The 4 Stages of Successful Social Selling

August 23, 2014

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Social Selling isn’t a trend; it is a shift. Whether you are hunting for new business, expanding your current base or cross-selling your clients, leveraging online intelligence is critical to staying competitive in today’s world.

I believe social selling has four distinct stages and each one has a critical role in the new sales process:

1. Listen to your target market

Listening to your target market, their industry, clients and competition is the foundation of social selling. Using social platforms to identify articles your prospects “like”, blogs that they are sharing, whom they follow and their new connections allows us to understand what matters to them quicker and easier than we ever could before. Tools like Twitter, HootSuite and Google Alerts allow you to keep tabs on what your prospects are up to. For serious B2B new business hunters, leverage sales prospecting tools that save targeted profiles and keeps you up to date in a single customized newsfeed.

2. Educate your network

Educating your prospects, clients and followers establishes our thought leadership and subject matter expertise. Blogging is an easy way to share knowledge and offer tips and strategies to our readers. Educating prospects can begin with a customer-centric LinkedIn profile, where leveraging the summary to provide value is a simple way to begin building a strong reputation. LinkedIn’s Publishing platform is another way to offer educational content. Be sure to include the 6 important elements to a successful blog post:

  • A catchy headline that informs the reader of what they are going to get
  • Content that delivers on the headline’s promise (don’t bait and switch, give them what you tell them they will get)
  • Keywords that prospects would use when looking for your content
  • Tips and/or strategies that they can implement even if they don’t work with you
  • Call to action, now that they love you give them a next step (download or appointment)

From here it is simple to share it in LinkedIn groups and tweet it out to followers.

3. Identify the right people to prospect

Prospecting is what most people are looking for when it comes to social selling. There are many platforms that offer business development opportunities like Facebook fan pages and Pinterest for consumers, LinkedIn for B2B and Twitter and Google+ that overlap in both worlds. LinkedIn offers many different ways to prospect, but here is my top 5:

  • Make a list of companies that you are looking to prospect, search their company pages and identify who you have in common with their employees and request introductions.
  • Create Advanced and Saved Searches of your ideal prospects and choose 2nd degree relationships. This allows you to identify who you know that knows who you want to know. This feature will email you when new people that fit your criteria enters your network and tells you who your shared connections are.
  • Identify who your clients know that meet your criteria and when the time is right, ask for referrals.
  • Maximize Sales Navigator as it offers search filters that make it simple to identify the right prospects, quickly. It learns the types of people you want to meet based on your criteria, and makes recommendations tailored to your filters. Once you save your leads you can follow their updates and engage with them based on their activities. In addition, you can quickly identify your shared connections, and leverage your network to get warm introductions.

4. Position yourself as a subject matter expert

This doesn't stop with branding and marketing. In fact, it is the 1st call and/or appointment that your expertise is scrutinized and validated. Social selling is about offering industry insights, competitive advantages and introducing solution through thoughtful research prior to your meeting. You can certainly use information gained in step #1 including insights gathered from your professional networks.

The key to positioning you and your company well is to use your findings in your prospecting meetings. Often this step is targeted to the company background and individuals you are meeting with. Be sure to Google your prospects and their company, search industry trends and use their LinkedIn profile to help you build rapport. In addition, follow all the potential influencers and decision makers, company pages as well as other online and social sites to have full visibility into current events and happenings. Being prepared will ultimately position you to be the subject matter expert they need, set the bar and influence their buying decisions.

Social selling is the new way business development professionals are getting the edge, so embrace these steps, make them part of your daily routine, and you will be successful.

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