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Posted: June 10, 2011

The fourth deadly social media sales mistake:

Blowing your vuvuzela

Julie Hansen

(Editor's note: This is the fourth of five parts.)

Who can forget that distinctive, monotone sound of the Vuvuzela that threatened to steal the spotlight from the World Cup Soccer games last summer? At first the sound of thousands of people blowing these plastic, two-foot horns was merely distracting, but it quickly it grew to be annoying and eventually we learned to tune it out. The web is not much different. There are hundreds of thousands of people blowing their horns all at once-the cacophony can be quite deafening. We've all become experts at tuning out the static and quickly deciding whether something is deserving of our attention or not.

Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube. They're chock full of people trying to sell us something. This constant refrain of "Listen to me!" is as common a mistake sellers make on-line as it is in person. I get it. You're under considerable pressure to make more calls, get more appointments, put out more proposals. More, more, more! Unfortunately this causes us to shout more than listen, promote rather than attract. We take shortcuts that cut the buyer out of the equation entirely. It's like applying a one-size-fits-all bandage to each person before we even know what the wound is!

Despite the frenetic pace, as salespeople, we need to occasionally stop blowing our own horn, take a step back and consider how our prospect perceives our product or service in terms of their needs or wants. Stepping into your customer's shoes is paramount to establishing a connection whether it's through social media, the phone or in person. Meet the buyer where they live and breathe and hurt. Establish yourself as a trusted resource ready to offer advice or a solution-even if that solution isn't your product or service.

How to stop blowing your horn and start connecting:

1. Share the spotlight

Constantly trying to draw attention to yourself is the worst form of acting. Fellow actors hate someone who is always upstaging them and they are quickly ostracized by their peers. Great actors don't need to shout. They draw us in and engage us because they're not busy trying to convince us of how good they are. They're authentic, interesting and have something of value to offer.

They make real connections with the other actors on stage and the audience. They listen and respond. Put your customer-or even your fellow salespeople--in the spotlight once in awhile by really listening to them, sharing their information and ideas and connecting them with others who can help address their issues. People are smart; they know that you're selling something--especially in social media where all they have to do is click on your profile! Don't feel like you need to constantly hit them over the head with that fact. Try being more of a magnet than a hammer and see what happens.

2. Step into the customer's shoes

Think of your buyer's problem and when and where they go to find a solution-and figure out a way to be there for them. One of my clients sells an all natural product for controlling bedbugs called Greenbug. She's been tweeting and blogging and posting about its effectiveness and benefits with limited success. I suggested she step back and really look at it from the customer's point-of-view by stepping into her customer's shoes.

Actors have a very effective formula for this called role-playing. Be assured, this is not the same as that painful manager-pleasing version of role-playing that takes place in sales meetings across the country. (Read my article on how to role-play in sales.) By following the steps and asking myself "What if I suspected I had bed bugs?" (which I don't, btw.) The first thing I'd do is Google "how to get rid of bed bugs." This turns up is a slew of thinly-veiled sales articles by companies all claiming to have "the best" solution for getting rid of bed bugs. If I was a consumer I would be overwhelmed with choices and anxious to get the issue resolved. So what would be helpful? What would get my attention? A chart clearly weighing the pros and cons of each method? A video of actual customers recounting their experience with various products?

Think about what your customer needs and go where they go when these needs arise. Think beyond search engines. What groups do your customers or prospects belong to? There are 870,000 groups on LinkedIn. Surely one or two are home to your customers.

Ultimately we all want to be heard. But wouldn't you rather listen to one beautifully-played flute than a thousand screeching Vuvuzelas??

For more ideas on how to be heard above the selling racket, check out my blog.

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Julie Hansen helps sales and business executives differentiate their solution and deliver winning presentations by leveraging proven performance skills from film, stage and improv.  The founder of Performance Sales and Training, Julie’s techniques have been adopted by Fortune 500 companies across the globe, including IBM, Oracle, SAP and local Colorado companies to gain a competitive selling edge.  Julie is an international speaker, sales trainer and the author of ACT Like a Sales Pro!  Learn more about workshops and keynotes at  PerformanceSalesandTraining.com, start a sales conversation at Julie@actingforsales.com  or connect with Julie on LinkedIn.

Enjoy this article? Sign up to get ColoradoBiz Exclusives. The opinions expressed in this article are solely that of the author and do not represent ColoradoBiz magazine. Comments on articles will be removed if they include personal attacks.

Readers Respond

Julie, what an intelligent, articulate and helpful article! I love the acting analogy! By TC North on 2011 06 16
Thanks Julie for another good one. I was shocked at the number of groups on Linked in. Look forward to your next mistake. Liz By liz wendling on 2011 06 10

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