Marketers have an enduring fascination with the new, new techniques, new technologies, new campaigns. Marketers will trample each other in the rush to be the first to embrace the latest innovation. Sales, in contrast, tend to be more conservative and sceptical of new ways of approaching sales. So, it is no wonder the sales function has proven to be a reluctant adopter of social selling.
As consumers migrated en masse to the Internet and social media in search of information to support their purchase decisions, social media emerged as a potentially powerful lead generation and sales channel.
Increasingly, businesses looking to stay ahead of their competition are adopting social selling strategies to enhance their engagement levels with prospects and build relationships with customers.
Social Media Selling Defined
According to Hubspot,
“social selling is when salespeople use social media to interact directly with their prospects. Salespeople will provide value by answering prospect questions and offering thoughtful content until the prospect is ready to buy.”
The Buzz Around Social Selling
While social selling is the latest new Internet technique to be hyped online, early indications are that it has potential. This new approach to sales facilitates tighter targeting by sales representatives in their prospecting and enables them to build greater rapport and trust with prospects and customers.
How can it do this you may ask?
Social selling taps into existing connections and networks, eliminating much of the telephone based cold calling.
Early indications are, sales representatives adopting social selling are outperforming sales representatives relying on their non-social sales funnel.
According to Hubspot, customers engaged on social media have budgets that are 84 percent bigger than those buyers who don't engage on social media. Social selling may be enjoying a lot of hype, but it appears to be based on tangible sales results.
A new May 2017 study by Forrester Consulting on behalf of HootSuite titled Social Selling: A New B2B Imperative explores current social selling adoption trends and brings to life some interesting insights into how companies are developing social selling capabilities, including the key challenges encountered to date, and some initial benefits being realized from the program.
Forrester surveyed 265 sales and marketing leaders for their research and found that
“49 percent of B2B enterprises have developed a formal social selling program, and 28 percent are in the process of doing so.”
Currently, only two percent of respondents indicated they had no plans to create their own social selling programs.
What Exactly Is Social Selling And How Does It Work?
Social media selling uses a social network to identify, connect with, and nurture prospects. It effectively replaces cold calling via telephone with social-based prospecting connections.
Unlike conventional cold calling, social selling has the added benefit of leveraging social media’s ability to build relationships and establish trust.
While these goals have always been a core part of any solid sales cycle social selling harnesses social media’s ability to display compelling content brand is kept front and center of a prospect’s awareness, positioning the brand to be the first point of contact when the prospect is ready to buy.
So, chances are, if your brand has a Facebook Business Page, Twitter account, or LinkedIn profile, you’re already involved in social selling.
3 Reasons Social Selling Matters
There is one key driver for social selling and that is, it works!
Today’s businesses operate in an increasingly connected environment and this extends to social media. As the line between work and personal time continues to blur as part of an “always on” work culture, 78 percent of sales representatives using social selling are outperforming their peers who aren’t.
Here are three reasons why your business should care about social media selling.
1. Social Selling Builds Relationships:
Harnessing social tools to listen in on industry conversations are a great way for your sales team to identify leads. Prospects share a lot of information on social media about their needs, wants, and pain points, making social tools the place to research new accounts and contacts. Many may already be discussing your business, competitors, or your industry, so you can feed useful information to them when the timing is right.
2. Clients Are Buying Socially:
Many clients are using social media and social search to identify potential vendors, research them online, and assess their fit with their potential needs, all before making direct contact with a sales representative. If you’re not actively engaged in social selling, you’re not showing up on social buyers radar
3. Competitors Are Using Social Selling:
According to research, 71 percent of all sales professionals are using social selling tools. If you are not encouraging your sales force to use social selling tools, not only are you falling behind but also you are going to find it harder to recruit sales representatives from amongst millennials.
As a dedicated professional social network, LinkedIn is an obvious platform for social selling. According to LinkedIn statistics, 50 percent of B2B buyers use LinkedIn when making purchasing decisions.
Here are three ways LinkedIn can power your social selling activity:
- Build credibility.
- Extend your network.
- Get social via LinkedIn Groups.
Twitter is great for monitoring content from specific groups of people via Twitter Lists.
Three Twitter lists that can help your social selling are:
- Existing Customers:
Keep close tabs on your existing customers and watch for opportunities to reply to or like their Tweets to keep yourself on their radar.
Add your prospects to a private list. Monitor their activity, but don’t engage with the same familiarity you use with existing customers. Watch for requests for help or statements of pain points.
Another private list. Keep tabs on them without actually following them. Competitive intelligence can provide ideas for your own social selling efforts.
Facebook enables you to:
- Engage With Businesses:
Reach out via Facebook likes, comments, and shares. Providing insightful, thoughtful comments, and sharing engaging content, can stimulate reciprocal outreach, positioning your Facebook Page with a fresh audience as your network grows and other businesses share and like your content in return.
- Engage With Followers:
Always respond to follower posts. Interact directly with followers and ask them questions. Channel their questions and issues into your content creation pipeline. Join in the conversation and nurture a sense of rapport which will position your brand as a thought leader.
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Relationships and the ability to build rapport with customers have always been at the very heart of sales. A sales representative’s credibility hinges on their ability to understand the needs of their customers and to provide a solution that reflects the customer’s needs. Social selling builds on that traditional base while leveraging 21st-Century social media tools as part of the daily work environment. In an intensely competitive environment, sales productivity is the key to monetizing commercial relationships and building a healthy network of prospects and customers.