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It's just old-fashioned selling folks

It's easy to get carried away with talk of some sort of marketing revolution where social media has changed the game, but I just don't buy it. The people and organisations I see using social media as a successful marketing techniques are simply rolling out good old-fashioned sales skills that most of our grand-parents could understand.

Being friendly...

So, it's all about 'engagement' these days. When wasn't it? In business-to-business selling where the buyer goes through a considered decision, it's always been important to be friendly, stay in touch, and keep them interested, whilst they do this.This used to mean phone calls or meetings - now there's an online channel too.

One of the very first sales training courses I went on told me to make a mental note of the personal information people gave me, like the names of their children or sporting interests, and to drop those into conversation to show an interest. And, I've lost count of the times I've been advised to use questions and listening to smooth the path to a sale. The same is true in social media. Some of the best (and ultimately profitable) interactions I've had have been completely off-topic - just a bit of friendly banter.

In many ways social media has given back what years of corporate governance malarkey has taken away - the chance to get to know your buyers in a more social setting. You used to take them for lunch or dinner, now many of these chats take place online.

Being prompt...

Immediacy is one of the key elements of social media. You can be in instant contact with someone who's asking about your products or services. Indeed, they increasingly expect you to be. Again, this just isn't new. Answering your phones quickly, routing to the right person, and getting an answer quickly, have been the ingredients of good service since dot.

Social media has certainly ramped this up, but the concept is not new. Those businesses who've not previously invested in speedy service are now being forced to catch-up with those who cottoned on years ago.

Being knowledgeable...

Social media has made knoweldge, particularly in the form of online content, stand forefront in a marketing mix. It used to be more contained and demonstrated behind closed doors in meetings and proposal documents. But, the need to know your stuff has always been there.

A new dimension is how quickly you'll come unstuck if you're not quite what you say you are. It was always true that reputation spread via word of mouth, this is now magnified and accelorated - which is no bad thing in my opinion.

Being known...

Hmm... now the 'old school tie' certainly isn't a new concept, and whilst the basis for a recommendation through a network is (usually) now based on more important criteria than where you went to school, the idea of nurturing a network is as old as the hills. Social media enables you to do this faster and further, but the basic premise remains true.

Of course there are new things to learn, not least which buttons to press, but I firmly beleive that if you're someone who understands how real people really buy things, and how to guide them through that process, you can easily add social media as a powerful tool in your kit bag. In fact, I'd say that if the skills above come naturally to you then social media is likely to be right up your street. Good sales people are social animals whatever the context.

You can always find someone to do the point and click on a new technology, but finding someone with those all-important sales skills is still top of the heap for me.

If you're interested in learning more on this subject  i'll be running a workshop on 8 June in London