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After helping over 2,000 social selling professionals connect with new prospects on Twitter, we’ve learned there are three challenges most first-time “social prospectors” will face.

The challenges we see professionals struggle with when prospecting customers on Twitter include:

  1. not being clear about who you want to connect with (and why)

  2. not knowing what to say to a new prospect, and,

  3. how to identify new prospects quickly and efficiently.

In this post, we address these three challenges and offer ways to overcome these hurdles. Our expertise is in monitoring conversations on public social networks for leads, so in this post we’ll focus mostly on Twitter as a source of prospects.

We also provide an example from our own social prospecting efforts (last night), to give you a feel for how natural this type of prospecting can be.

For more articles like this, check out our new Flipboard magazine, "Social Selling" For more articles like this, check out our new Flipboard magazine, “Social Selling”


Challenge #1:  who am I trying to meet?

Before attempting to search for potential prospects on Twitter, we strongly recommend that you write-down your prospecting objective in a statement that describes the people you want to connect to.  Use a format similar to this:

People X who need/want/complain about topic Y.

For example, here is one of our social prospecting objectives:

Social selling professionals with Twitter experience who need tools to help them find new prospects.

A lot of new social prospectors struggle to come up with a statement like that. Partially because it immediately begs the following question:

Challenge #2:  what will I say when I find them?

Ah, yes – the introduction. The bane of all prospecting. What do you say?

This second question is where the greatest number of new NeedTagger users get hung up. There are a number of practical reasons for their reluctance, including:

  1. fear of being seen as a spammer: this fear, while very common, is greatly overblown for professionals who sincerely seek to help people solve problems (as opposed to sending coupons, useless landing pages and irrelevant links). If you answer the right questions from the right people, you will not be viewed as a spammer.  That said, if you have any doubt at all about how someone might respond to your message, then engage less directly, i.e., follow them, retweet them or list them.

  2. lack of content: you don’t have the right links/content to share, so traffic generation seems impossible. Solution: place your landing page URL or your company’s URL in your profile, as a default way of generating traffic.

  3. lack of solution-selling knowledge or expertise: you simply aren’t the right person to talk with customers about issues. We see this a lot. For example, marketing specialists aren’t always skilled at selling or answering questions.  Solution: give your sales force the tools they need to prospect directly.
  4. inexperience with Twitter:  you don’t know what to say on Twitter (in general).  That’s OK, Twitter is still a new experience for most. The only solution is time – it takes a few weeks to a few months to become skilled at using Twitter naturally. Give yourself this break-in time before pushing for prospects.

  5. lack of incentive: you are not tasked to generate new contacts, sales or leads. We see this a lot, too. Again, marketing professionals are often not motivated or told to generate leads or to identify prospects. Very often, their job is to share content (broadcast it) and to generate followers and likes.  NOT the same thing, of course. Solution: give your sales force the tools they need.  Or, train a person or two on your social marketing team to answer questions and to forward posts on to the right sales people.

Being prepared with content, putting the right person on the account, and having the right incentives are issues that any company can address. The rest are personal learning curves.

To help our new users learn what to say, we’ve put together a few online resources:

From a social gesture point of view, Twitter offers most of the selling gestures you might use at a real world conference.  You can share your business card (follow them), agree to talk privately later on (follow each other, then direct message), compliment their words (retweet), answer their question (share a link) and offer advice (reply).

Of course, Twitter offers several advantages over “real world” conferences:

  • by using the right search tools, you can hear/see ALL of the conversations that matter to your business, in real time.
  • you can respond directly with content suited for their need (see below)
  • you can track results and focus on what works.

The content-sharing advantage of Twitter makes it really powerful as a prospecting platform. Because you can share digital content (not just a handshake), you can meet a lot more needs on Twitter than you might during a face-to-face encounter.

Consider the following ideas:

Which leads us to the third challenge: getting your Twitter prospecting streams set up correctly, so you don’t waste hours monitoring noisy streams.

Challenge #3:  how do I find new prospects (without spending all day on Twitter)?

Given Twitter’s relatively low penetration into our society (so far), a social selling professional probably shouldn’t spend more than 30 minutes to an hour each day on Twitter.

This means you need some way to avoid monitoring noisy, high-volume streams all day. The ideal solution is to monitor a low-volume stream of high-quality prospects.  

This is where an intent-mining tool like NeedTagger can really help, because keyword-filtered streams are often too noisy (too many irrelevant posts) or too lossy (miss too many opportunities).

The video below explains how to set up three different kinds of prospecting streams on NeedTagger.

You can find more detailed instructions here:


As you can see, NeedTagger works a little differently than your typical keyword search tool.  We added the concept of “intent” (conversation type) to your search. But filtering by intent makes all the difference.

Still, NeedTagger is easy to master – for those who are ready.

Prospecting on Twitter – An Example

Sales and marketing professionals who’ve mastered social prospecting know first-hand that people on Twitter are actually very receptive to “stranger-experts” stepping-in to help them. This makes sense, as one of the biggest reasons people join Twitter is to find information and connect with new people they can learn from.

Compared with broadcasting content from your account, targeted social prospecting is an order of magnitude more effective in terms of generating useful leads. Our active customers generate 5%-80% click through rates (CTR) on messages sent from NeedTagger.  A typical result is 20-30% CTR.

For example, here is a new connection we made with a prospect – last night:

I found Ron’s post in our NeedTagger stream Sunday night – it was a day old (hey, it was Sunday):


I first checked Ron’s profile out on Twitter – he seemed like a good fit for us: an active/experienced Twitter user, in the right line of work.

Note the LinkedIn URL in his profile. That was helpful.

profile lookup

So I reached out and suggested Ron try our tool (see my message below).

I sent the following outreach from our corporate account.

It’s usually better to initiate a relationships from a personal account, but for this type of opportunity our company account works fine.

outreach sent response generated


Regarding the outreach message itself: notice the lack of a link in my message to Ron.

This prompted Ron to check out our profile.

This is a softer, more respectful way to introduce your business to someone – versus sending them a link.

landing page

As you can see, this is a natural way to start a relationship with potential customers on Twitter.

In our case, 100% of our new business has come from organic search, personal networking, partner referrals and social selling.

NeedTagger surfaces the most valuable and actionable engagement opportunities for your business on Twitter. It’s FREE to try – just click the blue button above to start connecting with prospects on Twitter.

The 3 biggest challenges to social prospecting and how to overcome them by