You may have heard about Social Selling recently but may not have grasped the concept yet. Is it a sales technique? Is it a marketing ploy? Or just Community Management? Publicity about social networks? Or its just a buzzword that relates to everything and nothing at the same time. In any case Social Selling has caught the attention of sales and marketing professionals in recent years.
What is Social Selling?
Let’s go back to basics. Social Selling is the art of using social networks to attract and interact in new relationships to convert potential buyers. This shows that Social Selling is between marketing (attracting by means of inbound methods and relationship management) and sales (making contact and converting). It’s a way of building strong lasting relationships with customers without being pushy. It’s a lot softer than the usual outbound campaigns (emailing, advertising, cold calling).
There are two very simple reasons why Social Selling has attracted so much attention recently. Firstly, it works. Companies who know how to put effective Social Selling strategies in place, before others, can claim higher sales than their competitors today. Numerous studies show this:
- 78% of sales people that adopted Social Selling exceed their counterparts who didn’t
- 87% of B2B buyers have a more favourable impression of someone when introduced to them through their professional network
- Sales professionals who score well on the Social Selling Index for Linkedin have more than 45% opportunities and more than a 51% chance of reaching their business targets.
The second reason why Social Selling is so popular is that it’s a low-cost system. Setting up email campaigns, investing in advertising, deploying a team to cold call all day long, all this involves substantial investment. On the other hand, Social Selling requires a small amount of time each day and perhaps deploying several useful specialist SaaS tools if you want to go a bit deeper.
Main Principles of Social Selling
To set up a Social Selling strategy several basic principles must be understood. Linkedin, the professional network which is a pioneer in this field set down the four Pillars of Social Selling.
- Create a professional brand: B2B buyers are increasingly selective about their providers and will tend to get involved in a business relationship with companies they have confidence in. A strong professional brand will give you a special place in your sector and impress your contacts.
- Focus on the right prospects: Social Selling identifies your high quality potential customers rather than the traditional sales methods. Social networks, especially Linkedin offer the required targeting tools to get in touch with the relevant professionals.
- Engage with insights: present yourself as an expert about everything related to your industry, be active with prospective customers commenting on their current concerns and problems, more than 62% of B2B buyers reply to sales people when approached to talk about relevant topics and real opportunities.
- Build trusted relationships: base your business relationships on the trust of first exchanges by offering new perspectives to your target audience and by helping their problem area before selling them your solution. Real conversations focused on their concerns will put you in a special position, you are a useful contact in their eyes. The sale will happen naturally second time around.
For an efficient Social Selling strategy, you have to master the principle channels which are social networks and review sites. Each network has its own functions which correspond to different goals.
This is the top professional network and an excellent tool for Social Selling. Several functions will help you to develop your strategy.
- Your profile and activity: is a prerequisite for a rich and up to date Linkedin profile. Be sure to include relevant media content on your profile, check your network for recommendations which always have a positive effect on your online reputation. Next always share relevant content, likes and comments on any posts on your feed. Linkedin content goes viral easily and gives really good visibility
- Your network: Linkedin is a search tool that presents a great chance to grow your network in a relevant way thanks to its filter system. Adding potential clients and other key players in your sector will increase visibility about what you’re sharing and also allow you to see relevant content in your feed. This offers many opportunities to react to interesting posts and to establish your position as opinion leader in your sector.
- Private conversations: The chat function is a very good way of getting into contact with the target audience inside your network. On the other hand, it’s better to have a strategic approach, keeping in the spirit of the Four Pillars of Social Selling. Teaser messages with relevant content will have a higher chance of a reply in contrast to a purely sales message.
- Discussion groups: in the Linkedin group section “Discover” make you think of relevant networks in your sector, it’s up to you to identify which are the most relevant and active. Some groups are like industry specific communities that are very involved. Join these yourself and contribute with relevant content.
Twitter is also a social network with many activities connected to the professional world. In the context of Social Selling, it’s important to be up to date with the latest news from your clients, prospective customers and competitors. You’ll not miss the next product launch from a prospect, a merger between some of your clients or, even a new strategy or feature from one of your main competitors.
Again here, the golden rule is to share and react to content in a relevant way, don’t hesitate to mention whose involved in the content of your tweets to involve them. Otherwise some sectors have designated their hashtag as an event with the famous #eventprofs and #eventtech that are always very active, it’s a good way to look up recent developments and giving visibility to your own tweets.
Facebook isn’t strictly speaking a professional network, so you have to be careful as most people don’t want to mix private and professional. On the other hand, it can be easy to link with your target audience by commenting on and reacting to publications, regularly visiting the corporate pages of your clients and competitors, where you’ll definitely find opportunities to start a conversation and re enforce professional relationships. You’ll also find that professional groups are very active on various issues.
Professional Review Sites
Dedicated review sites are exploding. Today you can leave honest feedback on your experience with software, restaurants, freelancers…and now since the launch of Tradefest: trade fairs and conferences.
These sites are the best way to develop your online reputation long term. In contrast to other social networks that operate on a more short-term basis. Make the most of your presence by asking your best customers to put a recommendation on a review site and turn them into an ambassador for your event. In events management it’s a good way to see what is being said about you and your competitors.
Social Selling is not a fundamental change in how to do business, it’s simply a fresh digital approach. The goal is the same, establish relationships with potential clients and as with traditional sales methods, there are tools, strategies and tips to practice Social Selling. This article gives some hints about the best way to start if you’re not already, but the best way to become a Social Selling expert is to do a little bit every day, you will quickly see the value and the return on your investment.