Tools of the Trade

Selling is never easy and the more tools you leverage toward your sales goals the more powerful the results! Social media is the most powerful tool to land in the lap of business in a generation. Social Media can build brand awareness, unearth prospects, engage and build connections.

Unfortunately, most businesses have little or no idea what to do with this amazing opportunity.

Here is the answer  – or at least part of it!

In a world where a Google Adword can cost $100.00 per click or more Social Media offers an opportunity for business to skirt skeptical paid advertising and get right to their customers! Get your clients and prospects to connect and engage and they become partners in your success – true Mavens for your business!

Powerful stuff!

Social media can be used for a variety of goals so it is important to know what you want and where you’re going. The tools in social media can be used for brand awareness, lead generation and direct sales depending on what you want to achieve.

The key to success is to understand the sales process, which is always the same:

1) Create the want through brand awareness

2) Deliver a compelling message

3) Connect with a qualified prospect

4) Trial close and then close and get the business

The following three stages will get you very real results in developing sales through social media. Remember social media is not selling and at some point you will need to sell and ask for the business! If your business requires a face-to-face sales element then real selling and closing skills will also be required. You should always be investing in the selling skills of your team – that includes you!

Stage One: Traffic

This is all about getting noticed in a busy, noisy social media world!

Start with the following Social Media platforms:

Twitter – your account should be based on the brand you wish to promote in the long run. Post regular updates that will be of interest to your target market. Follow everyone you do business with or wish to do business with in the future. Keep the spread between following and followers inside of 2000 or Twitter will classify you as a spammer and close down your account! Don’t automatically follow everyone who follows you – lots of spammers out there! There are tools to help with this.

Hootsuite – this program will allow you to schedule your Tweets over busy periods so that your message is delivered consistently – even on weekends or when you’re on holidays! The last thing you want is for your message to stop just when you’re getting some attention out there!

Facebook – This should reflect your web and brand but with a slightly more casual design. ‘Like’ pages that you do business with or wish to do business with in the future. Facebook does provide a great opportunity to connect. I would not suggest connecting this with your real personal page. Create a social media persona so that you can become fully involved without exposing your real personal life. This is always a mistake.

Create a Blog – WordPress is a good format – either on the wordpress site or part of your own website – both have advantages. Provide solid, interesting content and publish regularly. Your blog can be automatically configured to repost on to your Facebook page.  Make sure to include like and share buttons to make spreading the word so much easier. Blog articles also make great material for articles submissions, which is the fastest and cheapest method to drive SEO.

Create a Sound Cloud account and post audio versions of your blog! Use the same to post on your Youtube account. An audio version allows people to choose whether to listen as well as read. Hearing your voice or watching you on video is a great method to connect – much stronger than the written word alone!

Add Share and like buttons to all of your web pages to make it easy to promote your business – this really drives SEO!

Create a LinkedIn account and create a compelling profile that presents you and your business in the most professional and compelling manner possible. Connect with everyone with whom you can reasonably expect to have a business relationship.  Everyone in your organization should have a LinkedIn profile and all the profiles should be linked to your LinkedIn company page. Take your profile seriously and put effort into being sure it sells you! No silly photos please!

Create your own LinkedIn Group and take on a leadership role within your industry. Don’t use your own group for pure self-promotion as it is tacky, a turn off for others and will limit membership.

Join LinkedIn Groups. You’re allowed to join fifty groups. Pick them carefully and make an effort to pick groups where your ideal customers belong. If you’re uncertain look at the profiles of your target customers and see which groups they are involved and join those groups.

Create an email newsletter. These are less popular than in the past but still powerful! I use i-contact and use content from my Blog and so a weekly newsletter takes me about ten minutes to prepare each week as I have already produced the content for my blog. I have produced an email newsletter for 275 weeks in a row – consistency demonstrates discipline and focus to my audience – good things I think! Sign up for my newsletter on my website! Email newsletters are diminishing in value but still have impact. As currect trend continue I don’t expect email newsletters to have much value in the future – open platforms have a stronger opportunity to leverage content.

Open an Empire Avenue account to leverage your efforts and to broaden your engagement within the social media landscape. This is a powerful platform to gain real connections and help within the social media world. You can enlist the help of others to achieve your social media goals!

Sounds like too much work?

All of this probably seems likes a lot (and it is) but start slowly and build momentum over time. Even one hour a week will produce results if you are consistent. Content can be shared, varied and duplicated which does save much of the effort. You want to avoid being too repetitive, however, but material can be used multiple times, edited, and rehashed to create new and still interesting content. Promoting other’s content is important in building a following and making the message more inclusive and open. This also helps on the content issue!

The important point is to develop a consistent and regular message that is consistent with your brand image.

Ultimately during stage one you want to build traffic and so measurement is important. Week by week, month by month you should see increased traffic to your sites and blogs as well as increased connections in all areas.

What is measured can be improved!

Stage two: Engagement

Engagement is the part of Social Media that most people get wrong. Either they can’t create enough of a connection with those they would like to connect with or they get stuck in the engagement and cannot move from engagement to closing the sale. I have built a significant business from LinkedIn – connecti online – engage – meet for coffee – pitch! This is a simple process that has worked time and time again. LinkedIn is a powerful tool to removing the gatekeepers that can get in the way but you must be strategic. Forget those sales emails to all of your contacts – this will only hurt you!

To begin the process of learning how to engage using social media I would strongly recommend starting with Empire Avenue.  As a Social Media Stock Exchange you will quickly learn the ins and outs of leveraging social media to build real connections with real people to raise the awareness of your business. As the system is a trading house for social media you will learn what works and what doesn’t.

These tools and experiences can be quickly translated to client and prospect relationships. Social media has become a powerful and efficient tool to connect with potential prospects. The result is that Social Media will become an important lead generation tool and contribute to the filling of your sales pipeline.

Stage three – The sale

In my experience this is where most people either choke or overdo it and turn off the prospect.  As discussed,  in a recent Blog the key to a powerful business development program is a Sales Pipeline full of prospects. As each prospect becomes ripe then that is the time to close and get the business.

How to know when a prospect is ripe?  The trial close!

This is important and where the more subtle aspects of selling come into play.

Initially, a trial close is asking for a meeting – keep it simple – a coffee can move a relationship forward. It could be asking for an order, a potential referral or a long-term contract that can be developed overtime.

If a prospect appears interested then try a close. “Is this something that you would like to be doing fairly soon?”  If they back away, explore further to see if there are objections that can be resolved right away. If not, then back off and put them back into the Pipeline and continue to market to them. If they are ready, then just ask for the order.

Always ask for the order!

How about Networking groups? Networking is NOT Selling and be careful of the networking trap – thinking that because you’re chatting that you’re selling – it is not the same thing!

Networking is important but it is not selling! Networking is a powerful tool – especially in a city such as London!

A long successful business career is built on many trusting relationships and many of these can start with networking. This could be joining Rotary, Golf Club or any place where people come together!

The more people you know the easier business will be for you!

Networking, properly done, however, is specifically not about selling it is about rapport building!

Selling is about identifying a buyer, presenting a compelling offer and then closing the sale – getting the order in the quickest time possible.

The difference between selling and networking is really the difference between selling and marketing.

Marketing is the process of brand awareness, development of a compelling message, and a clear offer that generates interest in the business, product or service. With an effective marketing program, which includes networking, presentations, referrals, blogs, social networking, paid advertising, web, SEO, etc… leads are generated (leads are people who have expressed an interest in the product or service) and then these leads should be sold.

Selling is the clear presentation of an offer and a request to do business (asking for the order). Smoozing and building rapport outside of delivering a clear pitch for business is not selling.

Order taking (waiting for someone to give us the business directly or indirectly) is also not selling.

In addition, none of the various marketing efforts listed above (included networking, presentations, referrals, blogs, social networking, paid advertising, SEO, etc) is selling – they are marketing! Marketing is important but it cannot replace selling (in most cases).

Here is the problem with many businesses – especially small businesses.

Many business people, including those with the title of salesperson are afraid to actually pitch for business and so stand around waiting for orders to fall into their laps. They keep busy networking and doing other forms of marketing hoping to generate enough awareness so that they don’t need to sell.

This approach keeps many businesses small at best and kills them in the worst case.

Now, if you have amazing products and great marketing – take Apple for example – then selling is not an issue as there are more than enough orders to keep everything rolling over. Most businesses are not this lucky!

If you want more business then you are going to have to learn how to sell or develop some amazing products or services that have the world beating a path to your door.

A good business plan and sales strategy addresses the sales process and defines how customers are going to be found and developed, in increasing amounts, over time.

If you do not actually know where your next customer is coming from but are hopeful that the next person you shake hands with at a networking event will be ready to give you an order or a referral then your business is in trouble and your business plan is not complete.

If you do not have a clear plan for getting new customers and growing your business then get some help!

Is it time that your business adopted a better sales model?

One of the major differences between businesses that are stagnant and struggling and those that are vibrant and growing is a strong sales model.

Most businesses do not have unique, proprietary products or services. Website design, accounting, building products, recruiting, stationery are not significantly different from one business to another and having a compelling message and strong sales program is essential.

Building a sales system:

1) Develop a compelling sales message that separates you from the competition in terms that are important to your target audience. Work on your sales presentation skills and adjust after each presentation. Remember ‘the customer writes the pitch’ meaning that your sales pitch should evolve and grow with each presentation based on your prospect’s reaction.

2) Assemble some professional sales collateral – high quality business cards at a minimum.

3) Get your name out there. A professional looking website, facebook, e-mail newsletter, twitter and a blog are the basics. To this can be added YouTube videos, strong presence on LinkedIn and focused business networking. Be consistent!

4) Develop a sales funnel. Every sale takes time to close, for a variety of reasons, and so it is extremely important to have as many quality leads as possible. Create a list of businesses that you would like to do business with and begin to contact them directly.

5) Use a sales management system. I like online programs like Salesforce or Capsule, which are free at the one or two user level and can be accessed via the web – even on your smart phone. These programs allow you to see the proposed value of leads so that you can determine how much activity will result in how many sales. Keeping this pipeline full is essential.

6) Know what you’re doing next week. All of your marketing, social media and networking activity must result in face-to-face selling time. The problem is that most people don’t like to do this and will use all kinds of ‘urgent’ activity to avoid selling. If your sales calls are not booked by Friday for the following week they won’t happen. Allow this to go on for more than a few weeks then you will have some very difficult times down the road!

7) Never stop selling! Selling is the lifeblood of every business and it must happen constantly. If you experience regular dry spells in your business then you are not keeping your sales pipeline full! Make selling a priority and keep the business coming in! If you get too much business you can always raise your prices!

Most important is to realize that selling is a system and should be organized, supported and managed! Its success does not depend on the salesperson and if you are blaming your salespeople for the poor results you are looking at the wrong place – try the mirror! A good salesperson will thrive with a good sales system but the best salesperson can fail without the right tools!

Take Away – Selling should be a system!  You should be selling everyday and every week. If you don’t schedule your sales activity it won’t happen. Develop a sales funnel and manage it on a daily business. Know where your business will be coming from tomorrow, next week, next month and the month after that. Hope is not a strategy!