Let me start by saying what an incredible event Birmingham’s Social Circle has become. Started by the talented bunch that is Kirstie Smith, Katie Underwood, Katie Mellers-Hill and Natelle Williams, this monthly social media event started as a meet-up between this group (over a bevvy or two) before they ‘opened the circle’ to anybody with a passion for social media.
Now, the event has grown to the point the most recent event last month was packed to the rafters with 60-odd people in attendance. It also just so happened to be the event where I was up as guest speaker… Gulp!
I’d previously attended 12 of the 15 events they’ve hosted, so you could say I’m a proper fan-boy, which made it even stranger being on the other side. Even so, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Let me run you through what I talked about…
Sales is trendy
Here I decided to talk about ‘selling social media as a service.’ The reason being sales gets an unfair deal compared to its trendy counterpart, marketing. But sales can be ‘trendy’ too… honest!
Twenty years ago, when I was required to start thinking about a career, I’d always seen ‘sales’ as a male, six foot, slick, suave, articulate and perhaps a bit of a @#!). I looked at myself – male(ish), 5’10, scruff, a little bit awkward…and thought this isn’t really for me.
But 20 years on and I’m responsible for sales in my organisation and not only that but seemingly responsible for receiving sales approaches as well. Hundreds of them.
The key thing learned in this role is that as with the content you create, the brand you grow or the product/service you sell, sales can match yours and your company’s personality style. Sales isn’t a one size fits all.
‘When you can sell to people and understand what motivates them, it can really accelerate your career and your business’, Tom Goodwin, Head of Innovation at Zenith Media.
Whether it’s my mate Smarty trying to entice me for a pint (easy sale), my wife or I trying to sell our five-year-old the greens on his plate, or trying to sell to yourself the notion of getting up at 6am to go to the gym before work; we’re all selling something.
Some say it’s the art of persuasion / influencing to reach a desired outcome. However, it’s more than that. As Goodwin says in his SkillShare talk on How to Prep, Pitch, Persuade, and Close you need to think about:
- Right thing
- Right person
- Right time
THE IMPORTANCE OF RESEARCH
Whether you think social media is a force for good or force for bad, there are 3.9 billion people using social media globally, and it’s still growing. There are people and businesses who want, need and understand social media marketing and value the opportunity it brings. It’s a good service to be selling.
However, for every person you are selling this ‘thing’ to, the shape of what you are selling would/should be totally different. Social media is so granular and there is so much to it that the service you sell can be tailored to exactly what is needed. Add to this social media doesn’t or shouldn’t come as a stand-alone entity anymore. We should show how it would work with other channels, online and offline to reach a set objective.
A client must pick the right person or agency, but you also have to pick the right client. What type of clients excite you, get you motivated, align to your strategy, are in your specialism?
In your research stage you need to be thinking about the person you are targeting – as much about them as you can muster. But most importantly, can you solve their problem?
This could be anything as big as the time of year or responding to an opportunity, or even as specific as catching that person outside of working hours. Research should determine the best time to successfully “sell” to this person.
OUTREACH – YOUR WAY
So, you’ve done all of this research. You’re ready to start contacting people now, right? Wrong!
You need to pre-empt your sales targets doing their own research on you. Are they going to see the picture you want them to see when they start this research?
Think about the steps you’d take if you were to, for example, need someone to build an extension on your house. You’d first of all use a builder that did a great job on a previous extension you had done; next you’d likely consider a builder that did a great job on a similar project for you; next you’d ask a trusted person for a recommendation.
At these stages you might use Google search, reviews and all sorts of other touchpoints to start creating a reputation on this person or company that will ultimately influence the decision you make.
These are also likely steps that a potential customer will take when considering who they get as their social media agency. Also, remember that this is a high-value product, so be patient as the lead time for decision-making can take a while.
1. FIRST CONTACT
Nick Parker’s “An introverts guide to sales” really resonated with me. In it, he highlights the following:
Know me: Be vulnerable – The first time you engage with someone help them get to know you as a person
Like me: Be curious – When you’re actively listening, your clients will love to talk about themselves. People remember how you make them feel. Make them feel heard.
Trust me: Be generous – Position yourself as an expert but don’t talk about yourself. Be generous with your knowledge.
Sell me: Be valuable – Repeat work and referrals are life. When a client is proud of the work you produce, they’ll act like they discovered you.
This approach is a far cry to what I perceived sales to be 20 years ago and far closer to what my (and our agency’s) approach is. Think about this when making your first contact – this could be via phone-call, email or in-person, whichever method your research determines is the best.
So, you got the meeting. I always think of facetime as tokens: the more you get, the more opportunity you have to build rapport and develop your relationship which is imperative for a person deciding upon a social media agency. A relationship that will require a lot of collaboration.
There are so many tips for meeting prep. However, the purpose of it should really be to fill in the gaps from your research, ask questions, and listen as much as you can. I like this structure from Chris Do, Founder of The Futur ,which should be considered at this stage:
Serve – be of service to them
Ask – be curious
Listen – talk less; listen more
Empathise – feel their pain
The good news is that you’re at the proposal stage. The bad news is that I’d say you’re only 30-40% of the way to a successful sale.
I tend to think that this is also the time to consider whether this is absolutely the right thing for you. From everything you’ve learned up to this point, you might have a fair idea whether this is a piece of work you have to talk yourself into or (on the opposite end of the scale) whether it’s something that you can only talk yourself out of.
Where does this job fit on this scale? Is it something that will take a lot of hours and budget to pull together? Is it the right thing, the right person, and the right time? Be sure this is the right opportunity for you.
However, once you’ve made the decision to go for it. Give it your absolute all!
THE FOLLOW UP
“What about the follow-up, Matt?”, I hear you ask. Whether you’ve made first contact, met with the person or even submitted your pitch or proposal, it might have gone amazingly well but you haven’t heard a dicky bird. This is where a CRM can really help with your organisation.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a chance you’re not a good fit for them, but it’s more likely there’s another reason why they haven’t got back to you. The key is to make sure you schedule your follow-up intervals based on a) the opportunity you’re going for; b) the person you’re targeting; c) the timing. Stick to these intervals with your follow ups and use a CRM to support with this if you feel it’s appropriate.
I tend to think if you recruit well and people like working at your company, they’ll get a buzz out of getting new work. It’s then a case of working together to refine the approach and process. This will hopefully lead to more, better clients for you.
Make sure everybody you work with is consistent with this approach, because if there’s one thing I want you to take away from this blog… It’s that anybody can sell
Are you a fellow agency or freelancer looking for some tips? We’re more than happy to have a chin-wag.
All photos in this article courtesy of Blanca Miguel Casanovas