Social selling, social engagement etc. are big buzzwords, but as a colleague pointed out today, there are a million and one different articles out there that talk about doing it, but they never really explain how to do it. So, without going into too much detail, I thought I would talk about a rough framework which anyone could use to start engaging with those key clients and prospects in their business ecosystem.

1. Find the right people:

This can be a bit difficult. How do you know who the right people are? The answer is, you don't but you can give it a good guess. Do they have budgetary authority to make a decision? Can you get access to them? Do you have the means to get in front of them? 

One great tool is LinkedIn Sales Navigator, which can help you quickly and easily find the right people. A good first step is to look at the big companies in the industry you are targeting, then start to find the key individuals in your region. Make a list and next up, plan how you will get in touch.


2. Make first-contact with them:

Make contact with someone the same way you would like someone else to make contact with you - in a polite & professional manner! A few of the options:

a) Email outreach: This bit is usually quite daunting. How on earth can I reach out and disturb this Sales Director or COO and tell them about what I'm doing without getting shot down? None of us want to be relegated to the Spam folder. 

The way I look at it, if you have confidence & believe in your product/service, then you are not merely flogging your wares but rather, you are reaching out to tell them about something of value, something which could make their live just a little bit easier / solve a pain point. 

  • Ask for their advice on a general point on which they are an expert. Smart people are happy to engage with you on an intellectual level.
  • Craft the email according to what they have said or done online; use the key words and terminology which they will associate with  e.g. - for Sales, you might focus on the results which other organisations have had using your product or service. For Marketing, concentrating on driving brand awareness and lead generation might be more appropriate.
  • Use relevant case studies, testimonials and industry examples to add credence and weight to your email. We all like some good evidence of ROI.  


Tip: David Kirk sets out a renowned email outreach technique called BASHO here which has a 50% hit rate!


b) Events: Check out what events they go to. In my experience, 'bumping into' someone after they give a talk and having a casual chat is something that tends to work quite well. You can strike up a personal relationship and your personality can shine through and, of course, it is much easier to build up a rapport face-to-face than a short email cobbled together. Equally, social decorum dictates that when you engage with someone face-to-face, they are probably going to listen to you (especially in a room full of people), even if they are not 100% interested. Emails don't tend to get this same level of respect. 

Tip: I like to send a quick email before the event introducing myself and asking if they fancy meeting up for a coffee. This has several benefits: Firstly, it means when I appear at the event that I am not pouncing on them unawares. Secondly, it is a brilliant way of qualifying whether that person is interested and if there is a 'pain point' in their organisation, saving both of you time. 


c) Engage with them online / through social media: Use tools like BuzzSumo to find out what they like and share AND for those of you lucky enough to use Sales Navigator, you can track their activity on LinkedIn and see what relevant content they are liking, sharing and interacting with. Like and comment on what they share - this is another way of slowly appearing on their radar in a non-intrusive fashion. 


3. Write relevant and timely content 

So you have made contact and are now ready to engage with them over the long-term in the hope of positively influencing them. This is usually the part where most people run aground. 

Create & share content which will entice them to engage with you. Provide them with something of value other than your product or service. This is a critical step towards building trust before you ever meet them. 

Tip: Trouble finding inspiration about what to write about? 

  • Check out what they read, talk and write about: what articles do they share? What do they engage with online? Tailoring your content to their interests can give them another reason to pay you attention, opening the door for you to reach out at the right moment. 
  • Tweetdeck can help you create multiple Twitter feeds according to subject matter/subject line, helping you get a constant flow of interesting and relevant content. Equally, Google Alerts is another tool to ensure you are never short of fresh and interesting things to read. 
  • Read as much as possible. Take inspiration from industry peers, your competitors and from known 'thought leaders.' If you see something worth replicating, do it!


4. Feedback/Start the process again:

How successful were your efforts? What could you do differently? Keep notes on all of your interactions with your key clients and prospects and, where possible, try and map out each customer journey. You will quickly learn what does and does not work. 

Once you do this a few times, you will start to notice patterns in your relationships with customers across different industries and this will allow you to act more effectively and efficiently as time goes on. 

Last step? Once you are up and running, then start thinking about which key accounts you want to target in a 6-12 month plan. Freddy Dobinson gives an excellent summary here of the 6 key stages involved in Account Based Marketing.