Using Social Networking to Find Decision Makers

by Aleshia Humphries and Pat Ryan of Mentor Tech Group

We know that selling is no easy job, and keeping your sales pipeline flowing is essential.  In an ongoing effort to locate potential sales opportunities, sales people can get creative, engaging in social networking in hopes of finding leads and generating sales.

What could be better than connecting to hundreds, if not thousands, of business professionals for free?

Management should be happy with these efforts, right?

Well — it depends…

Many salespeople are looking to various B2B networking websites to find business contacts, interact with customers, get answers to specific problems, get a nudge in the right direction, or find insight on how to resolve a specific issue.  These social networking sites are great business tools, where people can easily maintain professional profiles, relationships and exchanges that are business related.

Social media is a revolution that has changed everything.  It has empowered companies like never before to:

  • Build a following and a community,
  • Get involved in discussion groups and exchange of knowledge
  • Create dialogue around your industry or your product!

Most employers consider the time spent on B2B networking sites as “professional development” and, rightly so, because it is truly an educational opportunity with tremendous potential.

Yet others consider it a “low cost” way to generate a list of prospects.  Sales people without quality leads can spend time on B2B networking sites, trolling around looking for someone to sell to.

If you are presently using this approach, or if you are considering doing so, be sure to go into it with both eyes wide open.  Why?

Point #1

Selling in the networking environment is quite different from building a list and blasting out your sales pitch.  You can’t use the same techniques as you do with Direct Marketing.

First, the numbers are not there.  Quality marketing requires delivery of your message to a minimum of 1000 quality contacts.  Remember the old marketing maxim: “The wider the net, the more fish you catch!”

Looking for prospects one at a time is not really using a “net” at all, so beware.

In addition, most contacts don’t appreciate “being sold to” within a social networking environment – which leads to the question, is it appropriate?  Not to say it can’t be done, but understand that building online B2B social networks, and participating in all the aspects that it entails, does not yield the kind of comprehensive results that Direct Marketing campaigns can.

Point #2

At first, it seems like a great idea being “linked in” with several hundred prospects for free or almost no monetary investment. However, before adopting this as a lead-generation strategy, consider these questions:

  • Is digging through these networking sites really free?
  • What is the true cost of using your sales person’s time to generate leads in this way?
  • Is it really the optimal use of their time?
  • Is it really the optimal use of B2B networking sites?

If not careful, a sales person will find herself spending several hours on these sites scouring online communities, reading blogs, looking at profiles, and requesting to be connecting with people for the purpose of generating leads and building databases.

NOTE: That is not selling.  That is research.

It is important to be balancing your time appropriately. While social selling does have value, it can quickly lose its value when the sales professional becomes dependent on social media.