Who you know has never been more important in terms of growing your company online. Luckily, it’s also never been easier to meet new people and to get introduced to the thought leaders in your industry. But you have to make the effort. Identifying prospects and connecting with them should be at the heart of your social selling strategy, and increasing introductions and referrals is how you’ll meet more prospects.
According to Forrester, IT buyers are influenced by social media at every stage of decision-making, with 54% citing social influence at the awareness stage, 47% at the selection stage, and 44% at the implementation stage. If you’re not social selling, you’re missing out. But how can you use your social outreach to increase the introductions and referrals you receive?
There’s a keyword you have to note in the phrase social outreach, and that’s “outreach.” You can’t just set up social media accounts and expect prospects to flock your way. You have to make the effort and reach out to those prospects and industry leaders or, at the very least, meet them halfway. Make a constant effort to connect with new people. When you go on Twitter or LinkedIn or Facebook, don’t just check out the latest news and updates in the feed. Keep your eyes open for potential new connections. Making new connections daily will increase the likelihood of being introduced to the right people and getting those referrals you seek.
Use Your Current LinkedIn Contacts
LinkedIn is a hub of social selling. It’s one of the easiest places to “meet” new prospects and get referrals. To start, sort through your current list of connections. Your 1st and 2nd degree connections are your target here. While you should already know everyone you’re currently connected with on LinkedIn, spend a few minutes contacting those you’re unfamiliar with or haven’t spoken to in quite some time. The idea here though is to initiate conversation to establish a connection, not to immediately receive an introduction. Not all of these connections will pan out, but you’re likely to build a handful of strong relationships over time. Once you’ve built those relationships, getting an introduction or referral will just be a small ask.
Leverage your very best LinkedIn connections or clients in your contact list to request introductions. You can do this by clicking the “Get Introduced” button next to a contact you’d like to connect with on LinkedIn. This will pull up a message addressed to one of your 1st or 2nd degree connections so you can request an introduction. If you want to take a more informal approach, you can by simply sending a message to a client to request an introduction to someone else in their organization. The key thing to remember here is the relationships we discussed above. You don’t want to send out mass messages asking for introductions. Reach out to those you have already gotten to know, who will then be able to provide a personalized introduction, instead of a less valuable, generic one.
Familiarize Yourself with the Concept of Social Debt
Social selling is different than other sales tactics. Rather than trying to convince someone she needs to buy your product or service right away, you need to provide value that is independent of what you sell. This is how you capture attention and establish your brand as a go-to-source in your industry. This plays right into the notion of creating social debt. Social debt is the act of helping others before you help yourself. By adding value through what you offer, more people will be willing to support you and go out of their way to help you in the future–like when you want to be introduced or get referrals.
Ask, Ask, Ask!
You’ve created social debt. You’ve done your part to make your brand invaluable to the public in more ways than one. Now is the time to cash in on some of that social debt and ask for referrals outright. Be direct and specific when you do ask. Describe the ideal prospect you want to be connected with. Ask your client if he or she knows of anyone who is fill-in-the-blank, or if they know anyone who would be interested in fill-in-the-blank. When all else fails, send your clients a link to the social profile of someone you’d consider to be your ideal prospect.
Getting more introductions and referrals will take time, but once you lay the social selling groundwork by making connections, expanding your reach, and creating social debt, you should see more and more people going out of their way to help you.
Download our Social Selling Study Results to learn more about how sales teams are utilizing social media to find and convert more leads.