In Loïc Simon’s words, the French founder of the Social Selling Forum, “social selling is the art of leveraging social media to boost your sales.” On the B2B market, it implies to set up a communication strategy on professional social media to attract more prospects and maintain a relationship with your customers. In this article, we’ll define what is social selling, and give you tips, tools, and some examples you can take your cue from!
First things first, let’s make it clear that social selling only applies to the B2B market, despite the fact that the term is sometimes used to refer to sales techniques with B2C targets.
Broadly speaking, social selling is a prospecting technique used on professional social media such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. A technique that, according to LinkedIn, help the most performing social sellers generate 45% more sales opportunities. No less!
Makes you want to get started on social selling, right? Actually, social selling has already become all the rage among sales teams, so let’s get straight away into the details…
What is Social Selling?
Does social selling boil down to posting an article every once in a while, on LinkedIn? No, it doesn’t. It is slightly more complicated than that, for the end is not improving your reputation but “selling”. The name itself says it all: social selling is about leveraging social media to sell.
But social selling shouldn’t be mixed up with cold calling neither. Actually, it has more to do with “influencing” in that you subtly influence a purchase decision on social media without using a direct and intrusive commercial prospecting approach. Here’s what is social selling all about in concrete terms:
- Working on your brand image on social media (LinkedIn profile, company fact sheet, posts, etc.)
- Monitoring and actively listening to your targets by joining groups, following your prospects’ updates and interacting with them to draw their attention to your brand
- Sharing expert and relevant content (ideally that you created yourself) to inform your network of your skills and start influencing their future purchase decisions
- Finding new contacts and maintaining a relation with them to gradually increase your number of leads and drive them to your final goal: selling them your products or services!
Why Social Selling is good for your business?
The figures of Salesforce Analytics study below highlight to what extent the use of social media in purchasing processes has become more common.
LinkedIn adds that 87% of consumers prefer being contacted on social media, and that only 4% have a positive opinion of a brand after being cold called or texted.
Those figures clearly show us that traditional prospecting methods have become outdated. Nowadays, you had better include social selling to your sales processes. Sales reps must be where their eventual prospects are, i.e. on professional social media platforms. That’s where your prospects find information and build relationships even before making a purchase decision.
How can you implement a Social Selling approach?
The first step is to check with your sales teams their stage of social media maturity and have them undertake a training course if they don’t have a comprehensive mastery. Then, here are some good practices to follow to guarantee a consistent and meaningful social selling strategy.
Attune your brand image and your speeches
Post your company fact sheet on every social media platform. Make sure your salespeople regularly update their profiles and provide them with pieces of content of your own so that they can share them: articles giving tips, updates from your company or market, white papers, webinars, etc. Anything that can grab your prospects’ attention. The goal is to display a smooth and consistent brand image and corporate culture by having your co-workers develop their personal brand. Feel free to hold meetings on a regular basis to recall your positioning and share your latest internal updates.
As social selling shares the same mindset as networking, showing a human side is also perfectly suited here. Your sales reps must develop their professional brand and have serious profiles tagged as “expert advisor”, but their own personality also plays an important part. Like the following examples, they are free to detail their experience, roles and ambitions. The most inspiring profiles are the ones working the most!
Don’t be too ambitious!
Using professional social media for prospecting is time-consuming. Target the most relevant platforms for your company. If you’re specialised in selling medical equipment, there is no point in having an Instagram account, for instance, since this social media is mainly focused on “B2C communication”.
Strengthen your credibility
This is linked to your ability to generate conversations on your company’s topics. In other words, you have to post expert content that will give your customers food for thought and draw their attention to your company. It’s part of an inbound marketing strategy focused on lead generation.
You can post all kind of content: videos, infographics, insight articles, short pieces of news, PowerPoint presentations, case studies, podcasts, surveys, etc. If you cannot create your own pieces of content and set up an effective content marketing strategy, sharing content and articles that are linked to your market and provide relevant analysis can also be an effective strategy at first. Above all, put yourself in your customers’ shoes, pre-empt their questions and expectations to answer them precisely and expertly.
Keep the pace of your posts steady to create a routine — it can be once a day, for instance — and enhance your thought leadership. Add your personal opinion to your posts and strike conversations with your audience to provoke reactions and exchanges.
Prospecting directly or indirectly?
Let’s take LinkedIn for example. On this platform, you can directly contact potential customers using private messages. In a social selling strategy, you are perfectly allowed to do so, but you just need to follow some stylistic rules. First, only use this prospecting technique once your profile is fully completed, and you have enough content. Regarding the form, apply the following rules:
- Add a subject line to your message and be concise and explicit
- Explain briefly why you are sending them a message
- Tailor your message
- Suggest them to call you back, exchange by email or redirect them towards your website
Here’s another technique: use groups and forums. In this case, no direct prospecting allowed (definitely not!) since those platforms are for exchange purposes only. Join the groups where your potential prospects and customers are. Interact and lead conversations carefully and tactfully. Your goal is to build trusted relationships and strengthen your positioning on topics that matter to your customers and regarding which they need help.
Monitor social media
Social selling success does not only lie in being active on social media, but also requires “social listening”. Use LinkedIn advanced research feature to broaden your network and find new contacts and decision makers. Then, remain attentive to your targets’ activity and react from time to time to their posts.
You can also set up an alert system that will warn you whenever a new piece of content linked to your sector or expertise field is posted. Google Alerts does the job perfectly, but you can also find the same feature in other social selling tools. https://www.google.co.uk/alerts
Also pay close attention to the comments you receive. Answer them, when necessary, check out the profiles of the people commenting, assess their potential and make decisions accordingly.
Measure your results
Finally, evaluate how successful is your social selling strategy. Using social media is great, but you have to make sure that your strategy is performing well. LinkedIn social selling index, for instance, is a good tool to track your performances.
Which KPIs should you track?
To measure your results, as required in all prospecting approach, check very carefully the following indicators by using a social selling index:
- Number of new prospects
- How many times people have contacted you
- Number of sales opportunities launched on professional social media
- Number of conversions and revenue generated
- Reduction of the sales cycle (has the time to close a deal been reduced?)
- Traffic generated on your website…
What tools can you use to strengthen your Social Selling strategy?
Use social selling tools, including a social selling index, to help you optimally manage your prospecting strategy. They will help you save time and get organised. Use:
- LinkedIn Sales Navigator or Getprospect to easily find the prospects you should target https://business.linkedin.com/sales-solutions/sales-navigator https://getprospect.com/
- Reachout to easily export the contact information of your professional connections (email and phone) https://www.zoominfo.com/features/reachout
- Feedly to effectively organise your monitoring system https://feedly.com/i/welcome
- ByPath to track and measure your results https://www.bypath.com/en
- Hootsuite to manage and automate your posts… https://www.hootsuite.com/
There are just some examples! Feel free to search on your own to find what best suits you!