Selling in the Age of Facebook

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For some time now I’ve been trying to come to terms with Facebook, Twitter, blogs, email newsletters, and all other variety new-age media. Are these legitimate vehicles for our marketing efforts? And, if so, how do they affect our sales plan and what’s the best way to integrate them into an advertising and publicity campaign?

So, in the midst of my quandary, I read a book (yes, a paper book) entitled The New Rules of Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott. Finally, it clicked. Search engines, social media, e-zines, and the like are not just a list of new places to advertise. They represent a sea change in the way we will approach marketing and selling. I cannot state this strongly enough. Much of what I thought I knew about marketing and sales has suddenly become obsolete!

Now, don’t get me wrong, new-age media won’t replace traditional media any more than television replaced radio. But, the coming changes in the way we approach marketing and sales will be at least as revolutionary and maybe more so.

Unfortunately, this kind of revolution is never easy. Start with the fact that most new-age media is poorly designed, buggy, and unnecessarily complex. And, to make things worse, they’re constantly changing. You’re way behind, for example, if you don’t understand location-based marketing. However, things get easier when you understand this one simple fact. In the past, we went looking for customers. Now, they’re searching for us.

Why are they searching for us? Because they can! Internet search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing, and fact-filled websites like ProSoundWeb and the websites of major online retailers, give today’s customers the tools to educate themselves and search for better ways to do their jobs and better solutions to their problems. Compare this to the situation of even 10 years ago when customers searched the Yellow Pages or just networked with people they believed were experts (i.e., the church musicians or the TV repair guy).

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Now, consider what that means for old-school sales tactics like cold calling. If the customers are searching for us, then maybe we should spend less time looking for customers and more time making ourselves “findable”. Or what about traditional media advertising? Maybe we should focus less on products and specs and more on customer problems and solutions—with a call-to-action that leads to a website full of case studies and white papers.

And, how do we make ourselves more findable? Start with a well-designed website and keep it fresh. Set up a blog about solving customers’ problems. Learn how to create YouTube videos—which don’t have to be perfect to be effective.

Some of this should be done on a company level. Some of it should be individual. Every sales person needs a presence on the company website (blogs, system photos, etc.) to build their “personal brand”. And unlike the old-school sales person who concentrated on overcoming objections and closing the sale, today’s sales person is more like a consultant who brings value to the customer by helping them buy the right product or system to meet their needs and solve their problems.

At their core, effective marketing and successful selling are all about building and nurturing good relationships, about understanding your products and services and using that knowledge to solve problems for your customers. Those things are timeless. But, search engines and new-age media have made it easier for customers to educate themselves and find products and services. Our challenge, then, is to bring our relationship skills to social media, use our product knowledge to become the experts customers want to find and design our websites and blogs so that when customers do find us, we give them something of such value that they stay and move themselves through the sales process to an order.

Chris Foreman (chris@proaudioweb.com) is a career audio professional, educator, and writer. Co-author of the Handbook for Sound Engineers edited by Glen Ballou and Audio Engineering for Sound Reinforcement with consultant John Eargle, Foreman offers marketing, publicity, and management consulting through his company Wordworks.

Recommended Reading

The New Rules of Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott - Now in its third edition and a Business Week best seller, The New Rules of Marketing and PR is a great introduction to all forms of new-age media with enough depth to appeal to marketing professionals. It’s also very practical with good advice on everything from Facebook posts to search engine optimization.

The New Strategic Selling and The New Conceptual Selling both by Miller and Heiman - These are updates of two classic books. When I read the originals in the 1980s, they changed my whole outlook on selling. Read Strategic Selling first. It is, by far, the best book on what to do before you make the sales call. For example, it tells you how to identify and classify all of the decision makers in the customer’s organization including those with hidden veto power.

Next, read Conceptual Selling which deals with the sales call itself. And, instead of teaching you how to overcome objections and, in general, manipulate the customer, Conceptual Selling teaches you how to understand the job the customer is trying to do or the problem they are trying to solve. Then, it helps you design a solution around your product or service.

You can purchase the Miller- Heiman books on their website www. millerheiman.com or at your favorite bookseller. Also, check out their excellent (if somewhat expensive) sales training seminars.

I follow the blogs written by Jeffrey Gitomer and Jill Konrath, two well-known sales trainers. They also offer great email newsletters.

—C.F.

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