Seven simple steps for sales people who want to make the most of social media

By popular  demand (kinda), here is my take on a quick guide to ‘getting into social media’ for sales people.
Delivered as if we had 5 minutes over coffee or at the end of a seminar (because that’s happened) and you want a very quick list of things to do to ‘get into’ social media.

Why sales people in particular? Well, I’ve been working with some B2B clients recently in developing their organisation’s use of social media. That’s both the ‘corporate body’ / marketing team and individual staff usage of SM (and the symbiotic relationship therein). And I’ve been asked a couple of times to give an overview of social media for their sales people. Because they are often deemed, unfairly  in my view, to be one homogenous group of nay-sayers. In fact I know they’re not, I’ve met some real SM-enthusiast sales guys.

But just in case you are in the former group, or are SM-curious (careful with that phrase) but don’t know where to start, here’s a quick guide for you.

Warning : the guide may be short but exploring the role social media plays in your overall marketing strategy isn’t. And it isn’t a ‘quick fix’ (and successfully using it means ongoing effort).

Coffee, Cup and Beans

So – how to ‘get into’ social media in seven simple steps:

1.  Listen:
Don’t do anything other than listen initially. Work out what your peers / competitors / prospects and clients are saying and thinking.
Try tools like social media mention and Google reader, or Twitter search to look at who is saying what about your brand, industry term, theme etc.
Or try out a dashboard like Hootsuite, with a bit of experimenting you’ll find some listening tools that work for you .. there are a lot of free ones out there to get started with (and paid e.g Radian6 for corporate usage).
Finding out what is interesting / challenging to your industry and prospects / clients will give you some great conversation starters..

2. Create profiles:
Setup some key profiles, or complete them if you started then got distracted.
By key I mean the big networks .. but there are dozens (hundreds actually) of niche networks and if your industry has one or two that are active; then you should be active there too.
To start though:
Get as much info as possible into your LinkedIn profile
. And seek endorsements and join relevant groups in your industry.
Also set up a Twitter account (even if just for listening).
Follow relevant peers, competitors, clients, industry bodies ..and add them into lists to make searching each type of account more manageable.
You can keep your lists private (I have a couple) or public (I have a lot) if you want to share your efforts and be helpful.

(the grabbing a biscuit quick aside bit…)
Set up a Google+ account
. The jury’s still out (I’m grossly simplifying, we’re chatting over a coffee, remember?) but it is Google and it is getting / has traction.. so if you have time and want to go further then get onto Google+ and complete your profile.

And if you’re in a visual / product industry look at Pinterest also – any of your products being pinned?
Actually, whatever industry you’re in, setup some boards for yourself – doesn’t have to be business related , could be your passion for bikes, walking, hang-gliding, cooking etc.
Trying out different platforms gives you a better appreciation of what they might be able to do for your networking endeavours than just reading about them. It also shows you human side to people looking to connect with you.

Facebook: chances are you are on Facebook already. If you are then keep it clean (more later – again, grossly simplifying).
Particularly if you are linked in any way to your company (e.g you tell everyone that in your profile). More of that later.
And if you haven’t done already, see what industry groups or brands you could like/follow. It’s all preference but I ‘follow’ (and engage with) some industry groups in Facebook but most in Twitter and LinkedIn. Some people keep Facebook friends and family only. Whatever works for you.
If you’re not on Facebook and think it’s just for your kids / other kids you’re wrong. BUT I would say in the context of setting up profiles to aid your professional life, don’t set up a Facebook account if you don’t already have it. There’s enough to gain setting up and using LinkedIn and Twitter (mostly).

3. Get involved:
Choose some LinkedIn groups that are relevant to your industry and which also look lively. Answer questions for people, add a view to debates.
On Twitter, retweet any interesting links you have seen, update your status about a great trade show you attended etc. Tweet about articles you have read or issues you think affect your industry.

Make sure there are clear ways to connect with you, so if someone wants to continue a conversation with you, they can.

4. Be human:
In all of that, show there is a thinking person not a corporate robot behind the tweet. Add a comment to, rather than just post, a link but don’t try to sell to / talk at people.
Use the listening skills and empathy you clearly have if you have a succesful career in sales and apply that to online. E.g don’t hector, spam, hard-sell. Offer advice, insight  and ‘thought leadership’.

5. Be professional:
Being online and a brand ambassador (overtly or not) for your business has responsibilities. So protect to you and your organisation, most businesses will have a social media policy. Make sure you have seen this (it may even be in your employee pack?) and stick to it.

6. Add more value (blog):
Adding value is a short hand term to mean being helpful, sharing your knowledge, not expecting anything back e.g not trading some advice on the proviso of a sale etc.
You can add value in tweets or on LinkedIn groups but if you want to spread your wings and you enjoy writing; you could extend your shares and contributions to longer form thoughts and set up a blog (actually a wider resource list worth looking at).
There are lots of platforms about,  having used a few over the years I prefer WordPress.
Or if your company has one, ask the content / marketing team if you could contribute. If they’re on the ball and you’re an industry professional they should have come knocking on your door already!
If the company doesn’t have one, talk to your marketing colleagues and collaborate, you are pushing for the same goals at the end of the day (yes, yes you are).
You should let them know what you are doing or plan to do in any case (see point 5 above).
(I’m skipping podcasts, videos here but if that’s in your comfort zone have a think about what / how you could do that and build up an audience in your industry).

7. Look for sales opportunities:
Speaking of goals, being involved in social media and providing thought leadership and great content should arm you with conversation starters, help you see where you can fix a problem for a prospect and get you noticed and mean more ‘inbound marketing’ for you / your company.
But you don’t need to get shy about looking for a sale opportunity. Have a look at some of the great guides to using LinkedIn for example and spotting opportunities.

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There’s an eight point but that will really be threaded through all the above : keep going and learn from what’s working, experiment with content, types of interactions, groups you are active in etc.. it’s all about testing and learning..

okay – time for another coffee (in the real world, not in the scenario I established earlier on).
If you want any more info please use the contact me form and I’ll happily answer any questions!

Some guides / resources:

1. Guide for getting started http://www.sminorgs.net/2012/04/twitter-for-rookies-simple-guidance-for-getting-started.html

2. Example Social Media policies: http://socialmediagovernance.com/policies.php