WE ALL KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE to be sold to. The random call at dinnertime, the email from someone you’ve never heard of, even the ads that follow you around the internet. Luckily, we’ve figured out ways to ignore the bombardment, but that makes truly connecting with prospects more challenging for salespeople. One of the best ways to ensure you’re getting in front of the right people is to always be providing value to them around their specific pain points. Social selling— connecting with your prospects on a platform other than email—makes that so much easier.
LinkedIn is by far my favorite platform for B2B social selling. Prospects choose to go to LinkedIn and “take a break” or look something up that’s less about work per se, so if you connect with them there, you’re not interrupting their day.
To succeed with social selling, follow these steps:
Step 1: Update that profile!
You want people to feel like they know you when you reach out, so be as presentable online as you would be in person. Use a headshot without any sunglasses/hats/people cut out and update your public profile with current experience. Don’t limit the information to just what a potential employer would care about; include how you help your clients and tune into their goals.
Step 2: Do your research.
Learn as much as you can about your prospects’ professional background as well as their interests and activities. Look at LinkedIn, of course, but also scour Facebook and Instagram for more personal information and what you may have in common. Diehard Red Sox fan? Avid skier or cyclist? Lives in Boulder? Has two girls like I do? I tend not to refer directly to these because you don’t want people to think you’re “stalking” them. However, if you need an ice breaker or if the conversation stagnates you can drop a mutual reference or ask a pointed question.
Step 3: Map out account touchpoints.
If your prospect is the vice president of engineering, first look at who you may have in common, or which groups you may both participate in. Once you’ve figured out all your possible touchpoints, reach out to them, reminding them of who you are and what you do. This way, if your target asks those mutual connections about you, they can say, “Yes, I do know X, he/she is a great person, and I was just chatting with them!”
Step 4: Pursue your prospect.
Finally, it’s time to connect with your prospect using a custom message (no canned LI messages please!). I try to name drop several of the connections from Step 3 and mention what they have in common with the prospect. Keep this a high-level discussion. Do not bring up the solutions or business outcomes you are selling yet. This step takes longer. You first need to nurture the relationship. Post relevant content to LinkedIn on a regular cadence and post hard-hitting LinkedIn long-form articles that focus on business outcomes the prospect may be seeking. Finally, ask the prospect to opt-in to your mailing list. And remember, don’t oversell!
This process may seem like a lot of work, but if you follow these steps opportunities will start dropping in your lap. While the sales cycle is a bit longer, it’s also less labor intensive. When someone raises their hand and says they’re ready to talk to you, chances are good they’re further along the buying process and won’t treat you like an annoying robocall.
HEATHER K. MARGOLIS is CEO of Channel Maven, which she founded in 2009 after leading channel programs for EMC, EqualLogic, and Dell. Channel Maven helps channel organizations of all sizes better communicate their value to channel partners of all types, and drive demand by leveraging social and traditional sales and marketing strategies.