As a GenXer, when Social Selling hit the sales scene I thought it was a joke and yet another thing I was supposed to do to be successful in sales. Fantastic, add it to the list. The whole idea of tweeting and posting sounded and felt ridiculous to me. When I went off on my own with JBarrows, I had a whole bunch of consultants tell me they could get me 10,000 twitter followers in just a few weeks. I never understood why I would want 10,000 random people following me for no reason other than to tell people I had 10,000 followers. I’ve never been someone who cared much about status so I decided to approach social selling with a focus on quality over everything else. If I was going to share something out there it better be good.
As I entered the world of social selling I started to see the importance of brand building and the impact it could have for individuals, not just companies. I also started to see how many people were doing it wrong (IMO) with an obvious focus on quantity over quality. These people were trying to position themselves as thought leaders, yet when you looked under the covers and read through the content they were sharing or looked through their profiles it was clear they were not. I wondered how many people who were sharing content were reading it before they shared it out. Many of them didn’t even add their thoughts to the posts they were sharing. Even though these fake thought leaders annoyed me, they helped me make the mental switch on the value of social selling on multiple levels.
Instead of looking at social selling as purely a way to build my brand and get followers, I looked as it as a way to educate myself first. We’re living in a world where information is readily available through a simple Google search. So, I started to look for information that I wanted to learn about. I specifically focused on my industry, the personas of people I was trying to connect with, and the industries I was selling into. As sales professionals, we obviously need to improve our sales skills but I think it’s equally important to focus on improving our business acumen if for no other reason than to have more thoughtful and interesting conversations with the people we engage or want to engage with.
By looking at social selling as a way to educate myself first, I started to share what I learned with my audience. This wasn’t just about reposting an article or retweeting a link. It was about sharing content and including my thoughts on what I learned or my opinion of it. I wrote an article a while back of the importance of context versus content. If we as sales professionals are not putting any context around our content then we’re no different than marketing and I have no idea why we’re getting paid to do what we do.
With this approach, I started to build a following of people who engaged with me when I would post something and add their thoughts to it which I would learn even more from. Even though I don’t have a million followers on any one channel I know the people who follow me care and get value out of what I share. Add this to the fact that I now learn something new almost every day and you can see the true value social selling has when done right.
For those of you who are looking to get started on social selling but don’t quite know what to do, focus on educating yourself first and then share your insights.
From a tactical perspective, I recommend setting up a Feedly account and creating folders that focus on information about your industry, the industries you are selling into, and their associated personas. Then, go find the true thought leaders in each of these categories and start reading their content. I build this into my morning routine just like my dad who reads the physical morning paper as he drinks his coffee. With this approach, I learn something new almost every day and I share content out there with my context to help build my brand and add value to whoever is listening.
Make it happen!