I got a call yesterday from a vendor selling a social media solution. He was awful. I didn’t even get a chance to ask the really sticky questions. He didn’t make it that far before he fessed up to say that he was only on the job a month and had come from an IT staffing firm. I was astounded by the person admitting that he really didn’t know enough about social media to answer the question. Refreshing in his transparency but disheartening as well.
Last month I was with a client who wanted me to be in on a meeting with another social media solutions provider they were considering. This was a sales team of two and we got halfway in to the meeting before the question I asked could not be answered. The one sales rep grabbed the phone and put me on the phone with the engineer. The engineer could not answer the question either and asked if they could email me the answer. Nice.
Now the flip side of this story is that I have a friend who is in sales for a medium sized enterprise web 2.0 company. Not only does this person slay it when it comes to knowledge of his company’s product, but he also is so on top of the industry and social media in general, that he would be better suited as a strategist than as a sales person.
My point? As a company that could be or might be pushing solutions either to small or medium sized businesses or the enterprise, it is imperative that your sales people understand the significance of their role within the organization.
Why do I say this? Because my dear readers, we are in the phase of education to more companies than we are in the phase of adoption. That social media education will, to a certain degree fall to sales people. They are the forward facing, first line, first call, first voice some companies may hear. It starts with them. It starts with that opening line, that pitch. Are they going to say something that catches the ear of the person they are talking to, or is it going to end up being one of the above scenarios? They need to know the how, the why and the what for.
How bad can it get? 2 months ago I got a call from a sales person who asked me if we had worked together in the past! I don’t know, shouldn’t you know that? Seriously.
But you see it goes deeper than just baseline knowledge of your product. As a sales person in the social media world, you should not only know your product, the space it plays in, and the competition, but you should also be an ardent participator in social media and social networks- so that you have a firm understanding of what “it” is all about. Without that understanding, you may be able to sell ice to an Eskimo, but you might not understand why he chooses to stay in, drink hot tea and wear clothes from LL Bean.