How to Lead the Way in Social Selling

October 19, 2015


I’m a believer in the power of relationships. That’s why when I attended LinkedIn Sales Connect in Las Vegas earlier this month, my priority was to meet and learn from industry leading experts. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would be ranked as one of the top social sellers at the event, or that 6sense would be named as one of the top-5 social selling leaders in technology.

Not only was I honored to be personally recognized, but I was extremely grateful to be part of such an amazing team. After the event I decided I would take a moment to put pen to paper and outline the guidelines that I’ve used in my career to build and maintain meaningful relationships.

From the beginning of my career, I believed that selling has to be a grassroots effort: individuals reaching out to individuals to educate, consult and help them achieve their goals as a network of professionals. To do this you needed to go directly against the product, feature and technology selling that are, even today, the common stock of the sales profession. So, here are my 6 principles of social selling:

1. Do Your Research

There is nothing more aggravating than speaking with someone who doesn’t understand you, your company and the challenges you’re facing. With LinkedIn Sales Navigator, there is no excuse for bland and generic outreach or scripted calls and meetings.

Before I do anything, I spend time trying to understand the company, the teams and the people that I’m trying to connect with. You can organize searches by job titles, functions, companies, and other demographic criteria to create a map of the company. Then you can save the people that are relevant to your search.

Once you have a decent outline of the organization you’re pursuing, it’s time to start reading their digital body language and looking for commonalities. Look for  what people are saying about themselves and how they’re saying it. This can tell you a lot about their personality and help you find that common denominator to jumpstart an honest and genuine conversation.

2. Find Your Champion and Don’t Send Them a Form Email

The spray-and-pray approach of sending bulk, standardized emails in the hopes of winning 1 out of 100 prospects guarantees only one thing: that you’ll alienate 99 of them. When I look at an organization, even if I’ve built a company map of 20 people, I will only reach out to the 1 or 2 that I have a strong connection with first. I’m interested in the people who will find my message helpful and be able to share it effectively within their organization.

To catch their attention and start building meaningful relationships, do not send a boilerplate email. You want the person to recognize you as a unique collaborator who can help them achieve their goals. You want your company to be a standout vendor. You can’t do that if you treat them like a name on a list. Make sure that your outreach is personalized and focused on the shared experience you have, as well as their own goals and projects.

3. Create a Credible Brand

Your profile on LinkedIn is as important as your company’s brand. Make sure that you convey the things that are important to you and to your prospects such as how you deliver value for your clients, what you’ve accomplished with partners in your career and what motivates and drives you. Each section is an opportunity to share a connection with your network, don’t miss it!

4. Use and Build Your Network

I can’t overstate how much I rely on my network, both on LinkedIn and offline. I use primary and secondary connections to get introductions, learn about the people I’m reaching out to and to overcome obstacles when a particular approach isn’t working.

I try to make sure to connect with everyone I meet and to be open about asking for introductions. In return, I am always generous with my network and am happy to help connect people. I’ve found that whatever I give comes back to me, especially when a connection I make helps people achieve their goals.

5. Face Time

I attend a lot of events. There is no substitute for meeting people face to face.  If you want an opportunity to really move a conversation forward, reach an individual you haven’t been able to connect with online, nothing beats seeing someone in person. Speaking engagements are where professionals promote their companies and expertise, and they are are also places where professionals are subtly signaling about the business challenges they’re trying to overcome. If you listen carefully, offline events are the best places to discover accounts that are a great fit for the value your company delivers.

6. Put Relationships First

Sales is all about timing. Meaningful, value-based relationships won’t always end in a sale right away, but they are the best way to make sure that you are top-of-mind when the time is right. Always put the relationship ahead of the sale, stay diligent in your follow up, and continue to provide value by educating your prospects. Sure enough, when the timing is right, you’ll be ahead of your competition.

If your goal is to educate, help, and deliver value and expertise, then the sale will become a natural part of your work. It won’t happen overnight and it won’t work every time, but it will build a network of powerful relationships that are of true value to any sales professional.  

To learn more tips on how to lead the way in social selling, download "The Sales Manager's Checklist."