Social Selling: A Guide to Getting Started

Posted Jun 22nd, 2015 in Social Media, Sales

Social Selling - Guide to Getting StartedAll B2B Salespeople, Entrepreneurs, and Executives need to have a Social Selling Strategy.  Successful companies with an extensive network of clients also find benefits from introducing social media into their sales strategy.

Social Media does not replace face-to-face meetings, but it is another way to keep the conversation going long after you left the room.  Is there a  sales person reading this that doesn’t have a mobile phone? I doubt it, but a decade ago there would have been a few people putting up their hands to say they never had a mobile phone before, so why should they need one now. 

Why? Education, Lead Generation, Building Relationships

There are benefits of social media for B2B sales and business development.  Social Media offers an outlet of communications for both listening and engaging in conversations that we all know that the more opportunities we have to interact can lead to sales opportunity and a chance to build stronger relationships.   It helps people find you when searching online, and it offers the opportunity to build your brand and thought leadership.  As well, it extends your reach to a larger audience; an audience that you may never have had the opportunity to meet with in-person.  This translates to opportunities at all levels of the sales funnel. 

2015 Social Selling Statistics

•  72% of B2B buyers used social media to research their purchase decision in 2014.

•  79% of sales people that use social media outsell their peers.

•  53% of buyers said they peer recommendations before they make a purchase.

•  65% of buyers feel the vendors content had an impact on their final purchase decision.

Social Media in the past has been relegated solely to the marketing team, but this is not the case any longer.  Your customers and prospects are looking to the internet for information when considering a purchase.  They want to know how to solve a problem and what solutions are available.  Are there any subject matters? They want to find the best solution provider for their business needs, and that means value and expertise.  Marketing provides the materials, and a high level of listening, but it is You, the sales rep, who is out there looking for new leads and managing client relationships.  Social media offers an ideal conduit of communication that can bring your networking to the next level.

The goal of sales is to acquire new business and to have repeat business from current clients.  Social Media can help sales reach their goals.

•  64% of sales teams that use social selling hit quota, compared to 49% that don’t.

•  Reps hit quota with social selling: 46% of sales reps using social selling achieve quota, 38% who aren’t, don’t.

•  Sales reps who use social selling, report a 55% customer renewal rate and a sales forecast accuracy of 54%.

Are you convinced that you need to get started? 

Great!  Here is what you need to consider when developing your social selling strategy

Your Online Persona, or Brand

Be who you are, but be who you want to be.  Your online brand is an extension of your offline brand so be authentic when making a first and long lasting impression.  A professional mentor, coach or manager is often more objective, so ask for their opinion.  If your business is to sell products or services to business executives, then your profile photo and tone of speech should be professional.  If you are selling to the cycling industry or alternative healthcare industry, then my suggestion is to focus on business casual.  Keep the tone professional but not too serious.  To show your authenticity and credibility, make sure you talk about your life outside work that supports your expertise and interest in the field. 

“In sales, it's not what you say; it's how they perceive what you say.” - Jeffrey Gitomer

First Impressions, Lasting Impressions

When you walk into a room of prospective clients, what is the impression you want to leave with them?   What leaves the impression is the clothes you wear, the words you choose, the strength of your handshake, your smile, the way you stand, etc.  Online is no different, in that we need to pay attention to these details.  The art of social selling though has some added nuances that must be considered.

As sales people, we are very conscious of how we are perceived by someone when we meet them.  When we meet someone in person and start to talk about our products, services, or subject matter, we have the luxury of watching their body language as they listen.  Even on the telephone we have the tone, flexion, and pauses in the speech as an indicator if they are receiving the information as intended, or their current sentiment.  This information lets us adjust our words, our tone, our timing.  With social media, we do not always have that luxury.  Emails were the first of the digital communications that made it challenging to get our point across and listen effectively.  Video conferencing is not bad, but that only happens after you get a meeting.  Nothing will replace being with someone face-to-face, but the reality is that we live in a global economy and a fast paced one, where digital communications are essential to doing business.

Think twice before you post.

When you have a conversation in a physical place, you see who you are talking with, and you know that anything repeated beyond those walls is hearsay.  When engaging in conversations on social media, your comments, photos, videos are  ‘forever’, and can be shared with many people at a viral rate.   Think twice, and think again, before posting.  This includes comments in response to some else’s blog, posting a tweet, responding to an angry customer online, or adding a photo to your Facebook account, especially those from company events.  The lines between professional and personal online branding are blurred.  All employees need to be careful on social media, but as a sales person it is even more important.  Experienced and successful sales people spend years building their network of connections. Their livelihood is based on a reputation of trust and customer service excellence.

Social Media offers a competitive advantage because of the doors that it opens to new markets and communications to be introduced to, manage and build relationships.  Take the time to learn best practices on how to leverage social media effectively to meet your sales goals and build on your current successes.

What if I do something wrong?

Social selling begins with learning the tools, a few rules of online etiquette:  Public Relations 101.  Be authentic, be nice, apologize if you say or do something wrong, and post with the thought that anyone at any time can read or see it.  If a conversation gets heated or private, take it offline, and then respond appropriately.  Find out what your company has in place for policies and processes on how to respond to certain situations.  If you represent multiple product lines, make sure to review your contract to see if there is anything of which you need to be aware.  If you are independent, then adopt some social media guidelines from an organization that has been successful in managing their company online.

Start slow!

You don’t need to be an expert to start integrating social media into your sales strategy. Your social selling efforts can start with just optimizing your LinkedIn profile and then connecting with a few of your peers.  See what they are doing online.  Dedicate 20 minutes per day and you will be surprised what you learn, and the opportunities you find.  More on how to use that 20 minutes a day to get the greatest results.

Leverage your Marketing Team

If your company has a digital marketing strategy, then leverage the content they are creating, and their corporate social media presence, as you start to build your social selling strategy. Content marketing is all about creating information to help move your customer along their path to purchase.  As noted in the above statistics, more people are looking online to get the information they need, and to connect with companies that can provide the best solution and customer experience.   Content comes in the form of white papers, e-books, case studies, blog articles, press releases, videos, podcasts, etc.  Remember that social selling isn’t always about selling, but also about becoming a resource to your clients or potential clients.

Keep the lines of communication open between sales & marketing!

Give your marketing team feedback and suggestions.  Yes, they can track online metrics to see how well a piece of content is doing, but there is nothing as valuable as feedback from the frontline salespeople.   What content is helping buyers make decisions?  What part of the sales funnel do you find people getting stuck?  Is the marketing material staying current with the demands of your customers?  What customers would be good to interview for a case study?  The more content you have that is relevant, the more opportunities you have to share with your social media audience.

Essential Quick Tips to get Started

LinkedIn is the most popular social media network for professionals, and essential for sales professionals.  They have a free version, but also an upgrade specifically designed for business development.

  1. If you do just one thing, make sure your profile photo represents your brand -  First impressions "A picture is worth a thousand words."
  2. Optimize your LinkedIn Profile
  3. Look into discussion groups on LinkedIn where your clients and prospects are having discussions.  Be an asset to the discussions, these are not sales platforms to keep pitching your product line.  If there is interest from a discussion group member, then connect privately with them. 

Contact me today if you are interested in getting started, or taking your current social selling strategy to the next level.   


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