Four Social Media Tips

I don’t profess to  be an expert in social media. I do profess to be an expert on the subject of selling. That being said, let me give you four social media tips for sales pros.

Tom HopkinsTip #1 – Complete Your Profile
Complete your profile before trying to connect with people. I see this most often on LinkedIn. I receive literally hundreds of requests to connect with people on LinkedIn every month. I view LinkedIn as a tool…not a race to see how many connections I can make. I want to know who these people are.

  • If you haven’t yet uploaded a photo of yourself or your product, you’re not ready to use LinkedIn as the valuable tool it is. If you don’t like any of your photos, have a professional take one. It’s 100% worth it.
  • If you have not included at the very least your job title, your industry and your company name, you’re only toying with this incredible resource.

If I cannot determine from your profile whether or not we have something in common that’s related to business, I will not accept the connection. And you should treat LinkedIn the same way.

Tip #2 – Be prepared to work.
Somewhere along the line a lot of people got the idea that because postings appear instantaneously, that it’s a shortcut to success. There are no shortcuts to success. Selling always has been and always will be a process of building relationships.

Social media is an excellent tool for building relationships but the basic principles of selling still apply. You must prospect, connect, establish rapport, and qualify before you can earn the right to present any type of offer.

Tip #3 – Schedule social media time wisely.
In reading a comment in one of your groups on Facebook or LinkedIn, you read a great comment by Bob Smith. You let Bob know how much you appreciate what he said. Someone else comments on your comment. Another chimes in with a link that takes you away from the conversation and off onto another topic. Eventually, you come back to trying to connect with Bob outside of this conversation. When you view his profile, you note that he’s connected with someone else you might want to connect with…and it goes on and on. Next thing you know, it’s 11AM and you have not yet invested any part of your day in your real job–interacting directly with people who are in a position to own your product or service.

How much time is reasonable for you to commit to social media? What time of day is best for you to do it? Not your best selling time. Figure that out. Schedule it. Set a timer if you must, but STOP when it’s time to move on to another productive activity.

Tip #4 – Offer assistance before attempting to sell.
You wouldn’t walk up to a stranger and say, “Read my book!” “Subscribe to my blog!” or “Buy my product!” (Well, some people might act that way, but not sales pros, right Champions?) So don’t do it in social media. Engage people first. Offer to be of assistance. Ask questions about their challenges, their needs. Then, only after a comfortable dialog has been established have you earned the right to even mention the possibility of providing service.

Social media is today’s hot tool  for communication. And, it can be quite fun and productive–when you use it like a tool. The frenzy around it is not very different from new innovations in selling in the past–the f ax machine, overnight delivery, computers, mobile phones, laptops, e-mail, tablets and so on. Those are all tools of the trade that have moved business communications forward. They have accelerated the speed with which we can gain new knowledge and communicate with others. They have not replaced the communication process that is essential to the sales process.

As with any new tool, there are best practices for maximizing the effectiveness of social media. Invest the time to understand it. Use it wisely. And, you’ll gain the incredible benefits it can bring to your career.

Copyright Tom Hopkins International, Inc.

What to Send During the Holidays

What to SendOne of the biggest challenges faced at this time of year is what to send during the holidays. This is an area of business that can be quite touchy if mishandled.

If you know for a  fact which of the seasonal holidays each of your clients celebrates, good for you! You can simply do a little research online to determine the most appropriate way of acknowledging it. If you don’t know, or if your clients represent a mixed bag of celebrations, opt for the least likely to offend.

My preferred holiday to recognize is Thanksgiving. Most years it is the first holiday of the season so you can take care of it early and not be concerned about missing a date in the middle of things. I like to send Thanksgiving cards or letters that express my sincere gratitude for having the recipients as clients. I usually include a simple mention of best wishes as they celebrate the rest of the holiday season. Then, I end with wishing them a safe, happy and prosperous New Year and the commitment to continue to serve their needs in the future. [Read more…]

The Art of Building Client Relationships

customer relationshipsWhen it comes to building long-term relationships with clients, it’s very similar to building long-term friendships. In kindergarten, children are encouraged to make new friends by talking with others, inviting them to play, and being “nice” to them. They often hear these words: “To have a friend, you have to be a friend.” In many business situations, clients often become more than clients. They become friends…not necessarily the kind you would invite to non-business gatherings, but people you truly care about and who care about you.

There is a feature in a local area newspaper where readers are invited to review their favorite non-franchise restaurant. The articles are wonderful publicity for the restaurants. One of the key elements I see repeated over and over again is that patrons know the names of the owners, hosts and/or servers. And, many of the restaurant workers know something about them as well. They know if the guests prefer coffee or tea with breakfast. They may even remember their favorite meal, asking if they want “the usual.”

Put yourself in the seats of those guests for a moment. How would it make you feel to have your particular favorites automatically placed before you without having to explain your preferences? It would make you feel at home or as if you’re at the home of a good friend…someone who knows you well and wants you to have what you want. They want you to be happy. That type of response is the ideal when it comes to serving your clients’ needs and it can be created no matter what your product or service is.

You may think you’re in the business of selling automotive services, home remodeling or repairs, printing services, financial services, tutoring or signs, but you’re not. Even if your products are sold only to other businesses, the business doesn’t make the buying decision. A person does. You are in the people business and learning to make people feel important and cared about will help you make both the initial sale and long-term sales over the course of time.

Maybe you sell tires, not breakfast. Even so, you should introduce yourself to each client and give your name. Use your clients’ names in conversation during the sales process. Inquire about the use of the vehicle. Does the client have young children or a teenage driver? If so, safety will be an important issue to discuss with them. Do they have a cabin in the woods where some off-road driving is involved? Or, do they travel for business and need “highway” tires? All of these answers help you lead them to the best choice for them. Keeping a record of the answers will help you build long-term relationships.

No matter what your business is, every client should receive your best care during the sales process and after. During the initial sale, get them talking and take good notes. Enter the information into your client database. My colleague Harvey Mackay has a long list of details he requires his salespeople to gather about clients over a certain time period. This includes not just information required to do business, but a few personal details such as birthdays, whether or not they’re married, children’s names, and whether or not they have pets. That information is used to make contacts and to start conversations with clients after the initial sale.

People like to do business with people who are like them, who demonstrate that they care about them beyond making the sale and who keep them in mind when something new that might be of interest to them arises. That type of treatment makes them feel important. They come to rely on businesses and salespeople they know they can trust to have their needs and interests at heart.

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