By Chris Kenton
Everyone’s talking about Social Selling these days, trying to get their arms around what it means and how it works. While much of the focus now is on tools and techniques, it’s important to recognize that there are different approaches and different styles of social selling, each of which are appropriate for different sales personalities and brands. What kind of Social Sales persona is right for you?
Hunters aren’t out to be seen. They’re seasoned experts at finding, tracking and figuring out how best to engage big game, but typically not out in the open. They’re not prolific content creators and they tend not to comment frequently in highly public forums. When they do it’s strategic, and often focused on engaging a specific person they find interesting.
“Hunters often find the little networks off the radar where valuable intel can be found.”
Hunters are relentless social media surfers—they navigate far and wide among communities and groups, often finding the little networks off the radar where valuable intel can be found. They read voraciously, they build networks of influencers quietly, and they tend to reach out and engage prospects only after they’ve carefully reviewed they’re profiles.
Wherever they may find their prospects, Hunters love connecting through LinkedIn, where they can easily qualify prospects before they waste time reaching out, and where connecting is both easy and discreet. Hunters will often prefer an initial contact online, quickly converted to a phone call to speak one-on-one.
Hunters need tools that help them zero in on the best communities and most relevant conversations. They love market intelligence, advanced search engines, social listening tools, and they’ll pay for tools and memberships that give them access and insight.
Gatherers are more social than Hunters, and Social Media comes naturally to them. They love participating in online communities and hanging out—often both professionally and with personal hobbies. They’re prone to getting involved in long comment threads, where they invariably add value to the conversation, and they typically update several different social channels multiple times daily.
“Gatherers are great at drawing people in and drawing out their knowledge and experience to add to the discussion”
Gatherers tend to find a handful of communities or networks that work for them, and they’ll invest in building their reputation and influence over years. Gatherers read a lot of content and use their market awareness and opinion to engage in conversation that attracts like-minded people. They’re great at drawing people in and drawing out their knowledge and experience to add to the discussion.
Gatherers tend to be self-selecting—they succeed because they genuinely love what they do, they love talking shop with their peers and prospects, and they have the social communication skills to engage well online, using humor, empathy, tact and good grammar to develop credibility and trust with their community.
Gatherers need tools that help them manage their posting and monitoring activities, particularly social media management tools. They need great content to share, including both objective 3rd party links and corporate marketing content to promote in reasonable measure.
Farmers are also social, but in a different way than Gatherers. They also like to get involved in online communities, and they’re native to social media, but they tend to have a more economic outlook on social engagement. Where Gatherers migrate towards what naturally interests them—and they often contribute more value than they get back immediately in return—Farmers are more focused on figuring out how to generate a consistent and positive return, in whatever community looks most promising.
“Farmers find communities that can produce good prospects, and they look for ways to drive influence and demand.”
Farmers have a tactical and practical agenda; they look for communities that can produce a good stream of prospects, and they look for ways to drive influence and demand. Farmers aren’t mercenaries—they know that being a good community participant is essential to sustaining long-term positive results. So like Gatherers, Farmers have strong social community skills, and they invest their time in cultivating a solid reputation that attracts good prospects.
Farmers are also more practical in their use of metrics. Where Gatherers are proud of the network size and reach they’ve earned, Farmers are more interested in the quality and performance of their campaigns. Good Farmers are agile in their approach, and are constantly testing new angles on nearly everything they do to try and improve results.
Farmers are content creators and often community builders. They need tools to create, manage and syndicate good content. They need a solid marketing platform that allows them to cultivate, nurture and manage leads. They need metrics and analytics to figure out what works.
Manufacturers are the email marketers and telemarketers of the social web. They want to manufacture customers as efficiently and quickly as possible, and the value of any community is only in it’s utility in delivering up paying customers. They may genuinely enjoy social media on a personal level, but business is business and social is a means to an economic end.
“For Manufacturers, the value of any community is only in it’s utility in delivering up paying customers.”
Manufacturers have little use for community norms or long-term planning. If they can buy a list and hit it hard to produce a marginal return, that’s a win. They’re good at finding the loopholes and hidden access points in any social network or platform that has value to them. When LinkedIn makes InMails available for purchase, they buy in bulk and hammer away until new rules force them to switch tactics. If they alienate people in the community by their approach, no loss, they wouldn’t have bought anything anyway.
Like Farmers, Manufacturers are focused on metrics and analytics to figure out what works. While some Manufacturers may try to avoid egregious spamming or behavior that will harm their immediate interests, they generally have little use for long-range investments in building a reputation and trust. If buying followers and deploying link-bots will improve their profile, they won’t hesitate.
In the ideal world for a manufacturer, everything should be automated to reduce costs and drive leads, and ultimately to mine value from the customer. Manufacturers like tools like automated content syndication, automated updates, automated content generation. Rev it up and let’s see it deliver leads.
What’s the Right Approach?
As you can probably tell, I’m not a big fan of the Manufacturer approach—to me, it’s the marketing mindset that social media is evolving to defeat. It’s a one-sided approach to mining value from the marketplace, while one of social media’s great attractions to consumers is it’s usefulness in exposing bad companies, bad products and bad behavior. However, it’s a reality in the marketplace, particularly for commodity products where reputation is less important to the consumer than low cost.
“The crucial take-away is that Social Selling is not a one-size-fits-all approach—although it tends to look that way as business try to figure it out.”
All of the other personas can be used effectively and sustainably for social selling and social marketing, and in fact, can be easily mixed across different functions in a sales and marketing organization.
- Hunters are essential for successful B2B sales, particularly for premium products with long sales-cycles.
- Gatherers are a great fit for inside sales, and their online engagement is a powerful complement for telesales activities, because it broadens the base of conversation they can draw on to build rapport.
- Farmers are the best fit for social media marketing, because they take a long-term practical view of market development strategy–building a base of good content, developing a thought-leadership position, and carefully cultivating a measurable approach that delivers results.
The crucial take-away is that Social Selling is not a one-size-fits-all approach—although it tends to look that way as business try to figure it out. It’s a complex challenge with many possible tools and methods, and everyone wants to simplify it to make it easier to adopt and scale. But it’s important to remember that there are different roles, different strategies and different tool sets that can help you adapt a social selling approach that works best for your company, and fits best with your team and your brand.
For more on Social Selling, check out Social Selling: Generating Demand with Social Media.