You may have heard the phrase ‘social selling’ being thrown around when discussions about the future of new business and sales methods arise. It is common to hear social selling described as the secret formula to business growth in the current digital world. And statistics are proving it so. According to nearly 64% of people using social media to sell experienced a significant growth in their business sales income. This is in contrast to the near 42% of sales teams not using social selling as part of their customer interaction. (Source: Sales for Life: The State of Social Selling.)
But you still might be scratching your head over what exactly social selling entails and whether it is worth considering for your business. Let me clarify things.
What is social selling?
Social selling is making use of today’s popular social media platforms including LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest to add strength and credibility to your business brand and connect with potential buyers/customers, allowing them to interact with you, get to know you, like you and eventually trust you. Once you have earned their trust, it is up to you to sway these potential buyers into becoming customers by making and closing the sale.
Buyers and customers main platform for research and communication is now online. People have access to the internet everywhere, even in their pocket. According to Forrester, 74% of B2B buyers carry out half of their research online before even having a conversation with a sales person. In today’s digital world it is crucial to have a social presence online. Sharing valuable content, being educative and engaging gives your brand a distinct advantage when potential buyers are doing their research online. Businesses that wish to flourish need to make their mark and stand out from the crowd. A company should aim to establish itself as a leading authority in the industry. In order to amplify success and stay ahead of the competition, your business must adapt to the changing times.
Here are three things to remember when adopting a social selling approach into your sales process:
1. Research your prospects
Find out as much as possible about your potential customer, employee, investor, co-founder, business partner or client. Building a relationship with this person starts with knowing who they are. The online world has developed an interesting culture where people are more like to share (even over-share) details about themselves. We can easily discover one’s current job, where they went to school, what they are interested in… This makes it a lot easier to understand each prospect you connect with.
2. Be genuine
Start interacting with the people you want to have in your network. Find things in common and use these to initiate conversation and make a connection. Establishing friendships is simple when you are being genuine. Authentically engage by responding to someone’s blog that you truly enjoyed or make sure to congratulate a recently promoted prospect.
3. Prioritize and deepen your relationships
People want to invest in, work for and partner with professionals they know and trust. Establish relationships; don’t bombard them with a sales pitch. Nobody likes being pushed into buying something. Take charity fundraisers for example. Even though you know they are raising money for a good cause, it is usually off-putting to be stopped every five minutes on a busy street to listen to a ten minute speech convincing you to donate. This sales method is unpleasant for customers. Social selling is about interacting with people in a disarming way. You give them valuable content, solutions to their problems, and your genuine personality. In return, they give you their trust and attention. Nurturing relationships is a lengthy and patient process and calls for authenticity at all times.
Adopting this method of selling has proven to generate around 40% more qualified leads than a more traditional cold calling approach. On top of that, you know you have made genuine connections. Following on from that, a skilled social seller can achieve almost 90% success rate when it comes to the next step of setting up that first face to face meeting with a connection they have nurtured.
What is not social selling?
It is not enough to simply have social networking accounts to make your business look social and grab SEO traffic. It is important for sales teams and managers to realise is that simply having these new age tools is not going sell their product or service. They still need to sell it.
Social Selling is a lot of work and requires patience and consistency over a significant period of time. I must stress – social selling is not easy. Building a globally visible, digitally based personal brand can seem like a daunting task to take on. Then you must research and engage with executives, decision makers and influencers on a ‘social’ level which takes time and skill. It is far from easy.
Your company will not succeed in social selling if you do not reassess and modernise the way you sell. Your sales strategy and your sales process need to evolve with it. For social selling to work effectively, the training, the process and the sales performance of the people are what’s most important. It is about prioritizing a sharing mind-set over a selling mind-set – even if a sales transaction seems like a sure thing from the start. Rather than thinking of selling and sharing as two different things, it is the nature of sales activity that is changing thanks to social selling. To put it plainly, finding prospects is now less about pitching and more about convincing clients through the sharing of information and expertise.
A whole new set of capabilities
Today’s modern and successful businesses do not make money with social networking sites, they make money with prospects who know, like and trust them. Social media is a tool that has opened up a whole new level of relationship building possibilities with buyers and customers. Only when a relationship has developed will they buy from you. Social Selling represents a change in how sellers find and engage with buyers in the digital age. A new set of sales capabilities have arisen:
- Sales teams can build greater networks
- Ability to find buyer conversations faster
- Easier to share content with prospects and buyers
- Simpler to find information about companies and contacts
- Changed the way sales establish and maintain relationships
- Prospect engagement have moved from in-person to digital
- Increased number of channels Customers can access touch points
This proves that new technology has opened up a lot of doors for how we can engage with prospects, build relationships and influence buyer decisions. It has allowed for effective social selling. However, we must not forget that social selling is still selling. It is selling in the digital era. See Social Selling Tips. Without it, a company will see no improvement. Businesses are still selling to their customers, the difference now is that there is greater opportunity to find and develop connections with prospects than there ever has before. Social selling is proving to be a strong weapon in the sales process among the B2B companies who have implemented it successfully. However, the number of sales teams leveraging social selling is still quite small. The ones who are – and implementing it in a tactical way – are seeing significant results that will surely compel the stragglers to catch up quickly.