By ZoomInsights staff

More and more, clients expect to connect through social networks with the people they do business with, and if you are a sales rep, that means you!

As Jacquelyn Smith put it on, “An integral part of the sales process is getting to know your prospects and establishing relationships — and it turns out that social media can help you accomplish this quickly and easily.”

But there are some things you should know before you get started.

Social media is about building relationships

“For the most part, social networks are not good at direct sales. Social should be used for building relationships,” Steve Goldner, senior director of social marketing at Ryan Partnership, told ZoomInsights. “Through relationships, social can increase awareness, consideration, loyalty, and advocacy for products/services. These parameters all tee-up sales, but are not direct sales.”

Just as people grew wary of email spam long ago, social networkers are also becoming more skeptical of anyone trying to sell them something on their networks of choice. Barton Goldenberg, founder and president of ISM, said that the best way for sales people to approach social media is to “join the community in earnest.” For example:

  • Share articles of interest to your industry
  • Engage in group discussions
  • Share your own expertise to build a reputation as a thought leader
  • Don’t be afraid to re-tweet or share content from others

“You need to be seen as somebody worth knowing,” Goldenberg said. “Over time, as you add value to the community … that’s when business takes place.”

Where Facebook tends to be more about personal relationships, LinkedIn is better for professional connections – especially for B2B sales. (For prospect research, ZoomInfo Pro is even better). Experts agree that unless a prospect has separate personal and professional Facebook accounts, other social networks provide better sales opportunities – in part because people can make their Facebook accounts private and unsearchable. Twitter stands out, as well, as a tool for sales people. Colleen Francis, president of Engage Selling, told that some of the biggest sales her company has made have come from salespeople using Twitter to find opportunities.

Twitter’s profiles are searchable, as are almost all the tweets people send (the exceptions being direct messages and tweets sent from “protected” accounts). Searching tweets for specific hash tags makes it easy to find people who are concerned about specific topics or problems. When you find someone on Twitter who is struggling (in real-time) with a problem that your product can solve, you’ve got a great sales lead!

The social sale

How do you find and approach potential buyers on these channels? Goldenberg has a couple of ideas about the best places to find those potential clients:

  • Join groups on LinkedIn
  • Participate in niche communities (which you can find on industry-specific websites, etc.)

Because they have a high concentration of potential clients, engaging with these communities can be a goldmine of prospects. Once you’ve become a valuable part of the community and have identified potential customers, Goldenberg suggests sending an introductory or welcome email. It’s a huge help to your image to establish a rapport in the community first, then approach people for in-person meetings.

The importance of listening

Social media might be your ticket to building better customer relationships and finding sales leads, but only if you keep your ear close to the ground. “Just listening is a great lead-generation activity,” said Goldner. “There are many people raising their hands on social channels saying, ‘I am looking for a good blank, any recommendations?’ or, ‘Does anyone know where I can find blank?’” “Brands should monitor keywords related to the vertical their product/service serves,” Goldner continued.

In many ways, the rules for good sales techniques are much the same on social media as they are in any other context. Social media simply makes it all easier – including the ability to make a mistake — and extends the reach of your sales efforts. So remember to keep one thing in mind — no matter what network you’re using: It’s all about building relationships.

Once you find an opportunity via social networking, you’ll need details about the prospect before you make a sales call. That’s where ZoomInfo comes in. Search detailed profiles of 65 million businesspeople and 6 million companies. The profiles include up to 12 years of news articles and information available nowhere else.

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