Social Selling Meets the Public Sector

Posted on February 21, 2016

ELGL member Luke Floyd (LinkedIn and Twitter) writes about the tricks-of-the-trade of social media. Luke Floyd works for BoardSync and is writing a book about advancing your organization via social media.

The business world concocts funny buzzwords.  Each community has their own. In my line of work, the trendy buzzwords are #startup, #techbro, and #SaaS. “Disrupt” is another one that you may have heard – “That new technology is so disruptive” or “Uber disrupted taxi services and we want to disrupt Uber.”  Recently I saw a post about “Disrupting Yourself” (???).

“Social selling” is another buzzword growing in popularity. Early adopters of social media in the sales world touted its benefits – especially in the face of traditional methods such as cold-calling and email blasts – but social selling remained a fringe technique until recently.  That’s when the statistics started rolling in; companies like Hubspot started compiling results and there was no denying that social selling was outperforming traditional methods. Companies using social selling increased from 7% to 75% according to a 2015 survey. 

Defining Social Selling

Koka Sexton defines social selling as “leveraging your professional brand to fill your pipeline with the right people, insights and relationships.”  The easiest way to find the right people, their relationships, and the insights they care about is on social media, typically LinkedIn and Twitter. You can research the content they share to understand their needs and perspective, and then connect with them in meaningful ways.  Social selling can be defined as research-intensive, relationship-based means of selling that is prospect-oriented (hence the “social” approach).

Social Selling and the Public Sector

Let’s face it: no one wants to be sold a product.  People want to buy products to solve a need they have.  This is especially true for local governments.  City managers, city clerks, IT directors are prime targets for the government technology industry. For example, in my work with BoardSync, I deal a lot with city clerks.

Here’s a couple reasons to embrace social selling:  

  1. Right person, right product, right time.

No one wants to be hounded via cold calls or awkward vendor table interactions.  These interactions are similarly depressing for salespeople.  One of the great things about social selling is the ability of salespeople to socially listen.  No longer does a salesperson need to cold call 50 people a day to find the one or two that might be ready to purchase a product; instead, they can monitor social accounts of ideal prospects for buying signals.  That saves everyone the hassle and time of interruptive sales calls.  

When public officials are more transparent on social media about the needs of their cities, they could also get a better fitting solution for their need.  There’s an old stat in sales – the first person to call gets 80% of the business.  But what if the first person that calls you – or finds your RFP (request for proposals) on that obscure bid site – doesn’t have the best solution for your local government?  Instead, a social selling process would allow both parties to better vet the fit of the solution for the needs.

2. Public Information

smile-Dwight-Schrute-The-Office-GIFI admit I sometimes feel kinda creepy while doing my research on a prospect.  I’m googling their name, previous workplaces, social profiles for information that might help cater my solution. Local government staff understand, especially given the prevalence of social media backlash these days, that their web presence is being scrutinized.  I suppose they’re probably a bit more used to being researched than, say, a random paper supplier in Scranton, PA.  

The opposite of having this information, though, is going into a conversation cold; that’s not only poor sales practice, it’s also a waste of time for all parties.  

It has been tough for me to implement social selling in this industry as much as I’d like to; not nearly as many government workers have an online presence as the business crowd I was used to.  I believe, however, in the good of social media.  Sure, it can be risky if you’re putting up offensive or off-putting content, but just like any other tool it can also magnify the great traits about you or your organization.  

You’re already doing it….sorta.

There are critics in the business world of social selling.  Some people say it’s a fake movement – it’s always been best practice to research and build a relationship with a prospect.  While that’s true, social selling is relationship-based, instead of the relationship being sales-based.  Relationships with vendors are constantly being cultivated by local government (hopefully legally).  Far too often, however, I read an RFP that is a sham, a puppet process that means the organization jumped through the red tape.  It’s obvious that organization has a relationship they prefer; that organization and the vendor are connected on LinkedIn or following each other on Twitter.  Social selling is already happening!  

Social selling is around for good given recent trends in sales and marketing.  It can be very creepy and slightly off-putting when done poorly or even if misunderstood.  Given the age of limited privacy is upon us, local government folks have two options: run from it and avoid an online presence or embrace it and use it to your organization’s benefit.  But, if you find some guy named Luke followed you on LinkedIn and like a tweet or two, don’t be creeped out; I’m just trying to do my job!

Supplemental Reading

Close window