Tips to Open the Sales Floodgates with Social Media

Guest post by Joan Curtis, co-author The New Handshake: Sales and Social Media (Praeger, Aug. 31, 2010)

How can businesses open the floodgates?  Is there a strategy for involving customers in your business decisions?  These are the questions we are all asking as we examine and explore the power of the social media.

According to an editorial in Selling Power Magazine, Gerhard Gschwandtner said we must stop selling in the old way.  He wrote, “. . . selling has fundamentally changed and pursuing the old tried-and-true tactics results in more of the same: high stress and lower sales.”  He went on to discuss what he called the “conversation” economy and gave us action ideas that correspond with the new handshake:

1) Join the conversation

2) Match your sales process with the way customers buy

3) Replace pitching with collaboration and

4) Make buying easier and create social networks that showcase your knowledge.

In The New Handshake:  Sales Meets Social Media, we introduced a decision-making model that might help companies understand how to involve people and at what level.  Tannebaum and Schmidt (T&S) created this model in the early 1970’s and published it in the Harvard Business Review.  We combined and reworded the stages to make it easier to comprehend within the framework of the social media.

Basically, what T&S did was create a model based on participation and authority, theorizing that as you give more participation to groups in the decision-making process, you give up authority or control.  This then becomes a clear and a basic question company’s must address as they become more transparent.

The model begins with complete authority in the Tell Mode:  You simply tell people what you want and expect no feedback.  As you move up the continuum slightly, giving up some authority, you move into the Sell Mode.  Here you share your decision by “selling” or persuading others to your point of view.  You really don’t want feedback, but you at least care about what others think.

The third stage moves toward the center of the continuum where you’ve made your decision, but you are willing to change it.  You are in the Test Mode.  You throw the idea out there and listen to the responses and maybe you’ll change your mind.  In the fourth stage, you move into the Consult Mode.  Here you have not made a decision.  You wish to consult with others and listen to their views and then you will decide what to do.  Finally in the last stage, the Join Mode, you join with others to make the decision together.  This is where you have the least authority and the most participation.

Ways to Adapt the T&S MODEL To Open the Floodgates

Excerpt from The New Handshake. . .

1. Use the Tell and Sell Modes to create visibility. Your blog posts and
your Tweets simply tell readers about your product or service. You
might also add information about the proper use of the product or
service and you could include testimonials from others. The Tell
and Sell Modes’s purpose, then, is to create an understanding of the
product or service, not to engage the customer in decision making.

2. Use the Test Mode to discover new ways to operate, to try out new services, and to explore how services are being provided. You ask them to react to what you have created or decided.

3. Use the Consult Mode to enable you to really engage your customer.
If a large number of your customers are hooked into the social media—that is, your customers are actively involved by creating blog posts, they are responding to and bookmarking the content on the Web, or they are signing up on social media sites—you can engage them in many of the decisions that your company might face.

4. Use the Join Mode when you want your customers to make decisions
with you. In the Join Mode, you no longer make the decision alone.
Here you share decision-making with the customer in a completely collaborative manner
. This level of participation becomes messier.

The best example of the Join Mode and the social media is with Wikipedia. The founders of Wikipedia decided to “crowd-source” their online encyclopedia, with the idea being that many people have more information
together than we each have separately.” This model presents a new way to think about how much customer involvement you want and how the social media might play a role in that involvement.  It gives us some tips for developing a strategy for opening the floodgates.

Sign up and get the first chapter of The New Handshake:  Sales Meets Social Media by Joan Curtis and Barbara Giamanco or purchase early.

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