Car Driving through a TunnelThe tunnel is built and the goal is to get from one side to the other. It may sound straightforward, but it’s no easy task. Traverse the bumps. Swing around that pothole. Beware of the oncoming traffic. What is this tunnel? It’s the sales pipeline and the travelers are your potential customers. Using your sales strategy, you work to get those travelers to the other side and into the land of customers. But the passengers in that tunnel are changing. Social media has entered town.

Before social media, businesses were in the driver’s seat, guiding customers through the sales pipeline and maneuvering through the bumps along the way. Today, we are part of a social revolution. Customers are making their own decisions using social media for conversations with trusted social connections. Customers are leading the charge and that tunnel is no longer a streamlined approach with businesses at the helm.

This is good news for sales. This is an amazing opportunity to engage in those customer conversations and turn them into sales opportunities. But how do we adapt our sturdy, well-oiled tunnel machine to fit this new social revolution?

Miles before the tunnel: Do your research. Use social media to your advantage to study and span the landscape. It’s a social and open space. For instance, competitor sales approaches might be blatant on their Facebook pages. Perhaps prospective customers are talking about their purchasing decisions on Twitter. Engage with people and ask them questions. As your research progresses, you’ll learn where prospects hangout on the social web, whether it’s mainstream platforms like Facebook and Twitter or niche blogs and forums.

Entering the tunnel: Be a friendly face. People want to do business with those they like. And, people like to talk to other people. Not only should we be conversational and approachable on the social web, but consider putting a human face on your brand. Big brands are doing this such as Dell and Best Buy with Twitter handles like @LionelatDell, @PaulAtDell, @Coral_BestBuy and @Gina_BestBuy. Your friendly and personal face will be more likely to get prospects into your sales funnel.

Moving through the tunnel: Leverage relationships. As you converse with prospects on the social web, you’ll soon start to develop relationships. While this may be a longer-term, individualized approach, it’s a strong connection that could make a valuable, long-lasting customer. Find the right opportunities in your conversations to share information about your services. For instance, if a prospect is looking for help, be the solution. As shared in the Salesforce eBook, Social Sales Revolution: 7 Steps to Get Ahead, consider yourself a consultant versus a salesperson.

The renovated tunnel is taking shape. With the combination of these steps and a helpful social media monitoring platform for your research, listening and engaging, you and your prospects will be working together to address challenges, share opportunities and make purchasing decisions. You’ll exit the tunnel together and have deeply-rooted customers.

Have you started incorporating social media into your sales pipeline? Are you using some of these steps? Are there other steps you’re taking? Share your tunnel renovations here!

Amanda Nelson is a Community Content Manager at Radian6. She is an avid writer, content curator and border collie fanatic. Find her on Twitter at @mileigh13.