I have a confession. I'm a 40-year old, married mother of four... social networking addict. I have more than 4,900 connections on LinkedIn, 4,900 followers on Twitter, almost 1,000 friends on Facebook, dozens of followers on SlideShare, Quora, and Pinterest. I consume information online and am constantly sharing it with my social networks. Some addicts need cigarettes, caffeine, alcohol, food, needles; I need Likes, Shares, Favorites, and Retweets. I need them because it means my network finds the information I'm sharing of value.
In all this social networking, TRANSFORMATION is happening that affects the sales process. It’s a transformation of the buyer, the buying process, the buying committee, and the resulting necessary transformation of the modern sales professional.
The modern sales professional is actually not a seller, but is someone who helps people buy. This is someone who helps the buyer understand his problem, helps the buyer understand there's a solution to the problem, and helps the buyer understand why her company is uniquely qualified to solve the buyer's problem. Today's buyers are better informed by information available via the web and social connections, yet their buying processes are longer because more people sit on the buying committee.
What Is a Modern Sales Professional?
- She's an “information concierge” — she provides the right information to the right person at the right time in the right channel.
- She's an “insights professional” — she teaches the buyer something he doesn't already know.
- She's a socially connected individual — she's where her buyers are: on LinkedIn, on Twitter, on Facebook, Quora, Slideshare, Pinterest, and more.
- She has a personal brand — she's a thought leader, not a product pusher.
- She's a content connoisseur—she reads what her buyers read and shares that content across her social networks.
- She's a challenger—she makes her clients think differently.
- She's a mini marketer.
Why Did the Sales Rep Have to Transform the Way She Sells?
She had to change because the web and social channels have transformed the way buyers buy. According to Corporate Executive Board, buyers are 57% through their buying process before engaging with salespeople. They've figured out they have a problem, they've figured out there's a solution to their problem, and they've narrowed the list of companies who can likely solve their problem. They've done this by searching Google, attending a webinar, downloading an E-book, attending an event, asking their network for recommendations, visiting your corporate website, reading your blog, listening to a podcast, attending a virtual trade show, watching a product demo, seeing a video customer testimonial, and the list goes on and on. This new world of buying is transforming the way sales reps need to sell (or, rather, help buyers buy). Buyers don't want cold calls, they don't want generic emails, and they don't want case studies of companies that look nothing like them. They want insights information value, and most of all, they want you (the sales professional) to know more about their business than they know themselves. They want an information concierge. They want an insights professional. They don't want someone selling features and benefits.
LinkedIn and Other Social Networks Help Me Do What I Call Social Selling. What Is Social Selling?
It's the practice of leveraging social networks and the associated tools in the overall sales function from lead generation, to closed deal, to account management, and to customer advocacy. Buyers expect more relevance and insight from salespeople. Social sellers use the web and social channels to identify, listen, connect, engage, and share relevant information with buyers. They also continue to use traditional sources for insight into the buyers' businesses — corporate websites, blog sites, annual reports, and investor presentations.
Buyers are online. It's critically important for salespeople to know the buyer's digital footprint: what they're interested in, what they need, who they trust, and where they congregate. Through social networking sites, 82% of the world's online population is reached. The web and social channels are transforming the way people buy.
Before LinkedIn and other social networks, in the sales world, ABC stood for Always Be Closing. Now, ABC means Always Be Connecting, because your connections lead to your next hire, your next job, your next lead, and your next close.
If you'd like to connect, please send me a personalized invite on LinkedIn. Say something clever, reference a common connection or shared group, relate to me as a mom and a wife, or call me a social networking addict. Follow me on Twitter.
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