With face to face sales calls being a thing of the past, sales professionals are scrambling to find ways to stay connected and engaged with customers during COVID-19. As we navigate the new normal, sales reps are looking for creative new ways to connect with people. Sure, there are numerous video conferencing platforms that allow us to see each other, but how do we reach a larger audience? And why is it important?
In this article we’ll address how using social media can help B2B sales reps bridge the gap between isolation and connectivity with their clients.
Social Media 101
Fueled by the abundance of time they have on their hands and the lack of human connection during isolation, people are flocking to social media right now. In fact, LinkedIn has reported that usage is up by 55 percent. This increased audience provides B2B sales reps a priceless opportunity to engage their customers where they are spending their time.
So, where do you start? Regularly posting good content and more importantly, engaging in conversations, is rather simple and not as daunting as you might think. In this article, we’ll break down an easy way to get going.
One important thing to remember as you get started - everything you post doesn’t have to be revolutionary. It should add value and be insightful, but it doesn’t need to be cutting edge. You can literally find simple, actionable content ideas that may pop up throughout your workday.
Were you just on a call with your co-workers and found something helpful? Did you discover a new way to keep the kids occupied while you get some work done? Or perhaps someone had a clever idea how to transform their new at home office – that is, the kitchen table – into a collapsible office space so they could still use it for dinner.
Sharing your ideas and insights is a great way to engage with your prospects, colleagues, and customers. Chances are if you’ve struggled with a specific challenge during this time, someone else has, too.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t provide people with brand updates from your company. Sharing news or product info can be powerful, especially if it can provide a solution to a problem people are facing. Rather than just reposting product information or general marketing content from your company’s LinkedIn page, consider adding your own thoughts and ideas to the post to convey the underlying reason your clients will find value.
If your business has a relevant solution to challenges that businesses are currently facing, that can be one of the most valuable things share. If it’s helpful and useful, people will engage with it. Users gravitate most to helpful, insightful, honest content that provides educational or inspirational context.
If there is one thing to reiterate, it’s the fact that leading with a genuine and empathetic approach will gain you MUCH more engagement than just reposting updates from your company page or sharing details about your product.
Finally, there are no rules regarding how often you should post on social media. There are some general guidelines that are always safe to follow, though. LinkedIn suggest posting 2-5 times per week and the days most likely to generate user engagement with your content are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. If you want more info on the best days and times to post, check out this great article from sproutsocial.
You shouldn’t post just to post. We can’t stress it enough. What you say and how you say it should always be thoughtful, especially now. It should add value to your feed and, if possible, provide a kick starter for conversation (if you want to get into the nerdy details… LinkedIn’s algorithm actually extends your organic reach exponentially if you are able to generate comments on your post. So, get chatty!).
How to Build your Social Media Presence
Since social distancing measures are preventing face-to-face meetings, the best sales professionals are realizing that digital connectivity is the new handshake. How we market our company, our products, our services, and even ourselves is now at the forefront of customer engagement. Those who embrace the change will separate themselves from the pack, and will come out ahead of the curve when we finally reach the end of the COVID-19 tunnel.
One way to set yourself apart from the crowd is by maximizing the leverage from your social media network. Let’s take a look at a couple of ways you can do that using LinkedIn.
Get Personal in Your Updates
Just because you’re posting on a platform that caters to professionals, doesn’t mean that you can’t be personal in your approach. As we mentioned above, LinkedIn users will most likely engage with you when your posts are personal, genuine, and honest, not just when you post articles or company updates.
What challenges are you currently facing during COVID-19 and how has it impacted you personally? How are you finding ways to rise above the cloud and find success, positivity, and engagement with your clients? All of these concepts make for great LinkedIn sharing opportunities.
In Klyck's most recent podcast, Stephanie Friedman (Vice President of Sales and Marketing at City Paper) explains that “people buy from who they like.” Posting more personalized updates and statuses can help your network get to know you on a human level – increasing your likelihood of building credibility and relationships. Stephanie also elaborates in the podcast, “How can prospects like you if they don’t know you? If they don’t like you, how can they buy from you?”
Create Your Own Content
Many sales professionals believe that content creation is the sole responsibility of the marketing team. That’s not the case right now.
Every sales professional should be creating content during COVID-19. It doesn’t have to be a professional video with studio lighting or green screen backgrounds. Our best suggestion - simply take your mobile phone and start writing or recording a message to share on LinkedIn or to send to your customers. Let people know a concept that’s been on your mind or share a helpful insight that your customers might find uniquely valuable.
Whatever the approach, remember that 1 is greater than 0. Simply taking steps to create content is the first key to success. Don’t worry about perfection, rather just focus on trying to create content consistently over the course of a week. You’ll get better with practice. Trust yourself and your intuition.
Creating content can feel intimidating if you aren’t used to it but as most find, once you put something out there it’s surprising how quickly you can see an impact. Here’s an interesting data point to help give you some comforting support – all of the content that is shared on LinkedIn is produced by only 1% of it’s users. That means if you are simply creating and sharing ANYTHING – you are already in the top 1%
Customers are yearning for content and connection during the current environment and the sales reps that are sharing during this period will undoubtedly get the most mindshare with their customers.
Right now, video is king. It’s the quickest way for you to engage with your audience. Videos are more eye-catching and stand out amid the text posts, images, and links that others are posting. In fact, video gets a huge natural boost by the LinkedIn algorithm. That means any video you share is going to get many more impressions and views in your network than a simple, text based post.
Videos also allow you to show off your personality, get more personal, and help foster connections and relationships. Anyone willing to turn on their smart phone camera and record a quick message is going to have a disproportional edge.
Going back to our latest podcast, Stephanie Friedman also suggests that salespeople need to find new and innovative ways to reach out to their customers. She recommends being open and communicative, and sharing concepts and solutions that will make your customer’s life easier during COVID-19. The salespeople that will come out ahead of the curve are those that are willing to embrace change and rethink how they do things.
Who’s doing it well?
Now that we’ve discussed key concepts and how to get started, let’s focus on examples of others who are really excelling at using LinkedIn to their advantage during the current environment of COVID-19.
John Barrows offers some great advice about leading conversations with genuine empathy. Unfortunately, so many sales reps are starting emails and conversations with “I hope you and your family are well” and then launching into an impersonal, canned cadence. He explains that this approach takes away from the sincerity of their concern and can perhaps do more damage than good. Instead, he suggests showing empathy by being personal and providing relevance in your communication.
On World Creativity and Innovation Day (April 21st), Joy McAdams posted this great video. In it, she’s outside, sitting beside a rose bush, and she takes a moment to tell us to stop and smell the roses. She goes on to offer some thoughtful words and insight about the positive things she sees happening, amidst the cloud of COVID-19. She explains how the environment has created so much harm, pain, and challenges, but at the same time it has provided her new perspective on life, business and how we connect with others. She intertwines the importance of creativity in marketing with her own personal thoughts on what she’s been experiencing. This highly personal post has almost 7,000 views and over 600 likes and engagements.
Perhaps the undisputed king of LinkedIn mastery, embodying the definition of “wear it all on your sleeve”, is Gary Vaynerchuk, Chairman and CEO of VaynerMedia. Full disclosure – Gary has zero filter, tells it just as it is, and more than occasionally includes a few expletives. However, Gary shows unbelievable vulnerability in his posts and goes to incredible lengths to connect with others by providing selfless, personal insight. In fact, he’s recently started a new live show called “Tea with Gary Vee” where he welcomes guests on his LinkedIn live stream for one-on-one discussions, providing free advice on business, sales, and marketing. Pretty incredible given that he owns one of the largest marketing agencies in the US.
John, Joy, and Gary are all great examples of how to do social media right. They show us what it means to provide value in a post. They offer insight while adding personal touch. They aren’t afraid to embrace vulnerability.
Put it all out there. Put yourself out there. There is no oversharing right now. People are yearning for a connection. Now is the time to reach out in new and innovative ways and create memorable and thoughtful content.
If there is one thing you take away from this - Give yourself permission to go create and share.