listeningInterruptive sales strategies suck. No one wants to get your generic, unsolicited email or phone call. If only there was a way to gauge interest in your product or service in advance of your first contact.

Wish no more. There is, and it’s called social listening.

Social media is a veritable gold mine for salespeople. Your buyers are taking to social spaces to talk about their interests, pain points, wants, and needs -- all you have to do is tune in. Adopting this new lead generation approach is the foundation of my fourth pillar of social selling, “social listening for leads.”

Start by setting up alerts for mentions of your product or service, company, industry, and relevant keywords on various social media platforms. This way, the conversations that are most likely to produce leads will naturally surface above the social media din.

Then, once you have your notifications in place, keep your ears open, and your fast-typing fingers at the ready. If you spot a tweet that is a clear sales opportunity, pounce on it by engaging in a helpful way. Research shows that being the first to reach out gives the company an advantage in a competitive deal.

But you shouldn’t just get involved when there’s a clear lead on the line. Strive to be consultative and collaborative, not pitchy. When target keywords come up, get involved in the conversation, even if there’s no apparent opportunity.

And sometimes just contributing and helping can set the stage for an indirect introduction or sale. For instance, when I was a sales representative at Eloqua, I had an alert set up for “marketing automation” on Twitter. One day, I noticed a question had been tweeted out about marketing automation software user stories. I responded to the tweet with a link to Eloqua’s customer success page, and by doing so, injected my company into the thread without mentioning its name or making a hard pitch.

But I’m not naïve. Social listening takes time, and the results are non-linear and difficult to measure. Does this mean you can afford to put it off and pick it back up when it’s easier to do?

I don’t think so. Yes, it’s tough and new. But what’s the alternative? Cold calling and other outbound strategies, which are getting less effective. Cold calling isn’t working so let’s … do more of it and hope for better results?

Isn’t that the definition of insanity?

I would rather train my sales team on how to effectively listen on social media today. That’s where your buyers are, and don’t you want to get there early? You can’t wait for the RFP to drop on your desk.

Something tells me social media’s not going anywhere. Take a leap of faith and invest time in social listening now to develop lasting social selling prowess that will pay dividends.

Originally published Sep 23, 2014 6:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017

Topics:

Social Selling