With exhibitions and other networking opportunities repeatedly postponed, salespeople have been forced to recreate these experiences effectively online – but unless handled correctly, social media outreach can be undermined by screen fatigue and a lack of focus, says sales performance coach Peter Holland

Social media provides amazing opportunities to connect, but with so many potential contacts, leads and content available, it’s no wonder we sometimes feel overwhelmed.

Additionally, for months, people around the globe have had to adapt to living under the threat of this pandemic. In such circumstances, it is easy and natural to feel apathetic and demotivated, and to experience fatigue. So, we need to stimulate interest and add value to those we’d like to connect with.

How can you ensure your social media efforts will produce results? Let’s review some practical tips to organise your activities and maximise results using SMSP (Social Media Sales Process). Here are four steps to improve your effectiveness:

1. Social media for research

Pick your channels carefully – you need to hang out where your contacts hang out.

Streamline your feed so you can quickly see the news that’s important to you. Using lists in Twitter is a great way to do this. For example, you could create lists for media, clients, targets and competitors, which will keep your information flow organised. Using LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator enables you to search and create lists with specific criteria, ensuring you are connecting with good potential prospects.

Make sure you’re spending time with the right companies and titles – if the person is the right profile, you have a chance. If they aren’t the right profile, all the skills in the world won’t help you win a new customer. So be selective, and focus on the people you can add the most value to.

2. Social media for making new connections

Active contacts on LinkedIn and Twitter may be more open to connections than those who are not active. Look for trigger events to comment on, like their posts – or, if appropriate, send a request to connect with a carefully worded invitation explaining why it would be mutually beneficial to do so.

Who do you know? It’s all about your 2nd degree connections. Browse the contacts of your good contacts to see if there are individuals you could possibly help, and ask them if it would be worth introducing you.

Join webinars which you think your target audience will attend. Ask good questions at the end to make yourself stand out – these events provide a unique opportunity to network online.

3. Social media for meetings

Create a marketing attraction campaign aimed at delivering value and expertise.Include a series of emails, social media messages and follow-up calls to see if your content was useful and relevant, along with an invitation to share a couple of additional ideas.

Share knowledge. Use company-produced content to send to contacts on LinkedIn, but personalise it to them (“I thought this specific article would be interesting to you because of…”), plus an invite to meet.

Add value with your team. Working virtually provides a great opportunity to bring in other team members on calls. Create a standard image with photos of colleagues from other departments who might add value to online meetings. This will make the invite more personal, and you can demonstrate that this is part of your service offering.

Share expertise – share the successes of your colleagues easily with online meetings (“My colleague working in Singapore has just completed a project with challenges very similar to yours. Would you like me to set up a meeting to share how they found solutions?”). Real-life case studies provide some of the most relevant and engaging material for prospects.

Be of value. Offer to set up a company-wide webinar with value specifically to their organisation. This is particularly interesting for global teams, who could invite contacts across their global locations.

Lastly, create valuable content. Plan one excellent post once a week on LinkedIn, and think about what your contacts would be interested in. It could be a shared article, new brochure or TED talk, or you could create your own article if you have something important to share, like a case study. Do this in a mindful way, not just ‘because you should post something’ – focus on relevance and value.

4. Monitor progress and results

Select a few metrics to measure your activities and monitor your success. Continually review what’s working and what’s not. Which messages and content resonated with your audience? Which ones resulted in invites for meetings being quickly accepted?

Now you have a clear social media process, a set of activities you can replicate as a team that will produce new connections, opportunities and sales!