Yesterday we posted a blog about the rewards of social selling.  Today, we'll discuss the first two social selling tips.

 

Strategies for Effective Social Selling

As I’ve written in my social media coaching blog, MarketingThink.com, creating a social sales strategy can be compared to making a birthday cake: you simply add the extra social media ingredient to each layer of your existing sales process.

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You can also think of it as adding new moves to the plays already in your sales playbook, with the power of social upping your advantage at each stage of the game. Viewed this way, social becomes less intimidating and more fun. Here’s how it might look.

 

Play 1: Integrate social into prospecting and preparation.

Why to do it: At SAP’s recent SAPPHIRE NOW event, many enterprise software sales executives told me how tough it’s getting to break through the noisy sales clutter. In fact, InsideView reports that 90 percent of CEOs don’t answer cold emails and cold calls anymore, a trend also occurring with sales decision influencers. So what’s filling the gap? You guessed it—social media. For example, IBM reports that 75 percent of B2B decision makers use social media to inform their decisions[iii], and blogs play a burgeoning role as well. The takeaway: layering social media onto the sales process helps you connect with the “unconnectable,” providing crucial access to prospects and targets you might otherwise never reach.

How to do it: Before you talk, it’s important to listen. What are your prospects tweeting, posting, or blogging about? What do they praise or decry? This information will help you know how to enter conversations later on.

Start by creating private lists of your prospects, then follow them using a social management site like HootSuite or Google Alerts. Learn which influencers your targets follow, and follow their reports and influencers yourself. Make it a habit to read the industry publications and news your prospects wish they had time to read. Curate relevant content to develop diverse sources to draw on, and follow the hashtags your prospects associate with most (apps like ManageFlitter can help you filter Twitter feeds by user and topic).

You can also Google your prospects’ names with the word “blog” to see where they’re blogging, then set up ongoing searches through tools like Feedly or Flipboard to stay on top of their talk. Search for their questions and answers on LinkedIn, and conduct keyword searches to find comments, discussions, and questions circulating in LinkedIn Groups.

 

Play 2: Use social to make the first contact.

Why to do it: With fewer people responding to calls or emails—and buying organizations typically completing two-thirds to 90 percent of the sales cycle before approaching a supplier[iv]—social media may well be your best bet for connecting with prospects. What’s more, it gives them a comfortable, convenient way to learn your qualifications and credibility in an unbiased environment, making the case for your brand in a less direct, yet far more effective way than traditional sales approaches.

How to do it: A simple three-prong strategy can streamline your path to successful social connection:

  1. Don’t jump the gun. Before reaching out on social, get your ducks in a row. Identify the network(s) where your prospects are most active, and establish your presence there with a polished, complete profile. Then use the engagement strategy most suited to each location. For example:
  2. On LinkedIn, you can “get introduced,” engage in a group they belong to, or ask them a direct question relevant to a group discussion or their area of expertise.
  3. On Facebook, you can like, comment on, or share a prospect’s post.
  4. On Twitter, you can retweet, reply to, or “favorite” a prospect’s tweet; mention the prospect in a tweet; tweet a question to your prospect; or list a prospect.
  5. On your prospect’s blog, you can comment or reply to a comment; on your own blog, you can ask a question or request recommendations, leverage LinkedIn or Twitter, or mention your prospect’s blog.
  6. Play nice. Remember, how you say things conveys as much about you as what you say—so be helpful and honest, friendly and polite, professional and relevant. And as your mother always told you, etiquette counts. Follow group or site rules, never send spam, don’t ask to add people you don’t know, and keep your exchanges focused on others (no one wants to listen when it’s all about you). Finally, pay attention to your spelling and grammar; careless or sloppy language suggests that you might be, too.
  7. Stay in the game. The way you follow up on initial connections can determine whether you launch a conversation or nip it in the bud. If your prospect responds, be sure to reply within 24 hours. If not, wait five days before initiating another contact (just like in dating, overeager pestering can kill interest faster than a dad with a shotgun). Once a conversation gets going, stay in touch to establish yourself as an available resource. You can set up alerts on your prospect’s activity to ensure you don’t miss any of their input.

 

In the next blog, we'll share the last two tips

If you don't want to wait until tomorrow to learn more, go to the Supply Lines group to read the full article.

 

 

 


[i] Collaborate, Listen, Contribute: How Best-in-Class Sales Teams Leverage Social Selling, Aberdeen Group, November 2012.

[ii] Social Media and Sales Quota: The Impact of Social Media on Sales Quota and Corporate Revenue (A Research Report for B2B Companies), Social Centered Selling and A Sales Guy Consulting, 2012.

[iii] IBM Buyer’s Preference Study, 2011.

[iv] “Buyer Behavior Helps B2B Marketers Guide the Buyer’s Journey,” Lori Wizdo, Principal Analyst Serving Sales Enablement Professionals, Forrester Research, October 2012.