Are you a social seller? Social selling is the art and science of using social media to find, understand, connect with and nurture sales prospects. As tech-savvy millennials are taking over the workforce, it is the contemporary way to develop and build valuable relationships with potential customers so you are the first person a prospect thinks of when they are ready to buy.
If you have not embraced social selling, your sales are not what they could be and you’re leaving money on the table. Consider these statistics:
- Cold calling is dead. Only 1% of cold calls result in appointments.
- Customers research online before they buy. Seventy-four percent of the buyer's journey is completed online before they talk to a salesperson.
- Social sellers sell more. Seventy-eight percent of salespeople using social media outsell their peers.
How to Get Started with Social Selling
To be successful with social selling, it is important to leverage the following best practices:
- Be present and engaging. It is essential to have a professional presence on the social networks used by your customers and prospects. Be sure to look at your social profiles through the eyes of your prospects. And that your profiles present you as an informed, credible and relevant professional that understands their needs. Lastly, make sure you integrate social sharing and engagement into your sales process on a daily basis. If you approach it correctly, it should not take much time and will be worth the effort.
- Strategically listen for leads. Prospects and customers are using social networks to share valuable insights that will help you identify their needs and goals.I recommend taking advantage of social media monitoring applications like Social Mention or Hootsuite to automate the listening process. Monitor what people are saying about your industry, products, company and competition. And, look for information that will provide an opportunity for you to be their problem-solver.
- Deliver value. To be a successful social seller, you need to be an engaged contributor of value. Participate in social discussions by replying to topics with your expert ideas and opinions. Create and share your own valuable content (e.g., articles, videos, documents, etc.) that the community will appreciate and respond to positively. Warning: Don’t be too salesy with your social contributions. The goal is to establish relationships that will eventually lead to a sale — not sell on the first contact.
- Build meaningful relationships. After you make contact with your social prospects, it is extremely important to nurture those relationships over time. Share their content with your network to give them increased visibility. Connect them with a person they would benefit from knowing. Share educational resources they would find helpful and useful even if it’s not your original creation. Do this without expecting anything in return. People like others who are helpful. Likability is one of the critical principals of persuasion that will help you make the sale.
Where to Get Started with Social Selling
When you are getting started with social selling, I recommend you focus your efforts on two social selling platforms: LinkedIn and Twitter.
LinkedIn is the most “professional” of the major relationship social networking platforms, largely focused on business-to-business connections. Fifty-percent of B2B buyers use LinkedIn as a source for making purchasing decisions, so it’s important to be active on LinkedIn to be in consideration for the sale. There are three ways to start using LinkedIn for social selling:
- Build a credible profile. Establish a professional brand for yourself with your LinkedIn profile, including a professional photo, a compelling headline and a summary of your experience. Add rich media to your LinkedIn profile to showcase your accomplishments leveraging images, videos and documents. Make sure to update your profile content on a regular basis. And, ask happy customers to submit recommendations on your behalf. An information-rich profile will create trust and rapport with your prospects.
- Expand your network of contacts. Whenever you meet a business contact, connect with them on LinkedIn. It’s a great way to follow up, expand your influence and keep connections up to speed on your accomplishments. In addition, use LinkedIn’s advanced search to uncover potential new contacts. Once you find them, you can see how you are connected to them. If you have an active list of LinkedIn connections, you are most likely only two or three connections away from the prospect and can easily ask for an introduction.
- Participate in groups. LinkedIn Groups help you stay informed and keep in touch with people who share your interests. Join groups that are related to your industry offered by associations, publications and other organizations. Participate in these groups by adding value to the discussion to expand your circle of influence and connect with prospects.
Twitter is a real-time micro-blogging platform that connects you to people and information that you find interesting. It is a great tool for social listening because it gives you the ability to create public and private lists to monitor posts from specific groups of people. To leverage Twitter for social selling, use it to monitor the following audiences:
- Prospects. As you identify prospects that you want to monitor add them to a private Twitter list. I recommend a private list for two reasons. First, you don’t want to tip off your competitors to the prospect companies you are following. Second, you don’t want the prospect to be aware you have them in your sights until you are ready for meaningful outreach. Look for opportunities to learn more about their business focus, goals and pain points.
- Customers. Set up a list for existing customersto keep tabs on how their company is evolving to remain current on their developments. This list can be public or private, depending on your situation. If you create a public list, you can look for opportunities to like or reply to their tweets to show that you are engaged. If you are concerned about your competitors potentially poaching your customers, I recommend keeping this list private.
- Competitors. Another private list should be set up for your competitors. This will allow you to monitor your competitors’ Twitter activity without their knowledge. You will be able to monitor company developments, new product/service announcements and other important information you can use to sharpen your pitch.
If you are not engaged in social selling, it’s time to get started. It provides you a new strategy to build relationships, establish credibility and turn connections into customers.
Bob DeStefano is a B2B online marketing strategist and professional marketing speaker with more than 25 years of experience helping distributors and manufacturers grow their leads, sales and profits online. He is also a member of the University of Innovative Distribution faculty. Follow him on Twitter @BobDeStefano or connect at svmsolutions.com and bobdestefano.com or by calling (877) 786-3249 x234.
DeStefano’s latest book, Old Dog, New Clicks: Online Industrial & B2B Marketing Know-How for the 21st Century, is available now in the MDM store.