You build solid relationships and that equals respect and trust which leads to referrals. Whether those referrals are for sales or knowledge gathering depends on the situation. If they do cold call it’s only the first step in building the relationship.
- When was the last time you asked a cold caller for their opinion or a reference? Never?
- When was the last time you asked someone in your personal network (online or off) for advice? In the last hour? Day?
The social media sales cycle
Listening is the first step of any entrance to social media no matter what your business is. Who’s your market? Where are they hanging out online? How can you best approach them? Which networks have the most concentration of people you want to reach?
Remember, you don’t want to spend all day nurturing multiple networks right off the bat. The learning curve is relatively shallow for these networks, but all together they can aggregate into a mountain. Pick one or two to start. Establish your presence, make sure the brand is visible and the profile contains information about your company and set up some informational landing pages where they can learn more. Expand your reach into other networks as your personal network grows organically.
For a local business leveraging the local social media sites is just plain smart. Get out there and listen for opportunities to help. Here’s a short list of social media listening tools that can help. The idea is to engage people where they are already comfortable and in language that fits the network instead of creating your own network and trying to fit them into your box.
Can you answer a question, give directions or raise awareness of an issue by directing users to a particular product or service? Add worthwhile input to the conversations you discover and become more visible. Stick to the 80/20 rule. 80% of what you post on any network should be in support of others. Is there a local charity, school or event you can talk about? The other 20% can be about you, but you don’t ask for the sale at this point. We’re building awareness in the public sector, and if you’re interesting you will see inquiries from prospects. Be a connector within your network and others will return the favor.
Get to know your prospects
There’s a lot of information out there. Some people might say too much. Like any other kind of relationship building you need to get to know who you’re dealing with. If you do some searches on me for example you’ll see that I’m a Mac user, I ride horses, love the California coastline enjoy fine wine and travel quite a bit. Any salesperson worth her salt sees the value in this kind of information to develop a relationship.
Prospects to leads
So you’ve attended the tweetups, had conversations with people on your blog, Facebook page or whatever networks you’re using. Now what? Use those listening skills you’ve developed to look for an opening to convert a prospect into a lead. Just because you met them online doesn’t mean you have to go through the whole sales cycle on Twitter! Use your social media presence to encourage prospects to subscribe to a newsletter or visit a landing page to get deeper information. Call them on the phone. Send them flowers on their birthday. I don’t need to tell you how to take it from here now do I?
Probably the most touted word used by social media consultants is “evangelist”. The truth is; when you create relationships online and show you’re an honest forthright person making a living, when the station shows it’s support for the community, the people in the community support you back. When you send out a call for help for a promotional campaign they are more likely to respond to the guy they’ve been chatting with online than a cold call. Wouldn’t you?
How long is it gonna take?
Building awareness and goodwill, communicating with your market, connecting people who need to know each other, all help to raise your visibility and increase public awareness of what you do. These kinds of deeper relationships are going to show a much faster return than if you broadcast your message out to a pile of networks but don’t connect with individual users. That said, it’s not a magic bullet. Expect to see some returns such as personal connections in a fairly short period of time. Deepen those relationships without asking for a sale until you know you’ve reached the tipping point. Expect to nurture these relationships for a minimum of 3-6 months before you start to see a significant volume of return. Then watch it snowball and pick up speed.
I’ll be the first to say it’s hard to measure the ROI on social media. How do you “measure” a relationship online that turns casual acquaintances into evangelists? What value does the evangelist have? What value do the evangelists’ networks have? Their networks networks? If you really want to dig into social media measurement KD Paine is the diva of measurement. Visit her site for a deeper understanding of how this all works.
It’s never over
Social media evolves constantly. Your relationships need to be nurtured even after the sale (maybe especially after the sale) like any other valued sales lead. The cool thing is, with social media you can continually feed your network of prospects, clients and future clients with useful information that enriches their day and keeps you in top of mind.
Last but not least, if you’ve got questions put them in the comments below or shoot me an email ( Janet at JanetFouts.com ) or find me on Twitter. I love questions!