In today’s socially-connected world, buyer trust in traditional advertising is dropping fast while trust in organic, user-generated content is growing by leaps and bounds. This phenomenon, along with the growth of social media usage, has led to the rise of social selling.

Social selling is when salespeople use their social networks (often via social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn) to find and engage potential customers. They use social media to build relationships with prospects, by sharing valuable content, answering questions, and responding to comments throughout the sales process until the customer is ready to make a purchase.

While traditional sales methods used to focus on cold calling, sales demos, and qualifying leads, social selling leverages social media to reach new clients and nurture them with individualized content, resulting in a better overall customer experience.

 

Why Social Selling?

There are many reasons why businesses should care about social selling, and they all point to the big picture: social selling works. Here are two key reasons it does:

  • Your Buyers are Already into Social Buying

According to an Accenture report, 9 out of 10 B2B buyers conduct some degree of online research before making a business purchase. How do these B2B buyers do their research? Social media.

IDC research has shown that:

  • 9 out of 10 of B2B buyers are now active and involved in social media
  • More than 8 out of 10 of senior executives use social media to support purchase decisions
  • More than 7 out of 10 of B2B buyers are significantly influenced by social media

More importantly, a study by Aberdeen Group concluded that sales teams sell more when they do social selling (64% hit their quota with social selling compared to 49% who hit their quota without). Individual sales reps who adopt social selling also reach their quotas more than those who don’t (46% and 38%, respectively). Finally, salespeople who used social selling reported a 55% renewal rate.

Bottom line, buyers are willing to be in the social sales process; in fact, the numbers show that they’re more likely to buy if you sell to them via social means.

 

  • Successful Salespeople are Selling on Social

According to LinkedIn, a platform that’s at the forefront of the social selling movement, over 70% of all sales professionals—and 90% of top salespeople—use social media to sell. Even more importantly, a whopping 78% of social sellers outsell their counterparts who don’t use social media.

LinkedIn has also provided some interesting statistics on how social sales professionals with a strong Social Selling Index (SSI) have 45% more sales opportunities and are 51% more likely to reach their quotas. SSI is an indicator based on how well salespeople build their professional brand, find the right prospects, share relevant content, and build trusted relationships.

The takeaway here is that if you or your sales team have not yet embraced social selling, you have yet to realize your full selling potential.

 

The 5 Principles of Social Selling

Social selling has the same goal as traditional selling – to drive purchase decisions – using a new approach. That said, there are core principles you need to understand and apply to help you make the most of this sales strategy:

  1. Identify Your Prospects

As people spend more time engaging on social media, it’s becoming the perfect platform to initiate a sales conversation using the information users provide on their social profiles.

To help you identify which people can become prospective customers, look for those who are searching for products or services that are similar to what you’re trying to sell. If you come across someone who has bought from a competitor but didn’t have a positive experience, that’s a great opportunity to come in and sweep them off their feet with your brilliant solution.

Don’t ignore the importance of researching your audience. The more you know, the better you’ll be at crafting effective social selling strategies in the future.

  1. Pick the Right Platform and the Right Tools

Every social network is different. To understand which platform is the most suitable for your business, you need to know where your audience spends the most time and, most importantly, where content engagement is highest.

For example, if you’re a B2B organization, you’ll probably want to take advantage of LinkedIn, since it’s the most effective platform for B2B lead generation. Meanwhile, Facebook works well for B2C because it lets you create a Business Page, which you can use to connect with prospects without giving them the impression that you’re flooding their personal space with business offers.

When it comes to choosing the right tools, it all depends on what platform(s) you choose to focus on. It’s highly recommended that you get a monitoring tool like Hootsuite or Mention. It pays to know what your audience is talking about, so you can tap into any trending topics to maximize your chances of engagement.

  1. Use the Right Amount of Automation

Social media is designed to facilitate social interaction, so don’t go overboard automating your social selling tools. You want your prospects to identify your brand as a real human being with a face and a name instead of a generic brand page. The key is to inject a little personality into your communications.

Employing automation for your marketing and customer service campaigns may be practical, but social selling needs to include more of a human touch.

  1.  Make Your Brand a Valuable Resource

One of the best ways to build trust and authority in the eyes of your target audience is to share content that educates, entertains, and inspires. The more you’re able to deliver value; the more loyal your audience will be when it comes to acting on your brand’s content.

Here are some pointers to help your brand provide real value on social:

 

  • Share answers to commonly asked questions (pricing, discounts and promos, ordering process, delivery schedule, mode of shipping) even before your prospects ask about them

 

 

  • Provide quick and easy how-to guides and video tutorials that are practical for your leads

 

 

  • Create and share insightful posts. Include a brief overview to explain how those posts may be relevant to your audience

 

 

  • Build conversations by becoming an active listener and acknowledging those that engage with your brand

 

The bottom line here is not to keep pushing your product or service to the point that it becomes annoying. Instead, you should take the time to establish yourself as an expert in the field by producing and sharing the types of content that your target audience loves to consume.

 

  • Keep Track of What Your Leads are Sharing

 

Social media was made for sharing, and people aren’t afraid to give their opinion. Your prospects and leads may be asking for recommendations or discussing their pain points on their social media accounts. You should always utilize these types of information to learn more about what they need and want.

From there, you can create opportunities for your company and present your product or service as a viable option to address the pain points of your prospective customers.

 

How to Start Social Selling

  1. Identify Your Prospects

As people spend more time engaging on social media, it’s becoming the perfect platform to initiate a sales conversation using the information users provide on their social profiles.

To help you identify which people can become prospective customers, look for those who are searching for products or services that are similar to what you’re trying to sell. If you come across someone who has bought from a competitor but didn’t have a positive experience, that’s a great opportunity to come in and sweep them off their feet with your brilliant solution.

Don’t ignore the importance of researching your audience. The more you know, the better you’ll be at crafting effective social selling strategies in the future.

  1. Pick the Right Platform and Tools

Every social network is different. To understand which platform is the most suitable for your business, you need to know where your audience spends the most time and, most importantly, where content engagement is highest.

For example, if you’re a B2B organization, you’ll probably want to take advantage of LinkedIn, since it’s the most effective platform for B2B lead generation. Meanwhile, Facebook works well for B2C because it lets you create a Business Page, which you can use to connect with prospects without giving them the impression that you’re flooding their personal space with business offers.

When it comes to choosing the right tools, it all depends on what platform(s) you choose to focus on. It’s highly recommended that you get a monitoring tool like Hootsuite or Mention. It pays to know what your audience is talking about, so you can tap into any trending topics to maximize your chances of engagement.

  1. Tailor Your Presence

The first key step to success in social selling is identifying the right social network to find your potential customers. Consider why salespeople in fashion and lifestyle industries are excelling on Pinterest and B2B sellers are generating quality leads from LinkedIn.

In terms of age, Facebook has the biggest share in all age groups, but Forrester Research has found that decision-makers are more active on Twitter and LinkedIn. If your target market is millennials or younger, you should take advantage of Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.

Regardless of social network, however, it’s crucial to optimize your social media profile. View your profile from your customer’s perspective: are you being presented as a credible company or professional who may have valuable insights relevant to your industry? If the answer is no, be sure to tweak it until the answer is yes.

 

  1. Create and Share Valuable Content

One of the best ways to build trust and authority in the eyes of your target audience is to share content that educates, entertains, and inspires. The more you’re able to deliver value; the more loyal your audience will be when it comes to acting on your brand’s content.

Half of B2B buyers do research on products and services on social media before purchasing, with white papers being the most popular type of content. However, there is a variety of content that can be of value to your customers and ultimately, your social selling strategy.

Here are some pointers to help your brand provide real value on social:

  • Share answers to commonly asked questions (pricing, discounts and promos, ordering process, delivery schedule, mode of shipping) even before your prospects ask about them
  • Provide quick and easy how-to guides and video tutorials that are practical for your leads
  • Create and share insightful posts. Include a brief overview to explain how those posts may be relevant to your audience
  • Build conversations by becoming an active listener and acknowledging those that engage with your brand

The bottom line here is not to keep pushing your product or service to the point that it becomes annoying. Instead, you should take the time to establish yourself as an expert in the field by producing and sharing the types of content that your target audience loves to consume.

For example, if a prospect asks for information on industry best practices, share a blog post or infographic from your company website. If a LinkedIn group you’re a part of is discussing product recommendations, share a video of your product demo. The key here is to share content that will add value to the ongoing conversation—not irrelevant, self-promotional materials.

 

  1. Build Meaningful Relationships

Remember, social selling is all about building connections. Be sure to stay in touch with contacts on your social network regularly by paying attention to the content they’re sharing.

Hit the like button or leave a comment from time to time to let them know you appreciate what they have to say. If a contact reaches a work milestone or is promoted, send a congratulatory note. If you see someone on your feed with a question that you have a well-thought-out answer to, share it—even if it doesn’t directly promote your company or the product you’re selling.

All of these social interactions will add up to you being their go-to person in your industry, and when they’re ready to make a purchase, guess whose brand is going to be top-of-mind.

  1. Keep Track of Audience Sentiments

Social media was made for sharing, and people aren’t afraid to give their opinion. Your prospects and leads may be asking for recommendations or discussing their pain points on their social media accounts. You should always utilize these types of information to learn more about what they need and want.

From there, you can create opportunities for your company and present your product or service as a viable option to address the pain points of your prospective customers.

 

Conclusion

The digital disruption has significantly changed the landscape of sales and marketing. As you incorporate social media into your strategy to connect with more people, boost brand recognition, and drive sales, don’t forget that social selling is, at its essence, no different from traditional sales.

It’s still about building meaningful relationships with potential customers, establishing credibility, and providing value with your products and services. By having a good understanding of what and who makes up your potential buyers, social selling lets you engage with your best prospects on a far more personal level than most other channels. When you’re able to personalize your approach, you’ll be maximizing your conversion rates and resource usage in no time!

So, don’t ignore the potential that social selling can bring to the table. You can be sure that your competitors aren’t!


Find out more about social selling and lead generation through social media with our Complete Guide to B2B Lead Generation Using Social Media today!