Social selling and your “social selling index” is a hot topic at the moment. If you’re in sales, then you can’t avoid it. Given the proven benefits that social selling can bring about for business revenue, many companies are now implementing it into their sales strategy. So can your Social Selling Index help you do this more effectively?
Research from LinkedIn reveals that 90% of decision makers won’t answer a cold call, (plus it takes 8 attempts to get a cold sales conversation going) making the process an increasingly ineffective use of sales resources. The flipside is that 75% of today’s B2B buyers use social media in their decision making process – making it a prime platform for interacting with potential customers.
What is a social selling index?
The social selling index (SSI) is a LinkedIn feature for sales teams which takes account of your company’s LinkedIn activity based around the four pillars of social selling, and quantifies it on a 1 – 100 scale index. It measures how effective your efforts have been at 1) establishing your professional brand, 2) finding the right people, 3) engaging with insights and 4) building relationships. The more your LinkedIn activities have related to these four pillars, the higher your social selling score will be. Basically, the SSI is a way of promoting exactly how organizations, especially sales people, should connect and interact with prospects on social media.
Since ‘social selling’ is the new secret weapon for sales people in the 21st century, it is a good thing that LinkedIn has created this diagnostic, as it raises awareness of social selling and gives people a benchmark. The SSI score is designed to help you monitor your team’s activity, objectively adjust your online efforts, help sales reps discover new opportunities, and allows you to benchmark your score against peers and competitors.
How to boost your SSI
Each pillar of social selling is worth 25 points on the SSI. So to improve your score, each pillar needs sufficient attention. Here’s some tips on how to improve your activity, and raise your score.
Pillar 1) Establish your professional brand
Having a strong brand presence across social networking sites solidifies your business credibility and builds trust. If you present yourself well to online viewers, it helps establish yourself as a thought leader. And according to survey data from LinkedIn, 92% of B2B buyers will engage with sales professionals if they are known industry thought leaders. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, but here’s exactly how you can achieve this professional reputation through LinkedIn:
- Make sure your LinkedIn profile is 100% complete, including headshot, background image and personal summary.
- In your ‘Summary’, speak the language of your target customer.
- Use rich media in your ‘Experience’ and ‘Summary’, including YouTube videos Slideshare.
- Add key skills and request recommendations from your seniors and key customers.
Pillar 2) Find the right people
LinkedIn Founder – Reid Hoffman, says “your network is the people who want to help you, and you want to help them, and that’s really powerful.” That’s why it’s important to connect with the right people. As the SSI monitors how well you engage on LinkedIn, and analyses the value of connections and relationships, it’s worth getting right – for your score and for your sales. So waste no time and zero in on decision makers, research potential prospects and use friendly introductions to grow your network.
- To identify the right prospects, there are different options. One way is by making use of LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator. This tool allows you to use filter criteria such as seniority, skills or role to find potential prospect profiles (who are out of your network). Or if you want to eliminate the research process altogether, automated lead generation services will consistently provide you with quality, verified leads based on your prospect criteria, so you can focus your efforts nurturing the most relevant leads online.
- Make a shortlist of companies to follow.
- Try to find 10 influential people in your target companies.
- Find out who has viewed your profile. Engage with them.
- Check out who shares, Likes and Comments on your posts.
Pillar 3) Engage with insights
It’s simple – if you’re not engaging with potential customers at every opportunity, you won’t get far. Engagement creates visibility and visibility creates opportunities!
It helps to look out for and share conversation-worthy content to attract and build relationships. Over 60% of B2B buyers said that they appreciate hearing from a salesperson who provides insight about their business, and LinkedIn groups are the prime spot for you to do this.
Consistently engage with valuable insights and you’ll do more than raise your SSI; you’ll intrigue leads and build long-term credibility with social audiences as a whole.
- Join as many relevant groups as you can.
- Consistently post content that projects you as a trusted source of industry insight.
- Make sure you post a mixture industry content and ‘how to’ content.
- Like, Share and Comment on your connection’s posts.
Pillar 4) Build trusted relationships
Remember this quote from author and entrepreneur, Seth Godin – “Tribes don’t have to be very big to be effective. If you have 1,000 true fans, 1,000 people who will drive across the country to see you perform, 1,000 people who will tell their friends, that is enough to make an impact.”
For social selling to be done effectively, you must remember that it’s about assisting prospects first, and selling product second. Sales should be a by-product of the assistance you give your target audience. Solve business problems they have and build genuine trusted relationships. You are sure to see sales success this way.
- Connect with your network and your prospects leveraging your 2nd degree connections.
- Always send out personalized invitations including why.
- Connect with colleagues so you can ask for referrals
- Keep in Touch: If it’s a connection’s birthday, wish them well. If they get a promotion or new job, congratulate them.
- Listen out for prospects who express a problem and help them.
But avoid these common pitfalls
Although LinkedIn’s social selling index is an all-round useful tool for monitoring your effectiveness online and encouraging the strategy of social selling, it’s not perfect. It does have some shortcomings. Below are two common problems to be aware of when using the social selling index.
The first problem is that the SSI does not measure quality. As a sales person, you could literally spend all day sharing cat memes with your prospects and still raise your “Engage with Insights” score. You could post low quality, irrelevant content every day and it’ll still look good to your sales manager based on the SSI. But this won’t do you any favors. Remember – at the end of the day, revenue is the only true indicator of your activity’s effectiveness. The SSI is just a helpful tool for teaching sales people how to improve their selling technique online. If your SSI score is be-all, end-all of determining your social selling success, you’re not guaranteed to see the money flowing in.
So make sure to share valuable content, content that intrigues and solves your prospects problems. Ultimately, this is the type of content that will help sales reps build trust and move potential buyers along their journey.
The second problem is that LinkedIn’s Social Selling Index is limited to, well, LinkedIn. No surprise there. But even though LinkedIn is the prime place for professional networking, it should not be your only social selling platform. A good social selling strategy will span several networks. Twitter, for example, makes an excellent social selling network.
It’s easier to connect with your potential buyers on Twitter. It’s also easier for potential buyers to find you. As well as that, Twitter users typically present a more well-rounded picture of themselves, which is helpful when it comes time to build rapport with them.
So that’s what you need to know about LinkedIn’s Social Selling Index. Even though it has its shortcomings, the SSI can still be a wonderful tool to help sales people fine-tune their social selling technique so they can reap the benefits that this new-age selling strategy can offer.