Relax. You've got this social selling thing.

Okay, take a deep breath and...relax. Social selling is just communicating with your prospects and customers via social media (and even email). As mentioned before in the "Sales is changing!" blog if you are already sharing information, insights, and value with your prospects and customers (and not just the kind that comes from your marketing department with your company brand all over it) then you're already selling socially.

If you aren't, then you should start. And the easiest way to start is by using a few basic tools at your disposal. Tools such as LinkedIn, Google+, Google Alerts, and yes Twitter.

LinkedIn

If you're not using LinkedIn, where have you been? LinkedIn is the perfect place to polish your professional persona. Here's how you can use it:

  • Use LinkedIn to connect with existing customers and even prospects you've already had some positive exchange/communication with. I'm going to restate that. Send connection requests to people you ALREADY have started developing a relationship. NOT someone who has filled in a form for your content and has never spoken with you before (or you have made one cold call to).

  • DO NOT use the "canned" I'd like to add you to my network request. Or the "because you're a trusted member of my network" spiel. Make each and every connection request personal to the person you're sending it. Tell them why you want to connect with them and what you have to offer. Be aware that connection requests do not allow links (to website addresses) and the name of the recipient is auto completed with your message (no need to waste characters on "Hi Jim" as LinkedIn adds it automatically).

  • Use InMail, just like you would an email, to send to messages to someone who is not connected with you on LinkedIn. Use it sparingly and make sure your don't "spam" people with your InMail as LinkedIn does allow recipients to grade your InMail. Use it when you have something genuinely of potential interest to the recipient. The great thing about InMail is, if the receiver doesn't reply within a week, you get a credit back. So if you only have 10 InMail per month and 5 people don't reply within a week, you'll receive 5 credits to send to 5 other prospects. Please note, different connection requests, links ARE allowed on InMail messages but the name of the recipient is NOT auto-completed. So you must add "Hi Jane" to your message or it won't be personally addressed.

  • Update your profile to be customer-centric (not job-seeker centric)— let people know what YOU, and your employer, have done for your customers as well as what you have to offer prospects and customers. What's your expertise? How do you personally add value? See what Jill Konrath has to say about boosting your sales credibility with your LInkedIn profile here.

  • Research customers and prospects to see what Groups they are part of. If you're able, join the groups that make sense and routinely share insight (either by creating your own posts or by commenting on posts).

  • Regularly share industry related blog articles and other resources with your LinkedIn connections. Sharing content created by your marketing team is a start, but can get old fast. Spend some time finding industry leaders and follow them, sharing their content. In essence, you're curating content via your LinkedIn profile.

  • Write your own blog, on LinkedIn, when you have something of value to add about a current trend or solution your followers may be interested in. Make sure to keep your your employer, prospects and customers' private information private.

  • If you're able to (meaning there are no privacy or competition concerns for your customers) congratulate them on milestones, achievements made (either on their own or with your product), and in general let them know you're paying attention.

  • LinkedIn also allows you to save people's profile (so you won't forget prospects you've researched) as well as keep private notes on your saved profile and connections (notes could be how you met, a reminder about a conversation, tasks you need to complete, information about what interests them).

  • One other little trick is to prospect via LinkedIn. If you are not connected to someone you cannot see their connections (the people they are connected to). And sometimes even if you are connected, individual privacy settings can prevent you from seeing who they are conected with. If you've found someone who could be a good prospect, or someone who's network would be of interest to you, scroll over the pictures of the people who have endorsed one of their skills. It's likely this person IS a connection (a colleague, industry acquaintence at another company, friend, family member, vendor, or even your competitor). Scrolling over the picture will give you their name ad headline from their profile.

Consider investing in a paid subscription to LinkedIn. It provides a lot of value to sales professionals. I highly recommend it. Even the cheapest plan gives you access to significantly more InMails, more results from your searches, and adds clout to your profile.

Twitter

Are you already tweeting? If yes, is there anything "scary" or unprofessional about your previous tweets? If not, there's no reason your personality can't shine through . Use the same Twitter account you use for personal and professional interest. Just make sure your previous and future tweets aren't inflammatory. And if you're not already a Twitter user (or your existing Twitter account is not appropriate for professional use), create a new account

  • Follow your customers and prospects, partners, complimentary vendors, and industry experts.

  • Tweet, retweet, quote, and share content you find that may be of interest to your followers and their followers.

  • Don't worry too much about when to tweet, let some of the tools mentioned below do that for you.

  • Don't forget you only have 140 characters. So choose your words carefully, shorten your links (with free tools like Hootsuite and Bitly), and avoid poor grammar, jargon, and acronyms when possible.

Google+

See Twitter above, rinse and repeat. Although Google+ allows you to "post" without the restrictive character limitation of Twitter.

  • Create topic specific circles for people you are following (for example one for customers, another for prospects, and maybe another for industry leaders).

  • Make a point to see what your circles are posting daily, and comment (aka engage), and remember (save notes to CRM) so you know what things to share with them in the future.

Google Alerts

If you're not already using Google Alerts you've been missing out. Google Alerts automatically conducts a Google keyword search and sends the results to you via email (at a frequency of your choice). Keywords can be specific to your prospects, customers, industry, competitors—anything you can think of.

Here's a great blog article on how to use Google Alerts.

There's no reason you can't warm up relationships with social media tools. Your marketing team doesn't "own" them. Although your organization may have some rules and guidelines about how/when you're allowed to use them for work purposes. Keep any of those rules and guidelines in mind when you start to engage your prospects and customers via social media. And them to the mix of activities you're already doing. They supplement, not replace, your tried, tested, and effective tools (like cold calling).

#linkedin #google #googlealerts #twitter #b2b #socialselling

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