I recently wrote a piece that appeared in Careers in Professional Selling magazine. It is targeted to college students and recent college grads with an interest in sales, and employers who might hire them.
As college students make the transition from campus to their careers many things need to change. How they dress. How they act. Even how they spend their free time. One thing that many don’t change is how they use social media. There’s a big difference between social media for personal use and using it in a more professional context, especially for those starting their careers in selling.
1. Don’t Propose to Be the Expert
Social media is not always embraced in the workplace as the silver bullet in closing sales. Even though many organizations utilize “social selling” techniques, traditional sales methods still rule the day. The last thing anyone wants to hear from the new college kid is how social media is the best way to connect with prospects and customers. Take your time, learn the culture, and see how others use social media in the work environment before offering advice.
2. Inappropriate Photos Serve No Purpose
Many late night photos get shared on Facebook and other social sites. The people who have been tagged in those photos are not always doing the most appropriate things. No matter how private you think they might be, they are not. Employers, prospective employers and prospects can sometimes see these. You should untag yourself in the worst photos. And moving forward, stop taking and sharing these photos. The party animal is not a good look for you, or your new company.
3. Your Friends Won’t Unfollow You
College students use social media sites to communicate with their friends. Lots of times these messages are silly, sarcastic or just plain fun. Some of this is still okay, but a social presence is part of your professional presentation. It is like an ongoing resume of who and what interests you. Even if you start sharing professional articles with your networks, you can still tweet silly selfies to your friends. You just need to find the right balance.
4. Don’t Connect with that Prospect Until the Sale Closes
New salespeople like to build their networks and sometimes even like to show off their high-level, professional contacts. Sales is not a game. Your new job comes with competition, both internal and external. There are people paying attention to your company. Connecting with prospects too early in the sales cycle tips your hand of who you are calling on. You don’t want others to swoop in and steal your sale with a better offer. Don’t send that LinkedIn request until you have closed the sale.
5. Think About Long Term Goals
New jobs and career changes cause you to focus on short-term goals. Many sales jobs encourage you to focus on daily and weekly goals. That’s how you hit your monthly numbers. The small things today get you where you want to be in the future. Social media is no different, but you have to acknowledge what those long-term goals. You are not going to start tweeting sales content and become a sales thought leader overnight. Identify a topic where you can establish some expertise and work towards that goal. Starting a group, either online or in real life, of other new sales professionals is one way to increase your presence over the long-term.
6. Personality is Still Important
A good social media presence mixes personal and professional ideas, activities and links. Your friends still want to know what you are up to. Your employer wants you to be a well-rounded, well-adjusted person with some business smarts, especially in the public eye of social networks. Your prospects and customers want you to be knowledgeable about their industry and ways to help them solve their business problems. None of that sounds boring to me.
A social presence is something that takes time to create, build and prosper. Find the right balance between your different audiences. And remember, it is unlikely that one picture or one post will trash your career and reputation, but why would you take that chance.