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8 How to Use Social Media in Sales

Smart salespeople have learned to tap the power of social media, but sadly, many companies still see social media tools and networks as a pointless and even scary place for their sales teams to focus.

Many sales people don’t fully understand the power of social networks in the sales process or they relegate to some sort of digital prospecting tool at best.

It’s amazing to me that this mentality remains. I realize that there is potential for confusion if sales reps are left “out in the wild” to create their own messages and brand assets, but the downside of restraining this powerful approach is far greater.

Today’s qualified prospect is often far easier to find and reach using social channels.

Today’s qualified prospect often shares invaluable buying signals and data via social channels.

My first job out of college was a sales job and I recall my first sales mentors, my father, coaching me on the ways to scan a prospect’s office for clues to information that might provide conversation starters and common ground. Things like diplomas, photos and awards were data points for relationship building.

Today this data, as well as information about buying patterns, challenges, company culture and news that may impact purchasing needs, is often shared freely in social networks.

There’s a famous saying that’s often applied to the world of business – It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. The influx of social behavior in the sales environment has transformed this equation to – It’s not who you know, it’s what you know about who you know.

And it’s never been easier to know a great deal more about whom you know.

While the process of sales may always involve face-to-face education and persuasion, many elements of prospecting, relationship building and adding value can be greatly aided through the consistent use of social media.

Mining

Blending social media data into CRM systems has become commonplace in the sales environment, but smart salespeople are taking it much deeper by mining networks like Twitter to develop and save searches related to their products and services. When someone complains about or asks about something related to their search they might find an open invitation to start a conversation with a prospect.

Your lead mining toolbox should include:

  • Twilert – a service that sends you alerts via email when your search terms are used on Twitter.
  • Talkwalker Alerts – a free service that sends alerts for your chosen search terms when they are found in Google.
  • Hootsuite – a free app that allows you to monitor Twitter for search terms and follow selected lists of Twitter users.
  • Feedly – a free tool that allows you to subscribe to and read RSS feeds. By subscribing the blogs and news feeds of prospect companies you can scan for important nuggets. I also use the Reeder app on my phone to make it easier to scan and share content I find.

Connecting

Mining social networks is only part of the equation. Social networks are all about connecting and, in many cases, discovering who is connected to whom. Using research tools such as InsideView or SalesLoft can open unlock potential opportunities for connection.

A particularly useful tool for following job changes, a tremendous network connecting practice, is JobChangeAlerts.com. This tool mines LinkedIn and alerts you to profile changes in your network.

Engaging

A great deal of relationship building energy is focused on getting and closing the deal, but as most sales professionals know, the long term money is in growing relationships before and after the sale. This is where loyalty, repeat purchases and referrals happen.

This is where socially enabled tools for content sharing, filtering and curating shine. One of the best ways to establish increased value is to provide value in ways that may be, or at least seem to be, unrelated to the products and services you offer.

I believe that some service providers are being chosen these days based on their ability to find and share the good stuff in addition to making sense of the changing stuff.

Your Engaging toolbox might include:

  • Using your Feedly reader to create industry specific feeds.
  • Using tools such as Storify or Scoop.it to create custom topic pages.
  • Using Q and A sites like Quora to hone in on key industry challenges.

The changing world of sales has in some ways become more complex and in others more open, but one thing will likely never change – the sales professional that consistently finds ways to offer more value will win.

Adding depth

Another essential mining skill is the ability to go deeper inside the organizations you serve or hope to serve. How many accounts have been lost over the years because the salesperson had a great relationship with a buyer, only to see that buyer move on?

By mining social networks to get a bigger view of your “buyer’s world” you can start to build relationships around them and potentially uncover new opportunities. If you’ve built an advocate in your original relationship, you may find that this approach makes it easier for them to open doors for you rather than simply asking them to make a referral.

It may not make sense for you to build a relationship with your contact’s boss’s boss, but it may be a very smart play for you to connect your boss’s boss with that person.

Social networks, such as LinkedIn, are very good at revealing connections between individuals as well as highlighting the basis of the connection. This information can become very valuable as you begin to work on a targeted prospect.

Another very important reason for going deeper into organizations is to understand how a deal really happens. Have you ever had one of those deals just grind to a halt and eventually fade away just when everything seemed to be going great – your client was all thumbs up and talking about getting the PO ready to go?

Chances are the deal was killed by stakeholders you were not aware of – and the bigger the organization, the more stakeholders involved.

If you’re selling a software solution to a purchasing department, there’s a really, really good chance that IT, Sales, Operations and maybe even Finance are going to have a say in the who, what, when and where of the deal.

Use social networks to construct company “stakeholder maps” and start connecting with and understanding those crazy guys in IT as part of your mining. This doesn’t mean you’re going to start pitching everyone in the organization, but there’s a good chance that you can actually help your “buyer” better understand the real buying process better when you take this kind research approach. (That sounds like adding value and insight doesn’t it?)

8 The Golden Age of Social Lead Targeting Has Arrived Fully

In the beginning, you know about five years ago, some smart sales types discovered the awesome power of mining social networks for leads. In a way it was like the early prospectors digging around and bumping into gold with little more than an idea and some hard work staking claims. (This post I wrote in 2010 about mining Twitter for leads remains one of my most shared posts)

But now we’ve moved past the point of crude social lead digging to a much more elegant phase in which prospective clients can be discovered, scored and nurtured using social networks and everyday relationship building tools.

In fact, the practice has become so accepted it now has several names – social selling and social lead targeting. (By the way I’ve curated a list of CRM tools at the bottom of this post that you might want to check out.)

As services such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter grow in importance so too have the tools that mine the rich set of sales data left in every interaction.

But, the big breakthrough in social selling occurred, in my opinion, when tools that mined social data started talking to each other.

No longer do we need the mammoth do everything in one enterprise type tools to compete. A lone salesperson with a Hootsuite and Nimble account and about $20 a month can become a social lead targeting ninja.

Now, I’m not saying that some of those more expensive and more complicated tools aren’t awesome. Heck, if you’ve got the budget, full-time IT support and someone to pull the levers and adjust the mirrors, go for it!

But, if that’s not you, let me ask you this.

Would it be helpful if you could easily find people searching for your products on, say, Twitter?

Okay, no magic there, anybody with a little Twitter search mojo has been able to do that for years now, but . . .

  • What if you could also instantly know everything those people are doing on other social networks?
  • Who they are, who they are connected to and how to contact them in several channels?
  • What if you could easily create a contact record that unified all of your communication with them?
  • What if you could then start to track what they did on your website and how they reacted to your emails?

First off, you can easily do all of this and more with little or no tech support for less than $100 a month.

Do you think that could make you a better sales person?

I’ve only mentioned Twitter so far, but you can do the same kind of discovery and targeting on Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ as well with the right tool set up and integration.

And building targeted lists is only one way to look at what I’m talking about. You can also build a connected network of your customers, share targeted insights and facilitate engagement and partnerships better when you adopt this kind of targeting mindset.

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Here I’ve used Hootsuite to find someone on Twitter that I want to connect with, so with one click I’ll add them to Nimble for a complete picture and connection record for future engagement.

The key piece of the puzzle is integration. Hootsuite is a great tool, but integrated with Nimble, it’s a power tool.

I can easily build a list in Twitter based on search criteria and then with one click add selected list members to the Nimble CRM tool for a complete picture of the prospect along with unified messaging. So, now if I reach out to that prospect by way of a subtle connection tweet, Nimble captures our entire conversation, shows me the prospect’s social stream and their key connections in one screen.

As much as I’ve grown to appreciate the power of a true social CRM tool, integrating it with a lead tracking and capture tool like Hubspot further allows me to score the interest of my leads and keep an entire record, not only of my direct interactions, but also their interactions with my content and landing pages.

Integration is also what allows most CRM tools to talk to most email service providers.

I’ve written previously about a specialty service called Zapier that allows you to create your own integrations where none exists. For example, you might want to create special record in Nimble when someone buys something through your 3rd party shopping cart – no problem, create a Zapier integration and get busy with better follow-up.

Social is not so much a channel as it is a behavior that allows for much richer listening, targeting, nurturing, learning and converting. The key is to bake social data and signals into your entire prospecting and sales process as a mindset using tools that put this vital set of data at your fingertips.

The real skill then becomes using this information to add value!

I’ve added a list of CRM tools and hope you’ll share your thoughts and insights.

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83 The Abusive Math of Cold Calling

If you are emotionally attached to cold calling, you might want to stop reading this post now.

mathAt a recent conference I heard Mahan Khalsa, co-author of Let’s Get Real of Let’s Not Play share the following statistics. (I don’t have the source of the data, but my experience tells me it’s pretty accurate.)

Cold calling results in about a 1-3% success rate for getting an initial appointment and it’s generally abusive to both parties. When that same call is made with a referral, the rate jumps up to 40% and even much higher when that referral comes from within the company.

The conclusion anyone should make from the gap in these two points is that you should never leave the office or get on the phone to call on a prospect without some form of a referral. In fact, if you’ve got a hot prospect, you should probably wait to find someone who can refer you or you might just waste any chance of getting in the door.

So, let’s do some simple math – if you have a list of 1000 names to cold call, you’re looking at getting 30 appointments as doing quite well (who knows if they are the right 30, but we can use this for conversation sake.) Now, let’s say you drill down and do enough research to find 250 prospects on that list that are very well suited to your business. Then you do further research using social media to locate information and contacts that would allow you to get referral introductions and recommendations to most on that pared down list. Experience tells me this approach is likely to turn up 75-100, well qualified prospects willing to discuss your ideas further.

Make fewer calls, get better results – that’s marketing math you can live with.

A referral into a prospect can come from one of three places, your current customers, your network, or a strategic partner. It’s important to mine all three of these groups as you build your prospect list.

A key aspect of this concept, of course, is that you are constantly developing a hot prospect list. In other words, a list of customers you would like to do business with. When you have this as your starting point you can target your referral sources for specific requests. When you go to a customer or strategic partner and ask if they know anyone on your list, it’s much easier for them to help.

Now, here’s where social technology can really be your friend. Once you have a prospect list, connect with them in social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. When you do this, not only will they tell you a lot about what’s important to them and what their challenges and opportunities are, they’ll probably show you who their peers, friends and network members are. They may actually identify for you the best way to get to referred into them.

Do this with your existing customers as well because it will make it easier to identify the ones that are influencers, who participates at a high level in social media, and who might be great candidate to refer you to your hot prospect list.

The last piece of this tactic is that you also have a plan to educate your referral sources. If you find that you are just one LinkedIn connection away from a hot prospect and you would like someone in your network to make an introduction, make sure that you take the time to teach them how and why to introduce you. This assures you don’t waste anyone’s time and your referral source including that of your referral source.

This approach obviously takes more time and planning. You must develop a prospect list, research using social media, and plan for referred introductions. The end result, however, is a success rate that any sales and marketing person would be envious of.

Image credit: stuartpilbrow