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What Should Salespeople Be Doing With Social Media

by David Brock on May 23rd, 2010

Social media is changing the way our customers buy and the way in which we engage our customers.  Before customers even see us for the first time, they have a great deal of information—not necessarily knowledge—about our company, our products, and our competition.  I am often asked, “How should sales professionals be engaging in social media?”

The short answer is, I’m not sure—but every sales person must be gaining familiarity and leveraging social media.  Social media and social selling is changing everything we do, the pace varies by industry, but every sales person must get familiar with how the world of engaging customers is changing.

The most powerful way sales people can be using social media is to listen—listen to the market, listen to customers, listen to competition, even listen to their own company.  Tools like Twitter, Blogs, even company sites on Facebook and LinkedIn can give the sales people tremendous insight about what’s going on in their customers’ industries, in their customers’ companies, and in the industry.  They provide great insight into what people are saying about our own companies and competition.  Leveraging social media is critical for all sales people in being informed and competitive.

Sales people should leverage social media for their own personal development.  There are great resources  where sales people can learn more about business, professional selling, and things going on in their industries.  Sales people should find and subscribe to a few of their favorite blogs.  They should join some groups and participate in discussions on LinkedIn.    They should start commenting both in LinkedIn, on Twitter, and in some of their favorite blogs.

I’m always asked the question, should sales people be writing blogs?  My answer is, “It depends—but probably not.”  I know this sounds wrong, and I’ll probably change my position over time.  I believe companies need to have strong blog presence, positioning themselves and their solutions, engaging customers in new conversations.  The issue is, should sales people be doing that?  With a few exceptions, I don’t think it’s a great use of sales people’s time.  I also don’t believe most sales people are trained to be able to do this as effectively as others in the organization.  Finally, I think sales time is best spent in engaging customers in specific situations relevant to their business.

Finally, sales people need to be cautious.  Social media will absorb as much of your time as you let it.  You can become consumed with it, not spending time focusing on specific opportunities with customers.  Sales professionals don’t let the time the spend with social media become an excuse for failing to produce results.

What do you think?  How does social media impact sales professionals?  How should sales people be leveraging social media?Book CoverFor a free peek at Sales Manager Survival Guide, click the picture or link.  You’ll get the Table of Contents, Foreword, and 2 free Chapters.  Free Sample

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  1. Dave,

    I still find myself much more bullish about appropriate use of social media by sales reps. First thing I’d like to do is change the terminology to “E-Rep.” It’s more than semantics. Simply put, the term E-rep, while it encompasses all electronic media, does not include it’s “kid stuff” aspects. It’s very much an electronic alter-ego; a highly professional, efficient assistant who’s on duty 24 X 7 X 365.

    We’re on the same page regarding “listen and learn.” The E-Reps of others (like you) are the best teachers I’ve ever had.

    Every rep should have a blog. Depending on skill and comfort level, it might be internal only and focus on win and loss reviews (i.e., what happened & why and what did I learn), case studies and best practices. It might be as part of a team blog, where a group of reps take turns posting content of value to their specific customers and who edit one another. It might be a “real” blog.

    Perhaps my view is better stated this way: Every rep needs to working toward creating a robust E-Rep, ultimately anchored by a blog, and focused on achieving the specific objectives set for the territory.


    • Todd, thanks for the comment, though I really disagree. We are in strong agreement that every company needs to be leveraging all the tools as much as possible. We are in agreement on the listen and learn aspect of social media and how sales professionals should leverage them.

      I’m not sure why one would want every salesperson to have a blog. It’s not clear to me what a blog does in helping a salesperson qualify and close specific opportunities. It’s not clear what a blog does in terms of helping understand what individual customers value and how value can be delivered to them. While much of this “conversation” might be held electronically–for example through emails, etc., it’s not clear to these conversations should be held “in public,” but are more effective being direct conversations between the sales person and the customer (whether in person, on the phone, through emails). I’m not sure why we would ask sales people to blog internally about win loss reports, case studies, best practices. I think CRM and related systems are more effective for capturing this information. Some of the collaborative ideas you allude to are also useful, but I’m not sure a blog is the most effective way to do this, it seems there are other tools that are more effective for collaboration.

      I’m not certain what the profession gains by introducing a new term or job position called an e-Rep. Perhaps I am misinterpreting your intent with the term, but I think we risk making things more complex than they really need be (as if the terminology around selling isn’t confusing and complex enough). It’s important to remember social media provides new tools and channels for engaging and supporting prospects and potential customers. It will change how many people in organizations do their jobs, but every social media tool doesn’t apply to everyone in the enterprise. Each person needs to use those that help improve their personal productivity and effectiveness the most.

  2. Nice job Dave!

    I’m glad you mentioned that you might change your mind over time because then I won’t feel so bad 🙂 This is an ever evolving venue and we need to keep that type of attitude.

    I have mixed emotions on sales people blogging. I’ve been really thinking about this subject the last few days and have been all over the place with my opinion. My Monday version of my opinion is this: Sales people need an online presence and they will benefit from providing a venue where their clients/potential clients can interact with their brand. It doesn’t have to be a blog, it can be video, a podcast and certainly via the fantastic suggestions you made in this post.

    As far as the best use of a sales person’s time. Gary Vanerchuk (the author of Crush It) makes an interesting point when he says that “There’s plenty of time between 7pm and 2am” Not that we need to take that advice literally, but there is tremendous benefit to dedicating “non money hours” to building our online presence. I don’t think the world will end if we miss “Lost” and put that time to better use 🙂

    I guess that’s a long winded way of me saying that’s its all about balance and making social networking one of many weapons in your arsenal.

    Thanks for such an informative post Dave!

    Paul Castain

    • Paul, thanks for the nice comment. Frankly, I never thought this post would generate this amount of attention. I think enterprises/companies need to engage customers in a very rich, multi-dimensional manner. Blogs, podcasts, video’s and other tools help create this rich customer experience. The sales person is a big element of this experience and may help manage the entire experience.

      Currently, blogs go to a very wide–though self selected audience. Blogs tend to address general issues, concerns, opportunities. But there is a big gap in connecting with the customer. The sales professional closes the gap, by taking broad conversations into sharp focus with the specfic needs and concerns of each customer. The great value of the sales person is to have those one-to-one conversations focused specifically on what each customer values. I don’t see blogs doing this (except accidentally).

      I think the concept of capturing the sales person’s “7PM-2AM (why stop there, sleep is overrated)” time is interesting. But rather than having sales people use that time to write blogs, I may prefer to capture that time to do things that contribute to developing stronger sales opportunity strategies–maybe more competitive research, more customer analysis, etc.

      Social media creates a great opportunity for organizations and individuals. Social media provides new tools and important ways of interacting and connecting with customers. As you point out, it is a question of balance–both for the organization and the individual. The social media savvy sales professional may move more into a role of orchestrating these customer experience interactions, but not executing each one themselves.

      Paul, you always offer a great perspective. Thanks for taking the time to comment. Regards, Dave

  3. Richard Hurwitz permalink


    I have been giving this topic some consideration and my current feeling is that putting the pressure on sales people to blog will probably not work for most people – in fact it will interfere with what they should be doing and that is selling. What I am curious about is what are the legal ramifications if a sales “blogger” misrepresents himself, his company, his products or his competition? Companies need to develop and implement “Social Media” policies to protect themselves from these types of liabilities. Is anyone aware of what protections exist for a “blogger”?


    • Richard: Couldn’t agree more. Companies need to establish social media strategies and policies. I’m not sure sales people’ s time is best spent blogging, though they do need to leverage social networking and participate in “conversations.”

  4. Hi Dave,

    Any update to what you think now a few years later?


    • Mike, sorry for the slow reply. That blog was written 5 years ago, I’ve written quite a bit more since then, this link will get you to some of the posts:

      I think what I said then, still, largely applies. Social selling can be very powerful. It is not the “silver bullet” so many people try to make it. Being socially engaged does not automatically bring people tweeting in PO’s. But it provides a very powerful set of tools to add to our repertoire in engaging the customer, so it would be foolish not to leverage these as well as other more traditional tools.

      So I basically stand by the post. What about you? Do you think it still applies?

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