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How SDRs can leverage the power of referrals on social media

Social media is to digital sellers as dinner and drinks are to outside sales reps. Modernize your social media approach or get left behind!

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In today’s all-virtual, remote sales landscape, it’s no surprise that sellers rely on social platforms for market research, prospecting, and outreach.

Reps also spend a ton of time on LinkedIn using original insights, industry expertise, and strategically-timed likes and connection requests to get in front of prospects.

And, for the most part, social is pretty effective.

According to LinkedIn, nearly 80% of reps that use social media outperform their less-social peers, while 84% of C-level executives use social media to support purchasing decisions.

According to CSO Insights, over 30% of B2B sales reps say social selling has helped them create deeper connections with their clients.

Sales development teams also stand to improve their results by using social selling tactics to start building relationships way before prospects enter the funnel.

Below, I’ll look at some of the ways that SDRs can use social media to generate referrals and qualified inbound leads.

The new role of the Sales Development Representative (SDR)

Sales development emerged in the 1980s to help traditional salespeople keep up with the demands of the booming B2B tech industry.

SDRs were initially responsible for making cold calls, setting appointments, and engaging prospects in basic small talk. Interested leads were routed to an account executive who would nurture that lead until they closed the deal or jumped ship.

The modern SDR no longer spends full days cold-calling prospects with overflowing mailboxes or facing off with gatekeepers. Instead, sales development has “gone human” and evolved into a multi-channel relationship-building strategy with social media at its core.

According to a 2018 study by Demand Gen Report, B2B brands are increasingly looking toward SDRs to humanize marketing efforts and build actual relationships on social media.

In response, sales development teams are redefining their role in the buyer’s journey as well as the organization. According to the report, B2B companies that say social selling plays a crucial role in their sales development strategy reported a sharp increase in response rates—in some cases, up to 215%.

It’s also worth noting that marketing teams that help buyers achieve what Gartner calls “decision-confidence” are 3.6X more likely to close high-ticket deals.

According to the firm, success comes from striking a balance between encouraging buyer exploration and having the right answer on hand when needed. SDRs seem uniquely poised to offer this hands-off, yet guided strategy for empowering buyers while also positioning themselves as the best possible option.

Use LinkedIn as a jumping-off point

There’s no shortage of sales tech that can help SDRs ID prospects, generate accurate personas on-demand, and track user engagement on a highly-granular level.

Yet, LinkedIn remains one of the most valuable sales intelligence tools around, particularly for researching prospects and making your initial outreach attempt.

LinkedIn (and Twitter, too) is ideal for finding, engaging, and nurturing qualified prospects until it makes sense to move the conversation to a “second location.” You might further stretch things out and start with social, then transition to email and, after dual-platform nurturing, set up a call.

This strategy may well be the most basic use of social selling in the playbook, but, hey, it works. The benefit here is, you’re gradually engaging the prospect and learning more about their goals and challenges while gently nudging them further down the funnel.

By the time you finally hop on a call, you’ve already gathered a bunch of information about your prospect and more importantly, established a relationship that’s a far cry from old days of appointment setting.

Reps can also use LinkedIn to quickly find people already talking about the solutions their company offers. They might also use it to spot opportunities in comments and posts based on keywords that indicate there’s an unmet need.

SDRs can use these insights as an opening for making contact; though keep in mind, you’ll want to approach with caution. Pretend you’re writing a note to a new social acquaintance.

You’re not yet sure how to interact with this person, but the goal is to warm them up a bit to see if there’s a possible friendship on the horizon.

Identify your decision-makers. Then do some research to find out if there’s any company/industry news that could provide more insight into your prospect’s most pressing pain points—allowing you to share content that might shed new light on their situation.

For a referral strategy, this approach might seem pretty direct.

But if your first message maintains a tight focus on sharing helpful information, this could be your chance to get on your prospect’s radar as a go-to source of information. Ideally, that prospect becomes a lead, then a customer. Better yet, they share your content with other relevant prospects who then also become high-intent leads.

Make sure your profiles are ready for visitors

Think digital “stalking” is a one-way street?

Not so fast. Your prospects are Googling your name and sizing you up via LinkedIn the second they see that you viewed their profile.

It’s no major revelation, but it means you should always keep tabs on your digital footprint. Does it align with your company and personal brands? You’ll also want to keep an eye on other sellers offering competing solutions.

At the individual level, you’re probably familiar with the basic do’s and don’ts of platform professionalism, including:

  • Showcase your personality, but only the good stuff. That means highlighting awards, accomplishments, blog posts, company updates, and the occasional hobby or pet.
  • For those using Facebook to reach buyers, avoid engaging in “platform bad behavior.” No political tirades, rants about the COVID ‘hoax’ or cryptic status updates angling for comments and compliments (worst lead gen strategy ever).
  • Make sure all brand messaging on your profile is current and reflects the offer you’re promoting. Your profile might be pitching one deal before you get to talk with a prospect, so you’ll want to make sure that it’s delivering the right message.
  • Align with your company’s values to make a good impression. When prospects can see that you’re a team player in step with the rest of the organization, it gives them the sense that you can answer any questions they might have.

Join (or start) a conversation

SDRs are increasingly using customized content and newer mediums like video and live chat to plant the seeds for lasting connections (and increased lifetime value). They’re also embedding themselves in online communities, listening for the right moment to chime in.

On Twitter, you can go broad by starting with trending topics. Or, you might go the opposite way by adding a “#” to specific keywords that help you find your community. You can also use the platform to uncover brand mentions.

On LinkedIn, you can find relevant industry groups by typing key terms into the search bar at the top of the page.

You might also consider moving away from the reigning social giants to reach new audiences with a need for your solution. “Alternative” social networks like Quora or Reddit offer more opportunities to showcase your knowledge by answering user-generated questions.

Imagine someone posts a question on Quora then receives a response that really goes above and beyond most of what you’ll see in your feed. It’s not exactly a stretch that this person might become a hot prospect, right?

While Quora is admittedly a strange digital space (I mean, look at all of the user-generated questions centered around human IQs) people do use the platform to ask legitimate questions, and it’s gaining traction.

According to this deep dive by Ahrefs, Quora boasts 300M users, ranks for 65M+ keywords, and generates 90M+ in search traffic, much of which comes from users in the “consideration” stage in the buyer’s journey.

Reddit, too, offers plenty of space to share your text-based insights, though it’s famously inhospitable to brands that, well, act like brands.

Individual reps might do well here, though the anonymous nature of the platform makes things a bit more challenging. Still, you can link to external resources and DM users to exchange information.

Keep in mind, the one thing all of these groups have in common is that users should be willing to share great information without the expectation of receiving something in return. Per social platform LinkedIn, part of building a strong brand is being an active participant.

Build trust by building authority

It’s no secret that customers are more likely to trust recommendations from friends, family or a stranger’s review over anything provided by a brand. SDRs are using social media to get around this issue by using their own voice to build authority and connecting on an individual level—and getting great results.

But where do referrals enter the mix?

Referral generation extends well beyond the realm of points, codes, and bonuses.

In fact, many aspects of your warm referral strategy should look more like an extension of the inbound marketing tactics you’re already using to capture leads at scale. The only real difference is scale: marketers speak to a crowd, while SDRs build relationships one prospect at a time.

That difference places SDRs at an advantage. One that companies can leverage to overcome consumer mistrust.

They’re able to get more “personal” than marketing. Sure, using social media to, well, socialize, is definitely about playing the long game, as your main objective is anticipating and answering the questions potential buyers are asking.

Use paid ads to promote helpful resources like original research reports, guides, or e-books that offer something buyers can’t easily find on Google.

Make sure to also include relevant hashtags and keywords to increase organic discoverability and share posts with relevant groups to increase your reach.

As anyone familiar with SEO and content marketing best practices will tell you, inbound isn’t one of those “if you build it, they will come” situations.

Social media helps the best answers from the most reputable, engaging users rise through the ranks while burying everything that fails to achieve Google’s standards for greatness.

With a little patience and a consistent stream of top-tier content, sharing valuable content and engaging with prospects with likes, comments and shares is one of the most effective ways to generate warm referrals.

Wrapping up

Is social media the future of warm referrals? And, if so, is social media expertise now a job requirement for sales development reps?

Social selling has been a staple in B2B sales for almost a decade now, but within the last few years, SDRs have started using social media much earlier in the sales process to warm potential prospects before they enter the funnel.

It’s not hard to imagine sales development evolving into a more strategic, relationship-building function with social media at its core. However, generating a reliable stream of warm referrals may prove challenging for teams who haven’t quite perfected sales-marketing alignment.

Could your sales development use a boost?

Justin Michael will be sharing his expertise on how social media can best be put to use in Revenue Garage’s upcoming masterclass Tomorrow’s Outreach Today.

Tomorrow’s Outreach Today with Justin Michael ended on September 10. Watch the webinar replay now and increase your odds with your cold outreach.

B2B content writer & strategist

Grace is an experienced B2B content writer & strategist for SaaS, digital marketing, & tech brands from Los Angeles, California. With a knack for turning complex concepts into compelling narratives, she has assisted numerous brands in developing impactful content strategies that engage audiences and drive business growth. Her wealth of experience in the ever-evolving tech world has equipped her with a unique perspective on industry trends and dynamics, enabling her to deliver content that resonates with a tech-savvy audience.