Respectful Foundations of Social Selling for Business
I was thinking of titling this article “Can I Slam You Over the Head with My New Product?” because that is exactly what non-respectful social selling feels like to a consumer. Online or offline there is a way to be social that flows like warm honey and ways to be social that feel like fingernails on a black board.
Imagine you are at a cocktail party. Most people at the party are meeting for the first time, as it’s a gathering for an event with people from a range of locations. You enter the room and scan to get your bearings. There is a table of lovely hors d’oeurves and two bar areas with tuxedoed men pouring drinks. You make your way to the counter of already poured champagne and out of the corner of your eye see a man in a rumpled suit step next to you. He stands a bit too close and reaches across your arm to take a glass. When he turns to say excuse me, he leans in putting his face less than a foot from yours. You smile a tight smile and step backwards as he says,
“Hello, I see you don’t know anyone here either – we can hang out together since we just met over champagne. I’ll bet we have a lot in common.”
Your brain is rapidly processing this onslaught of sensory input including invasion of your body space and conversation that is too familiar for an introductory sentence. Then the man again steps into your personal space and launches into a story about his ailing mother and how he loves cocktail parties because it gives him a break from his difficult family challenges and also an opportunity to meet new people and hopefully form intimate new friendships.
You are now smiling politely and nodding while your eyes rapidly search the room for a reasonable and subtle escape. Luckily, across the room you see someone you had met at another conference last year and you make eye contact. You return your gaze to the man next to you and excuse yourself with the information that you just saw an old friend. He reaches to grab your arm as you turn to go saying
“Wait, we are just getting to know each other!”
But you move out of his reach, flash a smile and with relief disappear into the crowd.
As you make your way across the room you are jostled by all the people heading to get some food. A nicely dressed woman accidentally backs into you and you both stop and turn. She instantly smiles a genuine smile and steps backwards clearing the space between you. Together you apologize.
She says, “Oh my – it is so crowded in here, it’s hard to even get a bite to eat.”
You say, “I agree, I haven’t even attempted the food table yet.”
She says, “ Maybe it’s best to wait a few moments until it clears out – where are you from?”
A cordial and congenial conversation ensues with benign topics and no breaching of personal boundaries.
Eventually the path clears to the food and you both walk casually together in that direction. By this point you are talking about work, though no details have been exchanged. You ask her about her business and she shares a one liner and turns the conversation back to you. The interaction is pleasant, light, and enjoyable. By the end of the evening you’ve gotten to know her a little along with some others who gravitated to the good energy surrounding you both. You know there is some overlap in your professional interests and you exchange business cards and plan to talk in more depth the following week.
As you leave the party with a group of people you met, you see the man from the initial encounter standing alone next a wall. He appears more disheveled than before and as people pass him, they automatically step a bit further away.
We’ve all been at this cocktail party in real time and online as well. Respectful foundations of social selling for business follow the same etiquette rules as cocktail parties. It becomes quickly obvious as to who knows the rules and who does not. With online social selling, the consumer is savvy and quick to act. If a boundary is breached, you (and your business) are instantly unfollowed/unfriended/disconnected and released into the cyber void.
Respectful social selling is the process of engaging potential customers in relationships of trust and value that naturally lead to curiosity about your product. It is done in the very same way as it’s done in an offline social gathering. At the forefront is respect, politeness, etiquette and interest. There must be professionalism and appropriateness in initial presentation and value based charisma in the ongoing interaction.
Your potential customers don’t really care about you – per se. She cares about whether or not you care about her and her problems. He is deciding with every tweet, or post or LinkedIn article, if you are someone he can relate to and trust and if your service/product is something that can solve his problem. She doesn’t want to know about your special offers, or your unique manufacturing processes, or why you are better than the competing product. Instead she wants to feel drawn to your energy, your caring, even your personality online. He is looking to see how you engage with others and getting a feel for the value you bring to your presentation.
He and She are both viewing you in the social media sphere and determining if you/your brand are the type of person/business with whom they want to interact. Only then will they be open to product and service details. Respectful foundations of social selling begin with SOCIAL. It is particularly advisable to remember this when marketing using online social media.
It’s not called “Selling Media” it’s called “Social Media”.
As a business owner, you must keep in mind the cocktail party –whether an informal gathering like a picnic, or a professional meet and greet – there are ways to be viewed as approachable, respectful and interested and there is bumbling man in the rumpled suit with no understanding of personal space boundaries, nor appropriate initial meeting conversation. Respectful foundations of social selling for business, begin with genuine respectful interaction much the same as do all meaningful relationships.