Why Social Media Will Not Replace Prospecting

Sales Person Making a Prospecting Sales Call
Is prospecting still relevant in a world of social media marketing? Absolutely!

Admittedly, I’m a fan of social media. I post, update, and Tweet daily, as I help people and organizations improve their speaking and sales presentation skills. Unfortunately, many salespeople rely too heavily on social media, hoping it’s a magic path to new business development. I share this article from sales expert, Troy Harrison, who injects a little reality into the social media conversation and explains how sales fundamentals remain essential to the sales process.

Why Social Media Will NOT Replace Conventional Prospecting

by Troy Harrison

Ever since the cold call was invented, salespeople have been trying to invent the “magic button” that would allow them to quit cold calling and have prospects simply beat a path to their door. Over the years, many different methodologies including customer reselling, networking, and other methods have claimed to be the magic button. The latest is Online Social Networking (OSN). Just Tweet enough, so say experts including Jeff Gitomer, and you won’t ever need to smile and dial again.

Nonsense. That may work if you’re already established and as noteworthy as Gitomer, but if you’re like 99% of America’s salespeople, you’ve got cold calls in your future. Let’s back up a minute.

The basic appeal of selling as a career for most people is that, unlike other business disciplines, salespeople can control their income through increased commissions for better results. It’s this controllability that mitigates against OSN as a primary strategy. The basic equation of sales achievement is: (quantity of activity) x (quantity of activity) = Results. In other words, the more you do of it and the better you are at it, the better results you will get. Over the years, salespeople have been able to break down their activity into ratios, or numeric roadmaps that help them achieve what they want to achieve. For instance, if your closing ratio is 1 sale for every 2 proposals, you need double the number of proposals as you need sales. These ratios work all the way back to calculating the number of phone calls you need for a prospect appointment. For reference’s sake, most B2B salespeople can do 20 dials per hour; they will get 5-6 contacts in 20 dials; they will set an appointment about 1 of every 4 contacts.

Here lies the problem with OSN as a primary prospect generation strategy. There are no valid and viable ratios. No one – including those people who are training or evangelizing for OSN – can tell you how many Tweets yield an initial appointment, or how many “likes” on Facebook produce a proposal. The very foundation of a selling career – controllability – has gone out the window.

Worse, the people likely to see your messages on the various OSN platforms are not decision makers; if you think corporate CEO’s, VP’s, and the like are trolling Twitter to find their next capital equipment vendor, think again. The people with buying authority are simply too busy being productive to dig through the morass of OSN messages to find vendors and solutions.

If that’s not bad enough, even the best messages can get lost in the pile of banality and nonsense that composes most of OSN. You might Tweet the secret to perpetual motion; in most people’s Twitter feeds, it will quickly get lost among 500 other Tweets about what people are having for dinner. Trying to sort through the meaningless messages most people post on their Facebook and Twitter accounts reminds me of the old story about the boy who, upon receiving a pile of horse manure for Christmas, begins digging enthusiastically into the pile yelling, “There has to be a pony in here somewhere!”

I should point out that I am primarily discussing B2B salespeople here. There are some B2C venues – particularly in dining and entertainment – where OSN can be strikingly effective. If you’re promoting a rock band, trying to draw people to your restaurant, etc., then Tweet your guts out – because you’re talking to decision makers (individually purchased products or services mean that every reader is a decision maker).

For B2B salespeople, the best OSN platform I have found is LinkedIn. If you’re not a part of it, you should be. LinkedIn, used properly, can be a terrific facilitator of introductions, referrals, and new business. Even so, this should be a secondary approach rather than a primary approach.

Troy Harrison, The Sales Navigator
Troy Harrison, The Sales Navigator

Those who claim to have success in monetizing OSN tend to be those people who already have well-established reputations and already have a large number of people seeking them out (or they are the people who are making money by training people in OSN). In this vein, OSN simply becomes another method of being found. For most of the salespeople in the world, we have to find our customers; hence, a good data-driven teleprospecting program should be the primary means of new business development. Working from a well-qualified database, salespeople can continue to predictably set appointments and control their income and achievement. The elusive “magic button” may be invented someday, but it’s not here yet.

Troy Harrison is the author of Sell Like You Mean It! and the founder of SalesForce Solutions, a Kansas City based sales training and development company. Learn more at www.SalesForceSolutions.net

Thank you Troy!