Social Selling: How to Find, Connect & Engage with Customers
Did you know that 79 percent of salespeople who use social media outsell their peers? This stat from MHI Global follows similar data from IBM, which tells us that more than half of all buyers do their research by using social networks. My favorite data bit comes from Sales Benchmark Index: 98 percent of sales professional with more than 500 LinkedIn connections meet or surpass quota.
What’s more, the MHI Sales Best Practices Study that defines the behaviors of world-class sales teams shares that 72 percent of respondents believe that “social media is a highly effective tool to identify new business opportunities,” compared to only 28 percent of all respondents (page 9).
For readers of my blog, you know that I am a big proponent of LinkedIn, and I am beginning to embrace social selling with far more vigor than in the past. So I want to share with you certain tips I’ve discovered that will be helpful with credit to MHI Global presentation on Social Selling.
Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile
So often I see people I know on LinkedIn with stale profiles, and I honestly don’t understand why they don’t take the time to breathe life into them. It only takes a few minutes. It’s not merely a matter of updating; it’s about optimizing it to sell your products and services. Whatever you do, don’t cut and paste your resume. Pay attention to the headline. Encapsulate your value proposition. Answer who do you help and how do you help them? Other considerations:
- Upload a background image (1400 x 425 pixels)
- Search freelinkedinbackgrounds.com
- Design your own with Canva, PicMonkey, or Fotor
- Upload a profile image (clear, cropped & professional, 400 x 400)
- Create a catchy headline (120 characters)
- Pay close attention to your summary
- Reiterate your purpose from your headline
- Projects you’ve taken on, results you’ve driven, companies you’ve worked with
- Answer how you achieve the mission you stated in the first paragraph
- Be sure to add your education, awards or volunteer work
- Use a strong call to action with keywords your buyer will search for
- Include multimedia in your summary (white papers, videos, SlideShare presentations)*
- Customize your LinkedIn URL: www.linkedin/in/blakelyjslater
*Nearly 82 percent of buyers viewed between five to eight pieces of content from a winning vendor with the most effective content for B2B: webinars, videos, blogposts, case studies, white papers.
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Through a customized assessment tool, I identify areas of weakness where training could dramatically improve results. For example, I helped to implement a Strategic and Conceptual Selling coaching plan for 7,000 employees at a leading regional bank. Four years after the initiative began, win rates remain up, bankers are cross-selling and upselling, and the bank has kept its top spot in the face of fierce competition.
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One of the best ways to showcase your talent comes from recommendations. LinkedIn is the perfect place to do this. Ask for them from people who value your work, services or products. You can access the Ask for Recommendations tab by going directly to the user profile, and selecting Recommend from the Send a Message drop-down menu. Other tips:
- Let the recommender know why you’re asking and what you need
- Show variety by displaying recommendations from colleagues, clients
- Don’t overdo; More than 15 might be excessive
- Recommend in return, if comfortable, and always say thank you
Think of LinkedIn as one huge, active networking event with lots of energy and activity. Begin by connecting to colleagues, customers and industry leaders you already know. Be sure to ALWAYS include a personal note whenever you ask to connect. Other tips:
- Say why you’d like to connect without trying to sell anything yet
- Leverage search capabilities within 1st and 2nd-degree connections to find potential prospects to contact
- Ask for 2nd-degree introductions before 3rd degree (assumes you have a 1st degree in common)
- Ask for introductions to grow more connections
- 53% of sales professionals have received introduction to new opportunities from their coworkers, according to MHI Global
- Start by adding your email address or select an email provider
- Remind recipient of your relationship and what value you’ll bring by the introduction
- Be upfront and gracious
- Go to the link below to learn how to write the perfect LinkedIn invitation
Exclusive to premiums account, LinkedIn’s InMail lets you send messages to non-connections. Simply use a solid subject line. Then apply your research to make the link. May have been an article the recipient wrote or something they shared publicly that you found helpful. Sign off with a good call to action, addressing the reason you should speak or connect.
You can also engage in relationship management through your LinkedIn profile. Click on Relationship and it allows you to add a note about the contact, only visible to you. You can set a reminder to call or email and when. You can include how, when and where you met, and who introduced you. Finally, you can tag your connections as friends, colleagues, clients, prospects.
Now it is time to truly engage with your connections. And here’s where LinkedIn outdoes itself. Once you’ve gotten into the habit of signing on every day, (I recommend you spend 15 minutes a day) pay close attention to what your prospects share, comment, and question. Notice what topics your competitors post, and what’s getting the most engagement. From your Home tab, share an update such as:
- Educate buyers
- Announce new products
- Ask questions
- Highlight a promotion
- Raise an industry trend
- Share what’s interesting and worthwhile
Tools for Social Sharing
I want to share three tools that you’ll find helpful in building your social selling initiative. One is Buffer─a free account that allows you to schedule posts on one account per platform (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google + as well as link shortening & tracking. Next is Hootsuite─a free account that allows you to schedule posts on three social profiles and provides basic analytics, as well as two RSS feeds. Finally, you’ll like Likeable Hub─a free account that allows you to schedule posts on personal Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn profiles, as well as access to an idea library.
You’ve no doubt noticed streaming commentaries on the newsfeed. You can engage via newsfeed by liking, commenting or sharing when you have a valuable contribution to make to the conversation. If you are sharing something, use a lead-in that explains to your audience why you found this interesting, valuable, or controversial. Use the mention feature to target another user that you think would be interested in this content.
You can use the “Publish a Post” option to write your article or opinion piece. The article will then display beneath your heading on your profile. But remember. Great images will inspire others to read your post.
When you post, use a header image of 698 x 400 pixels. Use a direct and interesting headline with one strong keyword. In the body, share your professional expertise and consider writing about challenges you’ve faced, opportunities you’ve seized, or important trends. Write answers to the questions your prospects want to ask or about the problems they are facing. In the end, include at least two or three tags of the most relevant topics to make your post more searchable.
Yes, this is a lot of information to absorb. Let me see if I can make it a little easier for you.
Your Initial Plan of Attack
- Optimize your LinkedIn profile
- Connect email and invite new contacts with personalized messages
- Request three introductions
- Sign up with Hootsuite, Buffer or Likeable Hub; connect your LinkedIn profile
- Schedule at least three updates per week
- Like, comment on, or share at least three updates weekly
- Write one blog post every two weeks to begin
If you can commit to these seven items, you’ll be far ahead of your competitors and on the way to a successful social selling effort.
See you on the upside,
For more information on how to simplify the complex sale, go to www.pleinairestrategies.com Or call William L. MacDonald in San Diego at PleinAire Strategies LLC at 760.340.4277 or 213.598.4700