Lead generation can be challenging, especially for many small businesses.
Unlike large companies with entire teams devoted to generating new leads and sales, such tasks in a small business usually fall on the already time constrained owner or marketing/sales personnel in the company.
In many cases, a small business owner must wear all the hats (marketing, production, administration, lead generation, sales etc.) to make their business run. This does not leave a lot of time for lead generation.
Yet without new leads and prospects, there can be no new sales.
So how can your small business generate new leads efficiently and effectively with the time you have?
Using a technique called social selling.
What is Social Selling?
Social selling refers to using social media platforms and other digital tools, and processes to find and connect with potential prospects to increase sales. Basically, social selling comes down to building relationships with potential prospects.
But why should you put your time and effort into using social media to find and connect with prospects?
Today, 74% of B2B buyers conduct more than half of their research online before making an offline purchase. Whether we like it or not, social selling is happening. It is happening in every industry and in all corners of the world. The reality is that someone is educating and providing insight with helpful content to your prospects and clients.
Your prospects will ultimately take the path of least resistance and choose to use the company that has been helping them along their buying journey. The question is, when your prospects are searching, will it be you or your competitors that they find?
Social selling is currently producing amazing results for small B2B companies, professional service providers, and marketing and sales professionals in all industries. I am going to share my best tips with you to help your small business prosper using social selling.
Social Selling on LinkedIn for Small Businesses
As I shared previously, social selling can involve using any social media platform or digital tool, but I have found one platform that produces the best results for B2B (business to business). That platform is LinkedIn.
Here are just a few of the reasons LinkedIn is considered the most effective social media platform for B2B lead generation:
- LinkedIn boasts over half a billion global members in 200 countries.
- LinkedIn is the #1 channel to distribute content.
- LinkedIn drives more traffic to B2B blogs and sites than other social media platforms.
- Executives rate LinkedIn high on value gained from their social marketing initiatives.
But LinkedIn’s true super power is that it makes it extremely easy to find, connect and then build a relationship with your prospects by staying top of mind, sharing helpful content and establishing yourself as an authority on your topic.
4 Steps to an Effective Social Selling Plan
Before I share how to use social selling on LinkedIn to generate more prospects and clients for your small business, there are three important things to do to get started.
- Have a complete and professional LinkedIn profile that properly represents your personal brand and business.
- Join relevant LinkedIn groups that your target audience will belong to (to increase the size of your network).
- Grow your network. People can only find you if you’re in their 1st, 2nd or 3rd degree networks or if you’re a member of the same group.
Step 1: Prospecting
There are two ways to prospect on LinkedIn. The first is by looking for prospects and the second is by making it easier for them to find you.
By having a complete, professional and search optimized LinkedIn profile, you have already made it easier for prospects to find you.
The other method of prospecting is to actively look for your ideal clients. There are a number of places on LinkedIn that you can search for prospects, including the Who’s viewed your profile, People Also Viewed, Notifications, Activities pages, LinkedIn Groups as well as the Advanced Search function.
Step 2: Make First Contact
After you have located potential prospects, you will need to connect with them.
This process starts with your initial connection request. You must make sure that the connection request is personalized, telling people why they should connect with you. Make sure that your reason for connecting makes sense to the person you are connecting with.
Step 3: Building Relationships
Building relationships with your connections is a vital piece to the social selling process. After someone accepts your connection request, you want to get to know them and them to know you.
Start a dialogue with them regarding something you have in common, something you read in their profile or something they have shared.
Send them something of value and highly relevant to their industry and business. Use the golden rule…givers get.
Sending Content to Prospects
The content of your messages will depend greatly on your industry and goals, but should NOT include anything that could be perceived as sales materials or a sales pitch of any sort!
Many people make the mistake of trying to sell or pitch their product or services right away. Don’t do that because it’s the fastest way to destroy a potential relationship.
Step 4: Taking the Relationship to the Next Level
Finally, you need to move the relationship to the next level.
Essentially, you need to move the relationship off-line. No relationship with a potential prospect should be kept solely on LinkedIn or on any online platform.
If you have provided great value to your connections, become a credible resource and built rapport, they will be willing to move the conversation off-line—be it through a phone call, a Skype meeting, or even an in-person meeting. It is off-line where you will convert a prospect to a client.
Create a Daily Social Selling Practice
You can quickly and easily generate new leads and build relationships with potential prospects in as little as 15 to 30 minutes a day. The key factor in any successful social selling plan is consistency. Decide on a specific number of prospects that you will connect with each day and remain consistent.
It’s All About Relationships
Social selling is not complicated or something to be fearful of. At its heart, social selling is about helping your prospects and building a relationship with them. LinkedIn provides the ideal platform for small businesses with limited time and budget to find those prospects and start this relationship building process.
Just remember that if you are not building relationships and helping your prospects, someone else will.
To learn more attend Episode 208: Social selling: Using social networks to grow sales, Microsoft Office Small Business Academy, is an educational resource filled with practical and inspiring ideas to help you start, grow, and sustain your business. Created for entrepreneurs and small business owners, this monthly webcast offers valuable advice and insights for running your business. You won’t want to miss this month’s episode on social selling, click here to attend.