Using Social Media for effective lead prospecting

Jon CunninghamBusiness Development

Using Social Media for Effective Lead Prospecting

Prospecting with social media is not new, and there are literally millions of sales people doing it every day but if you’re looking to improve your prospecting and lead generation performance, here are some practical tips.

In this guide you’ll learn:

  • How to maximise your return with a little research
  • When to connect – choosing the right time
  • How to give your pitch the best chance of being heard

Research your audience

This may sound obvious but it’s surprising how many sales people we work with get blinded by the size of the audience on social media. When you see there are thousands of profiles that match your target criteria, it’s easy to start throwing connection requests and pitches left, right and centre.

However, for effective (and efficient) social media lead prospecting, you need to be a bit more surgical in your approach. Research is key to giving your lead generation efforts the best chance of success.

Here are some tips to consider when researching your lead prospects on social media.

1) Find out what social media sites your prospects use

It’s a fair assumption that LinkedIn will be their primary social media network for professional use. LinkedIn’s stats show there are over 500m professionals profiles and 40% are active daily. Interestingly for lead-generation, there are 61m senior level influencers and over 40m decision makers on LinkedIn.

Twitter should also be considered, as research shows that 93% of users follow businesses they intend to purchase from.

Facebook, Instagram, Reddit are all very popular networking sites, but are primarily focused on consumers. However, if you go looking, there are hidden opportunities out there. For example, if you sell CRM software, this Reddit thread could be useful in your research –

2) Understand your prospects posting and browsing habits

This is an important step in being able to strike up a meaningful discussion and building credibility before making your pitch.

Tools like Twitonomy make it quick and easy to analyse a user’s profile and get snapshot of their usage patterns, networks and content preferences.

To be able to see LinkedIn’s profiles outside your existing network, you will need to use their paid-for products.

3) Prioritise time and effort

Once you understand your prospects social media behaviour and content preferences, you can strictly prioritise your time and effort for maximum return.

For example, if you know your prospect typically uses LinkedIn twice a week on a Monday and Friday, and tends to comment on conceptual/thought-leadership style content, it’s easy to focus your efforts on creating the right content and posting on the right days.

Start with engagement, then connect

Working with the principle that quality is better than quantity, it is more effective to create fewer meaningful connections than thousands of tenuous ones.

It’s common for inexperienced sales people to use an attrition based model to generating leads with social media, primarily LinkedIn, “If I send 10,000 connection requests, 10 might accept”.

To improve the effectiveness of your outreach, first get your prospect familiar with who you are through sharing and commenting.

Commenting on your prospect’s post, saying something like, “Great article. Have you thought about …” takes about as much time as sending an elevator-pitch connection request but is much more likely to get read and appreciated.

Once you’ve done this a few times, and the prospect is at least familiar with your name, send your connection request.

Produce content your prospect will find useful

By this point, you should be connected or followed by your prospect. The temptation is to hit their messaging inbox immediately with a pitch. Don’t, not yet. First, you’ve got to establish credibility.

Going through the initial research and content engagement steps, you should have a pretty good understanding of your prospects content preferences. This understanding can provide valuable insight into their current business challenges and opportunities.

With this insight, you can start to share, comment on and create original content that addresses their challenges or showcases how you can help them take advantage of an opportunity.

Why not jump straight to the pitch?

You may be asking yourself, “this is a lot of work, why shouldn’t I skip straight to the pitch?”. The reason is you’re not the only sales person on social media. The average CEO has over 900 connections on LinkedIn. There’s going to be lots of competition for their attention. This helpful content you’re creating is a way to stand out from the crowd.

Personalise your pitch

We’ve all received the “thanks for your connection, I’d like to talk to you about…” copy and paste pitch. And there’s no quicker way to get ignored.

Once you’ve put in the effort to develop an understanding of the prospect, their business and what’s on their to-do list, you can craft a pitch that’s personal to them.

Treat their messaging inbox with respect

The direct messaging (DM) inbox is a much more personal space than the email inbox; respect it as much as their inbox – or more!

If your direct message gets ignored, don’t be that person that sends endless follow-ups. Just take a step back in the process and resume the effort to share/comment on their posts and resume the efforts to share/create content that appeals to them. Keep up this nurturing effort for another couple of weeks and then try again.

Refine regularly

Once you start scaling this process and focusing on more than a handful of prospects, it can inadvertently result in shortcuts or a tendency to ‘copy paste’. This is especially true when results aren’t immediately forthcoming. When you start taking shortcuts, ultimately what happens is, you regress back to the ineffective ‘attrition’ model – hoping that if you send a thousand messages, one might reply.

When leads start to dry up, stop. Go back to the start of the process. Reassess. Are you still going after the right people? Do you still understand their habits and content preferences? Are you still talking about things that relate to their challenges or opportunities?

Tip: It’s healthy to go back and refine your social media lead prospecting activity every month or so, just to ensure you’re investing time and effort doing the right things.

Be in this for the long game

In summary, lead prospecting on social media is not a free, magic source of leads. It takes time, effort and in some cases investment in tools or technology.

But with enough momentum, the research, outreach and content production effort will start to flip things around. People will start seeing you as an authority in your particular niche, and then customers start prospecting you, not the other way round.