Beginner’s guide to social selling
According to Linkedin, 78% of salespeople engaged in social selling outsell their peers who aren’t doing it.
In the past, social media platforms were reserved for B2C companies, serving as a direct line of communication to consumers. Today, savvy B2B organizations understand the need to engage their customers where they are, which, these days, is increasingly on social media.
As companies struggle to gain and retain the attention of prospective customers, social selling has emerged as an effective tool for organizations challenged by growing competition on a global scale.
If your sales team doesn’t engage in social selling, your company is leaving money on the table.
In this post, we’ll define social selling, outline its benefits, and cover some best practices for implementation.
What is social selling?
Social selling, in a basic sense, it the act of salespeople leveraging social media to interact with prospects and customers, as well as growing a reputation as an authority in their respective industry.
Social selling is a lead generation technique. Salespeople can use it to answer prospect questions and send them relevant content on an ongoing basis until the prospect is ready to buy.
The use of social selling allows salespeople to provide value to prospects as opposed to interrupting their daily lives with cold calls and hard sells.
Why use social selling?
1. Social selling helps cultivate relationships
While we’re on the subject of cold calling, let’s be honest. No one likes it. No one likes to make cold calls (except perhaps the masochistic). No one likes to receive cold calls. And the fact is, cold calls aren’t the most effective sales technique.
A more effective strategy is social listening – using social media to uncover relevant conversations. It can help your sales team identify new leads that are already talking about your company, your products or services, your competitors or your industry.
Once you’ve identified the individuals that may be interested in your offering, reach out to them with useful information. This strategy can increase leads and reduce the amount of time your sales team spends researching accounts and contacts.
Key topics prospects post about their needs on social include their needs, challenges, goals, and pain points. With this powerful information, a salesperson can approach leads with a personalized message, as opposed to a cold one.
A study conducted by CSO Insights revealed 31 percent of B2B professionals believe social selling tools allow them to build deeper relationships with clients. By taking the time to listen, understand someone’s pain points, and provide a valuable solution, you cultivate more meaningful and sincere relationships with customers and prospects.
2. Your clients are already engaged in social buying
Buyers already use social media to research purchases and evaluate brands. IDC found that 75% of B2B buyers use contacts and information from social networks as a part of their purchasing process.
Your prospects are using social media to research vendors and determine whether they may be a good fit. This happens well before they ever make contact with a sales professional.
They may also be relying on referrals and recommendations from other professionals within their network, which helps them make smarter buying decisions.
In fact, Nielsen reports that 83% of potential customers trust brand and product recommendations from friends and family more than all other types of brand promotion. That’s free advertising and it’s hard to beat that.
If your sales team isn’t actively leveraging social selling, you’re far less likely to appear in the search results of prospects engaged in social buying. This results in missed sales opportunities for your company.
3. Your competitors are already using social selling
Social selling is hot among the world’s top salespeople, especially Millennials. A LinkedIn survey shows that 90% of top salespeople and 78% of all millennial sales professionals are using social selling tools.
Organizations not engaged in social selling will have a more difficult time recruiting top sales performers, especially Millennials. As a result, competitors in your industry using social selling are more likely to snag top talent, leaving you with a more amateur sales staff to get the job done.
What not to do
Before we get into the basics of how to use social selling, let’s talk a little bit about what not to do.
Social selling is not about spamming prospects on social media with a barrage of unsolicited posts, tags and direct messages. Not only is this strategy ineffective, but it can also be detrimental to your organization, resulting in a negative online reputation.
Social selling is not just a new way to gain prospective contacts. It’s an opportunity to build meaningful relationships, trust, and a positive brand reputation with prospective customers.
By actively listening, having discernment about the right time to join a conversation and thoughtfully presenting a solution to a prospect’s pain points, you can cultivate a lasting connection with your audience via social media.
The basics of social selling
Now that we’ve established what social selling is, what it isn’t, and why you should do it, let’s take a look at some best practices for implementing it.
1. Avoid automation
Automation has its place, but not when it comes to social selling. You can’t expect to make a meaningful connection by having your bots engage with prospects. Resist the urge to leverage automated social media liking and commenting tools and instead do the hard work yourself. After all, a primary objective of social selling is to present yourself as genuine, sincere, and trustworthy–a bot will certainly screw that up for you.
Social selling helps to build rapport. Nothing accomplishes this faster than talking to a live human being with genuine thoughts and feelings. Leave the automating to your marketing team.
2. Optimize your profiles
Your social media presence may be your first introduction to qualified buyers. Be sure to make this first impression count. B2B buyers are far more likely to engage on social media with a strong, professional-looking brand.
Does your profile show up when prospects are searching social media for products or services within your industry? If not, why? If so, what do your prospects see?
Log out and take a look at your social media profiles from a prospect’s point of view. Is your messaging, look and feel consistent across platforms? Do your profiles position you and your company as experts and authorities in your field?
If you answered no to any of these questions, take some time to tweak your profiles. Optimize them to showcase your organization in the best light possible, and as a valuable expert in your field.
3. Listen closely
The beauty of social listening is that your customers and prospects are willingly and publicly sharing information about what they want and need. All you have to do is pay attention and react.
Create a system for monitoring what people are saying about your company, competitors and your industry as a whole. This can be accomplished through social lists or streams using social listening tools.
Pay attention to things like complaints, recommendations, and requests. These types of posts offer salespeople the opportunity to swoop in and save the day with a relevant solution to the problem at hand.
4. Make a connection
Once you identify a good lead, do some research before reaching out. Do you have any mutual connections? If so, approach the shared contact and ask them to introduce you. Did you attend their alma mater? Do you share a love of fly fishing? Taking this approach is akin to dipping your feet in the world of account-based marketing. Learn more about account-based marketing.
Today, people share more information online than ever. Use that to your advantage by looking for common ground with your prospect and including that little tidbit in a personalized message.
This small piece of information can make your message stand out from your competition’s cold standard template.
5. Provide unique value
For social selling to work successfully, you must provide valuable insight to the right prospect at the right time.
Avoid the hard sell. Instead, talk about the value of your product or service and how it solves the specific problem the prospect faces.
If your company is new to social selling, it may require fundamental changes to your organizational philosophy, definition, and structure. However, when implemented properly, it can become a key driver of success.
Social selling can increase leads, create deeper relationships with customers and prospects, improve your lead conversion rate and result in shorter sales cycles, ultimately increasing your bottom line.
How do you plan to implement social selling into your overall sales strategy? Share your ideas in the comments below!