Change Your Prospecting Game…with Social Selling

These 10 simple action items can revolutionize your strategy

October 27, 2016

  • changing-your-prospecting-game

Social selling doesn’t fundamentally change the way you prospect or sell … but it does have the potential to change the strategy of your game. In fact, it can revolutionize that strategy, just like the introduction of the three-point line changed the game for basketball.

Think about it for a second. For many years, there was no such thing as a three-point shot in the National Basketball Association. Then, when the three-point shot became possible, there was suddenly a whole new dynamic – a different way to pursue the same basic goal of outscoring the other team.

A line drawn on the court won’t necessarily change the way you take your shot. What it will do, though, is change where you shoot from, how you score more points, and how you manage the intelligent risk of shooting from farther away. Social selling is revolutionizing prospecting in many of the same ways.

If you are already getting enough slam-dunk leads with what you’re doing right now, you probably don’t care about learning the trickier outside shot. However, if you have been desperately trying to chuck Hail Mary shots and desperation half-court attempts, then improving your social selling skills is probably a good idea. And if you are somewhere in between, already making difficult cold calls or walk-in prospecting calls, then it might make sense to learn how to use today’s social selling tools to put up a few extra points.

It is important to remember, though, that the fundamentals of prospecting and selling haven’t changed simply because we now have LinkedIn Sales Navigator -- just like the proper form for shooting a basketball hasn’t changed in 100 years or so. It’s just that, with the new tools, tactics and strategies available to us for communication, research and referrals, we can now execute that sales strategy in innovative, exciting and more effective ways.

Keep it proactive!

There are many activities for identifying prospective clients using today’s interactive communication technologies, and all of them overlap to some degree.  We broadly classify these activities into two categories: passive and proactive.  Social selling activities can be an important part of your prospecting arsenal – but be sure to put the emphasis on (and measure) the proactive activities!

Passive activities include things like following someone else’s discussion thread without commenting, or checking who’s following you on Twitter. Those may be interesting and even important things to do occasionally -- but they won’t directly result in any interactions with other people. They’re basically about observing outside events.

Proactive, or hands-on, social selling activities are those that engage with others using a tactic over which you have control. For instance, sending messages requesting referrals to second-degree connections on LinkedIn, posting articles, and following up with existing accounts via email are all proactive endeavors. These are activities that connect you to interactions with other people, and that you can control.  You cannot necessarily control the outcome of the activity … but you can control whether or not you engage in the activity, and you can measure how often you do it.

Here’s the key concept to bear in mind when it comes to social selling: You can’t manage anything you can’t control. Posting a status update on LinkedIn and waiting for someone to comment is more passive than researching an ideal prospect and sending that person an InMail message so you can start a conversation. The actions need to be your responsibility!

Ten proactive ways you can use social selling to prospect more effectively

  1. Search the connections of your meetings ahead of time and bring five names to ask for referrals.
  2. Create a saved search of prospects in LinkedIn’s advanced search - about ten times the number of sales you need in a year - and pursue introductions.
  3. Pay attention to your “likes,” comments, and people who viewed your profile, and then initiate conversations.
  4. Check “people also viewed”, “Lead Recommendations” and “similar companies” on LinkedIn whenever you bring on a new client. That way, you can pursue the same kind of prospect.
  5. Schedule and send educational posts to specific suspects, prospects, and strategic alliances to spur conversations.
  6. Write long form blog posts, share them with groups and target prospects, and then follow up to get feedback and begin a conversation.
  7. Send cold InMail messages to Second-degree contacts in those situations where you can’t get a warm introduction.
  8. Don’t be afraid to pick up the telephone or take the conversation offline when you see a buying signal online.
  9. Research offline leads and prospects on LinkedIn to find specific conversation starters.  
  10. Keep in touch through birthdays, work anniversaries, and especially job changes.

Notice that all of these activities can be measured over time and tracked for effectiveness!

Many salespeople have found that proactive actions like these can help them find prospects, heat up cold calls, and bring valuable introductions or information to the sales process. They use sites like LinkedIn to search for decision-makers, research ideal clients or companies, and identify new opportunities … making it significantly easier to find and interact with the right prospect. They have learned, with a little practice, how to sink the three-point shot.

Social selling really is the three-point line of prospecting. But you still have to practice, you still have to hustle, and you still have to take your best shots in order to become a better player. It’s a small change in strategy that is delivering better results for many salespeople, and it is revolutionizing the way the game is being played.