Social media has evolved over the past 5 or so years from being a place to share photos from your holiday, watch funny videos and stalk your ex! It's used for a variety of real business purposes & customer service, PR, marketing and recruitment. But what about sales?
Well if you’re a B2B organisation, professional social network LinkedIn provides a viable alternative to cold-calling and buying bulk email data. Is your sales team struggling to meet its sales quota or has your business development team struggled to uncover enough new leads? Well, LinkedIn might be able to help. With over 360m users globally and the most educated and affluent social media member-base. 49% of LinkedIn’s users are key decision-makers, making the social network invaluable to B2B marketers and sales professionals alike.
Twitter is also an invaluable source of news and opinion, and a great way to develop a personal brand and conduct research, providing an opportunity to deepen and nurture relationships. You’re more likely to learn more about leads’ hobbies and interests on Twitter than LinkedIn but finding quality leads is much more difficult.
The following steps can help you achieve social selling success using LinkedIn and Twitter and could supplement or replace cold-calling in your organisation.
1. Look the part
As in real life, first impressions count online. Just like you’d consider wearing your best suit or outfit for an important meeting or interview, you can ‘spruce up’ your LinkedIn profile to create the right impression and make a greater impact on the social network. By working on your personal brand, adding detail to your profile, you’ll appear in more search results and more importantly, the right search results for your target audience. Professional photos add credibility and help to increase engagement – profiles with photos are 7 times more likely to be viewed than those without. LinkedIn has its own ranks for LinkedIn profiles. Make sure yours is at all-star level before you reach out to prospective clients!
2. Demonstrate expertise
Everyone has some expertise, the trick is to find your angle and to find ways to demonstrate your knowledge. By being social (we are talking about social media after all), you can demonstrate your knowledge in a particular field or area. The idea of writing blog posts and maintaining a stream of social media updates will naturally sound daunting to many, but it doesn’t have to be as time-consuming as it sounds.
Curate content – set up a free social listening tool like Hootsuite, TweetDeck or Buffer to set up searches for keywords, phrases, topics and influencers related to your area of expertise. When you come across social media posts that link to articles that attract your interest (professionally), and more importantly, you think will be of interest to your target audience, share them via your own LinkedIn and Twitter accounts. But don’t just hit retweet or share, add your own commentary to it. Adding commentary like “Great article, worth a read”, “this is really interesting:” or “if you work in <industry>, you should read this” can work, but try to be more specific to your own audience and drop in keywords that your target audience would be searching for.
In order to really stand out from the crowd, create your own content. To demonstrate thought leadership and attract people to visit and interact with you, tweeting regularly is important, as is using LinkedIn, either by sharing updates or writing long-form ‘Pulse’ posts. Be timely – tweet, post or blog on trending topics – news from your industry, legislative changes, etc. Think about what your target sectors will be talking about and tap into those conversations.
3. Do your homework
Don’t dive in and connect/message/tweet potential clients the minute you’ve set up your social media profiles. Use the tools available and do some research – remember this is a personal brand campaign and as with all communications campaigns, intelligence gathering is crucial. What has the target company been saying on their website, blog, LinkedIn Company page, Twitter account or Facebook page recently? What are the key personnel in those target companies saying on their own social media profiles? What’s going on in the target company’s industry right now? Use all of that information to make educated, relevant communications with those identified as leads.
4. Tap into the power of your network
So you’re ready to send a message to a potential client or connect with them? Wait! You might know someone in common that could add even more warmth to your initial communication. LinkedIn makes it very easy to see how you’re connected to someone else. You might have a co-worker who’s already connected to that person. Maybe even a friend or family member. If that’s the case, you could ask for an introduction, ask that mutual friend or colleague for some extra information about the person you’d like to contact or quite simply, drop the mutual contact’s name into your message.
5. Get support to achieve success
While most of the above can be achieved with a free LinkedIn and Twitter account, LinkedIn’s Premium licences can really make your life easier. The Sales Navigator account allows you to save people as leads for future consideration, save searches, send InMail (to non-connections) and it even suggests companies and people that may be of interest to you. And if you’re planning on rolling out social selling en-masse to a large team of sales and new business professional sales, you could seek support from a specialist agency (*ahem, like ours*) to train, support and manage your community of sales professionals.