Social media can be a significant competitive advantage for your sales team – if they can leverage it. Getting to know their prospects better through social listening, identifying new leads by digging into data and establishing stronger relationship by engaging customers one-on-one is all possible with social.

Here are a few steps you can take to equip your team with everything they’ll need to become social media rock stars.

Enlist an evangelist

Often, when a new initiative is introduced to a team, it can take a frustratingly long time for everyone to get on board. You can speed up this process by identifying the most social media savvy salesperson, and elevating them to the rank of “evangelist.”

Evangelist is not necessary an official position, but is instead someone who champions a cause to their peers. In this case, your evangelist would be responsible for offering support to the members of their team who just don’t “get” social, and showcasing how it can be an effective tool in their sales efforts.

Your sales team will respond more positively to the push for social coming from one of their peers, rather than as a top-down edict from the management team. Plus, they will be able to see firsthand how effective social media is, as the evangelist begins using it to generate leads.

Support them with training

Not every salesperson is a natural when it comes to navigating the world of tweets and big data, nor should you expect them to be. As your social media sales program rolls out, have patience and offer training to your staff.

Training can come in all shapes and sizes, from a department-wide half-day session to personalized one-on-one meetings. It can come from a variety of sources too: your marketing department may have some tips and tricks to share, your evangelist can develop a program if they have been seeing success, or you can bring in outside help from a consulting firm.

And training shouldn’t stop once the team is comfortable using social media. Because of the constantly changing landscape, you should encourage on-going training in the form of conferences, formal lessons, online webinars and courses.

Reward innovation

Sales incentives like bonuses work well to motivate teams to perform, and they also work to motivate them to try something new.

Out-of-the-box thinking can be particularly effective when engaging in social selling, and you should encourage your team to be creative in order to maintain their edge.

The rewards that you offer don’t necessarily have to be monetary – sometimes sending an email to the team acknowledging the efforts of a particular salesperson is enough to show them that you support their creative thinking.

At the end of the day…

Your team already knows that social media is important. They just need to be unlocked. If you are able to encourage them and allow them to experiment, they will feel more secure leveraging Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other communities to find, engage with, and convert leads.