Last time I wrote about the importance of social selling. This time I’d like to show how you can leverage social selling principles to perform better.
Social selling is not just about starting the sales process by finding prospects with social media tools such as LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook. It's about building a strong personal brand and becoming the go-to-guy for your customers and prospects. It's about building trustworthy relationships and creating valuable content that helps your customers and prospects to make better purchase decisions.
What is personal branding?
Personal branding is similar to product branding. The overall goal with all branding is to differentiate yourself from the competition in order to reach your objectives, which, as a sales pro, could mean crushing your quota.
Think of your personal brand as the first impression people have of you. Thus your personal brand needs to be authentic, meet customers' needs, and positively reflect on the reputation of your company. It goes without saying that a strong personal brand increases your chances of achieving top-of-mind status when people think of industry experts, and enables you to be found.
While personal brand creates your identity, thought leadership brings it to life and strengthens it. The two work in parallel and need to be created both online and offline. This can be done online with channels like LinkedIn and offline the best venues are industry events. A study published on Forbes states that 78% of salespeople that use social media sell more than their peers.
How to improve your online presence then?
There are countless numbers of articles on how to start building your personal brand online. In this blog I've gathered the best practices from various sources. However, before moving any further, look in the mirror: Have you understood the reason behind social selling? Good. Let's do a small exercise.
Google yourself, google your colleagues, and google your competitors. What do you find? What would you like to find?
#1 Develop reputation
If you are not on LinkedIn, create a professional profile now. A professional and comprehensive profile will create an image that reflects your professional aspirations and gives your peers a good starting point to what you do and what you represent. This also increases your chances to be found online. Google ranks LinkedIn profiles very high, and chances are your LinkedIn profile is the first search result that comes up when your name is being googled.
A good profile consists of:
- a professional photo (no ghost hands hanging on your elbows)
- an informative headline that describes who you are and what you do
- a brief summary of who you are, what you do, and what your aspirations are
- a list of your current and past employers with explanations of what you have brought or are bringing to the table
- interests outside your professional career and contact info
- a customized URL address that enhances your personal brand
#2 Gather Intelligence
Prepare yourself by researching contacts, companies, and competitors. While your customers and prospects will search the web for anything that relates to your business, make sure you return the favor. Look for mutual connections, people who can introduce you, interests that you share, events you both will or have attended, and so on. The better you know your customers' needs, the better you are able to help them succeed. Social media is a two-way street. Make sure your network works for you, not just the other way around.
#3 Build your network
The information you come across on LinkedIn depends on the proximity of your connections. When searching for people, the results are presented in a descending order depending on how close they are to you. In order for you to find the right people, it is in your best interest to be connected to as many people as possible. With this in mind connect with people from your college, colleagues from your current and past employers, people you have met at events, and so on. You can also connect with people you haven't met, but seem interesting, as long as you explain why you would like to connect. Always remember to attach a personalized message and clearly tell them why you want to connect with them. Even though it’s good to be well connected, quality is always more important than quantity. If you have no idea who the people in your network are, you cannot carry out introductions and your network is weak.
#4 Share Content
Social selling is not just using social media to find people and the connecting with them. Content is the beef. Your customers and prospects don’t want to hear your humble brag or about your amazing company. They want to hear if you have anything to say that adds value to them. They want to know what is happening in your industry and how this affects their business. This is a great opportunity for you to bring value to the table. Share ideas through status updates and participate in groups. Sharing relevant content – be it blogs, third party articles, news, videos or interviews – adds value to your network and helps you establish yourself as the thought leader in your industry.
Online conversations happen everywhere, all the time. It's up to you to figure out where your customers and prospects are and be active there too. In short, great content in the right place leads to strong connections, and more business.