Our cover story this month focuses on social media and how reps can use it to enhance relationships with customers. Click here for the full article (story is on page 48). Below are some interesting thoughts from industry veterans and how they’ve incorporating it into their day-to-day interactions with customers.

“Instead of talking, [social networking] allows me to listen to the market. Prior to the social media boom, think about how people chose a supplier or products. They went out and talked to a neighbor or colleague, and asked, ‘Who are you using? What pricing are you getting?’  You got a lot of referrals from word of mouth. The difference with social media is this: Before, you weren’t hearing those conversations. You didn’t have the blog that was telling you when you were failing or succeeding. It’s like coming into a party where everyone’s sitting at a table. If you come in and say, ‘I’m here, focus on me,’ you’ll get blown off. But if you walk around and listen to one or two conversations, you can have relevance to that conversation.” — Joe Green, director of distribution sales and regional manager for Professional Medical Supply, New Lenox, Ill


“If I send out on Facebook that we’re kicking off a new promotion today, they’re more aware of it. They’re not having a bunch of stuff thrown at them. Instead, it’s them going out there and learning about it themselves. It’s not one-sided. You have to think, ‘I have to commit to being a connection or friend,’ whereas with e-mail, it’s one person initiating contact. [Social networking] is, ‘Meet me halfway.’ Both people are consciously making the decision to be business connections. Emotional buyers especially want to feel that connection, that warmth.” — Ryan Hahn, sales representative for Midmark in south Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

“A colleague said to me e-mail is dead as far as relationship-building is concerned. Sometimes I agree, sometimes I don’t. I believe our dealer reps are flooded with e-mails from different partners and customers. It’s very easy to have information lost in an inbox. As a manufacturer partner, we have to think of different ways to get vital information in front of them. That’s how I’m using social media.” — Angelo Cutrone, ambulatory care rep for Welch Allyn in New York City and central New Jersey.

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