By HootSuite CEO, Ryan Holmes
This post was originally published by HootSuite CEO Ryan Holmes on the LinkedIn Influencer blog.
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Have you ever worked in sales? How many calls did you have to make before you actually connected with someone? How many emails did you send out that never got replies? Not many people will spare the time to talk to a stranger who is trying to sell them something.
But forward-thinking salespeople are embracing a new approach to break down these old communication barriers: social media.
Tech-savvy sales staff are now using social media on the job to monitor potential clients and competitors, gather intelligence, network and more—and it’s giving them an edge over the competition. A recent study found that salespeople using social media on the job outperformed peers not using it by a whopping 73 percent. They also exceeded their quotas 23 percent more often than their counterparts who were not using social media.
I know social media can boost sales success because I’ve seen it work at my own company. At HootSuite, all of our sales people tap into social networks daily to engage clients. (It’s not the only part of their process of course; phones and email are still invaluable tools.)
Here are three tips for making the most of social media as a sales tool:
1. Use Social Media to Break the Ice
Social media can be a great resource for gaining unique insights into leads that can help you make more impactful first contact. Last year, for example, we landed a new corporate client thanks in large part to Twitter. After following one of the client’s decision makers on the social network for months, one of my sales reps noticed that the executive always tweeted passionately about his love of McDonald’s seasonal McRib burger. So when the rep eventually decided it was time to reach out and make contact, he used their mutual passion for the menu item as an icebreaker in an email (writing in the intro something along the lines of “It’s McRib season again. . . .”). Talk of his favorite sandwich really grabbed the exec’s attention. He responded, leading to more exchanges and eventually a major sale.
And social media isn’t just for icebreakers. This kind of investigating can also be used to uncover crucial information on businesses, enabling salespeople to optimally time their outreach.
2. Tap Into Social Networks For Warmer Referrals
Social media can be a major asset in getting people to be more receptive to you. For instance, another rep at HootSuite recently fused old and new techniques to land a meeting with a huge potential client. He first came across an article in the Boston Globe about a new initiative being launched by a major communications company. The article happened to mention the C-level executive who was leading the initiative. After a quick search on LinkedIn, the rep discovered that he had a first-level connection in common with the executive. He referenced the mutual connection as he reached out, and amazingly, heard back in 30 minutes.
Had our rep tried the traditional route of calling or emailing, it’s unlikely he would have received such an immediate response—or any response at all, for that matter. None of this, of course, is rocket science. A warm referral is known to increase the odds of sales success by 200 to 400 percent. What’s new and powerful here is leveraging social media to transform a cold referral into a warm one.
3. Catch New Opportunities With Social Media
There is nothing more tragic than a lost opportunity in sales. Our sales reps have found one easy way to avoid them—working with departments (other than just marketing) to gain valuable intel.
For example, one of our customer support reps recently spotted somebody on Twitter complaining about a unsatisfactory sales demo they’d just had with one of our major competitors. She immediately blasted the message over to a sales manager, using our internal tasking tool. The manager took it from there, looking up the tweeter’s professional information on LinkedIn and then tracking down his contact information. This all ended up becoming a promising new opportunity worth tens of thousands dollars. Oftentimes clients are pleased to hear from us in this way, and to be offered a potential solution to their business problem.
Social media-assisted selling isn’t just happening at my company. More and more salespeople in both large and small businesses are adopting social media. Last year for example, IBM reported that they saw a stunning 400% surge in their sales after implementing their social selling pilot program.
Tapped into networks like LinkedIn, Facebook company pages, and Twitter, salespeople can empower themselves with useful information and data that gives them a truly competitive edge.
Social media won’t necessarily replace the phone or email, but it’s a new and revolutionary tool that sales departments can add to their arsenal.
For more social media insight and to learn more about my company, follow HootSuite on LinkedIn.