I love the art of selling. Ethical, genuine, authentic selling. What’s better than having a solution for someone else’s problem?

My idol is Jill Konrath, in my opinion the greatest sales guru out there. Her SNAP Selling process has been so successful because it’s effective. It works. Not to mention, she sells #LikeAGirl – and I love it.

As a member of the team that sells at WordWrite, I understand the value of leveraging social media networks as selling channels. I mean, your prospects are on LinkedIn. They’re sharing their two cents on Twitter. Why wouldn’t you be where your prospects are?

So many sales professionals are (frankly) behind the times when it comes to “social prospecting,” or taking advantage of the power of social media to sell more and sell better.

So what is social prospecting anyway?

My good friends at HubSpot have already defined social prospecting in fewer than 100 words. According to HubSpot, social prospecting is the art of listening to people, not mentions or keywords. It’s about scouring the social web, identifying potential prospects and engaging them through content to get them to your website and move them through your sales funnel.

If you remember one word from that definition, make it listening. This is NOT pushing and shoving your product or service in front of prospects. This is not blasting shameless self-promotion 100 percent of the time. It’s certainly not annoying your prospect with so much “buy me, buy me, buy me” content that they unfollow or block you.

It’s all about education. If you can educate prospects on how your product or service might make their life easier, save them time or money or generate business and have an impact on their bottom line, they will listen. Share with them where there’s a need for your solution or how your solution has helped other companies. Then you’re in a much better position to be well received rather than ignored.

Inbound marketing and social prospecting should be the opposite of disruptive sales. The focus should be on providing rich, remarkable, educational content to establish yourself as a thought leader and bring prospects to you – not to interrupt their day and bombard them with “me, me, me!” content.

There’s vast selling potential in social prospecting, but it needs to be executed well to deliver results. Here are five key points to keep in mind when social prospecting:

1. Use keywords

It’s a fact: 60 percent of customers are halfway through the sales process before engaging with a sales rep – regardless of price point – according to research from Google and CEB’s The Digital Evolution in B2B Marketing. This changes things, doesn’t it?

If prospects are completing a majority of their decisions online, before they even contact you, your company needs to be actively showing up in their research. One way to stay on the forefront of search results is by appropriately incorporating as many target keywords as possible in your social content.

Be smart about where you pepper in keywords throughout your social properties. Include keywords in your profiles and social posting. Be consistent and relevant. This will give your company (and you as a sales person) a boost in search results. If executed properly, you will be viewed as a thought leader in your space.

2. Join groups 

Consider where your prospects are going to get information and answers. LinkedIn group forums are an ideal spot for professionals to connect, share wisdom and solutions to common problems.

Be where your prospects are – and be active. It’s not enough to creep on the prospect within a LinkedIn group and pounce every time they share something – that makes you look desperate. Rather, engage with the group and provide valuable context to issues that prospects and others in the group are experiencing. This will demonstrate thought leadership and build your credibility as a professional.

3. Share content

Make sure you’re sharing content regularly with your network to appear consistently in your connections’ news feeds. Be cognizant not to share too much “me, me, me” content, though. Keep it balanced!

We recommend the rule of thirds when it comes to social media sharing. Craft a third of your updates around your company/product/service/etc., a third on industry-related information, and spend a third of the time engaging with others or participating in conversations. This provides a healthy balance of the right content for prospects, while also demonstrating thought leadership.