So many organizations categorize social media as a responsibility that only belongs to marketing. But here’s what it comes down to: According to the Pew Internet Project’s research, 67 percent of online adults use social networking sites. Shouldn’t your sales team be connecting with them, too? We say yes. And that’s why we’re launching a social media series on the LevelEleven blog, where we’ll discuss tips for you and your team on social selling. Then when you do combine social media directly with sales, you’ll be gaining all you can from it.
Facebook: The “personal” platform that assigns personality to sales
As of April 2011, Blogher reported that 93 percent of adult U.S. internet users are on Facebook. So we figured that would be a good place to start. You probably know that unlike other social media platforms, such as LinkedIn and Twitter, Facebook tends to be more personal. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be used for business. Whether you allow your sales team to use their individual profiles for work or encourage them to simply participate on your organization’s page is up to you. What’s most important is that they’re actively using Facebook and going about it in ways that can best benefit your business.
People buy from people
It’s an old sales mantra, but it should apply to new ways of connecting with business contacts. When it comes to using not only Facebook, but all social media platforms for business, salespeople need to focus on building relationships instead of sales. It sounds cliché, but business really will develop naturally from there. Here are some tips for doing that on Facebook:
- Especially because Facebook traditionally provides the most personal space out of the social media platforms, your sales team should be using it solely to cultivate connections they have already established. No salesperson should solicit people they don’t know on Facebook – at least if they’re expecting good business to come from it.
- Facebook should be used to connect contacts with interesting content, rather than direct selling. That means even if a salesperson knows someone, they should never message them with offers on Facebook. It’s okay for your team to create selling posts once and awhile about specials or new products, but that content should be appearing only as said: once in awhile. In between those posts should be rich, interesting content, such as company blog posts, industry news articles and anything else that your salespeople find interesting.
- Your team should use Facebook to engage in conversations with potential and existing clients. They can do this by commenting on photos or statuses, clicking “Like” on posts and sharing interesting statuses that business contacts share. As long as a salesperson is not being too aggressive (i.e., participating in every post that a contact creates) these types of actions should be appreciated, which will help to foster relationships. This type of activity might also help to develop new relationships. According to Pew Research, the average Facebook user has 229 friends. The more your salespeople are engaging with their friends (or the organization’s fans), the more new contacts will come across their name, which can build up your sales team’s network.
- On top of participating in potential and existing clients’ conversations, your salespeople should be trying to create conversations of their own. One way to do this is to ask questions that are likely to solicit different opinions. “This or that?” questions are great for this; for example, on the topic of social media, a good one would be: “Facebook or LinkedIn – which is better for business?” Trivia can be helpful for engaging people, too.
- It goes without saying that if a salesperson is using Facebook for business, they’ll need to carefully adjust privacy settings to keep personal information (i.e., photos an old college buddy posts from those glory days) far out of the reach of business contacts. That being said, salespeople should not be afraid to show some personality on their page. Posting a family photo and sharing things that interest them beyond business are healthy ways to do this. These posts show prospects and current clients that they are working with an individual, not just an organization.
Remember when your mom said you should treat others like you’d want to be treated? Your sales team should listen to her now, because that’s the common theme running through all of these tips. Each of your salespeople needs to think of the kind of person they’d like to purchase from and then brand themselves online as that trustworthy, professional, even fun person. Of course, nobody should stray far from their personality to do this. But nobody on your sales team will have to, right?
Now to get your salespeople using it…
Sometimes the most difficult part in this whole process is getting your team to use Facebook in the first place. One way to make social media a habit is through contests. One of our clients, Agility Communications Group, did this successfully with Chatter, which is a similar platform to Facebook, only it’s on salesforce.com. You can read about Agility turning one Chatter user into a company full here.