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Having access to the decision maker early on can often make or break your sale. Buy-in from the decision maker make negotiations go much more smoothly and make closing the deal go much faster. The best prospectors and sales professionals use social media to not just get to decision makers, but turn them into champions.

Before diving into how we can leverage social selling to get to our key decision makers, let’s take a moment to review what social selling is, and identify some best practices that will help us meet, please, and win with the decision makers at our target accounts.

Social Selling Defined

Social selling is quickly becoming a very hot term, but almost everyone uses it in a slightly different way. Social selling isn’t a magical way to get every decision maker to reply to you and shorten your sales cycle 95% while increasing your deal size 200%. Social selling is best viewed as using your network and social media channels as a way to enhance your existing sales efforts.

Some common and creative examples of social selling include:

  • Sending a tweet to a prospect saying you’re looking forward to meeting later that day.
  • Participating in an Ask Me Anything on Reddit that a prospect is hosting.
  • Commenting on an Instagram photo that a prospect has shared of an event you’re both at.
  • Liking or commenting on a LinkedIn post that a prospect has shared.

Social Selling Best Practices

Social selling gives you a lot of room to maneuver, but if you follow these guidelines, you’ll be much more successful. Social selling is a great tool, but if you abuse the privilege of having easy access to decision makers, it can come back to bite you, ultimately doing more damage than good.

1) Be sincere.

If you’re engaging directly, you have to be sincere. Anything less, and buyers will see right through your thinly veiled attempt. Make sure that your Twitter feed isn’t just you @messaging various prospects.

2) Shorter is better.

Nobody wants to read your novel. Craft and edit your message to three sentences or less.

Twitter is great practice for this. It may be tough to keep your message to 140 characters, but if you’re talking to someone for the first time, you haven’t earned the right to more than a few seconds of their time.

3) Respect everyone you deal with.

Just because you have direct access to a decision maker doesn’t mean you should jump over everyone else’s heads.

4) Don’t go for the hard sell.

Use social media as a way to get access to someone you wouldn’t normally have access to. Don't pitch them right off the bat -- interact, engage, and add value first.

5) Make sure your social presence is in top order.

That means a clean profile on whatever social channels you’re engaging with potential customers, making sure you’ve cleaned up any questionable content, and offering something of value for your target audience.

Leveraging Social Selling to get to the DM

There are three primary ways to use social media to help out your sales cycle, particularly when it comes to getting the attention of a decision maker: Gathering information, establishing a point of reference, and communicating directly with your decision maker.

1) Gathering Information

When you are fortunate enough to book time with a decision maker, you need to make every minute, question, and moment count. If you can skip the basic discovery questions, and get right into the meaty discussions of how your solution can help them, it will go a long way to establishing you as a competent professional.

It’s amazing how much information is willingly shared. You can find out about new hires, new customers, where people are at a given moment -- even what they’ve eaten. All of this can be used to help you sell and make you look better in the eyes of a decision maker.

I investigate the following questions on social media to move faster with the decision makers I talk with at Venngage:

  • Do you have any mutual connections? If you do, are you able to get any “off the record” information, or better yet, a warm introduction?
  • What does the decision maker's schedule look like? If they are posting that they’re going to be attending or speaking at an event, suggest a different time to schedule your next meeting, even if it means your next meeting is a bit further out. It will demonstrate you to be a sales professional who does their homework.
  • What do you have in common with your decision maker? Are you both alumni of the same school, fraternity/sorority or employer, or do you work with the same charitable group? These commonalities can provide a great reason to connect with them.
  • What's happening at the company? Have they just raised a large amount of capital or opened a new office? Have they won any major awards or landed any big name customers? These are all great discussion points. If you were selling into HubSpot, it would be a smart idea to talk about the journey to 15,000 customers and what that means for the future.

Even if you aren’t using social media to chat with the decision maker directly, you can use the information you’ve gathered to get to a meaningful conversation much more quickly during your next chat with them.

2) Point of Reference

The effectiveness of cold calling has been debated since the first dial was made. It’s getting tougher and tougher to book a meeting or demonstration on a call.

Obviously it’s difficult to research everyone that you call up, but for your key accounts, a couple of minutes of research can go a long way to build the instant rapport you need to book a meeting.

Instead of saying something along the lines of “I noticed that you downloaded our ebook on increasing conversions. Would you like to see our conversion increasing software?” you can use social media to create a point of reference. For example, “I noticed that you’re attending INBOUND 2015; want to take a few minutes to discuss the best strategies around increasing conversions before you attend the event?"

One of the most successful ways I’ve leveraged social media to get in with a decision maker is to reference something they’ve done recently right in the subject of the email. For instance: “I saw that you tweeted out … " "Saw your post on LinkedIn … ” For the record, I’ve realized a much higher rate of booking meetings with decision makers through email rather than on the phone and I’ve never had a voicemail returned with any serious intent.

3) Direct Communication

This is very much a double-edged sword. Social media gives you access to just about every decision maker there is in addition to high-ranking influencers.

Though it’s great to be able to send anyone an InMail on LinkedIn, it also means your message needs to be really good, or you’ll get lost in wash. While it may be tempting to send the decision maker a message centered on what you’re selling (after all you’re selling the greatest thing since sliced cheese so who wouldn’t want to hear about it?), the risk of coming off as tacky and self-centered is high.

So instead of pushing your pitch right away, use your ability to communicate directly with decision makers in more tactful ways to help you win the deal.

  • Make yourself known. View the decision maker's LinkedIn profile. If they view you back, then it’s appropriate to send them a message along the lines of, “Noticed we viewed each other's profiles. I’m actually speaking with [coworker] later this week/spoke to [coworker] earlier and came across your profile. If you have any questions about the topic of conversation, let me know how I can help. Always happy to jump on a call.” The same goes for following them on Twitter. 
  • Engage with them on Twitter. Beyond following them, you can also retweet their content. If you do this, also send them a tweet. If it’s an article they wrote or their company wrote, ask them about it. In addition, use Twitter to break the ice before your next meeting with a tweet as simple as "Looking forward to our meeting today," or thanking them for their time. This is a great way to stay top of mind without crowding their inbox. Finally, get creative. Let’s say they send you an automated direct message (DM) thanking them for the follow. Hit reply! Same goes for if they accidentally send you a spam DM -- just let them know. It’s a great way to earn some brownie points.
  • Ask for the meeting. Note: Only if it’s natural! Did you notice that they’re at the same 300-person conference as you or someone from your company? Tell them and set up a meeting! If you're both attending the same conference, trade show, or event and happen to have down time, ask to get together. If you’re following an event hashtag on Instagram or Twitter, leave a comment saying “Booth looks great! Would love to chat for a few minutes -- when would be a good time to swing by?”

Like any tool or tactic, social selling will help you close more deals and increase deal velocity, but it isn’t a standalone practice. Used correctly, social selling will make your cold calls warmer, your meetings easier to book, and decision makers more accessible.

Happy (social) selling! 

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Originally published Jul 15, 2015 7:30:00 AM, updated January 23 2018

Topics:

Social Selling