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If you could say anything to a potential customer, what would it be?

Now, what would it be in 140 characters?

Today, the distance between a prospect and a business can be crossed with a simple “@” sign. Thanks to Twitter, there has been no easier way to directly communicate with our target audience, for free. For consumers, it means 24/7 access to information and knowledge. For businesses, it means limitless interactions with the people that matter most.

Social selling, the act of using social media to interact with prospects, has become a powerful strategy for any modern business. If the thought of tweeting a potential customer scares you, it really shouldn’t. It can be as easy as answering a question on social media or sharing a helpful blog post. It’s nowhere near as terrifying as picking up the phone and cold calling someone.

So where do you start?

Here are the three must-have strategies for social selling on Twitter:

Always Be Listening

The beauty of social media is the ability to stalk anyone you want. Or, in a less creepy explanation, the ability to listen in on hundreds of thousands of conversations happening online. The more you listen, the more often you can join the conservation and get your company in front of a potential customer. Here’s an example: you own a real estate business in Seattle and you want to find people looking to buy houses in certain neighborhoods. With Twitter, you can create lists based on certain criteria, like keywords or hashtags. So, you could create a list for people who include the words “house hunting in Seattle” or “#SeattleListings.” Then, you’ll have a real-time window into what Seattle buyers are talking about.

Offer Value

Social selling is not about selling, it’s about the social aspect. In order to cut through the clutter on Twitter, you need to provide real value and solve prospects’ problems. In other words, you need to give before you can get. In the real estate example, instead of pushing a sales pitch on every potential buyer in Seattle, you would answer questions people have about certain neighborhoods or share a helpful blog post solving a problem they are having. As soon as you start selling, people will tune out. To build their trust, you need to prove yourself and offer help and advice in a tangible way. Then, once someone is actually ready to buy a house in Seattle, she’ll think of the friendly real estate agent from Twitter who shared the best family-friendly neighborhoods in Seattle.

Create a Plan and Be Prepared

It’s tempting to log on to Twitter and immediately start responding to people with relevant questions. But, just like any other marketing initiative, you need to develop a plan for social selling. You could include a content calendar that outlines your tweets for the week from your handle, but the majority of your tweets will consistent of interactions with other people that you can’t plan for. So, instead of planning your exact copy for the week, you could create a repository of shareable content. You could bucket your content by theme or by content type, so when someone tweets a question, you don’t have to dig around for the perfect blog post to share. You should also add key takeaways from your Twitter interactions to your plan. The more you engage with your prospects, the more you’ll learn about them, and you need to document this knowledge somewhere. These findings will guide your messaging and could even help you create new content.

Next Steps

In many ways, social selling makes the sales process more authentic. Yes, you’re communicating behind a screen, but the battle for the best sales pitch is non-existent. It’s not about presentation or bravado on Twitter, it’s about solving people’s problems on a human-to-human level. It’s about building relationships that matter, all in 140 characters.

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