There’s a lot of buzz now about “social selling”. What is it? And does it really work?

Social selling is using LinkedIn and social media as one of the tools to find, reach, and engage potential clients, build relationships and trust, and help companies solve their business challenges with your solution. Social selling enhances what you already do—it’s not a substitute for good selling skills, a good sales process, and networking skills.

Does social selling really work? Recent research shows that:

  • 6% of sales people using social media to sell out-performed those who weren’t using social media.
  • Social media users were 23% more successful than their non-social media peers at exceeding quota by more than 10%.
  • 1% of sales people who report using social media state that they spend less than 10% of their selling time using social media. That’s decent ROI (Jim Keenan).

How do these social sellers do that? It’s all about leverage:

1) Knowing the right people and being connected strategically to them.
2) Building a network and relationships so your buyers know, like, and trust you.
3) Being known as the expert and thought leader.

Here’s a challenge with phone calls: When you call someone and they don’t recognize your caller ID, they put you into voicemail. At the end of the day, they listen to their voicemail with their finger on the Delete key. If you don’t say something that attracts their attention and makes them want to listen more, you’re gone.

LinkedIn solves that because it’s easy to find your decision makers with targeted advanced searches and Company searches. When you find your decision maker, you have two options:

1) You can make a cold call or send an unsolicited email to him or her. This is the least effective option.
2) You can leverage your expertise and your network to get through to them through an introduction—the most effective way.

Find someone who knows both you and your decision maker. That is, find your “shared connections.” They know both you and the person you want to meet. They can introduce you to the person you want to meet, so you’re not a salesperson cold calling out of the blue.

Remember that it’s all about leverage:

  • 10% of executives respond to cold calls or unsolicited emails.
  • Yet 84% will engage with a salesperson when they are connected through a friend or colleague and offer value (InsideView).

That means leveraging your network really pays off. How can you leverage your network to get more clients, advance your career, and find your next business opportunity?