You might be asking: is anyone actually generating leads through social media sites like LinkedIn? The answer is yes, absolutely, but the vast majority of people post tons of content… and get nada. Nothing. So what gives? How do you ID promising targets on social media and turn them into sales? You do it the same way you do it in the offline world — through sustained human interaction. To understand how to do LinkedIn right, let’s reexamine something that began in medieval Europe: the trade show. Here’s how trade show interactions generally work:
- Greet and start a conversations with new prospects
- Show your industry smarts
- Generate interest
- Collect a stack of business cards
- Assess who is actually a potential lead
- Follow up with leads in a sustained pattern
- Begin to actually pitch
You’ll notice that a whole bunch of stuff happens before you start inking any deals. And remarkably, social media provides opportunity to nurture leads in a remarkably similar way. But if you are like most people, you circumvent much of the important build up and jump straight ahead to the pitching.
All selling is nurturing, even more so on Social Media
You’ve hung your virtual shingle out there in social media forums like Linkedin. You post tips, blogs, articles, and insightful comments about your industry. But you aren’t getting clicks, follows, likes and definitely not sales leads. It could be your commentary is only exciting to you (and your mother), but this is probably not the problem. You are after all, an expert in your industry. If you’re like most people, you are posting things and then doing very little to make sure it gets in front of the right people. Perhaps you have “followers”, but unless they are ripe targets and you are sustaining your connections, you are not going to be making any deals. To repeat: LinkedIn, like any trade show or industry conference, is only as valuable as the amount of sustained human connection you make.
But doesn’t the online world do a lot of the work for you?
The online world does create an easy forum for anyone to hawk their wares. But in order to really sell to people, you need to break through their natural resistance. People must always feel a connection first. This is something that companies who spend millions on their brands (think Apple or Nike) know very well.
So how on earth do you “nurture” these resistant cyber-strangers? Turn LinkedIn into a giant trade show.
Replicating the trade show experience on LinkedIn
Here’s a trade show scenario:
You’re at sportswear trade show to market the Hydro-band, a sweatband that vibrates when you need to drink more water. Bob – who runs a small chain of sporting goods stores approaches your booth tentatively. Rather than diving right into your pitch, you strike up a conversation about how customers are going bananas over wearable devices and… 35% of the country walks around perennially dehydrated. Bob relaxes. He then admits to you that sales are down. He wonders if his stores need newer, hotter products to reel in the younger customers…
Your chat with Bob continues… you have heard these concerns from other retailers.
Bob relaxes more. You begin to pitch the Hydro-band, offering your introductory pricing model… Bob schedules a follow up meeting with this management team.
Here’s the LinkedIn version of this scenario:
You write a short post about how wearable technologies are changing the world of fitness. Another member of your LinkedIn group “Retail Fitness” sees your post while checking his newsfeed. He hits the “like” button and leaves a short message, “Interesting”. You approach by commenting back and beginning a conversation. You are not overtly selling to him, but establishing trust and keeping your conversation very educational. At some point, there is a natural entree into your product offering (particularly if your pen-pal asks you what you do). But the point is, that kind of conversation should be happening regularly on social media. Yes it takes time, but so does all sales…
Remember: People buy from whom they trust. They don’t want to be overtly sold to. There is no substitute for creating an emotional, human connection. This can happen online, if you focus on doing it. And it is the missing link between social media sites and actual sales. A campaign on LinkedIn won’t pull in the sales leads unless you treat think of it as a way to set up a an information booth, greet people, educate them, collect their business card, and continue to develop an ongoing human connection.