Salespeople today have so many more channels to market than ever before thanks to the evolution of technology. Old school ways of reaching prospects are still available to use, but most salespeople move like sheep to the next newest way. Once a new channel becomes known to bring people success, then understandably everyone will shift to use it. It only seems natural to do so. However, this can cause a little problem. The problem is not that everyone uses the same channel to reach their prospects; its more that they use the same approach. Salespeople are either trained or just fall into using the same approach with the new channel that they used to use with the old channels. So the target audience starts receiving masses of approaches which all sound the same, too generic or just too impersonal, and prospects start getting frustrated with the amount of these advances they get. Generic messages don't show relevant value to the recipient. So when this happens, prospects find ways to limit the influx of all sales approaches. Let me explain what I mean by going through the history as I remember it:

At first, salespeople reached out to customers by post and telephone only. As the number of mailshots increased, people started calling it junk mail because it would almost certainly get thrown away. Then came the phone calls. Phone calls became so popular that people began to place gatekeepers in offices just to field the amount they were receiving, thus making the task of cold calling even more challenging. In response to this calling became a numbers game for many businesses, which would outsource or set up call centres using more and more aggressive approaches. Diallers were introduced, and frustrated prospects were forced to find new ways to avoid those aggressive sales calls. Control measures were introduced such as no names policies or the telephone preference service. These measures were supposed to influence a more professional approach by phone, but many large call centres might argue that they can only really profit through mass call out. Hence the numbers game, and consequently a battle is always being fought between Small business or manager cold callers and call centres.

In the meantime, technology grew and introduced a way to be able to send mass email campaigns. This has been successful too until companies started to sell data in what might be almost like the black market of data; where companies were collating and the selling personal information for profit without the real consent of its owners. So that led to updates in data protection acts and subsequently made the use of data very delicate for all users.

However, the good news is that each time there is a blockade to reach prospects, technology moves on and salespeople find new ways to reach potential customers the current one being the use of social media networking platforms. LinkedIn is an excellent example of a platform used by many to connect with a prospect, and it works. It is time-consuming and requires much attention, but it can work. The sad news though is that salespeople’s approaches, unlike technology, have not really moved forward. The approaches on LinkedIn that I have seen are again like the emails and phone calls before them. Still too generic and impersonal. Some are quite obviously straight from a textbook or training room, and even though we have a tool on LinkedIn to filter the target audience, people do not seem to use it. If this continues, we will simply have another law brought in to prevent salespeople using LinkedIn to sell. So If we want to keep this channel alive, we have to respect it and what it represents. Respect why people join it and take note of my 5 crucial habits for successful leads from Social media;

  1. Respect the connect. LinkedIn is about individuals and not a company. You are not connecting with a business or an inanimate object and nor are you sending an email to a blank face. So when you ask to connect with someone, you should either just send the invitation or send a considerate message about them. Do not write messages that are the same as sales emails. LinkedIn is not the same platform. Read the person's profile and understand it. If you don't understand their profile, then note that as something you want to know more about. You can use this later on in a conversation to show them you are interested in them. If you prefer to attach a message to an invite, make sure its a message that shows you have taken the time to look at their profile. In other words, tell them why you are interested in connecting with THEM.
  2. Build rapport. If a professional accepts your invite to connect on LinkedIn, then don't immediately translate that as an invitation for you to sell to them. Once again, it can come across too direct or even intrusive. I know LinkedIn is a platform for sales, and a great one, but it is almost as personal as being face to face with someone, so would you just go up to someone shake their hand and then immediately ask them to buy your offering? Of course, you wouldn't. You would work toward it by building a rapport first. If you are not getting responses from your connections at the moment then this could be the reason. As I said in point 1, use information from their profile. To build rapport, look at their posts or activity and use that knowledge to start meaningful conversations with them. Be honest with your thoughts about their posts, too; don't suck up to them. You'll gain more respect by being honest but make sure to be professional about your views. Remember, LinkedIn is about ego's, and no ego wants to be put down.
  3. Build Value. Sold to vs bought from: I use this phrase often in all sales training sessions because it's a great way to get salespeople thinking about both sides of the sales counter. If ever you buy something that does not quite meet your expectations, then you are likely to blame the person who "sold' it to you. However, when you are completely satisfied with your purchase, you are more likely to use the words "bought". Let me put them into context using examples; "I'm having trouble setting this data up. I'm not sure they sold me the right one for my system". Alternatively "Oh wow I'm really glad I bought this, it's so easy to set up". So credit to the buyer when it is right and curse to the salesperson when it's wrong. This is how consumers think, and salespeople need to learn from it. Hone behaviours according to it. People on LinkedIn want to buy from you, and not be sold to by you, and the best way to do that is to look at successes like Shay Rowbottom or Ronnell Richards. They do not do the hard sell , they share knowledge and helpful tips which builds on their credibility and respect, then people buy from them because they are showing the value of what they have to offer them. Do what they do. It works! Your prospects will see your posts as soon as you connect with them so make your posts valuable to them. Remember LinkedIn Acceptances are like getting an invite to a party. Don't make them regret inviting you by making their party about you!
  4. Be organised. Many LinkedIn experts will tell you to be consistent with your appearances on LinkedIn. They would be right, but to do that you have to find a way of being organised. It's easy to fall into the trap of treating LinkedIn as a separate activity which then leads to compromise on your time. When you set time aside for lead generation, then that should include any social media activity. To make you are more effective all-around, its best to make sure you add connections from LinkedIn to your primary database where you can then make notes and follow up accordingly. Remember, LinkedIn is a communicating tool and not a database. Don't rely on it to tell you what you need to know about how to manage your communication with each person. Likewise, you should aim to identify all of your other prospects on LinkedIn so you can use that tool to reach as many of your data prospects as possible. You will only really be able to manage everyone if they exist in one pool where you can pick and target them more efficiently. On your database, it might be useful to know your contacts preferences for communication. If noted in your data, then again, it helps you to target the right people and work more effectively with your time and hence manage the value you put out there.
  5. Don't use it alone. I love LinkedIn but don't forget the other social media platforms. All social media can help with lead generation. I think Facebook is a great one for those of you who sell direct to the end-user. Take the principles of what I've said for LinkedIn and use it on Facebook. Instagram and twitter demonstrate where a company or business might currently be focussed and how they have adapted to the environment. Right now, with many organisations, they are either looking to be recognised for their efforts to fight this Pandemic and or they are giving out helpful humanitarian-based advice to help people get through the challenge. By looking at these sights, you will get a feel for their culture, and you can then tailor your approach to them to reflect your levels of empathy and concern for the current situation. Just note that Twitter is a platform where you might be able to make yourself visible to a company or business; Instagram is more there for you to view the target audience. Social media of any kind though is an aid, not a stand-alone lead generation tool. As I said in point 4, you have to organise your time so you can obtain the optimum out of all channels: Social Media, telephone and email as well as the old fashioned post. Use combinations of these to be noticed, heard and more importantly to point out the value you can bring to your prospects.

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