Finding new customers is critical to keeping your business going and increasing profits. But, how do you find and attract the buyers that need your products and services? Calling or emailing a stranger used to be the way.  Now, unsolicited calls and emails are less effective than ever at sparking a conversation. Just look at the statistics: an uninvited call is only 3% effective, according to an IBM preference study (1). Compare that to reaching out via a LinkedIn InMail — recipients are likely to respond 67% of the time (2).  Social selling is today’s answer to cold calling. Combine the power of customer intelligence technology with principles of social selling and you can easily engage with customers on social media to increase sales.

What is social selling?

Social selling is when you use social media to interact directly with your prospects. You provide value by answering their questions and offering thoughtful content until the prospect is ready to buy.  But what do you actually do? Pay attention to the customer’s buying and service history. Listen to social networks to gather content created by customers and prospects. Provide relevant and helpful information.

Identify the best prospects

It’s tempting to make or buy a long list of everyone who might possibly ever purchase your services or products. Resist! Take a step back. Look at your current customer data as a way to profile prospective customers. Understanding their reasons for buying can help you identify and improve sales with promising prospects. Dig into what customers like about your company, their buying and service history, who they are, and what problems you are solving for them. You will also want to learn more about their world by using social media and the web. Customer intelligence technology like Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online can help you streamline your prospecting and let you focus on building profitable relationships. For instance, Microsoft Social Listening can help you analyze what customers are saying on social media platforms and get the most out of your social media presence.

Target your social approach

To be effective at sales, it is helpful to monitor and engage with prospective buyers in social channels. Zero in on the social channels where your customers are most likely to spend time. For instance, if you’re selling handbags, Pinterest may be the best place to find your ideal customers. If you’re an accountant, LinkedIn is a more likely spot.  It’s good to thoughtfully share information, insights, or advice that’s relevant to your audience. By monitoring what’s most popular, you can learn what offers genuine value to them.

Stretch beyond your walls

You can also use technology to expand your reach, work faster, and be more productive. Start with your employees’ devices. Are they all running Windows? If not, your workers might be wasting time struggling with different experiences across their devices. Standardizing on one platform, such as Windows, will improve employee productivity, while allowing for broad device choice, be it based on personal preference or job function.  How about the applications running on your devices? Are they cloud-based? Move to Office 365 and your employees will still get the same Office experience they’re used to, whichever device they use, even if happens to be an iPad or Android-based device.  You can easily manage these devices and provide more secure mobile access to company data, through cloud-based device and PC management solutions like Microsoft Intune and Office 365.

Make it personal

Pay attention to what your customers and prospects are saying. Maybe one of your customers talks online about a personal event such as a promotion or birthday. Or maybe a customer complains about your product through a social channel. How you respond can be critical to how customers perceive your business.

Be an expert

Help customers discover your business by being generous with your time and expertise. You can demonstrate your knowledge by participating in a webinar, writing an eBook, or guest posting on a partner’s blog. As people share your content by cross-referencing or re-tweeting, it helps prospects recognize you as an expert they can trust — and helps build profitable, social relationships

Sustain long-term connections

Building and nurturing relationships are the key principles behind successful social selling. Keep in touch with prospects using social media and emails, even if they don’t purchase from you right away. You can take advantage of Office 365 and Dynamics CRM Online to track your communications and help you keep a good rhythm of reaching out to prospects even when you’re on the go, from a Windows device.

1. “Tips to End Cold Calling.” LinkedIn. 

2. Microsoft. Always Be Closing: The ABCs of Sales in the Modern Era. 2014. PDF file