Is Social Selling The Way Ahead For All Of Us – Or Just Millennials?

November 4, 2015

The business blogosphere is currently all agog with the news that no less an organisation than the mighty Dell has spent the last year training its top salespeople to leverage social media platforms such as Twitter, Tumblr and LinkedIn to better engage with potential customers. Not only that, Dell is also said to be training and certifying a group of its channel partners to do exactly the same thing.

Naturally, it isn't exactly news that a major player in the tech market has a social media strategy; but this is one of the first indications that the personal accounts of salespeople are being seen as intrinsic to an overarching sales strategy. In fact, I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that this represents a real paradigm shift in the way that B2B salespeople are expected to generate leads.

Connection And Engagement Just Got Personal

At the risk of stating the obvious, while social media may have started out for purely social purposes, business of all kinds is now firmly entrenched on pretty much every platform. So it's an entirely logical step for this still-maturing medium to start slowly erasing the barriers that exist between personal and professional profiles. After all, before a potential client can buy into your business, they have to buy into the people who represent that business to at least some small degree.

Personally speaking, if you'll pardon the expression, it was a big step for me to start using my personal Twitter account for business purposes too: something that now causes me to stop and reflect a little more carefully than I used to before tweeting about personal interests such as fashion or music.

However, it's fair to say that millennials are far less inhibited about such matters than people of my age, and if the move to join up personal and business profiles leads to greater honesty and understanding in the business arena - perhaps mixed with a small but overdue return to personal discretion by some people - that can only be a good thing in the long term.

So How Should You Conduct Business With Personal Social Media Accounts?

Regardless of the business you're in, or the business you're targeting, the world runs on relationships that are built on both trust and shared interests; a fact that's amply illustrated by a story I heard recently. It seems that a salesman was desperate to contact a particular person at the Post Office, as they were convinced that they had a great deal to offer them. However, every avenue he tried was blocked, and there seemed to be no way of arranging a meeting.

But, being the dauntless type, he did his research and discovered that one of his prospect's greatest achievements - with huge relevance to his own offer - was currently on display in every Post Office. So he took a picture and tweeted it to his prospective client, complete with a comment that demonstrated his knowledge of the subject at hand, which ultimately led to the personal meeting he had been looking for.

Drawing The Line Between Social Contact And Stalking

I hope it goes without saying that I've related the story above for illustrative purposes rather than as a blueprint for how we should all pursue the clients of our dreams. After all, should personal social media become too intrusive in a business sense, it will almost certainly lose all power and meaning.

So perhaps this is a good time to get back to Dell, and their mission to train and certify salespeople in the use of social media. I have absolutely no inside knowledge of what their training course entails, but I'm pretty sure it includes guidance on not just eliminating drunken selfies on Facebook, but also ensuring that your business-related Tweets and Posts offer genuine relevance and interest to those you would like to do business with, and demonstrate both your common ground and shared knowledge.

Finally, lest all of this should seem like so much pie-in-the-sky to the non-millennials among you, let me end by sharing an old-fashioned fact with you: according to a recent survey, salespeople who use their personal profiles for business purposes are 78% more likely to succeed in making appointments with prospective customers. And whether you like the thought of merging your personal and professional profiles online or not, I defy you not to love a fact like that…

Jessica Ellis - Business Development Director

Article first published here on 27/10/2015