Sales and Sales Management Blog

October 13, 2009

Resist the Hype While Taking Advantage of Social Media in Your Selling

Filed under: sales,Sales 2.0,selling — Paul McCord @ 10:06 am
Tags: , , ,

Have you received this SPAM email yet that I received over the weekend?

“Do you sell? Do you still waste time and money meeting with prospects face to face?  Are you still cold calling, using snail mail, or off-line advertising looking for business?

If so, you’re already out of business and are just too dumb to recognize it.

Today’s smart salespeople recognize and understand the power of Sales 2.0.  They understand that 20th century selling is dead and if they’re still trying to sell that way, they’re dead too.  They understand that social media is not only the wave of the future; it’s the wave of today.

If you think you can outsmart the market, you can’t.  If you think that because you’ve been successful using outdated prospecting and sales methods in the past you can continue to be successful in today’s market using those same methods, you’re wrong.

Don’t let some ‘guru’ sell you some outdated idea of how to sell that no longer works.

We are one of the premier companies helping independent sellers like you capture the power of the internet.  Formed by a core of three young, visionary, brilliant entrepreneurs, we are not bound by the blinders of what’s worked in the past but are instead in tune with the future.  We’re not trapped by history.”

The email goes on in the same vein, selling the idea that the world has changed and what has worked for sellers in the past will no longer work today—and this company will, of course, help sellers learn how to forget all they’ve been taught and learn the “new” way of selling, the way that’s easier, more productive, that eliminates having to deal with prospects and customers face to face, that uses the tools of social media to prospect, sell, and service.

If you get this or a similar email, delete it immediately.  It’s a deceit.  I don’t mean it’s deceitful in the sense the people connected with the company don’t believe what they’re saying.  They very well may believe every word they write.  But what they believe is wrong.  They misunderstand what’s going on in the marketplace.

I’m sure you are at least somewhat familiar with the idea of social media.  Certainly if you’re reading this article on a blog or off a website, you’re internet active.

The authors of the above email are correct in the sense that social media is here to stay and its influence will continue to grow.  Where they have gone wrong is in believing that social media is capable of changing the nature of our world.  That is, that social media can change human nature.  It can’t.

Certainly if you are selling a commodity, you may find a larger and larger share of your market purchasing off the internet without any interaction with a human being—or just minimal interaction via email or instant messaging.  However, if you are selling anything other than a commodity, the majority of your market is still going to want to deal with real humans.  Yes, a small percentage of your market may be happy making a major purchase without involving a human, but most will not.  It’s human nature to want to deal with a human, to be able to ask questions and get immediate, personal answers, to negotiate face to face or at least earpiece to mouthpiece.

Consequently, those “20th century” prospecting and sales skills will be just as valid in 2030 as they were in 1990.  Our technology may change, our nature won’t. 

As buyers, we may take advantage of researching our potential purchase on the internet prior to connecting with a human, but that human connection will remain vital for the majority of us.  We may use social media to help find potential suppliers, but it can’t flesh out the relationship we need with the supplier.

As sellers we may use social media to let prospects know who we are and what our capabilities are, but we must still interact to understand their individual needs, wants, issues, and problems.  We can begin to connect but we can’t analyze or develop a solution based on the shallowness of a virtual relationship. We can use social media to gain attention but it can’t go to the depths we must go to develop the trust and loyalty we must have to sustain a business long-term.   

There have been those who have predicted in the past that technology would fundamentally change the way we sell.  They’ve been wrong time after time.  When the telephone came on the scene there were some who predicted that salespeople would never again have to spend time and money meeting their prospects and clients face to face.  They were wrong.

For some, the fax machine was the key to freeing sellers from having to meet face to face with prospects and clients.  Now they could transact their business over the phone and when it came time to get the contract signed, all they’d have to do was fax it to the client, have them sign it, and then fax it back.  Didn’t happen.

For others it was email and then instant messaging that would be the magic technology to change sales.  We could now carry on a complete conversation while in the middle of doing other things.  We could even send documents, pictures, even audio and video.  Not only could we do everything via technology that we do face to face, we wouldn’t have our ego on the line as in a face to face meeting, so negotiations would go quicker and more smoothly.  Wrong.

For the majority of us who sell in a defined geographic area, meeting face to face will still be the crux of our business.  For those of us who sell on a broader field, the phone may be our primary communication tool, but building a deep relationship will still be the crux of our sales activity. 

There are a gazillion social media experts haunting the social media sites looking to pick up new clients.  One of the things I’ve noticed about a great many of them is their age—young, very young.  There is certainly nothing wrong with being young and one might expect younger people to be more attuned to the new technology than someone older. 

But there is a serious problem with youth (this is not to dismiss the advantages of youth—I’d like to have a bit more youth than I have)–a lack of experience, or as the email above proudly puts it, “not trapped by history.”

The young are not trapped by history as some of us longer in the tooth may be.  But at the same time youth lacks a grounding that experience gives.  Although I did not live through the expectations that the telephone would free salespeople from having to meet with prospects and clients face to face (I’m not THAT old), I have lived through the introduction of the fax, email, instant messaging, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and the other social media.  I’ve lived through several “revolutions” in sales that never materialized. 

In January of 2007 I had written a post encouraging sellers to learn more effective prospecting strategies as preparation for a quickly coming recession.  Of course, at that time the economy was doing well.  I received emails from a couple of young MBA’s claiming that I didn’t understand the “new economy” where there was no longer a fear of recession or a slowing of the economy.  These young MBA’s suffered from the same problem our young authors of the above email suffer from–a lack of historical perspective.  They believed they were experiencing something new, something revolutionary.  They weren’t, of course. 

There are some great social media coaches out there—some of them young.  Most social media experts recognize the limits of social media and actively work to help you meld your online and offline business activities. 

By all means, take advantage of the opportunities offered by social media, just don’t buy into the hype advanced by a few misguided souls who believe technology will change how humans act.  Our technology may be changing but human nature isn’t.  Technology may help you sell but it isn’t fundamentally changing how you sell.

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5 Comments »

  1. […] Resist the Hype While Taking Advantage of Social Media in Your Selling « Sales and Sales Management… salesandmanagementblog.com/2009/10/13/resist-the-hype-while-taking-advantage-of-social-media-in-your-selling – view page – cached Filed under: Sales 2.0, sales, selling — Paul McCord @ 10:06 am Tags: sales, Sales 2.0, sales technology, selling — From the page […]

    Pingback by Twitter Trackbacks for Resist the Hype While Taking Advantage of Social Media in Your Selling « Sales and Sales Management Blog [salesandmanagementblog.com] on Topsy.com — October 13, 2009 @ 3:54 pm | Reply

  2. Paul,

    We must be of the same generation. I believe you are dead on. You are only going back a few years with your references to the telephone. We can look back throughout all of history and see where technology, while changing and bettering our world, didn’t, can’t, and won’t replace live, face-to-face human interaction. I still remember that great United Airlines commercial from many years ago where the boss tells his troops they lost a customer. He passes out United tickets to everyone in the room. When asked what he’ll be doing, he pulls out his ticket and says going to go visit an old customer.

    Comment by Dave Wallace — October 13, 2009 @ 4:52 pm | Reply

  3. Dave,

    Thanks for the input. It’s funny how each generation must learn that what’s new and revolutionary for them is really just a new twist on something older generations have seen before in some form or fashion. A strong economy that lasts for six, seven, eight years? For the young MBA’s it was new and never ending. For us who had lived through the seventies and eighties, we’d seen it before and knew it would end–we just didn’t know exactly how it’d end. The instant connections worldwide afforded us by social media? Although we older folks hadn’t had anything like Facebook, Twitter, or blogs in the past, we had seen enough technology to know it was useful but not revolutionary in the way we sell.

    Thirty or forty years from now when you and I are long gone and these younger folks are our age, they’ll be watching the next technological wonder come along and hear from the younger generation how it will completely change the way business is done. I’m willing to bet they’ll be wrong. We may see wonders in terms of technology change in the next 30 to 40 years but we won’t see any change in human nature. And no matter what changes are in store for us in terms of things, we still have to sell to humans the way humans are, not the way we wish they were.

    Comment by Paul McCord — October 14, 2009 @ 8:42 am | Reply

  4. Paul,

    It’s important that young marketers pay attention to your article and try to gain perspective as quickly as possible. Reading history books on business and marketing will help.

    At the same time, I think you are being too kind to the “Spammer”. By implying that every product, in every city and state can be sold the same way to any customer, they reveal that they are baiting those looking for a quick fix for poor sales and marketing. I’d be willing to bet that their offer is a con and the people who respond are gullible marks.

    That’s putting it in old fashioned terms.

    Comment by John Ribbler — October 14, 2009 @ 10:25 am | Reply

    • John,

      I suspect you’re right that the email is a con job. I do suspect that there are some sellers who will get sucked in. These cons exist because we sellers demand they exist as I discuss in this post.

      Comment by Paul McCord — October 14, 2009 @ 1:43 pm | Reply


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