What is social selling? We’re going to unpack that today, as well as how that plays into prospecting in this virtual world of B2B selling. Essentially, there are 3 components we’ve identified and fleshed out, that go into doing this well.
3 Keys to Prospecting
Prospecting in 2021 is about using all the online tools that are at your disposal to build a healthy pipeline of prospects. According to Wikipedia, social selling is the process of developing relationships as part of the sales process. It often takes place via social networks such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, but can take place either online or offline. Examples of social selling techniques include sharing relevant content, interacting directly with potential buyers and customers, personal branding, and social listening.
Here are some of our insights into doing it well:
1 – Research
Many reps struggle with knowing who to call… they know which companies they want to work with, but not who they need to speak to.
We all have, at our fingertips, an ocean of free information on any topic we choose to research. While not cutting edge, this advice will serve you well. Use Google.
Boolean search logic is our friend. Try searching the position (i.e. your prospect’s role) in “quotes” followed by the company name. For example if you sell IT services, type in the search bar, “Director of IT” Company XYZ. You are very likely to find traces of that person’s information, at least a name, on the web. Once you have their name, type it in again with quotes: “Jane Smith” Company XYZ. You might come across contact info, their LinkedIn profile, or other information you can use to connect with them.
If you can’t find an email address, do not despair. Once you have a name, you just need to figure out the naming convention for the company’s email addresses. On an organization’s website, there will always be at least one person who wants to be contacted: the PR people. Find their Press page, and most of the time, there will be an actual person’s name and email address. You now have the naming convention, i.e. firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Plug and play.
Right now we’re just talking about research, about finding our prospects. LinkedIn is an obvious, well-known and useful tool for anyone in sales. But you may not know that there is a free 30-day trial of LinkedIn Sales Navigator for individual sales reps. It’s a great tool to at least explore, which may or may not be worth the investment to you after the trial is up. But at least take advantage of those 30 days to help build up your prospecting pipeline.
Be clear on your target market, who is your ideal audience, who buys what you sell: industry, company size, location, role/title. LinkedIn will help with the rest. You’ll end up with a great list of potential prospects.
One last thing that we’ve found to be useful: look for changes in that position, i.e. someone new is working in the role you want to contact. This may be a signal that this new leader is looking to make shifts, they have a bigger budget, etc. Sales Navigator will help sort through data to give you prospects who are new to their role.
2 – Connecting to Prospects
I have personally never accepted a LinkedIn invitation to connect from a random salesperson. I have, however, connected to people who have effectively crafted an outreach message (personalized connection message or InMail) like the OCP we teach at ASLAN.
I always recommend using email whenever possible to reach prospects, but if that is not an option, a well-crafted message (including the OCP!) on LinkedIn can do the trick.
To me, the real value of LinkedIn is in the second and third level connections. The average number of connections for an individual LinkedIn user is just over 400. This means the average user has 160,000+ second level connections. That is a huge audience of potential helpers to your prospecting process.
Second level connections are great for two purposes: coaches and decision makers. If you see a decision maker as a second level connection, ask your mutual connection for a warm introduction. They may be able to help you with inside info and insight into what that person is looking for. You can even connect with sales reps at that particular company, ask about their role and their challenges. Even asking a couple quick questions of someone else within the organization can help you tailor your outreach message (your OCP) to grab that decision maker’s attention.
Don’t hound someone, follow-up for a reason. Every 10 days maybe, follow-up with an interesting article you’ve read, some new relevant information, anything besides the “just checking in” message… Show that you care.
3 – Demonstrate Thought Leadership
There is so much information out there on the internet… customers are doing their own research in advance, before even speaking to a sales person. In fact, Gartner shares that buyers spend only about 17% of the buying process meeting with sales reps. This means your customers are making a large part of the decision before you get to have your “day in court.”
So, you need to be part of that information gathering stage. You can’t afford to sit back and wait for marketing to hand you leads or for customers to come to you.
Once connected to someone on LinkedIn, your posts show up in your prospect’s feed.
LinkedIn has something called a Social Selling Index, which is a score between 0 – 100 that measures your social selling efforts. It’s comprised of four elements:
- Establishing your professional brand
- Finding the right people
- Engaging with insights
- Building relationships
You can find yours out through LinkedIn, details on why the score is where it is at, as well as tips to improve your score.
The main point here, for our purposes, is to become a thought leader. A thought leader is seen by prospects and customers as someone who has unique insights, information and intelligence, as well as experience and credibility, on industry subject matter. It’s not just about your product, it’s about providing relevant industry information and helpful insights for your customers.
Since customers are researching ahead of time, give them what they are looking for. Answer their questions with the articles and posts you share. As a rep, you know the most common questions that prospects have, so answer them. Share videos, make your own infographics, be humorous and engaging, develop your personal professional brand. Don’t just “like” and share. Add context.
It’s not just up to marketing, as a sales rep, you have a lot to give and share from your individual page, that can help customers make better and more informed decisions.
Because at the end of the day, it really is just about serving your customers, both current and future, well.
As President of ASLAN, Marc is responsible for all day-to-day operations including our sales and marketing efforts and growing our success in helping our clients be Other-Centered®.