You hear it all the time, social media is not about selling, it’s about relationships. If you read my blog, you know I’m always preaching relationships too. But businesses are in business to make money. So everything you do should be for the end result of making money – or sales.
So what good is social media if it’s not about sales and only about relationships? Well, let’s look at what sales people do and see how I may make this concept make sense to you.
For a little background, I am a salesperson. I am not currently in a sales position but I think if you’re really a salesperson, you will always be a salesperson. It’s just the way you are built. Salespeople think a certain way and see opportunities differently than others. It’s an inherent trait.
I was having a conversation the other day with my husband, reminiscing about my sales days. We started talking about some of my best accounts and my best clients. You know who came to the top of my list? The ones I had relationships with.
You see, salespeople aren’t all about the sale. Well, yes, they are. But they know that the best way to get the sale is by having relationships. If you ever get the opportunity to ride along with your top sales person, I highly recommend you do. Here are some things you will notice about their interactions:
- They greet their customers as friends. Casual conversation will ensue about their weekend or how the kids are doing or about their upcoming vacation or any other slew of personal details.
- They will ask their customer how things are going? Is business up or down? Why? How do they feel about a recent change or trend? They get to know what it is their client is experiencing.
- They ask their customer what they need. Not what they want to sell them. When you let the customer dictate their needs and you solve their problems, you will always become their go-to source.
Maybe now you’re starting to see where I’m going with this. As a salesperson, I would rarely get to selling immediately. Granted there are exceptions, but, in general, the personal relationship always started off every encounter. This is exactly what social media does. It gives you the opportunity to create a relationship and solve your audience’s problems before you even mention the word “sell”.
I also always remember this one situation where I had cold-called a potential new customer. I was talking (not selling!) to the chef of a new restaurant about their plans for the opening and some other conversational topics. The owner, seeing a blood-thirsty sales shark, immediately came over and asked me what I was selling. I looked him squarely in the eyes and told him I wasn’t selling anything. He didn’t believe me and asked me again. I repeated, “nothing”. I told him I was here to check out the new place and see how business was going. I spoke to him for about another minute and then left the property after giving my business card to the chef.
Guess who called me two days later. The owner himself. He was impressed that I hadn’t “sold” to him the other day. He asked me to find something that his current vendor couldn’t locate and when I told him I could get it and it delivered on time, I became their full-time vendor.
So what’s the moral of this story? People don’t like salespeople. They don’t like hard sales and they don’t like to be conned into something. By creating a relationship off the bat and letting the customer know that I was there to help them, not sell them, I secured the SALE.
Let’s look briefly at another validation of the relationship value. If sales wasn’t about relationships, companies wouldn’t have large expense accounts for “entertaining” clients. Think of the mass expenses companies spend every year on dinners, drinks, golf, sporting events, shows, etc. I couldn’t find a direct stat with how obscene this number is, but I’m sure it would make me sick.
So if your company allows expenses for “entertainment” and “relationships” and these are just the cost of “doing business”, why wouldn’t social media fall into this same category? While you probably could sit down and calculate the ROI of a dinner out with a client, I know many companies don’t. And yet, when it comes to your Facebook page, your executives want a full ROI valuation.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t look for ROI in social media. And by all means, Yes, there is ROI in social media. But the real value is in the relationships you create online.
The world is changing and younger generations don’t do business the same way anymore. They value a retweet and a mention and comment almost as much as your boss values a free drink from a vendor. Think I’m crazy? Ask someone in their 20’s how they would rather conduct business. Online or in person? You might be surprised.
So as the world changes and the business world catches up, you will have to evolve your sales strategies. Start paying attention to the relationship value from social media and don’t be afraid to put money into it. It’s just the cost of doing business these days!
What do you think? Do you think social media relationships drive sales? Please leave a comment below.