Lead generation is the heart and soul of any B2B organization.
So much so that more than half of businesses say that increasing the number of sales leads they generate is their top digital marketing objective for 2020.
When it comes to generating leads, there are many weapons in the armoury of a modern sales and marketing team. Content marketing, SEO, email, cold calling, trade shows. All of those – and more – can be viable ways to bring leads in at the top of your sales funnel. But arguably the most effective strategy of all is social selling.
In short: if you aren’t using social selling as a key part of your sales strategy, you should be. Here’s how you can start doing it right now to boost your lead gen efforts.
1. Target Your Ideal Customers
If your lead generation methods are all about casting the net as wide as possible, stop.
Filling the top of your pipeline with tons of names is only useful if those names belong to people you actually want to sell to. If not, you’re wasting a bunch of time and money on prospects who’ll never buy from you.
The first part of social selling is to properly understand who you’re targeting. That means the ideal customer profile (ICP).
Your ICP should combine a range of demographic and behavioural attributes. Things like:
Company size (by revenue or headcount)
How often they visited your website in the last month
Whether or not they’ve churned from a competitor
Which events they attend or sponsor
Once you’ve identified the type of organization you should be focusing on, you can hone in on the key figures within those organizations – the people who’ll ultimately decide whether or not to invest in a product like yours.
You’ll want to develop extensive buyer personas that give you a clear view of the pain points and objectives of your buyers. Social media will help you to build and nurture your relationships with them.
2. Pick the Right Channels
It goes without saying that not every social channel is right for every lead gen campaign.
Generally speaking, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram are the most-used platforms for social selling. But that doesn’t mean you need to use all of them – or, conversely, that you need to limit yourself to just those four. If your product is highly visual and your audience skews younger, maybe SnapChat or even TikTok will be worth exploring. If the data tells you that your buyers hate Twitter, don’t waste valuable time building a network on there.
However, while the right channel for you will naturally depend on the product you’re selling and the people you’re aiming to reach, there’s a good chance that LinkedIn will play an important role in your social selling strategy.
With more than 450 million members, LinkedIn is the go-to social network for B2B buyers and sellers. In fact, 50% of B2B buyers say they use it as a source for informing purchase decisions. Users expect – and often actively want – to be approached by sellers on LinkedIn, so the platform offers a fantastic opportunity to reach out to prospects and discuss your product.
3. Optimize Your Profiles
You (probably) wouldn’t do email marketing from the Hotmail account you set up when you were 13. Chances are, people won’t be too keen to buy from “RedSox4Lyfe” or “BackstreetBoysFan91”.
In the same way, you can’t expect to excel at social selling with an incomplete, outdated or just plain bad profile.
Viewing your social profile might be the first contact a prospect ever has with you. So if it’s not professional, comprehensive and clear, you risk making a bad impression right off the bat.
A “good” profile will vary from one network to another. Each has its own requirements and features. But sticking with LinkedIn, as a minimum you should have:
A professional-looking profile picture, preferably with your face taking up at least 60% of the frame.
An eye-catching banner – for bonus points, design it yourself using a free tool like Canva.
A compelling headline – the section at the top of your profile where you can describe yourself in 120 characters or fewer.
An engaging LinkedIn summary giving an overview of your professional experience. With 2,000 characters to play with, it gives plenty of scopes to catch people’s attention.
4. Don’t Pitch – Provide a Valuable Resource Instead
Social selling isn’t about finding prospects who match your ICP and buyer personas, then immediately pitching at them. They don’t know anything about you at this stage, so why would they listen? You’ll burn through a lot of potential customers using this approach.
Instead, focus your efforts on building trust and authority in your personal brand. Demonstrate that you’re worth listening to and know your stuff by sharing educational, entertaining, and inspirational content. If you’re able to add genuine value, people will listen to you – which means they’ll pay attention when you do spot an opportunity to pitch.
This might sound counterintuitive to the average salesperson. Time is money, so surely it makes sense to sell as often as possible
But social selling isn’t about constantly referencing your product’s USPs. If you’re only looking to present solutions or pitch, social probably isn’t the place for you. Instead, it’s about building strong relationships, gaining key insights on your audience and nurturing leads that turn into sales down the line.
5. Research What Your Prospects Are Sharing
Active social media users love to share. They’ll join in discussions, give their opinion on trends, ask their network for recommendations, discuss best practices, and post about what’s going on in their business right now.
This plays to your favor, allowing you to find out about the motivations and pain points of your audience, and spot opportunities for striking up conversations when it’s clear that your product could genuinely make a prospect’s life easier.
But timing is everything. At the very least, you want to be on the radar of a prospect before you reach out to them with a pitch – perhaps they’ll have seen you speaking to a mutual connection, or noticed a piece of content you’ve shared.
Ideally, you’ll already have a closer relationship than that. You’ll have spoken to them directly, engaged in conversations they’ve started and commented on their posts. That way, you’re not just a random salesperson reaching out to do business – you’re someone in their network they know and trust. An expert adviser who has their best interests at heart.
The fundamentals of social selling are nothing new.
Relationship-building has always been important in sales – after all, people buy from people. Social just gives us a new way to build, solidify, and nurture those relationships into meaningful leads and, eventually, sales.
By speaking to your prospects in an environment where they feel comfortable – be it LinkedIn, Facebook, or any other social platform – you’re able to engage without it feeling like an unwelcome sales pitch.
Done well, it shouldn’t feel like they’re being “sold to” at all. Instead, buying from you should simply be a logical step in a relationship built and strengthened over the course of multiple weeks or months.
Do you use social selling? Do you have a favourite tip for nurturing buyer relationships on social? Let me know in the comments below:
Sujan Patel is a partner at Ramp Ventures & co-founder of Mailshake. He has over 15 years of marketing experience and has led the digital marketing strategy for companies like Salesforce, Mint, Intuit and many other Fortune 500 calibre companies.