The heart of sales is social interaction. For decades, sales meant treating a client to lunch or golf and paying for their drinks—all while trying to pitch them on why your greaseless widget is better than your competitor’s greaseless widget. In today’s world, as B2B decision-makers move 66-90% of the way through the sales funnel before they contact your sales team, it’s imperative to understand how social selling empowers you to communicate with customers before they ever pick up the phone.
“Social selling” isn’t just a buzzword. A recent study by Jim Keenan found that 78.6% of sales people who engage contacts on social media outperformed their peers who don’t. Keenan also found that these sales professionals were 23% more likely to exceed their sales quota. After IBM instituted a social selling program, the company realized a 400% increase in sales. Social media is a proven tool, so we’ll walk you through 6 strategies to connect with leads and contacts on Social Media and increase your close rates.
Social Selling Infographic by InsideView
1) Never Make a Cold Call Again
On Monday morning, your Sales Director hands you a recently purchased contact list. You see a faceless page of names, email addresses, and phone numbers and begin plugging them into your CRM. At this point, you have two options—start the long cold-calling process, or begin searching for your contacts on social media.
On average, you’ve got 30 seconds of a contact’s time before they either decide they’re interested in what you have to say, or hang up. How valuable would it be to know what they shared 15 minutes ago on Twitter or LinkedIn? Finding buzzwords, topics, or a common interest can be the key to securing an instant connection. If you have their full name, email address, and company, you can perform a quick search on Twitter or LinkedIn to see if they have active accounts.
2) Connect With Leads on LinkedIn
Social-selling isn’t just about engaging with a lead before your first conversation. Once you’ve qualified your contact, make sure that you connect with them on LinkedIn. Here you’ll find even more information about their job responsibilities, skills, and the structure of their company. Every business is unique; for instance, Marketing Directors’ responsibilities vary drastically from industry to industry. Research what your contact is responsible for in their “Background” section and confirm it on your next call. “Is it true that you are responsible for MQLs and SQLs, or are you more focused on raw lead generation?” Understanding nuances about their position and company can go a long way in establishing a trusting relationship down the road.
3) Endorse Skills & Expertise on LinkedIn
After you’ve connected with a contact on LinkedIn, one painless (and free) way to reach out to them is to endorse their skills. On your calls, make sure you listen carefully to what they are passionate and knowledgeable about and endorse them accordingly. This is also a great tactic to keep in touch with a customer once a deal has been completed. When upsell opportunities arise, you want to make sure you’ve remained in touch and don’t just come calling when you want more money.
4) “Like” and “Share” Their Social Updates
As you get more familiar with a contact and have connected with them on social platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter, begin interacting with their updates. Liking, commenting, and sharing their posts is an effective way to prove you are listening to them and their unique business challenges. It can also give you a lot of insight into how you should tailor your proposal or pitch. It may take some digging to find them on Social Media sites outside of LinkedIn, but your investment will reap rewards down the road.
5) Share Relevant Content With Contacts
If every one of your interactions with a client is a sales pitch, they are going to be turned off. As you develop that relationship, make sure that you are sprinkling in articles, videos, and guides that they might find useful or helpful. Gartner and Forrester conduct outstanding research materials for executives, so they are a good place to start when looking for high-level content. On Twitter and LinkedIn, it’s easy to share content by including their name or handle using the @ symbol in your post.
6) Increase Retention Throughout the Sales Process
Social Media is a nimble medium that allows sales teams to engage with prospects without being overbearing. Instead of 3 emails or phone calls a week to retain attention on a proposal, it’s less intrusive to share content with a contact on social media. From initial introduction to close to renewals and upsells, staying in touch with your contacts on social media means staying one step ahead of your competitors.
LinkedIn Social Selling Impact (Aberdeen 2013 Report)
Of course, these Social Selling recommendations are only effective if you are regularly active on Social Media. It doesn’t look good if you have only tweeted 10 times in your life and it’s only to reach out to sales contacts. Make sure to consistently post content that is relevant to your industry or that is useful for your clients. In my own social media management, I save personal posts for Facebook where I am connected only with friends and family. On Google+, Twitter, and LinkedIn, my posts are professionally focused and business-oriented.
Have you already created a Social Selling strategy for your sales team? If not, we’d love to talk to you about our custom Social Selling Training Program.