If you ask an open room what they think about social selling, some might respond that marketers have become drunk on their own buzzword.
The science of social selling actually originated from academia. In a 2009 paper—whose title marketers definitely did not come up with—“The Persuasive Role of Incidental Similarity on Attitudes and Purchase Intentions in a Sales Context,” researchers concluded that a purchase is more likely to take place when the buyer and seller happen to share things in common. Soon after the science was published by The University of British Columbia, Nigel Edelshain and other sales practitioners began putting the science into practice and thus became the “social selling” approach.
When putting together a sales strategy of any kind, it is important to understand both the tactical and technical side.
We have created this guide to answer the questions that we hear our community ask the most:
In this guide, you will find the answers to each of these questions, along with tools, tips, and examples that will help you put your social selling strategy into practice. If any questions spark into your mind while reading that this guide does not cover, do feel free to send us a tweet or call us.
Let’s get started.
1. What is social selling?
At its core, social selling is a technology-enhanced balancing act between sales and personal branding. The definition will vary, depending on who you speak with. LinkedIn Sales Solutions defines social selling as a sales technique that is about “leveraging your social network to find the right prospects [and] build trusted relationships.” Sales training company SalesforLife illustrates this concept in the diagram below as the combination of between trigger event selling, referral selling, and insight selling.
When done well, social selling places you in a position of power.
“Social selling partly is our reaction to the buying process
and the way that's changed, but also, social selling is a way
that we can actually get things back on our terms”
Tim Hughes (@Timothy_Hughes)
Instead of relying on your persuasion skills to drive sales, social selling rewards your ability to build trust and rapport through the relationships you nurture and the connections you build. This approach can also offer you greater visibility to the buying signals of your market.
2. Why is social selling important?
Social selling solves problems. Big ones. Social selling sets the foundation for warmer approaches, inbound leads, and a higher response rate when you approach new leads and prospects proactively. The reason why cold calling doesn’t work for most people isn’t that the offer they have isn’t a good one or that the sales rep has chosen the wrong script. According to Predictable Revenue’s Aaron Ross (@motoceo), cold calls fail because:
1) People hate being surprised on the phone.
2) People get way too many phone calls and emails, and with the overwhelm/busyness they just don’t want to talk with people they don’t know and who don’t know them.
3) Cold callers launch into “their pitch” because they don’t have a friendlier way to start a conversation and gain permission/interest to talk.
Let’s pretend that you made that same call but used social media and social networking strategies to warm your prospect first by getting to know them better and better anticipate these blocks. The likelihood of that call resulting in a referral, meeting, or favorable decision would be significantly higher than the current 1% call-to-meeting conversion rate than traditional cold calls are reported to have.
According to a 2015 article by Kevin Scott, who was the head of Sales Solutions at LinkedIn EMEA at the time, “90% of B2B decision makers never respond to cold sales outreach” (but 75% of those decision makers shared that they use social media as part of their decision-making process).
“The art of listening and engagement at a global scale
can be very profitable if done right.”
3. Best practices
The definition of social selling may change and morph according to the sales application and attributes of the business that uses it, but there are a few key elements of social selling that should guide your approach at all times. Here are expert-endorsed best practices that you will find to be successful at any stage of your process, and on any platform.
Listen first, engage later
Sales management advisory SellingPower advises sales professionals to listen to the people in their market in order to identify what they are talking about and what is important to them. Once you get a feel for the conversation and discussion topics that your audience wants to discuss, then start engaging with questions and contributing your own advice.
Tip: Use social listening tools to keep your ear to the activities and needs of your market.
Give before you take
Melonie Dodaro (@MelonieDodaro), the author of The LinkedIn Code, advises anyone who is interested in social selling to first provide value before asking a new prospect to consider your pitch.
Hire the right people
Lucidchart’s Head of B2B Marketing and social selling practitioner Gabe Villamizar (@GabeVillamizar) warns business owners to avoid sourcing talent from the millennial candidate pool simply because of their digital fluency. When it comes to using social media networks as social selling platforms, you need to hire someone who can bring your business results beyond likes and attention.
Lead with your personal side
This is a tenant that we recommend from our experience working with many small businesses and recruitment teams in different industries and with many goals. When you are engaging a new prospect, or inviting a current connection to attend your event, make a decisive effort to avoid jargon and the benefits you see from your perspective. What matters to them? Envision that you are speaking with a friend who happens to be in your sales market.
There are three types of relationships that a strategic social selling strategy activates:
Your ultimate goal (before closing the sale) is to identify, engage, nurture, and optimize as many of those 3 relationships you can in your target market.
4. Create your social Profiles with a Purpose
If we zoom in closer to examine the different social networks, you will find that each social media platform has different strengths and key benefits for social selling. In this section, you will see examples of social profiles that were optimized for sales conversion, why they work, and how to create social profiles that will work for you.
Twitter is designed to share breaking news and events.
As tempting as it may feel to jump on the “ninja” or “guru” bandwagon, nobody is going to search for those keywords. Instead, think: What would my prospect search for when looking for someone like me? Why would this person want to follow after finding me? Below is an example of a well-written Twitter bio that mixes in personal interests with professional credibility.
When prospects visit Skillslab CEO Jack Kosakowski’s Twitter profile (@JackKosakowski), they see multiple points of connection that they might relate to and share. They might share the same interest in sports, selling, or one of the business sites that he was published on.
Tip: Including your location is a good rule of thumb as well. You never know who you might find from your hometown!
LinkedIn aims to help you nurture your network and build professional credibility.
Write your LinkedIn profile so that everything is geared toward showcasing the value you bring to potential buyers. When writing your LinkedIn profile summary, ask yourself:
Check out this example of a LinkedIn profile summary that blends in personal relatability with professional passion. Would you connect with Craig?
When creating your LinkedIn profile, leverage features such as endorsements (these include relevance and targeting features now), customer recommendations, digital media about your business, and LinkedIn Pulse to showcase your expertise and build credibility through social proof.
Facebook wants you to engage your communities by relating to your audience.
Facebook places you right alongside your prospect’s family and friends. When building your Facebook business page, think about how your buyer will use your product or service. How do you exist in that person’s life? A great example of this is Nutella. Their top cover changes, but always focuses on the experience of eating their product. The food item may change from a pancake to a waffle, but the image always includes their product, a familiar food, and a plate.
The content they share to their Facebook page—recipe ideas, engaging short videos that relate their product to current trends, and behind-the-scenes content that invites their audience to join their special events—follows the same theme. The purpose of their Facebook profile is to show their prospects different ways they can enjoy their product.
Instagram loves when you build rapport and trust with prospects through visual transparency.
Sir Richard Branson’s Instagram profile is a perfect example of what social selling is all about. His bio shares his values and beliefs that drive his approach to business. His posts include a mix of personal quotes, short videos, and ads that all center around one theme: moments.
Google+ will help you skip ahead of competitor content on Google…
…if you post often and proactively build your social connections.
Google has been Google since long before Facebook became Facebook. For what Google Plus, the search goliath’s social network, may lack in mainstream popularity, it makes up with its SEO benefits. Optimising your Google Plus profile is all about using your keywords and backlinks to show relevance and target your profile for inbound leads.
Identify keywords that you would like to be discovered for when a prospect asks Google for help with the problem that your product or service solves. Think about what you do and the key benefits you offer to prospect and others in your target audience. If you are in B2B sales, for example, and want to reach fast-growing small business owners when they are ready to buy technology that will help them scale their operations, then “helping small businesses scale their operations” would be a good meta description to include. SEO Hacker suggests optimizing your full profiles with your core keywords in mind. A few of the opportunities they point out, include your:
Using a keyword research tool such as WebCEO's keyword tool is a great help here.
6. Work your Social Selling Process into your Daily Routine
One of the challenges that sales professionals have, when it comes to social selling, is figuring out how to manage their sales productivity as they follow up and pursue leads with social media. To get ahead of this challenge, Social Selling expert Jamie Shanks (@JamietShanks) recommends that sales professionals create a social selling routine that adds social to your current sales process. Shanks advises sales professionals to spend 30-60 minutes each day taking the following actions:
Tip: to remember these steps, think of your daily routine as FEEDing your funnel.
7. Measuring your Progress and ROI
Keep an eye on these metrics and analytics often. They will help you determine if (and how well) your social selling strategy is working.
Use LinkedIn Social Selling Index (SSI) to measure your Sales Productivity
Data from LinkedIn shows that social salespeople create 45% more opportunities than their peers with lower SSI scores and are also 51% more likely to achieve quota. The official tool measures how effective you are in achieving their four Pillars of Social Selling: establishing your professional brand, finding the right people, engaging with insights, and building relationships.
Create business accounts to set up tracking and review analytics
All of the major social media platforms now have social analytics that will help you track how your content and activity is landing with your target audience. Here are a few metrics that we recommend keeping track of every week:
Note: If you see your audience commenting on or sharing an article that you post, take note. These engagements bring the highest sales value and also affect the reach of your content more than other metrics across all of the social media channels.
Your CRM can help you improve your sales productivity by making it easier to attribute leads and sales back to social media activities. Your CRM will help you see which activities, strategies, and social selling platforms are resulting in the best lead and the most sales. Consider investing in a Social CRM such as Nimble to make this process easier and more streamlined. Here is a list that will help you compare the different social CRMs out there in the market (reviews and features included).
Need help identifying a clear path?
How much social selling matters to you and your professional goals depends entirely on what you do, how you use the many social selling tools that are available to you, and how dedicated you are to making your sales strategy successful.
Part of this process includes sourcing and building the right assets. Here are a few posts from our blogging community at Social-Hire that will help you identify and create the assets you need for social selling.
5 Ways to Find Micro-Influencers for your Small Business - Amio Galib Chowdhury (@amicoweb), WebAlive
How to Upload to Instagram without Needing a Mobile Phone - Laurie Wood (@lauriewoodUK), TMP WorldWide UK
Steps for Making the Perfect Video for your Small Business – Holly Zink, SafeGuarde
7 Smart Ways to Start Using Facebook Live for your Business – Patrick Cole
Now that the road to social selling success has been paved with social media platforms and big data, how fast are you willing to run?
P.S. For recruitment teams and time-strapped SMEs, we put together an outline that will help you build a social recruiting funnel which applies many of the insights discussed here to the goal of recruiting new hires and generating candidate leads.
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You might like these blog posts What Does the Internet of Things Mean for Social Media?, Social Media Pitfalls – And How to Avoid Them!, All Together Now: How To Create A Strong Management Team, and How To Upload To Instagram Without Needing A Mobile Phone.