Many sales managers and executives find embracing social media marketing (SMM) to be a traumatic experience. The following is an overview of what to expect during this transition.
Denial is the first stage. Typical comments will include: “But our current marketing and sales programs are just fine” and “We don’t need something like this.” During this stage it is important to stay calm and to reason quietly with the executive. You can point out that sales have not been improving to the degree required in the company’s business plan, or that there is a scarcity of new customers. The key is to use non-refutable facts. The denial stage can last for years.
We move into the anger stage after denial. The executive is finally on the road to acceptance. But it won’t be easy. Typical reactions in the anger phase include: “How can this happen to us? We’re still recovering from the (choose one or more) recession/the Chinese outsourcing movement/high commodity prices/the devalued dollar/the last Adam Sandler movie.” Remember that the anger can be completely irrational (the last Adam Sandler movie was actually pretty good). Remain detached and non-judgemental during this phase.
In the bargaining phase, the executives try to trade for delays in implementing the SMM program. If they can win a delay, maybe they can figure out how to derail the whole thing. Typical comments to look for include: “We don’t have the money,” “We’ve committed our budgets already," “We’ll do it next year,” and “If we can just get through the planned trade show schedule for this year, I promise I’ll look into it for next year.” It is critical that you maintain your resolve at this point.
In this stage, the person becomes aware that there is nothing he can do. An SMM program is coming whether he likes it or not. This can lead to wildly inappropriate comments such as “But all my sales team really likes making cold calls!" and "The customers love it too! We can’t give that up, we’re traditionalists.” Sometimes it gets so bad that the sales team actually believes they like making cold calls. But don’t worry, we’re almost there.
In this the final phase, our victim realizes what a fool he or she has been and accepts that this may be a good idea. They begin to understand that there is actual science behind SMM, that there is a place for it within their sales and marketing plans, and that it makes sense to have your potential customers reaching out to you instead of the other way around.
You will know when the transition is complete when your executive looks someone straight in the eye and says, “You know, this whole social media marketing thing was my idea.”
Bruce Johnston is a sales consultant specializing in social media. He has over 25 years' experience in high-tech sales and management, most recently as general manager of a PCB manufacturer. He can be reached through his website www.practicalsmm.com or through his profile on LinkedIn.