People have been selling via telephone for over a century now – whilst over the last decade new routes to market including Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter has hit the headlines. When selling a complex product or service, will these new forms of marketing really take the place of selling by telephone?
If Marketing isnt your forte, then its probably difficult to work out your best route to market. With so many options these days do you open a shop? Do you write a website? Do you attend webinars? Do you join Linkedin? The list just seems to go on and on and on.
So what is Social Media Marketing and how does it differ from classic Consultative Telemarketing? The Dotcom boom of the late 1990s and early 21st Century saw a massive change in the way that individuals and organisations communicated with one another. This was via the rise of the website as a selling medium and more importantly the emergence of Google. Google has been so successful that there are literally thousands of people aspiring to write the next big thing on the Internet and make their fortune. The question here though is “Are people seeking to make your fortune or enticing you to make a fortune for them?”
A supposed Twitter Expert recently engaged me in conversation. He tried to win me over to this new medium in favour of Consultative Telemarketing. After 15 minutes of smoke and mirrors he told me a story of how everyone was twittering about Stephen Fry stuck in a lift. At the end of his monologue, I asked the question Were people interested in finding out about Stephen Fry because they had never heard of his name before and wondered who he was? Or were people twittering because they already knew his name? In other words, my Twitter Expert was struggling to tell me how Twitter could possibly increase awareness for a new product or moreover how on Earth it could increase sales? I have no doubt that if one paid Stephen Fry enough money to promote something that this would increase sales, but isn’t that Stephen Fry being paid to do the work rather than Twitter? Certainly Twitter is an exciting new medium but does it make sales?
When you pick up the telephone and engage in a meaningful conversation with someone who may want your complex product or service, the process is very direct if you know what you are doing. Similarly, anyone writing a website to be found on Google is providing a shop front on the web to sell their services. If you understand the art of Search Engine Optimization then you can drive potential business to your door, albeit that most people will end up having a telephone conversation with you before they buy. So for complex sales the website and the telephone work well together or you can use Consultative Telemarketing on its own to succeed. But will Social Media Marketing bypass the website and telephone call as a means to a sale?
Reid Hoffman, founder and CEO of Linkedin was interviewed by Bloomberg last week. He was asked about Linkedin and his connections with Facebook. When asked about The next big thing it was interesting to see how Mr Hoffman discussed Google as the benchmark for internet success. More interesting from a sales perspective, was how Mr Hoffman bypassed the question as to why he didnt see Twitter coming as a source of competition. Even more interesting was how Mr Hoffman tried to steer clear of the conversation about making sales from Linkedin, Facebook or Twitter.
I think the key point here is that just about every global SEO expert places Google as the benchmark for Internet success or failure and even Hoffmans Linkedin and Facebook sites still pale in to insignificance when compared with the success of Google. From a sales perspective, if Google likes you, then you are likely to gain sales lead generation from the Internet.
Google is so successful because it helps you find what you are looking for, and on the back of that it generates huge sums of money from advertising revenue. But Google was a flash of inspiration, as to how to give people what they wanted and they made money as a by-product. What many non-savvy marketing people havent realised is that the CEOs of Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter are all highly envious of the sales Google are making – and they all want a slice of that pie. But I do question whether they are really offering you a way to make sales rather than simply building their own bank balance?
Consultative Telemarketing helps you decide who to target, how to target, and finally engages in meaningful conversation with prospective buyers. Google can lead prospects to your door, although for a complex sale, youll probably end up closing a deal via telephone. Social Media Marketing in terms of Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter have more in common with the type of networking you would expect at a pub, restaurant or breakfast club but will that really win more sales?
As a Business Development expert Im always on the lookout for new ways to reach prospective customers. Personally, Ive never been a great fan of the breakfast club. After an early start, you find yourself at a hotel eating breakfast, surrounded by an array of accountants, bank managers and solicitors all hunting for business. But if you are selling a complex offering to a potentially niche market, the likelihood of you meeting a prospective customer is relatively small. The organisation hosting the venue is making money on selling breakfasts and the organiser (probably a bank) is often making more sales but are you making more sales? So lets take this analogy one stage further and ask the question if you go to a giant breakfast club on the Internet who is really making the bucks?
One of my clients said to me this week Gosh the market is slow at the moment and I wish I could see more prospective customers, but my offering is very complex should I do more Social Media Marketing? My client has never picked up any work from a breakfast club. He has picked up work from his own network of friends but he didnt need Linkedin or Facebook to do that for him; he simply needed to pick up the telephone and call them. There is an urban myth going around where everyone has heard of someone, who has made lots of sales by joining Linkedin. Yet when I ask everyone if they made a sale, the answer is always No, but give it a few months and I bet I will. Strangely enough people have been telling me the same story for almost 5 years and Ive won every bet!
Im now in my mid-40s and Ive been in Business Development, Sales and Marketing for about 25 years. As a young man I tried all the supposed great new ideas in the 80s from MLM (Pyramid Selling) to joining the financial deregulation and selling pensions. The one thing that all aggressive sales companies teach you straight away is to call all your family and friends. Funnily enough, as crass as it sounds, it does work. Facebook and Linkedin are really an extension of this idea and theres nothing wrong with that but do you honestly believe that putting your name somewhere on a website full of another 45 million names, that this is better than picking up the phone and calling people yourself?
At the end of the day, there is really no substitute for planning who you want to do business with, picking up the telephone, and calling them. Facebook, Linkedin and the thousands of other directories out there are all useful sources of information. One of the first rules of marketing is differentiation. In marketing we talk about USPs (Unique Selling Points or Propositions). You have to ask yourself who you want to deal with and what you will offer them. However cleverly Linkedin attempts to dress up the offering, do you really believe that you will manage to differentiate yourself from the other tens of millions of people in their directory? If you seriously believe that your friends and family are going to be your customers do you really believe they Facebook will get to them quicker than picking up the phone and calling them?
Im not knocking Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter or whatever comes out next. As a platform for discussion and building networks theyre great thats what theyre made for. But when the CEO of Linkedin avoids talking about their value as a method of creating new business, then shouldnt that help you to see that its not a platform for making sales? If you want new business, then pick up the phone and call your prospects. If you lack the skills then hire someone to help you. It may be old school but Consultative Telemarketing is still the No.1 way to find and win new business. If you need more help, call me on 0870 042 1263 or email me firstname.lastname@example.org.