Start talking before pitching

paper cut out people holding hands

Social networks are a forum for business leaders to demonstrate that they are leaders – using their expertise to help the community with advice and guidance. This raises levels of credibility and authority, helps drive traffic to websites and makes the important connections that turn into sales offline – where the real business is done.

Social networking is just not relevant to my business because we don’t sell to mums, dads or teenagers.”

You’d be surprised how often we still hear this line of thought from SME business leaders; we point out that, despite selling B2B, social networking is more important than ever to their business.

Why?

Because professional social networks like LinkedIn (rather than social media sites like Facebook and Google+) are where large numbers of your prospects are gathering and wanting to know more. What business can afford not to meet their prospects?

Social networks are a forum for business leaders to demonstrate that they are leaders – using their expertise to help the community with advice and guidance. This raises levels of credibility and authority, helps drive traffic to websites and makes the important connections that turn into sales offline – where the real business is done.

The Gathering Market – Going to Where Your Customers Are

In the Gather, Engage and Sell model of B2B marketing, the first step is to find your prospects, and in all likelihood they are already gathering on LinkedIn.

It is the network where professionals from all business fields are joining communities to keep updated on opinions, ideas, trends, products and market news.

  • LinkedIn has 175 million + users in over 200 countries
  • As of March, 2012 there were almost 1.25 million groups with memberships between 1 and 750,000 members

Building Relationships – Developing Authority

The next step to creating a good sales funnel for your business is to engage the highly targeted prospects you have gathered.

Joining community groups related to your business field helps put you in contact with your prospects. Even more importantly, this is in the place where they have chosen to come and where they are comfortable discussing industry related issues.

This gives you the green light to engage fully with them on any business-related topic. Here is where your expertise and authority can shine – and you can highlight your status as a leader in your field.

Of course, once you become known as a trusted source, qualified traffic will head organically to your website, where your newfound prospects can find out more.

If Everyone’s Selling No One’s Listening!

The biggest mistake that businesses make with professional communities is seeing them as free-for-all sales tools.

They are great sales tools, but only when used respectfully. When they become a forum for spam, they lose their worth, because everybody stops listening. To be frank, nobody has the time.

Groups are most successful when they are well moderated and designed for open discussion, not a marketplace for spam or branding. This encourages respectful participation and provides the opportunities for leaders to emerge.

A Model Community

Small Business Evolution (SBE) is the largest Australian SME community, with almost 10,000 professional members. Its success as a group lies in:

  • Delivering useful content and generating discussions frequently
  • Its members solving problems with genuine good-will
  • Addressing the issues that are going through the minds of its members
  • Providing genuine networking opportunities
  • Providing opportunities for thought leaders to rise to the fore
  • Having zero tolerance of spam

Summary

Harnessing the benefits of quality communities in your field can help overcome many of the dilemmas that modern business leaders face.

The emphasis on gathering, engaging with and educating prospects before pitching to them is very much in-step with the savvy, sceptical and time-poor professionals who are the decision makers.

Join relevant, well managed communities and engage with the professionals there to earn their trust and respect; and only then take the relationship offline to make the sales pitch.

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