In today’s selling environment, having an initial conversation or setting up a face-to-face meeting with a prospective buyer is more difficult than ever. Wary of salespeople, consumers aren’t interested in talking to someone they don’t know. Whether the outreach is to a referral source who already has a lender relationship or a consumer who doesn’t think they qualify for a loan, the challenge is simple: How does a salesperson get their attention and gain their trust to even start a conversation?
In the past, an originator could depend on the company’s brand to create interest. Today, that is no longer the case. This is compounded by the fact that consumers research their buying selections on the Internet well before consulting a salesperson. This means originators may not even know that prospects are in search of a solution to their problem! This new buying journey impacts all industries and has upended retail sales.
Getting attention in retail now starts with originators delivering valuable information in their respective territories. They must act as thought leaders in their marketplace. This might sound like a daunting task, especially when originators are handling so many parts of the loan process. But, the current reality is that companies are not believed anymore by the public, and originators must take on this additional role to build relationships with prospects. In the course of sharing relevant insights, thought leaders must take three actions:
- Show potential buyers what the future state would look like for them. This is when a salesperson is sharing the “dream.”
- Present potential buyers with best practices and education that will help them successfully navigate the buying journey.
- Set prospects free from their problem by helping them achieve the future state. This is when you sell your product or service and convey how it will save prospects time and money.
The first two steps must occur before the salesperson can start selling their services. When all three have occurred, the salesperson has earned the credibility and is recognized as someone who is worth having a conversation with. Obviously, not all potential customers are having a problem or aware that they have a problem. This is where a thought leader implements a social selling strategy.
Social selling is a communication strategy using social media platforms to establish a salesperson in their marketplace as the go-to person for valuable information on real estate financing. Social selling is no longer an optional skill for originators, but mandatory for generating loan demand. It is so important that I would recommend hiring only producers who are actively using social media as part of their prospecting efforts.
While many lenders, particularly banks, don’t want their sales professionals to use these new tools, they are missing the point that consumers communicate very differently today than in the past and producers must adapt accordingly or lose business to their competitors. Too often, senior management focuses on the risk side of social selling (vendors certainly emphasize it), instead of understanding that a salesperson’s job is to start conversations and that those conversations will not happen unless the producer has cultivated an online presence.
In my view, there is no good reason to prohibit originators from using social selling methods as part of their prospecting techniques. For companies that hesitate, it really boils down to not trusting the sales employee. If a lender doesn’t trust their producers, why did they hire them in the first place?
What social media really does is to build trust so consumers will want to start a conversation with a salesperson or have a meeting because they are familiar with them by reading their posts. Even better, social media platforms enable originators to scale their outreach and support the other selling methods that they use. Social selling doesn’t replace the traditional sales methods; they are added tools that can make the difference in sales results. It is still true that people want to buy from salespeople they know and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Social media selling simply gets the conversation started.