- COVID accelerated the importance of digital prospecting. Effective outreach requires a well-formulated strategy for social selling.
- Cold messaging requires both value creation and value exchange. It’s not enough to simply build on a shared connection.
- The right tools and training can help any organization implement effective social selling at scale — but it has to include inbound and outbound components.
Many in the sales world would agree that social media has lost its luster. Buyers are oversaturated and desensitized, and LinkedIn InMail often goes unanswered.
It’s not that social selling doesn’t work. But there may be better ways to go about it.
Pipeline Signals CEO and social selling expert Jamie Shanks recently joined host Ollie Whitfield of the 0 to 5 Million podcast to share his insights on what many outbound marketers miss when using social channels such as LinkedIn.
Most social sellers spend time developing their profiles and sharing content, but that’s an inbound, top-of-the-funnel strategy. Effective outreach needs to identify strong prospects and build on the law of reciprocity — sellers can’t make a pitch without offering something in return. It’s a complicated dance, but, for Jamie, it’s one that companies can’t afford to sit out.
“If you are not digital prospecting or social selling, well, you’re just not in a modern economy,” Jamie says. Here’s what every company should know about lead generation on social media.
Pareto’s law of social selling
The Pareto principle, also called the 80/20 rule, predicts that a minority of sellers will drive the majority of new revenue and growth. As it applies to social selling, it’s not necessarily a function of hard work or skill set. It’s more a question of opportunity.
Jamie gives the example of the “sphere of influence,” a sales play that involves identifying happy customers and tracking their new connections. People are generally loyal to the services and products they like, even when they move to a new role or company, so having some awareness of new relationships can help a sales team close more deals.
“But sellers would say, I can’t do this at scale,” Jamie explains. In a global centralized business with thousands of prospects and a post-pandemic labor market in which career pathways are fluid and rapidly changing, it’s nearly impossible to keep track of these new opportunities with any sort of systematic clarity.
Maybe 20% of salespeople get lucky with their timing and close a new deal, but the other 80% don’t see results from sponsored InMail and cold outreach. That’s why effective social outreach needs a better strategy.
Finding the right signals
Movement often coincides with decision-making. Think of moving to a new house or apartment — those first few weeks are full of purchasing new furniture and subscribing to new utility and telecom providers. Yet someone who’s lived in the same home for years is far less likely to buy a new mattress or switch internet service providers.
In a professional context, customers moving can create new selling opportunities, and new stakeholders on an existing account can signal the need for retention efforts. A new funding round can also be a trigger event, as can a key stakeholder’s promotion. Social media, especially LinkedIn, is a great predictor of these changes. Pipeline Signals draws on publicly available data to identify strong signals and queue actions for sales teams.
But even with automation to help, finding the signal is only half the battle. For Ollie, the trick is making an authentic connection. He says, “The ability to write something which knits that event towards the reason for connecting is paramount.”
Even if many buyers are aware of software’s role in generating leads, humans psychologically prefer outreach that feels natural and personal. Salespeople who can master the strategy of connecting a trigger event to a pitch will see great results.
So what’s the secret to making that all-important connection? It’s all about value.
The 4-part messaging framework for social selling
The signal may be what prompts the outreach, but it’s not what makes the sale.
“I believe the value of the message is not the stitching of the fact that you and I went to the same university, or congratulations on your B round, or congratulations on your new job,” Jamie explains. That first line hooks the prospect’s attention, but the message has to then offer something of value. Successful pitches include these four components.
This is the connection. It shows that you’ve done your homework — even if that research came from Pipeline Signals — and that the message isn’t generic. Something as short and sweet as “Congrats on your new job as regional manager” can achieve this purpose.
2. Value creation
Many people skip this step, but an effective outreach strategy doesn’t jump straight into the offer. First, the message has to establish a need. Jamie considers value in three categories: making money, saving money, and mitigating risk. Let the prospect know that, as they start their new role, you have an opportunity that will open new doors and make their job easier.
3. Value exchange
If you’re asking for 30 minutes of someone’s time, you need to offer something in return. Effective social selling might include a video, a free PDF download, or some industry insight or competitive intelligence. Jamie might offer free signals. “Here are two of your customers that are on the move. Did your sellers already call these people?” In any case, a strong outreach needs to give something before asking for a prospect’s time.
4. Call to action
Finally, the message can close with an invitation to schedule a meeting. Social selling starts with the “social” before getting to the “selling.” The friendly greeting and value exchange should always come before the push toward action.
Mistakes to avoid
Keep it brief. Many salespeople overdo messages and lose their prospects with a complicated, overly detailed message. The goal is simply to set up the next meeting.
Jamie also advises organizations to maintain inbound marketing efforts in addition to social outreach. A content marketing engine can drive organic leads as the outbound function focuses on highly qualified prospects. Creating strong inbound marketing resources — such as whitepapers, case studies, and videos — can also build to draw from in the value exchange.
The biggest mistake, of course, is not having an outreach strategy at all. Many salespeople don’t have the time or training to properly research signals and they resort to cold calling lists. Instead, use a proven messaging framework alongside curated customer data for better results from social selling.