Today’s salespeople have to be smart and savvy when it comes to reaching potential customers and developing relationships as part of the sales process. More and more often, this is done through social networks like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

This new “social selling” is an effective way to find and engage new prospects…if you do it the right way. Smart salespeople can use social media to create relationships andestablish rapport and trust by providing valuable answers and information throughout the buying process. Here are some best practices when it comes to an effective social selling strategy.

DON’T get caught up in being on all social media platforms at all times

DO choose the most relevant social platform for your potential customers. The first key to social selling success means staying consistently active on the same social network as your target audience. If you’re selling to teenagers, choose to be active on Instagram, if you’re in the fashion industry, use Pinterest. Facebook has the majority of all age groups, and research shows that decision makers are more involved Twitter and LinkedIn, so choose those if you’re in business-to-business.

DON’T get too sales pitchy by jumping right in to asking for a meeting or a sale

DO start a conversation with your potential customers. Contribute relevant information about your brand and share new concepts in your industry. Social selling is all about establishing relationships. Write posts that provide valuable knowledge and demonstrate that you are an expert in your field. Actively participate in discussions instead of just observing.

DON’T do all of the talking

DO listen to what your audience is saying and watch for trigger events that might give you clues as to when your potential customers are ready to buy. Maybe you’ll see that someone has a new position and that may be a great time to approach them with a new service or product that can help make their job easier. Or, perhaps you’ll see when a company has won an award and you can offer your congratulations.

DON’T forget the human aspect of social selling

DO remember that your contacts are real people with real thoughts and not just names in a database. Spend time trying to get to know your prospects and what solutions they might need. It will help you grow stronger quality relationships versus just a large quantity of names.

DON’T make social selling an occasional effort

DO try and have a consistent presence. It doesn’t need to take up all of your time, but social selling works best when you participate in it daily. Simply hopping on and off of social sites when you feel like it isn’t the kind of commitment that will bring you results. Take a few minutes each day to check your social feed to see what your prospects are up to and to see if you can add anything to the conversations.

Most importantly, when it comes to social selling – DO work to build relationships. Social selling is really about building trust, and connecting in a meaningful way with your potential customers. If you use social media tools in the correct way, you can find the right prospects, make them notice you and remember you when they are ready to buy.

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