Four Selling Skills You Need in the Social Age

By Kurt Shaver

Years ago, salespeople used phone books, computer printouts, or spreadsheets to cold call. Today’s salespeople leverage social networks, so they are armed with information to take the chill out of cold calls. Here are four social selling skills you’ll use when finding and connecting with new prospects on social networks.

1. Social Listening

Social sites are a raging river of information about prospective buyers. Sellers can gain valuable insight from LinkedIn updates about job changes or work anniversaries, tweets from a conference, or Facebook posts about vacations or birthdays. The challenge is learning how to filter the signal from the noise.

A simple way to filter social information is to use Google Alerts for topics, people, or companies. For people alerts, sellers can also use LinkedIn’s Saved Search. It allows sellers to save prospect filter criteria (for example, vice presidents/directors of marketing in the media/entertainment industry within 50 miles of New York City) and have LinkedIn email them whenever a new person fits the criteria.

2. Social Researching

If social listening is the net in the river, social research is like a laser beam sellers can focus on a specific person or company. Browsing prospects’ LinkedIn profiles for job titles, responsibilities, recommendations, schools, groups, and posting activity can provide openings to initiate contact. Have you helped similar titles at similar companies? Are they responsible for something that your company does better than any other? Have they posted something in a LinkedIn Group to which you could add a comment? If prospects are active on Twitter, read their posts and follow them. It’s as close as you can get to reading someone’s mind.

3. Social Networking

The best way to start a new sales cycle is to be introduced by a mutual connection – because some of the trust between the two parties is transferred to you.

Most people know that LinkedIn shows them the common connections they have when viewing a prospect’s profile. Did you know that LinkedIn will also rank all the common connections according to how many connections the other two share? Find the “Get Introduced” section in the drop-down options under the tiny black arrow on a prospect’s profile. Sort by “Connection Strength” (the default) to pick your best bet.

4. Social Engaging

This is the newest skill for sellers. Consequently, it holds the biggest competitive advantage for sellers who master it quickly. There are two types of social-engagement actions:

  1. Commenting on someone else’s post

    If you posses subject expertise that can add to the conversation, this is the easiest way to get started. Don’t be afraid to offer an opinion, as differing viewpoints can lead to healthy discussions; however, mind your manners, and don’t attack another person online. You will come across as mean and lose credibility. Another strategy is to comment on the posts of people who you want to notice you. Since most people will read the comments that others leave on their posts, it’s a great way to initiate a conversation.

  2. Initiating a post

    There are three levels of content for sellers.

  1. Share your company’s content. Sharing news or the company blog is the first step in social-content sharing.
  2. Share third-party articles. As sellers read industry news, articles, and statistics on the Web, they can act as an editor and share ones their connections would enjoy. This builds the seller’s reputation as an expert.
  3. Create original content. While every seller may not have the time or skill to write original content, many are able to share their knowledge via LinkedIn Updates, tweets, or the long-form publishing feature on LinkedIn.

More of your prospects are becoming active on social networks every day. Practice these skills, and you will find and connect with more of them.