Social selling is when salespeople use their social networks (often via social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn) to find and engage potential customers. They use social media to build relationships with prospects, by sharing valuable content, answering questions, and responding to comments throughout the sales process until the customer is ready to make a purchase.
While traditional sales methods used to focus on cold calling, sales demos, and qualifying leads, social selling leverages social media to reach new clients and nurture them with individualized content, resulting in a better overall customer experience.
Why Social Selling?
There are many reasons why businesses should care about social selling, and they all point to the big picture: social selling works. Here are two key reasons it does:
Your Buyers are Already into Social Buying
According to an Accenture report, 9 out of 10 B2B buyers conduct some degree of online research before making a business purchase. How do these B2B buyers do their research? Social media.
IDC research has shown that:
- 9 out of 10 of B2B buyers are now active and involved in social media
- More than 8 out of 10 of senior executives use social media to support purchase decisions
- More than 7 out of 10 of B2B buyers are significantly influenced by social media
More importantly, a study by Aberdeen Group concluded that sales teams sell more when they do social selling (64% hit their quota with social selling compared to 49% who hit their quota without). Individual sales reps who adopt social selling also reach their quotas more than those who don’t (46% and 38%, respectively). Finally, salespeople who used social selling reported a 55% renewal rate.
Bottom line, buyers are willing to be in the social sales process; in fact, the numbers show that they’re more likely to buy if you sell to them via social means.
Successful Salespeople are Selling on Social
According to LinkedIn, a platform that’s at the forefront of the social selling movement, over 70% of all sales professionals—and 90% of top salespeople—use social media to sell. Even more importantly, a whopping 78% of social sellers outsell their counterparts who don’t use social media.
LinkedIn has also provided some interesting statistics on how social sales professionals with a strong Social Selling Index (SSI) have 45% more sales opportunities and are 51% more likely to reach their quotas. SSI is an indicator based on how well salespeople build their professional brand, find the right prospects, share relevant content, and build trusted relationships.
The takeaway here is that if you or your sales team have not yet embraced social selling, you have yet to realize your full selling potential.
How to Start Social Selling
Tailor Your Presence
The first key step to success in social selling is identifying the right social network to find your potential customers. Consider why sales people in fashion and lifestyle industries are excelling on Pinterest and B2B sellers are generating quality leads from LinkedIn.
In terms of age, Facebook has the biggest share in all age groups, but Forrester Research has found that decision-makers are more active on Twitter and LinkedIn. If your target market is millennials or younger, you should take advantage of Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.
Regardless of social network, however, it’s crucial to optimize your social media profile. View your profile from your customer’s perspective: are you being presented as a credible company or professional who may have valuable insights relevant to your industry? If the answer is no, be sure to tweak it until the answer is yes.
Create and Share Valuable Content
Half of B2B buyers do research on products and services on social media before purchasing, with white papers being the most popular type of content. However, there is a variety of content that can be of value to your customers and ultimately, your social selling strategy.
For example, if a prospect asks for information on industry best practices, share a blog post or infographic from your company website. If a LinkedIn group you’re a part of is discussing product recommendations, share a video of your product demo. The key here is to share content that will add value to the ongoing conversation—not irrelevant, self-promotional materials.
Build Meaningful Relationships
Remember, social selling is all about building connections. Be sure to stay in touch with contacts on your social network regularly by paying attention to the content they’re sharing.
Hit the like button or leave a comment from time to time to let them know you appreciate what they have to say. If a contact reaches a work milestone or is promoted, send a congratulatory note. If you see someone on your feed with a question that you have a well-thought out answer to, share it—even if it doesn’t directly promote your company or the product you’re selling.
All of these social interactions will add up to you being their go-to person in your industry, and when they’re ready to make a purchase, guess whose brand is going to be top-of-mind.
The digital disruption has significantly changed the landscape of sales and marketing. As you incorporate social media into your strategy to connect with more people, boost brand recognition, and drive sales, don’t forget that social selling is, at its essence, no different from traditional sales.
It’s still about building meaningful relationships with potential customers, establishing credibility, and providing value with your products and services.
So, don’t ignore the potential that social selling can bring to the table. You can be sure that your competitors aren’t!