OK, I’ll admit it. At first, I didn’t buy into the “social selling”craze. I’d see social media experts popping up everywhere, claiming that social selling was the wave of the future. But I didn’t even know who half of these “experts” were. (Then again, six months ago I thought Twitter was what a chatty bird might do, and Google Plus was an internal email service for Google employees. My bad.)
Good thing I started consuming massive amounts of content on the topic, because I soon realized that the statistics on social selling were not a joke, and I finally figured out all social media avenues that are vital to sales people who are truly interested in joining the ranks of the ‘quota-crushers.’ Don’t just take it from me – here’s what social media expert Jill Konrath (@jillkonrath) has to say: “Sales professionals who use social selling are 51% more likely to exceed their quota.”
Say what? Who the heck wouldn’t want to try social selling with a stat like that? I can honestly say that I’m not an expert, but I can say my slowly evolving adoption of social selling has had a major impact on kicking my quota’s tail. Would I leverage social media exclusively? No, but it is sure is making a huge difference.
Practical advice lacking
I’m going to get into my secret sauce of social selling in a minute, but before I do, I think it’s important to give a little background into why I started buying into social selling. At first, the experts bogged me down with their theories about the power of social selling. But it was all theory – rarely would I find practical advice to help me achieve what I set out to do (which, as I mentioned before, is quota-crushing).
I went back to the drawing board and figured out that if I invested the time to understand social selling, and mastered some basic techniques, I really would have the competitive advantage. (I am a sucker for anything that gives me a competitive advantage.)
My social selling approach has certainly evolved, and surprisingly, it has really allowed me to enjoy both the digital journey and the amazing people I have met along the way. (The additional sales were nice, too.) Now, I’m starting to understand the power of digital networking, and the importance of digital relationships. You might be surprised to discover how many of these relationships have created a sale, both directly and indirectly, or that they are evolving into connections that deliver value to both sides.
I’m not saying that all of these digital relationships have turned into a sale, and that’s certainly not the way to leverage social selling. You use social selling as a way to understand, educate, get educated, and build long-lasting relationships with people, adding value to your professional growth. The good news is that sales do come with the territory.
Disclaimer: Social selling can be a ton of work. But don’t worry. You may need dedication and a long-term commitment if you want to see any kind of success, but I promise this will pay off. I can’t begin to tell how many times I wanted to simply give up. We’re in sales, right? We love instant gratification. Unfortunately, that’s not how the world of social selling works. This is a slow process, and it’s only for those looking for long-term success.
Rule 1: Always Be Connecting
Jill Rowley (@jill_rowley) coined this term and she was one of my major influences when it came to social selling. Anyone you meet, schedule a meeting with, run a meeting with, interact with, run into at a grocery store (I think you get it by now), you need to connect with them!
I always start with a LinkedIn connection, and I add a personalized message talking about how and when we met. About two months ago, I met a prospect at a bar while having a brew and let me tell you, never judge a book by the cover. It turned out that he was a very well-known CEO, and I managed to connect with him via LinkedIn after a brief conversation that involved no self-promotion. I have nurtured that relationship, and just might hit two quotas at one time in the near future from my adoption of ABC.
Rule 2: Always Be Prospecting
Prospecting is a non-stop process. Here’s how I do it. I find a company, one that fits my profile, and I add two decision makers, a middle manager, and a few non-decision makers on LinkedIn and Twitter. My goal here is to add multiple contacts in an organization to my social funnel, because after all, not all decision makers have adopted social media yet. Additionally, it’s not always about decision makers when it comes to the digital world or purchasing technology these days. Typically in an organization, whether large or small, a group of people make the purchasing decision.
Remember to always personalize your LinkedIn invites. Do a little research through Google to find something you have in common, or refer to how you found them and why you are trying to connect. I also think mentioning one of their blog posts is a great way to do this. Additionally, after you add them on Twitter, it’s always a good idea to re-tweet valuable posts, and then go for the LinkedIn add. Nobody appreciated getting a spam invite, and most people will ignore you. The next step is to like their company LinkedIn page, add their company Twitter handle, and like their Facebook page. (Yes, you need to do all three.)
On top of that, I add myself to all of their personal digital marketing outreach, like subscribing to their newsletter and blog updates. This will take a little time and research, but it can be well worth it.
Rule 3: Always Be Listening
Now that I’ve connected and started prospecting, it’s time to start listening. This is the most important part of social selling. I’m constantly monitoring all of my social feeds throughout the day as I’m running meetings, building relationships, and closing deals. After all, social selling is a round-the-clock strategy.
As companies and prospects in my social funnel are communicating, I’m listening and soaking it all in. (And I bet that my competitors aren’t.) I’m learning what’s important to my prospects through their company communication, professional communication, and most importantly, their personal communication. By personal communication I’m not talking about their personal Facebook page. I’m talking about their professional self-promotion blogs, websites, or newsletters.
Rule 4: Always Be Engaging
Now that you’ve connected with the right prospects and started the listening process, it’s time to start engaging. This is the most fun part of social selling process, in my opinion. Start commenting and adding value to their social media posts on the various social media channels. Who doesn’t enjoy seeing likes, tweets or comments on their posts? We all love people who make us look awesome on social media.
Most companies and professionals don’t have a ton of these engagements, and I know my heart starts beating when my phone makes that special social media alert sound. Finally, someone loves me and finds value in what I have to say! Be genuine as you engage and give your honest feedback. Don’t be the kiss-ass, because that doesn’t add any value.
Figure out a way to get more engagement, and I can tell you right now that you will start to get noticed. This is a process, and it needs to be done on all of the different social media channels. You can like a case study on Facebook today, re-tweet it tomorrow, and share it on LinkedIn the next. Once you start engaging, you start building credibility, and the relationship begins. This is where you can separate yourself from the competition.
Rule 5: Always Be Educating
At this point, it’s time to start contributing to the relationship by educating others. You’ve figured out what’s important to them and you’ve started to get noticed. This is where you take all your hard work and start educating the client on what value that you can add to the relationship. Start sharing your content and be strategic about it. If you’ve done a good enough job of listening, then it won’t be that hard to post content that you know they will find valuable. With all of the content out there, it’s important to give people in your funnel information that they will engage with. They’ll return the favor.
Of course, all of this may be a waste of time if you aren’t strategic with your content, because that’s how you start adding value – and first impressions are everything. Without delivering the right content, in the right place and at the right time, you’ll get lost in the crowd, and pretty soon you’ll vanish off their social media radar.
So: be smart, be persistent, stay engaged, add value, and soon you’ll find yourself crushing your quota with social selling.
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