It’s always been social media fashionable to have a lot of followers/contacts/friends. When the whole wave started growing, everyone wanted to connect with everyone else. LinkedIn was almost a race. It was a status symbol for “500+ Connections” to be displayed on someone’s profile page. “Now THAT person is important!” A few years later the secret was out: Many of those people didn’t really KNOW all of their connections. In fact, some even BOUGHT their connections just so they could say they hit the magic number. Suddenly the credibility of the followers, contacts and friends came into question.
Requests to connect come to my inbox every day, some from people I know and some whom I’ve never met. In either case, I always pause and ask: “Why me?” Why does this person want to connect and is it consistent with the explanation I’d love to hear: “I need your help. Not with your product or service, but with insight about how to improve my own situation. If your assistance is beneficial beyond my expectations, you will have earned my trust.”
That trust is worth far more down the road than a sales transaction today.
Is algorithmic prediction of buying habits considered permission or is the question even on the table? Applicable and relevant or not, pop-up ads randomly and strategically placed in front of consumers when using their own computer is an interruption in my world. On the other hand, Amazon suggesting additional products and services related to a search topic doesn’t cross the line because the search was initiated by the user. This certainly seems like splitting hairs, but the argument is relevant to the SPAM discussion.
The sales world is changing FAST. The customer is in control. The internet is becoming the expert, the presenter of the features and benefits of a brand’s products. Ten times the amount of research can be done in one-fourth the time on Google versus the public library, and it’s far less confrontational than sitting across an office desk. Many consumers even identify and overcome their own objections thanks to the i-Pad they’re using in their living room. How significant are those closing seminars now?
The argument isn’t that professionals should neglect continuing education or abandon product knowledge. The point is that they should take a step back and evaluate the situation. Salespeople have long been programmed to diligently prospect new business, set interview appointments, demonstrate products, validate interest, overcome objections, close the deal, and follow-up/ask for referrals. There is no doubt that the traditional system will always be an important component to business success.
The quandary is this: If a brand representative will not be present for some or all of the process, how will their role need to evolve to fit into the new reality?
In 2007, the director of the local Community Leadership Program recommended that attendees connect on LinkedIn, so we all dove head-first into the internet ocean. After all, everybody was doing it. MySpace, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, RSS feeds from bloggers and any news sources that piqued our interest. It didn’t take long for subscribers (and their in-boxes) to become overwhelmed with all of the opt-ins. What started out as one-on-one discussions soon became committee meetings. Today it’s a full-blown national convention. There are now thousands of people talking at once and no one wants to surrender the podium. More importantly, there is no monitor present to call “time”. It’s our responsibility as members of the buying public to decide who we want to listen to. Sound difficult?