There’s a fine line between being helpful and being creepy. The goal of social selling is to draw prospects in, not scare them away.

Most people think of social selling as using social media platforms to sell. That’s a gross oversimplification. You have to build some trust and influence first. If I just walked up to you and said, “Yo. Buy this sweet stereo I have in my trunk.” you (probably) wouldn’t do it. Social media is no different. Instead, apply the Golden Rule of Sales: don’t sell in a way you wouldn’t want to buy.

Salespeople should use social media to provide insights for prospects by answering questions, responding to comments, sharing content… anything to add value. I’ll say it again: Add value. Don’t add noise.

How exactly do you do that? Below we detail How to Get Started with Social Selling to help you navigate a tricky space and be seen as an asset throughout the buying process – from awareness to consideration to the close.

1. Create a professional profile

We actually covered this one a couple of weeks ago in our post, How to Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile for Social Selling. Having an up-to-date social profile is step one to not being creepy.

Check out the full post for 5 steps (with examples!) to do that. In the meantime, here’s an excerpt:

“Have you ever searched for someone on LinkedIn only to find their profile is nothing more than their name or their photo is 20 years old? Do you sort of feel like they’re lazy? It’s frustrating and doesn’t reflect well on the individual. Maybe they just aren’t into social media, but that doesn’t change your perception. Don’t be that person… especially if you’re using LinkedIn as part of your sales process.”

2. Post relevant content

Content is a way for you to continually demonstrate ways you can add value to your target audience. That doesn’t mean slaving over a keyboard to write original thought pieces. Instead, look at industry news, relevant technology advancements, and LinkedIn posts that are getting a lot of engagement.

Posting content your prospects are interested in helps you stand out – it doesn’t have to be “yours” or even your company’s work. In fact, it’s better to put up content from a variety of sources to prevent a perception that you’re self-serving. Develop a point of view, write a couple of sentences, and share it. Adding your insight on a piece sparks conversations with your target audience.

LinkedIn posts to encourage social selling

You down with OPP? (Other People’s Publications)

3. Do some light stalking

Many social networks offer someway to “watch” people/companies of interest. On Twitter, you can create lists of people or hashtags to watch. Facebook allows you to take a page like one step further with a “follow” so you’re always aware of new posts. LinkedIn has a similar follow feature for both companies and individuals.

Take it a step further by subscribing to LinkedIn Sales Navigator. It is a premium paid service, but it makes stalking research much easier. The tool helps you identify new leads based on a variety of parameters: location, industry, company size, etc. Using those search results, you can build a qualified prospect list. From there, you can…

4. Make a connection

The rules of engagement when it comes to connecting with someone are vague. Social media is the new business card, but at what point are you handed this virtual business card? On Twitter, you’re free to follow people all day long. It’s expected and even encouraged. On LinkedIn, you should be more cautious.

It’s generally considered bad form – even annoying – to request a connection from someone with whom you’ve never had a meaningful interaction. After you’ve engaged with a target in person or online, a personalized invitation is fine. The key word there is personalized. Take the extra 30 seconds to tell the person why you’d like to be in their network. This should be easy if you’ve been engaging with OPP; reference something posted on the person’s company page or a piece of content related to something they recently shared to show that you’re not just some rando.

Customize invitations in LinkedIn

5. Get engaged

Join LinkedIn groups and offer insights. Comment on your prospect’s post. Tweet back. Whatever you do, don’t make it a sales pitch. No one is browsing their social platform of choice on a Sunday night, just hoping someone will try to sell to them.

Remember The Gold Rule of Sales. Engage in a meaningful way; add value by contributing a thought-provoking response to an article.

Want extra credit? Share an article with a target customer and include a thoughtful comment.

Example of social selling on LinkedIn

BONUS: Ask for referrals

Referral selling is one of the most effective techniques you can use. In fact, 92% of buyers trust referrals from people they know (we have a short video on that here). Social selling makes it easier for you to get referrals within your LinkedIn network.

Here’s how:

  1. Identify stakeholders to whom you’d like to be introduced.
  2. Stop by their LinkedIn profile.
  3. Check for common connections.
  4. Request an introduction from your mutual friend. (Don’t forget to say thank you.)
  5. Start the conversation.

Social selling is not a one-and-done activity. Add it to your existing sales cadences. There is some start-up effort, but the payoff is worthwhile. Recent TOPO research indicates that generating your own leads creates the best long-term results. On average, marketing is still only responsible for 30% of lead generation for sales. That leaves you – the sales rep – to generate an average of 70% of your own leads if you are to hit quota.

Your prospects and customers are already on social media, and they’re using it for business. Go where your prospects and customers are. Just don’t forget: social selling works best when your primary goal is to add value and build relationships. In the wise words of Oprah, “It is better to be interested than interesting.”

Pssst… did you know that SalesLoft now offers LinkedIn Sales Navigator steps? These allow salespeople to include four kinds of LinkedIn Sales Navigator steps (InMail, Research, Connection Request, & Ask for an Introduction) in cadences that can be executed directly from within SalesLoft and Salesforce.