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Sales Prospecting with Social Media

sales prospecting

By Troy Harrison

Is there any part of selling that’s more talked about these days – or less understood – than social media? Ever since LinkedIn came on the scene, various trainers, consultants, and other assorted “experts” have been telling salespeople that the magic button that they had always sought – the one that would remove the need for prospecting – had finally arrived. Simply put up your profile on LinkedIn, make some posts, and while you’re at it, Tweet a bit and Facebook a lot. Then say, “come to Papa,” and all the prospects you’d ever need would come to you.

Some salespeople are still waiting for that to happen. Want to know how I know? Because I was one of those salespeople. You see, I’ve been building my national speaking career for about five years now. I read and heard the advice of the top people in my profession, and they all said, “It doesn’t matter what you’ve done or where you’ve done it – this is the one place where cold calling doesn’t work. You WILL NOT get booked off a cold call.”

Since they were the experts, I believed them. So, I posted on LinkedIn. I Tweeted. I Facebooked. I put up videos on YouTube. And I said, “Come to Papa.” And, well, to be totally honest, I did get a few speaking engagements from word of mouth, and my “rebook rate” (the rate at which past clients bring me back) is very high for the industry. Still, I looked at my business last year and realized that I didn’t have as many national-level engagements as I wanted.

So, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I would do what “didn’t work,” at least by what the experts told me. And I found out something. In the industry of professional speaking, cold calling doesn’t work, except when it does. Yes, I have booked several well paying engagements at quality conferences by cold calling.

But, this article isn’t about me or what I’ve been able to do. It’s about YOU and what YOU can do. You see, I discovered something very important about social media in this process. I made cold calls, I set appointments, I had good conversations. And then, do you know what my prospects did?

They went to my social media and looked at all of those posts, all those YouTube videos, the testimonials, etc. Social media was their tool for establishing my bona fides. Once they did that, we re-engaged and they booked me to speak.

You see, in today’s world, it’s not enough to just do conventional prospecting. Nor is it enough to do social media. You must do both.

Think about the last time you exhibited at a trade show. You had your display and samples, and you assigned people to the booth just for the purpose of prospecting (new lead generation). Now imagine that you’d done it one of two ways.
First, imagine that you’d only put up your display. You didn’t put any people in the booth; perhaps you just put a bowl on the table with a sign saying, “If you’re interested, drop your card into this bowl.” All throughout the show, the booth sat empty with no people in it. How many cards do you think you’d have at the end of the show? Not many, if any at all.

Now, imagine the opposite. Instead of putting up a display, you put a simple sign up with your company’s name, and had two of your people in the booth. Now how do you think you’d do? My guess is that you’d probably do a little better than by using the display and no people. That’s because your people could engage people as they came by. But, either way, you probably wouldn’t get the results that you’d get with a display and your people.

In prospecting, your social media is your trade show display. It’s your backdrop, your brand, your samples, and it provides you with the air of legitimacy and bona fides that your display does at the trade show. It’s a way for buyers to check you out and to discover more about you. Nowadays, you’ll find out that many of your potential customers – even ones that you cold call – will check you out on social media.

This is a switch in paradigm from how most salespeople are attempting to use social media (unsuccessfully in most cases). When we recognize that social media is not our primary prospecting mechanism, but a supplementary prospecting mechanism, it changes our approach to our social media postings.

Instead of posting with constant calls to action – in an attempt to get a cold response from your readers and followers – instead focus on postings that build your brand, your name recognition, and your professional reputation.

One particular mechanism you should focus on is the “recommendations” tool on LinkedIn. There’s never been an easier way to get testimonials from your happy customers than by requesting recommendations through LinkedIn. Those recommendations can be in context (since LinkedIn specifically refers to the job you’re requesting the recommendation for) and allows you to review the recommendation before posting. Once you have a recommendation, then it’s time to fire up Twitter and link to your new recommendation. It’s easy.

YouTube videos can be great for posting product demonstrations, case studies, etc., and if you link to those, your customer can use these as a tool to check you out.

That said, the knowledge that social media is a “due diligence” mechanism for your customers also has implications about what you should NOT post. Everything you post on any of your social media pages needs to be carefully vetted with an eye toward what you might not want your customers to see. When in doubt, don’t post it.

Social media may someday replace conventional prospecting – but the medium for that hasn’t been invented yet. For now, keep prospecting and use social media as your backdrop.

Troy HarrisonTroy Harrison, author of “Sell Like You Mean It!” and “The Pocket Sales Manager,” is a speaker, consultant, and sales navigator. He helps companies build more profitable and productive sales forces with his cutting-edge sales training and methodologies. To book speaking/training engagements, consulting, or to sign up for his weekly E-zine, call (913) 645-3603, email or visit

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2016 issue of Industrial Supply magazine. Copyright 2016, Direct Business Media.


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