I’d have to look up what the industry definition of social selling is, but I’d like to take a stab at it: Being social…and then selling. Maybe I’m being a minimalist, but in my experience, this concept works better than selling and then being social, or being social while your selling. In this post I’ll focus a little more heavily on the ‘being social’ part, which truly can lead to sales. I would suggest applying the following four disciplines if you would like to see results with investing in networking and social selling.
Discipline #1: Remember Its Not About You
“You can make more friends in two months being interested in other people than in two years by trying to get other people interested in you” – Dale Carnegie
When I started going to business networking events I was a little intimidated, and found it frustrating that I didn’t always get the chance to present my “elevator pitch”, that I so well-rehearsed in the car ride there. How was I to interrupt that real estates agent’s explanation of the housing market, and get a word in edge-wise?
I’ve come to realize that there’s more power in listening to my contact’s story and understanding some of the challenges they’re facing, rather than getting to my pitch. I use the word ‘contact’ on purpose, knowing that it’s a two-way street, rather than calling them a ‘prospect’ or ‘target’ which focuses on how they fit into my plan. What if it was about how I fit into their plan? Asking probing questions and using active listening skills can reinforce trust and help solidify relationships and reveal where you can be of help to them. Beyond the positive karma, how is that doing anything for me? I don’t have the algorithm nailed down yet, but knowing someone’s challenges and pain points sets you up to be a relied upon contact.
Take Away: Listen and Ask Questions about your contact’s pain points.
Discipline #2: Offer value to those you value
“Be fertile soil and give more than you take” – Jake Nicolle
Once you’ve identified some contacts that you’d like to engage with further, you can think about how you might be able to offer value to them, with your understanding of the needs and concerns they’ve expressed. Is there an introduction you can make an opportunity that’s a good fit for them, or a piece of feedback they might find helpful? What if there’s nothing you can do for them?
I had a recent exchange with someone on LinkedIn where I offered to volunteer my time on any upcoming projects that they had in the pipeline. They expressed genuine gratitude for my offer, and though they may never “collect” on the offer it certainly moved our relationship in a positive direction. I can be choosy with who I value of course. Free coffee may not be a currency I can pay the bills with, but I think trust is. I really admire the people I meet that seem to leverage themselves ahead of seeking ways to leverage others… something about the golden rule there, I think.
Take Away: If you value your contact, offer to help them.
Discipline #3: Find the Right Place and the Right Time
While I’m a believer in serendipity (my wife and I met in the middle of a crowded circus/street festival after I had accidentally arrived there on my way home from the library) and contacts can be made anywhere, but you can wear yourself out trying to get to every meet-up, mixer and peer group in town as you hustle leads. It can take a bit of trial and error, but it’s worth spending a few minutes investigating the right kinds of events and groups to plug into.
Mark Elliott from VA Partners was recently invited to speak to a Columbian delegation of companies regarding selling in the Canadian Market. I volunteered to tag along and joined the delegation for a couple networking sessions before and after the presentation. Not only did I get to bust out my Spanish skills (usually reserved for my in-laws) but I was speaking as a subject matter expert to executives from startup and growing B2B companies, our target customers, who were hungry to make connections. This has lead to further conversations with some great companies.
Props by the way to my new Colombian friends at Doc Manger Solutions (document management), Soft Valores (fintech security and anti-money laundering), Fit Ideas (app and web development) and DevOps Colombia (agile/scrum/DevOps training)!
Take Away: Spend time in places you know your best contacts will be.
Discipline #4: Be 80% Sweat hose and 20% Sprinkler
Say what? Yes, this is an irrigation analogy. I’ve worked with a couple NGO’s doing work in Guatemala: Wells of Hope and Project Harvest. Both organizations began their projects working on sweathouse irrigation systems. These systems use rows of irrigation pipes which drip water drop by drop, irrigating plants at their roots. This saves 80% of the water wasted by Sprinkler systems, which spray water that wastefully evaporates and grows weeds along the way.
Broadcasting on LinkedIn and Twitter can sometimes lead to the sprinkler effect. If you’re spraying too many posts out there, not getting to the root of your contacts needs/pains/desires, the person you are “cultivating” can tune out. Consider the 80-20 rule: I spend most of my time on personal outreach, trying to understand and support my contacts. With your broadcast posts, you can still personalize them by doing some selective name dropping, which is another way to affirm and celebrate your contacts.
Take Away: Focus on a few contacts and say it, don’t spray it!
In conclusion, be sure to reflect on the ABC’s of social selling… always be connecting with the right kinds of contacts, celebrating what they’re up to, and cultivating deeper trust through understanding their needs. And remember: Its usually better to listen, ask good questions and be remembered, than to talk too much and be forgotten.
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