Sales pros: It’s no secret the sales world has changed. A new social selling eBook from LinkedIn, Hubspot, Top Sales World and PGi reported that 75% of B2B purchases are influenced by social media, while 79% of those who use social media to sell outperform those who don’t. Social selling is the name of the new sales game, but the techniques are still a mystery for regular Joe’s and Jane’s.
As a social media expert and a former tech sales rep, I know firsthand that mastering social is no simple task. Engagement, constant attention and carefully executed strategy are a must to avoid being an overly enthusiastic pest, social stalker or post-and-quit social schizophrenic.
Here are 10 tactics from the realm of B2B social engagement to help you master social selling and generate more leads.
1. There are no lines between personal and professional social media.
Accept it, sales folks. If you want to make connections and sell via social media, your entire world is open to your prospects and customers. Like my first boss told me, “If you don’t want your momma to see it, don’t post it.” The same is perhaps even truer for your customers. Don’t post anything that you wouldn’t share in a face-to-face client meeting.
2. Start with LinkedIn.
I know Twitter is sexier and Facebook is fun (all those cute puppies!), but LinkedIn is where it’s at for salespeople. With a global network of more than 300 million business professionals, LinkedIn is optimal for finding the decision maker and influencers, building prospect connections using your extended network and establishing authority as an expert. Get LinkedIn down first, and then expand into the other social networks when you’re the expert.
Social networks, listed by social selling priority:
- Facebook (B2C)
- Pinterest (B2C)
- Instagram (B2C)
3. Get to know them before expecting them to know you.
Social media opens up a whole new world for smart sales experts. With a little social sleuthing, we can find the illusive buyer, decision makers and influencers, as well as getting to know exactly what’s going on in their world. Great pitches and stories always start with helping prospects feel their own pain. Use social sleuthing to begin crafting the right message and getting it in front of the right people.
4. Be human. No, really.
Nothing is worse than feeling sold on social. The best social selling experts showcase a subtle mastery of developing trust and likeability on a personal level, with a sprinkling of business expertise thrown in for good measure. Here’s my recommended formula:
- 30% thought leadership content sharing (peers, media, prospects)
- 25% motivational leadership (quotes, statistics, images, etc.)
- 20% personal storytelling (hobbies, weekend plans, concerts, etc.)
- 15% social good (volunteerism, green initiatives, philanthropy)
- 10% business news (company news, blogs, whitepapers, webinars)
We’re all human. So act like it.
5. Like, retweet, share and comment.
We know that careful flattery can get you far in face-to-face selling. Master this art on social by engaging with your prospects and customers through their tweets, posts and blogs. Not too often, but often enough to let them know you are invested and engaged.
6. Schedule your posts.
Believe me, I know that being on social media 24/7 is an untenable proposition. Enter Hootsuite. To fill in the gaps where I’m sleeping, working, eating and generally having a life outside social, I use this free tool to tweet and post third-party content. This ensures that I’m still showing up in feeds consistently throughout the day, without turning into a social media zombie. (Buffer is also another simple solution.)
How much is too much – or too little? Best practices by network:
- LinkedIn: 1-2 posts per day
- Twitter: 6-10 posts per day
- Facebook: 1-2 per day
- Google+: 4-6 per day (including community posts)
- Slideshare: 1 per week
- Pinterest: 1-2 unique pins per week (first-party content)
- Instagram: 1-2 per day
7. Create your own content.
Social selling starts sizzling when you can establish yourself as a thought leader in your field. Start blogging on your company or a personal blog, guest posting on sites your prospects read and sharing your own insights via social. Not a wordsmith? Create socially shareable content, such as memes, quotes and presentations, using tools like Haiku Deck and Prezi.
8. Don’t try to overcome objections. Use them to spark conversation.
Colleen Stanley of Sales Leadership shared some key insights in the aforementioned eBook, The Evolution of Sales. “Instead of overcoming objections, bring them up. Your candor creates credibility with prospects and keeps the conversations safe and open,” she wrote. Don’t get defensive. Simply spin the “no” into an opportunity using your business’ message.
9. Know when to move the conversation out of social and into video.
Your prospect is now comfortable with your social bantering back and forth, so it’s time to take it to the next level. A quick, easy and painless way to land that first in-person conversation is to keep it online but move into a face-to-face video conference. This transition is comfortable for them, because it’s still in the relative safety of the Internet, but you can shine in person virtually.
10. After you land the meeting, stay socially engaged.
“You don’t buy me flowers anymore.” Just like a relationship that moves beyond the online dating phase, don’t forget to continue showering your customers with social attention. The conversation just needs to change a bit:
- Support their content with RTs and shares.
- Mention them in articles you think they’d enjoy.
- Thank them via social after meetings and events.
- Introduce them to your network connections.
- Comment and engage on their blogs, Google+ communities and LinkedIn posts.
What advice would you add to this list? Have any emerging social networks worked in your social selling tactics? Wins to share – or epic fails to bemoan?
Blakely Thomas-Aguilar is PR & Social Media Manager for PGi, a global leader in collaboration and software services for over 20 years. As a former account manager for one of the world’s largest technology companies, Blakely uses her unique perspective to drive engagement, influencer outreach and brand awareness for PGi. A work-life juggler with three little ones, Blakely lives with her family outside Atlanta. Engage with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.