The sales landscape has changed significantly, says Tim Hughes, and companies must keep up with the times. Companies must be present for customers to find and provide content that is educational.
Influencer Insights continues with Tim Hughes, social selling speaker and expert. Hughes is the co-founder of Digital Leadership Associates, a consultancy that helps companies to digitally and socially transform, and he hosts Tim Talks with experts in the field of social and digital. Hughes’ book Social Selling: Techniques to Influence Buyers and Changemakers, which helps sales professionals get in the social selling game, came out in July.
Your book on social selling came out earlier this year. How did you first enter the field of social selling?
I got into Social some seven and a half years ago. Then as part of a sales transformation, which included all aspects of the sales process, I helped roll out Social Selling across 2,000 salespeople and seven countries. At this time, I was looking for a subject to blog about, and two years ago I started blogging on Social Selling. Last year, my co-author and I approached a publisher about a Social Selling book. The book was published in July, and it became a best-seller, purely from pre-orders.
You have said that a big part of social selling is about being online for the customer to find. In a nutshell, how can companies work towards that?
Customers now search for goods and services online. Either through search engines, or as research shows, Social Media.
In most cases, when people search they are doing this in “salesperson avoidance mode”.
If you are a prospect looking for a new product, then it is highly likely you know nothing, so you are looking to be educated. Salespeople that are educating with content have a higher chance of engaging that buyer, and once engaged, the seller can start building a relationship. Help and education as they go.
What's the role of networking in building influence and thought leadership?
Network (it has for some 20 years) is important and it is always useful to grow your community and network. Your network is your power. It allows you to be recommended (word of mouth) and helps build a community.
How do you define influence?
Everybody has influence, if you have ever been asked for your opinion on a film or a restaurant. Building your online influence increases your chances of being found by prospective buyers and to be referred. Influence also means that you will get speaker engagement, asked to contribute to articles etc., all of which will help your sales objectives.
What do you think the social selling landscape will require from people in the future?
More of the menial tasks in the sales process will be replaced, by search engines, artificial intelligence (AI), chatbots etc. You can already apply for a mortgage via a chatbot. Companies will continue the use of such automation techniques, as companies will want to reduce the cost of sales, so it makes good business sense.
This does not do away with the salesperson, there are always cases where people will want to deal with a human. That said, with more and more content online it will be down to the salesperson to rise above this, and those with the strongest communities and most influence will be the winners.