The 4 Principles That Gained 20k Followers in 6 Months

Six months ago, I self-published my first book and committed to building a network on social media. With no prior experience of LinkedIn or Twitter, I approached the process with the same mindset as networking in person. The following four basic sales principles demonstrate how I formed trusted relationships with key influencers and gathered the fastest growing audience in my industry.

1. Reciprocity

The first step was to identify the movers and shakers in my industry, and I found the largest audiences were attached to podcasts. I listened to multiple shows and strongly connected with The Brutal Truth About Sales and Selling, hosted by Brian Burns. Rather than take a cold, self-focused approach, I wanted to show value before contacting Brian and repeatedly referenced the show in my content before asking him to review my book. The result was my first podcast interview and 1000 new LinkedIn followers.

I pinned the show on my twitter page and promoted it daily, gaining 20,000 impressions before switching it to our second interview months later. It was a pleasure to give something back by sharing the show with my growing audience and thanking Brian for the initial exposure.

 

"It's not a ME economy, and willingness to reciprocate is a characteristic of great salespeople." (Tweet)

 

I applied the same principle of reciprocity with other industry leaders, who generously gave me a foot-up and supported my content consistently, namely Tony Hughes, Lahat Tzvi, Anthony Iannarino, Jeffrey Hayzlett, Dov Baron, Noah Goldman, Mario Martinez Jr, Jeb Blount, and Mark Hunter to name a few.

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2. Genuine intent

If I comment on an article, I have read it (not just the title). I read every sales book I review (not just other reviews and mash them together). I comment, share, and encourage the people in my network, and because I conduct myself with genuine intent, I don't feel restrained when asking others for help.

 

"You can tell a lot about how people sell by watching how they conduct themselves on social media." (Tweet)

 

My primary goal on social media wasn't to sell books. It was to build my network by adding value. As I wasn't focused on what was coming back, I didn't waste emotional bandwidth on those who give to receive, or take with no intention of reciprocating. (There have been plenty!). 

 

"Striving to add value without an expectation of others builds trust, credibility and a strong network." (Tweet)

 

The following people have commented on and shared my content consistently. I notice and appreciate this. Thank you Larry Levine, Mike Garrison, Shannon Peng, Marc Bodner, Maxwell Bogner, Derek Wysznyski, Tim Hughes, Daniel Disney, Nathan Simmons (plus many more).

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3. Trial and error

When I began writing articles, I had no idea how to structure them. I chose execution over perfection, posting content to the best of my ability and taking criticism on the chin. Anthony Iannarino and I recently discussed this mindset and approach in our interview:

 

"Always bet on the person throwing punches. You pick the skills up as you go." (Tweet)

 

If you look back at my articles, the first few were amateurish, and I considered rewriting them. However, I kept their original format as a way of benchmarking my progress. Each week, I have tried to improve one aspect of my content, for example, adding a shareable link, a call to action, images to break up the text, or improving the impact and SEO ranking of my title (tip: I use Coschedule.com headline analyser). When LinkedIn changed its algorithms, I had no clue what people were talking about, but I slowly improved my writing skills, article structure, and clarity of message, and gained a deeper understanding of how the social platforms behave. If you have any constructive feedback on how my articles could improve, please tell me.

Most surprising was that the articles I didn't like are some of my most popular. This led me to stop second-guessing the reaction and post on different topics to test the water. I always strived to share an opinion (otherwise, it is bland) and stand to be corrected by my audience. This approach instills trust in your network and supports the integrity of your message.

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4. Very hard work

I committed to 1 article per week and 1 book review per week (currently lagging on this) for 2017. It's a big commitment and a lot of work, especially for someone who isn't a natural writer. To explain how much time I dedicate per week (at least):

Responding to messages from my content: 1 hour

Skype calls or in person meetings: 4 hours

Writing articles: 8 hours (sometimes 3x this)

Finding and resizing article Images: 2 hours (sometimes more)

Reading a book: 6 hours

Writing a book review: 1 hour

Uploading to multiple publishing platforms each week (LinkedIn, Medium, Mailchimp, Twitter): 2 hours

Total estimate: 24 hrs per week.

I dedicate from 10pm to 3am each day for this and Saturday or Sunday morning to prepare the articles for distribution.

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Some results from 6 months in:

- Featured writer for TopSalesWorld

- Miller Heiman Top 12 Sales Enablement Movers and Shakers You Should Follow

- Featured in HubSpot, Frontline Selling, Startups.co, Sales4life

- First article went from 50 views to recently average of 15k views per week

- Several inbound job and consultancy offers

- A book publishing deal

The biggest result: An awesome, relevant, engaged audience committed to improving themselves and the sales profession.

Ideas, like data, are pointless unless you do something with them. My takeaway from this experience is that the modern world is about sharing what's inside your head and collaborating with others. Writing helps me crystallise my ideas, and I have learnt a lot about myself, including how much I enjoy sharing my experiences with the next generation of salespeople.

If you value this article, please share it. If you haven't yet received my 2017 research paper, it discusses the differences between selling in the UK vs. the USA, as well as how digital networks are impacting multinational businesses differently on each side of the pond. Download from the homepage.

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