Social media has forever changed the function of the salesperson. We are now in the era of "social selling" where the art of appealing to the savvy and highly informed buyer takes place online long before a deal can be closed.
Mike Derezin, a former entrepreneur who now serves as vice president of LinkedIn's Sales Solutions business, has a unique vantage point into the social selling movement that has been quietly taking hold of the world's largest professional network.
"Savvy salespeople know that the days of cold calls are over because they just don't work," says Derezin. "The good news is that there's a much better way to develop new leads and nurture existing ones. Using social media in a business context can help foster warm introductions and create authentic connections that pay off."
Below are some pointers from Derezin on developing social selling skills that can crown you a superstar of your sales organization.
1. Make your profile reflect your business
Don't view your profile as a resume only--potential buyers are actually using social media just as much as recruiters. Your profile is now a marketing tool, so you should use it to make a case for your expertise and your company. Make sure you have professional images and company logos. Embed any multimedia that illustrates the advantages of working with your company, including videos or case studies. Package information in ways that allows viewers to easily digest what you have to offer. Remember, you are just as searchable as any of your prospects, so anyone who may be interested in engaging with you will make your profile the first or second stop.
2. Find the right people
Put yourself in the prospect's shoes. Today's reality is that on average, there are more than seven people involved at a company for any B2B purchase. They simply don't want to be sold to; they want to be informed and advised on direction--and there's nothing that turns a buyer off more than getting a barrage of sales pitches when they're not remotely a part of the decision process. The cold call is slowly dying, so it's far more effective to handpick a smaller, targeted list than spraying and praying.
The key to social selling is figuring out which executives matter and map out the organization to understand key influencers. Once this is established, approach with a thoughtful plan that addresses the specific needs of each individual and company. Leverage your network to find connections that will open the door for you, or offer important background. The best sales opportunities happen because of referrals. This is simply how business gets done.
3. Engage with insights
Think of social selling as learning and culling on one hand, and sharing and commenting on the other. Sale reps are extremely busy, so finding time to write and publish content online can be difficult. Your approach should be very lightweight. Instead of starting from scratch, look for information that could trigger opportune times to engage, like job changes, promotions, news mentions, blog posts, and common connections. Knowing this creates opportunities to go in warm, rather than cold, with useful and timely information.
4. Focus on curation
Watch for anything noteworthy happening in your industry--then spread the word. Ninety-five percent of buyers expect sales professionals to offer new or different insights, at least to some extent. This is really a matter of curation, and taking 5 or 10 minutes a day to see what your network is reading and sharing. All you have to do is hit "like" or "share" on something insightful and it gets propagated to your network and you're instantly adding value. The more you know, the more credible you will be.
5. Build relationships and trust with people
Anyone who is a second-degree connection--a person who knows someone you're directly connected to--is gold. LinkedIn's research shows that buyers are 5X more likely to engage with salespeople who are introduced through someone in their network versus cold outreach, and have a 22X more favorable impression of those who are introduced through someone they know. The benefit of social media is that it allows you to do this at massive scale.
And you don't have to do it blindly. You can see the effectiveness of your efforts through LinkedIn's Social Selling Index, a measurement tool that benchmarks you against your peers and competitors through a social selling score. What you learn can help you adjust your strategy without losing sight of your goals.
Bottom line, social selling is generating results, and those with high scores are 51% more likely to hit their quota.