Monday, June 20, 2011

 

How top salespeople are using social media

Most sales organizations treat social media as a threat, a distraction from selling time, and a set of sites that should be blocked inside the corporate firewall.

But many of today's most successful salespeople are using social media strategically to build deeper relationships with prospects and referral partners, find new prospects earlier in their buying process, and accelerating their own path towards credibility and trust with prospects they don't even yet know.

Here are five specific ways top salespeople are using social media today to find and close more business.

1. Getting new introductions from their existing network
It's so easy, on sites from LinkedIn to Facebook and more, to see who your existing "friends" and connections already know. On LinkedIn, for example, you can quickly search for contacts you want to meet based on which of them are already connected to people in your existing network.

This is one of the best ways to get referrals and introductions, not by asking your network to "keep you in mind" but, instead, periodically asking for specific introductions. By getting specific, your conversion rate goes up and you're talking to the people you specifically want to meet and sell to.

2. Getting new introductions from others in your organization
Your existing organization - the sales team, yes, but I'm thinking the rest of the company too - is a gold mine of potential introductions. Especially founders, long-time employees and others who have spent a long time in your industry. They know people, people know them, and they're more likely to help you make connections and new introductions.

There are some interesting new tools that facilitate this by creating what is essentially an internal version of LinkedIn, but you can manage that yourself by simply using filters on your primary LinkedIn account to search your colleague's networks for new prospects.

3. Watch for buying signals across the social Web
One of the greatest opportunities for salespeople via social media is to see into the buying cycle far earlier than we've typically had access to. Before social media, we could deepen our understanding of the buyer and use outbound marketing to connect with a particular need, try and find resonance with a buying signal, etc. But that, at best, was a fishing expedition most of the time.

Now, if you know the buying signals and pain/problem keywords your prospects typically exhibit before they're ready to buy, you can watch for those discussions and keywords across the social Web. Do a couple keyword searches on Twitter, for example, and you'll be surprised how many people, in real-time, are talking about their existing challenges, their frustrations with competitive products and more.

4. Build deeper, early relationships with new prospects
Here's exactly how you do it (at least with Twitter, but other social channels can likely be done in a similar fashion). Build a list of the prospects in your territory or market. Companies and the individuals who work there. With the help of an admin or an outsourcing service like eLance, go and collect the Twitter handles of each company and as many of the individuals as you can find.

Using your own Twitter account, follow those companies and individuals. Then, using a tool such as HootSuite, set up a separate column where you can specifically watch activity from those prospects. This makes it easier and faster to engage with them on a regular basis. Answer their questions. Share a resource. Retweet their articles. In other words, use their attention to this social channel to build value by interacting where they are already spending their time and looking for information.

5. Directly share information, become an expert, and generate a following
You are an expert. You understand your market, your customer's problems, and the information they need to be more successful. You read the trade publications and regularly (possibly daily) find articles that your prospects and customers should read.

Through your own social channels, you can become a go-to resource for current and prospective customers. If you're filtering information that's specifically interesting to them, they'll gravitate towards you. And when they follow you and their peers see that as well, you'll increase access and introductions to even more new prospects.

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