This week’s article comes off the back of last week’s topic ‘ Getting prospects to talk to you’.

It will take a different approach. I have documented the conversation John Smibert and I had in relation to online prospecting. Here it is. Enjoy.

John: “…I was thinking that subject to the particular company, products and industry that maybe a phone call is not always the first contact these days. The reason this came to mind is that with the advent of social selling many salespeople are having considerable dialog with potential customers before making a phone call – many are engaging with potential customers and building some level of relationship and partly qualifying opportunities before they talk on the phone. What are your thoughts about this as an effective way to get customers to talk with us?”  

Sue: “John you raise an interesting point about the phone as not necessarily the first point of contact. With the rise of social selling there is a lot of information that passes by on our screens and if we are focused on understanding our clients in targeted segments we can start to put the right content in front of them. But this in itself does not constitute prospecting.  Yes we are hoping to engage people with this content and have them respond to us however this is part of marketing, micro marketing in this case. We are hoping our content will pull them towards us – this is still marketing.

social network, communication in the global computer networks

How much of today’s approach through Social Media is real prospecting?

“Prospecting is the identification and pursuit of new opportunities in new and existing accounts. Connecting directly with someone via their email/LinkedIn message, voice message or a phone call, directly requesting the opportunity to discuss something specific to that person is prospecting. 

“So back to the phone being the first contact – what is fascinating now is that with all the online opportunities to connect with people for prospecting purposes, it is being reported that many do not want to respond to online prospecting efforts because of the SPAM effect so many are opting for the phone call.

“How many of us are receiving so called business opportunity requests via LinkedIn on a daily basis in a message banks? Many of them unsolicited with no specific reference to me or my situation. That is not prospecting that is SPAMMING.

“I encourage people to pick up the phone and call people. Yes it is much harder to do that because of the personal rejection that can ensue; however, the better you get at it the better your results because you will be focused, purposeful and prepared, and that will make you stand out in a sea of SPAM LinkedIn messages and emails.

“I contest that only using online means to prospect is lazy and incredibly annoying to the people we want to reach.”

John: “I think we are largely in agreement – I also encourage people to pick up the phone and call people – when the time is right. And this applies to those working an effective ‘social’ strategy – LinkedIn, Facebook, or others.

“I totally agree that unsolicited selling messages on social platforms is spam and damage the medium – as they do on email and on the phone. Yet those who seek to engage effectively on any of these mediums – by researching and understanding the challenges or opportunities the client is facing and entering a dialog that creates value for the client – build respect and trust with the client. I fervently state that nobody (in B2B) should promote their products or services on social – as they should not on email.

“They need to listen on social and engage with ideas in the customer’s context and share content of value – again in the customer’s business context (no brochure or product information). And when the time is right then take it of social with a phone call.

“At that point a reasonable level of trusted relationship has been established and the prospective customer will invariably welcome that phone call. Social is not the easiest platform to prospect but has become one of the most effective for many industries. There are many top performing B2B salespeople I know who find, establish a relationship and partly qualify most of their new business prospects on social before they pick up the phone for the first time. It is not for everybody – but where it makes sense it is a highly effective and efficient prospecting platform.”

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett, www.barrett.com.au