The importance of social selling in lead generation and the sales process continues to rise. For those new to social selling maybe this explanation might help “Social Selling is a process whereby sales professionals engage and build relationships with decision makers through sharing of content and information”. This can be achieved by subtle input into conversations and publishing articles on the various social media channels. Creating relevant and engaging content which is then shared will get you noticed as a knowledgeable ally and thought leader. Buyers have adapted to using Social Media for vendor evaluation, so business and sales must also adapt, or get left behind.
Here are this month’s Social Selling tips:
1. Social selling training
Social selling training is as important as sales training. It has been found that 93% of salespeople have not been formally coached on the social selling process. Whilst another study has found that LinkedIn is utilized at least once weekly for an average of 6 hours by 96% of salespeople. Considering 93% of sales professionals have not been trained on social selling, therefore they do not understand how to social sell – why are 96% of them spending roughly 6 hours per week on the networking site?
To combat this, I would suggest specific training days lead by a social selling expert. I believe the sales professionals will adapt better to an industry expert relaying the information, rather than assuming it is just a random strategy being pushed by the management team.
For social selling to be prosperous, it must be fully integrated into the whole sales process and every sales person needs to know what is and what is not social selling.
After the coaching, the sales team should engage in an exercise to test their knowledge of social selling, and present their findings to confirm they understand the process.
2. Create a social selling policy
The sales and marketing teams need to work together to share information and KPI’s on social selling. Everyone in sales and marketing needs to have a clear understanding of what exactly social selling is, how it is measured and how they should approach it. This strategy will not work unless everyone understands it.
Social selling is not smash and grab. Sales teams need to be aware that it is a gradual and subtle process that will benefit them hugely in the longer term. Ensure the rules on content sharing, social media profiles and interactions are clearly defined as sales professionals who engage potential buyers in a pushy manner will only damage the brand and business reputation. At the beginning of this process, it is important to set guidelines and assist the sales team in order to protect the brand, by ensuring that only approved content and messages are publicly shared.
3. Build credibility
Sales professionals are the face of the company, they represent the brand and therefore must focus on enhancing the company’s reputation as well as their own. Establishing a strong influencing presence within a given industry can be done through regular engagement on social media platforms; LinkedIn Groups, Twitter and Facebook.
Social networks can be utilized to display industry knowledge, focusing on challenges prospects may have, and sharing solutions to these problems. Genuine engagement and input into social conversations while sharing great content will establish the “social seller” as a trusted advisor. Others will notice input and contributions which may kick-start a business discussion. Remember; select groups and conversations that potential customers are interested in, then position yourself as a thought leader within THEIR industry.
Everyone’s LinkedIn profiles should be professional, such as head shot photos against a neutral background with the company logo in it, NOT a cute photo from the weekend with strobe lights and lasers in the background. Do not be afraid to ask for recommendations and endorsements from colleagues or alumni. To improve credibility means striving to be original and write engaging content to get noticed. Always remain professional, genuine and credible.
This feeds into my previous point and it may sound obvious, but salespeople must know the ins and outs of the industry they are selling to. How can a sales person build a rapport and become a trusted advisor if they do not understand the industry or challenges faced by prospects. Sales is no longer a 9-5 role, salespeople who excel will put in the ground work. If a prospects industry is in cloud computing – then salespeople must eat, breathe and sleep cloud computing!
Deep understanding and genuine interest in the industry will ensure the sales process comes much easier. Sales professionals must fully understand the content they are sharing and not to just use ‘buzz words’ to sound experienced as decision makers will spot this right away. Demonstrate expertise within the industry, read what they read so salespeople can add to the discussion and become thought leaders. A good tip is to check LinkedIn feeds on commutes to and from work; read blog posts and offer thoughtful opinions and advice on conversations.
5. Every sales person is a micro social marketer
Once upon a time most of the lead generation efforts were left to the marketing department. Through their campaigns; they would create content and share it on the company’s official social media channels. This was quite a generic approach, but current Social Selling success shows it is also the responsibility of the sales professionals to interact and engage with their prospects using a personalized approach, nurturing the relationship, and getting to know the prospect in depth.
Sales teams need to have input in creating engaging content, and work with the marketing team for advice on topics. As stated above social selling is gradual. The initial 75% of the buying process should focus on neutral problem solving; this is NOT mentioning your company, brand, products. Finally, when salespeople have positioned themselves as a valued source of information in the latter part of the sales process, only then have they earned the right to promote your company or brand as a solution.
Sales teams are now also brand ambassadors and publishers. Social media has enabled sales professionals to spread relevant content across multiple social media networks. In reality, they are now micro marketers that subtlety engage and share content with prospects who over time will consider them to be experts.
6. Be consistent
No business ever got a 100% response rate initially from social selling, if a business and its sales team are engaging in the right conversations and groups, creating relevant content and sharing industry knowledge – then you are on the right path. Your brand will get noticed eventually, stick with it. Although people may not be interacting, they may still be reading and interested in the content you publish. A business or sales person could be on the way to becoming a thought leader in the eyes of a buyer without even knowing. Don’t worry if the articles don’t get any shares, likes or comments as frustration will only lead to stopping sharing content. This only results in prospects forgetting who you are as the brands visibility declines. This also appears that you are flaky and un-focused, in-turn damaging your personal brand and presence.
For social selling to work effectively, the business, marketing and sales need to be patient, whilst being consistent. The end goal is relationship building; it is a continuous process of reviewing then creating engaging and relevant content, opinions, conversational inputs and sharing industry knowledge. Social selling is not simply sharing one of your prospects tweets and ‘liking’ one of their LinkedIn posts. Social selling with the aid of quality content is a commitment and must be executed daily in order to stay in the minds of prospects or industry leaders.
Be relentless yet savvy as you build social presence within the industry. Social presence must be professional, consistent and insightful. Companies seeking vendors will buy from one who has proven themselves as a trusted source through engaging content, white papers, conversations and industry knowledge.
People want to buy from a person, a personality who can offer advice and solutions; NOT a generic sales pitch.
Social Selling is a strategy where Sales and Marketing are on the same page, with a unified focus on the clear ROI metrics. Using social media as a sales channel is a gradual process where a business gets to know more about their prospects problems or challenges long before they know about your products and services.