social media is sales

I had one of those light bulb moments reading a line in the New York Times Bestseller “#GIRLBOSS”, a beautiful and unique business profile of Sophia Amoruso, Founder and CEO of Nasty Gal:

“At the end of the day, we are all here for one reason and one reason only – to make the company succeed.”

What a novel concept, right? The role of any member of any organization is to bring something to the table in order to help the company succeed. But thinking back on my career and the mornings where I woke up and lived for my work and was motivated to kick-so-much-butt were days when that concept could be felt in my bones. The days I woke up wanting to work hard were the days where I knew the work I was putting out impacted people and helped the company. The people I know who are happiest in their careers are those who know what they do makes a difference. I’m not even talking about making a difference to the “world” at this point. Sometimes it’s as simple as knowing you are helping one person do something they could have never accomplished alone.

That need to make an impact (and some really strange and random life events) is what drove this fascination I had with the one company function I despised the most: Sales.

Bottom line: If you want a company to succeed, you need to be able to make what you do affect the way that the company measures success, and for most companies, that’s through sales of products or services.

So I started reading articles about selling. I started having casual conversations with as many people in Sales as I could about what they do. (Okay, I started just LISTENING) I picked up a couple of books on sales and selling processes. I took every opportunity I got through clients to find out exactly what Sales needed from Marketing and what I could do via social media to help support it. I expected to find more clarity between how the functions supported each other. But the more I read and the more I listened, the more I subscribed to the idea that almost every two-way exchange of information is a sale. Not every “payment” is currency – if you tell a joke, the payment you would expect is a laugh – you are trying to sell humor. If you are expressing need, the payment you expect is an answer.

“Social” media was built on two-way communication by sheer definition and guess what? Social Media is Sales. Social Media has evolved into having a general process, that when broken down, looks a lot like the sales process. Think of it this way: the only difference between smart salesmen and smart marketers are their toolboxes. (And PS. the smartest of the smart learn to share their tools!)

Both of your goals are to increase revenue. For salesmen it’s easy. Make the sale, increase the revenue. Social media marketers have a more difficult route. We like to stack our goals like “reach”, “brand awareness”, “community”, “engagement”, but at the end of the day, each of those goals all “funnel down” into increasing revenue by impacting the sale at the consumer level.

We still both need to find and nurture leads. For salesmen, it looks a little like business cards, trade shows, research, walk-ins, cold-calls, store visits and networking. Find the lead, then engage with the lead. For social media marketers, it looks like hashtags, targeted ads, “viral content”, incentivized sharing. Both processes are used to find potential customers and then engage the customers on something they care about. Good salesmen rely on conversation and listening skills to connect the potential customer to something they care about. Social media marketers rely on the creation of resonating content, interactions via comments and messages to connect with the consumer about something they care about.

Both rely on knowledge and education. Just like the salesmen has the opportunity to wow a potential customer in the meeting, so do we as social media marketers. We have the opportunity to educate our audiences about products and services. Scratch that, it’s our duty to do that. It’s our duty to be well researched about our customers needs and wants, just like it’s of importance of a good salesman to know how his product can serve the needs of his customer.

Even after the sale is made, it’s about repeat engagement and building trust. A fantastic sales man once told me that you don’t just make a sale, hang up, and never speak with the customer again. The profiles in one of my favorite books on selling “The Art of the Sale” by Philip Delves Broughton also solidly back the idea that being successful in business relies on establishing trust with your customer and building a relationship with them. This is also true of social media. It’s not always about fan count or customer count. It’s about MAKING those customers count.

You may not have signed up for it, but either way you slice it – your job is to sell. The platforms, the arena, the tactics may look slightly different to a marketer than to a salesman, but the process looks identical. Don’t let the pressure of needing to make an impact scare you – let it empower you! Because you my friend, will impact a company today, and rock it.