Just building an online presence will not make you a great salesperson. The great temptation of social selling is to be everywhere at once, but as the Sufi poet Rumi said, “If you are everywhere, you are nowhere.” The idea that one can actually seek friend[ship] and link[age] with everyone on the planet is really quite tantalizing. Do not be seduced. Manage relationships online as you would offline. Be personal, be interested in the individual, and above all be genuine.
One of the great game-changers offered by social media is that you no longer have to spend a lot of time probing for common interests. At physical networking events, you have to engage each individual privately and use up precious time just to find out that you had no overlapping interests whatsoever. Social media, by contrast, is self-selecting. People join groups that interest them. People publish their titles (authority) and job descriptions (capabilities) for all the world to see. You can know all you need to know in order to establish a community of interests before you ever approach someone. And, you can have friends introduce you to their friends who they know will appreciate you. It is all so much easier, so much faster, and so much more efficient.
But in the end, we are dealing with people.
They are not automatons; they are not avatars. Beneath it all, they are not virtual. They are still people, so treat them as such. There is one other caution I would add regarding getting involved with social media selling. Use good form. Salespeople may be especially susceptible to the lure of a common online trap: poor writing and bad grammar. Bad grammar and bad writing are pervasive online. Part of the problem is that we have become a culture of shortcuts and time savers, both of which are very enticing to salespeople.
But consider this for a moment: What are you communicating about yourself when you put together a badly worded message with spelling errors and omitted words? Are you projecting the image of someone who is thorough and prepared, or someone who doesn’t have enough respect for the recipient(s) of the message to even check it for errors? Would you buy from that person? Indeed. Texting has thrown writing skill into disarray. Face to face interaction, even chatting on the phone, has been swallowed up by pseudo-writing. Good basic writing skills will, in the modern age, fortunately still set you apart. Make an effort to incorporate old-fashioned politeness into your online correspondence. Greet people with genuine and heartfelt salutations. They will appreciate it and they will remember you for it—because no one else does it anymore.
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If you get the chance, read a charming little book called Eats Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, by Lynne Truss. And then consider what might easily happen in the world of online selling if writing skills do not improve. The Koala bear eats shoots and leaves, while the criminal eats, shoots, and leaves. Or you may have seen the t-shirt: “Let’s eat Grandma or Let’s eat, Grandma—commas save lives” and you know a little more time spent editing that message may save your deal.