There's a lot of talk about leveraging social media for offline business relationships. In fact, there are 181,000 social media gurus on Twitter who will be happy to help you with the challenge. And it's tough to argue with the fact that social media can be a powerful tool for finding new business opportunities. However, there's another tremendous source for sales prospecting that's being largely ignored. It's called the Real World. One of the best places to prospect for new opportunities is in social settings. When a prospect discovers you in an unexpected place, you jump to the top of the pile of possible providers. Recently, I was in Cape Town, South Africa. English is a common language there, but South Africans often have thick accents. I was wandering around the waterfront when something caught my attention. It was a man with a distinctly American accent. I turned and said, "Hello." Sam and I struck up a conversation and began discussing common business interests. We've been introducing each other to prospective customers ever since. I wouldn't have met Sam on Twitter or LinkedIn. We met because we were in the real world interacting with real people. Prospects don't want cold calls or unsolicited emails. Instead, they want to discover you on their own. An obvious hiccup is that they might not find you when you want to be found. They might run across your competitor instead! Therefore, you have to take steps to ensure you're first, last, and always in the minds of your prospects. You can do much better than my chance encounter with Sam in Cape Town. Here's what we recommend:
- Begin by defining your ideal prospects. Who are they? What do they have in common? What interests do they share?
- Then, research them to understand what they do when they're not working. How do they pass time? What are their outside interests? Passions? Hobbies?
- Finally, place yourself in situations where they socialize. What Trade Associations are they involved with? Where do they like to Volunteer their time? Do they enjoy local Sporting Events?
Of course, this isn't an excuse to spend all of your time socializing, but it is an excuse to do the hard work of seeking your prospects outside of the workplace and casually interacting with them. A friend's sixteen year old son helped me understand an important caveat to this strategy. The other day, I overheard the teenager complaining about his mother being a "creeper" because he felt she was watching him too closely. Ignoring for a moment possible questions about parenting tactics, I think the young man's observation can go a long way here, too. Don't be "creepy" when it comes to building these offline relationships. Instead, figure out where your ideal prospects are, go there, and meet them in the normal course of events. Don't stalk them. If you're intentional about it, you'll find some amazing opportunities in the Real World. After all, there's nothing new in Social Prospecting. Finding prospects socially has been a sales strategy for a long, long time. Oh, and never, never forget to provide value before asking for something! Never. What about combining the two? Have you and your team had success combining social media and real world efforts to win sales? - @JebBrooks