Last year, I presented at a gathering of 50 small business owners and leaders. Most were younger than me. When I asked them about social selling, such as how many had LinkedIn profiles, less than a third did. When I asked how many of those had been on LinkedIn in the last month, about a quarter of the subset indicated they had.
It is clear that there are a number of segments that have yet to fully leverage social to maximize revenues, especially small or medium businesses (SMB). Some may point to the age divide, being intimidated by the medium. Others are enticed but do not know where to start and are reluctant to engage with “consultants” or “experts” speaking in tongues.
Clearly there is an opportunity for small business owners and leaders to benefit from social success without pain, intimidation or unnecessary costs. Especially for those already using platforms like salesforce.com, where they can take sales to next level by integrating social tools in their daily sales-flow. As with most things, you can start slowly and build. Here are a couple of simple things anyone with a keyboard can do that will generate business from new and existing customers, accelerate the sales cycle, and increase client loyalty and retention.
Many are familiar and active in LinkedIn Groups, some based on professional affiliation, specific areas of interest, or company related groups. But for SMB owners, LinkedIn Groups can be a great way to drive business, using a social platform, with only a 60–75 minute investment a week. Start by creating a Closed Group bearing your company name. The group being closed allows you to control who you want in the group. Invite your current customers and “real” prospects. In some instances you may want to include strong leads, but read the rest before you decide, or wait till you have had the group a while.
Once set up, go to the Manage tab, and click on Template in the left navigation area, where you will find two key templates. First is a custom invitation form, the other, the all-important Welcome Message. This is your opportunity to set expectations for and from group members. I recommend that you tell them that this is a place where your customers can exchange ideas, ask questions and share best practices. Once set up, the Welcome will be automatically sent every time someone joins the group.
While you are on the Manage tab, also go to Group Settings, there you will be able to set levels of permissions for posting and comments. Being that it is a closed group, there is less risk that you will be visited by trolls, in my closed group I allow all members to post and comment, and have yet to regret it.
Now you are ready. The goal is to ensure and drive interaction, and this will be your primary chore, and this is where the 10 minutes a day that you invest comes in. You can do two simple things that add value to you audience and help you sell more. First, create your own content, hang on a minute before you jump off, I am not suggesting laborious articles or blog posts. Start by sharing best practices, especially those that help your members make better use of what you sell. The goal here is not to sell your product, but help the audience learn things that benefit them in what they are doing, which they can do with your product. These don’t have to be long, rather simple to the point, actionable.
These will generate response, discussion, and cross talk between members, all of which is an opportunity to understand how your buyers think, what they look for, and how you can further engage them. Yes, the whole goal is to surface reasons for you to reach out to them directly by picking up things they shared in the group. Conversely, you can ask members things like “How do you…?”
The second, commonly called curating, is to share content from credible third parties, (like me), that are of value to members. This validates you as a source of knowledge and value beyond your product. Use pieces that challenge a norm or offer an alternative means of doing something. Again the goal is to spur discussion so you can glean insights about your customers, and have reason to engage further. As part of your 10 minute daily investment, you will respond to all comments. When you do people will see you as being actively engaged, leading to further interaction, which creates a very beneficial snowball effect.
As your group populates, you are also growing a real networking opportunity, specifically in the form warm referrals. All your members will have other contacts, some likely to be in your target group, but people you would otherwise may not be aware of. This not only reduces your lead and research time, but studies have shown that introductions from your network lead not only to a higher close rate, some say as much as two to four time higher, but they also close faster. And isn’t that what we are all looking for, more and faster, with better quality buyers.
About the author
Tibor Shanto is a principal at Renbor Sales Solutions Inc. He is an award winning author, speaker, and B2B sales execution specialist. Tibor can be reached at email@example.com or +1 416 822-7781. Follow him on Twitter at @TiborShanto.
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