Selling socially means more than just getting to know people and getting known. You must establish yourself as the kind of person a prospect seeks to solve business problems, a trusted advisor. Here are a few basic principles to keep in mind. Stay active.
LinkedIn senior social marketing manager Koka Sexton says the first rule is staying engaged. "Post updates frequently, and engage with other people by commenting or sharing. Stay connected with people in your industry."Be discreet.
Avoid such things as party pictures and shameless self-promotion. You are looking for customers, so keep a laser focus on professionalism and what you can do for others.Avoid aggression.
"Don't get argumentative," Sexton stresses. "There is etiquette on social media. Don't bash the competition. That makes you look bad."Offer value.
Do not push sales or make a sales pitch in your first message to a new connection. "No hard sell and sometimes no soft sell," Sexton advises. "Add value and sales should come."
How much time should you spend on social media? Sexton was an inside rep with no face-to-face connection to prospects, so he used social media extensively. He now says most reps should spend only one to two hours a week on it.
Sexton advises reps to spend 15 minutes each morning finding articles to share with social connections and seeing what LinkedIn connections are discussing. Then they should check back in for 10 minutes at the end of the day.
Even limited time pays off. One LinkedIn rep learned on Twitter that an exec she was calling that afternoon had just bought a puppy. Mentioning the new pet when she called made for a much warmer conversation.
Sometimes, the advantages of using social media can be much more important. Inside reps who do not visit clients do not see pictures on walls, trophies on desks, or learn anything about prospects except names, numbers, and titles. "Social media opened the door for me," Sexton recalls. "I knew when people were on vacation and when they were coming back."
With 300 million members, LinkedIn can almost always find a personal connection between a rep and someone in the target company. It might be a common school, company, or interest. In any case, the connection helps reps avoid the classic cold call.
That's crucial; LinkedIn Data shows that 70 percent of connected calls get a meeting, while only 30 percent of cold calls do. Important execs simply do not have time to take calls from complete strangers.
To become a trusted advisor, salespeople should post about four times as much educational material as product or company information. "Keep sending [connections] educational materials, then drop in something on your company, and they will click on it," Sexton explains.
Reps can obtain educational materials from several sources.
- Plug in your keywords, and Paper.li will put together the news on your favorite subjects every morning.
- Key influencers in your industry publish on blogs or social streams.
- Your own firm should be putting together thought-leadership materials.
Don't worry if you become too busy to check your social sites or if you unplug to go on a week's vacation. Such applications as HootSuite or Buffer can schedule and post your updates so that you can stay consistently active on social media, no matter what. Consistent communication will increase your reputation as a reliable source of insight and information and put you in a great position to be seen as a trusted advisor.