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Mediapost blog quoteThese days, sellers can’t wait for buyers to come to them.

Buyers are doing their research online, getting up-to-speed on their options on their own. Sales professionals have to go find those informed, savvy prospects where they are, engage them in conversation, and begin building relationships with them.

And engaging with prospects through social media is a great way for your salespeople to do just that.

While social selling may be a very different tactic than your salespeople are used to, the end goal is the same as it’s always been: to demonstrate your expertise, as well as the value your organization and solutions will bring to the customer. Selling has always been about establishing relationships—social just puts powerful tools and enormous potential reach in the hands of your sales teams.

After hearing her speak on the topic of social selling at recent marketing conference, I sat down with my colleague Sierra West, Audience Lead at WW Corporate Accounts and Partner Sales, to further understand the importance of engaging with customers using social selling.

As Sierra told me, social selling is really about engaging with sales prospects one-on-one through social media channels in order to better understand and provide value to them, while ultimately converting them into buyers. To get you started, here are Sierra’s three steps to help your salespeople find and engage with prospects online:

1. Establish your online brand.

Before you dive into social selling, you need to have a solid, cohesive online presence. When your sales team can confidently answer these questions, you’re ready to start:

  • What does your professional brand stand for?
  • How do you communicate your brand to prospects?
  • Who is your target audience, and how do you provide value to them?
  • What are your areas of expertise, and how can you demonstrate that expertise to prospects?

Be sure your online customer touchpoints are consistent with your brand and the prospects you’re looking to attract: update your Pinpoint, LinkedIn, and Facebook profiles so that all the headlines, summaries, recommendations, badges, etc. match your brand and speak to your target audience.

2. Maintain an active presence.

Your savvy salespeople can find prospects by using social listening to identify how key words or phrases relevant to your business and offerings are being used by your potential customers. Have your salespeople join groups on LinkedIn or follow search terms on Twitter to figure out where prospects are and what they’re talking about. Then they can narrow in on the prospects in your target audience and reach out to individuals directly.

And, thanks to all that listening your salespeople have been doing, they’ll be able to add value to conversations and demonstrate your organization’s expertise and thought leadership. It’s not necessary (or ideal) to always sell—giving guidance, linking to great content on your site or elsewhere, or demoing a solution in a Skype call are all great ways to demonstrate both technical expertise and good will.

…especially if there isn’t the expected, immediate sales pitch after!

3. Gain customer insight, build relationships, stay connected.

MediaPost reports that LinkedIn research found that buyers who use social media were 21 percent more likely to say their relationships with vendors have grown stronger over the past year than those who do not.

By listening and engaging in conversations on social media, sales professionals can get in-depth insights into the challenges potential customers are facing. Pair that understanding with your organization’s expertise in the technological solutions customers need, and your sales teams have a truly effective way of getting prospects’ attention and providing value.

And once the relationships are established, continue and cultivate those connections. Your salesperson’s one-on-one relationship with a customer can build trust, opening up the opportunity for up-selling and cross-selling as both customer needs and technology evolve.

There are some terrific tools out there that can help you bring these concepts to life. Here at Microsoft, many of our sellers have successfully leveraged LinkedIn Sales Navigator for sales prospecting. In the following video, Sierra goes into more details on some of the functions of Sales Navigator our sellers have found really valuable.

Clearly your organization can gain a lot from implementing social selling tactics. But perhaps the most valuable thing you can gain is a deeper understanding of your customers. With that understanding, your salespeople have the opportunity to say the right things to the right prospects on the right channels—and then convert them into leads.

Jennifer Tomlinson

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