6 steps to accelerate your social sales prospecting

Social Sales Prospecting

When was the last time you sat at your desk and thought, “What should I do with all this time on my hands”?

Never? Me neither.

Time is rarely something sales people have an abundance of…certainly not the people surpassing quota anyway. A large chunk of that time is often taken up with prospecting – finding and fleshing out details about people, companies and opportunities.

Using the limited amount of time that you do have effectively is the difference between hitting quota and falling short.

Fortunately, the practice of social selling has done away with the frustrating and ineffective practice of cold calling, instead spending that time developing the relationship so that contact is much warmer.

See how a change of approach helped Business Stream improve productivity by 30% while retaining 90% of clients.

But shifting to a social sales approach won’t magically free up your day – arguably the research phase of your prospecting will now take far longer than it used to.

With that in mind I thought I would share some top tips as to how you can accelerate your social sales prospecting work, leaving more time to develop those all-important relationships.

Know your data sources

The first step is, of course, to gather information on your prospects. Most sellers know where to get the data from, but relying on memory is a sure fire way to make small mistakes and miss key information. Assembling a list of your data sources helps make this first step quicker and more methodical.

By being systematic about how you identify and record the data that will provide essential information about prospects, you’ll create a framework for future data collection. This will make it much quicker over time.

What’s more, it will help others in your team, particularly if they are new to social selling.

So where are the best places to source information on your prospects?

LinkedIn

The social seller’s go-to platform for prospecting, LinkedIn contains a wealth of information. Individual profiles will be a primary source of information on specific contacts, but don’t neglect other sections of the platform.

Company pages often contain interesting updates about the business, as well as its size, clients, services, staff, etc.

LinkedIn Groups can be useful for gaining an understanding of prospect’s issues, knowledge level, and influencers. They may also post updates to groups that can prove a good icebreaker. For example, if a prospect asked a group the best way to buy media space, you may be able to point them in the right direction. This forms a solid base on which to develop a relationship, just don’t leap in with a hard sale!

The “also viewed” panel to the right when you view any profile can highlight some interesting people you might also want to connect with. You’ll find people in a similar industry, the same company, or an influencer. A quick way to build up a sizeable prospect list is to investigate these recommended profiles for relevant opportunities.

Twitter

Whether or not you use Twitter for making connections and developing relationships with prospects, there is no denying that it can be a useful place to gather information. Users often include industry-relevant hashtags in their profiles making them easily searchable.

Relevant updates are also easily searchable and completely open for anyone to view – there is no need to add someone you don’t know as a contact before discovering what they are writing about.

There are a lot of tools which make use of Twitter’s open API to pull information for you, helping you to rapidly build a prospect list without trawling through thousands of tweets by hand.

Company Blog

To really understand a prospect company it’s always worth having a read of their blog. In fact, I would recommend you subscribe to the blog of every company you are prospecting. That way you can passively build up a rich bank of information in your email folders.

Companies will often post updates about new contracts won, new staff, as well as other changes and new directions the company is going in. This information could provide the perfect reason to get in touch – for example, you could tweet a prospect congratulating them on the new contract they’ve just won, or asking them an insightful question about their recent blog.

Company’s House

A key piece of information you will want to know is whether the prospect company is growing or contracting, and whether this is a result of financial performance or part of a growth strategy.

Whatever their financials it will provide an opening – they might need help to turn their financial woes around, or they might have extra budget to spend on additional services.

Google

Industry news and trends, analyst insight on a prospect company, prospect’s guest posts, existing suppliers – there is so much you can discover from a simple search. The easiest way of keeping on top of this information is to set up some Google Alerts around specific company and industry keywords.

Even better, deploy software that pulls and organises your Google Alerts for maximum time savings.

If you are stuck for industry keywords, try Google’s Keyword Planner tool. It will tell you how popular your selected keyword is as well as providing recommendations for other relevant keywords to target.

Compile your prospect lists

All the information you gather during your research should be added straight to a spreadsheet or your CRM. However, don’t neglect information simply because there is no field for it in Salesforce – you might find it is essential in building your relationship later on.

Unfortunately, there is no catch-all tip I can give you which will speed this process up – it really is a lot of copying and pasting. Social selling software is really the only way to accelerate building prospect lists with some automation.

If you do go down the software route, look for a sales tool that pulls information directly from the data sources listed above. That way you have the ability compile a large prospect list with rich data at the click of a button, saving you from countless hours of unnecessary spreadsheet-gazing.

Go wide in an industry sector

One mistake I often see sales people making is sticking too rigidly to their list of target companies. Of course, those are the business you really want, but in reality, only a small segment of them will be in a position to buy.

A more effective use of your time is to investigate not only your target companies, but other companies in the same sector. That way you can rapidly create prospect lists as well as use your research – competitor analysis, industry trends, tailored solution, etc. – in your communications with each company.

Chances are that one of those companies will be in a position to buy even if your target company isn’t. Work with them and build up a solid case study in the industry vertical, then use that case study to sell into your target company when the time is right.

Map organisational charts

Who is responsible for signing-off budget? They are the people you really need to reach, whether directly or through another contact.

Social selling software, or even just LinkedIn, makes creating an organisational chart for each prospect much quicker and easier. With LinkedIn’s advanced search feature you can find people in specific roles at the company, fleshing out your understanding of their organisation.

Specialist tools may also be able to pull this information directly, freeing up the time spent on manually searching LinkedIn.

Once you have your organisational chart you can start to devise a strategy for reaching the key decision makers – whether you sell with, through or over your main point of contact.

Listen to their updates

Being a digital stalker is almost a fact of life these days. Listening to your prospects, their updates, events they are attending, or even things that have happened in their personal lives can provide valuable insight that helps warm up that all-important initial contact.

One particularly effective way of doing this without using specialist software is to create Twitter lists. Private lists of prospects and influencers in different industry verticals mean you can quickly gain a wealth of information without having to pick through an overwhelming stream of updates.

Creating email filters will also help group all your prospects’ blog updates, industry analysis and Google Alerts – even more information to use to build a relationship with the right people at the right time.

Don’t neglect inbound

Almost every salesperson I’ve met puts 99% of their time into outbound activity – researching, sending emails and tweets, growing their LinkedIn network, etc. But neglecting inbound enquiries means they will have to do more work with fewer closed sales to show for it.

Spruce up your LinkedIn profile with relevant keywords, a professional profile picture, and regular updates. Write a regular blog addressing industry challenges. Link your company page to your personal LinkedIn and Twitter profiles. All these things will help social buyers find you.

Social sales prospecting isn’t just about LinkedIn – see what else you could be doing.