We often talk about the power of social media to connect with each other, whether we are participating in INMA LinkedIn groups to discuss upcoming conferences or networking for a job.

I am afraid we are not fully addressing how our advertising sales teams can use social media to find, retain, and grow customers. 

Here is the self-quiz to see if you are fully taking advantage of social media for sales:

  • Are you active members of the groups your advertisers belong to? This may mean industry communities like automotive or retail categories.

    A key word is active. This does not mean pitching business, but listening to concerns and potentially identifying new ways to position products and services using the real work experiences you hear about.

    The participants might not be in your market, but some problems in search of an opportunity transcend geography and could also be relevant with your local customers.

  • Do you follow industry leaders’ tweets? Another way to understand what is important to potential customers is to follow the tweets of key industry or local players.

    If the individual you are following is in your market, you might hear about new store openings or problems that an individual advertiser is having. This gives you insights into that customer (or others like him).

  • Do you belong to sales forums or follow sales experts outside of the media business? Learning about how other sales professionals are using these tools might inspire you with new ideas on how to connect with customers or prospects.

    One blogger and sales consultant I follow is Jim Keenan (asalesguy.com). I have no professional relationship with him, but find some of his points of view provocative.

    In fact, he believes that salespeople who use social media outsell those who do not. I have not independently verified that finding; if it is true, social media certainly merits a close look.

Back in the good old days, an ad sales professional could have lunch or a drink and get to know their customers personally. Salespeople learned about their customers’ business but also what was bugging them.

Now, more and more media buying is mechanised or by the numbers; everyone is too busy for that personal contact. Social media is one tool to try to regain some of that insight.

There is no doubt advertisers have changed how they buy. They have more data and information about their own business than media sales teams ever will have.

But, increasingly, marketing executives share their thoughts, frustrations, and even concerns in public arenas like digital communities and social media.

As our ad sales teams look for any and every edge to influence media decision makers where they can, social media needs to be a tool in the toolbox. It means participating in LinkedIn groups, commenting on blogs, and even engaging Twitter.

Are you actively using social media for sales? Tell us your experiences.