Quite a few years ago I spent six months in the trenches, selling vacuum cleaners. The phone girl in the office would set up a bogus presentation with some fabricated story about winning a set of steak knives. We’d drop off the knifes and pressure our way into the house. Once in we’d whip through the canned presentation and hard close the hell out of the unprepared couple until they broke down and bought the overpriced machine. I haven’t seen a vac salesman in many years and I’m sure the world is jubilant to have seen the back of that lot. Always be closing?… sorry, the hard sell is dead.
Contrary to what people selling ebooks will tell you, the internet is not becoming an easier place to market. Every day it’s becoming more competitive as more sites come online, competing for the same top ten keywords. Bold in-your-face advertising is either ignored or frequently turns off the very people you are trying to reach forever. So what’s working? Here’s the sales funnel that gets strangers to like you, grow to trust you and eventually buy from you again and again.
Connection & Relationship Building Through Social Media
the-sales-funnelThe sales funnel process begins by creating connections and building relationships. The top three tools for developing connections today are Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. One of the things I’m hearing from people in sales is that their managers expect them to use outdated and ineffective ‘interruption marketing’ techniques like cold calling, email blast campaigns, annoying follow-up emails and phone calls, while their computer access to Twitter, Facebook and YouTube has been blocked. Access to these highly effective tools should be channeled – to keep it on a business and not entertainment level – but highly encouraged, not blocked.
Most of the people who use social media are using it 100% incorrectly. They’re trying to sell to their new followers and friends. Let’s suppose you met a stranger in a Starbucks lineup. You wouldn’t launch right into a sales presentation. That would turn the person off and end the conversation on the spot. You’d probably notice things you have in common and strike up a conversation that did not include what you do for a living. You’d discover that they stop in at Starbucks on the way to work and note the time. The next time you bumped into them you could refer to the last conversation and pick up where you left off. If it felt right you might exchange business cards on the second or third ‘chance’ meeting. On the next meet-up you might ask them some questions about their work and tell them a bit about what you do. You’d mention that you checked out their blog and they may comment that they’d checked your website as well. If they expressed interest in your products or services you might pop out to the car to get them a brochure. Only after cultivating the relationship a while would it likely be wise to attempt to schedule a full presentation. (There are exceptions of course. Sometimes the person is actually hot and bothered for your product and will pounce on you, begging to buy, but I wouldn’t count on that happening too often.)
That’s exactly the way you use social media. Twitter and Facebook are places to meet people. You want them to like you and begin to trust you. You DO NOT SELL there.
Use your micro-blog posts to educate your followers and friends. Give first, don’t take. Give them something that will improve their life or make them money.
Your Central Hub
The most popular central hub format is a blog. Your new social media friend likes you. You’ve had a few chats. Since they like you it occurs to them that they might also like to do business with you, so they check you out. Your social media profile should include a link to your central hub. A common mistake in creating a blog is to be too corporate – or worse – to use it as a platform to launch into a sales pitch.
Your blog should be a friendly place for your prospect to find out more about you. Your visitors should see some of your personality in the posts. If you give back to the community this would be a good place to include a post that thanks everyone that participated in the charity golf event you organized. The information you provide should be informative and interesting, without really selling. It’s a place to educate your customers and prospects. Your blog should establish you as being very knowledgeable about your products, services and industry. Make sure you make it easy for your visitors to subscribe to your RSS feed and perhaps a newsletter. And provide genuine value to your subscribers.
Your blog posts can include links to more information on your website. The people that follow these links, or return to chat with you on Twitter or Facebook, are beginning to show some genuine interest.
By the time your prospects go to your website they like you, they trust you and they are looking for more information. Make it easy for them to take the next step in contacting you. Include links back to the social networking sites where they found you. Include forms, ‘Get More Information’ or ‘Request a Quote’ buttons on most information pages so they don’t have to hunt for contact information. Also, adding live chat functionality increases conversion on most websites.