The social media landscape has evolved. Conversations have become transactions. Businesses require a carefully crafted strategy to initiate dialogue with potential clients while maintaining relationships with current clients. There are three major questions every company must answer as they implement a successful social media sales and servicing strategy.

1. With whom do we connect? The right tools make it easy for companies to connect with customers looking to buy or who are considering a switch from their current provider.

Related: Boost Sales With These 7 Social Media Steps

The latest sales and service technologies use real-time text analytics to read and categorize posts, looking for consumers expressing an intent to purchase or upgrade, customers expressing frustration or an intent to leave their current provider, comparison shoppers examining competitors’ products and referrals.

2. What do we say? When teams first see a high volume of actionable social media leads, they are tempted to copy and paste a response they know works but potential leads must receive a genuine response that addresses their individual needs. It is important to value quality over quantity, so you can initiate meaningful customer engagements. Scale your operation after you’ve mastered this interaction process.

Empathy statements are an effective, traditional customer service tactic that works equally well in social media. When you identify a consumer need, acknowledge it and offer a solution. You’re much more likely to receive a meaningful response.

Related: How to Drive Sales Through Social Media

Among the easiest, most effective ways to open communication with the consumer is to follow them. If the user is having an issue with a competitor's product or service, a simple follow will help make them feel acknowledged and appreciated. If they respond, you have the opportunity to initiate a deeper engagement.

3. What happens next? Social media engagement is just the beginning of your conversation. To turn a prospect into a client, the conversation needs to continue off-channel. You will not, for example, request private information such as account numbers or credit card details over the social web.

By moving to phone, chat or email channels, you can commence your traditional sales process. Opening up the lines of communication with the prospect and establishing a meaningful connection fosters a positive online community while encouraging referrals and exceptional customer service.

Social media is an important sales channel that can achieve immediate bottom-line results. By using social media to positively influence a consumer's experiences, businesses develop more satisfied and engaged customers.

Related: 10 Signs You're Using Social Media Wrong