17 Plays for Winning at Social Selling

Ah, Super Bowl season.

Whether you are a lover of football, object to the notion of barbarians throwing around cowhide, or watch the spectacle for the commercials and halftime show, the Super Bowl is hard to ignore.

We thought that we’d help you get into the Super Bowl spirit by writing a blog post, chock-full of plays. Just as quarterbacks have their favorite plays for winning games, social sellers have their favorite plays for winning at social selling.

Take note. Winning at social selling does not mean closing a deal and sending over a contract via Facebook Messenger. Instead, winning at social selling means building relationships and trust so that you earn the opportunity to have offline conversations.

So, with no further ado, here are 17 plays that you can start using today.

LinkedIn Plays

1. Use Alumni Search

Your fellow alumni are often a fantastic resource. If you want to see if any of your former classmates are in your territory, you can use LinkedIn’s free alumni search tool.

By reconnecting with former classmates while you’re researching your target companies, you might just get the “in” that you need at a particular company.

2. Look at the “People Also Viewed” Section

Nowadays, the typical deal involves 6.8 stakeholders. Don’t you wish that you could easily find more stakeholders at key companies? Well, you can!

Head over to the profile of one of your prospects, and then look to the right. The “People Also Viewed” section will show other users similar to him or her, many of which are stakeholders at the same organization. Here’s an example from Bill Harris, the VP of Trapit:

3. Avoid Cold Pitches, Especially on InMail

You’ve probably received a few cold pitches on LinkedIn, and maybe you’ve thought, Hmm… If other people are cold pitching on LinkedIn, it must be working. Otherwise, why would they be doing it? Just because cold pitches are “out in the wild” doesn’t mean that they are successful. In fact, for many buyers, receiving a cold pitch is a huge turn-off.

Focus on adding value instead. Help your buyer. If you are solely talking about your product, social selling will not work for you.

4. Request Introductions

It’s often easier to connect with a stranger if you have a connection in common. As you search for leads on LinkedIn, look for “second-degree connections.” These people are one degree removed from you.

Once you’ve located a second-degree connection, ask your mutual colleague for an introduction. You can see your mutual connections in the sidebar of a LinkedIn page (below the “People Also Viewed” section). In the case below, I’d ask Henry for an introduction to Kim.

5. Be Purposeful with Content Sharing

Some people share content just to share content. But that “strategy” (if it’s a strategy at all) will not result in stronger relationships. Rather, content sharing needs to be purposeful.

Ask yourself:

  • Why am I sharing this piece of content?
  • Will it help my buyers?
  • Will it entertain them?
  • Is this something my audience has not seen?
  • Am I providing context as I share this piece of content?

That last question is key. Don’t just share a URL without typing a few words of commentary. Your buyers won’t see what you see. Perhaps there’s a quote that you love from the article. Perhaps you learned a new statistic. Perhaps you want to share your opinion about the article.

Having a point of view will help you stand out in the LinkedIn newsfeed.

6. Look at Who Has Commented on Your Prospect’s Posts

If you’re like me, you probably gloss over the comments underneath your connections’ posts. Don’t be like me. Use the comments section wisely. It can help you:

Identify More Stakeholders: Many times, a connection’s co-workers will comment on their posts. See what they are talking about, and try to glean information about the relationship between the poster and the commenter. You never know, the person could be a key stakeholder at your account.

Look for Potential Prospects: Imagine that you’re selling to marketing operation managers. Chances are that your customers and prospects are connected to other people who do marketing operations. So, many of the people who interact with your prospects and customers could be a good fit for your product.

Add Value: Comments are the perfect springboard for engagement. Think about how you can respond and add value. Maybe you can agree wholeheartedly with someone. Maybe you can share another relative article. Maybe you have a data point that others haven’t considered.

7. Write a Buyer-Focused Profile

After your photo and headline on LinkedIn, your summary (i.e. your bio) is the most commonly viewed portion of your profile. If you’re in sales, your LinkedIn profile shouldn’t read like a resume for a hiring manager. Rather, tell your story to a potential customer.

Not sure of the difference? Here’s a simple template you can use:

And here’s an example:

Don’t like this template? HubSpot has created three additional templates you can check out.

Twitter Plays

1. Master the Hashtag

Identifying the right hashtags is critical for social selling success. Hashtags allow you to eavesdrop on conversations, join already existing conversations, and start new conversations.

Just think of the benefits. By monitoring conversations, you can learn about your industry and prospects, and by adding value to conversations, you can start to build relationships that could end in a business transaction.

We wrote a series of posts on Twitter hashtags. You can find them here:

2. Listen to Buyers

Before you engage your buyers on the phone, on email, in person, or on social, you need to listen. Listening will help you have more productive conversations.

There are many ways to listen on Twitter. We cover many of them in this guide.

For a quick tip, let’s look at Twitter lists. Twitter lists are an underutilized feature on Twitter. Which is a shame because when it comes to social selling, these lists are a tremendous asset for salespeople.

A Twitter list allows you to organize a specific subset of people and follow their tweet activity. By creating lists, you can group people together and pare down the number of tweets you see at one time.

Some reps organize their lists according to prospect temperature. They create one list for cold prospects, another for warm ones, and yet another for hot ones.

Other reps choose to group Twitter users based on accounts. Below, you can see a Twitter list for Trapit employees. If Trapit were one of your target accounts, this list would make it easy to research, monitor, and engage with key stakeholders at Trapit.

Note: You can create private Twitter lists so that no one else can see your list of prospects.

3. Learn How to Use Advanced Search

Twitter has two search tools on its web-based application. There’s the search option in the navigation bar at the top of the page, which looks like this:

And then there’s the advanced search feature, which gives you more options for searching tweets and its users. You can find it here: http://www.twitter.com/search-advanced

For instance, you can use Twitter search to find your competitors’ disgruntled customers. Many people take to Twitter to air their grievances. It might be helpful to keep tabs on negative tweets about your competition. That way, you can swoop in and steal your competition’s business. Use the “Mentioning these accounts” and the frowny face in the “Other” section to find those tweets – like this:

That’s just one use case for Twitter’s advanced search features. To find more, check out this blog post: 4 Ways Sales Reps Should Use Twitter’s Advanced Search.

4. Sprinkle in Tidbits of Your Personal Life

Unlike LinkedIn, which is a buttoned-up social network, Twitter is more amenable to personal tweets. It’s okay to tweet about the blockchain technology one day and the Super Bowl the next day (or Led Zeppelin or shoes or whatever you fancy). In fact, mixing personal and professional tweets will make you seem more human and approachable. That’s a good thing.

5. Use the 80/20 Rule

Social selling experts recommend that 80% of the content shared by sales reps come from third parties (other people’s blogs, news, interesting articles, research reports, etc.).

The other 20% should come from the rep’s company.

Why’s that? If you share only your company’s content, you lose credibility with your buyers. You come across as biased. By sharing other people’s content, you project expertise, not just blind loyalty to your company, and you earn the opportunity to share about your company and product.

6. Use the Quote Tweet Feature

Retweeting amplifies a message. But it doesn’t add anything of substance.

Believe it or not, there’s a better way to retweet. It’s called “quote tweeting.” (If you’re not sure how to quote tweet, you can read about it here.) Quote tweeting allows you to give more context. Let’s take a look at this quote tweet from Kim Babcock:

By quote tweeting, Kim is able to summarize what she likes about this article. Plus, she’s able to add another hashtag to the discussion, making her tweet more discoverable for Twitter users. And one more thing: Ernest Wilson will be notified that Kim has commented on his content, making him more likely to engage with Kim.

Program Management Plays

1. Align with Marketing around the Customer

For any social program to work, it needs to be aligned to the customer. Which means that marketing needs to provide guidance on who the target customers are and how those customers use digital channels. As sellers interact with buyers in the field, they need to report back on what they’re witnessing. In turn, marketers have the opportunity to listen, learn, and challenge their assumptions about the buyers.

2. Align with Marketing around Content

The key to social selling is education. A seller’s instinct is to pitch and push the product, but that turns off the modern buyer. Instead, reps need to think about helping customers and becoming a go-to resource of information. That’s why 67% of marketers almost always or frequently support social selling with content (Forrester). Content is a proven way to educate and engage modern buyers.

For more on this subject, see the post: How to Align Social Selling with Your Social Media Marketing Program

3. Get Executive Buy-In

This person will be your social selling champion, particularly in the beginning stages if you don’t have the data to show the true ROI of your sales team’s efforts on social. Perhaps this is your CMO or VP of Sales or another executive. Regardless of who it is, this person should have insight into the company’s overarching business goals and the strategy for achieving them.

Find someone who can relay social selling success up the ladder to an executive, while also establishing credibility and authority to the sales reps. The goal is to get buy-in at the top so that it doesn’t feel like an uphill battle every time you mention your program. At the same time, you must get buy-in from the reps themselves. Otherwise, you won’t see results.

4. Formalize Your Program with Training

Training is mandatory. Without training, you will have Sales Rep A doing one thing, Sales Rep B doing another thing, Sales Rep C doing yet another… You get the picture. Ongoing social sales education helps create uniformity among your team and increases the chances of success.

As you create your training program, recognize that all sales reps will not have the same level of understanding of social networks, and even the socially savvy reps may not have a clear understanding of best practices for using social for selling. A good training program should integrate “How to” and “Best Practices” in the context of sales activities. For example, how does social listening help you with researching prospects?

You also want to ensure you don’t just focus on the tools. Focus also on driving the the right behavior change. As Mary Shea of Forrester argues, sales rep need to “reboot” and shift their focus in the “Age of the Customer.” They need to stop spewing product features and assume a consultative approach that demonstrates their understanding of the customers’ business problems. That means building relationships with the buyers, educating them, sharing insights with them, and telling the customers something new. In short, they need to add value.

5. Invest in the Right Technology

It’s important to choose tools that your teams can easily use to accomplish their key goals.

A complete social selling platform will help marketing and sales teams:

  • Build a social content library
  • Research market trends, competitors, target companies, and prospective customers on the web and on social
  • Attract and engage new buyers
  • Build long-term customer relationships
  • Increase revenue
  • Measure and optimize social engagement

The right social selling solution empowers marketing and sales teams to do all this, serving as the backbone for sales reps’ interactions with prospective and existing customers, across digital channels. What’s more, a best-of-breed social selling platform is easy to use. No one wants to waste time and money on software that users hate or, even worse, bypass altogether.

Want to learn more about adopting the right technology? There’s a blog post for that: Social Selling: Are You Using the Right Tool for the Job?

Looking for More Plays?

These are just 17 of the many, many social selling plays out there. We have a cheat sheet that has a few more tips and tricks. Check it out!

Posted byMark Bajus

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