By Chris Andrew
I recently received a LinkedIn message that began, “I apologize for the cold email, but I’m wondering if you’re interested in my recruiting services…” I appreciated the upfront apology, but my complete response was two words: “apology accepted.”
With just five minutes of research, the recruiter would have figured out that he and I share mutual connections and interests – the mention of either of these could have made the difference between my two-word response and new business for him.
Cold calling wasn’t pleasant in the 20th century. Today, the idea of recruiting customers through an unsolicited phone call is a breach of modern etiquette, like passing the port to your right.
The Internet, and social media in particular, has changed the way that people interact with companies and each other. While traditional marketing methods such as direct mail and cold calling were once the only way that businesses could reach prospects, today those same methods seem impersonal if not intrusive – the old impersonal tactics are not the way to win new customers. Engagement is.
Engagement means interacting on social media. Some insurance firms are still nervous about getting involved on social media because they see it as risky: it’s a medium over which they have no jurisdiction and little control.
The truth, however, is that there is a greater risk for insurance companies: not engaging with customers on social media. Those who eschew social are effectively embracing anonymity, risking their credibility, missing opportunities to sell, and losing touch with their existing and future customers.
In the early days of Web 2.0, there were legitimate concerns about how unfettered, unmonitored social media could damage brands, but new tools and techniques now make it easy and instantaneous for any organisation to monitor and control messaging across multiple social platforms – including its employees’ social presences.
The insurance sector can benefit even more from social media than other industries because insurance has always been a social sale. The rules for success are exactly the same as before, with the proviso that firms take the same rigorous approach to compliance as they do in every other part of their business, a process which has been simplified with today’s social media tools.
Here then are the four steps to successful social sales for representatives at any insurance firm taking its first steps into the world of social media:
1) Get Found
Today’s customers do their research online before engaging with an insurance representative, and social profiles are often at the top of search results. A professional social presence is an important reference for prospects when they are researching you, and a profile that includes your experience, credentials, and connections helps establish credibility
2) Grow your network
Building and maintaining long-term personal relationships is essential to getting referrals and repeat sales. On social media, this means connecting with all your friends, colleagues, and business contacts from the offline world. Successful social sales representatives then use social media to connect with customers to continually engage before, during, and after a sales cycle.
3) Do your research and listen for social signals
People are sharing valuable information and buying signals with their online social networks. Gathering social insights from these posts make it easy to identify and understand customer needs so that you can go in warm. Sales reps can now listen for and respond to buying signals, reaching out to the right people at the right time, with the most relevant information.
4) Build credibility
With buyers gathering information online, social media is an enormously powerful and effective tool for sales reps to demonstrate expertise and consequently build trust. Industry-leading reps share content to build credibility, educate customers, and stay top of mind to ignite sales conversations.
You will notice that these four steps have always applied to successful salespeople. The communication channels are simply evolving. To those organisations who, unconvinced of the benefits of social, still cling to the cold call, I can only channel Oscar Wilde and declare this: The only thing worse than the risk of being on social media is not being on social media.