guest post by Barbara Giamanco, co-author The New Handshake: Sales Meets Social Media
Many sales professionals I talk too struggle with determining when engaging with a new prospect is appropriate in the online space. Sharing information, listening to the conversation and doing for others are often described as being the core attributes of a savvy social sales player. At the same time, we’re sales people, and we have quota’s to achieve each month. It’s natural to wonder how soon is too soon? While I don’t have a perfect answer, because the answer to the question is that it depends, I will emphatically say that you don’t engage the first time you show up. You make your mark – over time – demonstrating your willingness to share your expert credibility for the benefit of others. Potential buyers will soon recognize that you are someone they need to know. There aren’t any shortcuts; however, you have to put in the time to become known.
So beyond posting a profile on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, how do you actually go about creating a lead generation, customer engagement strategy that quickly helps you achieve your objectives? What steps do you follow to help you pave the way for a smooth connection when the time is right?
This simple five step model that I created may help you organize your approach to engaging with the prospects on your lead list.
- Target. In our book, The New Handshake: Sales Meets Social Media, Joan and I talk in detail about determining the characteristics of your ideal buyer. Until you do, you will find it difficult to determine where they congregate online. If you expect to earn a return on your investment, you need to make sure that you are focused on generating leads in the right places AND with the right people. Your mantra is “go narrow/go deep”. The more focused you are the faster you get sales traction.
- Search. Having clearly identified the attributes of your ideal buyer, you can use tools like LinkedIn’s advanced saved search feature to create social lead generation lists that are then updated automatically each week. On Monday morning’s, you can look forward to receiving an email from LinkedIn that alerts you to the new people having joined your lead generation list. Imagine starting the week with a list of potential buyers to pursue. Research information about buyers, their companies and source real time trending topics in the Answers section of LinkedIn or through search.twitter.com Remember that you need to know as much information about your potential buyer as you can and that includes trends they care about, as well as what the competition has to say when you leave the room. Never under estimate the power of search in your lead generation toolkit. And back to point #1, you need to know exactly what you are searching to find.
- Review. Now that you have you saved search list, what do you do next? First organize your list and create a priority focus hierarchy. Use a simple A, B, C mapping approach to determine who gets attention first. Obviously, you’ll be connecting with you’re A prospect first, followed by B’s and so on. Since LinkedIn is a sales power tool, start there and spend 10 minutes per person reviewing their individual profiles. You can make the process even easier using a tool like Gist, a social aggregation tool that integrates with Outlook, Gmail and a host of other email services. Gist does the undercover work for you and locates information about a person on the social web saving you the time of searching various social sites on your own.
- Plan. You’ve laid the groundwork. Now it is time to reach out, but how will you approach it? Will you need an introduction, or do you feel confident enough in your ability to craft a message that captures enough interest for your buyer so that they want to talk to you? If you need an introduction, who can help you? What can you do for them in return? The key is to prepare. You may have one shot at getting that yes. Use it wisely!
- Connect. Finally, you reach out to your prospective buyer. Remember to keep the initial contact focused solely on “what’s in it for them”. This isn’t the time for your feature dump. Keep your focus on the goal – giving your prospective buyer a compelling reason to start a conversation with you. Once you make that contact, you can develop a relationship that will open to the door to sales opportunities.
Barbara Giamanco, co-author of The New Handshake: Sales Meets Social Media (Praeger, August 2010), is a sales and social media strategist, consultant and speaker with a 30-year proven track record in sales. She capped a corporate career at Microsoft, where she led sales teams and coached executives. Throughout her career, Barb has sold close to $1B in products and services. Today, Barbara is CEO of Talent Builders, Inc. a sales performance consulting business. Known as a sales transformer, top sales teams hire Barb to help them leverage new media to explode sales performance. A sought after speaker, Barb has facilitated programs with thousands of executives who consistently rate her as “exceeding expectations”. She is a certified Get Clients Now!™ facilitator, an Inscape Certified DiSC® Trainer and earned her coaching certificate from the Coaches Training Institute. http://www.TheNewHandshake.com