What Kanye West got wrong about social selling

Kanye West asked Mark Zuckerberg for $1bn last week (Source: Getty)

Who couldn’t use an extra billion dollars? I’m sure many people checking their bank balance after the Christmas season could do with the extra cash. Apparently Kanye West had the same thought last week when he asked Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for that amount via Twitter.

While it seems unlikely that it will be a successful funding strategy for Kanye, this does offer us an opportunity to gain some valuable insights into how to approach business relationships online in the social age. This is particularly relevant if you want to sell something, whether it be a product or service, or an investment opportunity.

Pick your moment

Any good relationship takes time. It’s unlikely that you’d ask someone to marry you on a first date, so don’t just jump in cold with a big ask in business without investing in learning more about your prospect.

Social media has made this much easier. It enables you to keep track of the relevant decision-makers within companies, to take note of the articles and updates they share in a professional context, and to look for opportunities to engage them with relevant content of your own. If Kanye had followed this advice, he may have avoided surprising Zuckerberg with that kind of request on his birthday. Ouch.

Find the right people

Today, buying decisions by organisations involve an average of 5.4 decision-makers. Even chief executives don’t make decisions on their own. Each of these influencers may have different objectives and be influenced in different ways.

Kanye would have benefited from doing a little more research before diving straight in with his pitch. This approach might take time, but building the right relationships within an organisation gives you a better chance of success.

Sales intelligence resources like LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator can help you to zero in on relevant decision-makers, research potential prospects, and get warm introductions through your network to more easily open conversations.

Context matters

Approaching Facebook’s founder on Twitter, as opposed to the platform he created, may have been Kanye’s downfall. By paying attention to where your prospects gather online and where they find their information, you can more easily engage them in conversation in a context where they’re actively seeking relevant insights to help them make business decisions.

Just as you wouldn’t interrupt someone’s family barbeque to start telling them about your latest product or service, paying attention to the time and place that you open conversations has a direct impact on your chances of success.

The digital age has completely transformed the way people buy and sell, especially in the world of business. Far from being a problem, this has made life a lot easier for the world’s salespeople. Social media has put an end to the dreaded cold call forever.

Customers and prospects gather on social channels, so naturally this is where sales teams need to be as well. But to be a success, salespeople have to adapt their approach to suit this platform.

And social selling – using social networks to develop useful and productive relationships with customers – is so easy that almost anyone can do it (unless you’re Kanye).

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

Related articles