You might be wondering why there are still naysayers of Social Selling in the market. It’s 2016 and the data around using social to build pipeline and revenue couldn’t be stronger. Yet, there is a cottage industry of people who continue to deny and use anti-social messaging to gain more awareness for themselves.
They espouse the benefits of cold calling and traditional sales training over everything else. Is cold calling required in the sales process? Absolutely. Is it more important than other ways to sell? Absolutely not.
In fact, the way that discussion is framed couldn’t be more biased. It assumes that things happen in chronological order. This idea isn’t grounded in market realities – it’s not about cold calling or Social Selling. It’s about both. And to think otherwise is a false choice.
Why? Because your buyers should dictate how you go to market.
Moreover, there are some fundamental basics that take much more precedence over any discussion of how to do outreach. Because essentially, Social Selling is about more than just outreach. It’s about research, collaboration and communication.
Let’s review this list and you’ll soon agree that Social Selling, cold calling, emailing, attending tradeshows, or however you choose to prospect and nurture, are all an essential part of the sales skill-set.
But before any of these come into the picture, let’s examine the fundamentals that all salespeople need to master.
1. Know The Market
The market is the strongest force that should be governing our thinking as sales professionals. You must take measures to study the market in which you’re offering your solutions.
Sales professionals need proper guidance and grounding in this. Why is it important? On top of making you more polished and aware on macro trends, it demonstrates a level of confidence to the buyer that you’ve done your homework. Being a future-thinker is one of the savviest ways to project knowledge and tie solutions to business outcomes.
Know thy market – before you do any kind of outreach on phone, email or social, do your homework on factors that shape your buyer’s business.
2. Know The Modern Buyer
This can’t be discussed enough in my opinion. The buyer today has changed significantly. It will vary in degrees by the industry you’re in, but research about your buyers should be done to bring greater relevance and context to every interaction.
There are stats that buyers are spending more time online finding information, exploring, collaborating with like-minded peers and consuming insights. All of these realities are shaping their buying decision.
Your ability to find these buyers, educate them with insights and engage with them is critically important to your long-term success.
Have you seen the research from the following 3 major studies? They measured what percentage of the buying journey is complete before the buyer reaches out to a supplier’s sales professional?
- According to CEB, this is 57%.
- According to a joint study from Dell & Carnegie Mellon, it’s 67%.
- And, according to Forrester Research, it’s 70%.
Now, cut these numbers in half – does it matter? I hope you answered with a big, resounding NO!
Now, ask yourself this simple question: are my buyers online? Not “do they have a LinkedIn Profile?” We must be much more fundamental in our thinking so as to know our buyers. If you believe your buyers are online even 25% of the time before reaching out to you, then it’s time you started to address this.
Even if they’re online, researching your website, your competitor’s site or attending online webinars, this information is being used to formulate a purchasing decision.
3. Know The Company
As obvious as this sounds, knowing the commercial dynamics of your prospect account can present incredible opportunities for you to demonstrate value and differentiate yourself from competitors.
From being able to articulate which top-line business objectives are fuelling their strategy to describing how your solutions can enable these, being educated about the company you’re targeting is priceless.
4. Deliver Timely Insights to the Buyer
Sales professionals that are first to add value are 74% more likely to win deals (Forrester Research). If buyers are online exploring for ideas and information, while you’re simply “pounding the phones”, this presents an incredible disconnect.
It’s this disconnect that cold calling sales gurus refuse to recognize/admit/acknowledge. And, it’s what makes their arguments so untenable: it’s not about the medium, it’s always about the message. The decision to choose which medium to deliver the message comes later.
5. Know The Buyer’s Journey
This one is a tough one to tackle because every buyer’s journey is unique to them. But, there are trends. Before we discuss this, let’s agree that no buyer will go through our traditional sales process these days. Those days are done. They’ve passed us long ago.
Instead, what you should know is that every buyer’s journey can be marked by three distinct steps. There is beautiful harmony between all of these – they’re not as abrupt as we in sales may be accustomed to.
Phase One: Awareness
Data shows us that this may be the longest phase in a buyer’s journey. This is where they are still exploring, doing research and generally finding answers to their most pressing questions.
It may be so early on for them, they don’t even know what questions to ask! This presents you, the sales professional, with abundant opportunities to provide insights and value early on.
Phase Two: Consideration
After demonstrating value yourself or through buyer self-awareness, they will enter a phase of consideration. Investigating various solutions, evaluating vendors and the like are generally done here.
Your ability to influence and impact their thinking can be done in many ways here. You’ll want to continue to empower the buyer with more insights so they can continue to make an informed business decision.
Phase Three: Decision
This one sounds obvious but it requires that you continue to share insights to lead the buyer to their decision.
There is various types of information you can provide to them here. Case studies, testimonials, references and the like are most common.
6. Follow a Methodology or Routine
How you go to market will likely depend on which company you’re in. While some companies have made extensive investments into formal sales methodologies, most still expect their sales people to just know how to sell.
Having a proper footing in a methodology, a sales process or your own routine will help tremendously. This is far more important than deciding “should I call or email or InMail?”
The Irrefutable Reality
If you’ve gone through these 6 steps, you’ll realize that the discussion isn’t about the medium, it’s about the message.
This message is highly influenced by the research you do – about your buyer’s market, their company, etc. The reality is that social media and social networking are invaluable allies to achieve an understanding in all of these baseline functions.
This is why claiming one is better than another does nothing to help and empower today’s sales professional. It’s a distraction at best.
Like it or not, when you want to research a buyer, you’re not going to the library archives. You’re likely going to Google or a whole host of tools that assist in gathering research. You’re also likely to check out LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and any other social platform you can get your hands on.
So I leave you with this thought: is cold calling important in the sales process? Well, that’s like asking do you need to breathe in order to live? The answer is really that obvious.
What’s also obvious today is that Social Selling is a legitimate and powerful medium to research, collaborate and communicate with your buyers.
There you have it – now let’s be bold and go back to helping our buyers win, succeed and overachieve! That’s the fun part.