The art of "Social Selling" is sometimes considered an optional "extra-curricular" method of sales reps either do, or do not choose to adopt. Part of the reason is having the word "Social" in it causes people to map it to social media. Since many sales reps are not social media power users, and don't see it as a way to find "deals" they stick with what they know. In the end, it is dismissed as something to do with social media and doing things outside of their wheelhouse that take time with little return. Unfortunately, management may share this mindset as they also see little value in ROI from anything "social."

Let's dissect the topic and take an academic look at "social selling" and why it is not something extra-curricular but rather something that is intrinsic to taking you from little league to professional, from a sales associate (in appearance and reception) to a power player, a peer, and why it is something that has been around since sales became a profession.

On a side note--it is also a way to make yourself memorable to prospects, sets you apart from the other 30 reps that try to connect with them that week, make yourself more valuable to your employer, and build long-term relationships that stick. 

A fictional character that is master of social selling is Don Draper. Before computers or being online was even conceived, Don Draper knew the value of information, which includes when and how to use it.

Don Draper's selling landscape in the 1960's looked like:

  • Some things clients want never change, they want to be the best option for their consumers (in perception at least.)
  • They want to break into new markets, retain their existing customers and wow their audience.
  • They want to be a household name, a fixture in their space that automatically is considered when a requirement comes up.
  • They want to feel safe with their vendors, they want to confirm they made the best choice.
  • They want an advocate with their vendor.
  • They want a vendor to grow and align with their plans.
  • They want you to know what they want even when they don't know what they want. They may have unrealistic goals.

How Don Draper did Social Selling in the 1960's:

  • He had people do research on companies to get information.  We have a meeting with a huge firm--so someone is in charge of researching the firm, their clients, their current vendors, and user preferences.
  • Relationships often meant inside information, and valuing those resources.
  • He carefully observed his prospects, their habits, their style, who they are and their level of influence.
  • He put himself where his clients would be, but not overstaying his welcome.
  • He keenly observes people, and has a high amount of emotional intelligence in selling (we'll leave it at that.) NOTE: It has been observed by some, that people with dysfunctional backgrounds are very good at sales from their ability to have a high sensitivity to undercurrents and emotional tones. (Article "Dysfunctional Family? You'd Make a Great Entrepreneur")

NOTE: The above preparation and effort to learn this about prospects took a lot of time, multiple people, the time the client saw the final presentation, it was seamless and they had no clue what went into it.

How Reps Today Execute Social Selling:

  • Companies can be researched online in about 15 minutes--not days with multiple people involved, or having to pay for information.
  • You can research your prospects fairly easily via their own user generated content, (i.e., LinkedIn, Twitter, Press Releases, etc.) and also looking at their peers and industry.
  • You can observe their habits and style by being able to discern their actions remotely in the online world.
  • You want to make an appearance, not an entrance--so low touch and informal is the best way to keep the dialog going.

Social Selling is really just "selling" like the seasoned pro's do, it isn't some enhanced method for a select few. It is distilling everything about your prospect, such as live interactions, online, remote, with others, and observing their interests and actions in the public domain. From there you distill it down to carefully executed actions that make a difference.

Good sales reps have always been around, the amount of people and cycles to get things done has been greatly reduced thanks to the internet--so you can be incredibly effective on your own.  It is being the Ultimate Maverick to implement smart pre and post detective work into your relationships.

What Are you doing to step up to a changing sales landscape?