In an era where digital influence is worth a gold, social selling can be very powerful.
We have gone past the age where all you needed to sell a product is to get people informed about it, whether through cold calling or door-to-door selling. The competition is fierce nowadays, you need to first create a ‘wet ground’ for your products through relationship building before making any reasonable attempt at sales. For one great product or service, you have to offer, there are thousands of other services that are already staring consumers in the face. You need to get out there and tell them why your product is what they need in a way that leads in value rather than a pitch.
There is no better atmosphere to do that than in social media. You can cultivate a relationship with potential customers based on what you intend to achieve choosing your specific platforms. But for social selling, Twitter and LinkedIn have shown to be most effective in nurturing social interactions into sales. Of course, there are other platforms that work better for a specific niche by the nature of their audience. For example, Pinterest could be the best platform to target when you are in a fashion business for most users there are young women in their 30s who have taste in high-end consumer products. The demography which is known to shop the most online.
That said, as social media continues to drive up the number of internet users today you could say it remains the first port of call for most of the people coming online. There is no better place to hook up your potential customers than in a place where they are guaranteed a first-hand experience about your business industry. Catch them young, the saying goes! When people find your business before other similar businesses, then, half of the job is already done, you only need to give them the reason to stay glued to it. You can leverage the number on social media and the open nature of its conversations to do this.
You can also be certain to reach a new audience as the number continues to grow apace on these social networks, particularly for mobile users, according to SmartInsights.
What this suggests is that consumers are more sophisticated than ever before given the amount of information that is available to them on social media. This level of sophistication can best be harnessed through social selling that emphasizes more on value addition than hard selling. It is concerned with developing your thought leadership on social media with the sole aim of creating a halo effect for your products that will simplify conversion.
What is Social Selling?
Social selling is simply the process of finding, connecting and nurturing business prospects into customers on social networks, notably LinkedIn and Twitter. As mentioned earlier, other platforms can also foot the bill but these two are the best. By following, liking, and commenting on other people’s content you are indicating that you share their views which mean they would likely reciprocate the gesture as you foster the relationship. This is why social selling is a process, you are not into it for quick wins, people would have to come off you as someone with immense value interacting with the platform on a consistent basis. Also important is the fact that your social listening skills will have to be on hand.
Through that, you can pinpoint the pain points of your target audience and help in solving them. Being the first person to respond to people seeking assistance is an important skill to master in this process. This will help you to move away from the realm of hitchy cold calling to a new dawn of value proposition.
Why Social Selling
Social selling is an embodiment of all the social media activities that are geared towards selling a product. So, if you have opened a social media account to manage a business, it is more likely that you have set your sight on selling something on the other end of your business, maybe on your brand website. Meanwhile, the burgeoning idea of social selling is unique, in that, it was specifically designed to put you in every phase of your buyer’s journey. In this case, there exists a particular product behind the scene that informs all your social media decisions. This can be helpful to have a focused social media strategy.
Being a new concept, people are gradually grappling with social selling and the belief that it can help salespeople to be more proficient. Let’s see what the numbers have to say about this and why you should give this selling tactic a shot.
- As per a research from A Sales Guy Consulting, 72.6% of salespeople who have incorporated social media into their sales process outperformed their peers who are not. In addition, socially savvy reps reach their quota 23% more often.
- On average decision makers consume 5 pieces of content before being ready to speak to a sales rep.
- 54% of social salespeople have tracked their social selling back to at least 1 closed deal.
- B2B buyers complete 57% of the buying decision before they are willing to talk to a sales rep.
- 64% of teams that use social selling hit quota compared to 49% that don’t.
- 92% of buyers say they delete emails or voicemail messages when comes from someone that they do not know.
- The average cold calling appointment rate is 2.5%.
- 80% believe their sales force would be more productive with a greater social media presence.
- 82% of prospects can be reached via social media.
- 96% of sales professionals use LinkedIn at least once a week and spend an average of six hours per week on the professional networking site.
- 77% of B2B buyers said they did not talk with a salesperson until after they had performed an independent search.
- 84% of B2B decision makers begin their buying process with a referral.
- A warm referral increases the odds of a sales process 2X-4X.
- 53% of salespeople want help in understanding social selling better.
- 71% of salespeople believe that their role will be radically different in 5 years.
- 36% of buyers said they didn’t engage with a sales rep until after a short list of preferred vendors was established.
- 93% of sales executives have not received any formal training on social selling.
- 2/3 of companies have no social media strategy for their sales organizations.
- 50.1% of social salespeople spend between 5% to 10% of their time on social media.
- 10.8% of social sellers have closed 5 or more deals attributed to social media.
These are stunning statistics that can help drive your decision about social selling adoption for your business. Now, having known these, you can get started by following the steps below.
Starting life in Social Selling
You can take the following steps as a sales rep to easily get your social selling underway.
Optimize your Social Media Profiles
Since this will be the first thing people read about you and your business, you want to make sure it knocks the right door from the get go. The impression is what you intend to give here and what people should expect from you. The profile of a salesperson is more than a digital resume, there are smart insights needed to be shared with your ideal customers and what makes you stand out from similar proposition in your industry. So, the need to rework your profile to change the intended audience from recruiters to potential customers.
There is a few options to work on here, your Twitter bio is the main focus to rework. You want to get the best out of the 140 characters? Take the following steps on your Twitter:
- Upload a professionally looking profile picture that shows your face clearly. Capturing your chest to the top is ideal.
- Write your title and positioning statement.
- Mention your company’s Twitter account (e.g. Sales Executive @company).
- Include hashtags that your ideal buyers follow.
- Link to your LinkedIn profile.
- Provide a small insight about your business.
I have published a post about Twitter SEO tips before, you can consult it to further optimize your account for searches. This will help you take advantage of leads coming through searches which have the highest rate of conversion.
Unlike Twitter, there is a number of real estates you can optimize on this professional network. Starting from your byline, summary, work experience, to skills and endorsements, recommendations, and groups. Let’s see
- Again, your profile image is important. While a picture is not a requirement for writing a job-seeking resume, it is an absolute necessity in any digital marketing venture. An ideal profile picture should look professional with a plain background that clearly reveals your face.
- Your byline should speak directly to your target audience about who you help and how you intend to help them. This means the content of your byline should go beyond an ordinary title. You should project the unique value you are known for here.
- Write a summary that reiterates your value and selling points to people. Do this also as concise as possible to capture attention from your skimming readers. You can categorize your summary in paragraphs (3 or 4) and devote each one to a key point. For instance, start with a paragraph explaining your business unique value and strength. The second paragraph should be used to discuss your significant milestones and the case studies of people who have worked with you. Then, the third or last paragraph should contain your Calls to Action and brand email for interested visitors to contact you.
- Complete the experience section with an emphasis on how your products or services helped make a difference in your clients’ businesses, and deemphasize on what you have achieved on a personal level. Make sure to also incorporate your key terms in here while writing your work experience to improve your chance of getting your profile to the top of search results. You can learn more about how to optimize your LinkedIn profile on this guide.
- Target your buyers through LinkedIn groups by joining groups they are in.
- Request recommendations from those customers you have worked with to increase your credibility.
- Post a few pieces of valuable content (preferably visual content) to convey your all-winning first impression and nail down your authority.
Create a social listening dashboard
You can use Google alerts to do this and configure your email notifications using specific terms to monitor conversation about or that concerns your business from different sources. These trigger events could include when potential customers asked questions about problems they are facing or started discussions on a related topic. You can quickly jump into the conversations and respond to those queries, being the first to do that is better. Trigger event could also be when prospects share news in their company like work anniversary, new appointments, and promotions, you can easily visit their page and drop off a comment to get in the helm of that discussion. You can consult this guide to learn how to create an all-capturing and free social listening dashboard.
Participate in LinkedIn groups and other relevant forums
You were never on LinkedIn until you joined up in groups and take part in discussions. Groups are where the real targeting and networking are done on LinkedIn. Not only that, they broaden your horizon on this visual network. It could be daunting to build a momentum for your sales process as a new member on LinkedIn, but you can accelerate the process by being an active participant in group discussions. Post content that your target audience will like to start a discussion. Make it a visual appeal. Send a personalized connection request to people engaging (liking and commenting) with your post. Take the relationship further by engaging with relevant content posted by other members. While doing this, one key thing to keep in mind is to avoid salesy content.
You should also resist the temptation of spamming the groups by posting content too often. Posting twice or three times in a week is ideal.
One great thing about LinkedIn is that the more you interact with other members the more profile views you will get and more people getting referred to your website. From my experience, each content I posted in LinkedIn groups has brought me a minimum of 5 profile views and 1 connection request.
Ask to be referred
Referrals can unlock anything in digital marketing sphere. 84% of B2B decision makers said they begin their buying process with a referral. If you have found a prospect that you will like to connect with on LinkedIn. Take a time to check his/her profile to see if you both have any connection in common. Ask the mutual connection to introduce you to the prospect. You will see it is much easier this way.
Have a list of blogs you follow
Apart from keeping yourself updated with relevant information, you also need to read some blog posts published by your potential customers to know which type of content would resonate with them. You can find out about this by subscribing to relevant blogs in your niche through email or RSS reader. You could cultivate further a relationship with them by dropping off thoughtful comments in some of these blogs.
Start a blog
A blog can be a powerful medium to infuse your authority and grow your business. But have it that you don’t need to own a blog to be successful in social selling. Effective content curation should be enough to satisfy the digital consumption of your potential customers. But blogging enables you to add a unique perspective to your content and be able to come up with original posts whose credits are all attributed to your business. You can take the following steps to get started with your business blogging
- Choose a topic that your potential customers will care about. You can use Google keyword planner to figure out the buying intent of some queries to know what those searchers truly want.
- Write a catchy headline to invite more eyeballs to your blog. You can consult this resourceful guide on power words that are known to attract blog readers.
- Avoid pitching too often in your posts. This will drive your readers away when they see you are solely out to sell your products. Give out valuable information first and you will be duly rewarded for that.
- Add a unique voice of your own. With millions of blogs that are in existence today, there is no need saying the blogosphere is saturated. To stand out is to be original, creative and spontaneous. Finding your voice could be key to scale through these competitive hurdles.
There are a lot more things to discover along the line, but be aware that there is no hard and fast rule in blogging. Just make sure all the content posted are original with your own ideas added. I will also advise to self-host your blog. Blogging on a free platform could come with its challenges in future. You can choose WordPress and get your blog running in 5 minutes.
Consider using LinkedIn Sales Navigator
Being a largest professional social networking site, LinkedIn has the tool of its own to help sales reps better manage their process. LinkedIn Sales Navigator is a premium service that helps sale reps discover new leads based on location, industry, company size, etc and then build their prospect list. It is priced at $79.99 per month, with a discount for annual subscriptions. You can get the better idea about how to use this tool by listening to this video tutorial from social selling trainer, Kurt Shaver.
How to keep up with your social buyers
This is the most important aspect of the social selling. All the aforementioned tactics will be meaningless if you don’t get out there and engage with people who are going to buy your products. You should be doing that on a consistent basis as well, meaning that you should develop a routine around your social networks. Let’s take a look at the tasks you will have to complete daily to keep up
- Keep your status updates fresh by posting regularly (at least once per day).
- Start a discussion on LinkedIn groups with your cornerstone content.
- Send personalized connection requests to people liking and commenting on your content.
- Check out the people viewing your profile.
- Send personalized connection requests to your profile viewers.
- Organize “hot” buyers in a LinkedIn folder.
- Share content with hot buyers.
- Review LinkedIn notifications.
- Reply to messages.
- Review any additional trigger event alerts.
- Create a handful of new conversations.
- Follow the people liking and re-tweeting your tweets.
- Check out on those @mentioning you and connect with them.
- Reciprocate the follows of interest users.
- Include visuals to tweets and schedule at the optimal times.
- Reply to direct messages.
- Research influencers in your niche and follow their followers (you can automate this).
- Keep a decent balance between followers and following, to make sure followers is always greater than following.
- Participate in Twitter chats.
- Re-tweet tweets from potential customers.
- @mention “hot” buyers in tweets.
Having said this, let’s look at these general social media engagement metrics:
Comments are a powerful way to express your opinion on a subject matter and reinforce your thought leadership. You can use social media commenting to foster a relationship with business prospects. A single thought-provoking comment is enough to get you on the radar of a potential customer. People cherish it when you comment on their post because it makes the content look more relevant. They can reciprocate this by commenting back on your post. Doing this with potential customers and you can be on your way to winning happy buyers.
Social liking is a simple way of giving a nod of approval to something you care about without committing too much to the conversation. But social likes can work differently based on a platform, for instance, likes are equivalent to shares on LinkedIn, what do I mean, because liking a post on the platform will automatically send notifications to the streams of your first-degree network about the content. While the post author will get the notification on their LinkedIn alerts.
On Twitter, users can find out when you liked their posts or posts they were mentioned in by clicking the “Notifications” on top of their page. I, personally, do check this place to see the people mentioning, liking and re-tweeting my posts on the platform. And I believe many users are doing the same.
The thing is that you can engage with prospects by liking what would benefit them on LinkedIn to spread the words. While Twitter “likes” are a bit subtle, but believe me if I say users do check their notifications on Twitter to see people liking their tweets. So, you should also like what your target audience posted on Twitter to engage with them.
Of course, social media, in itself, is about sharing. What you share and how you share them can go a long way to determining the people who are attracted to you. If you are the type who only tweet content about your business on Twitter, it’s time you mixed things up and started incorporating others’ content into your stream. This will nix the notion that you are solely out to sell rather than connect when people are checking on your profile. Sharing is a great way to connect because whatever content users posted on social media are seeking for people who can provide more mileage. You should tag post author while sharing their content. Your re-tweets that include the @username of the original tweeters are more likely to create impressions.
How to measure your Social Selling
Just by having enough time for checking your metrics, you would be amazed by how many hours you could save by shedding meaningless activities in your social selling. You need to be able to track your social media activities and quantify your results, preferably, in monetary terms. But the effects are not linear, as there is no formula yet that you can use to correlate a number of leads with certain social media actions like re-tweets, comments, and likes. But there are still a number of ways you can measure your social selling and be able to arrive at a desirable result.
Social Selling Index (SSI)
LinkedIn’s social selling index will rank salesperson’s proficiency in four quadrants: Create a professional brand, find the right people, engage with insights, and build strong relationships. Each is assigned a value from 1-25, and the four numbers are totaled for an overall SSI score. Track the change in this score over time to understand how your social selling is moving.
Include social sources in Google Analytics
Google analytics can help you uncover what leads came from social media and which URLs that brought them. All you need do is to set up a goal in your analytics and create campaign URLs that will track how many users that clicked through to your site and whether they went ahead to become customers. To check this metric, from your “Reporting” tab, go to Acquisition > Campaigns > Social > Conversions. To find out more about this, I have written a guide on how to measure your social media ROI, where I have covered this topic in detail.
Klout is a service that measures users’ social presence and assigns a score from 1-100, the more influential you are the higher would be your Klout score. You can compare your degree of influence with other sales reps to give you some insights about their influence. You should also track changes in your Klout score over time as you begin your social selling initiative.
Over to you,
What about you? Does your business have any social selling initiative? What tactics have been most helpful to your sales reps?