You’ve done it hundreds of times: broken the ice with a prospect. But how do you do this online?

You’ve probably developed numerous ways to start conversations with potential customers. And if you’ve enjoyed even modest success in sales, none of those chats start with, I’m selling…or…Would you like to buy?…or…Let me tell you about my company’s products.

Same goes online. You can use the communication tools that social media networks offer to get to know potential customers, and to let them learn about you.

Let’s say you’re at a party and you meet someone by the giant shrimp bowl. You start talking and discover common ground. Your new acquaintance says, “So what do you do?” You hand him or her a business card and go on talking about the Lakers or the upcoming Presidential election or whatever.

But your business card is in someone else’s hands. Someone who discovered that you were likable and interesting. The business card and the feeling of trust and friendship are linked together, and you may get a phone call or email someday from this new prospect.

That’s what you need to do online, starting with this key rule:

Sell Where You Sell. While you’re interacting online, always include a link to your blog or website in your signature line. People like to click on links. Hang around on social media sites a lot and be helpful and friendly. You never even have to mention your product or service. Pretty soon, that link becomes attached to your positive persona.

You’re trying to sell a product or service, but what you’re really selling is value and trust. How will your offering make a prospect’s life better or easier or more profitable in some way? And are you the best person to provide it?

Work Your Locality. Even if you solicit business nationwide, maximize your local exposure. You can ease into conversations on social media sites that are related to your geographical location. It doesn’t matter what the topic is – you likely have myriad opportunities to engage with people who live close enough to meet for coffee. Share your thoughts about local restaurants and sports teams and media, about your city’s most critical issues, about where to shop. Comment without being critical or outspoken; just share your thoughts and look for openings. Avoid controversy.

Organize A Tweet Chat. Those hashtags you use to find topics of interest can also be used to organize a Tweet Chat, a regularly-scheduled online discussion focusing on a specific issue. If you’ve never been involved in one, visit a few chats and see how they operate before you try to convene your own (here’s a good list of hundreds of them). Several applications can help you find your way, like TweetChat, TweetGrid and TweetDeck.

Once you’re comfortable with the format, start using the hashtag – and make it as descriptive and focused (but short) as possible. Develop a format for your chat (moderated? free-for-all? speakers?) and promote it. Listen closely to what other people are tweeting, and you’ll find individuals that look promising for follow-up. You’ll already have a shared experience, so build on that.

Pursue Your Passion Publicly. What’s important to you, business aside? Sports? Movies? Civic organizations? Art? Find online venues with lively discussions focused on those interests.

Ask And Answer. If you do nothing else for three months, ask questions and comment on other peoples’ comments. A well-crafted blog or websitethat provides good, solid information on a common problem is one of the best ways to accomplish this. Establish your credentials as an expert, yes, but also let your audience know that you truly want to help, and that you do have a credible solution for them.

So find places and people that interest you. Be yourself. Make your online presence accessible. It might even be fun.

Thanks to Todd @ Nimble “Original Post

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