Are you thinking about using social media to achieve your sales goals? A July 2012 study by the Aberdeen Group, states that sales intelligence can enable sales reps to be 79 percent more likely to attain their quota, while organizations that leverage social intelligence programs are 21 percent more likely to achieve revenue growth.
There are companies making some early, advanced strides, and many that are still in the experimentation stages. Regardless of where you think you are at the moment, below are some ideas for effectively using those Twitter followers, Facebook likes, and LinkedIn Groups to help meet your quota.
Why you should mine social media sites to identify prospects
Often referral sales are much easier to get than cold calls. Most seasoned executives will look to a referral long before they ever talk to a new vendor. Today though, those referrals and references come in many forms, from LinkedIn endorsements to live chat.
"As a prospecting tool, I've gotten business from LinkedIn by honing my profile, which I wrote specifically to attract prospects," said Maura Schreier-Fleming, President of BestatSelling.com. "More and more of my customers that are online expect me to not only be there, but be engaged. As a speaker, trainer and author, my audience can vary as to how they get their information. For that reason, I use multiple tools to reach my audience, ranging from blogs and Linkedin, to Twitter and YouTube."
And why wouldn't you want to be there? Its great that there are no gatekeepers. Direct contact details are organized in the way you want to prospect or research them (by region, industry, role, etc). As a sales person you have an opportunity to hear the customer's voice, directly from their own mouths--good or bad.
The negative of all this is that searching through social media sites for data points can be a more complex method than using other search tools. However, these tools can provide a distinct cost and time advantage once mastered.
Focus on one platform where your customers interact
I suggest one of two places to start: either with what you are most comfortable using or what your customers use.
Other than asking directly what your customers use. There are free tools, like Socialmention, or paid ones like Radian6 or Act-on to determine top keywords, sentiment, influencers, and sources. Narrow your sources down to a few manageable ones that are easy to follow and have the most influence on your target market.
You can also go with the standard Top 3:
- LinkedIn in the US has become the standard for business-to-business (B2B) engagement. Personal and company profiles allow for networking with people at larger companies that might be interested in your product or service.
- Facebook is the place to be for business to consumer (B2C) sales engagement. This is because the largest group of the population is already there checking their profiles, participating with their connections and engaging with their communities. It's not that Facebook is bad for business, but just that it is a different type of person checking their profile daily than engaging in B2B discussions.
- Twitter, on the other hand, is what I would call a hybrid platform. It is for listening, not broadcasting. A recent article by Forbes writer Jaquelyn Smith states "Use what you hear as leverage to pick up the phone and call. Listen for problems that can be solved." I agree with this philosophy and it is also the easiest platform to follow due to the number of tools out there that support Twitter (ie Hootsuite or one of my new favorites SocialBro).
Don't limit yourself to the big three. Blogs, video sites, forums, and comment sections on websites are also great places to generate opportunities. Don't forget the new generation of up and comers too, like Google+. First find out where they are, join that community, then dive in.
I would also suggest that once you narrow down your platform, focus on mastering it before moving on to the next.
What do you mean by dive in?
You have picked your platform. It's now time to get acquainted with your community by setting up your profile. This is one of the most important steps so don't take it lightly. Complete it 100%, with your photo, job history and descriptions. Use descriptive terms and keywords that your customers use to find people like yourself. Don't sell and don't lie, but do focus on customer value statements, not self-serving descriptors. The purpose of your profile is not to show off, but to find that next customer or job based on your value to them based on your past experiences.
After your profile, it's time to get engaged with your community. There are many ways to do this:
- Join groups (in LinkedIn) or lists (on Twitter) based on companies you target or organizations your customers belong to
- Search for key influencers who talk about things your customers talk about
- Follow companies that you are targeting or who are currently your customers (all three platforms offer this)
Then read and listen.
Finding your tone
Every tool has their own method of engagement and its own tone, so look for the people who have a strong following, and mimic that tone/technique. For most:
- Be natural, helpful and honest
- Ask questions before making statements.
- Add value to their network.
- Don't sell before you have establish a relationship.
Who you are on-line is an influence on what people think of you in person and whether they want to do business with you.
Use content marketing to drive content for improved social engagement
Educating your customer is one of the best ways to drive engagement. David Steel, the Chief Viral Officer at Sneeze.It says
"Great social prospecting requires thought-provoking content every step of the way," Steel says. "Which is why social salespeople and marketers need to work together so closely. With the right piece of content sent to a prospect for direction, your foot is in the door every time."
Look to your marketing team to support the sales process. Many times educational material such as videos, blogs, webcasts, and white papers can touch on the topics most important to customers. There are also many outside agencies who can produce content for you at a reasonable cost.
A few tips on selling through a social platform:
Just as you might use D&B, Salesforce or web sites to research prospects, get to know them by reading their profiles and find something in common (a person, an activity, a conversation) and then dive into your traditional sales techniques. Think of social media as a way to build your reputation in terms of branding and impressions, rather than closing.
- Don't broadcast your request for an appointment to an entire group or list, send private emails or private posts.
- Use your knowledge of them to request a connection and to set a pre-scheduled call.
- Work on your relationship, not your revenue. That means ask questions, listen, sympathize and provide value before you suggest a solution.
- I am going to repeat this because it is really that important. Listen to what they are saying before commenting. This will open doors and start a conversation without having to make a cold call.
The best thing to do now is just dive in. You will make mistakes and you will get frustrated, but don't let that stop you. Social selling takes time and effort, but with the right content and engagement, it can reveal prospects that can pay dividends. That's what will happen when social media prospects become customers down the road.
*You can contact Maura Schreier-Fleming, President of BestatSelling.com