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Rethinking Your Social Networking Tools to Cultivate Sales

1 Mar, 2014 By: Kendra Ramirez

Sales representatives and business owners know what it's like to go to networking meetings, make cold calls, and knock on doors to find new business leads. While these traditional methods can produce results, online social networking offers an additional strategy for nurturing sales and growing your business. In fact, these days, if you're not using social networking tools, you're missing out on a wealth of untapped opportunities that your competitors are taking advantage of. But you won't get much out of social networking if you're not using it strategically and integrating these tools into your day-to-day selling efforts.

It’s time to rethink social networking and four key steps for using it to cultivate sales: being willing to try something new, digitizing your contacts, earning conversations, and maximizing your time spent on social networking.

1 - Try Something New
The first step is to change your thinking and your behavior. This means being willing and fully committed to trying new techniques that you likely haven't used before. You'll get the best results if you completely integrate your new social networking habits into your day-to-day business - it won't do much good if you use it only once to fill out your profile. Invest at least one hour a week in finding new ways to meet and engage with people on a social networking site such as LinkedIn and Twitter. These days, if you're not using online social networking to nurture sales, you're missing out on a wealth of untapped opportunities that your competitors are taking advantage of.

2 - Digitize Your Contacts
A lot of people have a substantial collection of business cards and only work from them to nurture sales. But utilizing only these first-level connections limits you to a one-dimensional pool of contacts. Now is the time to connect your “rolodex” to your computer and digitize those contacts! Take advantage of the power of social networking by building a community online. Search for people you know in LinkedIn and/or Twitter, then request to connect to them. Once you've connected to all the people you know, leverage those first-level connections and let them work for you - see who they're connected to and use those connections to get into an account and build relationships.  When finding others to connect to, try to balance quality and quantity - you can't (and shouldn't) connect to everyone in the world. To be successful, you need to feel comfortable communicating with second level connections. If your first-level connections aren't solid, your second and third-level contacts won't be as powerful or prosperous. 

3 - Earn Conversations
Connecting to others online doesn't mean much without the actual sales conversation - and you still have to earn this. But when you use social networking the right way, it's easier to earn the right for a sales conversation because you can leverage your existing contacts. Ask first-level connections to make introductions with prospects and to provide you with information about them. Then use this advantage as well as information from the prospect's profile to start building a relationship. You'll end up having warmer, friendlier calls, which will condense your sales cycle. This saves you time and increases your chances of success because you're not starting at ground zero. Keep in mind that your conversations will be much more productive if you've seen each other’s profiles first. Make sure your profile is complete and that your website links work - people are much more reluctant today to talk on the phone with you if your credibility doesn't check out online.

4 - Maximize Your Time
The time you spend on social networking for business development will vary depending on your role and responsibilities. Sales representatives, marketing professionals, recruiters, and business owners will likely spend more time prospecting, sharing and gathering information, monitoring their brand, and marketing their products and services online than other professionals. But no matter your role, devote time to social networking on a regular basis and make it a focused effort.

A good strategy is to set specific goals or outcomes to keep you focused. Make a decision to spend a minimum of 30 minutes to an hour every day or every week on online social networking activities. During this regularly scheduled time, run company searches for precall planning, look up mutual connections through the Advanced link on LinkedIn, browse group discussions for potential leads or to start a discussion, share a value add status update to stay top of mind and add quality connections every week. Whatever you do, make a committed, consistent effort to use this time productively. You'll get as much out of it as you put in.

Selling isn't easy, especially in a challenging economy. To be successful, sales professionals and business owners need to be able to use social networking tools effectively. Decide today to make a commitment to nurture this opportunity - just as you would with face-to-face and traditional prospecting methods. Cultivate the process through digital efforts by keeping your profile updated, using the search functions available to you, and monitoring and participating in groups. If you devote yourself to social networking wholeheartedly, you'll quickly begin to see positive outcomes and increased results.

Kendra Ramirez, Senior Social Business Consultant is able to teach and consult directly from over a fifteen years of experience in business development, recruiting and business strategy. Since 2005, Kendra has shown businesses how to utilize these social business tools to shorten sales cycle, find passive candidates and extend their marketing plans. Kendra also serves as a board member for A Kid Again.  At Kendra.Ramirez@ascendum.com

About the Author: Kendra Ramirez

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