Sales are like great employees: every business can use more of them.
Unfortunately, though, I'm a pretty poor salesman. (Okay, really poor.) That's why, when I write about sales strategies and techniques, I turn to experts for information and input.
Like Mike Derezin, Vice President of LinkedIn Sales Solutions. Recently we talked about Social Selling, the process of building stronger relationships with potential customers based on truly understanding their needs and problems--in short, better knowing the people you hope to do business with.
Every salesperson dreams about living in a world without cold calls and enjoying a network built solely on referrals.
Those dreams are actually closer to reality than you might think.
And that's a good thing, because cold selling lacks personalization and relevance--the fundamental tactics that establish good business relationships and lead to more sales.
In today's B2B business environment, savvy salespeople use cold calls as a last resort. Instead they use social networking to strategically ask for personal introductions and network with prospects and customers--otherwise known as Social Selling.
By building a strong personal brand and leveraging existing networks, anyone--regardless of industry--can master the art of Social Selling to drive referrals.
Here are five ideas for getting started:
1. Connect with people you actually know.
While this might seem obvious, a strong network built on real world connections will allow people to vouch for you. It will also strengthen your referral universe by opening up the possibility to form relationships with people that your connections know.
At LinkedIn our research shows that buyers are five times more likely to engage if the contact is made through a mutual connection, so be sure your offline contacts are reflected in your online world.
2. Leverage your company's network.
Have you ever made a cold call only to later find out that your co-worker knows your prospect? The power of social networks minimizes the chances of this happening because it provides a quick and easy view into your network.
In the world of social networking and big data, having intel on the people you want to engage, and a path to connecting with them, has never been easier. According to LinkedIn research, 88% of buyers will engage in discussion if introduced through someone in their existing network.
Remember, no one likes a canned approach. Be thoughtful enough to customize your message. It will go a long way in making a good first impression.
3. Find connections based on shared interests.
Online alumni networks and professional networking groups are just a few places to connect through shared interests. Think of these as your "digital water cooler "--a place to engage in conversation with information that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.
Engaging with prospects through common interests will give you more visibility, making it more acceptable to proactively ask for a referral rather than reaching out cold.
4. Build your professional brand beyond just a resume.
Think beyond the resume and approach your online presence as a key marketing tool.
50% of B2B buyers say they won't work with sales professionals with incomplete social profiles, so make sure you put your best foot forward by tailoring the content to reflect your expertise and personal brand. Experiment with videos, slideshows and images by embedding them into your profile.
The saying "a picture is worth a 1000 words" has never been more true than on social media.
5. Be vocal.
Beyond completing your profile, liking and sharing content can increase the likelihood that your network will engage with the information, and pave the way for new referrals.
We know that 92% of B2B buyers will listen to sellers who are known as industry thought leaders. Consider sharing articles or blogging on relevant industry topics to establish a regular cadence of content. Have a point of view and take risks in your answers.
It's okay to share information about your company's products and services, but only occasionally, and as appropriate. This will distinguish you among a sea of salespeople and position you as a smart resource.
And lastly, stay on top of what's important to your key contacts by paying attention to the content they share, and chime in when you have meaningful insights.
Social Selling offers salespeople massive opportunities to significantly enhance their efforts to make new contacts, establish their online reputation, and build a sales pipeline. Together, these activities lead to an increased network of referrals, at scale, which is easier to achieve than ever before.