The business development landscape has changed radically in the last decade, further accelerated by COVID-19. Those of you who have been in the virtual trenches have known for some time that the digital space is ripe with opportunities to connect and build a personal brand for yourself and the business you represent.

In fact, 78% of salespeople engaged in social selling are outselling their peers who are not.

If the following sound like you, then keep reading:

  • You want to connect with more of the right prospects
  • You dream of having a bluebird moment of your own (aka a lucrative opportunity unexpectedly falls in your lap).
  • You see your role as more than ‘just’ selling – you believe in the work you are doing, and you love helping your clients get the results they want.

Here then are 3 fundamental tenets of social selling that business developers should adhere to for success.

1. Connect but don’t spam

Genuine attempts at connection are preferable to pestering.

Unfortunately, some business developers are guilty of treating the social landscape as if it were cold calling. Requesting immediate answers, being a nuisance to your prospects: these are all guaranteed to lead to a block rather than a success story.

Cold calling isn’t a particularly effective approach regardless. 90% of top decision-makers say they never respond to cold calls. So why use a broken approach to a brand-new setting?

Here are a few approaches to avoid on social media:

  • Making a sales pitch immediately after a connection request is accepted
  • Using a third-party app to mass message hundreds of people (most of whom are not even relevant to your business)

I don’t know about you, but for most people this approach creates immediate resistance. In 99.99% of cases I would never buy from anyone who immediately tries to sell me something after we have just connected.

working from home group trainingYou might think that by doing either of those approaches you are hedging your bets. You might even think that the high percentages of “no’s” is worth the one or two maybes that you receive.

But as well as being ineffective, this approach can also get you banned from LinkedIn and other networks, nullifying all the investment you’ve put in.

What to do instead?

For one, treat your prospects as human beings rather than a number. Social media isn’t about the quick wins, every connection you spend time on will be valuable in its own way, maybe now, maybe in several years’ time when they tell a friend of a friend “I know just the person for you”. I was hired recently by a leader transitioning into a new role. We have never met and yet because of the connection we built up over a year (via LinkedIn initially) she trusted me to work with her to make the most from her new leadership position.

2 simple ideas:

  • Personalise your connection message. It doesn’t have to be in depth, but say something that will reassure them that you’re not going to spam them with sales talk. For example: “Hi Sam, I loved your recent post on environmental printing. I’ll be taking a look next time I run out of ink! Would love to connect. Best, (name)”.
  • Ask questions that aren’t related to sales. Small talk isn’t going to interest a busy prospect, but if you have an interest in common, instead of commenting on their post, you could take it to the inbox and build rapport there.

In conclusion: Take a bit of time to personalise your connection requests. This means you’ll need to go for quality rather than quantity by really focusing on your ideal prospect.

2. Be a part of the conversation

Social media isn’t just about broadcasting.

It might feel like it sometimes, especially at influencer-level. And yet, what makes an influencer an influencer isn’t the number of followers but their engagement ratio. After all, anyone can buy an army of bots to be their followers, but real engagement cannot be faked so easily.

working from home presenting virtuallySo how do you become a part of the conversation?

Here are a few things to try:

  • Comment on other people’s posts. Even if it’s just a few words of encouragement, this will make you memorable to the original poster and their connections.
  • Share content that encourages comments & engagement. For example, a controversial take on a subject, a survey, or something fun. For example, a pal of mine put up 2 photos of her, one with glasses and one without glasses and asked for a preference. This post went viral.

In conclusion: Engage with other people’s posts, it’s a great way to connect with them as well as demonstrate your expertise.

social selling business development3. Personal branding

Whether you know it or not, whether you like it or not, you have a personal brand.

So, you need to decide what you are going to do with your platform (beyond selling xyz).

In practice this means:

  • Making sure information about you online correctly reflects what you want to stand for (is it up to date? Is it engaging?)
  • Sharing content that backs this up

Sharing content that supports your brand is a great way to establish your credentials and attract new followers with similar interests.

mind gone blank audience questions embarrassing presentationYou have a few options for this approach, you could for example create new content yourself regularly (text, image, videos, presentations…) or curate content created by other people adding your own commentary on it. Most people choose to do a mixture of both.

To ensure that you can keep this up it’s helpful to create a plan for yourself that includes:

  • How often you’ll post
  • Where you’ll post
  • What you’ll post

Depending on your preferences you could map this out on a spreadsheet, use a specific app (such as Airtable or Trello), or directly put your plan into your calendar so that you are reminded organically of what you need to do.

Conclusion: Decide what you want to stand for and find ways to support it through your digital presence.

Want more?

The third edition of my book Brilliant Selling (co-written with Tom Bird) will be coming out in September supplemented by brand new chapters, including one on social selling! If you’d like to find out more about it, including when the pre-orders are open, do sign up to my newsletter. Every month I share tips to present, influence and sell exceptionally.