Integrating Social Media with Sales Strategy

Social sales specialist Jim Keenan says that his job consists mostly of helping others transition from traditional sales to social sales, from the cold-calling days of the past to the tweets of tomorrow, and educating organizations on the power of sharing relevant content online.

Keenan's findings that prove his philosophy have made him a household name among sales professionals and social media enthusiasts. His argument: Using social media to sell increases profits. Point blank. He conducted a study in 2012 that demonstrates that 78 percent of salespeople using social media outsell their peers. But how?

They focus on relationships.

If we consider what industries have been successfully employing social media to further their business objectives, we immediately think of marketing, advertising, and customer service. These industries were early adopters of social media. It took very little time for companies in these areas to realize the ease with which they could connect with customers and influence purchase decisions by simply engaging with customers in this new space.

The same is true in sales. Sales is driven by personal connections and exchanges between sellers and buyers. People buy from people they like and trust. When integrating social media into your sales strategy, the focus must be on relationships.

A selling relationship is very complex and takes time to discover, create, and nurture. It doesn't happen overnight, and it's not a means to an end. The best social sellers know that social selling is about building a strong personal brand that allows you to connect with, engage, and nurture relationships with others. It's about understanding the powerful role of content and how it can be used to tell emotional stories and build trust and credibility with existing and potential customers.

A successful selling relationship is personal and professional, creates value, and builds trust.

Here are three tips to help you keep the relationship in focus when combining social media with your sales strategy:

1. Listen, and then engage

Gather customer insights by listening on social media to collect data on who your customers are.

Social data allows companies to make better decisions based on more meaningful consumer insights. Begin by simply collecting data, such as who's "liked" you on Facebook or who "follows" you on Twitter. Then dive deeper into those analytics to uncover who these people are and build a customer profile. Some questions to include: What are they interested in and what other brands do they follow?

Use this information to make decisions around how and when you should make an introduction, what content you'll share with them, and what messages they'll likely respond to. Only then can you begin building a meaningful relationship.

2. Generate new leads

Strong relationships with customers and clients can, in themselves, be a direct path to a sea of new business. Search your existing customers online and connect with them on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Navigate their social networks and ask for introductions, product reviews, or testimonials.

With more than 170 million active users, Twitter is the ideal place to discover prospects, build relationships, and gain deep insights into your prospects' needs and wants.

Being visible on social media is great way to start a relationship with buyers who are doing their pre-purchase research, looking for recommendations, or posing product inquiries to their networks. Social media gives you direct access to an unlimited number of sales leads; it's up to you take the relationship to the next level.

3. Create content that adds value

Engage customers online by creating and sharing value-driven content.

This means that the content you share should offer your customers something of value. For example, is there a problem or concern that you can solve? Is there a need that you can satisfy?

Focus on educating your prospects by offering information that makes their life easier, solves a problem, or gives them a new perspective. Share your content with your network through blog posts, Twitter updates, and discussion groups.

Think outside of the box and create shared presentations, whitepapers, e-books, or infographics. No matter how you present it, be sure the content is easy to consume, easy to share, and easy to like.

If your company is not following these steps to build relationships, maybe it's time to start.

Rob Begg is the chief marketing officer at Introhive. Prior to joining Introhive, Rob was vice president of product marketing for Salesforce.com's Marketing Cloud.

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