This RAIN Group article originally appeared on MarketingProfs.
Sellers have a huge opportunity to take advantage of the vast amounts of information about their buyers that's available on social media.
And yet, they don't.
Whether you're researching new prospective buyers before reaching out, a buyer before a sales conversation, or a target industry, social media should be one of the first places you look.
Here are a few ways you can use major social media sites for sales research.
Use LinkedIn to connect with your professional contacts. Whether a prospect is the one you're trying to get in touch with, a current client, or an opportunity, connect on LinkedIn. Once connected, you can follow their status updates and take note of any changes. LinkedIn is an effective way to stay in touch with your contacts even when they change jobs.
Groups are a powerful tool unique to LinkedIn. Ask questions, monitor and participate in groups, and follow companies. Join groups not only related to the industry in which you work, but also in the industries of your target customers.
LinkedIn's Sales Navigator (paid) caters to sales professionals with enhanced search, custom real-time updates and alerts, and extended network access.
Connect with people at your current accounts. Follow hashtags relevant to your interests, industry, and the industries of your ideal customers, and participate in conversations where you can ask pertinent questions and receive answers from professionals like yourself. Twitter also allows you to monitor industry and company news and trigger events.
Use a tool like Hootsuite to connect all your social networks to one platform, monitor keywords, phrases, people, and companies.
Facebook can be an effective way to connect on a personal level with contacts at accounts. If a contact declines a friend request, however, don't take it personally; many people prefer to keep their personal and business contacts separate.
In the case of companies with an active Facebook page, the platform is a good way to gain insight about new offerings, employees, and events.
5 Areas to Focus On When Conducting Social Media Sales Research
Learn where individual buyers went to school, see their work history, identify the groups they're a part of, and what causes they care about. Find shared connections and potential referral or introduction sources.
Social media provides a treasure trove of buyer information if you take the time to look.
Use that information to build strong connections and rapport with buyers. After all, rapport is essential for sales success, and a key way to build rapport is to find common interests with buyers.
It's important to know what's going on in your buyer's organization. Social media provides up-to-the-minute news about the company. See what they're publishing and who's talking about them.
Did the company recently hire a new CEO? Is it expanding into new markets? Did it miss its quarterly targets? Is it launching a new product or service line? Was it recently featured in an industry or business article? Did one of your contacts move to a new company?
Social media allows you to uncover trigger events you may not have otherwise found. A trigger event gives you an opportunity to reach out—if you have something valuable to add to the conversation.
For example, if a target company falls short of its quarterly earnings because of a sales shortfall, and that's something you can help with, you can reach out. Use the event as an opportunity to introduce yourself and share ideas and practical advice for how to reverse this trend.
Major industry trends offer opportunities to either help a client capitalize on the trend or avoid risk. Industry trends could be something big, like new legislation, availability of raw materials, or compliance issues, or something small, such as an important industry event, award, or entrant in the market.
Any change can lead to a sales opportunity for you. Industry changes also allow you to reach out to your current clients to discuss how they're positioned to handle it. Doing so strengthens the relationship by demonstrating your proactivity and expertise in their field and can create new opportunities to grow your existing accounts.
Follow industry news and key industry publications to stay on top of what's going on.
Where your clients and buyers stand in relation to their competitors is important information. Maybe a competitor of your buyer just a won a large new client, or is expanding, or won an important award.
By following social media profiles of those in the industry, including key competitors of your clients and buyers, you can identify competitive threats and opportunities and bring those to the fore.
Buyers want well-informed sellers who are experts in their fields and are informed about what's going on in their business and industry. Social media is an excellent tool to keep you abreast of changes, identify trigger events, and uncover areas of commonality with your buyers.
If you don't already use social media to research current and potential buyers, start now. It can go a long way toward helping you connect with buyers, bring valuable insights and ideas, and ultimately succeed in sales.