Books I Read #3 – The New Handshake – Sales Meets Social Media
After finishing the New Handshake – Sales Meets Social Media I had a real feeling of ‘this is all common sense’. But common sense is anything but common and without structure, experience and insights things that should be simple are actually complicated and difficult for people to grasp.
This book is really designed for sales professionals who are ignoring, dismissing or afraid to tune into social media. It also serves as a nice reminder to those working in social media to take a step back to ensure their activities are actually grounded in business objectives and they are taking a strategic approach.
This book is roughly divided into three sections: first, a look at sales from an historical perspective through to modern practices; second, a quick tour through some of the main platforms and tools; and finally a highly narrated case study of an SME taking the 30-day social media challenge. I found myself rushing through the earlier sections with interest to see how the authors would tie the concepts in an easy-to-digest case study on how to implement a social media sales strategy.
The opening sections are an interesting insight into how little the sales process has evolved since the late nineteenth century oil snake salesman, with more recent additions being quotas, territories, role plays and a general professionalising of the American salesman. In essence, the authors contend that fundamental changes are needed to harness the power of social media.
They are at pains to point out that hardnosed salesmanship tactics won’t work in social media and that research, expert positioning, tailored approaches, adding value, listening and community engagement need to be blended in with the ethos and sensitivities of social media.
They describe the changes to consultative selling and some of the current changes in sales/buyer roles where customers are now in the driving seat – they can decide how they will communicate with a company, have access to vast choice, expect tailored offerings, can decide when they will buy, and have access to a “big megaphone” allowing them to badmouth a company to a wide community at the touch of button.
They also discuss how online buyers now buy from each other (think eBay) and provide data to each other (think online reviews) to support the assertion that sales people can no longer ignore social media.
One of the nice things about this book is that it collates some tools and structure to help put a framework around social media. They put forward the ‘New Handshake approach’, which advocates a four-prong system of People, Purpose, Plan and Technology. In essence, this involves thinking about the people barriers in changing sales approaches; identifying and quantifying what you want to achieve; approaching it in a programmatic way; and, finally, looking at the technology. This in itself is useful as people generally jump into the tools and platforms head first and find it unnerving or, worse still, drift in limp online efforts.
The book also provides a light but handy eight-question checklist to rate a company’s social media readiness, which once again emphasises the planning approach to social media.
The different types of social media available are detailed in the book and I found the description of platforms I am comfortable with quite interesting in that the authors take a step back and link them to solid netiquette and what is and is not best practice. This area in particular felt like common sense, but social media in the hand of a hardnosed sales person could very quickly backfire.
By its nature a book of this type cannot cover all the complexities of these platforms and is quickly out of date so taking a top level approach makes sense. The authors have gone for tools that are immediately and easily accessible to sales people and spend and therefore discuss expected platforms such as blogs, Facebook, and Twitter.
This book is a good starting point for any company that has a very traditional sales approach. It’s sensitive to the pressures, prejudices and realities of a sales environment, while giving a robust account of the changing dynamic of modern day communications. For seasoned social media professionals it’s worth a read, both as a reminder of the need to have a strategic view and approach and as a handy insight into how sales-led organisations work and struggle with social media.
I reviewed this book on my laptop with Kindle for PC. It’s certainly the fastest way to get the book, but screen flicker, difficulty in sharing and lack of page numbers mean I’ll be less like to revisit often, which is a pity, given some of the nuggets.
The print edition of thei review can be found on Marketing Age magazine.