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3 Ways to Sell Controversial Products in the Age of Social Media News

Business.com / Last Modified: May 30, 2018
Image credit: sylv1rob1/Shutterstock

Many now see social media as a reputable news source. If your business sells products that have attracted negative buzz in the social media sphere, you need to prepare yourself or your sales reps to tackle this challenge head-on in the field.

Social media is wreaking havoc in the sales world – at least for controversial products.

That's what 68 percent of sales pros said in a recent report by my team at MedReps when asked what the biggest obstacle is in selling controversial products. Media came in as a close second, with 60 percent of sales reps saying it's the biggest obstacle.

The main issues social media causes these sales reps are the constant access and the reputation it’s gaining. What was once seen as a way to keep up with trends and long-lost family and friends has become a "reputable" news source for many users.

Now, consumers take to social media for product reviews and read shared posts to educate themselves. For sales reps, especially those selling controversial products, social media is making their job of properly educating and selling to consumers even more challenging.

That's why it's more important than ever for sales reps to understand how to rise above the age of social media news.

1. Know how to challenge public perception.

What you don't know will hurt your sales game. Even if you're not selling directly to the general public, they're your end consumer. If they're displeased with something about your specific product, or even products similar to yours, your target customer won't be jumping to make a purchase.

It's crucial you understand the public's perception, especially if you don't agree with what they're saying. Being informed will prepare you to openly and honestly discuss controversies with customers and the public in a way that isn't offensive or defensive.

Use social media to your advantage by participating in social listening. Marketers often use social listening by going on social media to look at what their target audience is saying and finding out their needs, likes and dislikes. The same strategy should be used by sales reps looking to better understand customers.

Google negative reviews of your product, look on consumers' social media pages to see what's important to them and their general needs, and find out what sources they're using or reposting to get valuable information. Use these newfound insights to create sell sheets and product information targeted directly at misinformation or negative reviews.

2. Don't be afraid to lose the sale.

It's against your nature as an entrepreneur or sales pro to give up. That's why you're made for this job.

However, knowing when to walk away is a valuable lesson seasoned pros know all too well. Some people are so convinced by information in their news feed, they'll never buy into what you're selling because there's so much distrust. Refusing to walk away wastes valuable time and energy that you could've spent nurturing other customers.

Listen to your gut. If you feel defeated every time you call or visit a customer, you've likely already reached the end of your rope. Give yourself closure by going on one last sales call with this customer. If they still seem too resistant, let them know you're available if they need you and walk away proud of your diligent efforts.

3. Educate before you pitch.

Information on social media is sometimes correct. But many times it is wrong or has been shared so many times that facts get confused with commented opinions.

Because of the blurred lines between fact and opinion, social media isn't the only thing hurting sales reps. In fact, our report found that 94 percent of sales reps say a lack of proper education impacts their sales.

If making a sale is the first thing on your mind, it's time to take it down a few steps. Building relationships with customers by properly educating them on your product is the first and most important step.

Once you execute your social listening task, really dig into what you find to understand what information customers need most. If they're seeing negative reviews, do your best to find out what may have happened in those instances and provide credible research to show that was just one person's experience.

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