When I first became a real estate agent back in the early ’80s, selling was a pretty uncomplicated process. You either picked up the phone or knocked at the door, and then started in on your sales pitch. And if no one hung up the phone or slammed the door in your face, you had a pleasant conversation. A relationship started.
Today things are much different. People’s lives are busier than ever and their world… their attention… is held in the palm of their hand.
Welcome to the digital age. A time where it’s much more challenging to grab that attention and have a simple conversation. How do you adjust to that?
In this blog post, you’ll learn a few essential tips that will help you:
- Establish your professional social media presence;
- Research and plan your social selling activities;
- Prospect and engage on social media channels.
So let’s begin…
Technology has always played an important role in sales — from the phone to the fax machine to email. Each new form of technology that rolled out provided an improved way for salespeople to understand and connect with prospects and customers. And the latest piece of technology, social media, is no different.
Social media has made it easier for you to more efficiently identify prospects and customers. It allows you to build important relationships and nurture them over time, and essentially speed up your sales process.
But if you think you’re going to instantly close deals over Twitter or target prospects by bombarding them with never-ending LinkedIn requests, think again.
Social Selling Success.
Successful salespeople use social media to listen in on relevant conversations within their space. They look for the opportunity to engage with potential customers. They look to offer help or information at just the right moment. It’s how they build trust and familiarity, which eventually leads to a business transaction.
And today, people are very willing and open to talk about everything and anything. Their thoughts, their feelings, and their challenges are all there on social media for the world to see.
You’re able to gain tremendous insight and an enormous competitive advantage from social media. It allows you to better understand your customers’ needs and wants. And you can uncover pain points and notice buying signals, You can better qualify your prospects, have more authentic interactions, and ultimately have more sales.
Engaging with prospects on social media lets you appear more personable, too. People do business with those they know, like, and trust. Social media gives you not only the opportunity to share your professional interests, but your personal ones as well. This helps you deliver a more personal experience. Your potential customers may be more inclined to do business with you as a result.
Social Media Complements Traditional Selling
Keep in mind that social selling isn’t meant to stand on its own or be used to simply close deals. Not at all. It’s meant to complement your traditional selling channels of emailing, phone calling, and networking. Use it wisely to gather information, and build trust and rapport.
Use social to earn the privilege of that face-to-face meeting or phone conversation. Incorporating it into your selling process helps create warmer leads, build more solid relationships, and can contribute more revenue to your bottom line.
One important thing you want to be careful of. Don’t use social media for making only sales pitches — or even a majority of them. It’s counterproductive, a complete turn-off to your prospective customers, and they’ll stop following you in a heartbeat.
Establishing Your Professional Social Media Presence.
LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook are the three main networks that are used for social selling. But that doesn’t mean other platforms, like Instagram or Snapchat, should be ignored. It all depends on where your target audience is most active. And that should be your primary focus when choosing which social platforms to be on.
Once you establish a profile on any given platform, make sure you’re maintaining it. If you’re neglecting it for whatever reason and a prospect or customer discovers it, your reputation will be negatively impacted. You’ll appear uncaring and unprofessional in their eyes. So just delete that profile if you have to rather than letting it idly sit.
Getting Things in Order.
Before you start establishing your social media presence, take the time to clearly define your personal brand. Start by asking yourself: Who am I and what’s important to me?
Consider the skills and value that you bring to your customers. Include your personal interests and passions, too. This will enable you to have more authentic relationships with your prospects and customers. It will make you more relatable with them and give you a more well-rounded social presence.
Again, establish yourself on those social networks where your ideal customers are most active. Start by looking at what your current prospects and customers have in common.
- Do they work for a particular company?
- Are they business owners?
- Are they young families just starting out?
This will help you determine where your ideal audience is on social. And f your company has its own marketing department, use their insights to help you, too.
Keep in mind the type of content you’ll create for social engagement. It needs to be appropriate for the specific platform you choose.
Your Professional Presence on LinkedIn.
For business-to-business (B2B) social selling, LinkedIn is the perfect place to be. It’s a way for you to connect with key decision-makers based on their professional characteristics. Think of it as a place to make a great first impression, tell your professional story, and separate yourself from your competition.
Make sure you have a professional, up-to-date profile image. You want to make that great first impression. Keep it as real as possible, so it shows what you normally look like when you’re meeting with customers. If you need to, ask the opinion of a mentor or trusted colleague for guidance.
Choose an appropriate background photo that appropriately represents your personal brand or company. And you’ll want to make sure you use the same images across all social platforms.
Under “Contact Info”, Include your phone number and links to your Twitter profile and website. And customize your LinkedIn URL with something short and memorable, so you’re more than just a number.
Add your birthday under the “Additional Information” section. It’s an easy way to be top of mind within your network at least once a year. It provides an opportunity for you to re-engage with contacts that you haven’t engaged with for awhile.
Your LinkedIn Profile’s Focus
Focus on providing three main pieces of information in your profile’s “Summary” section:
- What attracted you into the business and what are you passionate about?
- What you do in your current position?
- What your does your company do?
When completing this section, focus on what you can do for your customers rather than on what your own personal achievements are. Write in the first person and use keywords that are relevant to your niche.
Add high-quality media to support your credibility, if you can. You can use links, Slideshares, and videos. And make sure you mention your employer in your job title to add to your credibility, too.
Connect with fellow alumni by adding your post-secondary education credentials. Keep in mind that fellow alumni might be in a position to introduce you to a key decision-maker in companies you’re targeting or you might discover that they themselves are your perfect prospect.
Social proof helps you to build credibility and trustworthiness. So start with seeking out positive recommendations from previous and existing clients to highlight your professional integrity and success.
Your goal should be to have two or more endorsements for each position you have listed. And when you request a recommendation from someone, personalize your message to remind them of how you worked together. It helps them summarize your professional relationship more easily.
There are certain industries that restrict professionals from seeking out endorsements, like the financial services industry. It’s important that you check relevant regulations and compliance policies before gathering social proof in these types of industries.
Another form of social proof are skill endorsements. Start by endorsing the skills of other people within your network. Put this into practice each time you log in to LinkedIn. By endorsing the skills of others, you’re helping them build their social proof. And in return, you’ll often find that they’ll endorse your skills to help you build yours, too.
As for your skill list, keep it relevant to your industry and specialty. Avoid having too many skills listed. You don’t want to have your endorsements watered down because of having what seems to be an endless list. Make sure the list is up to date, and delete those that have little to no meaning to your current position. And add any certifications you have.
The last thing is to join relevant LinkedIn groups. And remember the “social” in social media. Make sure you’re participating in your groups with helpful information, and that you’re liking and thoughtfully commenting on the posts of others. This helps increase your visibility and builds your reputation.
Congratulations! If you’ve done all of the above, LinkedIn will give you an “all-star” status. LinkedIn’s algorithm favors the all-star status and gets you in front of more people. It means that you have a completely filled out and active profile and are engaging on the platform.
Your Professional Presence on Twitter.
Twitter is a very valuable and essential platform for growing your professional profile. And because of how public it is, your customers can connect with you easily. Twitter also has great search capabilities that you’ll find useful in conducting audience research, gaining competitive insights, and discovering industry influencers.
Your Twitter Bio.
When writing your bio, make sure your description is precise. Think of four or five terms that best describe your products or services. These are your relevant keywords. Work them into your description. If appropriate, mention your company’s handle or hashtag. And there’s nothing wrong with including any personal interests and passions you have outside of work either.
Make sure all sections are completely filled out. Don’t forget to add a link to your website in the website field. If you don’t have a website, use a link to your LinkedIn profile or Facebook page. You can even use a shortened URL if you like to track click-through rates.
In the location field, put a location most suitable for the customers you serve and where they’re located. This won’t necessarily be your specific location. And with your profile and cover images, make sure they’re bright, well-composed, and of high resolution. It’s best to use a professional picture of yourself for your profile image.
Make sure you use the same images across all platforms. This makes you easily recognizable when someone searches you out, and it builds familiarity with your audience. And if you have a marketing department, they may have recommendations on images to use.
If Twitter is a new platform for you, make sure you populate the media gallery by uploading and sharing a minimum of six images and/or videos that pertain to your business. This will improve your page’s visual impact. Yes, looks matter.
Your Professional Presence on Facebook
Facebook is one of those platforms that’s designed for personal relationships. But it’s a powerful tool for sales professionals, too. Having a Facebook business page can help you build relationships with prospects and customers and widen your sphere of influence.
When creating your Facebook business page, you’re going to name your page and choose a username. Give careful thought to both, especially your username. Facebook allows you to change your username only once, although this policy does seem to change from time to time.
I’ve changed my username several times and only experienced waiting periods for Facebook approvals. And I’ve also received notification that I cannot change my username back or to another username until a certain period of time has passed (usually seven days). So just be aware of that.
Which Facebook Business Page Type Should You Use?
Next you’ll be choosing a page type, and each page type has different features. The type of page that has the most functionality is the “Local Business or Place” page type. It features a map, check-ins, and ratings and reviews. This works best if your business has a physical address, like your office, and if having public reviews from satisfied customers are important to you.
The other page type you’ll want to consider is the “Public Figure”, “Business Person” one. This type is great if you don’t have a physical business location and if reviews aren’t all that important to you.
As you’re completing your “About” section, know that your first 140 characters will be visible in search engine results. For this reason, put your most important information first. And providing your address and phone number will help search engines index you in local search results.
Make sure you’re “About” section is complete with your mission and your story, too. It builds credibility and makes you appear more authentic.
As for profile and cover images, just like with LinkedIn and Twitter, make sure your images are professional, of the highest resolution possible, and are a true reflection of who you are and what you do. Portray yourself as a trustworthy professional.
Calls to Action.
Facebook makes it really easy to drive action from your Facebook business page with a call-to-action button. Choose one that’s most appropriate for your situation and what you want people to do. For example, if you want them to call you on the phone, choose the “Contact Us” button and add your phone number. And then test it to make sure you’ve set it up properly.
There will be times when you’ll want to change your call-to-action button. So be in the habit of testing your call-to-action button regularly to ensure that it’s leading your customers to where you want them to go.
Additional Facebook Business Page Considerations.
There are literally hundreds of handy third-party apps that Facebook integrates with, like MailChimp and Instagram and Twitter. So if you want to grow a subscriber list with a newsletter, you can use the MailChimp app in the sidebar. This way, your visitors can opt-in to it and not have to leave Facebook. This makes for a better user experience, which is what you want with anything you do online.
And finally, “like” other pages as your business page. This will showcase them as featured pages on your own page. This is useful in instances, for example, when you’re a real estate agent and you want to connect your page with that of your company’s page and vendors you like to recommend.
Research and planning on social media.
Now that you’re all set up on your relevant social platforms, you can begin researching and planning. There are two components to this: Active searching & social listening. Your goal is to gather as much information as possible. This makes your outreach to prospects and clients efficient and effective.
With active searching, you’re using the search functionality of each social platform to proactively look for new leads, decision-makers, companies, insights, influencers, etc. On LinkedIn for example, based on your targeted company profile, you can actively search for new leads by industry or job title.
Start by identifying commonalities between your top customers. For example:
- What are their common challenges or interests?
- Which search terms are associated with them and people like them?
Social listening means that you’re monitoring your social channels and listening in on what your prospects, customers, competitors and industry influencers are talking about. It’s just like listening in on conversations at networking events. Listen for relevant mentions on product and competitor conversations, key industry terminology, industry and conference hashtags, and messages sent by your customers.
Use the data in your customer relationship management software (CRM) you have on your existing key customers and prospects. Go online and look for patterns and trends in what they’re doing on social media across multiple platforms. For example:
- On Twitter, what are they tweeting about?
- Which groups do they belong to on LinkedIn or Facebook?
Social listening provides insights into customer and industry conversations taking place on social media. It’s a way of keeping customers on your radar to help you better understand their needs, speak their language, and identify their buying signals. You can position yourself as the industry influencer and their trusted adviser because you’ll also be the first to learn about and share industry news and updates.
Measuring Your Social Selling’s ROI.
Tracking your return on investment (ROI) over time is important. You’ll want to determine the impact your social selling has on your business. Measure top of funnel activities like:
- How many leads did you find?
- How many engagements took place?
- How many people did you reach out to?
Measuring these top of funnel activities then sets you up to track conversion rates, meetings booked, and sales dollars as a result of your social selling activities.
Using LinkedIn for Research & Planning
LinkedIn is an excellent platform to use for research and planning in social selling because you can:
- Leverage your existing relationships and contacts;
- Build relationships when you actively search for prospects.
For leveraging, it’s important that you connect with your current and past prospects and customers. If you haven’t done that already, start there.
Connecting with Fellow Alumni.
Next connect with fellow alumni if you attended a college or university. Look at the industries they work in and the companies they work for and in what capacity. They could be your way into the companies you’re targeting or you may discover that they, themselves, are prospects.
To locate your fellow alumni, type in your college or university in the search bar and click on the magnifying glass. Then go to the “Schools” tab and click on your school. Click on the “See Alumni” button, and from there you’ll be able to seek them by location, job title, keyword, or company.
Connect with People You Meet at an Events.
Next, when you meet someone at a networking event or conference, it’s a good idea to connect with those contacts on LinkedIn, too. Because the larger your network, the better chance you’ll have of getting introduced to a key prospect or decision-maker.
Always make sure you’re connecting on LinkedIn. It will decrease the degrees of separation between you and that important prospect you’re looking to do business with.
Now this doesn’t mean that you connect with everyone and their mother on LinkedIn. Quality is much more important than quantity. So when you’re reaching out to connect, do so with purpose and in keeping with creating a mutually beneficial relationship.
Always personalize your connection requests. It’s a nice touch that will help you stand out from the crowd. Add a short little note that mentions how you know that person and why you’re reaching out to connect. You don’t want to look like a spammer.
Time to Start Active Searching and Engaging on LinkedIn.
With your existing connections now in position to be leveraged, you can now start actively searching for potential leads and new connections. All you need to do is tap the magnifying glass in the search bar, and all of your searching capabilities appear right in that window.
And there are so many options available to you. You’re able to search by industry, location, keywords, degrees of separation, etc. Explore your possibilities.
When you’re viewing your prospects’ profiles, make sure you check out “People Also Viewed”. It’s a great way to learn and discover new people in key positions. And under “My Network” tab, be in the habit of regularly reviewing the “People You May Know” list. It will help you connect with people you’ve either met or done business with.
Joining LinkedIn groups is another benefit of this platform. In doing so, you’re able to build additional relationships by interacting and contributing your business expertise within those groups.
To search for and join a group, click the down arrow under the “Work” tab, and click on “Groups.” This leads you to where you can discover new groups to join and interact with groups you’re already a part of.
Sales Navigator Professional.
If you’re using Sales Navigator Professional, a paid level of service, you can follow your targeted companies and regularly monitor their feeds. This gives you valuable insights that will benefit your sales efforts. It’s a best practice to keep your list of companies small. This way you don’t miss key updates.
Another valuable feature of Sales Navigator Professional is, once you connect with someone, you have the feature of relationship notes, where you can note why they’re important to you and what you’re looking to achieve. You also have the capability to set reminders for follow-ups, and tags that help you segment your connections.
The free version of LinkedIn is very powerful for the new as well as seasoned professional. But if you’re wondering whether the paid version is more suitable for you, here’s something to keep in mind. If you find you’re needing a particular LinkedIn feature frequently and clicking on that feature constantly reminds you that it’s part of the paid version, then it’s time to subscribe.
Using Twitter for Research & Planning
Twitter has very powerful search capabilities, which makes it ideal for social listening. And Twitter lists are the perfect tool.
A Twitter list is a way to customize your feed in your profile. It allows you to easily monitor the activity of members of that list in a single view.
You can set up a Twitter list from your laptop by clicking on your profile thumbnail in the upper right-hand corner. Click “Lists” from the drop-down. Again on the right, you’ll see a button for “Create List”. Click it and give your list a name and a description, then save.
You can make your Twitter lists public or private. Because you’re using your lists as a listening tool to gain insights into your industry, make them private. You don’t want to share your competitive intelligence with anyone.
Some lists you may want to consider:
- Prospects and current customers, so you can identify buying signals and look for opportunities to engage.
- Competitors and competing salespeople, so you can track conversations they’re having with their customers.
- Industry publications and influencers, so you can keep on top of your industry and share important news and updates with your audience.
Keeping on top of industry-related trends, events and news is easy on Twitter with hashtag and keyword searches. And you can use Twitter’s advanced search feature to dig deeper into your research by adding words, people, places and dates. Just don’t forget to enter anything you’ve discovered or anyone you’ve interacted with into your CRM.
Using Your Facebook Business Page for Research & Planning.
For learning anything you want to know about your audience or competition, Facebook has an amazing tool called “Insights”. You can find it as one of the tabs in your Business Manager. Scrolling down in that section, you’re able to choose “Pages to Watch”. This lets you track competitors and their posts and see all the engagement taking place on their Facebook business page.
“Audience Insights” is another powerful tool. It provides valuable information such as demographics, location, common interests, household statistics and purchasing behaviors of your followers. All of this information helps you to make better decisions when planning your sales strategy.
Prospecting and Engaging with Social Media
Once you’ve done all of your research and identified your target prospects and the conversations taking place, you’re now ready to engage on social media. It’s really very simple.
Some of the ways you would engage:
- Comment on a blog or social media post that your prospects are posting and start a conversation that displays your expertise;
- Thank 3 to 5 new followers on Twitter each day;
- Retweet a relevant tweet of a prospect or leave a thoughtful reply;
- Like or share a prospect’s post on LinkedIn;
- Direct message a particular piece of content to a prospect with a note that tells them why you think they might find it interesting.
Be genuine in your interactions and replies. Don’t be too salesy, and keep your expectations reasonable. You’re not going to make a million dollar sale with a single Tweet. Your goals are to establish yourself as the go-to person, create awareness, and stay top of mind when you’re prospects and customers are looking for solutions to their specific situations.
Take the time to build relationships and establish trust. Social selling is about warming up your prospects and customers. This will make you more effective when reaching out to them with a phone call or email.
Think about engaging on social media while attending a conference or event. Most have their own event-specific hashtag. This gives you the perfect opportunity to engage in live discussions relevant to your business in the moment.
When engaging in live discussions on Twitter, remember that all of your engagement shows up on your Tweets and Replies lists. So if you’re reaching out to everyone with the same line, beware. You’ll come off as spammy and no one will take you seriously. Instead, make sure you personalize your responses and reach outs each and every time.
Consider using the “Ask for an Introduction” feature in LinkedIn prior to attending an event or conference, or in any other situation that’s appropriate. A couple of the best ways to connect with a senior executive of a company are through a shared internal connection of someone within their company and an external referral by someone both of you know and trust. So take advantage of that.
Sharing Social Content.
Sharing social media content is very valuable when it comes to positioning yourself as your customer’s trusted adviser or thought leader. So share content that educates your prospects and customers. Lead with value. Know where to find the best articles, videos and infographics to share on your social channels.
You can either create your own content yourself, or you can have it created or curated by trusted sources within your industry. Look to your Influencer list on Twitter regularly to find high-quality content to share or be inspired by.
Another source of authoritative, well-researched content that you can trust and share can be found in industry publications. And if you have a marketing department, turn to them for suitable content resources, as well.
Setting up Google alerts using keywords to locate great articles and news can be another source of great content for your audience to enjoy. And if your one of your prospects share something interesting and helpful, like, comment or reshare it. Just make sure you read the article first.
When resharing someone else’s article on Twitter, tag the author in your Tweet. It’s a great way to give someone positive attention. And when someone tags or otherwise engages with you, respond with a thank you and/or a thoughtful reply.
Before sharing any piece of content, always ask yourself:
- Does this bring value to my customers?
- Does it support my business objectives?
- Does it fall within my brand’s guidelines?
But don’t be afraid to share content that reflects your personality, passions, and interests either. This keeps your content well-rounded, and creates the chance for you to engage and interact with your prospects and customers on a more personable level.
Direct Messaging Best Practices.
All social platforms, whether it be Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., provide you with the ability to send a direct (private) message. This helps you connect with people on a one-on-one basis.
With Twitter and Facebook, taking a public interaction into a private message is how direct messaging is best used. For instance, when it’s not appropriate to discuss things in public or there’s no benefit to having everyone know something, like a phone number, that’s when you would use direct messaging.
For Twitter, in order to send someone a direct message, you must be following one another. And Facebook won’t allow you to message someone from your business page unless they have reached out to you first.
Direct Messaging on LinkedIn
Direct messaging on LinkedIn is used more like email than a back and forth chat. You can upgrade to LinkedIn’s prepaid InMail service, if you wish. This comes in handy when you don’t have someone’s email address and need to get in touch with them, and you’re not already connected with them on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn’s InMail is also convenient when you’re traveling out of town for a conference or a meeting and you want to connect with a prospect or customer in that location. With InMail, you’re able to send a personalized message to let them know you’ll be in the area and available for a quick meeting.
LinkedIn is great for keeping in touch because it notifies you when someone in your network gets mentioned in the news, has a birthday, work anniversary, changes jobs, or gets promoted. So you can send a happy birthday wish or a congratulations.
Make sure you personalize your message, this way you’ll stand out from the bunch of generic messages they’ll receive. As your network grows and you’re using LinkedIn more and more, you might want to create templates for messages you send out most frequently.
Practice proper etiquette when you’re reaching out through a private message. Make sure your contacting that person for a good reason, and avoid sending generic sales pitches.
When contacting someone, send a message that’s relevant and personalized. And if the communication is appropriate to talk about your product or service, make sure you’re addressing their specific pain points.
Always respect your prospects’ and customers’ time, and be clear and upfront with your purpose right away. When following up, never send the same message over and over again. Your message will be regarded as spam.
When you get a new follower or someone reaches out to connect with you, message them back to say thank you. You might also want to ask them how you can help. You never know when that person reaching out is doing so because they’re looking for a new solution. So make a great first impression! Do the same when an existing contact on LinkedIn endorses your skills. It’s a great way to start a conversation.
In the end…
Think of your social media as a way to reach out and warm your prospects up to eventually meet with you face-to-face or talk on the phone. It’s a great way to stay top of mind, so when they’re ready to buy, you’re right there, ready to help. And it really isn’t any more complicated than that.
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