Last week I wrote a post summarizing a Harvard Business Review article, “Tweet Me, Friend Me, Make Me Buy”, by Barbara Giamanco and Kent Gregoire. The article served as a useful wake-up call to the 17% of B2B marketers who don’t use social media at all, and further encouragement and support for the 58% who are in the early stages. Yet, in the short space available to them in the article, they could not give too many specifics, and specifics are where the results will come from.
These specific details and suggestions can be found in the book, The New Handshake: Sales Meets Social Media, by Giamanco and Joan C. Curtis, published in 2010. I mention the date because things can change so fast in social media. In spite of rapid change, there is a lot of value to be gained by reading this book. If you are a member of the 5% of B2B marketers who optimize the use of social media, you probably won’t learn too much that’s new from this book, but then you probably wish none of your competitors would read it. I was pleased with the book because all too often, because it’s all too common to find that the book is only a puffed-up version of the article in the HB. The New handshake gives much more.
Part One of the book sets the context for the why. Why do sellers need social media to help them sell? The key point is that “People buy from people they know, like and trust.” In the cold calling days, you had to first get someone’s attention long enough to have a conversation, and then develop a relationship. Today, the relationship comes first, and regular and consistent participation in the social media conversation is the best way to get people to know you, like you, and grow to trust you. The result, in sales terms, is that your funnel becomes much narrower at the top, because suspects are much more likely to be real prospects when they get in touch with you.
Social media also helps you cast a wide net, which is important because of the counterintuitive idea that you’re more likely to get referrals through your weak connections rather than your strong ones. Your strong connections generally run in the same circles that you do, so it’s less likely they’ll hear of something you won’t, and besides, they’ve already referred any business to you that they can.
If you’re already convinced, the rest of the book will hold more interest for you. Yet, if you face the challenge of getting your company leadership to embrace the approach, there is a lot of useful material in here. This may be important because although there is so much that individual salespeople can do on their own, they may run into resistance from corporate policies that seek to keep tight control of any outgoing messaging. That’s a valid concern, and they should have prudent guidelines set up, but the last thing any sales organization can do is avoid social media, because the conversation about them and their products and reputation will go on, with or without them.
As someone who is somewhere in that 58% (using social media but nowhere near as well as I could), I gained a lot of insights and specific ideas from Part Two of the book, in which they describe the major social media outlets and how to get started. Personally, I got some great nuggets from the LinkedIn and social bookmarking chapters. Using my rough guide that if I get one useful idea out of a book, it has been worth the price and time of reading it, if I really stretch the definition of ROI, my own ROI from reading The New Handshake is about 1200%.
However, one should not expect a quick payback on their social media investment. Opening a Twitter account is not going to magically transform your marketing and selling results. Like anything else, (especially if everyone else is jumping on the bandwagon), it’s about execution, patience and consistency. If there’s any secret to social marketing success, it’s the same open secret that applies anywhere: hard work. The difference is that cold calling is also hard work, but in today’s world, it just does not get the same results.
One weakness of the book is probably due to the lack of hard data that was available at the time of publication: there is not enough information to demonstrate measurable ROI from social media selling programs. That has changed in the past two years; it’s easy to find white papers that address this issue, but your time might be better spent getting started on your social media campaign.