To win new business, you have to go where the customers are. In our increasingly online world, this means reaching out onto digital channels such as Twitter and other social media, as well as more specialized platforms like message boards and forums. While these channels are often fruitful outlets for cultivating leads, there’s a fine line between solving problems and spamming participants. Here are some tips for how to do social selling right.
Forget everything you learned from watching Glengarry Glen Ross. “Always be closing” doesn’t work in conversational channels. The new “ABC” is “NBC” — Never Be Closing. You’re not going to seal the deal in a public social channel, but you can use that channel generate qualified leads. The more value you can provide for those prospects, the more effective those channels will become at generating high-quality leads.
Find Where Your Customers Are
The first step is simple: Finding the places where conversations about your company, your competitors, and your industry. The most basic example of this would be something like setting up a free Google News alert for your company and product names, as well as those of your competitors. A more involved option would be to actively search outlets like Twitter and Reddit, or to use a subscription-based service to monitor those keywords on all popular online channels.
If you’re new to this, there’s no better place to start than Twitter. According to Global Web Index, 60% of B2B buyers use Twitter — a 26% higher rate than the overall population. A staggering 28% of B2B buyers also follow prominent entrepreneurs and businesspeople on social media — a 70% higher rate than average. If your business is B2B, your customers are almost certainly on Twitter.
Brainstorm Strategic Keywords for Social Selling
Don’t let the lackluster results from standard search queries drive you crazy. If your company is a startup — or in stealth mode — you shouldn’t be too surprised if its name doesn’t show up much in search results. Rather than focusing on product or brand mentions, look instead for opportunities to engage in social selling. Search for conversations about the problems your products solve.
If your company sells ultra-durable house paints, you might naturally want to search for terms like “painting” “house paint” and “home renovation.” That’s a good starting point, but what about conversations where people are talking about ways to spruce up their homes for spring, recommendations for painters, or even discussions of color palettes for interior design? The internet is filled with alcoves of conversation where potential customers — from commercial renovators looking for a long-lasting paint to first-time homeowners looking for DIY advice — gather to share tips and resources.
Join the Conversation
As Doug Weaver wrote on his must-read blog, “Be the party host, not the entertainment … Pretend you are the host of the meeting and task yourself with creating a real conversation and making sure everyone is heard and comfortable.” Your job isn’t to dominate the conversation or try to sell to everyone who walks into the room. Your job to be welcoming and engaging, ensuring that the conversation flows freely, and dropping in as needed. It’s OK to talk shop, of course, but don’t butt into every discussion just to push your agenda.
Database Your Leads
Another key step in the process is entering these leads into your CRM database, making sure to tag the source. You’ll want to follow any significant leads, so that you can continue to see what they share. This is a great way to get a sense of who they are, and where they are coming from. On Twitter, for instance, you could create private lists with different leads and customers, and then monitor that list on a regular basis. Various kinds of social media monitoring software have their own versions of lists and communities, allowing you track topics and trends as they bubble up.
Publish Resourceful and Shareable Content
Social channels also require a different approach when it comes to the call to action. Remember that it’s a conversation, not a sales pitch, and it pays to keep the CTAs low key. This is one reason why shareable content can be particularly effective online. If a prospect has a problem, and your firm has created a relevant and helpful white paper, blog post, Slideshare document, or video, sharing it is only natural.
Often, these prospects will even share your content with their friends and followers, providing and implicit — or even explicit — endorsement of your work. Few things are as valuable as a word-of-mouth endorsement, particularly in social networks where prospects are connected to other prospects. Of course, this can only happen if your content is worth sharing. There’s a marked difference between real thought leadership and a thinly veiled sales kit.
Slide into the DM
There’s also another form the CTA can take on social channels: Turning a public conversation into a private one. On Twitter, for example, a call to action can be as simple as “If you’re interested in hearing more, just DM me.” This switch from a public conversation to a direct message can help keep the prospect in their comfort zone, making the shift feel more seamless and reducing their response time. For longer sales cycles with offerings that aren’t purchased directly online, the goal is to slowly turn these private messages into email exchanges, phone calls, and meetings.
Future-Proof Your Social Selling by Investing in the Right Tool
In the years ahead, businesses will have access to even more advanced tools for reaching prospects through social networks and social selling. Soon, you will be able to discover leads through image and video recognition, or use artificial intelligence to score prospects. Neural networks will identify specific words that will increase response rates on an individual basis. Sophisticated social monitoring and alerting software will not only help you find customers, but even maximize your ROI by finding them on your highest-converting channels. Even the thought leadership you create will be automatically personalized for each prospect, with targeted content for their company or industry.
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Ultimately, however, these platforms and technologies won’t matter as much as your social selling approach. Prospects happily forget the cold calls and sales pitches. The helpful conversations, the great content, and the resources that enabled them to solve their problems and take a smarter approach to their work — that’s the stuff they’ll always remember.
The publication of this post has been made possible through the generosity of one of our sponsors, but all opinions are strictly my own.