Traditionally, salespeople have only a few avenues of interacting with prospects and generating their own leads. They either cold-call prospects (which is mostly ineffective), wait for marketing to funnel them qualified leads (which, due to poor definitions, doesn’t lead to as many closed sales as it could), or wait for prospects to make the first move by contacting Sales directly.

The truth of the matter is this: Technology and changing behavior on the part of the buyer has made it so that the old tactics of selling no longer work. Buyers are more in control of the buying process than ever before. They can skip television ads, weed out cold calls with caller ID, and inform themselves about the purchases that they plan on making, and all of this makes it harder for a salesperson to do his job.

Social selling is a new way for salespeople to take back control by engaging with prospects earlier in their buying cycle through social media. Social selling empowers the sales team by allowing them to nurture leads along the buyer’s journey until they are ready to buy. It adds a human touch to the sales process, allowing a company to demonstrate their value to customers who haven’t yet made the decision to buy.

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Here are 5 ways that you can incorporate social selling into your sales process to help you nurture leads and close more deals.

1) Offer prospects value through content.

One of the primary reasons that inbound sales and marketing works is that it allows a company to demonstrate its value to a potential customer without making a hard sell (because, let’s face it, most customers hate hard sells). The main way that you can demonstrate value is by creating helpful, useful content that your potential customers need and want.

On the internet, content is king. And if your company practices inbound marketing, chances are that you’ve got quite the catalog of blog posts, whitepapers, case studies, webinars, etc. that can help your customers answer the questions they’ve got.

In addition to offering the marketing team a way of disseminating their content (say, using Facebook to blast out a blog post or call to action), social media also allows salespeople to interact directly with leads that may be close to buying. If a lead reaches out to you through social media with a question, and a salesperson is able to answer that question by directing the lead to some kind of content that informs them without pressuring them to buy, then they have taken the first step in building trust with that prospect. Continuing to do this over time increases the odds of nurturing that prospect along until they are ready to buy.

2) Use social media to learn more about leads close to buying.

Some marketing software solutions (Hubspot included) do a great job of tracking who is visiting your company website and what pages they are visiting. If you are able to gleam a name from this data, then you have the opportunity to learn more about that prospect by visiting their social media profiles.

In this case, LinkedIn is probably the most helpful social channel for you because it contains information about the lead’s professional life: the company they work for, their job title, interests, etc. If you are going to reach out to a lead, it pays to know more about them—otherwise, you may as well just be making a cold-call, no?

Use whatever social media channels make sense to learn as much as you can about your prospects before you reach out to increase your odds of converting them into a customer. This information will not only help you understand the prospect’s role in their organization, but will also give your call some “human touch” by allowing you to build rapport.

And while this should go without saying, you want to be sure you don’t go overboard with your social research. If your prospect feels like you’re stalking them on social media, chances are you’ll creep them out before they even consider buying from you.

3) Use common connections to your advantage.

If you’ve identified a lead through your website and found them on social media, there are two routes you can go. The first reaching out to them directly, which is essentially a social media version of a cold-call. This can work, but it isn’t as effective as it could be. If you don’t have any connections in common (mutual friends or acquaintances) then this is the route you’re going to have to go.

The second route is much more effective, but it relies on you having a mutual connection with your prospect. If this is the case, you can have your connection introduce you to the prospect before reaching out. This imbues some human touch into the conversation, but also starts off the relationship with a referral, which brings with it a certain level of trust. Use this trust to your advantage.

4) Become a thought leader in your industry on social.

Becoming a thought leader means that you are an expert in your field. If you are able to portray yourself as a thought leader on social media, then you are setting yourself up for success in attracting prospects to you and your company.

To really succeed as a thought leader, you’ll need to do some research. Find out which social media platforms your customers are most likely to use (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter) and create a powerful presence there.  There’s no use trying to sell on Twitter, after all, if your customers don’t use Twitter to begin with.

Once you’ve established yourself, you need to connect with the different groups that your customers likely have their eyes on. Then, start contributing content to these groups and through their outlets. This will help you build trust, and may even direct some prospects to connect with you through social. If they do this, then you know they are interested in the information that you have, and you can use that interest to nurture them along the path to becoming a customer.

5) Monitor your competitors.

In addition to finding and nurturing leads, social media allows you to keep an eye on what your competitors are doing—which will help you stay ahead of the curve. If you know what your competitors are doing, and whether or not it is working, then you have the opportunity to emulate it yourself or find a way to improve upon it.

Selling in Today’s World

Sales has changed remarkably in the last decade, and social media has definitely played a huge role in this transformation. It is a powerful tool that salespeople can use to their advantage: by researching prospects before reaching out to them, giving them a new outlet to distribute their content, and providing new ways of connecting to both prospects and competitors.Social Media Pre-Publishing Checklist CTA