12 Most Useful Tips to Get the Sale in Social Media
Social Media is a powerful platform whose driving force is community building. By most definitions, community building is counter-intuitive to selling. And if social media isn’t about selling, why should a business care?
They should care because their consumers care. We’ve all heard and seen the overwhelming statistics about the adoption of social media as the primary source for pre-purchase product research as well as the prioritization of the medium for personal communications and referrals. But how does a business reconcile their need to sell to this online community and the anti-sales sentiment of that same community?
Below is a list of the 12 Most Useful Tips to Get the Sale in Social Media based on my experience working with mid- to large-sized companies. Admittedly, some are “no-brainers” and just plain common sense, yet many sales organizations get hung up on the technology that they forget the simple things. Others are new ideas for generating sales that have been created in response to the “community-building vs. selling” realities of social engagement. Either way it’s a good exercise to use this as checklist for your own sales team’s activity.
1. Don’t ask for the Sale
I know. Sales heresy! The essence of community building is the creation of an ecosystem where members of the community support each other. A salesman is seen as a predatory animal circling the safety of the group. When under perceived attack, the group closes itself off or gathers together to fight off the threat. You must understand how to become a member of the community rather than the outsider.
2. Ask for the Sale
Wait, what?! Social Media heresy! Point #1 notwithstanding, the trick is to understand HOW to ask for the sale in these networks and WHEN. Asking for the sale in social media requires a complete rethink of traditional tactics but it must, and can be done. Further, selling in social communities for most businesses is a long-term process and one that requires patience. Some of the following tips will help.
3. Support Influencers
If a direct sales pitch make you an outsider in social communities have an insider make the pitch for you! Identify leaders within the target community who have influence over its members, understand what their motivations are and then fulfill their needs. In turn, they will promote your product or service “from the inside”. And you’ll be there waiting to pick up the phone when they call.
4. Generate Reviews and Testimonials
Look to your existing, satisfied customers and where they are engaging online. Chances are their online networks are full of prospective customers. Ask (there’s that “ask” word again) those customers for introductions to others in their online networks. And don’t forget to ask for official testimonials in writing or video to use on other web properties.
5. Engage Disgruntled Customers
Equally important to the happy customers are the disgruntled ones. Social media has given them the power to affect your ability to sell by painting a negative view of your business or product before your sales team can make the call. This is a pre-emptive tip but one that will aid in the proactive sales effort. Secondly, publicly addressing poor customer service issues can turn the negative customer into your strongest brand advocate and demonstrate to the world how much you care about the customer experience. The effect of the public display of concern will far outweigh the negative impact of the original complaint.
6. Public Acknowledgments
Where ever possible, acknowledge the “friends of the brand”, your staff, suppliers or customers. Calling them out publicly elevates their status, which in turn drives loyalty and repeat business. Further, it sets the expectation for what prospective customer might experience if they were to engage your business.
7. Broadcast Yourself
“Don’t tell me, show me” is a critical adage in social communications. We’re inundated with statuses, tweets, blogs and other text-based marketing messages. Differentiate yourself with a video blog or video testimonial on your site or a branded YouTube channel. Users choose to view a video, which is less threatening that a direct sales message in this medium.
8. Engage Your Customer Service and PR Teams
The lowest hanging fruit in any sales funnel are existing customers. Upselling those who have already shown affinity to your brand is easier and can be more profitable for the business. If your customer service or PR teams are engaging staff, prospects and customers online, be sure that they understand how to uncover upsell opportunities and coordinate your offline “follow up efforts” with them.
9. Sponsor an Online Community
You can be a member of a community without active participation. Enabling the community to exist through donations, resource support or moderation demonstrates your interest in that group, which will drive brand affinity. Brand affinity increases the likelihood of members calling you directly or being receptive to your offline call.
10. Create an Online Customer Community
One of the move valuable lessons learned by businesses engaged in social communications is the power of inclusion. Establishing communities that ask members to help create, vet or modify a product creates a sense of ownership. This is easily done through Wikis, extranets or Facebook groups. That sense of ownership will drive a more powerful brand awareness among customers, within their other communities as well as increasing loyalty and repeat business.
11. Develop or Curate “Decision-Making Content”
Demonstrating thought leadership is critical to establishing the required trust in your prospect database. Social Media provides you the opportunity to demonstrate this in the most cost effective manner possible by adopting a social communication strategy that shares company-created or 3rd party resources that address the needs of your audience.
12. Enable Your Customers
Ensure every engagement that your customers have with your brand, with the content you syndicate or the communities your sponsor, provides the tools to include those activities with others in their social graphs. Integrating tools like Livefyre or Shoutlet into your social communication plan will amplify the engagement and drive more people into your social ecosystem.
The key, regardless of the tactic that you choose to utilize, is to change your outbound sales focus from product- or business-centric to customer-centric. No matter how good your product is or how popular your brand is, you’re nothing without the customer. It’s not about you so get over yourself. Remember people love to buy. They hate to be sold to.
My last piece of advice is the phrase I use to end my social media sales keynote presentation with: “Go forth and create social conversations, stop making announcements”.
Do you have a favorite social media sales tip? We’ll update this list in the future so please post your experiences below.
Featured image courtesy of Vermin Inc licensed via creative commons.