By Sean McPheat
The way that sales professionals sell has gone through massive changes over the last 30 years. As a profession, sales has moved away from the one way monologue where the sales person would just try to push the benefits of their product or service onto the client and hoped the client would be interested enough to buy.
Now – thanks to the rise of the Internet and Social Media – the modern day buyer is in control of the sales process. Modern day buyers can now go online and research all about the product or service they are looking to buy, find out everything they need to know to make their purchasing decision and even get peer recommendations on which companies to speak to about their purchase – all before they have had any contact with a sales person.
In light of this, modern day sales professionals are having to become ever-more technology savvy in order to successfully sell to today’s modern day prospects – the sales landscape is literally changing right in front of our eyes, and we as sales professionals and business owners need to move with the times if we are to stay on top. But how exactly can you do this?
Well, the first thing you should note is that you need to put the background work in and start building a prominent and active online profile for yourself so that you are found when your prospects go online in search of the products and services that you sell. You need to create your own “Internet Footprint” by distributing a wealth of thought leadership content and expert articles across your social media networks, and through industry relevant blogs and discussion forums. It is important to establish yourself as a thought leader in your field and position yourself as an industry expert, to help build creditability when you begin to prospect online through social media and other internet-based resources.
Once you have built a strong personal brand online, you can start to reach out to your prospects online and begin to interact and sell to them in the modern way. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are brimming with potential clients and customers, and all you have to do is get involved and engage with these key decision makers online.
For B2B sales, LinkedIn is by far the biggest and best social media platform to be involved with. LinkedIn is 100% searchable and hundreds of thousands of potential leads are waiting at your fingertips – you just need to know how to find and connect with them. So how exactly do you prospect on LinkedIn?
Through a quick search of keywords you can find the key decision makers in those big companies you’re interested in, find out where they are spending their time and what they are interested in – all you have to do is reach out to them and make that initial contact. You can search by job title, company, industry or location and find the prospects you really want to connect with – and then you can use the platform to research more about them.
A great way to gain direct contact with your connections is to strike up a conversation with them in one of the many LinkedIn groups which the platform has to offer. You can research which groups your contacts are members of simply by visiting their profile. You can then enter the discussion and strike up conversation with them by commenting on their recent posts or starting a relevant discussion or distributing content of your own to help you get on their radar.
Once you’ve built up a good network on LinkedIn and started to interact with these contacts via their groups, you can also prospect further by seeking out your second degree connections. The people in your network are known as your first degree connections, but you are also connected to all of your connections’ connections, and these are known as you’re second degree connections. LinkedIn even shows you how you are connected to your second degree connections so that you can ask for an introduction from your shared connection in order to make that first contact.
When you are prospecting on LinkedIn – or via any other social media site – they key thing to remember is that this is a SOCIAL network and therefore you need to approach prospecting and selling via these platforms in a social way. Don’t go straight in with the hard sell – instead make contact for the benefit of the prospect. Provide them with something of real value that will help solve a problem they are having or that could help improve their business in some way.
Once you have given the prospect a reason to want to engage with you online, you can then ask them for a personal email address or phone number so that you can send over a free whitepaper you have for them or arrange a demonstration of how your products/services would help solve the issue they have which they have been discussing with you on LinkedIn etc. By approaching the sale in a social way and providing your prospects with something of real value from the very first point of contact you will find it much easier to get in touch with and engage with your prospects and clients.
About the author
Sean McPheat – MD of international training firm MTD Sales Training and best-selling author – has dedicated his career to studying the sales landscape, researching the modern day buyer and creating innovative new ways to interact and engage with the key decision makers in today’s businesses. Follow Sean online: