Why Almost Every Sales Person is Screwed in the Age of Social Media and Targeted Search

That’s a provocative title, I know. But yes, you’re screwed . . Unless you can find some legacy industry that has no exposure to the Internet (good luck) . . Unless your customers are illiterate suckers who have no clue how to research (good luck) . . Unless you’re so in denial that you expect to soldier on with the same old sales processes without giving a rat’s ass (again, good luck).

Meanwhile, the rest of us will be understanding the new sales environments we’re dealing with and adjusting accordingly.

Here’s an analogy that’s similar to the selling predicament. Think about the past 10 years and the evolution of the doctor/patient relationship. Doctors have a real battle on their hands, because once a patient arrives at their waiting room they’re already pre-loaded with symptom research, WebMD stuff about the lump they found, paranoia from a LiveStrong post, scary outcome information from comment threads on Buzzfeed, and on and on.

They come in with stress, paranoia and imagined symptoms that come from feverish reading and video watching online. They’re self-diagnosing before they get into the medical setting.

The same thing is happening in sales engagements of all kinds. Everyone has access to:

  • deep information
  • deceitful information
  • poorly thought-out info
  • Poorly written info
  • Video reviews
  • How-to videos
  • Podcasts (how to, review, advice, etc.)

There’s all kinds of content out there which explains, reviews and demonstrates exactly what you’re selling! Some of it’s excellent. Some of it’s horrid.

The customer or prospect already knows a lot about your solution, service or product prior to coming into your store, emailing you, calling you or even landing on your site!

Think about an automobile sales situation. Way before the customer comes anywhere near the lot, they’ve seen videos, understand performance specs, and have already learned about the features and benefits of the car they’ve been obsessing on. The only thing they don’t have is hands-on, tactile, kinetic experiences with the car (though it’s possible they checked one out in the real world via a friend or acquaintance). So the salesman has an opportunity there, to manage the kinetic portion of the selling process – in fact, that’s where much his/her attention should be.

The prospect is just way further down the line in the sales process than typical sales people expect. That’s why the structure of the sales process *must* change. The sales person’s job now is more like that of an information curator. He needs to:

  • dispel myths
  • correct inaccurate information
  • offer more detailed and transparent sources
  • correct misunderstandings
  • confirm the good information that’s out there on the web

The tactile, emotional experience requires much more attention, too. That’s where ultimate commitment will come from, especially when the prospect has already made a handful of decisions about features, performance, color and styling.

So, whatever you’re selling – whatever service, whatever product – remember that the person has already looked it up. They’ve asked their social networks about it. They may have found cheaper ones on Pinterest and found products that exactly like yours. They may have found high-quality knock-offs on Alibaba.com.

This applies to face-to-face business meetings, as well – anywhere there’s a pitch, persuasion or collaboration initiative in the works. With apps like Charlie, you can get a complete social media dashboard view of a person prior to your meeting. Most business people are exposed to some degree on social media platforms. They have LinkedIn profiles, Facebook profiles, Twitter accounts, Instagram pages and so on. Charlie helps you understand that person before the meeting. You can then build rapport, understand their recent gripes and issues, and learn about what they value just by reviewing a handful of posts and profile info decks. You can see what teams they like (and what the score was from last night), what their latest blog post was about, where they like to eat, why they hate this airline or that hotel, whatever. It’s in there.

So tools like this (Rapportive is another one – bought by LinkedIn) allow you to pre-qualify any type of persuasion or selling engagement. So this background information check applies to both products and people. Moving forward, we’ll see more of this. The smart people will be much more prepared, sales and persuasion meetings will go much more quickly, and qualification and closing exercises might just get easier!

Warning: What you don’t want to do is ignore these trends and stick to conventional sales processes. In the next post, we’ll explore more processes and techniques that sales people need to implement in order to better handle the prepared buyer.