In the age of technology, social media is king and the network effect has never been more valuable. I commute to work using the New York City subway system where passengers stare listlessly at their smartphones. Even three stories underground people are reading emails, scrolling Facebook, watching videos, or playing Candy Crush. Every subway ride reminds me that modern society is consumed by technology.
I have to admit: most mornings I wish I could chuck my phone in the East River and go back to the “good ole days” before cell phones, computers, and social media took over. But this is where we are today and technology will only continue to advance. I realize that rather than focusing on what was, I must focus on what is and what is to come. Technology and social media have tremendous power: they provide us with an opportunity to connect with other people, discover new products and businesses, and tell the story of our own businesses.
Sales Techniques in the Age of Technology
My first sales gig was all about cold calling. I found leads two ways: 1. I drove around in my car and took down business names. 2. I used Google to search for the types of businesses I was looking for. Both searches created the same sales situation for me: I was completely dependent on my cold calling skills to reach potential clients and customers. Why did I choose to find my customers this way? Well, because, “We’ve always found clients this way,” “It’s what works,” “It’s how we’ve always done it.”
Cue Social Media and the Network Effect
I learned quickly that while the tried and true sales scoping method above was a great start, it was old school and I was missing opportunities by not tapping into technology. I decided to use the current client base that I had created through the old school method to leverage something new: a social media campaign using Facebook to nurture current leads. What I discovered was not only surprising, but also fun. The campaign (a three part contest centered around our company name) resulted in the following:
- It created a buzz around our company. People got excited about our company because we were engaging in something new and exciting, unlike anything our competitors had done.
- It generated credibility for our company. From a visibility standpoint, prospective clients saw current clients interact with us. They were able to see that we were real people, not sales robots.
- It gave us a story to share when visiting with both potential and current clients. Sharing our contest and Facebook page became an exciting conversation; a pleasant departure from the typical, “How has business been lately?”
- It got us noticed by new prospective clients that hadn’t heard about us before. The shares and “likes” crossed over to people and companies that didn’t know about us and provided opportunities we wouldn’t have otherwise had.
A simple leap with social media proved to be a huge opportunity and this was just the tip of the iceberg.
How to Leverage Social Media as an Executive
One of the biggest questions the CFS team is asked by executives is, “How do I use social media to leverage sales?” Most CEO’s, VP’s, and Managers are able to recognize the importance of a social media presence for their company as a whole, but have trouble seeing beyond that. Well my friends, I am here to tell you that social media isn’t all BS. When used consistently, social media is a valuable resource that can help you:
- Find prospective clients, businesses, and connections
- Nurture your current client base
- Share your story, bringing humanity into business
- Help educate others (I highly recommend blogging and posting articles on LinkedIn—we all have something to teach and something to learn!)
- Continue to learn and grow—leadership is all about development.
If you’re like most of the executives I’ve spoken to recently, your next three questions are probably something like this:
- I’m already on LinkedIn, what now?
- Social media is time consuming, where do I find the time?
- I don’t understand how platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest are going to help me as an executive. How do I use them to help me?
Here is my advice:
1. In my opinion, LinkedIn is gold. It is the ultimate network for business professionals seeking to learn more about other business professionals. I could write pages and pages on how to use LinkedIn to help you to find leads and nurture current clients. In fact, I am in the process of doing just that (stay tuned for the upcoming CFS resource on social media, to be released in early August). But I won’t leave you hanging until then. Here is a list of “musts” for your current LinkedIn efforts:
- Check your profile—make sure it is filled out completely and is not missing information.
- Log in to LinkedIn daily. Get in the habit of checking your LinkedIn account like your email. Sift through “People You May Know” and request connection with people you know. Comment and “like” work anniversaries and job changes in your current network. Comment, like, and share relevant posts that pop up in your feed. Stay engaged!
- Update your profile weekly. (Yep, weekly!) Skim your profile each week and tweak it, add content/posts, add skills, or additional areas to make your profile more complete.
- Reach out—send messages to former and current clients, previous work contacts, and new connections. Check in with them, say hi, keep the lines of communication open. Invite them for coffee or lunch. Most of all: be human.
2. If it’s important to you, you’ll make the time. Engaging via social media is an opportunity, not an event. If you knew that tomorrow you would write a message to a contact that would turn into your next big account, would you skip “social media time” tomorrow? Set aside time during your day just as you would for anything else, but be sure to stay on track so you don’t get lost. Be sure you are:
- Engaging (liking, commenting, sharing)
- Learning (reading)
- Sharing (writing original content, sharing content you found valuable)
3. You are not a robot. People like to do business with people they like and people like people with similar interests. If all a prospect knows about you is that you work for XYZ Corporation, you always wear black, and you drive a grey Mercedes, is that enough to build a lasting relationship?
I’d like to relate this point to dating. In the beginning phases of a courtship it’s all about “getting to know each other,” right? Using social media as a connection tool is another opportunity to forge a real relationship with a prospective client or nurture an existing one (remember, it’s much easier to gain business from a current client than it is to find a new one). So go ahead, follow your client on Pinterest—you might be pleasantly surprised to find that they like cat memes, home decorating, and Paris too.
Social media is about more than marketing gimmicks and paid advertisements—it can be a resource for networking and relationship building—but only if you log in and engage.