Whatever your profession, social media is having a profound impact on how employers and consumers make business decisions, including whom they do business with. The real estate industry has been quick to adopt these tools, particularly in sales and marketing, where finding good leads is a highly competitive (and lucrative) exercise. As a sales tool, LinkedIn in particular is a powerful online tool for accelerating business connections and finding new leads.
But the social media phenomenon works both ways.
As a consumer of enterprise goods and services, I find social media an incredibly useful tool for conducting due diligence before making a large purchasing decision. Doing some serious homework on individuals before deciding to hire them, or to buy their goods or services is an effective way to help mitigate any inherent risks associated with making an important recruiting or purchasing decision.
Consider this: Google reports that 88 percent of all business-to-business (B2B) purchases are researched online before they reach the final buying stage. In fact, a recent study by Marketo found that 92 percent of all B2B purchases began with an Internet search. So, chances are good that the prospect you’re meeting for lunch has done his or her homework on you and your firm before even making contact.
An enterprise-level purchase can be a career-defining experience, not just for the seller but also the buyer. So, it makes sense to Google your sales representative, find out what LinkedIn contacts you have in common, and/or make calls to obtain feedback on the individual or the company’s past performance.
Often, I come across an individual’s profile that has old content or messaging that doesn’t match up with what I heard at the sales pitch. That’s a huge warning sign for me. If they’re not 100 percent honest at this point in the transaction, what hope do I have that the product or service will be delivered as promised?
This trend of online vetting has not only helped purchasers manage their risks but has also given a leg up to professionals who are exceptional at what they do. While reputation has always been an important component of business success, thanks to social media, more weight is now given to the way a business and its representatives execute on their promises.
Ultimately, greater transparency in business will lead to the best service providers rising to the top. Here are five things you can do today to help pass any online scrutiny:
1. Google yourself.
After all, your clients are Googling you — often before they even meet you. This is a great exercise to perform regularly to see which of your profile pages rank highest. You should also click through to the pages to double-check that your digital profile meets your standards.
Tip: If you have a more common name, such as John Smith, add your company name to your search (e.g., “John Smith ABC Inc.”).
2. Update your online profiles regularly.
Hopefully, you are continually growing and improving your skill set. So, it’s a good idea to schedule a time each month to make relevant updates to your online profile pages to reflect this. Ensure you’re updating all your pages — your company website, LinkedIn, Twitter or other social media outlets.
Bonus: The more regularly you update your profile, the better ranking score you’ll get from Google and other search engines.
3. Connect with colleagues.
Make sure you connect with colleagues on LinkedIn. Every colleague with whom you connect is also connected to hundreds of potential clients and vendors. If a prospect talks to a colleague of theirs who has had a great experience with you, it will definitely help you move up the interview process.
4. Match your sales proposals with what you have online.
As a buyer, I often see highly customized presentations where the sales professionals tell me they have specialized experience in my sector, only to discover that what they have told me doesn’t resonate on their LinkedIn page. This makes me very nervous.
5. Remember that satisfied clients become good future references.
The days of being able to handpick the client references with which you provide your prospects are coming to an end. It’s important to be on top of your clients’ satisfaction levels so that, if a prospect contacts them in the future, they’ll be jumping out of their seats to recommend you.
Lex Perry is Director of Marketing and Communications of Colliers International in Canada, where he focuses on corporate brand strategy, market research and intelligence, content marketing, public relations and digital marketing.