image01This is a guest post by Ana Lopez, a freelance writer and editor and content producer in Buckhead, GA. She has an affinity for anything business and culture related, and strives to be a socially-conscious digital native.

Today’s increasingly digital landscape requires sales professionals to touch leads from many different angles, nurturing them throughout the entire sales and marketing cycle. With this shift, there is no ignoring social media’s role in how we communicate with current and potential customers.

In fact, a study published by Forbes says that 78.6% of sales people who incorporated social media into their sales strategy out-performed those who weren’t using social media.

While social media cannot replace the work of traditional sales, it can improve the sales process through better targeting and by helping companies better understand their audience. More information about your audience allows for improved inbound marketing, which sparks relationships that can eventually lead to transactions.

Monetizing your social channels begins when you understand that sales and social are partners — not separate entities.

Knowing what your audience wants

What does the modern-day consumer want when researching a company or looking for a solution? They want to be presented with a clear, informative website that will answer their questions and fulfill their needs.

They want engaging information across social media channels and a brand that interacts and converses with them on numerous levels. Think of sales and social media as puzzle pieces to the overall marketing campaign.

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Let’s say someone commented on your company’s Instagram post and you think they may be a potential lead. It does not serve your purpose (nor theirs) to respond with an impersonal pitch and a link to your website — this will generate little interest. Offer them solutions to the problem they are having and take the time to let them know how you can help — this will show that you really care.

This can help turn strangers into visitors, visitors into leads, leads into customers, and customers into promoters. Social will help to jump start a relationship, while a sales contact’s personal connection and nurturing communication will help close the deal.

Case study: Printfirm uses social media to increase sales

Printfirm, a commercial B2B printing company, has seen substantial growth in its sales through the use of social media. In 2013, the company hired an Online Marketing Director, Katherine Tattersfield, to fill their need for an online presence that would be used in conjunction with their sales strategy.

According to an interview with Katherine via the Xerox blog, “We’ve seen conversions (sales) on our website from customers who have found us through social media. We also get referral traffic to the e-commerce site from our blog, which means qualified leads. More than sales, though, we use social to increase brand awareness and get to know our customers better. Social is a big part of the discovery process in the sales cycle.”

With thorough research and analytics, Printfirm:

A) Discovered what clients wanted to discuss.

B) Paid close attention to SEO and SMO so they would be relevant to the right audience and increase traffic to the site.

C) Created images and graphics for their social and blog platforms to pique interest.

D) Shared the finished products to start conversations with their audience. A focus on social and online helped the small business retain old customers while simultaneously attracting new customers.

In this case, social media and an online presence didn’t replace sales activity, but enhanced it. The addition of social to their company’s communications has increased their year-to-year sales by a whopping 46%.

How to improve your sales strategy with social media

While there are several ways social media can help in increasing lead generation, revamping your online presence, driving website traffic, and building relationships with potential virtual customers, here are three tips to get you started in the right direction:

1. Use data analysis to convert sales

Begin by monitoring your social media presence with a tool like Mention to see what’s working with your audience and what’s not. If you’re not sure where to start when leveraging your existing data, utilize tools and services like Insightpool and IntelliConnection to help you. These companies help create meaningful conversations and build relationships with the right people based on a brand’s campaign goals.

2. Use trends and tools to attract new customers to your business

Utilize analytics tools like Google Analytics and Facebook Insights to understand the demographics and psychographics of your website and social media audience. From there, conceptualize a strategy to further engage your pre-existing audience as well as reach members of your target audience who are not currently interacting with your brand.

Use the right hashtags and keywords to become more visible to a larger audience. Use media monitoring and social listening to find people who are talking about your industry. Then add value to their network (and your brand) by commenting on their posts, re-tweeting them, or sharing what they say.

3. Remember the power of effective customer support

The lines of communication have only increased between consumers and brands with the rise of social media. Interactions with followers create opportunities to earn trust.

For example, airline company JetBlue resolves customer complaints efficiently, allowing them to win over repeat and new customers by its consistent efforts to meet customer demands, which then results in these satisfied customers referring others to the airline — creating new opportunities for sales.

It’s important to remember that sales functionality is a multi-faceted beast with many variables, and social media is just one of them. But if you’re looking to grow your company, gain more exposure to prospects, and generate more consistent touch points within your sales cycle, it’s one aspect that your small business just can’t ignore.

Ana is a freelance writer and editor in Buckhead, Ga, where she also works as a content producer. A proud graduate from the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at UGA, she has an affinity for anything business and culture related, and strives to be a socially-conscious digital native.

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