The prevalence social media has in everyday experiences and in the way we work makes it a potentially powerful tool to help sales reps reach and engage potential customers and close new business. Social websites like LinkedIn and Twitter have increased the ability to follow people’s interests outside of job tittles – a huge advantage for business-to-business sales reps, as well as business-to-consumer.

Manage Social Media Risk
Due to the nature of these platforms however, many businesses are unwilling or concerned about letting sales reps have access to social networks. Here are three of the biggest concerns businesses have about sales and social media, and some suggestions about how to address them based on an article from Harvard Business Review.

  1. Problem: Potential Legal Issues – One of the first issues that executives and managers are concerned about when dealing with social networks is the potential for legal repercussions. Confidential information leaks are a nightmare to begin with but social media creates the possibility for a viral disaster.Solution: Company Guidelines –

    Certain industries such as finance and pharma have more strict policies in general and therefore undoubtedly need social media guidelines for their businesses. However, all businesses should have understandable and clear guidelines for sales reps (and all employees) that cover acceptable topics as well as the information that is off-limits.

  2. Problem: Poor Execution – Although legal issues are more of a concern from the business perspective, non-legal mistakes can cause problems for the brand.  A poorly phrased response from a sales rep or misinformed commentary can backfire as well.Solution: Social Media Training –

    Creating guidelines are an important first step, but training is important to cover the tone that should be used, as well as proper grammar and responses. Sales reps can reach out to potential leads and nurture relationships that will convert customers. By undergoing proper training, this can be done in an appropriate fashion for social media, and not by spamming users or making improper jokes.

  3. Problem: Social Media is Distracting – The benefit of real time information is that there is always more content to indulge in. When time isn’t managed properly on social media platforms however, this becomes more of a nuisance than effective business tool.Solution: Focus on Results –

    Social media is a means to an end for sales reps – a way for them to engage with their target audience and improve their business results. As stated in the HBR article, “…reps have always engaged in activities that may seem purely social. It’s typically been addressed by a relentless focus on outcomes…. Salespeople have always had to think about the return on social activity; they’re unlikely to stop doing so now.”

As with any business action there are risks that come with social media. Nevertheless, in today’s world not being involved in social media for a business has the potential to hurt the company even more. People have come to expect genuine interaction with the brands and businesses they buy from, and with proper planning businesses can leverage these relationships successfully.