Social networking platforms have changed the world that we live in. They also have had a significant impact on the world of sales and how we go about doing business (and continue to do so). As we explored in our last post, social networking platforms can be a valuable tool in the arsenal of sales professionals, but it can also have the opposite effect and hurt your chances of building lasting business relationships if you’re starting off on the wrong foot in terms of how you leverage the intel when working with customers.
One of the main pitfalls is that social selling can come with the unintended side effect of being intrusive and in some instances decisively creepy. While all of us expect a sense of privacy, we often engage in posting highly personal information that can be used by someone else for their own gain. This awareness, that someone else might be watching, has become quite prevalent in today’s society, and it makes using a thoughtful and well-versed social selling strategy all the more important in order to avoid that “creepiness” stigma.
Let's explore this issue and view it through the lens of a few different social media platforms.
It's All About the Platform
Since there are many different social networking platforms it is good to know which ones are more open and professional and which ones are more personal:
- Facebook is built around the concept of creating a network of friends and family, people who are close and dear to you and your personal life. Most people who interact on Facebook are people who already know each other in real life and not just on the Internet. At the end of 2014 through the beginning of 2015, Hubspot conducted a survey regarding people's views on social selling. In this survey 81% of respondents said that they would think it was creepy and inappropriate if a sales person contacted them via Facebook. It is best to avoid contacting leads on this platform unless they reach out to you first.
- LinkedIn, on the other hand, is known as the dominant business and professional social network in North America. The aim is to network with other professionals, read the latest industry news, keep in touch with former colleagues, and find jobs or candidates to fill open job slots. In the same Hubspot survey, only 34% of respondents thought that it would be creepy if a sales person looked at their profile and used the information they found before emailing or calling. Based on these figures, one could conclude that two thirds of LinkedIn users would welcome the idea of a sales person taking the time to visit their LinkedIn profile and do a bit of research instead of blindly reaching out to them.
- Twitter is an open field. It is not uncommon to retweet or favorite a tweet by a potential customer. Interacting with prospects on Twitter is completely fair game and can be a good first step towards establishing contact.
Tips and Considerations
Social selling is only getting more relevant and more necessary by the day. Here are some tips and considerations to think about before engaging in social selling to reduce the potential creepiness level.
- Use your existing network of contacts and friends to make the initial contact. Point out your shared contacts when connecting with a new prospect online, and/or use a shared contact to help make an introduction for you.
- Subtlety is key. People don't like being aware that you may be watching them. For example, if you see a prospect has recently gotten a new job or promotion on social media, and you want to congratulate them on their success either via phone or email to start a conversation, omit the source of your information. In other words don't say, "I saw your LinkedIn post about a new job," just congratulate them.
- Be personal and always take the time to take a unique approach. No one likes mass messages.
- Don't make a pitch, open doors. Social selling is about warming up the prospect and getting you closer towards a sale. Nobody wants to be pitched on social media.
Social selling is all about finesse and networking. The idea behind social selling is nurturing a relationship with a prospect. You don't want to use social media to make hard sells because it will likely just turn your friend, follower, or connection off.