Prospect follow-up needs to be performed with care to avoid alienating potential buyers. Here are five social selling techniques that build trust.

Following up with prospects has always been part of the sales process. And like most aspects of selling, there are effective and not-so-effective ways to go about it. A considerate follow-up can move you closer to a sale. Then there are the “just checking in” type of follow-ups that come off as careless. These (typically rushed) follow-ups tend to cause setbacks, or worse, complete halts.

To help you follow-up in a way that builds trust and moves deals forward, here are five tactics that work in the social selling era.

1. Show Interest in Your Prospect’s Online Activity

Connecting with prospects in the natural course of what they are doing can ease the process of following up. Make yourself accessible in online social channels. One effective way of engaging is by commenting on their online activities, such as a status update, a LinkedIn article they authored, or a SlideShare presentation they posted.

2. Ask Them to Connect

Once you’ve interacted with a prospective buyer, invite them to join your LinkedIn network, spelling out the value of connecting with you. For example, point out the types of insights you regularly share, resources you feature on your profile, or any thought-provoking, relevant posts you or your organization authored. When you are part of your prospect’s professional network, you can more easily communicate with them and earn their trust.

3. Respect Your Prospect’s Time

You want buyers to welcome your outreach. Achieve acceptance by going beyond demonstrating passion and persistence to also connecting with context, insights, intelligence, and relevance. Show that you understand the prospect’s challenges and goals in the context of their business by using a tool like LinkedIn Sales Navigator to do research. Engaging with added context and insight shows that you respect their time, positioning you as a trusted advisor rather than a follow-up machine.

4. Reach Out with Value

Your prospects are overwhelmed by unwanted calls and emails. No wonder 90% of decision makers don’t respond to cold calls or emails. And when sales professionals do reach out cold, only 4% of buyers see them in a favorable light. In other words, unwarranted calls and emails are far more likely do harm than good.

It’s counterproductive to badger a prospective buyer with status update requests. Instead, figure out what they will appreciate before you reach out. You can do that by seeing what your prospects are talking about in LinkedIn groups or other social channels. Or finding what their company’s talking about. Are they soliciting advice, or looking for information about a certain issue or topic? Use that understanding to guide your outreach.

5. Facilitate Conversations

Look for ways to facilitate the likely change that needs to happen within the prospect’s organization. In many cases, you are probably selling to a committee. Pinpoint the key issues by seeing what each committee member discusses online and looking for triggers based on company news and activity. When you win over an advocate, leverage your strong relationships to gain additional introductions and insights into the rest of the buying committee.

Supply content and information that can help drive internal discussions further. Whether you are sharing third-party reports and articles, market data, studies conducted by your company, or customer testimonials, focus on facilitating conversations rather than making a pitch.

To learn more about using social interactions to foster a mutually beneficial connection with prospects, check out LinkedIn's eBook, How Personalized Selling Unlocks Competitive Advantage.

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