Social media has changed everything about selling. Social selling is now one of the most effective ways to promote a brand. According to the nearly 64% of people using social media to sell “they experienced a significant growth in their business sales”. This is in contrast to the near 42% of sales teams not using social selling as part of their customer interaction.
Selling is going through a transitional period since the emergence of the internet. Despite social selling being on the lips of almost every sales leader, many companies haven’t come around to actually making the leap. Some sales people may say ‘why would I want to involve my business with a platform that’s filled with what people ate for lunch that day’. This is often an excuse for avoiding social media in the selling process.
But if this is your excuse, you must realize that you’re missing out on a huge social opportunity. The reality is that a large social media community can spread and amplify a message rapidly as oppose to relying on one happy customer to mention your company to a friend over a business lunch. If you have one die-hard follower, they will ultimately help you by recommending your material onto his business audience. And if that follower happens to have 5,000 connections, very quickly your business message and brand can be promoted around the virtual world rapidly.
I believe that most of this reluctance is a case of salespeople not understanding how to practically apply the use of social media and social engagement strategies to their selling process. Let me make things a little clearer:
Best platforms for social selling
Don’t think that social selling means simply making a business Facebook page and sharing your content among the static noise of selfies and funny cat videos with whoever you happened to add as a friend. Sure, Facebook is a good network, especially for B2C, but B2B companies can hone in on more relevant platforms and specific groups to optimize their selling success.
Before joining a social network to make sales, you must know your client base. For a sales rep, LinkedIn can be a goldmine for finding new prospects that would be a perfect fit for their product or service. It is an excellent professional networking site which is effective at securing leads. Not just leads, but also the right kind of leads.
Join the right communities
For a sales rep, LinkedIn can be a goldmine for finding new prospects that would be a perfect fit for their product or service. Each group on the platform is drawing like-minded professionals into a single space to interact and share content, effectively serving up a neatly packaged bundle of potential leads for sales reps and marketers.
For example, let’s say that you work for a business that provides services to real estate agents. Online groups chats which your prospects (i.e. real estate agents) are likely to be members of the following categories:
- Industry-related groups (The Real Estate Networking Group)
- Topic/skill-related groups (Real Estate and Home Staging FYI)
- Profession related groups (Real Estate Professionals and Vendor Network)
- Event-related groups (RENE- The Real Estate Networking Event)
- Product-related groups (ePro REALTOR User Network)
Listen and share
As much as social selling is about social engagement, it is equally about social listening. Online networking sites is not the place for pushy sales pitches. In fact, this can be seriously off-putting and may damage your brand. Instead, use social media to listen and understand your target audience in order to add value.
Take this as an example – imagine you are a charity fundraiser on a busy shopping street trying to stop passers-by and convince them to donate to Third World children in need. People may admire the work of your charity but stopping them in their tracks and delivering a slightly aggressive sales pitch is off-putting, let’s be honest. It’s rarely successful. I see people bury their heads in their phone and run past these reps every time I’m on a main street. But what if, instead, you happen to stumble upon a group of people on that street already talking about children in need. Then you could listen in on their opinions and worries about the topic. Once you’ve done that, you can join in the conversation and add value by explaining the positive impact of your charity for Third World children, and then tell them how they can get involved and donate. A much more effective approach, right?
Well this is exactly what social media sites allow you to do. You can target relevant groups who are already interested and talking about your industry. Then share content that may help them with their business issues. Everyone appreciates those who help them out. Sharing valuable content makes prospects take notice of you. It’ll also help establish you as a thought leader, a field expert that buyers can trust.
Build relationships effectively
I’ve read so many articles saying that Liking, sharing, and retweeting your prospects posts is a sure fire way of building relationships with them. This is true to a small extent, I mean it can’t hurt, but honestly it won’t get you on their radar. Even commenting on their post “some great points Michael, I really enjoyed this” won’t have much impact in terms of social selling. It’s like being at school and wondering why you haven’t made any friends, even though you’ve already waved at everyone and said hello.
To really build up trusting relationships with prospects, try to get a discussion or debate going. Let’s say you post a thought leadership article in one of your LinkedIn groups. Maybe this content is slightly controversial or one that not everyone would agree on. Comment below the post and ask your prospects what their opinion would be on the topic. Perhaps they can add a new view. If you’re lucky you can get a long thread of opinions going. Make sure to challenge their points or add a different perspective to the discussion. This will definitely make your prospects remember you and respect you as a credible source for knowledge. But remember to never cross the line into flat-out arguing with people. You don’t want to be trolling online debates with nasty comments. You want your persona to be a voice that adds an enlightening perspective on topics people want to talk about.
Being able to develop and maintain prospect relationships online often means that customers will keep coming back to your business time after time. Social media allows you to maintain customer loyalty more effectively. What many companies still don’t realize is that it’s far more cost effective to keep your current customers than it is to acquire new ones. 70% of companies say it’s cheaper to retain a customer than acquire one and 49% say that, pound for pound, they achieve better ROI by investing in relationship marketing over acquisition marketing, according to Cross-channel Marketing Report 2013.
Selling on social media for lead generation requires a restructuring to companies’ sales strategies. It is a strategic business commitment requiring time, money, planning and effort. It is not an optional add on. Now in the 21st century, the short term tactical approach to selling is becoming less and less effective. Businesses need to act fast and start investing where clearly all the activity is happening – online, through social referral and community recommendation. Not adapting to the more social, long term strategy of online selling now leaves businesses at a distinct disadvantage and later will leave them behind completely.