Social Media: A Blessing or a Curse for Value Selling

Social-Media-Blessing-or-CurseIn this brave new world where nearly everyone has a Facebook page, can you survive as a value salesperson without a web presence?

We say, “No.”

A web site is the ticket to play the game. Without it, those customers who do proactive research before buying will have no easy way to find out about you. And they could be easily waylaid by a web site that promises what you say you can deliver. Don’t let potential customers take that other path.

Your web site must be designed with your likely prospects and customers in mind. They won’t get there unless you have content that attracts them. You need the right sales messages in the right place to draw the right audience.

Beyond establishing a site that will provide information on what problems you solve and what you sell, here are some tips for success in order to ensure that social media becomes a blessing, not a curse, for your business:

  1. Choose the appropriate channel for your business. Determine which online community can help you connect with potential buyers. For business to consumer sales, Facebook is your best bet; for business-to-business, LinkedIn is the more professional platform.Beyond these two online environments, join conversations where the kinds of problems your product/service can solve are being discussed. This can lead you to someone who needs your help. But don’t be pushy…nothing chases away a possible contact faster than a blogger who is clearly selling. Listen and learn and then join the chat.
  2. Build a relationship. An online relationship is never as valuable as a face-to-face relationship. But if your network needs some rejuvenation, you can start a connection online. As you establish some history and gain some trust, you can build a more meaningful relationship. When the time is right, you can offer your thoughts on how your product/service could fill a need your target has expressed.
  3. Listen and share. Keep your goal in mind—to leverage social media as a marketing strategy. By listening to the online conversations, you will learn about trends and needs so that you can identify ways to collaborate and provide value. Share other online sites that have been helpful to you. By sharing good content and your expertise, you increase your visibility and credibility as a helpful resource. 

Social media is here to stay. Make sure you use it wisely so it helps, not hinders, your sales efforts.

Are You Asking the Right Questions?

consultative-sellingMost consultative selling training programs teach sales people how to ask questions to both close the deal and to help their clients to succeed.

While how you ask the question can be even more important than what you ask, here are three criteria to use to determine if your sales questions are effective at creating a more consultative sale with your target clients:

1. Identify Questions Identify questions help clients clearly define success in their terms.  On the business side, these questions uncover specific criteria for success, desired outcomes, key barriers, and performance metrics that get to the heart of what the client is trying to accomplish. They also artfully expose the buying process, decision-making criteria, and where you stand vis-à-vis the competition.  On the personal side, effective identify questions increase your understanding of what your client hopes to achieve professionally from the project and the key personal challenges that they face.

For example, if a client asks too early in the conversation “Can you help me with my problem?” you can reply: “I appreciate your asking and I look forward to working with you.  Before I can say with certainty, however, that we can help you, I’d love to learn a little more about your problem and how we would measure success.  Is that OK?”

2. Link Questions Link questions allow you to connect your solution to the client’s most pressing problems in a way that makes sense for them. These questions are effective only after you have asked good enough identify questions so that your solutions are unquestionably anchored by what matters most to your client.  Effective link questions also allow you to expand your buyer’s thinking in terms of innovative and systemic solutions that are differentiated from your competition.  Good consultative sales people are able to ask those provocative and insightful questions that invite different perspectives and additional thinking.  Done right, effective link and identify questions should create trust and increase your chances for a long-term relationship. 

3. Reframing Questions Reframing questions are questions that confirm understanding, demonstrate expertise, and calibrate progress.  They tell you if you are on the right track and if there are others impacted by the project that you should know about.

So before you fall into the consultative selling trap of interrogating your client with a number of “pre-fab” questions to try to close the deal, make sure that the questions you ask will be effective toward helping both you and the buyer succeed.