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The term social selling is derived from the use of social media to develop relationships for the purpose of selling a product or service to an individual. The fact is, "social" selling has been around since the beginning of mankind. The most successful sales professionals have always known that people don't want to be "sold," but they love to buy.

Understanding this dynamic, "old school" sales people spent significant time uncovering buyers. Once found, they cultivated a relationship with the buyer while listening attentively and learning their pain points with compassion. This approach led to a positive relationship, which ultimately resulted in a sale. This seems simple, but today, relationship building and targeted sales can be accomplished more efficiently using social media.

The strategic use of LinkedIn serves to shorten the sales cycle by easily uncovering key decision makers. By gaining important insight into the prospect, the learning curve has been shortened and contacting the buyer/decision maker is less time-consuming.

Research Supports the Power of Social Selling

If you're skeptical about conducting business using social selling, recent research adds to the credibility of engaging with social media. Here are a few examples:
  • 75% of B2B buyers use social media to make buying decisions. (International Data Corporation (IDC))
  • 50% of B2B buyers use LinkedIn as a source for making purchase decisions. (IDC)
  • 76% of B2B buyers prefer to work with recommendations from their professional network. (IDC)
  • More than 72% of sales people using social selling as part of their sales process outperformed their sales peers and exceeded quota 23% more often. (Aberdeen Group)

Efficiently Connect with the People Who Matter

LinkedIn isn't intended to replace face-to-face interactions; instead, it optimizes your ability to know more about people you've met or are about to meet. With over 332 million members on the world's largest professional network, LinkedIn facilitates successful lead generation by enabling sales professionals to easily find their targeted prospects.

Utilizing LinkedIn also creates an opportunity to conduct business internationally through the ability to research LinkedIn company pages and key executives worldwide. It helps establish the relationship quickly and easily.

Social selling involves developing new relationships but it also relates to re-engaging past clients. Success can be traced back to reconnections. As a result of using LinkedIn to get back in touch with former clients, you can acquire new lucrative accounts.

Indeed, you should follow prospective company pages to learn more about the inner workings of an organization. Take time to leverage your current connections to gain insight into who can introduce you to specifiers and procurement personnel.

Within your network, look for those people who are connected to your 2nd or 3rd degree connections and request an introduction. Research by LinkedIn shows that people are five times more likely to engage with you if the outreach is through a mutual connection.

Create a Great Profile Directed at the Buyer

Your inbound marketing tool is your profile. A well thought out, optimized profile presents you as a professional who is reputable and stands out in a crowd of sameness. It exhibits in words and through attached media the depth of your experience and speaks loudly about your ability to achieve results. Take note that buyers are researching sellers to determine whether your company or you personally have the acumen necessary to engage them. Being found for business opportunities is the bonus of having an optimized profile.

Don't Sell... Listen, Publish, Engage, Build

Remember this is a social medium. You'll turn off a prospective connection if you sell, particularly with your first communication. Instead spend time engaging, learning, and exhibiting sincere interest. Join groups they are currently in. Listen to the conversation, participate and pay attention to your prospects involvement.

Publish your own content; articles, posts, blogs, or share your executive associates' posts to your network and groups. This will serve to present you and your organization as forward-thinking thought leaders worthy of business collaboration and consideration.

Social Selling in a Nutshell

Prospect efficiently using LinkedIn to find your warm leads, engage with key people in companies you choose to target, build trust and create relationships offline with your prospects and if you are patient your buyers will be asking YOU for the sale!

Contributed by Ira Bass of Connect for Success


Larry Hart

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