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As sales professionals, we are the talent our company utilizes to convey the appeal of a partnership with us, our products and/or services.  Whether on the virtual stage or in a board room, we are always trying to find innovative ways to connect with our audience, garner interest and drive demand for our products. While attending an AA-ISP meeting on Oracle’s campus in California, Marketo delivered an exceptional presentation on Frontline Selling, which emphasized the critical role your sales team plays in audience development as it pertains to social sales and demand generation.

I was unfamiliar with the term “audience development” as it pertains to social sales, so I did my research.  “Audience development” traditionally denotes accumulating a following for your ‘art gallery.’  In the realm of sales, your ‘art gallery’ consists of the products and services provided by your company.

Here is the 3-2-1 on audience development using social sales for an individual contributor.  The 2013 B2B study reports that 66% of quota retirement in 2012 came from email, SEO, and cold calling.  Those are in order as far as ranking, and I would imagine that you already have email and cold calling down pat.   In order to expand our audience, we need to leverage new conduits for interaction, such as social media, so as to generate a buzz AND maintain the conversation with prospective buyers until the point of purchase.  In that same report by B2B, Social Selling accounted for 11% of the 2012 quota retirement.  Based on my personal experience, I would argue that social selling  has the potential to beget a much higher percentage. In my blog post, “Setting Social Sale”, I expand further on Social Selling, an excellent way to continue the conversation with your current audience and develop leads by way of social networks.

The 2012 CSO Insights by Accenture identifies “Customer-Centric sales methodologies and processes“as one of the primary focuses for sales leadership today.  In developing and adopting an effective audience development strategy, you will simultaneously align yourself with this focus.

So how do you incorporate Social Selling into your audience development strategy?  Every sales person is familiar with their A-B-Cs: Always Be Closing.  With social selling, however, it evolves to Always-Be-Connecting (AND still Closing, of course).

Step one: Launch your dialer (Refractive, Insidesales, what have you) to connect to your prospects.

Step two: Connect to these prospects socially.  If you do not have Sales Navigator from LinkedIn, then just open a separate browser, and keep it open while you are dialing. While leaving messages (assuming you are not getting them on phone), copy the name of the contact from the contact/lead record and paste it into LinkedIn.  Add the company name by typing the first part of the company name next to their name, this will speed up the LinkedIn search to find the individual.  When you find the right contact, click connect and with the email address that you have on the contact record, send a connection request.  I would not use the standard message from LinkedIn, I have had a 90% success with the following message:  “[Person You Are Calling], I called your office just now to discuss our [specific product/service], I would like to connect with you on LinkedIn so that when the time is right we can ask to be considered in an evaluation on [area relevant to this product/service].  In your inbox you will find a more detailed explanation for my contacting you and also a datasheet on my customers and our services.  Thank you for accepting this request and I look forward to interacting with you in the future”.

Step Three: Once connected, you now have an additional avenue by which to interact with these prospects.  I also like to drip a couple of industry-specific data points each day to my audience on LinkedIn.  This establishes me as a thought leader in my space, and also keeps the client primed on my products so they can move quickly to a decision.

Matt Dixon, Executive Director, Sales & Service Practice at Corporate Executive Board, did an interview with HBR in July of 2012 on Solution Selling.  Solution Selling accounts for the fast-paced changes taking place in our world of sales and details the need to evolve with them in order to be successful.  This is a great interview and worth listening to on HBR’s site.

In 2012, I did an interview with “This Week in Sales” on the aforementioned process of connecting on LinkedIn and how it impacted my personal quota obtainment by 140%.  The importance of this single act of social selling is that it reflects an alternative type of interaction with my prospects and it creates a dotted line to a stronger audience development strategy.

In my next blog post I will expand on my experience in leveraging LinkedIn as a microsite and the creation of an attractive Social Footprint.

I would love to hear your feedback, has Social Sales worked for you?