How does Social Media fit into the traditional sales funnel?

"Success doesn't come to you, you go to it."
                                       ~ Marva Collins

Q:   How does social media fit into the traditional sales funnel?

A:   Social Media has not evolved far enough to help sales, other than being used as a tool for communicating, networking, gathering knowledge and at the bottom of the ladder -- generating leads.   Unfortunately, far too many misuse Twitter or Facebook to spam, broadcast, a deal or sale.  That was my initial perception and can turn someone off immediately.  However, social media pros are using it to learn, promote, educate, and/or communicate.  

When I ask executives I know professionally about their social media involvement, most say that they are on Linked In but rarely on Twitter.  A few are on Facebook  for friends and family.  Others claim they have a Facebook Page for Business, under someone on their team's responsibility, usually IT or Marketing.

Blogs are a great way to drive "return" traffic to one's site if it is done as a way of educating customers, establishing expertise.   The following chart from Nielsen Research illustrates a 43% increase in Social Media:

I  had a long conversation with my sister recently whereby my brother-in-law has a successful furnace cleaning business (for our Canadian igloos right?)that has expanded to air conditioners and humidifiers.  My advice was to develop his company website, include a blog where he can write about what he is a walking encyclopaedia on.  For example, here were a few ideas I gave:

·        How furnaces can impact your clean air;
·        What happens to health if you don't clean your furnace?
·        How often should you have your furnace cleaned?
·        What are the best or safest ones and why?
·        When should you replace your furnace?
o   When it breaks down?
o   Every 5, 10, 15 years?

VOILA!  If that information or blog happens to be on a site that sells the type of service or products people are researching before they buy, chances are they will trust that expertise greater than another that simply has a "Testimonials Page" and should generate a lead.   Sadly, most organizations don't include testimonials never mind White Papers or Case Studies.  You probably get my drift by now.  Use Social Media as a conduit to “share” information, communicate and educate.   

Today, the best use for Social Media for sales is to network with other like-minded tWeeps or to access knowledge.   One of the most critical steps in sales that rookies don't understand or others cut corners on is the research phase -- what you do before you pick up the phone or approach a prospect or inherited customer.  Social Media is an excellent vehicle to source information. 

HR Professionals no longer simply “Google” you.  Now, they will look you up on Linked In and check out your Facebook page.  You should always have this in the back of your mind: every single day you are online, you are selling yourself.  What you put out there is open to scrutiny and will determine whether a prospect will do business with you or if you will get hired.

People often misunderstand that Social Media’s primary purpose is not just for those looking for work or consultants broadcasting their know-how.   Take time to learn how you can sift through the clutter to find ways to use it to your advantage – selling or otherwise.   There are multitudes of on-line webinars and networking events available.  Most are free (with a sales pitch somewhere, the weak ones more obvious). 

Promote your Customer Appreciation, Open House, Product Launch event using Social Media.   Invitees can see who has been invited, who has agreed to attend, who has declined.   It requires more innovation and creativity.  I wouldn’t suggest you forego printed invites – they’re still important the higher up the ladder your invitee is. 

Face to face will always be best!  Just don’t ignore the fact that Social Media does make it easier for people to hide.  Those prospects may decide whether or not they will do business with you or meet with you just by clicking your name!