In tough markets when sales are harder to come by, whether it be from increased competition or clients being more hesitant to commit and buy, don’t become your own worst enemy and rely on the marketing efforts of your company or emails or falling into the trap of believing the hype about social selling saving your sales day.
You still need to get on the phone and engage the people in your market places that you want and need to get in front of and sell to.
After more than 30 years in selling, with at least 10-15 years of those being exposed to and using social media and email, I have found that picking up the phone and calling prospects with valid business reasons and engaging them personally is still, by far, the most effective way of getting sales traction – whether that was prefaced by an email or in-message or not.
However, you would be forgiven for thinking by the plethora of online articles about social selling that you need never make a cold call again or indeed have to pick a phone up to prospect. Don’t be fooled.
Now, I am not saying do not use social media like LinkedIn for instance. These resources are amazing for researching and building your credibility and brand with prospective buyers in your market place. What platforms like LinkedIn have done for instance is put list businesses out of business. They are great for preparing the way; however, they take time and do not take away the need to be competent and effective when prospecting and selling to clients and prospects by phone or face-to-face.
Here are two common challenges I am finding happening amongst sales teams in the market place at present:
1. Using B2B social selling campaign companies
A number of companies are outsourcing their prospecting efforts to B2B social selling campaign companies, whose sole job is to research and write effective introduction emails or ‘inmails’ via LinkedIn to get their salespeople in front of targeted buyers, only to find that when meeting with these key prospects the salespeople are incompetent at selling. And worse still, many of these salespeople are not following up on the email leads generated, thus leaving prospective clients hanging. What impression does this leave the prospect when the salespeople fall short of the promises in the social selling email or don’t show up at all?
2. Over-reliance on emails for prospecting
Many salespeople are becoming too reliant on email or social selling activities to try to get in front of targeted prospects and not getting anywhere fast. Either because the salespeople do not know how to write focused and targeted prospecting emails that are relevant to the prospect or they only use email/social selling as their sole means for prospecting and new business development.
For a minute, put yourself in your clients’ or prospects’ shoes: how many emails do business people typically get every day? Like many people, too many. So how easy-to-read and pertinent are these prospecting emails and how effective are they in getting prospects to call the salespeople? You can see what I mean. Are these emails getting lost in a sea of too much information or simply irrelevant? Possibly.
Again I fear we are falling into the trap of point solution madness. An over-reliance on one thing is not good, especially when it comes to prospecting. Taking away the function of prospecting from the salesperson’s direct control is dangerous too.
Instead we need to teach our salespeople how to prospect effectively using a combination of social selling and telephone prospecting. They need to know how to craft valid business reasons and position themselves effectively in their respective markets so as to be taken as a serious player. Once they have earned the right to get in front of a prospect or client to explore opportunities, we need to make sure they know how to sell effectively – that they are competent at solutions selling when they meet or speak to the client about opportunities.
Remember, everybody lives by selling something.