Adaptation from SHAREOLOGY: How Sharing is Powering the Human Economy (Morgan James, 2015) by Bryan Kramer, CEO of PureMatters.
The term “selling” tends to conjure up images of an aggressive used-car salesperson following you around the lot or a mall clerk pushing the most expensive stereo in the store. But it’s not just the physical presence that’s off-putting: Hard-selling tactics are equally annoying when we receive them through social media channels. Internet users have become numb to sales messages due to constant bombardment of banner ads and click-though buttons.
Still, there are plenty of salespeople making a very successful living by using social media to generate leads and convert sales. How do they do it? By being helpers first and eliminating “social sales” from their vocabulary.
What is social “helping”?
Put simply, it’s using your social media presence to become familiar with prospects. Helping is asking the right questions and finding out what motivates them. You need to know what business pain they’re suffering and what problems they’re seeking to solve. To help your potential customers it to present them with useful information that responds to their needs – not force-feed them details you think they should know about you, your company or your products.
What makes social selling different from helping is the approach you use to guide a prospect to make buying decisions. Social media isn’t so unlike that used car lot or mall; it’s just a different channel you have at your disposal as a helper.
Social helping works
So, why would you change everything you know about selling? Easy: The buyer’s journey has changed dramatically as the information age has evolved and you need to adjust accordingly. Your potential customers are going online to educate themselves about products, learn about features, hear customer reviews and view demonstration videos. The information out there can be overwhelming, which is why many prospects turn to their peers via social networks. They’re hungry for information and a social helper will give them what they want, via the channels they’re using to do their research.
In addition, buyers are researching products and services long before they’re ready to make a purchase. A social seller sees the longer sales cycle as being a nuisance that delays the commission check; a social helper looks at it as an opportunity to earn the trust of a potential customer. By providing valuable, relevant content that answers questions and solves their problems, your potential customers come to see you as a respected source. Not only do prospects buy from companies they trust, but they also come back for repeat business.
Transitioning from social selling to social helping
From this discussion, it may appear that life as a social sales person has been turned upside down — and it has, though it’s not difficult to right things. You just need to know how to put the customer at the forefront by being a helper first.
- Position yourself as a thought leader: Become an expert that prospects turn to for relevant information they can use right now. Align your social media profile with professional groups and industry leaders, and contribute your own content in the appropriate forums.
- Focus on connecting, not closing: Your goal should be to connect with prospects by asking questions and learning their problems. Listen first, then respond. The last thing they want to hear is narcissistic, self-absorbed “sales speak” about how great you are.
- Content is currency: When the time is right, you need to present prospects with targeted content that responds to their needs and correlates to where they are in the sales funnel. Post useful blog articles, upload how-to videos and offer your thoughts on products via your social media profile. Present potential customers with content from respected sources other than yourself to build credibility.
- Engage in social listening: This aspect of social helping is geared more toward lead generation than lead nurturing. You’ll need the help of online solutions that filter out the clutter and deliver information that tells you what people are talking about on social media. Once you can focus on their discussions, you can deliver targeted content at the right time.
Do This Now: Get started on the path to becoming a social helper by disregarding most of what you know about sales. Unlearn the hard-sell tactics where you talk about your company, your success and your products. Focus on sharing content that resonates with your prospects and earns their trust.
Your success with social helping relies upon using social media to distribute useful information — not as a channel for promoting your products. Using social tools to nurture prospects and engage leads is the best way to ensure you have a customer for life, instead of just a day.