Is managing a sales team today any different from managing one before the social media era? In some ways, no, and in some ways, yes.
Despite the fact that great "social selling" is really just great selling empowered by the reach and direct engagement that social media platforms promise, there are some important ways in which salespeople need to modify their behavior to differentiate and win in the new, social media empowered world.
Considering how they need to behave in order to compete more effectively, it becomes clear that those who lead and coach salespeople need to modify their behavior, as well. Here are seven simple rules for leading sales teams in the social selling era.
1. Encourage salespeople to contribute thoughtful content in relevant groups and forums.
Buyers will engage with salespeople who offer thoughtful commentary, share content, and pose questions that relate to the buyer's business issues and opportunities. Consider where your company's prospective buyers might go to seek out information about problems they have or opportunities they seek to capture.
That is where your salespeople need to engage.
2. Help salespeople see the value of establishing a personal brand.
We know you’ve heard it before, but a personal brand is meant to help others understand who you are -- and what you want to be known for. Sellers who want to be seen as opportunity creators, problem solvers, and brokers of valuable resources need to put some effort into their online profiles and messaging to ensure that their "brand" message is clear.
Once salespeople see the value of establishing or improving their personal brand online, their managers can help them to consider ways to strengthen and clarify their message.
3. Guide their social engagement toward the desired outcome.
'Likes' and 'Shares' don't pay the bills. Sales do. A sales manager can be instrumental in helping a salesperson convert social engagement into buyer action and commitment. Consider creating a "social engagement pipeline" where a sales manager and salesperson focus some time and effort on the earliest, nascent stages of engagement with prospective buyers. Simple questions like ...
"Tell me about Jane Doe. It looks like you have a nice exchange going with her in a LinkedIn group. Have you asked her if she'd see any value in possibly having a phone conversation with you about that topic / reading our article about that topic / recommending anyone else in her organization who might also find value in discussing that topic?"
... can be really helpful. The point is salespeople should be encouraged to think about questions they can ask and actions they can propose to those with whom they are engaged over social media.
4. Measure the impact of their effort.
How will salespeople know if their social selling efforts are bearing fruit if they don't track their efforts? A sales manager can encourage some discipline by helping salespeople to track their online efforts.
For example, how many times a salesperson is able to convert social media contacts into real, live prospects or viable opportunities in a given time period might be good to know. Give them a target for social contact conversion, and revisit their progress periodically.
5. Take a long-term view on social selling.
Social selling may not give salespeople the kind of immediate gratification that they'd like ... but they must stick with it. Sales managers can play a role in ensuring that they do.
6. Ensure buyer focus in all that they post.
Salespeople must not violate the basic rules of communication with buyers just because they are posting on LinkedIn or Twitter. Buyers are no more forgiving of sellers that push their own agenda online than they are of sellers who do so offline. In fact, buyers have the power to literally block and ignore salespeople who appear to be too focused on themselves, their products, and selling.
7. Help them draw the conclusion that the world of buying and selling has changed, and old methods are becoming less effective.
If salespeople don't pay attention to the way potential buyers want to interact online, then eventually, they'll have no one with whom to interact! The manager's task is to help salespeople see the risk of not changing and the potential payoff of engaging with buyers in a more effective way.
Do you have examples, good or bad, of how sales managers or salespeople have adapted to the social selling era? Do you have questions about effective sales leadership in the new era of selling? We'd love to hear them, so please offer your comments now.