Selling Social Media

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.

Hey, is my nose bleeding?

Humility tends to be in short suppply these days. I suppose after reading and writing about the importance of relationships, ego traps and hero worshipping yesterday that I might have at least learned something or had taken my own advice to heart. Something. Anything. It’s as if I just tuned out.

Yep, in the course of ohhh say 24 hours, I have been knocked down to size and humbled by one client. I was told I was not assertive enough by another would be client that I had been working with, who in hind sight wanted me to be more agressive and forcefull. And lastly, I had another potential client essentially tell me to give them what they had asked for and not what I suggested they need. All in less than 24 hours!

Hell, I even wrote a blog post titled, “Serve me what I want, not what you think I need”.  Talk about doubting yourself! What has this taught me? Alot.  Below are 10 points with associated posts that I need to always keep in mind and maybe you should too!

  1. The client will always be right. Always. Even if they’re not.
  2. You might be right, but the client doesn’t know you well enough to give you the business.
  3. You have to build trust incrementally.
  4. Assume nothing.
  5. Sometimes you just need to shut up.
  6. You are not as good as you think you are.
  7. There will always be someone who can do it better.
  8. Never underestimate the client.
  9. Always temper your actions with humility.
  10. Don’t forget where you came from.