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The Technophobe's Guide to Selling with Social Media

3 things you're already doing offline that can help you sell online

October 2012 By Michael Cornnell

Social Media. It might seem frustrating, ephemeral and ludicrously inefficient, but underneath all the suffering, there’s definite sales potential. Like other sales tactics, the problems people have with social media are often more perceptual than realistic (“I hate it because it takes work,” “Why is everything on Twitter either about Ayn Rand or Justin Bieber if he was also a cat?” etc.). Social media can be mastered same as anything else—all it takes is some work, patience and focus.

Social media is more medium than method. It’s not particularly different than any offline sales process in terms of goals; the variations are all in the “how” and not the “why.” Think of it like being a painter who is going to hang up his brushes and try charcoal drawing for a while. You might be using different tools, but the goal is still the same—to create a beautiful picture. Social media is no different. It’s a tool for achieving the same sales goals you’ve been accomplishing for years. To makes the websites work for you, simply isolate the same tasks you want to accomplish, familiarize yourself with the site’s tools and then get to “painting,” so to speak. Still not sold? Here are three easy, Bob-Ross-worthy, paint-by-numbers ways to start selling with social media, based on things you’re already doing offline.

1. CULTIVATE RELATIONSHIPS
If you’re having trouble figuring out what to post or say online, think of it this way: Social media is meant for socializing, so use it exactly for that. How would you talk to a client over a business lunch? A networking event? Running into them at the grocery store? Take that conversational mentality and move it online.

Discuss your kids, pets, baseball, craft beers, whatever you normally would with a client to get to know them better, and listen to what they’re saying as well. Do they love cats? Music? A specific author? Do you have a common interest? Are they vocalizing a problem you have the ability to solve? Think about the messages your clients are putting out online and see how they can deepen your relationship.

Every day, not only are thousands of potential clients posting useful information minute-by-minute, they’re also looking to take some in. This exchange of information is the core power of social media (hence, its spot at #1 here), and also is something not that different than what you or your sales staff are doing offline day-to-day. It’s building relationships, learning about the people you’re selling to and teaching them about yourself as well. Some of the social mechanics are a little different (social media has an understood undercurrent of voyeurism, for example), but others are pretty much the same (be polite, interesting, etc.). Ultimately, social media can help you sell the same way a cold-call or networking event can: You’re making contact with a prospect, getting to know them and their needs as they learn about you and your services.

Quick Tips
Looking for a few fast ways to punch up your social media performance? Give these tips a try!

THE BEST TIME TO POST: It varies day by day, but in general the hours around lunchtime (between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.) and after dinner from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., are the most effective times, as reported by Mashable in the articles “The Best and Worst Times to Share on Facebook, Twitter” and “Sorry, Marketers, You’re Doing Facebook Wrong.” As for days of the week, the website recommends weekend posting (where competition is low and users are starved for content) and avoiding the middle of the week (for whatever reason, Wednesdays are not good social media days).

USE PLENTY OF IMAGES: Images are not only a great way to grab attention, but Facebook also ranks them higher in its display algorithms that determine what users do and don’t see. So if you want to give your messaging a better chance of being seen, use pictures frequently.

LISTEN: A point often glossed over in social media advice is the importance of listening. You can collect an absolutely vast amount of information on the wants and needs of your prospects without speaking a word to your clients. Remember that social media is a conversation, and like any conversation, more than half the work is listening and interpreting what is being said.
 

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