A blog posted by the Harvard Business Review on April 10, 2013, reaffirms the idea that sales reps not only can, but must, use social media to be truly successful in today’s market.
The writer lists three things that the sales rep needs to do.
1. Be Findable and Credible: This means not only having a profile on LinkedIn and Facebook, but also having supportive information, references and endorsements.
2. Be a Trusted Advisor and Teacher: In other words be personable, expert in the field and willing to impart information even if it is not about your particular product.
3. Deliver Highly Personalized Service at Scale: In short, use social media to become aware of what your target customers are talking about on social media and be ready to pipe in at the right time and with the right frequency.
In today’s market a social media presence is not an option, it’s a necessity. A previous blog posted on the KBK Communications website noted Richard Branson referencing a study which reported “that within five years social media will be the number two way to engage with customers (after face-to-face personal interaction).”
So the obvious question was, “Why wait for those five years?”. Of course the answer is, “You can’t.” At least you can’t and still be relevant. If current sales reps in today’s market want to be successful and still be around in five years, we (yes, I said “we”) have to become ready to bite the bullet and join the ranks of the social media engaged.
The thing is, though, it is not just the sales rep that needs to be engaged in social media. It is the whole sales team from the VP level to the Director, to the Regional Manager on down. And in some instances it may go all the way up to the President/CEO of the company. So what does that mean you should do?
The Ways to use Social Media
Promote “Personal Branding” - Today’s job market is in a constant state of flux and transition. You, the sales rep, regional manager or VP, may be working for one company today and a different one in another few months or years. We all want and need for our employer’s brand to be recognized, but even more we need to have our personal brand recognized and remembered to succeed beyond our identity with our current employer. So put your voice out there in support of your employer and their products, but be sure to put yourself out there as well.
Be the Expert - This goes along with creating your own personal brand, but goes beyond it. You promote your expertise by engaging in discussions on LinkedIn, by Tweeting and by writing your own blogs. These blogs can be in support of your company’s products, if on their website, or be a forum for your own thoughts and ideas on your personal website. Either way, you can use the blogosphere to show off your expertise and become a desired resource.
Join the Crowd - Make sure that your blogs and comments are out there where your target audience is going to see them. You need to be in with the right crowd in order to be recognized and get the results you are looking for. You may have an interest in stock car racing, but blogging about and commenting in that area will not likely help you to sell defibrillators. Plus, there are a growing number of social media sites. It’s not just Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. There’s Pinterest, Google Plus and others.
Maintain Your Presence - It is not enough for your company to market their brand by buying a newspaper or billboard ad once a year. Neither is it enough for you to write one blog or comment on one LinkedIn conversation stream and expect to get recognition and results. You have to develop an actual plan for blogging and supplement it with conversation stream comments. Do what I have been told to do. Develop your own editorial calendar and implement it. (One of these days I may do this myself.)
Listen to the Buzz - In any interaction, there is both give and take. Like the old saying goes, “You’re not learning when you’re talking”. So, just as important as it is to put yourself out there, it is also important to hear what others are saying. It is even good to invite comments and elicit expressions of need from the folks you are engaged with so you can address those pain points with your particular product or service when they arise.
Assess the Effectiveness of What You Are Saying - While this may be applicable for the individual sales rep/account manager, it is imperative for the company to have a handle on the effectiveness of their social media activities. This means you have to have good analytics and pay attention to them. You need to know what kind of topics are resonating with real potential buyers. Search engine optimization (SEO) is good, but what really matters is how far down the sales funnel are these leads going and what is driving that activity.
Adjust and Repeat - This should be a “no-brainer”. If you are spending the time and energy to establish and maintain a social media presence and then check to see what is and isn’t effective, then you need to adjust what you are doing to become more effective. Then check it again. Adjust it again, and repeat again and again.
If you, as the sales rep, sales team leader, VP of Sales and Marketing or company President, CEO want to be viable in five years you need to engage in social media. If you need help in developing those skills and/or managing the process, KBK Communications would be happy to help.