Why Sales Isn't About Relationships

Learn how insightful social selling leads to strong relationships—not the other way around.

July 27, 2016

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"Build relationships first and sales will follow" is an old adage in sales. But it no longer holds true in the modern era of social selling. While that old-school approach relies on reaching out to your existing network to see if anyone could use your services, today a buyer’s journey has begun long before you would have reached out. Your best opportunities for success come from being a part of that journey early on.

Let's quickly review how times have changed. The average buyer completes 57% of the buying process before they contact a supplier, according to CEB. And buyers are placing a premium on content, with more than half saying they relied more on content in 2016 than they did last year. They're also sharing business-related content online, with 62% and 85% saying they share on Twitter and LinkedIn, respectively.

The change in buyer behavior calls for a new way of approaching sales. But how exactly should you navigate this new world? Relying on insights from top sales and marketing leaders is a good place to start.

Get in Early on the Decision Process

Many years ago, Koka Sexton, now LinkedIn’s Head of Social Media, was having a hard time in the typical sales process. So he started listening to how people were interacting on social media and watching how they were self-educating. “I decided to start injecting information into the conversations already taking place about the product or market that I was selling into,” he says.

That proactive engagement has become a must for sales reps. If you can provide prospects with content and help them sift through the clutter of information online, you’ll develop a fruitful long-term relationship.

Fend Off the Competition

Don’t wait too long when sharing content with your buyers, or you may lose out to your competitors—something Dario Priolo, Chief Marketing Officer at Sales Performance International, warns against.

”Waiting for leads puts you in the middle of the customer’s buying process where a competitor has gotten in earlier to shape the customer’s thinking and earn front-runner status,” Priolo says.

Leverage Social Data

To build strong relationships through social selling, you'll want to leverage all of the tools and data that social networks offer. Jack Kosakowski, the head of B2B Sales Execution for Creation Agency, goes full-throttle when finding this customer data and putting it to work.

“When my buyers create new content, get a new job, or even have a birthday, it is invaluable information for me to leverage,” he says. “I’m using these insights to get into conversations, keep the conversation going and tighten the relationship with my buyers."

The Long Haul

Keep in mind that a successful social selling process is meant to establish long-term relationships, not just score your next big sale. That means your goal should be your prospects’ success.

If you’re consistently on their radar—promoting their company's new product releases in your status updates, following their industry’s trends, and introducing them to other contacts who can help—you’ll establish yourself as a trusted source. By helping prospects think differently and see new ideas, you’ll earn the right to a strong relationship.

For more insights on how to identify prospects, build relationships and close deals in era of social selling, download our eBook, How Personalized Selling Unlocks Competitive Advantage.