Are you an old school sales rep whose go to prospecting method is still cold calling? Are you just “on LinkedIn,” but never post anything or engage your network? Do you think Twitter is just for teenagers? If you answered yes to any of these questions, I highly suggest you continue reading, and consider adding a few of my social selling techniques to your prospecting strategies.

1) Post regularly to gain visibility within your network and stay top of mind.

It is okay to display your company’s marketing materials. However, make sure to blend it with some value based information. Nobody likes to be product blasted. To be efficient in building relationships with people on LinkedIn, you must be reciprocal. Engage with your network by commenting, liking, and sharing their content via LinkedIn. Retweet their Tweets via Twitter. Do NOT just put out your content and ignore everyone else’s. If you share your network’s posts, they will be far more likely to share yours. Every share and like from your connections broadcasts your post to their network as well. This greatly increases the distribution of your content and increases the chances of someone seeing it that has a business need for your product or service.

2) Don’t just be “on LinkedIn.” Maximize its potential!

Many sales people under-utilize LinkedIn in favor of old school techniques like cold calling. Are you still cold calling over the phone without knowing the name of the individual within the company that you need to speak to in hopes that the gate keeper transfers you to the right person? Calling up blindly without knowing the distinct name of the individual is a dead give away that you are a salesman, and will guarantee that your call gets transferred to a generic mailbox that nobody ever checks. Calling over the phone is still an effective way to get appointments and generate leads. However, combining it with social selling techniques like the advanced search feature on LinkedIn will make you far more effective. Use the advanced search function to find the name of the person within a company that you need to speak to prior to calling. By doing this, you will be making warm calls instead of a complete cold call. Advanced search gives you many ways to filter your search to find the exact person you need. If you prefer to prospect in person, then either do research prior to leaving the office or use the LinkedIn mobile application from your smartphone when on the go. As they say, “cold calling is dead.”

3) Never miss an opportunity to connect with a potential customer on social media.

Connect on LinkedIn with every single prospect you speak to and follow them on Twitter. If they have a blog, it is a good idea to follow them there as well. Connect with them even if they told you they were not interested. By getting as many potential customers and key contacts within companies into your network as possible will increase the likelihood that you will close them down the road. The old school technique would be to put the person in a tickler file on Outlook, and follow up in 6 months to a year. By then, that person has practically forgotten who you are. Adding them to your LinkedIn network enables you to engage with them, build their trust, and stay top of mind. This will increase the chances of them not only remembering you, but buying from you in the future. Oh and lastly, don’t be the person that sends a generic connection request. Type out a custom request and give them a value pitch on why they should connect with you. This substantially increases the likelihood of them accepting your invitation to connect.

4) Shoot past the gatekeeper with a direct message to your prospect’s inbox.

Most companies have a highly trained gatekeeper whose job it is to make sure your call never gets through. Email marketing is an effective way to avoid the gatekeeper and send a message directly to your client. Develop a value-based monthly newsletter to send out to both prospective and existing clients. If you don’t have their email address, consider using LinkedIn’s Inmail.

5) Make sure your LinkedIn profile reflects your brand image.

Just like you make sure to be dressed for success when you leave home for the office, make sure your profile is up to date and looking good. Invest a substantial amount of effort into your profile so that your are projecting a professional image that you would want the entire world to see. Make sure the content on your profile shows that you are an expert in your field. Do so, by posting links, blog posts, videos, articles, awards, or anything else that will build your credibility. Many of my past clients have looked me up on LinkedIn and viewed my profile prior to buying from me the first time. A bad or incomplete LinkedIn profile projects an image that you are not serious about your career and puts doubt into the mind of a potential customer regarding your effectiveness.

6) Build credibility by getting recommendations on LinkedIn from past clients.

The best way to Increase credibility with future clients is by getting your past and current customers to give you a recommendation. Don’t confuse this with endorsing skills. I am referring to a written reference by a client that you can display on your profile. The more admirably known the customer is within your business community and the target market the more weight it carries. Getting recommendations from clients will help you build your professional brand as an expert, and reassures new clients that you will be able to deliver top-notch customer experience. I have 35 recommendations from clients, co-workers, and colleagues on my profile. I have leveraged these recommendations MANY times to gain an edge. Being able to say the following to a potential new client is worth its weight in gold:

“Don’t just take my word for it. Take a look at my recommendations page on LinkedIn to see the impact I have on my client’s business and the exceptional level of customer service I provide.”

7) Use social networks to build new relationships and enhance existing ones.

Social selling is about building and maintaining business relationships.Customers tend to buy from the people that they like and trust. One of the best ways to gain trust from a potential client it to use your existing network to obtain referrals. When identifying a potential client check to see if they are connected with anyone in your network. If they are, leverage your existing connection to gain an introduction. Don’t forget about your existing network. As sales professionals, we are constantly being told to go after new clients. Well, that new customer could already be in your network.

8) Use your blog to increase your sphere of influence.

Blog about what you want to be known for. Demonstrate your expertise via your blog posts.

9) Utilize SlideShare.

Broadcast your company’s marketing materials across social media. Slide share converts your content into a easily shareable link that can be distributed using virtually any digital media platform. Now with the new SlideShare.net application on Android, I have all of my presentations with wherever I go via my Samsung Note II. Consider following other professionals on Slideshare that are in your industry or an industry you want to learn more about. There are some people out there that are putting out some amazing presentations. By following their work you will sharpen your own digital marketing skills.

Have you used any of these techniques? How have the results been? Are there other social selling tips you would add to my list that have worked for you? Comment below…

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About the Author: John White is the Chief Marketing Officer at Social Marketing Solutions, the LinkedIn group owner of Publishers and Bloggers, MBA candidate, and contributor to Dice Tech News, CareerToolbox, Linked Into Business, and more.

Need a blogger for your business or support for your company’s social media marketing? Send me an inMail or call me direct at 970.692.3270.

Click here to view my other published articles on LinkedIn Pulse.

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