During a recent webinar for Oktopost, the B2B Social Media Marketing Platform, Tom Martin, author of The Invisible Sale, spoke about leveraging the power of “propinquity” to drive the B2B sales cycle. Propinquity, in the social selling context, maintains that the more a user comes into contact with content generated by a company, the more likely that company will achieve top of mind preference in his or her mind. This repeated interaction enables users to learn about, understand and engage with the company, and increases the chances that they’ll eventually encounter information they can relate to. Ultimately, this knowledge can help move a user through the sales funnel, and can serve as a major influence when it comes to making a purchasing decision. Propinquity gives marketers the chance to use content to dominate social selling, and generate qualified leads.

How can you get a jumpstart on propinquity? Tom advises marketers to first identify all of the company’s “propinquity points.” These are basically the sources from which prospects obtain information on the company to form pre-purchasing decisions. Whether users turn to online media (social sites, collaborative communities or other destinations) or offline resources (trade shows, conferences, meetings, etc.), marketers must seek out the full range of relevant propinquity points.

After compiling a list of top propinquity points, it’s time to start listening! Work on finding the specific users who are talking about your product, asking questions about your brand, or discussing your competitors – and listen to them. Follow these users and their comments on Facebook pages, in LinkedIn groups, Twitter chats and Google+ hangouts, and pay close attention to what they’re saying and sharing with others. In addition, compile a list of news sites, blogs and others that publish content on your company, competitors, industry trends and relevant industry topics.

Once you understand exactly where potential prospects are interacting, direct your efforts to boosting your presence at those target-rich points. Actively post comments, engage in discussions and participate in Internet forums. According to Tom, when you take part in online conversations, try to keep in mind that users are more likely to respond to valuable insights, as opposed to direct marketing attempts. Answer questions, guide people in the right direction, and offer useful advice. Being a good neighbor and providing potential consumers with helpful information fosters positive relationships, while creating a level of familiarity that is key to social selling. This type of “warm environment” is conducive to turning prospects into leads, and encourages users to identify themselves. In addition, you can also generate your own marketing content that can be posted on other platforms, and include a link back to your company website to continue the conversation.

The goal of propinquity is to be engaged with as many target-rich destinations as possible, by publishing content, answering questions and responding to comments. The more chances you have to interact with potential prospects, the more selling opportunities you create. Actively and consistently contributing to online communities shows users that you are interested in their opinions and care about their feedback. So before you start thinking about how to sell to prospects, show them you’re ready and willing to assist them in the process, and lead the way to their final purchasing decision.