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Social Selling is the latest marketing buzz word, leveraging social platforms to increase leads and eventually close sales. Like many trends in marketing, blogs circulate claiming to have the “7 Steps to Social Selling” or “Five Things You Need to Know about Social Selling.” But does it work?
Here’s how in one year, I helped a CEO identify a new sales tool that has generated more than $200,000 in new business, many times over its small cost. These are my real-world practical Social Selling tips:
1. Connect with Low-Hanging Fruit and Expand Outward
A little over a year ago I started managing the LinkedIn profile of a CEO in the Healthcare space. Dr. Smith* is a highly respected physician CEO. He is well known among his peers and is a frequent speaker at industry conferences.
When I started working on his LinkedIn profile, he had 12 (that’s right, 12) connections! It was clear that he had never seen the value of investing time in LinkedIn, which is not a surprise as a busy CEO. We started making connections with his personal contacts and from there they grew quickly. Dr. Smith started seeing an increase in requests to connect, especially from C-level executives.
These days, he adds about 250 people a month to his network, using the “People you may know” tab, searching for contacts based on company targets and adding people from conferences and other face to face meetings. Today, he has nearly 5000 connections, the vast majority being C-level executives in his targeted Healthcare market.
2. Saying “Thank You” opens the door
About a month into this process, I started to send personal messages to new contacts on behalf of Dr. Smith. This was a form message, thanking the person for connecting and encouraging them to follow his company’s LinkedIn page. While most of these messages went unanswered, we did see an increase in followers on the corporate LinkedIn page (the original goal of these messages). But more importantly, Dr. Smith received about 2-4 responses a month requesting a phone call, meeting or email to learn more about the services his company provides. He would very actively engage these leads and at the end of 2016, Dr. Smith shared with me that he attributed over $200,000 (7-8 closed deals) in new business to these “door opener” messages. In some cases, this shortened the sales cycle by several weeks or months.
3. Be a Thought-leader – Share relevant content that adds value
Dr. Smith’s company LinkedIn page has a robust content plan. New content is posted daily, with a good mix of internal (corporate blog posts, internal web links) and external (industry articles, white papers, etc.) content. Besides sending messages on behalf of Dr. Smith, I also regularly shared, liked and commented on posts for him from his company page. This had a two-pronged effect – it helped increase visibility of the company page and showcased Dr. Smith as a thought-leader. By tracking the engagement on posts, we could identify service areas that most resonated with his network. Dr. Smith also holds greater credibility with his fellow C-level executives so the content he shares is seen as coming from a reliable source.
4. Publish on LinkedIn
Dr. Smith’s corporate blog publishes new content 1-2 times a month and the articles are generally attributed to him. We started sharing similar content through LinkedIn Publishing with a link to the original blog post. The response was significant – some of the articles were shared over 40 times and often by 2nd and 3rd degree connections. Again, this helped showcase Dr. Smith as a thought-leader in his field but also increased awareness about the various service areas his company provides. It was also interesting to see who was sharing these post – especially people Dr. Smith wasn’t directly connected with.
5. Create a LinkedIn Strategy in Partnership
I attribute much of the success of Dr. Smith’s LinkedIn over the past year to the fact that we have created our plan in partnership. He quickly saw the value and found 10-15 minutes in his busy day to make connections and respond to messages. I send “thank you” messages on his behalf, track possible leads and post updates and Pulse articles for him. For the coming year, he requested that I message people he connected with over a year ago as a “check in” to see if their needs have changed. It will be interesting to see the response to these messages and if they generate any leads.
Social selling can be an effective and powerful part of a sales strategy. Since everyone’s personal social presence is unique, it goes without saying that a successful social selling strategy needs to be flexible, dynamic and customized to the individual. But the ability to leverage one’s personal network as a sales tool is extremely powerful and as in the case of Dr. Smith, also profitable.
*Name changed for this post