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Your Backstage Pass for Uncovering and Influencing Sales Leads

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Today we bring you a guest post by Jennifer Donovan, founder of San Francisco’s Nova CommunicationsFollow her on Twitter.

This post is presented by AirPR, a technology platform to increase PR performance. The San Francisco-based technology company is passionate about using data to show the true impact and value of PR.

Social media can be intimidating even to the most experienced sales person. It’s a completely different beast than traditional sales methods, but what social offers is a chance to build relationships while getting to know your potential customers on a unique level. With just a little information and training, members of any sales team can turn a few minutes a day on social media into new relationships, leads, and most importantly, closed deals.

Social media “listening” gives sales teams the opportunity to learn valuable insights about a customer or prospect. Sure, there are ways to get insights through traditional methods, but social media is like a back-stage pass – you secure a closer look, uncover hidden gems, and get a chance to engage on a more personal level. One of the best ways to use social to drive incremental sales for your brand is through active listening.

What is Active Listening?

Most of us associate listening with a conversation. Social listening is “the process of monitoring digital media channels to devise a strategy that will better influence consumers.” As Jill Rowley asserts, today’s buyer is digitally driven, socially connected, mobile, and empowered.

Social networks are a critical source of influence – especially since almost 80% of consumers are influenced by at least one social network during their decision-making process. Sales, at its core, is about building and maintaining relationships, and social media offers another channel to do just this.

Killing the Cold Call with Social Listening

Social channels provide a venue to learn more about prospects on a personal level. These sites are stacked with valuable insights including interests, passions, and what appeals to your consumer on an emotional and intellectual level. Here a just a few of the hidden gems that can be unearthed through active listening:

  • People’s responses to company news or information (that the company won’t be promoting themselves!)
  • Real-time issues or concerns prospects or current customers want addressed
  • Chatter about a hot or trending topic related to your brand
  • Competitive intelligence
  • Product feedback and ideation

Once you’ve gathered some intel, it’s time to strike while the iron is hot. Here are 5 easy steps your sales person can employ to start his/her soft sell and capitalize on the all the information gathered:

  1. Get on the Bus: Create personal social media profiles with as much detail about yourself as possible. It’s important for people to be able to quickly learn a bit about you once you start engaging on social media.
  2. Follow the LeaderFollow customers, prospects, competitors, industry groups, and anyone else you deem relevant. This allows you to uncover trends, business pains and insight into ways you might be able to offer support.
  3. Go Fishing: Develop a list of keywords or phrases related to your business. If you’re the owner of a local home improvement store, monitoring for phrases like “new lawnmower” or “recommendations for a grill” can uncover potential customers seeking advice or help.
  4. Stay Focused: Create lists to prioritize information overload. Think about the 10 minutes you have after boarding a plane. You can’t delve deep into work emails. Instead, pull up your Twitter lists and take a stroll through the latest topics being discussed.
  5. Flirt a Bit: On LinkedIn, engage in a group. On Facebook, Like, Comment, or Share a prospect’s post. On Twitter, mention a prospect in a tweet or send them a question. Everyone loves an ego stroke, so be participatory.

Here is my personal experience where social listening paid dividends:

During my time with a global technology company, I worked closely with an internal lead generation team to identify keywords people used on social media related to the company’s products. (e.g. “streaming video is buffering” or “mobile site not optimized.”) My team set up Twitter lists to monitor conversations and reached out either directly on Twitter or LinkedIn with a personalized note to validate concerns and offer solutions. We set up a campaign in Salesforce to track these interactions and within a few months, realized we were having great success retaining customers, capturing new leads, and closing high-revenue deals.

The key ingredient in all this is to start with a connection, not the sell. You’re more likely to be remembered as the person that solved a business problem as opposed to the person that only talks about their products all the time.

I’d love to keep the conversation going, so send me a tweet at @jendonovansf or @novacomms to learn more or ask questions. I’ll be listening…

Jennifer DonovanJennifer Donovan is the Founder of Nova Communications, a communications and social media consultancy based in San Francisco. She can be reached at jennifer@nova-comms.com or@jendonovansf

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