The concept has been around or some time now and there are many different definitions yet as with many other “secrets of the trade”, it keeps evolving, which is why it’s important to set some background first if we are to try to understand the concept.
Here’s what some big Companies you will likely recognize think about Social Selling:
Linkedin: “Social selling is about leveraging your social network to find the right prospects, build trusted relationships, and ultimately, achieve your sales goals.” Full read here.
SAP:“Social selling is about sales people building a strong personal brand. It is about understanding the role of content and how content can be used to tell a powerful and emotional story. And it is about growing your social connections.” Full read here.
Salesforce.com:“All selling is social. Always has been. Always will be.”Full read here.
As you can see, I didn’t coin the term myself so I can’t explain it’s origin but after knowing what it is for others, and having used this for some time I can tell you is what I personally think of it:
It is a proven methodology by which we can engage customers in such a way that a sales feel more like a natural, given thing, than a process.
Basic difference between the very graphic description Linkedin does and the more subtle and natural one Salesforce.com does is what SAP says of it. All of these approaches are good enough to start explaining what “Social Selling” really is, yet I when first read stuff like that I felt something was missing. Even when it comes to giants like these Companies, it feels more as if they are selling the concept per se rather than empowering it.
If you are like me, a sales person, you know what I mean. Selling is a lot of things and among all those things, it is a social thing because people buy from people. All good sales reps know that. It is also true that the more connections you have, the more likely it is you’ll land more deals than other reps selling the same things you sell, and of course who can deny that a good storyteller makes a hell of a sales man or sales woman?
There’s nothing new there, in those explanations, nothing that explains why “Social Selling” is as a technique, quite impressive, as a tool quite easy to use and as a means to an end, a proven path. Experience has taught me a few things about selling: you never know enough, you’re never just “the best”, there is no such thing as a perfect close ratio or too much pipeline so if all of this is true, what’s the power behind Social Selling everyone in sales should be looking at?
It is the power to connect you with information about your prospect or customer, deal or business opportunity in real time and provide you with a prism like view of it all and decide what’s the best way to engage and through which medium, every single time.
This is just a first stab at it, I couldn’t say it’s a final definition, still working on it yet I do feel it’s more accurate than the rest. We all know what a) selling is about (as in talking to people, showing them value, understanding their business, etc.) and at this point we all know b) what social networks are.
But, do we know how to use b) to get to a)? That’s the key. Social networks are all about Search-Find-Share-Like-Engage (that makes a hell of an acronym by the way: S.F.S.L.E.), as in you search for people or stuff you want, you find them and stuff like, you decide if you and with whom you want to share it and if it’s liked, you can engage.
Well…what if we apply that simple concept to Selling? For the first time in Human History, a sales person can prospect a future client with the depth and multiplicity of resources only a C.S.I. character would in TV. Just imagine: you can not only see the professional profile of someone on Linkedin, but also see what they tweet about and who they follow. You can see what they like or share and even engage them through those likes.
Imagine walking into a meeting with a full profile of the person you’ll meet, and of the Company you’re visiting. That used to take eons before and it was considered the most well kept part of the “craft” in sales: how to build your network. Well…that’s still happening only now, anyone can go online and find the information.
Social Selling is not selling socially. That is, as people at Salesforce.com states, a given. Social selling is not advertising through Social Networks. It is about how you search, find, share, like and engage people whom you want to sell to. The rest is, as with everything in sales, up to you.
Just a final note for all of you sales reps out there: there’s a catch. What you see about your prospects…they can see about you. It’s a 2 way mirror, remember.