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Posted: June 02, 2011

The third deadly social media sales mistake:

Transitioning cyber relationships to the real world

Julie Hansen

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

As a panelist on ColoradoBiz's Social Media event last month I got to hear firsthand what was paramount on people's minds when it comes to social media: how do I take all of this information and put it into a practice that's going to help my bottom line? For salespeople in particular, there is a particular sense of urgency. "I need sales now. I don't have months and years to nurture relationships," are common refrains. If traditional sales methods don't work (see the first article in this series), what's an enterprising seller or business owner to do?

I struggled with these questions early on myself. As a sales trainer and speaker, I knew social media should be a part of my business mix, but wasn't sure how much. It wasn't until I tried to sell my book that I realized what an important role it would play.

When I pitched my book on how sales professionals and businesses can use acting and improv skills to sell more effectively and dynamically to a well-known literary agent, he loved the idea, but the conversation quickly diverted from my book to my social network. How many Facebook fans did I have? How many LinkedIn connections? How many people were following me on Twitter http://twitter.com/#!/acting4sales)? My answers caused him to sigh heavily. He knew that the success of my book depended heavily on a broad, supportive network and told me to come back when I had an established social media platform.

Armed with this knowledge, I set about employing the same skills I learned as a seller and an actor to building social media relationships. I read what the experts had to say. I followed thought leaders. I engaged in conversations. I wrote articles for various sites and began to actually read and respond to those LinkedIn requests and updates. I tweeted and re-tweeted. I often felt like I was shouting into the wind but my grassroots effort led me to an agent and a publisher, clients who had a need for my services and a network of peers and new friends who've generously shared their experience and connections.

Social media can lead to sales-just not in a predictable Point A to Point B fashion. I've discovered that much like sales and acting, social media is about relationships. Placing the focus on those relationships makes the path much clearer-and leads to the third social media mistake in sales:

Failing to transition cyber relationships into real world relationships

Have you ever accepted a new connection and then had them immediately launch into a sales pitch? It's like going out to dinner with a friend and having him suddenly leap up and start pitching you on a business opportunity. You probably wouldn't be anxious to go to dinner with him again.

Transitioning social media relationships into real-time is a critical but tricky step. People tend to do one of two things: 1) shy away from it entirely and keep the relationship in cyber-space or 2) push the relationship forward too quickly, destroying any potential for a future relationship.

Here are some sales solutions from actors and improv performers:
1. Check your motivation.
Actors have an objective that drives each scene. Salespeople have an objective too, but make sure yours is two-fold. Relationships initiated on-line solely for profit are easy to spot. Yes, you want to create business opportunities but you also need to focus on what you can bring to the table. Contribute to discussions. Connect others within your network. Be a resource.

2. Place the focus on your scene partner.
An actor or improv performer must engage his scene partner in order for a scene to be successful. In business, the customer or prospect is your scene partner and because you are limited to cyber-space, you need to find as many ways to engage with them as possible:
• Comment on their blogs, updates or reading lists
• Share their links
• Retweet their tweets

3. Improvise "transition opportunities."
Sales is an improv performance where clients rarely respond according to a script. Good improv performers are able to take advantage of opportunities that come up and move the action forward. Here are some examples of social media opportunities to move relationships into real-time:
• You're in an active on-line discussion and have had several back and forths with one person. Email her and ask if she would like to continue the conversation in real time on the phone.
• A potential customer posts or tweets an issue and you know someone in your network that could be helpful. Suggest a quick call to learn more about this customer's business to see if your contact could be a good source for them. (Note: Make sure you aren't selling yourself as the solution!)
• You're taking a trip. Email local network contacts, tell them you'll be in their vicinity and suggest a quick cup of coffee.

Ready to add more Improv Skills to your Sales Tool Kit? Join fellow salespeople at Denver's only Improv Workshop for Sales Professionals on June 18th. More info and registration here.
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Julie Hansen helps sales professionals stand out and win more business using proven performance tools from film, stage and improvisation.  An international speaker, sales trainer and the author of ACT Like a Sales Pro, Julie has worked with Fortune 500 companies like IBM and Oracle, as well as local Colorado companies needing a critical competitive edge with today’s busy decision-makers.  Learn more at www.actlikeasalespro.com.  Connect with Julie on LinkedIn or Facebook.

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

Great analogies ... improv to social media and poignant! By TC North on 2011 06 08
Thanks Sharon and Erika. It took me years of selling and acting before I made the connection that acting was improving my effectiveness as a salesperson. If you think about it, we all play many roles throughout the day. Actors learn how to put the best parts of themselves into their role in order to communicate and achieve a clear objective. It's a great model to follow in sales and business. And Liz, I'd be interested to know if any of those hard-press sales strategies work as well. I know they don't work on me! By Julie Hansen on 2011 06 02
Julie It's great to see how people incorporate their theater background into the the world of business.Congrtulations on your book and the programs you provide. By Sharon Allison on 2011 06 02
I really like your comparison of selling to acting. This is an analogy that works! We "short-sighted" ones need articles and guidance like yours to help us sort our way through all of the social media "noise". Thanks!!! By erika hanson brown on 2011 06 02
Another great one Julie. On a daily basis I receive many requests to be "connected" that on the surface seem so innocent but quickly turn into a full blown sales pitch. Would love to find out if that "shot in the dark" and the "any sales will do" mentality really works. Thanks for sharing your expertise. Liz By liz wendling on 2011 06 02

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