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5 Steps for Creating a Successful Social Selling Strategy

By Seth Price

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social selling in 5 stepsIt’s one thing to talk about the potential benefits of leveraging social media for converting leads and gaining new customers, but it’s a whole different ball game when it comes to creating and implementing a successful social selling strategy.

For some, the basic tenets of social selling may seem a bit nebulous. “You need to be listening on social media! And you need to be participating!” Sure, but what are you supposed to be listening for? Who should you be listening to? And how, exactly, are you supposed to participate? This article seeks to answer such questions and provide some specific actions that you can take to get your social selling strategy rolling.

1) Discover

One of the most crucial (and easiest to overlook) steps in social selling is identifying where your prospective customers are spending time online. After all, there’s no use moving on to Step 2 — monitoring social networks — if your prospective customers aren’t spending time on the social networks you plan on monitoring.

A B2B company, for example, will likely have better luck selling through LinkedIn as opposed to selling through Pinterest. The reasoning behind this is straightforward: LinkedIn is a network tailored specifically for business professionals, while Pinterest is not. However, if you’re a company that sells exclusively to women, you’ll likely want to focus a lot of your efforts on Pinterest, where women make up more than 80 percent of total users.

Of course, not all companies will be able to paint with such broad strokes when implementing social selling. If you’re a real estate agent, for example, there’s no social network that caters exclusively to prospective homebuyers who want to talk about buying homes (if there is, please tell us about it!). However, there are Facebook Groups and other smaller social communities where this happens.

The key takeaway here is that you need to do your homework. So fire up those search engines (including Facebook’s Graph Search) and start looking. Just remember: you don’t have to limit yourself to the big name social networks. If you find that your prospective customers are commenting on a particular blog or participating in a particular forum, add those places to your list before moving on to Step 2.

2) Monitor

Pull out your magnifying glass and Sherlock Holmes pipe: it’s time to do some social media sleuthing!

Don’t worry: We’re not talking about invading people’s privacy or doing anything illegal. What we are talking about is monitoring social networks so you can listen in on what your prospective customers are saying — both in general and what they’re saying about your business, products, or services.

Some social networks make it super simple to conduct social listening. With Twitter, for example, you can use the search field in the top navigation to hone in on what folks are saying. Don’t believe us? Go ahead and search for your name or company name and see what shows up. Here’s a glimpse at what we get after searching for “Placester” on Twitter…

placester twitter feed snapshot

Of course, there’s more to social media listening than finding out what folks are saying about YOU. You’ll also want to know what folks are saying about your competitors (and what your competitors are saying back to them). In addition, by searching for phrases such as “Can anyone recommend,” “What’s the best,” and “I need a new,” you can uncover folks who are thinking about making a purchase in the near future.

Keep in mind that there are a plethora of tools — both free and paid — that can help you with social media listening. With Google Alerts, for example, you can monitor specific keywords and receive email updates when those keywords pop up on the Web. More advanced social media listening tools allow you to mine text for specific keywords on social networking sites, blogs, and forums.

3) Research

So, you’ve identified where your prospective customers are hanging out online and you’ve listened in on some conversations that indicate purchase intent. Now it’s time to reach out to those folks who seem interested in your products or services, right?

Not so fast. Before making contact with a prospect, do some research to learn more about their location, background, interests, and relationships. That way, when you do decide to reach out, you’ll have some personal insight and — potentially — a conversation starter based on a shared interest, or a shared connection who you can reference.

Again, we’re not talking about invading someone’s privacy. The great thing about social media is that people put a ton of information right in their profiles for all to see. So go ahead and peruse some profiles before reaching out.

Pro tip: Create a private Twitter list and add all of your prospective customers to it. You can then monitor this list to learn more about what your prospective customers are tweeting, retweeting, favoriting, etc.

4) Engage

Now that you’ve done all of your homework (discovering, monitoring, and researching), it’s time to join the conversation. By joining the conversation, we don’t mean sending out a cookie cutter sales pitch to your list of social media contacts. Instead, you should comment on their posts, retweet them, share their insight, and — as we’ll discuss more in Step 5 — share great content with them that you’ll think they’ll find useful.

By engaging with folks on social media and contributing to the conversation first, it won’t seem unusual or aggressive when you decide to follow, friend, or connect with them. It will also give them a reason to follow you back: you’re adding value. Remember, the goal here isn’t to build leads, it’s to build relationships.

After growing and nurturing a relationship on social media, there will likely come a point when you can naturally move the sales process forward to an email, phone call, or face-to-face meeting.

5) Always Be Adding Value

Even when you’re not engaging with folks directly on social media, it’s important that you continually share great content and commentary. This will help you position yourself as an expert in your particular field and add credibility and authenticity to your online persona.

Sharing useful, engaging content will also help prospective customers find you, as your posts and comments will serve as a trail of digital breadcrumbs that folks can follow.

Pro tip: Use the Google Analytics URL builder tool to tag your posts so you can monitor where and how frequently your content is being shared.

Is your business thinking about implementing social selling? Are you already leveraging social selling successfully? Let us know in the comments section below.

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