I was talking to a colleague the other day, telling him everything I’ve been up to on social media. He was looking at me a little funny. I wasn’t sure if he didn’t believe me or just thought I was nuts, so I said, “Go ahead, Google me.”
He laughed, but I was serious. I’ve made it my business to make it easy for people to find me and learn about me.
You can find about 10 pages of pretty high-quality results, including my LinkedIn profile, my Twitter feed, dozens of blog posts I’ve written, videos and podcasts I’ve participated in, interviews I’ve given and some of my presentation decks that I’ve posted to SlideShare.
As salespeople, we use the internet all the time to learn about our prospects and clients prior to meeting. Who do we know in common? Where have they worked? What are their personal interests?
You’ve got to expect that the people you’re prospecting at some point are going to Google you and your company too. But how many of us in sales are paying attention to our own digital footprint?
If you’re not maintaining your network and your profile and putting your assets online for people to find, it makes it really difficult for people to understand who you are. This puts you at a competitive disadvantage to those who do publicize this information.
I know it raises a yellow flag for me when I can’t find information on someone. I don’t immediately discount the person; it depends on what country or industry they’re in, or what their position is. I sell globally and to the C-suite, and in a lot of countries social media engagement is not as common as it is in the U.S. There are also lots of statistics showing that C-level people at big companies still aren’t very active on social media, so I take those things into consideration.
There are other good reasons why someone might not have an easily discoverable digital presence. Maybe they have a common name. Maybe they’re early in their career. But it strikes me as unusual if I’m meeting with mid-level people and can’t find anything about them online. Since I’m selling technology and innovative solutions, it makes me wonder how technologically savvy and open this person is to new ways of doing things.
That impression could be totally wrong and it often is. As a salesperson doing research, it’s frustrating not to be able to find anything, and it also raises a tiny bit of doubt. As a salesperson being researched, is that the kind of first impression you want to make?
According to LinkedIn’s 2013 study “The Social Bridge to the IT Committee”, buyers are 60% of the way through their buying process before they speak to a vendor. Social plays a big part in that process, with almost three-fourths saying they are open to connecting with a vendor on social media channels. But they don’t want to be marketed to on social channels—they want information that can help them with their decision process.
The study also notes that making the shortlist is critical. On average only three vendors make it, and 92% of all purchases are made from the short list. Even more onerous: there’s only a one in six chance that a new vendor will get the order. If you’re a new vendor hoping to get your foot in the door, making a good digital first impression is critical.
Whether you’re an upstart trying to get your foot in the door or an incumbent trying to grow the account, letting people get to know you shortens the sales process and builds your credibility. And the beauty of social that it’s not just limited to that one prospect — you’re building awareness and credibility with everybody else who’s in the market that you don’t know about yet.
You could leave it all up to marketing to put out information about the company for those people to find, but people buy from people. It happens all the time that people see my presentations on SlideShare or see me in a video and reach out to me even though I’m not in their territory — because I’m visible and people feel like they know me a little.
Over time, I’ve created a big enough online repository that I can use it as an easy resource. Often after I make a presentation there’s someone that lingers in the room to ask questions. We talk; they ask me for information. Rather than just promise to email them something, and try to figure out what the best thing for them would be, I just say, “Google me.” If you liked what I had to say, there’s a whole lot more, and if you like that too, we can continue the conversation from there.