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Social Selling Done Right, From the Start

7 min read
Updated Aug. 2, 2021
Published Aug. 12, 2019

The story of inappropriate social contact is as old as social media itself. With the ubiquity of social media-connected smartphones and voice-activated robot assistants, opportunities to fumble a connection are plentiful. This problem is compounded when your day-to-day involves attempting to convince people to give you their time… and hopefully a sale.

True, social media and its bottomless pits of data are a treasure trove for the salesperson. However, there is no quicker way to turn a potential customer off from ever interacting with your business than to show up in their social media feeds uninvited. Especially if you’re adding nothing but noise to the conversation.

In their Rainmaker 2019 roundtable discussion, Barbara Giamanco, CEO of Social Centered Selling; Kat Moore, Regional Sales Manager at Akamai Technologies; Samantha McKenna, Head of Enterprise Sales at LinkedIn; and Morgan Ingram, Director of Sales Execution and Evolution at J. Barrows Sales training discussed some ways to you can add value on social.

social selling advice

How Do You Define Social Selling?

Almost no one is excited when a salesperson shows up at their door uninvited. As a general rule, people don’t like to be bothered in their private spaces. The good thing about social selling is that the public nature of social media gives you a reason to enter the conversations. Potential customers are already openly giving you the information you need to make sure that you are adding value to their lives. All you need to do is listen.

Morgan sees social listening as a crucial step in sales. Speaking at #Rainmaker19, he said: “…I’m trying to understand what my buyers are talking about, what my industry is talking about, and what other peers in my industry are talking about.”

Social selling is about picking up cues as to what your customers’ needs are. By taking the time to listen, you can understand what their pain is, what they’re excited for, and what they’re passionate about. Done correctly, you can begin to build better, deeper connections, or at the very least speed up the rate at which those relationships get built.

Kat cautions that social selling isn’t meant to replace phone or email in your sales cadence, but rather to enhance it. If you take the time to understand the conversation, you add a valuable touchpoint to your relationship with your prospect.

Gaining Insight

“Look at social selling as a lever. It’s one of the many tools in your toolkit, it’s not an all-in-one thing,” says Samantha. “If you look at the most successful reps, the ones that I’ve managed are always aggressive social sellers… [LinkedIn] is a social listening tool, so you’re leveraging data intelligence insights.”

While you’re not just going to slide into someone’s DMs and earn a meeting, LinkedIn can be a valuable step in a sales cadence. The professional nature of the network means that it’s not unexpected for someone to reach out to a customer through the platform. Kat finds a three-prong approach (voicemail, email, and LinkedIn connection) is most effective to maximize coverage and make sure the customer sees you’re reaching out.

“Social media helps you look at the different contacts that you’re going after and learn their story and understand about them. “It helps you understand more about them, which can help you break down barriers.” – Kat Moore, Regional Sales Manager @ Akamai Technologies

The opportunity to network in specific groups via LinkedIn can be an enormous asset as well. Pay attention to the groups your potential customers are joining, and join them too. Those discussions are value sources on information about specific industries and roles you’re targeting and can be an asset in your process.

When you do reach out, use the information you’ve been able to gather. Address the problems they’ve outlined specifically. By focusing on specific pains a potential customer is experiencing, you show that you’re listening and invested. The last thing you want is to be perceived as a stereotypical ‘spray and pray’ salesperson.

Kat Moore - LinkedIn social selling advice

LinkedIn for Lead Gen

The panel discussed four practical ways salespeople can use LinkedIn in the lead generation process:

1. If you have LinkedIn Premium, you can leverage Insights to understand how fast teams within a company are growing and hiring and recent additions at the executive level. Another way to gauge hiring is to find a company’s posts in the Jobs tab. If you’re targeting HR leaders, for example, look at how fast the human resources team is hiring. If they’re growing rapidly, leadership probably doesn’t have enough time in their day. Use that to inform your approach. Focus on how you can help them save time.

2. One way to stand out on Linkedin is by using the new voice messages feature. Morgan conducted a case study where he left 100 Linkedin voice messages. He got 41 responses and 18 meetings! The reason he believes it was so successful is that it’s unique. “You can get in, grab someone’s attention, and explain the value you offer,” Morgan explained. Full disclosure: you can only do this with first-degree connections.

3. When you make the move to send an invitation to connect on LinkedIn, personalize your message. Most business leaders get between a ton of invitations each day. If you don’t give some context, you’re just some random person to them. Why would they accept? Don’t just throw in a “Hey – I’d love to connect!” Show some effort and interest in the person by including a personalized note that mentions something about their business or industry, maybe a challenge or observation you’ve made.

4. When you share content, make sure you do two important things. First, look at the comments and respond to them. It shows that you’re genuine in wanting to share knowledge and start a discussion. Second, go back and click on the views (right under the like button) and see which companies the people who looked at your post are from. If they viewed your post, that might be a sign that you should be prospecting them.

Be Mindful

Social media is a wasteland of poor grammar and ill-advised diatribes. Don’t give in to the immediacy of social posting – take your time. It’s important to put your best foot forward (always, but specifically for social selling). For Samantha McKenna, that means making sure her team is paying more attention to grammar, and crafting engaging subject lines and opening sentences that convey the weight of the ideas contained within the message. Here’s her advice:

“Your subject line should always have some element of what I love to call ‘show me you know me.’”

When it comes time to make the ask, you can begin to tie it all together. Morgan Ingram has a formula that goes from intention to CTA. It shows that not only is he invested in the project but that he’s also tuned in to the client’s needs.

Morgan Ingram - being mindful sales tips

He outlined his method as follows:

“I normally say I was researching, I saw identified, I analyze, I browse, I looked. That means that I have some intention, then I talk about what I found, and from there I tie it in with: “We’ve talked to a lot of VPs of Sales, VPs of Marketing, Chief Security Officer, IT, etc.” Whatever your persona is, I relate it back to a use case-specific example from that actual industry and then to how our training applies or your solution applies. Then I go to the call to action.”

Social selling can be a tricky situation, but you can avoid blazing the wrong trail if you are committed to listening closely and always acting with intention. Here are a few more resources to help you maximize social in your sales process: