This Week’s Big Deal: Generating B2B Leads Naturally

September 6, 2019

B2B Lead Gen

What is a normal experience on social media like for you? 

I’m not talking about using it for business — I’m talking about a simple leisurely scroll. But the ultimate point I’ll make is that maybe there shouldn’t be much of a difference.

When I hop onto LinkedIn or another social media network, my usual routine is to check out the feed, press “Like” on a few posts that catch my eye, and leave a comment or two. When there’s a prompt, maybe I’ll message an acquaintance directly. It’s an easy way to stay in the loop and maintain relationships. These activities represent the fundamental purpose of social media, and that’s why the channel can be so effective as a business tool. 

The thing is, social media might be most effective as a business tool — and specifically as an avenue for lead generation — when we’re not treating it as one.

Generating B2B Leads Naturally on Social Media

In a recent post about using tech to meet sales needs, Techaeris calls out common fixtures such as lead databases and CRMs, but also offers up this advice: Don’t overlook the tools you use personally outside of work. “Social media meets consumers where they already are and feels much more personal than a cold call,” they explain.

Adding new sales tech to the stack can be helpful, no doubt, but leveraging social media for sales is a low-hanging fruit. Most salespeople already have some level of familiarity and comfort navigating these networks, so there isn’t necessarily a big learning curve. A few subtle tweaks to the way we use social media for personal relationships can drive powerful results on the professional side.

Last week on the blog we laid out a repeatable seven-step formula for scoring more sales leads on LinkedIn. The recommendations include finding decision makers, saving leads in Sales Navigator, following those leads, finding referral paths, etc. Today we’ll examine how you can align this process with your normal social media routine to make it easier and (probably) more effective.

#1. Identify a Strategic Network

This is the main differentiation from a standard, casual approach to social media. Rather than simply populating your feed with friends and acquaintances, you want to populate it with people who may have an interest in what you’re selling, either now or later. 

There are a number of ways to identify such individuals. If you’re running an account-based program, it might simply be a matter of searching a list of employees at the company and zeroing in on those with job titles that may relate to purchase decisions. Or, seek out keywords and hashtags that relate to your niche. Additionally, LinkedInSales Navigator (which just celebrated its fifth birthday as a standalone product!) offers features that help filter relevant members, while also enabling you to create customized lists.

One thing I’ll advise: don’t limit yourself to connecting only with people who wield decision-making power. Others can hold influence, or eventually rise to such roles, or at least serve as conduits to the buying committee.

#2. Connect and Follow without Pitching or Promotion

This is absolutely critical, and it’s where so many sellers go amiss on social media: we’re too narrowly focused on selling. We come in with a sales pitch right out of the gate in our connection request, or we use a deceptively non-salesy intro as the setup for immediate product promo. I’m not saying this never works, but for today, let’s cast that inclination aside.

Most people are logging onto social media for the same reason you do when you’re not working: leisure. Yes, they want to learn and improve themselves professionally, especially on LinkedIn, but they probably aren’t eager to receive sales pitches from folks they don’t know. So rather than saying, “I noticed you work in finance and I’m wondering if you might be interested in our cloud software,” say something like, “I see you work in finance and I’m very active in this world too — would love to connect and learn from one another!”

#3. Engage and Interact as a Helpful Resource Rather Than a Seller

Through the last two steps, you’ve begun to fill your network with potential leads. But for now, let’s not think of them that way. They’re simply friends and acquaintances in your social network. So as you come across posts and shares from these members in your feed or list, operate the same way as you would routinely: Like a post here and there, leave a comment when warranted. Share advice you’ve picked up or relatable personal experiences. You might even keep notes about content shared by your connections or interactions you’ve had, so you can call upon that information later.

Time spent on this activity might not seem all that productive, but it is:

  1. You’re slowly building relationships on a foundation of trust and good faith.
  2. You’re passively learning about potential prospects, and about the mindstate of people in the industry at large.
  3. You’re likely identifying other relevant members to loop into your network (via mutual connections and the conversations taking place on your feed).

#4. Reach Out When It Makes Sense

Here’s where you can turn a connection into a lead. It’s all about being opportunistic. If they post about a challenge they’re experiencing at work that you can help with, this might be the ideal time for an InMail explaining how you can help. If you come across another timing trigger event, reach out with a friendly offer to discuss. 

One thing you’ll want to ensure is that you’ve got quality content at the ready for a variety of situations. As Dan Burtan wrote last week at CustomerThink, “sales reps are spending over 1/3 of their day looking for or creating content – one of the biggest consumers of their time.” Get on the same page with marketing to develop your repertoire. Authentic case studies, robust product specs, and peer testimonials can advance a sales conversation in the right moment. Smart Insights recently published an in-depth post on using content marketing to generate leads

Your connections will likely be more receptive to this kind of outreach and content since you’ve laid the groundwork. 

Be Yourself and Grow Your Pipeline

Relationship-building is a vital ingredient in a modern B2B lead generation strategy, because trust and likability are essential elements of winning deals today. It takes time to selectively build up your network and then strengthen that network through genuine engagement, but I’d argue this time is better spent than rattling off cold calls or blasting sales pitches to an email list. And the long-term value of a focused, friendly social media network is almost immeasurable. 

Be yourself. Operate as you would when scrolling through your social feed for fun. Stop thinking of people as leads, and you will likely find over time that many of them become leads naturally. 

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