Social Selling: Step Up Your Game

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celebrationImagine, for a moment, you’re at a party where you don’t know many people. You’re happy to mingle with other guests to pass the time, since you’re a sociable sort with (ordinarily) plenty to say, but you’re rather quickly finding that you’re having to force conversation when none arises – you’re interjecting in exchanges others have, chiming in without warning, because you fear you won’t be noticed or asked to join if you stand idly by.

Of course, you take it all in stride because you know it to be the nature of these sorts of get-togethers, where friends of friends of friends meet for the first time; but wouldn’t the whole experience be easier if you had a clue who to approach and what to say right off the bat?

Wouldn’t your conversations be more genuine, more productive, if you’d prepared by building relationships?

Build relationships through social selling

This, in many ways, is the problem social selling solves. It allows for a level of service and personality that cold calling precludes, for communications between brands and buyers that are nuanced and customizable, and tailored to specific interests, needs and industries. Its benefits are legion: according to InsideView, businesses with active blogs generate 67% more leads than their less-connected peers, and using Twitter can drive 2x as many leads. Even tech giant IBM reported a 400% increase in sales through a first-quarter social selling program in 2011.

Herewith, a few ways your business can leap ahead with social selling:

Listen twice as much as you (speak/tweet/post)

Buyers won’t take kindly to brands or salespeople who aren’t willing to hear them, so make it a point to reach out to customers personally if they should ask a question, make a complaint, or raise an issue. Tag them in your posts and keep an eye to the hashtags they use. Be vigilant as to the topics or solutions that come to trend, so that when the time comes to approach them on social to introduce your product, you can speak their language; you’ve shown them that you listen and are invested in solving their problems.

As this piece from Tech Cocktail points out (http://tech.co/yes-increase-sales-revenue-use-big-data-social-selling-5-insights-2014-04), members of your social networks aren’t likely to all be in the same place in the buying cycle. This means you should vary the tone and aim of the pieces of content you offer. Give whitepapers here, links to webinars there, with an eye to early and mid-funnel materials especially.

Make personas a priority

It’s imperative that you be personal and tailored in your communications with social media users, so DO YOUR RESEARCH. Look up individual users if they should reach out to your company or express a grievance with a competitor. Come to them armed with information about their companies, their pain points, their status as buyers.

Also consider your own persona as a salesperson, or user of social media. What are your interests? What are your specialties? Where do you see yourself best utilized? Prospects won’t trust an approach by a person who looks only to sell, sell, and sell, so build out your “curbside appeal,” as Gerry Moran, Head of Social Media Marketing for SAP in North America, puts it in his piece “The Cure for the Common Cold Call Is Social Selling.”

Share other things of interest to you, of general interest to your followers. Moran suggests tweeting 10 times a day, with smart, helpful, early-to-mid funnel related content; updating your LinkedIn profile three to five times daily by sharing articles, research graphics, SlideShare presentations, and videos; and blogging one or twice a weekly.

Put relationships ahead of product

At the end of the day, you’re as much an educator as you are an ambassador when it comes to representing your brand on social. Don’t just hawk your wares; really work to show why they could be useful, and how your prospects can benefit.

From Moran again, quoting an IDG figure: “89% of buyers say vendor-provided educational content is acceptable on social networks…so using social media to distribute this content to build your reputation is a solid cure to the common cold call.”

More suggestions from Gerry Moran:

-        Be efficient and smart in the touches you make/interactions you have: follow customers on Twitter; retweet and Favorite their content; place them on public lists; comment on their blogs; contribute to conversations in shared forums (LinkedIn groups, message boards, and so forth) and pass on links to 3rd party content; “like” material they share.

-        Open up a line of communication with customers. Pose questions to them and “mention” or ”reply” to them thoughtfully. Once a dialogue has been started (and only then), connect with them on LinkedIn.

-        Fall back on your existing network and connections. “When a shared and trusted contact brokers a meeting, you will have an increased chance for success. By increasing the size of your network with past and current coworkers, you can increase the pool from which you can pull to make these warm referrals.”

So there you have it. As always preparation is half the battle; and success lies in the collision between preparation and opportunity. Take the time to create and foster relationships, and you’ll reap the rewards of social selling.

Do you have a social selling success story to share?

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