5 ways to use social media to drive your sales

Selling through social media requires patience and trust, says Martin Thomas – it’s not about the quick sell but repeat business

Social selling involves the use of social media to facilitate the identification and nurturing of connections and turning them into business prospects.

Here are five things you need to do if you want to become a proficient social seller:

Pay attention to what people say

Listen in to online conversations taking place in groups, forums, LinkedIn discussions and other social media platforms. This will help you identify relevant prospects and most importantly, better understand their needs and preferences.

According to sales guru, Jim Keenan, CEO and President of US-based consultancy A Sales Guy: “My team will not make a call to anybody … until we know everything we can. And we are full-on proud digital stalkers”. Your approach to listening can be ad hoc – simply dipping-in to conversations – or more structured, using one of the many available social media monitoring and analytics tools.

Discover shared interests

Connect with potential prospects by discovering areas of mutual interest and shared value. The social seller creates a sense of shared interest by providing content – fact sheets, reports, white papers, infographics – which is likely to be valued by a potential prospect, ideally fulfills their needs and demonstrates the seller’s expertise in a subject area. In this way, the “cold call” in which the seller and buyer know very little about each other, is eliminated from the sales process.

Offer to solve problems

Respond when people use social media to find solutions, ask questions and seek advice. The smart social seller is always on the look-out for opportunities to solve problems or offer advice. I remember challenging a rather cynical attendee at one of my workshops to enter his (somewhat obscure) product category in the Twitter search bar. He immediately found a number of tweets from people seeking advice on what products to buy in his category. His cynicism was replaced by a new-found enthusiasm.

Social selling is a long game

Nurture your connections over time. The social seller plays the long game, recognising that, as with any sales process, it is likely to require multiple contacts over an extended period before a prospect is converted into a buyer.

Amnesty International’s Thomas Schultz-Jagow, senior director of campaigns and communications, argues that there is actually little difference between social selling and more traditional face-to-face techniques.

Schultz-Jagow says: “Just as in the analogue days, you need to create a supporter journey and you need to have passionate and engaging storytelling that gains the people’s empathy. Whether we reach supporters through a social media channel or a conversation in the street, the psychology underlying why they might be willing to join us is just the same. In both cases we take things slowly and it will probably be the third or fourth contact before we ask people for money.”

Respond quickly to what works

Social media, as with all forms of digital marketing, has transformed our ability to measure the effectiveness of sales activities. The smart social seller is always measuring the impact of individual initiatives and identifying the types of content that generate the best customer response; building knowledge about the best time to schedule activity and the most appropriate way to provide unsolicited answers to customer questions. In simple terms, do more of what works and stop wasting time on activities that do not feed the sales pipeline.

Martin Thomas is author of The Financial Times Guide to Social Media Strategy