Social selling has become increasingly prevalent in the professional sports sales environment. For years, the concept of social media in the workplace has been associated with fears of misuse, poor time management and potential disclosure of proprietary information. However, recent trends have shown that, when used appropriately, social media can be developed into a very effective sales tool.
In discussing the concept of social selling with several members of the Spurs Sports & Entertainment sales staff, four primary steps were identified in developing an effective social selling strategy:
- Develop your brand/presence on social networks such as LinkedIn
- Target the “right” prospects
- Engage with identified prospects
- Build trust and qualify the prospects
Develop your brand
According to Allen Schlesinger, Premium Sales Manager for the Austin Spurs, developing an appropriate personal brand on social networks such as LinkedIn is critical. An appropriate personal profile on LinkedIn should be completed with updated personal information, professional affiliations, an accurate description of your role with the franchise and, most importantly, a professional profile picture.
Target the “right” prospects
Both Allen and San Antonio Spurs Premium Account Executive, Julian Dais, agreed that having a strategy to target the “right” prospects is the key to being successful with social media tools such as LinkedIn. The “right” prospect has a unique combination of (1) decision making authority, (2) some sort of connectivity or interest to basketball designated on their profile and, preferably, (3) a shared connection to help with an introduction. Both shared similar thoughts that there isn’t a “perfect” prospect, but there are multiple factors to look for in searching for the people they would like to prospect.
Engage identified prospects
After identifying the appropriate prospects, the next step in effective social selling is engaging those prospects in a way that invites further discussion. Julian and Allen commented that the initial message should include a brief introduction, a reason for reaching out to them and an invitation for further discussion, usually face to face but by phone if necessary. The initial message should be no longer than a paragraph and emphasize the invitation to meet in person for further discussion.
Build trust (and qualify)
The last step in the process is building trust and further qualifying the new prospect to insure an effective face to face meeting. The trust building and qualifying process is usually very similar to a traditional sales call. Use general fact finding questions about past interactions with the team and/or a casual e-mail conversation about mutual personal or professional contacts. After some brief two way discussion and confirmation that the prospect is qualified, a mutually agreed upon meeting location is established and the social selling process commences.
Social = Sales
Over the last couple of seasons, both Allen and Julian have emerged as two of the more effective social sellers within Spurs Sports & Entertainment as well as their respective leagues and sales categories. In fact, Allen is widely recognized at NBA League meetings for his best practice usage of LinkedIn as a sales tool. Averaging approximately ten LinkedIn generated face to face meetings each week, Allen currently ranks as the #1 New FSE revenue producer in the NBA D-League and attributes 90%+ of his new revenue generation to social selling.
Cover photo source: Mark Smiciklas