Social media gives salespeople opportunities they just didn't have several years ago — even three years ago!
It's much easier to connect with prospects now, and as long as you do it right, you can see significant results (i.e. landing more appointments with target prospects).
Here are three simple steps to get started with social selling.
Step 1: Brand Yourself Online
You need to create a brand for yourself online. You may be an expert at sharing your thoughts and opinions personally on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, but have you done the same professionally on LinkedIn?
- Do you have a captivating headline that tells prospective buyers what you can do for them?
- Does your summary share your thoughts and philosophy on how you do business, or is it simply a resume?
Social selling involves you taking ownership of how you want to be perceived by those who may potentially buy from you. That means you may need to think of the audience on LinkedIn in a different light. It's not about networking with people who may want to hire you someday. It's about networking with people who might want to buy from you someday.
Step Two: Plan the Time it Takes
If you're using LinkedIn as a social selling tool, then plan to use it while at work!
We hear a lot of executives say they want to involve themselves in social selling but plan to do so either early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid using social media at work. But if you're using social media to engage with prospects or clients, you're most likely to be able to have an active ongoing conversation via social media while at work. So don't be shy! Proudly display LinkedIn at work!
And in doing that, you should stick to a schedule. Use your Outlook calendar (or whatever planner you prefer) to schedule time with yourself to social sell. Part of social selling includes reaching out to new connections, sharing thoughts and ideas to increase your thought leadership, and recognizing existing connections' special occasions, such as work anniversaries and birthdays.
Gone are the days of feeling guilty about using social media at work. If you're one of those that still feel guilty, get over it.
Step 3: Have No Fear
Connect, connect, connect! Connect before you talk to somebody, connect after the first phone call, and definitely connect (if you haven't already) after you meet for the first time.
Connect with decision-makers on LinkedIn before you even shares a Valid Business Reason. This can help you be successful at receiving connections because you take time to be a thought leader before. Post interesting articles about the industry you're in and articles that would be interesting to those you sell to. So when you ask to connect with prospects, they can clearly see that you are not a waste of their time.
Those who engage in the process of buying, selling, partnering, and contracting through social media are transparent and expect you to be transparent as well. This simply means that you follow the sales process online through social media in addition to having live, in-person communication.
If you're not comfortable selling via social media, then start small with a simple connection. You can then pick up the phone and start your conversation, or you can go out of your comfort zone and use InMail to communicate.
Once you get comfortable with social selling, you'll find yourself having very productive conversations online that lead to closing more business offline.
*Editor's Note: This blog was originally written in 2015 and has since been updated.