Can Social Really Help Me Sell?

By Selling Power Editors

Many sales executives still believe that time spent using social media isn’t worth the effort and want proof of the return on investment. The reality is that social media is a proven mechanism for increasing revenue and achieving targets, and there is a clear correlation between using social media and closing deals. In fact, at least one study has shown that 72.6 percent of salespeople using social media as part of their sales process outperformed their sales peers and exceeded quota 23 percent more often.

The real question to consider is what you stand to lose by remaining absent from social media. If your competitors are active on social networks, building brand awareness and developing strong customer-service channels, then you’re automatically falling behind by choosing to do nothing.

Also, remember one of the golden rules in sales: it’s all about relationships. You might not know ahead of time who you’ll meet at an industry event or a networking party, but you make the effort to attend, hoping to expand your network. The same principle applies on social.

Here are answers to some common questions sellers ask about social media.

1) Which network should I join?

Conflicting reports abound about which social networks will get the most traction for sales, but an obvious rule of thumb is to figure out where your customers are most likely to be and establish your presence there. Most surveys in the business-to-business marketing community list LinkedIn and Twitter as top choices; these sites have the largest number of users.

2) How can I maximize my time on social sites?

Look for networks that offer ways to filter the noise. LinkedIn Groups stand out in this regard. First, find a few groups that relate to your business interests. (Check out Sales Playbook!, LinkedIn Sales Solutions, and Inside Sales Experts to begin.) After you join, start “listening in” on conversations.

Also consider Twitter’s list feature; it allows you to create a list of people whose tweets you’d like to keep tabs on. Here are some great lists to explore:

3) How active should I be on social sites?

Ideally, you should be active daily, but it doesn’t have to take up a lot of your time. You can use automated tools to schedule updates (even dozens of updates throughout the week, for example) so that your social accounts stay active. But make sure to dip in and check on the responses to your posts and shares. Fifteen minutes every day should do it.

4) What’s the best way to reach out to prospects on social media?

Before you reach out directly, find out all you can about prospects based on their social profiles. Visit their LinkedIn pages and check their Twitter timelines. Depending on how active they are, you might be able to find out far more than full names, job titles, and work history. Also, if you want to meet someone, be sure to use LinkedIn’s third-party connections; this is a great way to turn cold calls into warm introductions.

A final rule of thumb when you’re just jumping in: don’t overthink it. In the beginning, you might not be able to tell where you’re most apt to connect with prospects until you take the time to give social a fair shot. First and foremost, social selling is an exercise in building trust with an audience. Over time, trust will turn into strong relationships. As your influence spreads on social networks, the potential for selling opportunities is likely to increase, as well.