At LinkedIn, the sales staff has become well-versed in the use of social media tools to open doors for new sales, says Ralf VonSosen, the company’s head of marketing for sales solutions.
Social media has opened up entirely new ways of communicating with colleagues and strangers as well as with family and friends. Ralf VonSosen, the head of marketing for sales solutions for the online professional networking company LinkedIn, thinks a lot about using social media, particularly for communicating with sales targets. VonSosen calls this "social selling" — utilizing the relationships, connections and insights available in social channels to facilitate a better experience in both buying and selling. "It's really utilizing all this fantastic data that's out there that helps us gain visibility to the connections and relationships we have," says VonSosen. "We can take that data and combine it with the branding and information that we as professionals are sharing, and create a more meaningful experience and conversation." Done right, social selling "moves our contact from a traditional cold call to either a warm introduction or at least a warm conversation," he says. In a conversation with MIT Sloan Management Review's Robert Berkman, VonSosen talked about free ways to build a personal online brand and about how LinkedIn's Sales Navigator product is being used by both large and small companies.
Let's say there's a company that wants to do more social selling. What are some general strategies you recommend in thinking more strategically?
First, looking at LinkedIn as a tool, I would start with defining your personal and professional brand. You as a professional establish your brand on LinkedIn and think about your LinkedIn page as your personal micro site. You change the mindset of "I have this LinkedIn page for recruiters to look at" to "I have this page for prospects and customers to look at." It's putting that hat on and saying, "how do I best come across here when customers and prospects are looking at the profile?" You can think about what you want to showcase and how you can show activity and expertise there. You can use a site like SlideShare to upload PowerPoint presentations, Word documents and Adobe PDF Portfolios, to show some of your talent. You can then think about sending updates to the people that you're trying to target.