Social selling is so new, it sometimes seems as though no one really understands it. (If you do, please tweet me ASAP so I can pick your brain.) But it makes sense. It has to work. And it does work--like the time I was sitting alone (posting hot dog/leg pics) at Manhattan Beach enjoying the sunshine, contemplating dinner, when a local restaurant tweeted at me inviting me in for an appie and a drink. I was shocked and amazed at how personal and relevant that offer was. And hey... free stuff?! That always wins with me and at least gets me in the door.
I have been discussing social selling opportunities with one of my clients, Allocadia, for almost a year now and we are finally ready to take the plunge and get started. (We kicked it all off this week actually!) I'm going to be summarizing our attempts, successes and lessons learned here in a series of blogs, so that when you're all ready to implement social selling in your own businesses, you have a real live case study to follow along with.
But to start with... how did we get here?
Down With The Pushy Car Salesman AKA The Buyers Journey
The first thing we had to recognize before anything was started was the way the sales world had changed. Now, not all sales people have recognized this and adapted, but the sales cycle is driven by buyers and because of the world we now live in, with so much technology and information accessible to us in ways it hasn't been in the past, buyers have changed the cycle. We don't want to be "sold" anymore. We want someone to help us "buy". There's a difference.
Let me tell you a story.
At a recent trip to a resort down in Mexico, my boyfriend and I begrudgingly signed up for one of those time share sales pitches that comes with two free massages (I told you, I'm a sucker for free stuff). We knew it could be painful, but we were firm and communicated right off the get go that this was a learning experience for us and we didn't have the means to make a purchase that day, should we be interested. They, of course, said that was fine and paired us up with George. Now George, a retired, boisterous grandfather of three, sat us down and immediately had our favourite cucumber margaritas sent over, while chatting to us--asking some basic introductory questions. He learned how much traveling we do and as he half-listened, he formed his pitch in his mind. It was the right pitch for us, if there was one, I'll give him that, and we listened and learned about what the program had to offer. Because he knew we traveled often and all around the world, he didn't bother to try and sell us on local unit we could return to year after year and call our second home. He explained the "cashing in" program that they had set up that not only allowed you to exchange time share for time share elsewhere in the world, but also allowed you to use those points for other travel-related expenses. Honestly, it didn't sound like a terrible idea and we were grateful to at least learn more about it.
We chatted with George for hours and toured around the beautiful property with him. We talked about his kids, his life, his journey to Mexico and into this job. Nearing the end of our tour, George explained that we needed to jump on this deal today--right now--because he could offer us so much savings if we did. We thanked him for his time and for the tour and reiterated that we didn't have the means to do this today, here and now, as we had said previously, but if we could take the information away and think about it and get in contact with him after, we may consider. George was not happy about this. He became aggravated and pushy. We kept trying to politely explain our position and once again, asked if we could follow up. His frustration only escalated, fumes blowing out of his ears as we stood waiting for the trolley to take us back down to the sales centre.
Back at the office, he brought his boss in to try to close the deal. While his boss talked to us, George stood over the table, interrupting everyone, repeating the benefits this package would offer us. We breathed through just about as much of this as we could handle before we finally put our foot down and said we were not interested in being bullied and we'd like to leave. (And we stormed off, grumpy, in search of more cucumber margaritas.)
Now I'm sure most of you have a similar story to this and can relate. This is old school selling. George was old school. And we just don't want that anymore. We know about a lot more alternatives than we used to, and what we don't know, we want the time and the tools to research and understand before making a purchase decision. At the end of the day, we left with a terrible feel for the company and we didn't want to look into it further. Which was too bad, because it could have actually been a good fit for us.
So where were some of the places George went wrong?
He didn't listen. This started right from the get go. He listened just enough to craft his pitch. He knew he needed to personally connect with us, but he did that by regaling us with tales about himself instead of listening and learning about who we were and how we like to buy.
He didn't follow up. We were genuinely interested in this program and we told him we'd like a follow up as we had interest in closing this sale, but he was stuck on the fact that we weren't closing in that office at that moment and considered it a loss. He lost this opportunity.
He pushed us to the point of anger. We kept our cool for a long time--we knew we were going into a sales pitch so there was no point in being frustrated with someone trying to sell us something. Duh. But after saying no or explaining your position more than five times and having the same answer shoved down your throat, aggressively, might I add, we were angry. No sales experience should ever ruin your day or your mood! How effective is that?
He interrupted. It's just rude--don't do it. Besides, every time you interrupt the person you're trying to sell to, you lose the ability to learn a clue into how to better "help them buy". It goes back to listening.
He didn't customize our buying experience for us. We explained before the tour began that when making any big decisions like this it was our style to come out, listen and learn, then go back and research, compare and discuss. We even told him we were both modern marketers (hello--big hint!). Had he focused on how best to support our decision-making that day, he would have left us with a bunch of information, examples, etc and then a card. He would have also offered to follow up with us and asked how we preferred to be reached. Phone? Email? He would have asked to connect with us on social media so that he may ___________ (learn more about our businesses, follow along on our travel adventures, etc--anything he learned about while listening to us). This way, when we had questions or were ready to buy, he would be very accessible to us. George assumed we were 90% down the buyers journey, when really we were only 20% of the way there--but that didn't have to be a bad thing, he just needed to note that and adjust his responses.
This is the story about how George failed to sell. Don't sell like George.
Social media presents a great opportunity to connect in a place where your potential buyer is, in the way . (It's important to understand your target market and where they are, first and foremost. There is no point in trying to sell adult diapers to the teenagers on Snapchat.) But more about that next time...