In 1992 I was introduced to the internet.
Not exactly the internet but a makeshift version.
I was a member of National Capital Freenet – Ottawa’s first newsgroups site.
My username was bb052.
I posted on forums about Nintendo, WWF wrestling and Ninja Turtles.
And it was awesome!
Although pages took minutes to load, it interested me greatly as the potential for communication seemed infinite.
It was a matter of time before the endless possibilities that we could only fathom with Freenet would come to fruition.
And here we are 20 years later and social media is everywhere.
You knew I would eventually cave by writing about social media but I promise it is not in the traditional sense.
I get bombarded with event requests, group requests, follower notifications and fill-in-the-blank-ville requests and it’s annoying.
Internet legend, Gary Vaynerchuck says if you can use something to communicate, marketers will exploit the shit out of it.
And he’s right.
We get offers to try everything and the perception continues to be that these offers are get-quick-rich schemes.
So as a sales rep. or business owner you gotta stick out from the crowd with sincerity.
And this is actually where social media comes in.
Facebook Likes, LinkedIn groups and all that jazz don’t put coin directly in your pocket – and they shouldn’t.
The point isn’t to sell your product directly – unless you have spent enough time nurturing your relationship – but to showcase what you do, how you do it, and if you do it well enough to be the go-to person to buy from if someone is looking.
I have only ever purchased directly online when I trust the source and this has only happened from blogs I follow.
I am already familiar with their product and I know the standard I am receiving before I buy.
I also use the internet for offline purchases like restaurants and shopping.
The point is that going out of your way to identify your prospect’s interests and conversing on the topic, offering a tangible rapport builder will lead to business.
And social media sincerity comes with trust.
How to Use Social Media to Build Trust
Personal branding you as a sales rep. is essential.
It shows you are out there engaged with the community.
It shows you aren’t shady.
And it legitimizes or hinders your version of good work and business.
I want to stop by saying this site is not a social media blog – PSS is designed to help B2B sales reps. understand how to generate leads, be persistent, show value, understand needs, highlight benefits and create relationships.
I am simply writing about the perception of social media as a sales tool.
Back to the point.
You care about sales.
You care about making money.
So how can you generate real sales leads on social media?
I find LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook in that order to be the best.
You definitely want to be everywhere but these are the three sites that I have legitimately seen sales reps. generate real leads with real results.
The goal here is to get you the best coverage for your personal brand on social media.
This will help to increase activity and engage the user once they get to your prime real estate – your profile.
The best way to instantly build legitimacy on your social network is to use your real name with your real current picture.
If you do not feel comfortable using real information which I understand, sales may not be for you.
People I have met through this blog who I hadn’t previously engaged with recognize the picture of me shaving, my twitter description, and the LinkedIn group.
These are tools to create hype around my personal brand.
This in turn sparks more interest in finding out not only more about me but also about my brand, my colleagues, my history, and how they can do business with me.
I don’t hard sell on my social network – but I do get people to know I am in business and prospecting.
The Soft Sell
Enter a status update asking your connections, followers and friends to contact you if they or someone they know are looking for your services.
You can also ask them a pointed question about their business.
Let them know about your industry.
Flex your muscle and show your expertise.
Whether it is LinkedIn, Facebook or another site – there are hundreds out there and you should be on all your local ones – join groups related to your business.
If you are reading this from a link you clicked from a LinkedIn group, nice to meet you.
We are now connected.
If you came from another path, we are also now affiliated.
In my lifetime I will need most of the products or services you are offering – so even though I don’t have a house yet, when I do have one I will have a pool of people to tap into to get a great deal on roofing, plumbing, appliances, mortgages, insurance etc.etc.etc.
That is unless you don’t make me aware that you exist now (please don’t use this is as a reason to spam me!)
I am trying to show you that whatever your product or service is, eventually everyone may need it.
And if not everyone needs it, their friends might so get in their good books now.
It’s not enough to join these sites and sit there – in fact it has the opposite effect it ruins your personal brand.
Answer other people’s questions on Yahoo! Answers or LinkedIn Answers about your industry.
Ask questions of others to start conversations about your industry.
When you don’t like something say so.
When someone doesn’t like your brand or product – answer them publicly and directly.
This is 21st century customer service.
Problems are always opportunities.
What the hell do I do on Twitter?
Ok so if you have me on Twitter you have probably noticed that I don’t update it often.
It’s not that I don’t care for it but I feel that I am more engaged when expressing myself using more than 140 characters.
But that doesn’t mean I am not an active user of Twitter – truth is I use it very often.
People tend to think that Twitter is the newsfeed and that’s it – but they tend to neglect real-time search – another item social media guru Vaynerchuk highlights.
Twitter search is like Google search but allows you to search in real-time on current topics.
This comes in handy for breaking news items or trending items.
But for business it is especially useful to find your potential clients locally.
Try a search for ‘your city’ ‘your product’ now by clicking here.
All of those people are either engaged in your industry or are a ready-to-buy customer.
So now what Riaz?
It’s one thing to know and understand the information I have shared today.
But it’s another thing to use the knowledge, apply it by going on social media, finding contacts, friending and following them, searching for them on other social networking sites and to send them a message – remember don’t hard sell – just introduce yourself.
Ideally they will have their email address on one of these sites.
Separate yourself from the competition and send them an email – everyone loves receiving a personal email.
Once more, don’t send them pitch emails!
Tell them that you are interested in learning about their business and how you can help one another – and setup a meeting.
Who knows maybe they can help you or your business more than you can help theirs.
Be open to interacting and starting discussions surrounding their business and their industry.
It’s like a job interview; it’s not what they can do for you but what you can do for them.
Be their advocate, buy their products too.
With so many platforms and ways to communicate we all get lost in the shuffle.
So we put more attention on parts of social networks that we like and don’t pay attention the ones we don’t – understandably.
One thing I am guilty of on Twitter is not sending @ messages.
These are mentions to other followers to start a conversation.
I know of some colleagues who swear by Twitter to generate new connections and legitimate leads; a platform I need to improve upon.
But my social media weaknesses is a post for another day.
Back to the Task
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.
Post your picture you’re beautiful trust me.
Say something, we’re listening.
Ask questions, you’ll get answers.
And don’t forget that social media is simply word of mouth on steroids; complement it with traditional advertising.
Finally, don’t forget the only way to generate a sale, even using social media is to make authentic human contact by phone – get that appointment!