Selling is a tough business to be in these days. A great business, but a tough one. It gets harder to reach prospective buyers every day. Yet, your managers insist that you keep banging out those cold calls, which aren’t working, because buyer expectations are higher than ever.  They expect more than the same tired pitch they just heard in the 10 voicemails before yours.

Activity is not the same as effectiveness.

You feel frustrated that your efforts aren’t getting any traction, but now, from what you’ve heard, the answer is social selling. You try your best to put that expert advice you keep hearing into action, and what really happens is that you spend too much time poking around on LinkedIn or Twitter, looking for the clues that will lead to that magical “yes” to your request for a meeting. You think, if I just keep digging, do more research before I pick up the phone, which somehow you never end up doing, that’s going to lead to success. At days’ end, you realize you spent a boatload of time on social networks, but you never actually accomplished much.

No wonder close to 50% of salespeople aren’t achieving their quota objectives. Again.

Sellers are looking for the quick fix to revenue attainment. That desire is what the experts pander to. I’ve been a sales professional for a very long time, and I can say with certainty that like the mythical unicorn, there is no such thing as a quick fix. There is no easy street to a quick sale. Using social media as part of your selling process can be incredibly beneficial. In fact, it is a must for today’s sellers to be digitally proficient and relevant. At the same time, if you aren’t focused on following a plan, it is likely that you waste hours of time with no sales outcomes to show for it.

Ignore the myth and the hype. Stop wishing for the quick fix to your sales challenges. Remind yourself that as with any other aspect of being great in selling, incorporating social media into your selling process takes work.

Here are 7 ways you set yourself up for success:

Start with a plan.

Tactics without a plan is like me trying to drive from Atlanta to California without a map. Key questions need to be answered before dashing off in a mad rush. No plan = recipe for floundering.

Get the training you need.

Working in a socially connected world requires a shift in your mindset. That means you have to think differently about the way that you connect and approach people. Even if your employer doesn’t provide training, invest in yourself!

Build your online brand.

Buyers do their early stage research on products, services, people and companies roughly 70% of the time before they engage with salespeople. You want to be easily found and viewed as someone credible in your field. Craft your story from the buyer’s point of view. They care about the results you can deliver; not how many times you went to President’s Club.

Ditch the pitch.

Broadcast spam is a killer. Literally. Assume you have one chance to make a great first impression. It is important to get it right. Every interaction should demonstrate to potential buyers how you can be of value to them. If all you do is pitch, you’ll be locked out.

Use content to educate, create interest and bring buyers to you.

You need to know what content your prospective buyer will find valuable, which requires doing some homework. Buyers will pay attention if you are surfacing fresh insights that benefit them and their business, but be careful about pushing only your brochureware.

Measure and track the right things.

Don’t worry about how many LinkedIn connections or Twitter followers you have. Quality is better than quantity. Measuring the outcomes – new leads, new meetings, new deals in the pipeline – as a result of using social media is what you want to focus on.

Execute consistently.

Social selling must become a part of your daily routine. Otherwise, you won’t gain any traction. When you know what you need to do daily, you can invest as little as 15 minutes a day and begin to see results taking shape.

Integrating social media into your selling process is a must if you expect to break through the competitive clutter and reach buyers who are better informed and more digitally connected than ever before. Smart sellers know that social selling isn’t the map to easy street, and social selling isn’t a gimmicky approach to selling. Social selling is simply the incorporation of a new set of tactics you can use to reach today’s buyers. It is time to prepare yourself accordingly.

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