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As technology transforms the traditional buyer journey, many organizations and individuals are reevaluating their sales strategies to engage with customers more effectively and create more opportunities.

Proactively interacting with prospects via their preferred social media channels allows organizations to build lasting relationships through meaningful connections. In a rapidly evolving and increasingly competitive landscape, it is critical to implement a formal social-first selling strategy and evaluate its effectiveness in real time to make the most of every opportunity.

LinkedIn’s Social Selling Index (SSI) is a first-of-its-kind metric to help organizations and individual salespeople measure their overall performance by quantifying how well they are adopting and executing the “Four Pillars of Social Selling. ” For each pillar, SSI rates performance on a scale of zero to 100, and sums the totals to provide a comprehensive score of social selling efforts. Mastering best practices for each pillar of social selling can boost your SSI.

Pillar #1: Establish your professional brand
The first step towards being an effective social seller is creating a consistent, customer-centric professional brand across communication channels. Before social sellers can begin to identify the right leads and engage with prospects, they must establish credibility and rise above the communication clutter. SSI can help identify simple steps salespeople can take to increase the visibility of their profiles and drive traffic to their social pages, such as including a cover photo and regularly posting relevant thought leadership content.

Scenario #1: Jean is an account manager for a large B2B organization that has recently adopted a social-first strategy for all sales-based teams. She has been publishing original content and promoting posts from other industry leaders on her social media pages, but she is struggling to gain page views and follows, and her SSI numbers are low. After evaluating her SSI, Jean realizes her profile completeness is far from 100%. She adds a professional-quality cover photo, education information, and a personalized profile URL to her LinkedIn profile – and sees her SSI jump several points.

Pillar #2: Find the right peopleNow that the buyer journey is becoming increasingly digital, effective sales is no longer about casting the widest net; it’s about identifying – and pursuing – the highest-quality leads. Utilizing the Microsoft Social Selling Program, which combines the advanced search functionalities and CRM integration of LinkedIn Sales Navigator with coaching from social selling coaches, provides more effective lead targeting and tailored recommendations that can increase SSI.

Scenario #2: Now that Jean’s professional brand has been established, she’s ready to build a list of potential leads. LinkedIn Sales Navigator helps her quickly research and find high-quality prospects based on her unique search parameters. As Jean begins to identify relevant prospects, she receives suggestions based on her search criteria and growing network to help her expand her list, formulate an engagement strategy, and improve her SSI.

Pillar #3: Engage with insights
Authentic engagement stems from an in-depth knowledge of prospects. Using the information available to you, such as previous education and work experience, interests, and social media activity can help social sellers identify opportunities to form authentic connections with potential buyers. SSI can help track the success of each post, comment, and InMail message by measuring engagement and response rates. Social sellers can use these metrics to refine their engagement approach and build lasting relationships.

Scenario #3: Jean conducts research on the digital footprints of her top five prospects and begins reaching out to them. SSI data shows Jean that two of her target individuals prefer interacting via InMail rather than posts or comments, one actively engages with content published on LinkedIn Pulse, and the other two routinely participate in comment threads in LinkedIn Groups. Monitoring her SSI allows Jean to make seamless connections with top prospects via their preferred communication methods and lay the foundation for lasting relationships.

Pillar #4: Build relationships
Making a memorable first impression is critical, but the key to long-term success is remaining consistent and relevant. SSI can help social sellers continue to connect with the right people and ensure they are posting and commenting on the types of content that resonate with their growing list of prospects. If a photo or article comes across as off-brand or too product-centric, SSI will reflect that and remind social sellers to return to what works.

Scenario #4: Jean regularly references SSI to make sure she’s adopting best practices for each pillar of social selling. She continues to strengthen and expand her social network by staying true to her professional brand, connecting with the right people, and regularly curating and sharing valuable content with her connections.

Understanding and tracking SSI can help organizations, teams, and individuals identify which aspects of their social selling strategies are working – and which aspects need improvement.