As with almost every aspect of business, the technology revolution has had a dramatic effect on professional sales techniques. One thing that hasn’t changed is the need to create and nurture customer relationships by pursuing leads and following up with your contacts. But where have all the good leads gone? Why does hardly anyone answer your calls? The answer is that your clients have evolved, and, to be successful in today’s world, you need to evolve too.
Luckily, you can use technology to your advantage by developing a social selling strategy. Buyers who use social media have budgets that are 84 percent larger than those who don’t use social, and 73 percent of salespeople who use social media outperform their nonsocial media peers.1 Yet very few sales professionals have tapped into the exponential power of social selling—leaving lost profits and potential clients at the table.
I began my sales career in 1974, before people were thinking about digital marketing and social selling. In fact, a career in sales wasn’t even on my radar screen, but after graduating from college with a finance degree and marketing minor, my eyes always landed on sales jobs because they paid more. Given my humble beginning as the son of a Georgia sharecropper and being the first in my family to go to college, I was determined to maximize my earning potential. It turned out I was a natural at sales. Back then, I was introduced to what many still believe is the greatest sales training course ever developed: Xerox’s Professional Selling Skills. The fundamental principles I learned at Xerox continue to guide my sales approach, even as I constantly update my skill set to match the ever-changing buyer landscape.
For sales professionals, social media is a game-changer. Eighty-four percent of business-to-business (B2B) decision makers now use social media to help them make purchasing decisions.2 These and other customers no longer require a sales representative—they are doing their own legwork online. In the modern world of sales, buyers are about 57 percent through their buying process before they ever speak to a sales professional!3 The good news is, they are more than halfway toward making their purchase decision, and they still need you to get them to the finish line. They need a trusted adviser to answer their questions and take an interest in their decision. Using the same social media platforms your customers are using can be a very effective way to engage in a dialogue and close the sale. I use a five-step approach to social selling using LinkedIn.
1. Your LinkedIn Profile Is Your First Chance To Make A Great Impression
Have you ever searched someone online before calling him or her? What first impression do you want to give to someone who has your name but hasn’t yet spoken with you? With your LinkedIn profile, you have a chance to set yourself up as a trusted adviser and a “knowledge expert” before picking up the phone. Your LinkedIn profile should include:
Consider adding interactive-style media to your profile—this will give it a fresh look and help highlight your strengths.
2. Build Your Profile with Recommendations
We all love to read recommendations before purchasing anything online. Recommendations on LinkedIn work the same way. What do others say about you? Are you trustworthy? Are you customer focused? What strategies have you used to help businesses cut costs and increase their bottom-line profits? When someone else has vouched for you publicly on LinkedIn, it’s easier for your potential client to say “yes” to working with you. A good rule of thumb is two to three recommendations per job role (more is always better).
3. Join LinkedIn Groups
By joining LinkedIn Groups that are relevant to the areas you serve, you’ll be able to send free InMails to members. This gives you added leverage to use the group as a source of credibility, as well as a great introduction. This seems like a simple tip, but you’d be surprised how many people are missing out on this great feature! Join at least 10 groups to maximize your platform for success.
4. Be Top Of Mind Via InMails
This is one of the most important aspects of LinkedIn, especially if you are a Premium User. The previous frame of thought leveraged InMail as a campaign management platform. Ever receive an InMail telling you about services you neither want nor need? You probably have a couple of those sitting in your inbox right now. Do you respond to those, or are they more of a nuisance?
Avoid the nuisance factor by personalizing your InMail
as much as you can and leveraging your client’s profile page information—speak directly to the business issues they may be facing and how you can help. With this tip, you’ll see the seven-times greater response rate that LinkedIn states you’ll get over conventional email. It’s a great way to reach CEOs and C-levels who are otherwise guarded by gatekeepers behind phone lines.
5. Proactively Endorse Others
I call this the “boomerang effect.” By endorsing others on
LinkedIn, you not only get their attention, but you also gain some valuable real estate that links back to your LinkedIn profile. Who doesn’t want more profile views and potential new business? This is one of the easiest and quickest things you can do to create traction in your accounts. Plus, it fosters a spirit of collaboration by showing you are interested in helping others succeed in their professional careers.
Although LinkedIn is my social media platform of choice for B2B sales, the principles underlying these five steps can
be translated to others. It all depends on who and where your customers are. No matter your sales model, today’s battle for new customers and the struggle to keep existing customers are being waged on social media. Sales professionals who incorporate social selling into their sales model can leverage social media and pivot from being order takers to becoming knowledge experts and trusted advisers. Make this shift and watch your pipeline and sales grow.
1) A Sales Guy Consulting (2013), Social Media and Sales Quota Survey. Available at:
2) https://salesbenchmarkindex. com/insights/the-rise-of-social-selling/
3) https://www.cebglobal. com/blogs/b2b-sales-and-marketing-two-numbers-you-should-care-about/?business_line=marketing-communications