Leveraging social media is quickly becoming a must for successful salespeople and that trend will only continue as we enter 2016. Yet even those who believe in the power of social selling often take the wrong approach by alienating, rather than utilizing, their network. In the past week, this meme has been shared on my LinkedIn News Feed on separate occasions by three different connections:
While humorous, this is also an extremely common occurrence and one that is easily avoidable, even by those looking to make social selling an important part of their strategy. Let’s look at the steps that can be taken to help increase the likelihood of making a positive connection and getting better results, rather than wildly sending requests and spamming connections’ inboxes.
1. Choose connection requests wisely
Prospecting and identifying leads has always been an important part of the sales process. With the added power of social media, however, you now have the ability to use your own network to help get warm introductions to those accounts that you identify. Connecting with prospects with whom you have a connection in common, or requesting an introduction from a connection to a prospect, will increase your chances of a response and will decrease the likelihood that you’ll be seen as a spammer. Keep in mind that the larger your network is, the easier this will be for you to execute. To that end, it’s important that you make sure to connect not only with clients and coworkers, but with previous colleagues, friends, family members, and anyone else who may be able to help you make a warmer introduction.
2. Keep your network tidy
This follows closely behind the first point. Keeping your network clean means only connecting with people whom you have actually interacted in the past. If you have 5,000 connections but only know 1,000 of them personally, it’s going to make it very difficult for you to identify 2nd and 3rd degree connections that you can actually have a warm introduction to. You want your network to be reliable so that you can harness the full extent of its power as you continue to branch out. For more on this, see my post on what I do with random LinkedIn requests.
3. Use a personal message
Be up front with the person. As we’ve seen above, this is not to be confused with trying to cram your entire sales pitch into a connection request. Introduce yourself, mention how you know them, maybe include a fact or question relating to something you saw on their LinkedIn profile. A prospective connection is going to be more likely to connect if they feel that you have taken the time to choose them specifically, rather than send invitations to as many people as you can in as short of a period as possible. You can’t engage in social selling without first being social.
4. Demonstrate value and credibility
This is where the strategy goes wrong for the sales professionals that I referenced in the introduction. Rather than coming out of the gate with a strong pitch, demonstrate value and credibility by posting articles, answering questions in Groups, and remaining active on LinkedIn. Building your professional brand will help to establish you as a professional who is not only passionate about their product, but is well-versed in the marketplace, and understands the needs of businesses.
5. Engage with connections
In addition to posting your own content, engage with your connections’ content as well. Leave questions, comments, and congratulations. This is especially important if there is a prospect that you’re looking to connect with. Once again, this activity goes towards building your professional brand and helps to demonstrate the value that you bring not only as a sales person but as a business person.
6. Build relationships
LinkedIn makes it easier than ever to maintain contact with connections, even those with whom you may not have successfully closed a deal. Whatever the outcome, continuing to repeat these steps will not only strengthen your network and your ability to garner more referrals in the future, they will also keep your name and your brand at the top of people’s mind in the event that they have a need for your product or service. Continuing to build and mature these relationships will have a compounding effect on your ability to drive more qualified leads, build a bigger sales pipeline, and expand your sphere of influence.
Following these steps will help you to use your social selling time on LinkedIn more efficiently and increase the likelihood of generating successful sales rather than unhappy new connections.
Wishing you lots of luck and much success in 2016!