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Three steps to using social media to improve sales

A few years back I looked around and realized that most sales organizations were, to a large degree, broken.

A few years back I looked around and realized that most sales organizations were, to a large degree, broken. The customer has become smarter; the coveted product and industry knowledge sales people possess has now become a free online commodity in today's socially networked environment. Through Facebook connections, Twitter search, Google and dozens of review sites, today's customer has access to almost every piece of data they need to make a decision.

Sales professionals need to start augmenting their sales tool kit with social media tools or risk becoming redundant or even invisible. There are dozens of ways to use social media in sales but here are three of my favorites.

Ask your average 20- or 30-something-year-old, what is they first thing they do after meeting a potential date? They will tell you they Google them and look for them on Facebook. Many will even look at your professional background on LinkedIn.

Your potential customers are doing the same thing. What shows up when someone searches for you in Google? Pro-active sales professionals will have complete LinkedIn profiles and a presence on most social networks.

Crucially, a lack of a social presence means that other people's content about you, which is not vetted by you, will be the first to show up in a search. Someone else is telling their version of your story. It's also important to note that not having a social media presence makes the researcher wonder if you are hiding something.

I have the first and last name of my key clients and their company name loaded up in Google Alerts. For example: "Dave Smith" + "DTM Systems". Anytime a new piece of content hits the internet that has the key words in it, I get a message from Google. By doing this you learn of mergers, product launches, industry changes and even career promotions the moment they happen, not three weeks later when you phone them.

Use Twitter's advanced search features to search for people talking about keywords in a specific geographic area. A Ford fleet sales person may look for people talking about Ford Trucks (or competitors products) within 15 kilometres of their dealership. After identifying these people on Twitter, they can reach out, begin to build a relationship and see if there is an opportunity to do business.

Another tool is LinkedIn Signal, which allows you to search potentially thousands of updates by people within your network who are talking about specific industries or key terms. It's also a great source of industry news.

We all know that a big part of gaining, growing and keeping a client is staying in touch. Here are three unfortunate sales truths:

1) most businesses stop trying after fewer than four contacts with a prospect;

2) most sales people rely heavily on email and phone calls alone; and

3) your customer wants to choose when and how they learn about you.

There are many other mediums of follow-up you can use to stay on your customer and/or prospect's radar. If you increase the types of media you use, it naturally increases the number of contacts. Here are a few tools that get a response:

  • If a connection or client is unresponsive to email and the phone, send them a message via LinkedIn. Including a valuable article or some great business intelligence also often gets the dialogue happening again.
  • Create tailored video presentations to accompany a proposal in the instance that you can't be present when key decision makers are reviewing a proposal.
  • Create a "Tip of the week" video channel on YouTube. This will give you new fresh content to share with clients weekly and it will also help new prospects find you in Google and YouTube searches.
  • Start blogging. My blog has landed me clients and booked deals across the planet. It started by picking frequently asked client questions and answering them on my blog once a week. This gave more value-added content to send to clients, and many new prospects found me via Google search as a result.

These are just three ways you can use social media in sales. Every day more customers are seeing social media as mainstream tools for communications, collaboration and connecting. To remain relevant and up-to-date with what is happening in the marketplace, today's sales leaders need to be socially literate and pro-active in their use of social media and networking tools.