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It’s much harder to connect with someone and read someone virtually (though part of that is because we are just lazy at it). Yet virtual communication and engagement for brands is more important today than ever before.

In this episode, we interview Robin Bartlett, Commercial Director at The Social Element, about building trust in a virtual environment using social channels.

Listen as we discuss: 

  • The very first step is responding to customers
  • Being genuine and providing value — especially when no sale is on the horizon
  • The importance of referrals in meeting people online
  • Robin’s team-wide strategy for building an online presence
  • What’s changed lately in online communication strategies


How to miss the trick on value

A lot of brands miss this trick. They use social media as a broadcast channel, which works as any other media channel does. With social, however, you have the opportunity to accomplish so much more. 

If you can reach people — not just build awareness, but actually engage with them — then the value of your campaigns goes through the roof. 

For the social part of your sales cycle, you have to reach people. You have to be present. You have to represent your company, your work, and your values on social media to get in front of people and connect with them.

Sounds tough? It should because it is. 

Engagement requires investment. You need social media experts, community managers, and others who will find opportunities to engage. 


How to build trust with social media

The way to use social media correctly is to be genuine. 

“I work for a social media agency,” Robin said. “My clients are marketing directors, CMOs, and other executives in big companies. It’s hard to connect with people. If you’re doing some sort of sales line, frankly, it’s almost impossible.”

The key is to be genuine. Think about what value you can give people. 

If you can present people with *real* value, they may sit through your message or chat with you despite the 30 other things pulling at their attention right then.


Just say “No!” to cold approaches

I don’t believe in cold outreach. I believe in conversations. 

On LinkedIn, having conversations means building a network, talking to people, getting introductions to other people, and always, always offering value. If you can’t say something valuable, don’t say anything at all. You’ll actually push people away if you try it. 

Now, how do you build a network?


Tip # 1  — Know your prospects.

According to Robin, doing a little personalization research upfront goes a long, long way. That’s how you know who you’re talking to and what they are looking to get out of the conversation.


Tip #2 — Get referrals. 

Robin rarely approaches people without a referral especially at the C-level because those people don’t listen to cold approaches no matter what you say. What they listen to is what they already trust. 


Know yourself; know your team

It’s hard to read and connect with someone virtually, harder than it is in real life. And honestly, people are starting to get lazy about it. They’re not engaging on phone calls or giving their full attention in Zoom meetings these days. 

From a practical standpoint, one good tip is to imagine that you’re talking in a physical room and use your hands as you express yourself. Your computer’s camera will pick up that movement, which will bring people back to what you’re saying. 

Another good trick is to be short and sweet. People don’t have the patience for an hour-long meeting.

But most important…

Understand yourself, and understand other people



The tool Robin uses to understand people is called DISC. It’s similar to Myers Briggs and several other personality tools. Robin invests in a consultant who provides regular training for the team on DISC personality profiles. 

Through the DISC training, the team learns how to understand the personality types of the people they’re selling to. Armed with that information, they can adjust their communication style to suit the hearer. 

For example, if you’re talking to someone who loves details, you don’t want to give them a cursory summary. They’re not going to buy from you. On the other hand, if you are talking to someone who wants you to get to the point right now, you will lose them on page one of your three-page case study.


Advice for the future of online communication

Choose your stars. That is, pick people who are naturally good at networking, already have a network, and have something to say.

Your marketing and PR teams can support those stars. If your stars are as good as you say, they probably don’t have time to write and publish articles. That’s where your team comes in. 

Your marketing pros can research different topics and work with a star to author a post. It’s important that your star posts it from their personal account but clearly tags the social element (the company) with them as the author.

Final word of advice: Success in social comes down to building personal networks.

Get in touch with Robin on LinkedIn.

Check out these resources we mentioned:

For more engaging sales conversations, subscribe to The Sales Engagement Podcast on Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, or on our website.

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