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Chuck Schaeffer 7 Steps to Jump Start Your Social Selling Strategy

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According to CSO Insights, and their annual Sales Performance Optimization research results, sales reps are responsible for generating almost half of their new leads.

How are your sales leads generated?
Self-generated by sales reps
Generated by marketing
Other sources (partners, referrals, etc.)
Source: Sales Performance Optimization, 2011-2014, CSO Insights

Unfortunately, sales pros are incurring some increasing challenges in sourcing those leads. An IBM Preference Study shows that cold calls are ineffective 97% of the time, and this figure has been increasing by 7% every year since 2010. Fortunately, savvy sales pros are turning to social selling methods to pick up the slack.

Social selling is about applying the information available in social channels to aid your sales strategies and pursuits. This information includes prospect or customer social comments of all types, including questions, frustrations, concerns and inquiries, and tends to be both candid and desirous of a response.

B2B buyers are publicly sharing their opinions about what they want and need, what they like and dislike, and what matters to them. Sales professionals that harness and act on this information can engage with these buyers before the buyers have engaged with other sales competitors—putting themselves into an early and coveted position where the sale may then be theirs to lose.

But even while sales professionals tend to be social themselves, adopting online social selling techniques in order to uncover relevant conversations and unmet needs can be difficult. Here’s 7 steps to jump start your social selling strategy.

  1. Social Listening. There are a plethora of social listening tools which monitor the social web and capture buying signals. The primary challenges here are achieving a workable signal-to-noise ratio and geo-targeting. Filtering away most of the noise (irrelevant, non-specific and duplicate data as well as vendor created intra-industry content), identifying sentiment and getting a clean signal can be accomplished using a variety of techniques such as highly specific (long-tail) keywords, negative keywords and relevancy scoring. Applying geo-targeting so that salespeople receive leads within their sales territories is a bit tougher but can be done with specialized tools such as LeadSift, NetBreeze and Radian6 which can use locations and natural language processing techniques to cut through the millions of irrelevant conversations and deliver the most meaningful opportunities. Just as with good selling, good social selling includes thoroughly listening before talking. But listening, or just being a fan, friend or follower isn’t enough. You need to engage. Using a social monitoring automation tool, you can identify the relevant conversations, and then retrieve, categorize, prioritize, assign and route those social comments to the right resource for the right response. The ability to listen, engage, learn, scale and measure the revenue contribution forms the foundation of sustainable social selling.

    Social Selling

  2. Social Searching. Every day there are over 200 million tweets about companies, products and services. A very small but nonetheless material percentage of this social commenting are buyers seeking advice, referrals and information for products which you sell. Supplementing your social listening with social searching will identify sale opportunities and refine your social listening keywords. A great starting point is using Twitter’s search and advanced search capabilities to find potential prospects and engage them. Similar to setting up social listening keywords, it will take some time (more than a few hours), thoughtful analysis, experimentation and continuous refinement to identify the search terms that yield relevant results.

  3. Social Prospecting. There are an increasing number of tools to filter social spheres and create highly segmented target lists. LinkedIn offers one of the more utilized tools, Sales Navigator, to seek out prospects and create target lists using largely demographic search criterion. Using your networks personal connections on LinkedIn can then turn a cold outreach into a warm transfer, and according to LinkedIn, a warm referral increases the odds of getting the initial conversation by 2X-4X. Similar tools from vendors such as Clintelica and Reachable create enterprise business graphs which include additional social networks.

  4. Triggering Events. Identifying the activities or events that precede a buying opportunity can put you in front of the buyer at the beginning of their buy cycle. Events such as a new venture capital round, company acquisition, senior executive hire, product launch or geographical expansion may imply subsequent investments which a savvy social sales professional can be first to position himself early with the buyer. Sales intelligence tools like InsideView, Lattice Engines, OneSource and Zoominfo are particularly helpful in creating watch lists to identify these triggering events, and once identified, social sales pros can find the prospect decision makers or influencers, see if they have Twitter accounts, and send them a congratulatory tweet or link to useful content to begin the conversation.

  5. Watch Lists. Once your social listening, social searching and triggering events begin identifying sales prospects, you may want to categorize or segment them for continued social media buy signals. Or in a similar way you may want to create a social targeting list for your named accounts. In Twitter, you can create lists of customers or prospects in order to curate and monitor all future comments by these leads. Other tools such as HootSuite or marketing automation systems such as Eloqua, Marketo or HubSpot can also streamline this process.

  6. Contact Intelligence. Social media handles permit you to engage new prospects in online channels, but they're a bit cryptic and can only tell you so much about these new leads. Data append services from products such as Broadlook and eGrabber’s Account-Researcher or providers such as Oracle's bluekai,'s and LinkedIn can take an email address or other identifier and add helpful insights about a prospective company or contact. Taking contact intelligence to the next level can be done with marketing automation systems, such as HubSpot’s Social Inbox, and CRM systems which can link social media leads with accounts or contacts in your CRM system. Once the social lead is clearly identified, it should go without saying that reviewing the prospect's LinkedIn or other social media profile is a pre-requisite to reaching out for an initial contact.

  7. Internal Social Network. Sometimes called Enterprise Social Networks, these internal (private) social networks enable sales staff to communicate, collaborate, perform cross-departmental business process automation and connect sales staff with the best information and experts in the company. Sales and other staff can subscribe to the accounts, contacts, opportunities or other information to which they want to be alerted when updates occur. Information can be tagged, appended and searched, and since the information is shared and visible, all team members are on the same page and up to date with what’s being communicated. A study by Nucleus Research titled The Value of Mobile and Social for CRM found that organizations which effectively used social CRM technologies such as collaboration software saw an 11.8% growth in productivity.

    I’ve found this type of knowledge management facilitates new staff, or staff coming into new sales engagements particularly well. Internal social networks can also increase speed, or reduce Q&A type cycle times as any person subscribed to a feed can immediately respond to a request or question. This of course also helps when you’re not sure who to direct the question to. The value of internal social networks being tightly integrated with CRM is not being lost on the CRM software providers. CRM applications with built-in internal social networks include Microsoft Dynamics CRM with its Yammer integration, Oracle with its Social Relationship Management and with Chatter.

Research by Altimeter Group found that only 11% of companies used customer-facing social media efforts for sales. But while adoption is currently low, performance results for early adopters are impressive. A research report described in Forbes demonstrates the link between social selling and sales performance. Among the findings, 78.6% of sales pros using social selling techniques outperformed their non-social peers, and those social selling reps were 23% more successful in exceeding their sales quota (by more than 10%).

Social selling doesn’t replace good selling strategies and methods but it clearly adds another valuable technique to make those strategies more successful. End

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Comments (17) — Comments for this page are closed —

Guest arivander
  The geo targeting available in Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and other social networks can make social prospecting effective for retailers. Also check out, not quite social monitoring but quick curation or brand monitoring tool.

Guest steve shifley
  I use HootSuite for social listening as well as scheduling my social commenting in a drip fashion. This later approach lets social targeting prospects find me, which is way easier than me finding them. Good read!

Guest Tom Thompson
  What is linked in sales navigator?
  Chuck Chuck Schaeffer
    LinkedIn Sales Navigator is a fee-based service which allows sales people to search LinkedIn profiles and create prospect target lists. Custom searches can be saved and contact lists added to folders. You can also create update email alerts to be notified of new contacts that fit your search criteria. An added function called Team Link leverages your colleagues networks and connections among target contacts in order to get an introduction or referral. Sales Navigator integrates with and Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

Guest Denise Johnson
  Our efforts in pursuing a dual CRM/social CRM strategy endured a four-fold evolution. First, we needed a CRM system to help capture relevant customer information at every customer interaction - including social interactions. Second, we needed to implement processes which use that customer information to provide more personalized customer experiences. This meant having access to each customers marketing campaign responses, current proposals, product purchase history, product configuration, service history and survey information - basically the central 360 degree customer view. Third, we wanted real-time shared visibility of prospect and sales information so sales managers could provide timely sales coaching. Lastly, we needed to use reporting and analytics to get better information to decision makers more quickly, and to deliver customer behavior insight based on the customer data. For example, we discovered that customers who purchase our high flow metric-based valve pumps are much more likely to also purchase our high margin, carbon seal gaskets. This is one of those many correlations that are not evident without mining and analytics. Now that we know we have a cross-sell campaign which takes advantage of this insight. It's been a long road, but were finally seeing results.
  Chuck Chuck Schaeffer
    Great comment, thanks for sharing your learning experience!

Guest Jerry Tungston
  Social selling is possible because customer opinions about their suppliers have become a spectator sport. Customer grievances are no longer locked within the company’s private customer support system, which opens these customers to be served by their suppliers, or competitors who better engage these customers at their time of need.

Guest texas jackass
  Social selling is possible because customer opinions about their suppliers have become a spectator sport. Customer grievances are no longer locked within the company’s private customer support system, which opens these customers to be served by their suppliers, or competitors who better engage these customers at their time of need.

Guest Newco411
  Too many companies still treat social CRM or social selling as an experiment.

Guest Winston Gray
  I think social selling is smart selling. Cold calling continues to be a tired approach for hungry but uninformed sales reps. We all know that we’re all too busy to take or respond to cold calls or unsolicited emails. It’s just not going to happen. Continuing this nonsense will only further waste your time.

Guest Joe Weithman
  Looking at “Who’s viewed your LinkedIn profile” is a great technique to make connections with people who already showing an interest in you or your solutions.
  Chuck stopsoma
    A technique I’ve use on a different social network is to follow a group of potential prospects by following other people’s Twitter lists.
  Guest jackie and 4
    Use the hash tag when you setup social listening keywords, and get specific, don't query #marketing, query #b2bmarketing.

Guest Zach Kirk
  Sales is a team sport and internal social networks help the team. Top sales performers have clearly learned that hoarding information is a losing proposition and collaboration is the best way to improve your sales effectiveness and advance your sales career.

Guest rjb
  Am I the only one not doing this?
  Chuck Chuck Schaeffer
    Definitely not. In fact a survey by Altimeter of nearly 700 social media professionals found that only 34% of businesses believe their social strategy is connected to business outcomes, only 28% of companies feel that they have a holistic approach to social media, only 12% are confident they have a plan that looks beyond the next year and only half said that top executives were "informed, engaged and aligned with their companies' social strategy." We’re still in early days.
  Denise Denise Holland
    Just don't fall into the trap of deferring your start with the all too common excuse: "My prospects aren't on social media." They are on social media. B2B decision makers are on social media. You need to meet them there.




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Research results share that 78.6% of sales pros using social selling techniques outperformed their non-social peers, and those social selling reps were 23% more successful in exceeding their sales quota (by more than 10%).


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