Picture, for just a moment, that you've been unexpectedly asked along to a party thrown by a friend of a friend. You hardly know anyone there, but you're happy to mingle with the other guests to pass the time, especially since you consider yourself sociable enough to handle the challenge.

As the event wears on, though, you find yourself having to force conversations where none might arise otherwise—you're interrupting, you're interjecting, you're stepping on toes in a way that few (yourself included) appreciate.

In fact, you can't help but wonder whether this quickly worsening debacle could have been avoided if you'd been the slightest bit prepared—if you'd had some forewarning of the people there and of their personality types.

Wouldn't it all be easier if you knew whom to approach in advance and what to say?

In some ways, that pain is what social selling helps to alleviate—allowing for a greater degree of service and personalization, and opening up more productive lines of communication.

Most businesses now look to social media as a tool mainly for brand awareness. To do so, though, is to ignore the real power of social media—its impact as a driver of leads and revenue.

Businesses today need a plan for social selling if they're looking to build lasting relationships with buyers online. Here's how to get started.

1. Make an effort to listen twice as much as you speak

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image of Atri Chatterjee

Atri Chatterjee is chief marketing officer of Act-On Software, a SaaS solution for marketing automation and revenue optimization.

LinkedIn: Atri Chatterjee

Twitter: @atrichatt