Using Facebook to Build Better Business Relationships

It wasn’t that long ago, the conventional wisdom was that spending time on Facebook while at work wasn’t a productive use of employees’ time. Even the offenders seemed to agree, in a 2015 survey, 38% of workers admitted that they wasted a significant amount of each day on social media. And way back in 2012, a study said social media distractions cost the U.S. Economy $650 billion in productivity per year.  

It’s hard to argue with statistics, but I’ll make a counterpoint: What if all that time on Facebook isn’t a total drain? In this era where data is gold, what if Facebook has become a great tool for sales professionals to build better business relationships?

In a recent post about how people gather information to prepare for meetings with new business contacts, I noted that 53% of salespeople said they visit a new contact’s Facebook page as part of their preparation. If you were to analyze that data further – 59% of professionals between the ages of 18-34 use Facebook regularly as a research tool, compared to 48% of people between the ages of 35-54. Those stats indicate that while younger sales professionals are clearly using social media more often to research clients, it certainly isn’t a tactic that’s exclusive to that demographic. And, as the profession evolves and the ability to quickly gather and analyze a lot of online data about potential customers has become more important than wining and dining clients, all salespeople are turning to social media more and more.

Researching prospects is critical to the sales process. Before you pick up the phone, you want to find out as much you can about your potential clients and the companies they work for. Although Facebook is more of a “personal” social media site (as opposed to LinkedIn), it doesn’t hurt to check out prospective customers to view what makes them tick. Do they like to travel? Are they a sports fan? Are they passionate about current events? If this information is publicly available, it can be valuable for upcoming conversations.

However, there is a fine line here. It can be off-putting to open a conversation with, “Hey, I see you went skiing last weekend, how was the snow up there?” Using Facebook intel to your advantage requires much more tact, and should be worked into conversations strategically. Though, if you are a successful sales professional, chances are you already are very skilled in engaging with new clients and understand what to say (and when to say it).

I’m curious, how valuable do you find social media in building talking points for interactions with new customers? Do you have best practices for using social media data in sales conversations? Let me know in the comments below.

-Andrew