Of all the tools that have come available in the last few decades, few are as underutilized – and misunderstood – as social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. With hundreds of millions of members each, they seem like obvious avenues to increase business, and they are. But lots of salespeople miss the boat by simply opening profiles, trying to build connections randomly, and blindly contacting others with their sales message.
The problem with this approach, besides that it lacks finesse, is that few prospects go to social networking sites to be sold. Instead, they’re looking to make contacts, find information, and maybe even get a little bit of advice. And more than anything else, they are looking to share news with their own friends and colleagues.
With that in mind, the best way to take advantage of these sites – as with most sales situations – is by listening, rather than speaking. Social networking profiles are a fantastic place to read up and find more about the companies you want to sell to, and the decision-makers who will ultimately decide whether you’re successful or not. Unfortunately, many sales reps never think to take this step; they visit the company’s homepage, and maybe dig around a few directories, but miss the wealth of information that is sitting there at their virtual fingertips.
Few businesses update their websites very frequently, and when they do, they tend to add new product descriptions or press releases full of corporate-speak. On social media sites, however, they are more free to be open, candid, and specific. In other words, they’re likely to share information you wouldn’t be able to find elsewhere without a personal interview. What’s more, many profiles are updated and added to several times a day, meaning that breaking news in important decisions could be listed there for you to find before your competitors do.
Once you have established relationships with prospects and their companies, you may well want to communicate with them, or even make an introduction, through one of the major social networking sites. If you’re new to using them, however, concentrate on the vast amount of content and information that’s there to help you open the door, rather than trying to force your way into the relationship before you have all the information. Social media sites aren’t always a great way for salespeople to reach out to new contacts, but they can give you a ton of information to make your approach a lot easier.