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Leading Sales Teams in the Social Selling Era

Managing a sales team today is not really much different from managing one before the social media era. For some reason, many sales managers have been slow to embrace social selling as a viable and necessary sales channel. In contrast to the pre-social media era, you now have a high tech new resource to exploit and generate leads.  There is no denying that “social selling” is really just great selling empowered by the reach and direct engagement that social media platforms provide. Nevertheless, there are some important ways in which your sales team can modify behavior to distinguish themselves and your organization to win in the new world dictated by social media.

Considering those behavior patterns successful sales professionals are already using, it becomes clear that those who lead and coach salespeople need to modify their behavior, as well.  Here are seven simple rules for leading sales teams in the social selling era.

1. Encourage salespeople to contribute thoughtful content in relevant groups and forums.  

Buyers will engage with content that offers thoughtful commentary, will share genuine content, and pose direct questions to the contributor when the subject matter relates to the buyer’s business issues and opportunities.  Consider where your company’s prospective buyers might go to seek out information and encourage your sales people to genuinely engage in the various channels.

2. Help salespeople see the value of establishing a “Personal Brand”.  

If you haven’t heard the term before, a personal brand is meant to help others understand who you are semi-personally — and what you want to be known for professionally. Sellers who want to be seen as brokers of valuable resources need to put some effort into their online profiles and the messaging within them to ensure that their “personal brand” message is clear.

Once salespeople see the value of establishing or improving their personal brand online, their managers can help them to consider ways to strengthen and clarify their message.

3. Ensure buyer focus in all that they post.  

Buyers are no more forgiving of sellers that push their own agenda online than they are of sellers who do so offline.  In fact, online, buyers have the power to literally block and ignore salespeople who appear to be too focused on themselves, their products, and selling. Ensure your salespeople are asking themselves “How would potential AND current customers respond to this?”

4. Always guide their social engagement toward lead generation.

Your salesperson getting ‘Likes’ and ‘Shares’ obviously don’t pay the bills. Sales do. A sales manager in the social selling era must be instrumental in helping a salesperson convert social engagement into buyer commitment. Consider creating a “social engagement meeting” where you, the sales manager and your sales team focus some time and effort on even the earliest stages of engagement with potential clients or buyers. Simple guided discussions like …

“Tell me about John Doe. It looks like you have a productive exchange going with him in a LinkedIn group. What exactly does he do?  Have you asked him if he’d see any value in possibly having a phone conversation with you about the topic / reading our article about that topic / recommending anyone else who might also find value in discussing that topic?”

… can be really effective. The point is: salespeople should be encouraged to think about questions they can propose to those with whom they are engaged over social media.

5. Take an “investment” view on social selling. Make sure you stick with it long enough to see returns.  

Social selling tends to be a long sales cycle. Connections and contacts on social media must sometimes be nurtured before your salespeople will even get a shot at the ball. It must be treated as a supplemental sales program, though the best social sellers have made it a priority. Because of the nature of social interaction, salespeople must stick with social selling.  Sales managers should play a role in ensuring that they do.

6. Measure the impact of their efforts. 

As with any other sales effort – your team needs metrics for their social selling. A sales manager should encourage some discipline by helping salespeople to track their online efforts.

The frequency of a salesperson converting social media contacts into real, live customers or at least viable opportunities in a given time period will be good to know. Try giving each salesperson a target for social contact conversion, and revisit their progress periodically.

7. The world of buying and selling has changed. Old methods are becoming less effective. Help your team stay ahead of the curve.

If salespeople don’t pay attention to the way potential buyers want to interact online, then eventually, they’ll have no one with whom to interact!  The sales manager’s task is to help salespeople see the risk of not changing their methods and the potential payoff of engaging with buyers via social interaction.

Do you have examples, good or bad, of how sales managers or salespeople have adapted to the social selling era? Do you have questions about effective sales leadership in the new era of selling?  We’d love to hear them, so please offer your comments now.