There is little doubt that social media has an impact on sales. Companies use it every day to generate leads, increase branding, and improve public perceptions. As a marketing tool at the company level, few would contest the potential. What about at the salesperson level?
That was the question that we tried to answer this week during a seminar in Connecticut. We spoke to 80 sales people and another 30 managers at a dealer group to show them the ins and outs of utilizing social media on the personal level. The group is doing well applying social media principals to their company pages, but can individual sales people utilize sites like Facebook to improve their personal sales?
As with everything, there are pros and cons.
If there’s one thing that social media is great for that companies rarely apply it to, it’s customer service. The goal of keeping customers happy while increasing repeat and referral business is a strength of the social web. For individuals, here are the ways that it can help.
- Instant Gratification: When someone buys a car, they’re normally in a good mood. They have stepped up into something that they’re probably pretty proud of and sharing it with friends and family is inevitable. A salesperson who has built a personal relationship during the sales process can easily ask someone to be their friend on Facebook, to share a picture shot on an iPhone of them in front of their new car, and to mention them by name in the post. The chances of getting a referral quickly has never been easier.
- Simple Follow Up: Checking in on people to see how their product is doing for them is a challenge today. People don’t always answer their phones and they answer emails even less frequently. Texting, Facebook, and Twitter have become, for many, the easiest way to get a response. When finding out if someone has gotten their first free oil change, taken their CSI survey, or told their friends about you, social media is the easiest venue.
- Aggressively Non-Aggressive: After the sale is done, some people do not like being hounded by their salesperson. Social media is a place that can be non-confrontational, allowing sales people to become actual friends with their customers, sharing experiences and commenting on each others’ travails. It’s easier to stir up repeat and referral business a month after you’ve wished someone a happy birthday or congratulated them on getting a new job than when hounding them on phone or email month in, month out.
There aren’t just cons. There are flat-out risks for some. Our personal lives and business lives are not intended to be intertwined. In social media, the lines are more difficult to define when separating the two.
- The Personal Faux Pas: Just because a salesperson is professional and polite at work doesn’t mean they don’t get wild and crazy outside of work. What happens on Facebook often stays on Facebook and can turn people off even if the sales process itself was flawless.
- Added Work: With anything that can drive business, work must be put in. Some sales people do not have the time to attend to their regular customers and still prospect or follow up through social media.
- The Addiction Potential: Getting into social media for business purposes can lead people to using social media for personal reasons. Sheer exposure to the “fun side” of social media can turn a productivity win into a major failure if the exposure turns into counter-productivity.
Both of these lists are incomplete. There are much more pros and cons to using social media on an individual level in sales. Are there others that you can think of that I missed?