2007) when getting to know customers meant actually visiting their office? These days the sales cycle might still include this experience, but the Web has opened up a whole new world for getting to know and interacting with prospects.
This capability is something Nimble CEO and founder Jon Ferrara calls socialized selling. He argues that to truly capitalize on this Web-empowered sales cycle, you need to build an online presence. These efforts humanize your brand amidst a sea of updates, tweets, conversation threads and blog articles. Also, knowing how and when to interact with prospects online adds more relevancy and purpose to these conversations.
So how do you do this, you ask? Here are Ferrara’s steps to finding your prospect’s true passions online, then naturally inciting conversations about how your business can solve their problems.
Find Out What Your Prospects Need
This step is all about evolving from selling to educating your prospects. Find out exactly what you have that they need. Then, describe for them how they can address this need in the broader sense to grow their business. This will lead to conversations about the value and benefits of your products and services for helping them succeed.
To this end, create content in a variety of forms with actionable business insights. This could include e-books, tip sheets, articles and commentary. Also, make sure your salespeople know all the best gathering places, forums and discussion threads where prospects for your business gather.
Post the content here, but in the natural context of the conversation. My company provides free advice to people searching for software. So I might, for example, post my article “A Zappos Lesson in Customer Service Metrics” in this conversation about call centers because this kind of tracking usually requires technology.
These efforts help establish your brand as an authority on a topic area, so prospects will begin to come to you as a resource. This incites natural conversations about how your business uniquely addresses their needs.
Be Real and Genuine in Your Outreach
Having a human voice online enlivens these online conversations. Ferrara recommends approaching online sharing with your own unique communication style. Is your voice “business friendly?” Humorous? Do you encourage spirited debate, or do you want to avoid controversy and stick to a more academic tone?
Ferrara likens this to creating a “corporate style” for your logo or color scheme. Just as you might style rules for these, your team should have guiding principles for how they should conduct themselves in social interactions.
Engage With Others, Don’t Just Push Content
Social media shouldn’t just be about sharing your own content. Your team needs to truly engage online via likes, shares, comments, chats and more. You’ve shared your passions; encourage others to do the same. Even if they’re not potential customers, they have friends that are.
You can build good engagement habits over time. Start by listening and gathering information, consistently. A great habit to develop is to take some time each day to view your social universe and participate, reach out, and keep relationships active.
Embrace People and Gathering Place With the Biggest Impact
As you build an online presence, certain thought leaders and online gathering places will emerge as having the biggest impact on leads, engagement and new contacts. Formalize connections and continue to talk, listen and watch (and even keep an eye on your competition and gather a bit of intelligence!).
One of these places might be LinkedIn groups – these are great conduits for sharing experiences, asking questions, getting to know people, and developing ideas. Quora is another place you can participate in thoughtful conversations.
Integrate Online Presence Building in Culture
Your company should empower sales people to integrate these activities into daily tasks. These steps will show readers, prospects, and fans how their lives can be better and their businesses run more efficiently—and how your presence in their lives helps them fulfill their own personal and professional missions.
SalesForce Training & Consulting is a professional training firm that specializes in helping companies navigate their way in a Salesforce.com environment. SalesForce Training is based in Toronto, with trainers in Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles, providing sales coaching, sales management consulting, Salesforce.com training, selling skills sales training and sales team assessments.