Online Social Networking Should Be Used, Not Abused
Contributed by: G. Marshall Johnson
Networking is a familiar business practice for sales professionals, and with rapid advances in technology, online social networking represents a new world of opportunity. The power of this medium lies in the user’s ability to connect with anyone, anywhere, with the click of a button – even decision makers who elude conventional methods of contact.
Yet while it’s easy to connect, you should take the necessary time and care to develop an effective strategy for reaching out. First, consider the low-hanging fruit. Who do you know personally, and who works for a company that uses your types of services? Who do your contacts know within their companies, and how will this allow you to develop additional important contacts?
You should ask yourself the following:
Is your relationship established, or is it a superficial contact?
Are you credible with the contact?
What would this person say about you to a coworker in their company?
And, most importantly:
What can you offer this person in return for introductions?
Once you’ve answered these questions, and have likely weeded out a few weak links, you can begin the process of connecting online. Remember that you’re asking for privileged information, and are embarking on business relationships in an environment that is intensely personal.
Think about yourself in the online world. Surely you find spam and junk mail not just annoying but offensive. Recent studies show that users of MySpace, Facebook and other online social networks are signing off in protest, fed up with aggressive advertising campaigns that attempt to personalize messages in addition to broadcasting friends’ shopping habits. Lines are getting drawn. The online world represents a retreat in its way, a way of connecting while keeping commerce at bay. Violate this rule and you’re the enemy.
Into this environment you arrive to sell something. Maybe a product or service, but definitely yourself. Yes, it’s a tricky proposition. Can it be handled with skill and finesse? Absolutely, provided you follow a straight line from your initial contact to your new ones. Good reputations open lots of doors. And your reputation is on the line with each step.
Although technology makes it easy to communicate via e-mail, instant messaging and social networking, this ease of use should never be abused or taken for granted. It starts with asking your contact for information, which ideally should be presented as an opportunity for “Quid Pro Quo.” It continues with all electronic exchanges, which need to be handled concisely and professionally. The same rules that apply to face-to-face meetings should be carried into the online world.
Do your homework. Ask the right “them-focused” questions. Understand the tenuous line between moving sales along and pushing too hard. Of course we should all take advantage of online communication and its precise ability to gauge the true returns on our investment of time, energy and effort. But handled improperly, the good name you’ve worked so hard to maintain can be deleted in a nanosecond.
G. Marshall Johnson is a lifetime sales professional and a very Cool Old Guy. Contact him at http://gmarshalljohnson.com
Comments are closed.