You have to start with a strong understanding of your audience, and an active content plan that speaks to, engages and builds trust and preference with that audience.  But once you have that, and it comes time to execute, you need to find and rely on a set of tools that will help you execute faster, more efficiently and more consistently to achieve results.

Here are nine of my favorite tools for helping sales professionals and organizations (big and small) accelerate customer engagement, lead generation and closed business from social media.

HootSuite (free or Pro)
I prefer HootSuite over TweetDeck, but both work fine (and there are others). HootSuite lets you not only separate and filter groups of social contacts and content you may be following, but allows you to do so via multiple social channels (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and more) all in one place. This really is the hub for engagement, and with a dedicated process you can get in, do your business, and get out – social engagement with minimal time requirement. HootSuite helps make that possible.

Think of it as Google Alerts for Twitter. Say you want to know anybody says “car broke down” within 50 miles of your city. TwitHawk does that for you. Not only does it push those alerts to you, but is also makes it fast & easy to respond with up to five different offers per search, and throttle those responses out over time so you aren’t spamming the world all at once. Great tool for finding new early buying signals you may have otherwise missed in the social fire hose.

I don’t recommend using TweetAdder to mass-add followers to your account (which is what the tool was built for). Rather, I like the search and sort functionality TweetAdder offers to find more prospective customers, influencers and more you may want to follow, engage and eventually sell to. For example, you can search for anybody with certain keywords in their bio and more than 1,000 people following them back. Lots of ways to slice and dice the searching, great way to find people headed to a conference you may be attending, and so on.
Anytime your RSS feed is updated, automatically syndicates your new content to the social channels of your choice – Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, etc. It also separates the tracking links so you can see unique clicks on shortened links by channel. Simple, free tool that saves you time but will accelerate visibility of new content you publish.
If you find a bunch of links worth sharing with your followers all at once (say, by reading through your collection of RSS feeds), the last think you want to do is post or tweet them all out at once. Timely separates those tweets out over time, sending for example three a day into your Twitter stream with auto-determined timing based on the highest engagement, clicks & retweets from your past Twitter performance. At any given time, I have about a week of great sales, marketing and productivity links queued up and throttled out.

To keep your Klout scores high and your follower list clean, you should occasionally unfollow anyone who’s gone socially dark. UnTweeps helps you do that by sorting your followers by those who haven’t posted in XX days. Fast & easy. Do it once a month.

TextExpander and ActiveWords
If you find yourself typing the same things often as a response to followers or requests via social media, consider an auto-entry tool that fills in a full set of text for you with just a short keyword or key combination. ActiveWords is my favorite, but works only on Windows. TextExpander has less functionality, but works on the Mac. Both will save you a ton of time.

Email Alerts
Those who stand out in the social world not only publish but respond. One of the best ways to filter your followers is to sign up for email alerts that highlight news, profile updates and more from your primary accounts. You can get daily alerts from sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Focus, Quora, Gist and more. Set up an email rule to put them all in a special folder that you look at once a day, and take action on what looks good.

Morning Coffee
This is a FireFox plug-in that, when you press the embedded browser button, opens up a series of pre-determined browser tabs. You can designate some sites to come up every day, or only workdays, or only Tuesdays. But if you’re in the habit of checking certain sites once a day, want to be reminded to send birthday notes on Facebook each morning, give K+ to new people, Morning Coffee is a quick and easy way to remember and execute.

OK, that’s my list. What’s missing? What tools are part of your regular social arsenal to help you engage and sell better?