I remember the first knife I bought. I was backpacking in Milano, Italy. It was the late ’90s. My father had just passed away and my mother and my grandmother decided that I needed some air, so there I was: in a country I didn’t know, trying to speak a language that’s not my own (though close enough to try my luck) trying to figure out how to eat an apple. Funny as it may sound, I don’t like the apple’s peel. I needed a knife, so I walked into this very nice shop where they sold beautifully hand-made pocket knives.
The salesman was a middle-aged guy who took only a few seconds and words to measure me: he probably figured he could sell me something. My looks, the way I myself looked at the knives said it all: I wanted one, I didn’t have a lot of money so I couldn’t afford a luxurious piece of craftmanship…but I wouldn’t leave without something.
Long story short: he did sell me a beautiful pocket knife I still own and take with me on my trips. The time he spent getting to know me was ultimately what got me to buy the thing: he knew his stuff, he asked me a lot of questions about the use I’d give the knife and he spent around 10 minutes showing me how to properly hone a knife. He tried selling me a honing stone of course but I didn’t have the cash for it.
I believe that this provides a beautiful example of both how Sales and Social Selling work. You see, there is a time in every sales person’s life when he or she realizes an absolute truth:
The only way to get better at sales, is selling more.
Repetition. Focus on details. Discipline and Patience.
My knife is really sharp. I don’t use it much, to be honest, but I take great care that it is always sharp. I have a few stones I use. I’m not a master sharpener of course, but I can tell you this: before I started sharpening my knife I had no idea how it was done. It took me a long time to learn how to use a stone properly, and I didn’t try on my pocket knife at first of course. I didn’t want to ruin it, as that’s what happens when you start learning something new, right? It takes a lot to become good at sharpening objects, as much as it takes a lot to become a good Social Seller.
The same as with the sharpening or honing process, what gives you a really good feel of how things work is repetition. That’s how we usually learn stuff, by repeating it. You need to feel the tool you’re using, figure out what’s the best grip-force combination that will yield the best results. It is the same thing with Social Selling. Once you figure out that your personal brand can be maximized with the right combo, the only way to keep it sharpened is to keep it updated. If you have a nice profile picture on LinkedIn, you know you need to update it every 6-12 months: you need to look fresh and actual. If you reach out to your customers through content you post, you know you have to do that with a certain periodicity: they are expecting it. Repeat. Try again. From the top, every single time.
Focus on details
“The Devil is in the details.” I keep hearing that phrase, and it’s been quite a while since I heard a close friend say it and you bet she was right. If you look at my pocket knife attentively you’ll see where my fingers rest when I hold it. If you hold it long enough you will notice it’s perfectly balanced even after being sharpened so many times. You can also see that there is no dirt or filth of any kind on the handle. That’s because I keep a good eye on everything when I’m sharpening it.
When prospecting a potential customer or even when engaging that’s what you need to do. Even before you send out your first contact request to them (doesn’t matter if it’s a LinkedIn Inmail or just an email), it is the “how much you know your guy” thing that shows up first. A key concept of Social Selling is engaging with insights. How much do you really know of the person you’re talking to? How much do they know about you? Have you realized that it’s almost entirely up to you?
Discipline and Patience
Sharpening a knife can be irritating. Especially when, after a few tries your knife is still dull. First ten or fifteen times I just thought I sucked at it: every knife I sharpened end up being as dull as a broomstick. I even threw a knife at a wall out of sheer frustration.
Impatient people make the world go round..and yet it is those who respect discipline and are prone to wait that make a profit of that. That is why it is you need to “keep your cool”. Breathe in, breathe out…and try again. Keep at it. You’ve been sending out different messages to the same people. No answers yet. You keep prospecting and trying different things and nothing happens and you’re wondering if you wouldn’t be better of running massive ad campaigns, you know, go “old school”. And then you get a hit: someone you’ve InMailed is looking at your profile. You go check what you wrote to that person, you take a quick look at your profile and realize there’s a pattern somewhere.
You just need to figure it out and once you do WAIT. Breathe in, and breathe out. Do not just jump to repeat. Chew on it for a while. And then try again.
As simple as peeling an apple…with a nice Italian pocket knife.