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Social Selling and the Ugly Truth of Sales vs. Marketing

Unless you live under a rock, you know that social media has changed how people communicate and how businesses function. The collision of the business world with social media has completely changed the landscape. More than ever, salespeople are recognizing the fact that these social media networks are not only for marketers; and marketers are not always happy about that.

Let’s start with why social selling is so vital to salespeople. Sales is a people business at every level. Established methods of prospecting, customer retention, pipeline strategy and every other facet that is part of the sales funnel is part of social selling. SALES HAS ALWAYS BEEN SOCIAL! Just because you add technology to the equation does not mean tested and proven sales techniques get thrown out like a baby with the bath water. Look at social selling as another tool to reach all those potential customers, and all that commission that new reach represents.

Here is what I mean. The basic psychology of the customer buying cycle is simple:

  1. Customer needs or wants a product/service
  2. Customer knows of, or searches for, a company that provides said product/service
  3. Customer researches and likes that company
  4. Customer trusts that company
  5. Customer buys product from that company

Technology and social media didn’t change the psychology of a sale, it created social selling. Think about prospecting. I have never met one person who wants to be on the receiving end of a sales cold call. You don’t know that person, and they don’t know your needs. What if instead of making that cold call, you sent out a notification about a relevant, interesting topic to 100 strangers that share a common interest. Your name is seen by all of those people for the first time. Congratulations! You just contributed to a Group on LinkedIn. You touched 100 people instead of the 5 you would have been able to call in the same amount of time.

What’s the secret to social selling? Don’t sell. People are inundated with emails, Tweets and all sorts of messages that push something on them. “Join us,” “Sign Up,” “Download Now.”  Instead, become part of the community, be transparent, show that you actually care and all of that will build your network and followers. You wouldn’t start a sale by posting on your friends’ Facebook wall or in a Google+ circle of friends (okay, some people would, and we all know what we’d like to do with them), so don’t do it to your customers. Add something worthwhile to the conversation; share an interesting blog post or web seminar, regardless of whether it’s from your company or not. Pull customers in and when they are ready to buy, they will buy from you.

So where does the battle between sales and marketing that I mentioned come in with the ugly truth?

Let’s break this down. Marketers like to create, perfect and have a strategy for any collateral associated with the company. They want to make sure an email contains a consistent message that’s aligned with their marketing goals and has brand continuity. They want to control all communication sources and hold the proverbial jewels in their hands. Based on research, data and company history, they think they know the customer better. (Marketers, don’t be offended here. I was in marketing for 7 years and I’m guilty of that too.)

Salespeople, on the other hand, want to close the deal. They don’t care how scrappy or disorganized a piece of collateral is, they want something NOW that they can send to their customer. Who cares if they use the right logo, tagline or address? If they get that quote out the door, that’s more commission, and if they don’t get it out now, they will lose the deal. My favorite statistic to share is that salespeople spend 30 hours per month searching for and creating their own selling materials, while 90% of marketing deliverables are not used by sales (source:  Jeff Ernst, The New Rules of Sales Enablement). Seems like a lot of waste.

So, you have planning perfectionists in marketing up against a scrappy “let’s get it done now” sales team. As many of us know, it can get downright ugly when the marketing and sales departments butt heads. Show me the company who hasn’t had a marketing and salesperson come to blows and I will show you pigs flying.

What happens now? Social selling breaks down the wall of the marketers knowing more and doing more on social media networks. The reality is marketing can’t keep up – there is just too much customer involvement and they can’t monitor everything. Marketers have to let go of their iron curtain control and train salespeople how to navigate social networking sites like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook as a member of the community. In the same respect, salespeople need to give in a little bit and make sure their actions on those sites are polished with some of the branding marketing worked so hard to establish.

In other words, social selling is part of the sales tool kit now. Salespeople don’t have to wait for their marketing department to give them a list of leads. They are jumping on the bandwagon and marketers need to trust their sales teams to use social selling to increase and drive business.

To learn more about social selling, visit our web seminar archives and view “Grow Your Business with Social Selling,” presented by Kurt Shaver. For more in-depth training on harvesting leads through Twitter, building relationships through Facebook, and using LinkedIn as a power selling source, check out our Social Selling Boot Camp.

About the author:  Katie Cothran is the product manager for ASPE-ROI. 

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