Are you a sales leader responsible for the results of your sales force?
Or are you a sales professional that is required to reach a sales quota?
The strategies outlined in this article are effective for sales professionals or any professional in B2B that wants to attract more leads and clients.
Social selling has become a widely used term, but still very few know how to do it effectively.
Social selling refers to finding and connecting with potential prospects via social media to increase sales. The Aberdeen Group defines social selling as the utilization one of three techniques, which includes:
- Social Collaboration – sharing information internally or with partners to pool knowledge on how to generate more leads & sales
- External Listening – the gathering and interpreting of information or content produced by clients and prospects
- External Participation – providing prospects with relevant and helpful content or information to build relationships and positively impact future buying decisions.
If you are still wondering if learning and using social sharing techniques is worth your time and resources, consider that 72.6% of salespeople who use social media outperform their colleagues who aren’t using it.
Statistics collected by The Aberdeen Group provide further compelling evidence as to the benefits of using social selling. Top social selling businesses or sales teams:
- Were 36% more likely than the average business or sales team to achieve their quota
- Saw a 12.2% higher year-over-year increase in total company revenue than the average business or sales team
- Saw a 7.2% higher year-over-year increase in the average deal size or contract value than the average business or sales team
Performance Benefits of Social Selling
In fact, today’s’ top social selling companies are leaps ahead of the average business, as they are:
- 50% more likely to provide their sales teams with mobile access to social content.
- 20% more likely to educate their staff on the use of social media tools.
- 27% more likely to support customer service using social media, enabling real time communication with their customers.
- 19% more likely to monitor their customers feeling and views about their brand to improve their messaging.
- 14% more likely to use social media to make direct connections with prospects to improve their lead generation.
- 29% more likely to use social media to expand their lead generation.
Social Selling Best Practices
In this article, I am going to share five steps to use LinkedIn for social selling specifically for sales professionals, sales teams and even large corporations. I am focusing on LinkedIn as it is widely used by not only business owners and professionals, but also C-Suite executives. This makes LinkedIn the best social network to connect directly with decision makers.
Before connecting with a prospect, ask yourself “How can I add value to this person?”
I am focusing on LinkedIn as it is widely used by not only business owners and professionals, but also C-Suite executives. This makes LinkedIn the best social network to connect directly with decision makers.
You must create a strategy that can help you identify your ideal clients and potential strategic alliances. Determine how you will connect with them, what steps you will take to build a relationship with them and what the ultimate goal of the relationship is.
This plan should include the steps you must take to move each prospect through the process and the approach you will take for each stage.
The different stages of social selling on LinkedIn include prospecting, making first contact, building the relationship and then finally moving the relationship offline where you convert a prospect to a client.
1. Finding Your Ideal Clients & Strategic Alliances
One area that most people forget about when using LinkedIn is the opportunity to connect with potential strategic alliances, not just prospects. Having someone else refer their client or connection to you results in third-party credibility and usually dramatically shortens the sales cycle with that prospective client.
Connect with other professionals that serve a similar audience as you and start to build relationships with them. You can also look at the connections of your current clients for anyone that may be an ideal prospect and ask for an introduction.
2. Prospecting On LinkedIn
There are two ways to prospect on LinkedIn. The first is by looking for prospects and the second is by making it easier for them to find you. Most of social selling is an active process but there are a number of things that you can do to help your efforts in a passive way as well.
The first thing you can do to help others find you is to optimize your profile for the specific keywords a prospect might use when seeking someone with the products or services that you provide.
The very first thing I do when I am providing LinkedIn training for a sales force is ensure they have laid their foundation for success by having a great LinkedIn profile. If you are going to be connecting with key decision makers you must ensure that your profile looks professional and that you look credible.
REMEMBER: It is important to know that when you are searching for prospects, only people in your network (1st, 2nd and 3rd level connections as well as members of the same group) will show up in your results. If you have a small network, you will have limited results. The same applies to anyone searching for the product or services that you offer. If you are not a part of their network, you will not show up. Adding new connections is an important part of an effective LinkedIn marketing campaign.
Optimize your profile to show up at the top of the search results.
There are two places you can begin searching for prospects, one is the Advanced Search and the second is through LinkedIn Groups.
Begin your search for prospects using LinkedIn’s powerful Advanced Search. The advanced search offers excellent functionality with the ability to search by relationship, groups, location and industry for all members (paid members have up to an additional eight fields to help them narrow down their searches).
If you find that a particular search produces great results, you may choose to save the search using the Save Search function. This will allow you to come back later and reuse that same search repeatedly, as well as see people that are new to your network that meet your search criteria with the click of a link.
With a free account you can search by relationship, groups, location and industry.
You can then sort and organize your search results using the Tags feature in LinkedIn Contacts (available to both free and paid members) to save the profiles of prospects, whether you are connected to them or not.
3. Make First Contact
You should think about your first contact with a prospect on LinkedIn the same way as the first time you meet someone face-to-face. You want to make a great first impression and leave them wanting to get to know you better.
When reaching out to prospects, approach it like you’re at a networking event and meeting them in person. Always start by greeting them by name. A simple “Hi Jonathan” works great.
The body of the invite is crucial. Remember that you only have 300 characters to convey your message. If you know this person, remind them how. If you have connections, interests or something else in common, you will want to mention that here. Give them a reason to want to click “Accept”.
Personalize your connection request and tell them why you want to connect.
It is very important to personalize your connection request as you do not want someone to click Spam or I Don’t Know This Person. If people click Spam or I Don’t Know This Person enough times you will be penalized and required to add an email address to each connection request you send.
If there is a particular prospect that you wish to connect with, you may want to send them an InMail first (you get a set number per month depending on the level of paid membership and free members can purchase up to 10 at a time).
The benefit of using an InMail is that they can be sent to ANY LinkedIn member, they have a very high open and response rate compared to email and if the prospect doesn’t respond back to you in 7 days, the InMail will be credited back to your account.
4. Build Relationships
Offer your prospects value with a free report, article, whitepaper etc.
After a person accepts your connection request, you will want to continue building the relationship. It’s a great idea to follow up with a personalized welcome/thank you message offering them something of value.
This may be a helpful article, infographic, checklist, eBook or video.
Depending on your social selling strategy, you might want to send another message or two over the next several weeks. You can even set up reminders using the LinkedIn Contacts feature to do this.
The content of these messages will greatly depend on your industry and objectives, but should NOT include anything that could be perceived as sales materials.
Build your relationships by continuing to provide value.
The messages should include something that is of clear value to your contact. This could include another free resource, a recent industry article or simply finding out a little more about them.
Use the Tags, Notes and Reminder features, located on a prospect’s profile page to help you stay organized through this process. Tag your prospects based on the categories you create and then set reminders for follow up.
You can use the Notes to store information about your contact that you may want to keep handy. The Reminder feature is a great way to keep track of when you want to send your next message a contact, so they are not forgotten or missed.
Keep track of your social selling process using the Tags, Notes & Reminders.
At the top of LinkedIn’s Contact page, in the contact highlight boxes, LinkedIn provides an excellent opportunity to further build your relationships. This feature highlights the birthdays, business anniversaries and job changes of all of your contacts. You can comment directly by clicking at the bottom of the box or by sending them a personal message.
Continue to build relationships on LinkedIn by acknowledging updates and special occasions.
5. Move it Offline
No relationship with a potential prospect should be kept solely on LinkedIn. The real magic happens when you move the relationship offline.
Social selling starts online but you must move it offline at some point.
The best time to ask to move your relationship offline is after a contact has responded to one of your relationship building messages.
If you do not hear back after this message, move the prospect into a Tag for dormant contacts. While you will not be actively working to build a relationship with this contact, you can continue to reach out to on occasion and monitor any changes with them. You might also try connecting with them on other social media platforms such as Twitter with a thoughtful reply to one of their tweets.
You will find your best success with social selling when you make your primary goal to offer great value to prospects and make them interested in learning more about how you can help them.
Social selling produces much better results than cold calling and allows you to easily reach the decision makers.
Are you or your sales team currently using LinkedIn for social selling? Share your results, questions or comments below.