How to Convert Social Media Conversations Into Sales

Image from Nick Harter’s Facebook page with his family pictured in inset. Image from Nick Harter’s Facebook page with his family pictured in inset.

As part of the Customer Success Program at Hearsay Social, it’s important to not only provide best practices and coaching for each of our customers but to speak to their advisors on a regular basis to find out how these best practices evolve and bring new business for the field.

In March, I made it my personal mission to interview 10 different financial representatives from Northwestern Mutual, the financial services company based in Milwaukee.

The themes that I heard in interview after interview were: How social media gave them an efficient and convenient way for them to communicate with their clients and prospects, and that through referrals, prospects and more referrals these reps are leveraging social media on a daily basis to grow their network and convert conversations into sales.

Below is one story from Northwestern Mutual’s Nick Harter, based in Fort Wayne, Ind.

Why did you decide to use social media?

My 10-year high school reunion was coming up and I realized that before the event, I should do a little research to remember all the folks that I’d be seeing that day. I got on Facebook and found some old friends that I haven’t spoken to for quite some time and it helped me rekindle some friendships from long ago. This was really the beginning of me using social media.

How did your social media usage in the beginning help you realize that you wanted to use it for business?

From my first interactions on Facebook connecting with old friends, neighbors and classmates, I realized that it was so easy to stay in touch and learn about their lives from far away. I then realized that I should be on LinkedIn to get my professional story out to my connections and incorporate this into my business. I have a four year old and a one year old, so I want to be as efficient as possible in my business without sacrificing time with my family.

Social media has been the most efficient way to build connections, relationships and stay in touch with my connections. In my role, relationship-building is key. I build relationships with clients that can last 20, 30 or 40 years. When I’ve built a strong relationship and I understand their goals, dreams and worries, I’m better able to help them financially plan for the future.

When you originally started your career as a representative, how did you build relationships?

I used to be all about the phone. I would be dialing all day, every day, but … I really don’t like using the phone. In addition, cold calling or even warm calling people, for me, is a little obtrusive. I don’t want to bother people or catch them off guard – this is why social media is so great. Social media is a soft opening for connecting with people and staying in touch. If I want their business, I need to be available to connect with them via the channel in which they prefer. It’s a win-win situation.

How do you get referrals on social media?

Social media is the best way to get introductions. I use my LinkedIn profile like a digital Rolodex. I review all of my connections, click through to their connections and develop a list every month of 1st and 2nd degree connections. I simply ask my friends for an introduction via LinkedIn and then request my clients to refer me to their friends. A simple ask, and connecting the dots between my 1st and 2nd degree connections, has given me over 6,000 connections between LinkedIn and Facebook. About 800 of them were just from the last year.

Because I have built this system of reviewing profiles and searching for prospects via connections, I get 100 referrals each month – 95% of them come from social media. Because of my massive network, people are searching for me. I get about 5-10 requests to connect on LinkedIn per week now because of the network I’ve developed over the years.

Tell us a story about a specific referral or introduction that converted into a sale. 

There was a well-known, very successful attorney in Fort Wayne with a wife and two kids who was looking for a financial representative to help him with his financial planning. He simply went through LinkedIn to search for a financial expert, found my name and noticed that we had dozens of connections in common. One day he sent me a note that said, “I know you’re connected with a lot of friends. I have reps cold calling me and trying to trying to connect because they know I have a lot of money, but I’d rather do business with someone who is connected to those that I know."

From then on, he has been a great client of mine. Trust is essential. My clients trust me to help them achieve their long-term goals and protect the people they care for most. Trust is one of the central reasons clients choose to work with me and choose to work with a strong company like Northwestern Mutual.

In Hearsay Social, we have a popular feature called Social Signals that allows reps to get notified of major life events in their connections' lives on LinkedIn and Facebook. Are you using this feature and if so, how has it helped you?

Yes, Social Signals has been great. For me, it helps me learn more about my clients before I step into a meeting or just stay in touch with them on a regular basis. Instead of picking up the phone like in the old days asking what was going on, I have an idea of how I can help and the direction of our next conversation.

In the last eighteen months, I’ve received over 4,700 Social Signals from Hearsay – about 65 per week including birthdays, weddings, engagements, babies, moves, job changes and other life events.  I don’t have time to be on social media all day, so Social Signals helps me filter out a lot of noise that isn’t as relevant. When I get signals about a current client, it makes it like we never left each other from the last meeting.

When it comes to building credibility and sharing content on FB and LI, how do you choose what to post?

I use the content library which includes hundreds of compliance-approved posts created by the marketing and communications teams at Northwestern Mutual, hosted in Hearsay Social. The most important thing for me is adding my own voice. I have a large network of friends and family who know my voice and the stories that I like to share. I always try to modify the content from the library to make it my own. I get more engagement on the posts that way as well.

Any last piece of advice that you’d like to share with your fellow reps? What is the single most important thing to do on social media today?

The first step is to send friend and connection requests to all of your current clients. People use Facebook and LinkedIn differently. People post pictures of their weddings, new babies and new homes on Facebook, whereas on LinkedIn, you find out when they have changed jobs.

All of these are important life events that you should be involved in. Once you’ve sent requests to your current client base, start sending requests to recent prospects that you’ve met. Timing is everything in our business and knowing when they have major life events will be prime time for you to stay in contact to help them on their path to financial security.

 

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