• Does Social Media Promote Anti-Social Sales Behavior?

    I have recently become enamored with Social Media and the impact it is having on business, from the small Mom and Pop shops, to large Multi-national Corporation.  It is hard to argue against its benefits for business, but what place should it rightfully take? After reading Chris Lang’s blog on integrating social media in your inside sales program, not replacing it, it got me pondering what type of overall impact does social media have on us in the sales industry. Chris’s argument was valid, that social media cannot replace cold calling or teleprospecting programs, but must be used to take advantage of the “real time” access to business information.  I think we would all agree that using social media to generate leads, become relevant in your industry, brand yourself, gain more exposure for your business/product/service, etc… is becoming more and more vital for business, but at what cost?  As we continually look at faster ways for instant gratification, is social media another avenue contributing to the widening disconnect of human interaction and leading us into a more secluded “social” lifestyle.

    Social Media Examiner recently released their 2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report of social media in a B2B environment and the benefits, areas of focus, and time required for your social media campaign to be successful.  Six hours per week spent on social media was the minimum amount of time that should be dedicated, with the average close to 11 hours per week.  Those seeing the best results were spending approximately 20 hours per week on social media.  Most professionals recommend using social media “socially” as well as professionally to help build your own personal brand and show character.  So how much more time is being spent on social media during non-business hours?  A report released in January by Comscore datamine showed that 6.7 billion hours were spent social networking worldwide in October 2011 alone.  Social networking is the most popular online activity, accounting for 1 out of 5 minutes of our internet activity.  With new sites evolving daily, it only seems natural to expect these numbers to increase.

    So with all this “social networking” and activity, what place does the door to door salesman have in this day and age (talk about Death of a Salesman)?  Are we promoting a less social lifestyle to our children and what effect will this have on our future sales staff.  According to ProCon.org, “Proponents of social networking sites argue that these online communities promote increased communication with friends and family, familiarize people with valuable computer skills, and allow contact with people from around the world.  Opponents argue that social networking sites expose children to predators, increase vulnerability to computer viruses, lower worker productivity, and promote narcissism and short attention spans”.  Will BNI networks become the next dinosaur as more and more people discover #getrealchat?

    As technology progresses, will there still be a place for face to face conversations and closing deals in person?  Will we still meet prospects out for lunch and get those contracts signed over cocktails in the hotel lobby?  Or will we continue promoting less and less social interaction by faxing our contracts in, video conferences, or conversations using hashtags and “at” symbols?  I do see the value in using social media, but again argue at what cost?  Those who would be labeled as introverts are able to breakout of their shell and accomplish things they would never have the courage to do in person.  The ability to talk to our favorite athletes, albeit via computer, is still something you or I could never do as a kid unless it was at the ballpark, stadium, or field.

    Inside sales programs are already seeing dial numbers diminish and email numbers increase.  Email chains/conversations are not any different than talking through Twitter, Linkedin, or Facebook.  Social Media is taking email to a whole new level and younger generations are becoming less likely to use the telephone.  Having the ability to cold call and navigate through large organizations was always labeled as a “must have” skill set for all sales reps.  Will we see that trend continue?

    The latest trend I notice with new hires is spending too much time searching the internet for organization.  I understand why inside sales reps may feel more comfortable with getting theirpoints across through email as opposed to a phone conversation and that we are more apt to say things through the computer that we couldn’t say in person.  Do we really want our inside sales reps typing, not talking, to our prospects?  It’s funny that we want instant gratification, and yet tend to dispel the old ways as taking too much time. accurate contact information and names.  My director has it right when he writes to “just pick up the phone”.  In that 10 minutes it took new hire Fred to find the right name or information, I was able to pick up the phone, ask the operator/admin who I would need to speak with for my service, have the quality conversation I needed and move on to my next target

    There’s NO WAY social media should be replacing your cold calling campaigns or grass roots marketing efforts, if for nothing else, because we don’t want to lose our ability to engage in face to face conversation.  There are already too many distractions, addictions, and complications with technology as it is nowadays, why are we continuing to look for new ways to cut corners or eliminate the need to pick up the phone (I tell my wife to call her friend, she say’s “nah, I’ll just text her”).  Aren’t there many examples of where doing things the “old way” makes more sense?  When discussing one’s social skills, shouldn’t we be talking about how we interact around other people and not the amount of likes, mentions, retweets or connections we have?

    I think it is unfortunate that our children will be spending more time on the computer, playing video games or texting then playing outside, riding their bikes, or even talking on the phone.  Is it necessary to know that your high school friend, who you knew for ONLY four years, just “checked in” at a Starbucks, or that your buddy Joe, who you’ve talked to once in seven years, just set his new high score in Mafia Wars?  Is that information we couldn’t live without?  How did we survive, so many years ago, without all these “conveniences”?  I thought leap frog was a game we played in the backyard, not an electronic product company for kids these days.

    When someone asks you about your “social” skills, what is the first thing that comes to your mind?

    Jonathan Catley is a Business Development Representative at AG Salesworks.  To view all company blogs go to AG Salesworks blog site.

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