Your job is to sell, right? Your product is pretty good, maybe even great… right? This should be easy, right?
Competition is fierce. No great idea goes uncopied. No decent company is in the game to lose, and it is blatantly obvious who the most valuable buyers are. That’s why most of them will do almost anything to avoid clueless, generic, unknown, time-wasting salespeople.
Without social selling, the odds are stacked hugely against you.
A 2016 LinkedIn study found that 90% of top sales professionals utilized social selling as part of their process (compared to 71% of all sales professionals). But most of them barely scratch the surface of what’s possible. To actually see real, lasting results, you must master social selling.
Here’s how to get started:
1. Get to know your future buyer before you reach out.
Do your research. Find out where the person went to school, what they care about, and what they believe. Did they recently publish an article? Read it. Even better, share it and/or comment.
Building your knowledge of the customer should be your first step when searching for new clients. A little research before you reach out can pay off in spades. Businesses and people are sharing and creating more content than ever, and you can learn from these huge flows of information. If they post to Twitter, LinkedIn, Medium, or any other blog network, be sure to keep up with what they’re sharing, especially if they’re publishing original content. You can learn a lot about a person or company through the articles and snippets they share.
2. Build a relationship by making deposits, not withdrawals.
Build relationships before you need them. This means that you make deposits – by helping others – rather than by asking for something (i.e. a withdrawal). My friend Amy Chang, CEO and founder of relationship intelligence startup Accompany, wrote recently that the key to raising VC funding is to “raise before you raise.” She spent time getting to know the VCs that might be interested in her idea, talking about the challenges she might face, and building a relationship long before she intended to seek funding. When the time came, because they had established that foundation of trust, it was much easier for investors to take that leap and sign the check.
The same is true of any sale or transaction. You’re much more likely to go with the guy you know than the person who turned up out of the blue with a deck of 30 slides about him, his product, and his company. Once you’ve established a lead, take time to build the relationship. Retweeting, mentioning, and replying on Twitter is a great way to nurture leads before you meet in an official capacity. Once you’ve made the connection, keep it warm. Stay on top of any big company news as well as news from their competitors. A well-kept relationship is sometimes all it takes to be the first to know about an upcoming request for tender or an expiring contract. Always be connecting the relationship dots.Retweeting, mentioning, and replying on Twitter is a great way to nurture leads says @jill_rowleyClick To Tweet
3. Demonstrate your knowledge of the market.
The key to being successful is demonstrating that you know your customer and the market in which they operate. This builds your credibility and fosters trust with prospective customers. Identify, connect with, and engage the smarty pants people in your customer’s industry. Being connected to influential people increases your social capital. #CircleOfTrust
Creating and publishing interesting and valuable content is a great way to do this, although it does take time to do this right. A less time-consuming method is to share or forward interesting, relevant stories or studies that you come across. Listen to podcasts, watch videos, attend events. It doesn’t have to be every day (that can get annoying) but a consistent expression of interest in current events pertinent to their industry will show that you not only understand the nuances of their business but that you’re also on top of emerging trends.
4. Understand their needs.
If you’ve spent time building your brand and demonstrating knowledge of their industry, prospective customers will be much more receptive to your advice. But, more importantly, this knowledge will enhance your ability to spot a client’s pain point. It’s likely you’ll walk into a meeting with an idea of the problem you’re there to solve. To be interesting to your prospective customer, be interested in them.
Once you’re in the room, be sure to listen. The best possible competitive advantage is to have information about your customer that your competitors lack. Sometimes the best way to get such information is to simply be a better listener.
Many people use Accompany, Amy’s offering, to prep for meetings, but there are others who prefer to use it to track information gleaned during the meetings (a big merger, or new VP). I rely on the real-time news alerts so I can stay on top of multiple industries. For all the legwork we do to nurture a lead, make the connection, develop a relationship, and perfect the pitch (about how you can help; not what you sell), we mustn’t forget that listening is one of the most important aspects of the entire process.
Social listening is a key pillar, practice, principle of my social selling framework. I use social networks like LinkedIn and Twitter to listen for information specific to people, companies, and industries. When Beth Comstock, Vice Chair of Growth and Innovation at GE tweeted she needed to learn how to code, I mailed her the Osmo game that teaches kids how to code. Beth thanked me via Twitter.
5. Reach out often.
Many people only reach out when they see an obvious “in,” like word of a big acquisition or plans to expand into a new market. While it’s smart to keep an eye on potential trigger events, know that you’re not the only one who sees that reorganization or injection of cash as a big, blinking beacon of opportunity. All it takes is a couple of cold calls before a client is on guard and wary of companies looking to make a quick buck. After that, any pitch is going to fall on deaf ears.
A pet peeve of mine are the “circling back,” “touching base,” and “checking in” emails that provide absolutely zero value to me, and are often times automated at 30, 60, 90 day increments. It’s important to personalize every communication and offer something of value to the recipient.
Conversely, a foundation of trust and a pre-existing relationship can be the difference between a trusted contact with serendipitous timing and an opportunist. By maintaining a consistent level of contact, you’re establishing authenticity and a genuine interest in the client. Whether it’s a change in role, an interesting announcement from the company or a competitor, or a new study relevant to the client’s business, maintaining contact during periods of low activity demonstrates that you’re in it for the long haul.
To sum it all up, share your knowledge, share your network, and show you care.
Today’s post is by guest author, Jill Rowley, advisor to Accompany, a relationship intelligence app designed to give salespeople hours of research distilled down into a handy briefing, and Founder & Chief Evangelist of #SocialSelling.