Full engagement in social media can be one of the best tools sales professionals can use to gain sales intelligence, connect with and qualify new leads and prospects, drive sales, and close deals.
Based on our years of inside sales experience, we know there are many ways to abuse social media. The last thing you want is to be guilty of spamming or misusing social media. Used properly, it can greatly increase sales results, which as we all know has a direct positive influence on revenues and the bottom line.
In order to enhance your social network presence, here are 10 social media essentials to help you navigate the various activities and resources available.
1. Grab your name on all social media sites—LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, Klout and others. Social media is steadily getting away from handles. You’ll want to try and make sure you have your social media link name the way you want for each of the social outlets you use. Don’t use obscure names, either. Use your own name or your initials with your link. You want people to know who you are.
2. Start your personal brand by targeting a niche. Sales professionals need to build confidence and credibility with their audience. To do so, they can use social media in their area of expertise—their niche. To help build confidence, I often recommend sales professionals follow the advice given in Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great, to decide three things:
•What do you love to do?
•What are you the best at doing?
•What can you make money at?
Start with the keywords your marketing department is using and then refine from there. Go to Google Insights and type in a few keywords that align with your marketing focus and see what direction each keyword or phrase is trending. For example, the keywords ‘inside sales’ is trending up while ‘field sales’ is trending down. If you jump on the keywords within your niche that are trending up, you can find greater success as you write content for use with your social media outreach.
3. Find your audiences’ keywords. You can use the Google Keyword Tool to find out how many people are searching on your keywords per month both globally and locally. All you have to do is type in a few keywords. Once you do so, you see two things – traffic and competition. The best combination, of course, is to focus on keywords with the highest traffic and low or even medium competition. You want to use keywords that enable you to tap into existing traffic, not where you have to start traffic from scratch.
4. Clarify your core social media strategy. This means you need to know what you want to accomplish with social media. In sales, it’s all about attracting, cultivating and qualifying contacts and relationships. Start by spending 10-20 minutes per day expanding your contacts with people you really want to get to know. Nurture the relationships with those that you already know. Don’t engage in social media for the sake of gathering large numbers of followers or connections, focus on the types of followers that meet your sales purposes. Find and connect with people just like your best customers by finding the size and industry of your best business customers, or the gender, age, and income of your best consumer customers.
5. Follow the Golden Rule. Do unto others, as you would have them do to you. In other words, mention people in your blog. Retweet them. Comment on their blog postings. A comment is worth 800 to 1000 views on an article. "Like" them. "Share" their content. Take time to write recommendations in LinkedIn without being asked. If you want to meet someone, go hang out where they do (such as in LinkedIn Groups). Learn about them. Watch and read what they write about. Comment thoughtfully on their writing. Be sincere. If all you do is try to sell them, they will read right through you.
6. Leverage your reach with technology. There are a few web applications that can help you expand your social reach. A couple of good ones include Buffer and HootSuite. Buffer lets you capture content and pre-schedule it to send on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. HootSuite lets you preschedule tweets.
Be careful, though. Don’t tweet or send mindless junk or spam. Twitter is ok to send lots of content. Facebook is more personal and people oriented, LinkedIn is more professional and business oriented. Only send out content that you find very valuable. If it’s important to you, it may be important to your followers and connections.
7. Use the ‘core’ Content model to scale your influence and increase leads. Take the time to carefully write a single article about something of value within your niche. Your blog is a great place to start. Then publish your core concept or a summary of your blog on LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, Facebook, iTunes, YouTube, Slideshare, or Brainshark with backlinks to the full article on your blog. Ask your followers to share and comment on your blog article. Content then provides incredible influence and cross-pollinates with your followers in many different areas.
Most people like the content they consume to be in smaller chunks. You can break up larger articles into smaller posts or sections to provide value to your readers for days or even weeks. You can also combine or create your content in the form of white papers, eBooks or books and offer them as valuable incentives to readers in exchange for a connection to them.
8. Always respond when people respond to you. Anytime someone responds, comments or wants to connect with you, thoughtfully respond in return. This allows you to engage with and build upon your contacts or potential contacts. It also leaves the ball in their court in order to keep the dialogue open and going.
9. Keep track of your results. There is some excellent technology under development at our business, as well as others, that will provide tools to test response rates, appointment setting and even close rates based on interactions via different kinds of contact methods including social media. Until that’s available, one of the most effective ways to track these interactions is to simply keep notes in your CRM or even a spreadsheet. Keep track of your outreaches and your responses; keep track of your appointment setting and your close rates resulting from your social media interactions. Doing so will allow you to make adjustments, eliminate processes that aren’t working, evaluate your content and generally improve your overall contact ratios. You are basically measuring what works.
10. Take 20-30 minutes each week to learn new social media techniques. Social media moves too fast for you to stand still. What you know today may become obsolete tomorrow. Keep learning and keep experimenting. A quick method to find new ways to use social media is to simply Google, "The Top 10 things to do in LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or __________ (something else of your choice)." You’ll be amazed at what you can learn. The point is, keep learning.
Of course, once you are up and running on various Social Media sites, the very next tool you need is an automated contact tracking tool that records not only what calls and emails have been sent, to whom and when, but also logs your contact activities through Social Media.
—Author Ken Krogue is the cofounder and president of InsideSales.com.
[Image: Flickr user Kevin Dooley]