Serious question: how well do you think you could function in sales today without the technology and automation that is available?

According to a study done by Linkedin this year, sales tech is used by over 91% of all sales people (and only 2% of the top sales performers in the world don’t use it). I’m certainly a fan of it myself, and use a number of digital tools to manage my own sales process for ATP (more on that later).

But I’m also noticing some disturbing trends in sales as a result of all this available technology: it’s turning into a crutch. For many, the tech is taking the place of the foundational elements of what sales is. Namely, relationships.

Let me just state this up front: the tools are not to blame…I’m in no way advocating that anyone dump them for an old school approach (I definitely couldn’t function without them).

But what I am saying, is I think we’re using them incorrectly. The tools are here to help us build relationships more efficiently, not replace the need for them.

My experience over the last 20 years in sales confirms this. Here’s why you can’t escape the need for relationships in sales and how I use these magical tools available to us today to build them in the digital space.

Why you can’t do sales without relationships

No matter how hard we as humans try to make logical and rational decisions, the simple fact is, every decision we make is actually made emotionally. How we feel about it determines what we choose to do, not what we think about it (this is scientifically proven).

The truth is, every single person tends to look out for their own interests first (we can’t help it, it’s a primal instinct). So if we as salespeople want to persuade anyone to do anything, we have to first cater to that primordial selfishness.

Think about it like this: if you were walking through the mall looking for something specific, and someone from another store approached pushing you to buy their products, would you be more likely to buy from them than if they took a second to just say hello and got to know what you were looking for first?

I’m not you, but I’d be happy to bet a fair sum of money that you’d be much less likely to actually buy in the former case. No one likes to be ambushed or pressured into anything without feeling like the other person actually cares.

But, I can’t tell you how many calls I get these days where the first thing that happens is the person on the other end of the phone ramming their pitch down my throat without ever stopping to just connect.

Salespeople: showing the other person that we actually care about them and the things that are important to them is the first order of business if we want to be successful (this is also how to make friends).

Good news though: the technology we have available today makes this really easy if you know how to use it correctly.

The reason why I’ve always been so successful in sales is a direct result of knowing how to use the tools at my disposal (tech or otherwise, I’ve been around a while) to build long-lasting business relationships. I’m not trying to brag – social selling techniques have just always been my secret weapon (before there ever was such a thing as social selling).

So that said, I want to give you an inside look at how I use social media and social selling techniques to do just that.

How to build relationships through social media and social selling

I’ve talked about this before, but building any relationship starts with making a “deposit”.

Just like you can’t withdraw from your bank account without putting any funds in it first, you can’t start a relationship by trying to get something out of another person on the first go (well, you can, but I wouldn’t recommend it).

This video nails it:

As creepy as it sounds, the best way to get to make your first deposit is simply to do your research on the person via social media (it’s easier than ever these days since so much of the world has an active footprint online).

Get to know what’s going on in their world, including:

  • What they are talking about online
  • If their job has changed
  • If they’re publishing any content
  • What kind of story are their online reviews are telling
  • What is going on with their investors
  • What business challenges they’re facing
  • The current state of their industry and marketplace
  • What their competitors are doing

I even like to know personal things about the person I want to connect with (I’ve had success connecting that way when other things didn’t work).

Once you know what their world looks like and what their pain points are, you’ll have a good idea of how you can do something meaningful to add value to their world (your deposit).

I personally like to do this by:

  • Sharing their content with my network to give them increased visibility
  • Connecting them with a person they would benefit from knowing
  • Sharing a piece of content they would find helpful and useful (whether it’s mine or not)

The key is to do it without expecting anything in return or making a ridiculous shameless plug of yourself in the process (i.e. do it with a genuine interest to help). People like others who are helpful (remember, we care about our interests first and foremost), and since likability is one of the 6 scientifically validated principles of persuasion, this is a critical piece of making the sale.

The coolest part about this, is we have an unbelievable amount of tools available to help us do this today.

The tools I use to build relationships on social media

Straight up, the sheer number of software tools out there are mind numbing. To the point where you simply don’t have time to try them all.

That said, these are just the ones that I have tried and liked the most. If you have one you use and love, drop a comment below with any you find particularly useful (sharing is caring!).

Apps I use daily

Linkedin Premium – I spend way more time here than I care to admit. I’m following all of my clients, old clients, prospects key influencers, people I admire, leaders I respect etc. My newsfeed helps me keep up on what’s happening with some of my contacts. It’s where content is published and we all know I like to read. My inmails/history of connections for context on when/how we connected. Who has been viewing my profile and when. Who’s liking my “stuff” and commenting. Groups groups groups – a fantastic way to see what my like minded colleagues, prospects buyers are talking about and a terrific way for me to weigh in to start connecting in a more meaningful way. All of this helps me understand what’s happening so I can have better/stronger conversations.

Linkedin Sales Navigator – My LinkedIn sales weapon of choice – premium on steroids for searching, building lead lists, more kernels of juicy insights, company updates

Findthatlead – I use this to get leads/contacts and more importantly direct contact information I can’t find on the web

Crystal– when I find someone Crystal tells me how to engage through really smart tech to suggest the very best way to connect

Nudge – The more I use it the smarter it gets to help me stay on top of what my prospects and clients are talking about online and updates for their companies – super helpful as I browse online or create emails.

Google – I kick it old school by setting up alerts for my top targets, best way to be automatically alerted on major news

Cliently – I was BLOWN away by their technology to personalize at scale think automated lead lists. Plus, it’s a highly personalized/customized cadence that includes email, Twitter, postcards and video.

Feedly – I read A LOT to make sure I know what’s going on in my backyard. Feedly is a lifesaver that helps me condense all of my content streams into one place.

Browser extensions I couldn’t live without

If you’re not using Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox for your web browser, you’re missing out on a huge number of tools available in the form of browser extensions (plug-ins). I personally use Chrome because I also power my entire business via Google – including Docs, Mail, Calendar, etc.

Boomerang – This little extension makes my email life a heck of a lot easier. It helps me stay on top of email follow up and has an intuitive writing-check function to help my emails be more effective (I like to compare what Boomerang suggests against Crystal) – this extension gives me an easy snapshot of a person’s online “footprint” to help me understand where they are online.

CloudHQ – As a cloud based backup for all of my apps and data

Mailtrack – Email tracking for Gmail. The daily report is super helpful to help me understand who’s responding to what and what I need to follow up on

The tool that still might be the most useful…

Call me old school, but the Almighty Telephone might still be the greatest productivity tool ever. So much is often lost in translation online, in comments, via text or email. Picking up the good old fashioned phone works wonders and engages in a way that most aren’t these days (remember, we’re talking about relationships here–you can’t truly have them if you’re not talking to the other person).

In summary

If there’s anything you take away from this article, it’s that while the tools we have today to connect are amazing, remember that selling is a human endeavor. No technology or automation can remove this aspect of the process (at least not yet…though I don’t think it ever will).

And when it comes to the way to do the “human part of the process”, there’s no better way to sum it all up than to simply say, remember The Golden Rule. If you put yourself in your prospect’s shoes, you’re 90% of the way there already.

I want to hear from you. How have you used social media to connect and build relationships successfully? What are you struggling with in this regard? Which tools do you find useful? Drop a comment below!

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Amy Volas

Author: Amy Volas

I'm a sales fanatic turned entrepreneur, bitten by the startup bug many moons ago and couldn't imagine spending my time anywhere else. I created Avenue Talent Partners to help with the tremendous task of growing startups through one of their most valuable assets—salespeople.

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