Viewpoint: Listening for lead generation success in freight sales

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of FreightWaves or its affiliates.

Social selling — it’s the sales strategy that was mostly unheard of before the past few years, now gradually gaining attention as more people implement it. Individuals, rather than businesses, are the focus of this lead-generation strategy.

Salespeople use LinkedIn, Twitter and other social networks to connect with potential customers, making the most of these platforms where people engage as people — not strictly as the faces of their company and job title but not completely detached from those things either. Rachel Heaps, director of sales for Transportation Impact, a 4PL based in North Carolina, recently told me via LinkedIn direct message, “Social selling provides a thinner barrier to earning the trust of a potential prospect or current customer than say Cold Calling. If your solutions offer value but can be viewed as disruptive to implement, Social selling is the way to connect to your audience. Social selling gives resources for our networks to review common connections, interests and abilities, therefore, building trust earlier in the sales cycle.”

In today’s social media-rich world, people “like,” share or comment on conversations they personally find interesting on a professional level.

While many braggadocious sales pros have been social selling for a while, other, more introverted salespeople are plugging into the right conversations and keeping on top of the latest insights in their verticals by employing artificial intelligence technology through social listening.

Discovering content

One of the most important aspects of social selling is knowing the right conversations to engage with and join in on. Hashtags help in the process of discovering new topics and discussions, but with the constant contributions and updates to browse through, the process can easily be a time-consuming investment. Not only that, not all “thought leaders” are into hashtagging their social interactions, and frankly many despise the practice altogether.

There are several tools available to automate the “listening” part of social selling, the crucial first step that takes the most time before any connection ever takes place. These tools listen for keywords on the salesperson’s behalf, watching for relevant topics or any mentions of prospects, customers or competitors in news and social media sites around the world.

Five tools for listening for leads

1. Google Alerts 

Google Alerts has been around for years — since 2003, to be exact. For a user-selected search term, Google sends an email notification when a new web page is indexed for that term by the search engine. It’s a simple solution for receiving updates but one leaving much to be desired; only web pages are searched, not including social media platforms. It’s easy enough to set up a few alerts, but it’s not enough of a solution to depend on.

2. LinkedIn Sales Navigator

There are four premium subscriptions available to LinkedIn users: Career, Business, Sales and Hiring. The Sales Navigator plan is made specifically for those in sales to “generate leads and build pipeline,” with added functionality for saving leads and making internal notes. Most valuable might be the advanced search criteria for finding better-quality leads as well as LinkedIn’s recommendations to connect with people of interest to the user, who are also likely to engage.

3. Owler 

Owler was made specifically for delivering information and updates on a user’s selected companies, with over 13 million public and private companies available. Advanced search functionality allows the user to discover new prospects. Owler provides detailed information in one place that would otherwise be difficult to locate, and alerts can be customized on events such as product launches, acquisitions, restructuring, hiring or awards received. This tool gives a thorough watch on companies of interest.

4. Meltwater

The self-declared “first online media monitoring company,” Meltwater offers a wide range of solutions and products for marketing, PR and communications, including data analytics solutions. A small part of what Meltwater does is social media monitoring across 15 social networks, plus blogs and news sites, to gather data behind keywords, trends, mentions and events. Their solutions are designed to provide analytics and insights to drive future marketing strategies.

5. Feedly 

Feedly created an AI assistant to sort through the clutter of news feeds from various sources and to allow the user to make decisions on relevant keywords and topics. AI prioritizes the articles that come through the feed and uses machine learning to improve future results. This tool saves its users time sifting high-value articles out of the long list of low-value articles that other algorithms would show as relevant.

While each of these platforms has its benefits and specific features that deliver value, the setup and overall cost of ownership can vary from free and easy to paid and complex, depending on the needs.  An easy win for any sales- or growth-focused professional is to set up a Google Alert. Heaps shared a success story with me recently about this free and easy-to-use tool, saying, “In my past career, I had a customer that landed on the top workplaces for Louisiana. My Google alerted me, I printed the article off, framed it with a matted frame that was $15, and sent it to the prospect. I had a meeting the following week.”

So, whether you are a social butterfly online, selling all over your network’s feeds or you’re more introverted as a salesperson, listening for new prospects and interesting information on your existing ones is a great way to move deals through your pipeline and into paying, happy clients.