Social Media and Sales

I wrote an article a few months back, “Selling Under the Social Media Umbrella”, in which I described more or less, the evolution that took place that brought us to where we are today. So, fast forward six months and look how much it seems to have changed.

People are coming out of the woodwork to claim instant superiority as social media gurus. It seems most are saying they can increase exposure, double sales, and increase your bottom line. Here’s a suggestion, ask for proof! I did from one such claim only to be told it was confidential information. What!? This is not to say they cannot be of some help, they can, it just some precautions. The problem with social media today is it is too raw an avenue to have “experts”. You can have some experience, but only to a point, but certainly not experts. Those proclaiming themselves as experts are grabbing from their legacy marketing experience and throwing the social media cover over your eyes. “Buyer Tread with Caution”.

Social Media takes time and a lot of commitment with the understanding that it is a continuous process; one that you just do not jump into. Social media is not for every business or industry. The smaller the organization, the least benefit it reaps. The reason is fairly simple. The amount of time involved is prohibitive. Smaller businesses simply do not have the resources. This is about the time they begin to look for help. The problem is, they are not sure what type of help they really need, they simply believe it is a quick way to help their business. Unfortunately,  they turn to and rely on the self-proclaimed “experts“.

I believe social media should be called “Commercial Media”. This avenue is best exploited by bigger industries that have a much larger ROI. Bigger industries have the stamina for the long-term. Let me stop here and explain something. Social media is not the same as social networking; either for business or pleasure. Social media is an evolving source of communication. I am not saying there is any benefit to smaller companies, rather smaller companies simply cannot expect the plethora of return an organization with a huge marketing budget can expect.

Social media is an offshoot of marketing. Like any other marketing campaign, a social media campaign’s success is in the execution. If done correctly, the impact can be huge. Done poorly, social media will be deemed a failure as a medium of information dissemination.

For the foreseeable future, social media will be a passive path for sales. It will eventually evolve into an active path, but not for some time. Social networking will be the next path for commercial business despite the muddling around of those that now view it has a fad.

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Happy Selling!

Ed Warner

Selling Under the Social Media Umbrella

Social Media, Marketing 2.0, Sales 2.0, Web 2.0…the names tend to run together, but whatever name you recognize, it is garnering a lot of interest from companies, especially those that are struggling in today’s economy. Seemingly exploding overnight, the Social Media movement actually began the moment the dot com bubble burst. Let’s take a quick look at how we got here.

History records the timeline of the dot com from 1995 until 2000. During this period, I worked for CA (Computer Associates) and later Oracle selling ERP, CRM and e-Procurment. VC firms were throwing money into any company that had a web presence and an idea as if it were the fuel of success. Forget the business plan! What burst the bubble was the fact companies did not have anything of substance that could sustain the current momentum. After the bubble burst, people scoffed at the idea the internet could ever be a viable channel of commerce. Nevertheless, those determined, picked up the pieces, learned from past mistakes (let us hope) and carried on. Ok, flash forward to the present.

From the school of hard knocks rose an educated mass, this seemingly is pushing Social Media forward. Hooray!!

Let’s not celebrate quite yet. I see a disturbing trend among companies frantic to increase sales, turn to a yet unproven method of marketing and selling. Moreover, some are practically abandoning traditional methods in favor of this new trend. I say unproven only because there isn’t enough quantifiable data to back any claim. Yes, I fully understand companies have bought and sold goods using these methods. There are also companies and individuals that have connected for employment purposes through this new media, yet there is a striking parallel between these and the activities that drove the dot com hysteria. Don’t get me wrong, I applaud this type of thinking, but only IF you can show a sustainable model. The problem is, I’m just not sure I see one yet.

What IS going to change will be how information will travel. We are already seeing the effects on YouTube(c) and Twitter(c). It is becoming an interactive world. This quick access to information will empower customers, OUR customers allowing them to be better educated. The method of primary information dispersal during the dot com era was word-of-mouth. Not a very fast means, but word did get around. So how will the new way of information dissemination affect you as a salesperson, sales manager or VP of Sales? It will change how you approach a customer, which means you MUST change your strategy. No longer will you be able to push a product UNLESS you are able to motivate your client. The result of this new media channel is a potential customer will have a plethora of competing products and simply choose to pass yours over unless you create value or have something remarkable to offer or show that makes the customer take serious notice. The ability to motivate customers through social media is here today. How you use it to leverage your products is a moving target.

What is NOT going to change is the salesmanship necessary to close the deal. People are still going to buy from people, not companies. The coming change is going to have the greatest effect on transactional selling rather than strategic selling. You will still need people to follow-up on leads, visit clients and move the sales process along. It will not replace the intelligence needed to sell or buy, though I would wager some people would like nothing more. All of these will still need the sales touch as Social Media will not be able to do this for you.

Social media is great and I hope it’s here to stay, but it has not yet proven itself the panacea everybody hopes it to be. This is the infancy stage, and additional stages of metamorphosis will happen before the dust settles.

I hope you will find this of value. Comments welcome!

Happy Selling!

Ed Warner