The Heart of ‘Social’ Networking

originally posted on Concept Hub

Last Wednesday I had breakfast with Ricky Steele. The goal was to see what we can learn from each other.

Ricky has been in sales for a decade longer than I have been alive. Beyond his years of experience, what really stands out about Ricky is his network of friends; People who have come to trust him and would do almost anything for him. Some of the most influential people in this city count Ricky as someone they can turn to for knowledge, insight and inspiration.

Ricky shared an interesting story about his first experience as a sales person. At the age of 10 Ricky’s mom used to sell boxes of pre-addressed envelops. She was consistently the #1 sales person in her group. The thing is, it was Ricky who was making all the sales calls!

Ricky said it was at that young age that selling had become a passion of his. He loved being able to help someone solve a problem while getting paid a fair price.

I asked Ricky how has selling changed of the years. He expressed to me that “selling has become more sophisticated. Sales people need to be more of a Subject Matter Expert.”

Ricky said that the book Death of a Salesman is more poignant today than when it was originally released. A sales person can no longer succeed with shiny shoes and a firm handshake, they need to bring relevance.

We discussed Ricky’s role as a sales person and how he brings relevance to his clients. What I found fascinating is that Ricky is still doing business with people he has known since elementary and high school. His offerings have changed many times over the years, but his core offering, which is to treat everyone as he would like to be treated, has never changed. Ricky strives to be a servant leader, to bring more value to each relationship than what is expected.

What does this have to do with Social Media? Well one thing Ricky has always been known for is providing information to his contacts. He shared with me how long ago he used to drop off the paper that had the latest news about an executive he was trying to meet along with a box of hot donuts at the executive’s office. These days Ricky is online on Facebook and Twitter and catching the news feeds on his mobile phone. He is still making sure to send up to date relevant information and leads to his friends, contacts and future contacts, only today the Internet allows him to do what he has been doing for decades in a much more effective way.

Ricky has seen many economic ups and downs throughout his career. I asked him his advice on getting through today’s challenges. He said “Everyone has to have the mindset of being a salesperson; always selling always servicing.”

Together we divided Ricky’s core strengths that have served him over the years into three columns;

1. Relationships that have sustained through many years and many transitions.

2. Engagement with people of all ages and all stages. He says the key to getting people to stay engaged with you is to be receptive and to be real. People want to deal with people who are being real.

3. Leadership. Ricky feels his leadership comes from passion for what he is doing. He says it is passion that separates good people from extraordinary people.

As I reviewed the list I recognized some of the same elements I have been suggesting to my clients in regards to creating a social media strategy.

1. Relationships. Social media has made each organization transparent. Today several people from many different departments are building and re-kindling relationships online while representing the employer, their causes, and their lifestyle. It is no longer just the sales people, executives, or communications on the front line creating relationships with clients and prospects, everyone in the organization now able to represent the organization, for better or for worse.

2. Engagement is one of the most elusive ingredients in social media. How can you get your audience to join, participate, and contribute to your online dialog. I felt what Ricky has been doing for so long is still the answer in today’s world. People want to deal with people who are real, people who are receptive, and your online efforts must be ready to embrace and engage your audience’s ideas and opinions as opposed to just push more information at them.

3. Leadership. According to Ricky, his leadership style comes from his passion and passion separates the good from the extraordinary. I agree.  In a world of ever increasing fragmentation of people’s attention, the people with the most passion will lead the online conversations.

It was a wonderful breakfast meeting where I learned that the more things change, the more the core things stay the same. What I was able to share with Ricky is that although it seems like his world is changing, the reality is his time has arrived. It is people like Ricky who love to consume and share information, to make connections between people that are mutually beneficial, who loves to entertain and make people laugh, who is sincere and passionate, they are the people that can rise above the noise and gather a crowd both online and off.