2009 will be a year remembered for many things. Most of them non too positive. Financial meltdowns, rampant greed, thousands put out of work. Fear, negativity, anger and often complete disrespect for other human beings showed up everywhere. For entrepreneurs, it proved tough just trying to make it through, while at the same time companies beat them down on price and strung out the process of paying their bills to boot. Sales organizations began to finally realize that strategies that used to work, no longer did. Consumer confidence hit an all time low. Not all was gloom and doom though, and what I will remember most is how people began waking up to the power and potential of social media. Budget cuts and spending freezes forced companies to look at new alternatives to old processes that no longer made sense, and that, I think, is a very good thing.
Social Media’s Role in Sales
Here are just a few of the benefits that, I believe, social media brings to the sales process:
• Fill the pipeline with “better qualified” buyers. • Improved efficiency of lead generation efforts. • Shrunken sales cycle and reduction in the “cost per sales hour”. • Increased conversion rate of leads generated to clients enrolled. • Enhanced customer loyalty that leads to sustained revenue and higher profits.
One key to success using social media as a sales prospecting and lead generation tool is in the ability to reach more people with less effort and cost. It is a way to build visibility, demonstrate expertise and capability to potential buyers, while also keeping abreast of what’s happening on the competitive front. Done well, social media reinforces your brand so that when your ideal buyer is ready to make that purchase, they think of you!
No Magic Bullet
The opportunity to increase sales using social media is real, but success doesn’t happen overnight. It takes thought. It takes planning. It takes training. It takes commitment to use the tools – often. It most definitely requires patience. There is no quick fix, regardless what so many of the so-called “experts”, who inevitably arrived on the scene, would have you believe. They would tell you that the key to success lies in your ability to get 200 Twitter followers a day, and other such silly nonsense.
For each sales organization and sales person, the approach taken and the technologies used will vary, but the fundamentals of getting started will not. Boring as it may sound…determining your purpose, identifying the characteristics of your ideal buyer, developing your brand message and creating your plan are the things that must come first. Without these things, what difference does it make how many people follow you on Twitter or belong to your LinkedIn network? Better to have 20 of the right people following you than 200 of the wrong, an important fact conveniently ignored by those desperate to believe that a social media profile today means an influx of sales tomorrow.