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How to Use Social Media in Successful Prospecting

4 Apr, 2016 By: Troy Harrison, Salesforce Solutions

Is there any part of business selling that’s more talked about these days – or less understood – than social media?  Ever since LinkedIn came on the scene, various trainers, consultants, and other assorted “experts” have been telling salespeople that the magic button they sought – the one that would remove the need for prospecting – had finally arrived.  Simply put up your profile on LinkedIn, make some posts and, while you’re at it, Tweet a lot and Facebook a bit. Then say, “come to Papa,” and all the prospects you’d ever need would just come to you.

The Reality Is...

Many salespeople are still waiting for this phenomenon to happen. Want to know how I know?  Because I was one of those salespeople. You see, I’ve been building my national speaking career for about five years now.  I read and heard the advice of the top people in my profession, and they all said, “It doesn’t matter what you’ve done or where you’ve done it – this is the one place where cold calling doesn’t work.  You will not get booked off of a cold call.” Since they were the experts, I believed them. 

So...I posted on LinkedIn.  I Tweeted. I Facebook-ed.  I put up videos on YouTube.  And I thought, “Come to Papa.” Then waited. To be honest, I did get a few speaking engagements from word of mouth, while my “rebook rate” was fairly high for the industry.  Still, I looked at my business last year and realized that I didn’t have as many national-level engagements as I wanted.

Thus, I decided to take matters into my own hands.  I would now do what “didn’t work,” at least by what the experts told me. In so doing, I found out something.  In the industry of professional speaking, cold calling doesn’t work…..except when it does. 

You see, I discovered something very important about social media in this process.  I made cold calls, I set appointments, and I had good conversations.  And then, do you know what my prospects did? After being contacted by me they now checked my social media and looked at all of those posts, all of those YouTube videos, the testimonials, etc.  Social media was their confirmation tool for establishing my bona fides.  Once they did that, we were then mutually engaged and business continued (they booked me to speak).

You see, in today’s world, it’s not enough to just do conventional prospecting.  Nor is it enough to do social media. You must do both.

Think about the last time you exhibited at a trade show. You had your display and product samples, with people assigned to your booth just for the purpose of prospecting (new lead generation).  Now imagine that you had done it in one of two ways.

First, imagine that you’d only put up your display. You didn’t put any people in the booth; perhaps you just put a bowl on the table with a sign saying, “If you’re interested, drop your card into this bowl.”  All throughout the show, the booth sat empty with no people in it. How many cards do you think you’d have at the end of the show?  Not many, if any at all.

Now, imagine the opposite. Instead of putting up a display, you put up a simple sign with your company’s name, with two staffers in the booth.  Now how do you think you’d do?  My guess is that you’d probably do better than using a simple sign with a card bowl drop. That’s because your people could engage people as they came by.  But in fact, either way, you probably wouldn’t get the full results you’re seeking. You still need that “X” factor.

Social Media Scope...

Consider that in prospecting today, the scope of your social media effort IS your trade show display. It’s your backdrop, your brand, your samples, and it provides you with the air of legitimacy, and the bona fides, more than your hard display does at the trade show.  It’s a way for numerous buyers to check you out (on site and off) f effort to discover more about you and your business services. 

Nowadays, you’ll find out that many of your potential customers – even ones that you cold call – will look to check you out on social media for further insight. 

This is a switch in paradigm from how most salespeople are attempting to use social media (unsuccessfully in most cases).  When we recognize that social media is not our primary prospecting mechanism, but a supplementary prospecting mechanism, it changes our approach to our social media postings.

Tip: Instead of posting with constant calls to action – in an attempt to get a cold response from your readers and followers – instead focus on postings that build your brand, your name recognition, and your professional reputation.

One particular mechanism you should focus on is the “Recommendations” tool on LinkedIn. There’s never been an easier way to get testimonials from your happy customers than by requesting recommendations through LinkedIn. Those recommendations can be in context (since LinkedIn specifically refers to the job you’re requesting the recommendation for) and allows you to review the recommendation before posting. Once you have a recommendation, then it’s time to fire up Twitter and link that to your new recommendation. It’s easy.

YouTube videos can be great for posting product demonstrations, case studies, speaking presentations, etc., and if you link to those, your customers can use these as a tool to check you out.

To Do or Not to Do...

The knowledge that social media is a “due diligence” mechanism for your customers also has implications about what you should not post. Everything you post on any of your social media pages needs to be carefully vetted with an eye toward what you might not want your customers to see. When in doubt, don’t post it.

Social media may someday replace conventional prospecting – but the best medium for that hasn’t been effectively invented yet.  For now, keep prospecting and use social media as your backdrop.


Troy Harrison is the author of “Sell Like You Mean It!”, “The Pocket Sales Manager,” and a Speaker, Consultant, and Sales Navigator who utilizes cutting-edge sales training and methodologies. For information call 913-645-3603, e-mail Troy@TroyHarrison.com, or visit www.TroyHarrison.com.

About the Author: Troy Harrison

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