Harness Social Selling with our REaD Model

In an ever more digital world, it’s no surprise that your next customer may well be found via the world wide web. Within that broad digital space, we often find Social Media is one of the key areas where businesses, big and small, are spending more and more time and energy – to find and attract new customers.

This has given rise to the idea of “Social Selling”.

The Wikipedia definition of social selling is “The process of developing relationships as part of the sales process, often via social networks such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.” This means far from being a chance to “find and sell” it’s more of an approach to engaging and nurturing potential customers. In practice, see it more like “Social Engagement” – a chance to find and connect with prospects.

Having worked with many organisations on how they better use social media (and apply Social Selling principles) we have created a simple model to use, to help ensure you and your business stand out amongst your competition in this very busy space.

The REaD model

Reach

Although the temptation is to use the best-known social networking sites, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, try and be agnostic. Think about your target market – who are you trying to reach and where might they spend time online. This often will be the big sites, but think also about context – are they going on to sites such as Facebook to hear from businesses like yours? Try and research which social networking sites have the best concentration of relevant targets. There are some good research tools you can use for free for this. Klear.com is one example.

You could also just ask! Talk to your customers and existing network and ask them where they tend to go online for industry news/views. You often find each industry has very specific groups or forums that are on websites you may not have heard of but will be far more valuable to you than the big mass-usage social networking sites.

Engage

Once you have found your target audience start to think about how you engage them. Avoid the temptation to just start connecting and selling – we have all been bombarded by the over-zealous sales person, desperate to close you as a deal that day!

Relationships are built over time.  Follow or join existing groups and just sit in and listen to start with. Begin to pick up the tone and pace of the discussions, work out what the key issues are and how the group tend to share and discuss. Nobody likes a gate crasher – listening is a key skill, so use this to not just understand what they are interested in, but to also help you start to shape your content and messages, that you then know are far more likely to be relevant to the group or network.

Differentiate

Unfortunately, your competition will also be trying to use social networking sites to “sell” their services, so it can be quite a busy and saturated space. However, there is always a chance to stand out and be memorable. Many businesses strive to create and share content that positions them as “Thought Leaders” – this is very hard to do – there are only a handful of true thought leaders for most industries. Instead think about simply being helpful. Creating posts and content that answer some of the problems discussed always go down well. Answer other people’s post and start to position yourself and your business as relevant and knowledgeable, simply by being helpful.

Alongside your own content, start to curate content too. Share articles stories and videos that others have written – third party organisations that are not competitive to you. If these resonate with you (and you’re representative of the social network or group, you have joined) then it’s likely to be relevant to others you share it with too. Create a simple publishing calendar or schedule and use one of the many great social media posting tools (I like Hootsuite, but there are lots out there) to regularly share your content and thoughts.

Happily, there are lots of great free content curation tools out there – Google Alerts will email you links to content on any topic or key word you wish by setting up a simple alert or two. My personal favourite is Flipboard.com – tell it the areas you’re interested in and it will scour the web for quality content that not only is a jolly good read for you, but again can be part of what you share with your audience.

Whatever your business focus, you certainly can use these basic rules to guide you to find more of the people you would like to engage and build a business relationship with – a relationship that may take some time to build – social selling is the long game, not a shortcut to sales success!

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