Paul Castain is a former sales director for the famed training company, Dale Carnegie & Associates. Like many successful sales professionals, he spent years grooming relationships with his personal network. So, when he went solo, he started with 15 corporate clients. Now, he has relationships with 29,000 people inside his LinkedIn group, Sales Playbook!, which is one of the largest LinkedIn groups for sales professionals.
Being at a company that helps sales and marketing teams collaborate, I’m always on the look out for smarty-pants in the sales and marketing industry. Paul is one of them, and he’s got some experiences to share with folks who shepherd online communities as part of their day-to-day marketing responsibilities.
How to Pitch
In his book, Social Networking Playbook, Paul explains how we need to be delicate when pitching our communities. People who are smarter than I am know that they shouldn’t ask someone to marry them on their first date. That’s also the case with community management. Just because we’re in front of tens of thousands of potential customers doesn’t mean we need to pitch them right away.
Paul invites us to approach our online community like we would approach a dating relationship. With dating, we want to demonstrate how much we care for the other person. If done enough times, the other person might reciprocate and like you back. And then you can both dance into the horizon framed by the sunset and a bevy of rainbows and butterflies.
It’s about reciprocity. Karma. The idea that I scratch your back, and you’ll scratch mine.
One blogger I met years ago explained a mantra she had developed for herself: For every time she makes a request of her community, she makes sure to give away nine helpful things.
How to Date 29,000 People Simultaneously
Nearly every sane person wants to succeed. So, Paul suggests that we care for our community by helping our community succeed. Here’s how Paul helps Sales Playbook!, his community of sales and marketing professionals, succeed.
Play matchmaker. This could be a simple email introduction. Or it could be a full-blown LinkedIn group.
Facilitate mind-melds. Paul hosts teleconferences and LinkedIn discussions, where participants are invited to share some tips and best practices.
Distribute helpful resources. In his book, Paul lists some of the resources he likes to pass along to his group. Here’s a short list of what to share, inspired by what he wrote.
- Names of some great books found on Amazon’s bestseller list or Goodreads
- Free e-books. A lot are on Scribd.
- Free apps that boost productivity, such as Evernote
- Websites jam-packed with helpful free resources
How All This Pays Off
Although Paul can’t share names and dollar amounts, he did share a couple of success stories.
One day, he got a random call from a woman at a Fortune 500 company. She wasn’t a member of his LinkedIn group, but she worked with someone who was. Her coworker spoke so highly of him that she checked out his profile and website, then decided to hire him for a major speaking gig at their national sales conference. That gig has now opened the door for additional work and coaching assignments.
Another time, Paul landed a major consulting contract because someone on his group read that he’s a guitar player. They chatted music a few times, then one day, his new music buddy shared some sales challenges his team was having. Things moved very quickly, and, within six weeks, Paul was training the first group of sales reps.
Paul is convinced that all this would have never happened if he didn’t work to foster a sense of community within his group.
(Photo courtesy of Bigstock: Man Holding Flowers)