This is part two in a study we created along with Focus.com to discuss the best practices to leverage social media for sales teams. After talking to eight of the top thought leaders in sales training and sales technology we wanted to bring their insights to you. This is going to be a 3 part series that covers what successful salespeople are doing to leverage social media in lead generation and accelerating their opportunities. Some of these experts are listed in our post on the 25 most influential sales leaders. Much appreciation to these experts for taking the time to address the question “How do your successful salespeople leverage social media for selling?

Sales Intelligence drives revenue.

InsideView social intelligence“Based on the 12 ways sales people leverage the internet it is clear that B2B sales teams spend a lot of time researching prospects and customers on the web and social networks. It’s no longer an issue of not having any information ahead of time, the issue is that there is an overwhelming amount of personal insights available. Sifting through it to find the relevant information you can act on today appears to be the challenge at hand. Sales intelligence drives revenue by feeding sales people trigger events and insights within a company or contact.” (Koka Sexton)

Make the most of a B2B Social Networks more advanced features and functionalities.

“On the B2B side of the house, LinkedIn is the networking tool in the US with some 130 million members of the 100 million-plus community. Many people know how to invite people to their network, but they usually do not know what to do after that.”

InsideView social sellingHere are a few of the ways that savvy B2B salespeople will leverage B2B social networks:

  • Advanced people search: Create prospecting lists based on the criteria of your ideal buyers. Save the list, and LinkedIn dynamically updates and alerts you weekly to the new people matching your criteria who have joined the network. Each week, you can then plan your strategy with respect to how you’ll approach the initial interaction.
  • Applications: Use the applications to add video, compelling presentations, white papers and case studies or sync your blog posts to your profile. Keep your content fresh and people pay attention. In the past eight weeks, I’ve secured four paid gigs and in every single case, I was told it was because my profile stood out from the rest and because they liked the video. It is all about engaging people and enticing them to want to know more.
  • Polls: Create a poll to gather real-time trending information that you can share with your prospective buyers.
  • Status updates: Ongoing status updates that are ‘relevant’ and provide value to others keep salespeople visible; because at the end of the day, it is all about visibility.
  • Groups: Leveraging groups (the right groups!) gives you an incredible opportunity to demonstrate credibility, but not selling!
  • Use the Answers section to listen and respond to the questions that people are asking. Every single day people ask what products to buy and from whom.
  • Events: Hosting an educational session for potential clients? Use the events functionality and use it to share with your network.” (Giamanco)

Monitor prospect discussion and social data for buying signals.

InsideView - Business Intelligence“Prospect research has changed forever. In no other time in my life have we seen prospects update their own information and update you on what they are doing in their personal and professional lives! Today’s modern social salesperson is exceptionally prepared for their sales calls. One tip: Company data is interesting (e.g., … [alerts] about your sales prospect’s company: ‘New product launch!’), but prospect social data is even more interesting, because it will tell you what the person really cares about (‘Just got back from sales training in Florida, learned a ton!’).” (Rosenberg)

“Leveraging twitter for sales is very effective. Once you know how to use Twitter as a sales tool, you can get insights into people and companies in realtime.” (Sexton)

“Watch for buying signals across the social Web. One of the greatest opportunities for salespeople via social media is to see into the buying cycle far earlier than we’ve typically had access to. Before social media, we could deepen our understanding of the buyer and use outbound marketing to connect with a particular need, try and find resonance with a buying signal, etc. But that, at best, was a fishing expedition most of the time. Now, if you know the buying signals and pain/problem keywords your prospects typically exhibit before they’re ready to buy, you can watch for those discussions and keywords across the social Web. Do a couple keyword searches on Twitter, for example, and you’ll be surprised how many people, in real-time, are talking about their existing challenges, their frustrations with competitive products and more.” (Heinz)

Social media is a great tool for salespeople, but for not for the reasons that some people believe. Social media isn’t a replacement for the prospecting activities that success in sales requires, as some seem to suggest. It is a simply a set of tools that allow the execution of some of those activities. There is way too much focus on using social media tools for inbound marketing, and way too little on leveraging the tools to better enable the execution of the fundamental roles of salespeople: opening new opportunities. Opening new opportunities isn’t a passive activity, and salespeople who wait for their prospects to find them aren’t successful by any of the measures we use in sales. The salespeople who are successfully using social media are using the tools to identify and open communication with their dream client contacts. They are using tools like LinkedIn to identify the people who they can most easily create value for within their target accounts. More still, they are researching their prospects, discovering what they are reading, what they are writing about, and where their interests lie. Social media better enables salespeople to know who to call and how they might best create value for those people.” (Iannarino)

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