In today’s digital business environment, outbound B2B sales operations are becoming less and less effective. Surveys now indicate that connecting with sales leads and potential customers will require, on average, 18 or more phone calls. What’s more, callback rates are below 1%, while only 24% of outbound sales emails are ever opened. In the meantime, some 84% of B2B buyers are starting their buying process with a referral, while three quarters use social media to engage with peers about their purchasing decisions. The same thing can also be said about recommendations, which influence about 90% of all B2B buying decisions.
Since many sales professionals are prioritizing their sales agenda instead of trying to solve their customers’ problems, most prospects are dodging salespeople during their buying process. In today’s business landscape, customer care reigns supreme. And if B2B organizations don’t look to change their outdated sales strategy, they risk becoming obsolete in the face of self-service eCommerce in the near future.
Social selling is a relatively new sales strategy that puts customer experiences front and center, addressing the growing problem that B2B sales teams are dealing with. With social selling, a sales rep can incorporate social media platforms into their toolbox, generating leads, and guiding their prospects and customers down their buyer journey. This comprehensive, step-by-step guide to social selling will highlight all the benefits and best practices going into 2020 and beyond.
What Does Social Selling Mean?
Social selling is a technique of using social media channels to connect and build relationships with prospects. Some social selling best practices include things like social media monitoring, sharing content, social listening, sales prospecting, personal branding, engagement, and more. A sales team using social selling will want to create and nurture long-term relationships by building trust and rapport, as well as branding themselves as thought leaders and experts in their industry.
A content marketing strategy of sorts, social selling is about answering customer questions by offering different types of content that provides value while addressing their pain points. In doing so, sales professionals will become the go-to people whenever a target buyer is considering making a purchase or is ready to buy.
Nevertheless, this is not a sales strategy that involves spamming your target audience with endless pieces of content, tweets, or private messages. The aim here is to build your credibility and form a meaningful relationship with prospects and customers. Somewhat surprisingly, there will be very little actual selling as part of your social selling efforts. Your goals are to generate leads, nurture them, share content, provide value, and engage on social networks.
Social Selling Is Not a Social Media Marketing Strategy
Even if engaging on social media is critical to social selling, it’s important to mention that it’s not the same as digital marketing. While both revolve around building relationships and using social listening, they represent different parts of the sales process.
Similarly, both rely heavily on your content marketing strategy as a means of educating and providing value with relevant content. The main difference is that social marketing delivers this valuable content to the right people at the right time, while social selling uses it to make sure that your potential prospects will buy from you and not your competitors.
Another major difference is that social selling is done by the sales rep, while social media marketing is implemented by your marketing staff. Successful integration of social selling into the sales process will help your team with lead generation, as well as with identifying new sales opportunities.
Social Selling vs. Traditional Selling
Sales have traditionally implied grabbing the attention of the B2B buyer, interrupting their activities, and telling them why they should be interested in your offer. The aim has always been to make a sale on the spot, with little regard to customer experiences. As such, traditional sales are highly sales rep centric.
By relying heavily on cold calls and a scripted sales pitch, traditional sellers focused on quantity instead of quality. Add to that the information secrecy and general lack of transparency that go into old-fashioned sales, and you end up with squandered resources and sales opportunities. Today’s digital customers, particularly B2B decision-makers, are too well informed to be “worked” by these traditional selling techniques.
When potential customers are on social media channels, they invite conversation. They want to interact and learn, not be bombarded with ads, promotions, and sales pitches. The power that social selling has, compared to traditional selling, is in its social engagement with prospects on social media platforms. Not only are you able to eliminate the need for cold calls but also leverage your social network to get endorsements. As such, your sales prospecting will be smoother than ever.
Why Social Selling Is Important?
If you’re still wondering whether this strategy is right for you, consider the following social selling statistics:
- 74% of B2B buyers conduct over half their research online before contacting a sales rep. Roughy the same number use social networking to influence their decisions. Social selling puts you on their radar much sooner.
- 84% of executives and industry experts use social media to make their purchase decisions.
- 72% of social sellers outperform their peers. Skilled social media sales reps are also six times more likely to exceed quota over peers with limited or no social media skills.
- 87% of potential customers have a more favorable impression of sales professionals if they’ve been introduced via their own social channels and network of connections.
- A third of B2B sales and marketing teams say that their social selling strategies helped increase their lead generation.
Whether you’re ready or not, your sales leads are already “social buying” with or without you. To stay relevant, you need to implement social selling strategies and take an active role in educating your prospects. Provide your target audience with the right insights, content, and information to build credibility and form meaningful relationships. Don’t let your competitors beat you to the punch.
How Does Social Selling Work?
Based on LinkedIn’s insights, around 76% of B2B buyers are willing to start a social conversation with vendors. What’s more, 62% will respond to sales people that connect with them and share relevant content. By posting blog posts and other such valuable pieces of content on social media, sales reps can quickly boost their personal branding and turn themselves into industry thought leaders. The great news about this is that 92% of B2B buyers are willing to engage with such experts.
The key, however, is to understand how and where social selling works best.
The Four Pillars of Social Selling
- The Professional Brand – Today’s customers are highly selective and will only work with vendors they trust. Building a strong personal and professional brand will help you end up in your prospects’ good graces.
- Focusing on the Right Prospects – Social lists and other social selling tools will allow you to engage in social listening. These will help you identify the right prospects that meet your criteria in terms of job titles, functions, industry, etc.
- Providing Valued Insights – Relevant content sharing and personalized social media engagements will build your credibility and brand. They will also keep you on your leads’ radar.
- Meaningful Relationship Building – Building trust with customers and prospects is another key component. Do this by having genuine conversations and focusing on their needs and pain points. Selling will come second.
The Three Major Tactical Components of Social Selling
- Trigger-Based Selling is a top-of-the-funnel technique that uses internal or external events happening around the B2B buyer. Social listening tools can alert you of different events that are happening, such as a lead promoted or mentioning your brand, allowing you to react in real-time. This is great for lead generation and re-engaging cold leads.
- Insights-Based Selling is a middle-of-the-funnel technique. This guides the potential customer down the buyer journey by providing them with information based on digital insights.
- Referral-Based Selling is a bottom-of-the-funnel sales tactic that works by leveraging relationships with existing customers. It works by asking for referrals and endorsements or by introducing prospects to past customers and success stories. Typically, at this stage, B2B buyers are looking for someone to solve their problem and consider selecting a vendor to work with.
How Do I Start Social Selling?
When you get started with social selling, you need to keep in mind the following social selling tips and best practices.
- Social Profile Optimization – In order to build credibility, you will need to optimize your social profile on every networking platform you intend to use. For a social selling strategy to be successful, you will also need to look the part. Examine your profiles from a customer’s perspective and ensure that they work toward presenting your brand as an industry expert. Your LinkedIn profile, for instance, should look less like a CV and more like that of an influencer, industry expert, or thought leader.
- Social Listening – B2B buyers today will share large amounts of information about themselves on social media. Taking advantage of these insights will tell you exactly what they need. By using social lists, sales intelligence, and other social selling tools, you can also monitor what people are saying about your brand, products, industry, or competitors. Paying attention to pain points and recommendation requests will allow you to jump into the conversation and offer a solution to the problem when it’s most needed.
- Personal Engagement – Don’t be tempted to cut corners and use bots and other automated commenting tools as part of your social selling efforts. While these may be excellent for customer care and service, they will be detrimental when engaging prospects on social media. Your communications will need to be personal to form genuine relationships and build trust.
- Personalization and Referrals – Use all the information you are able to gather about your prospects on social media to personalize your messaging. Don’t be generic, even if you are contacting them for the first time. To that end, also use your own network of contacts and past customers and ask for referrals, as these will increase your chances of making a good first impression.
- Valuable Content – The power that social selling has to offer relies in large part on the timeliness, relevance, and value your information has to offer to your target buyer. Use different types of content, whether it’s your own or from a third-party, to address their pain points. Don’t forget to add your own take on how that information can be applied to solve the problem. Mentioning your product or service as a solution is fine, as long as you don’t overdo it or turn your social selling into a digital marketing activity. Refrain from sales pitches at all costs.
- Relationship Nurturing – Social selling is a long game. Click To Tweet Your aim is to build relationships with prospects and customers, then maintain them indefinitely. This means that you need to keep in touch with them over time. Do this by tracking their posts and activities, and by posting a comment from time to time. Don’t exaggerate but react when they post something interesting or change jobs. For example, give your two cents or offer your congratulations. Tools like Nudge or Nimble CRM can help you identify contacts and their social profiles, as well as help you better maintain those relationships.
Getting Started With Social Selling on Social Media Platforms
While the above social selling best practices can be applied everywhere, in this section we’ll be taking a look at how to get started with social selling on the following platforms: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
- Social Selling on Linkedin – Having the most B2B buyers and decision-makers and being the most professional of all social networks, LinkedIn is the best social selling platform for B2B sales teams. This platform is great for asking for recommendations and endorsements from people on your connection list.
Finding new prospects on LinkedIn can be done more easily via LinkedIn Groups. You can join industry-relevant groups and start sharing content and networking with prospects, customers, and other industry experts. LinkedIn Sales Navigator and Social Selling Index are two social selling tools made available to better connect and manage your prospects.
- Social Selling on Twitter – Social listening can easily be implemented on Twitter. Twitter Chats, similar to LinkedIn Groups, allows you to join relevant chats and establish yourself as an industry leader. By using Twitter Lists, you can monitor activities from specific groups. You can create lists of existing customers, prospects, competitors, etc., and monitor their mentions and activities. You can also interact with these groups by liking or commenting on their posts.
- Social Selling on Facebook – Facebook is the largest of all social media channels in existence. Though not as B2B friendly as Twitter and LinkedIn, social selling is still a possibility here. Create a Facebook Business Page and grow your outreach through valuable content and thoughtful comments. The success of social selling on Facebook will rely on responding and engaging with your followers’ posts. You can also generate conversations by asking questions, giving you the opportunity to meet new sales leads or uncover other valuable insights.
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