The way we buy is changing beyond recognition.
Building buyer trust is becoming increasingly important. We see this in the ways companies are using influencer marketing, social media, and immersive experiences to draw in consumers and keep them. And it’s even more of a necessity in the B2B world. What that means is the way sales teams and marketers have been doing business isn’t likely to work as we move toward an increasingly digital-buying landscape.
Enter social selling—the sales strategy you may not quite understand yet that can transform your relationships with customers and keep them coming back.
But before we get to that, let’s consider sales from a traditional sense.
Working in sales, relationship-building has always been the cornerstone of my process. Now, I don’t mean that I’ve set out to become every prospect’s best bud, but I’ve taken deliberate efforts to establish rapport, build trust, and add value in my interactions—whether I’m sitting across the table from a contact or 2,000 miles away on the phone.
Social media offers even more ways to accomplish this.
So what is social selling exactly?
More likely than not, when you consider “social selling,” you imagine posting an ad on Instagram or Twitter, or your company LinkedIn page. Leave the ads and company accounts to your marketing department.
As a sales exec, it’s so much more than that.
According to Hootsuite’s Christina Newbury, social selling is all about “using online tools to engage in relationship-building strategies.” Rapport-building is something good sales professionals have always done. But with recent technology, we’re now able to connect with customers more easily and stay connected through every stage of the sales cycle. We have more points of contact and more opportunities to strengthen relationships.
And companies have taken notice.
Research shows that 49% of companies are adopting social selling programs. Thirty-six percent of companies believe it will be the selling platform of the future.
Implementing a social selling program correctly, however, is easier said than done. It takes a lot of work—not to mention time–and won’t give you results overnight. But when you start to see your network grow and the revenue needle move over time, it will all be worth it.
1. Make sure your social profiles speak to your credibility.
In this day and age, we all have social media profiles. (If you don’t, you should.) But most of us don’t realize just how much they say about us, and what a powerful tool they can be.
So use them as opportunities to build value and credibility.
Think about your LinkedIn profile, for example. Most people set their profile up like a resume, which makes sense when you’re looking for a job. But if you’re in sales, your LinkedIn page can be a strong tool for your selling process. Keep in mind you’ll need to adjust your profile from appealing to potential employers to appealing to potential buyers.
Rather than emphasizing your ability to meet sales quotas, emphasize the problems you’ve helped clients solve. Highlight how you’ve helped your customers achieve their goals.
And don’t be afraid to ask someone for an endorsement or recommendation.
It’s easy to click a button to endorse a skill for someone. A recommendation takes a bit more effort, but it has an even stronger impact. So don’t be shy about asking clients that you have a strong rapport with. Think about what it says about you. It requires thought and time, can speak to multiple skills and provides insight into what the reader may expect from a relationship with you.
At the end of the day, your social media profile should instill confidence in buyers by actively showing them that you’re current, knowledgeable, and relevant in your industry.
2. Participate in relevant conversations to expand your network.
Your network is a living, breathing entity—you have to actively participate if you want it to grow.
That means sharing relevant industry content and identifying the right people to share it with. On your personal social profiles, share content that demonstrates your expertise and signals to your audience that you’re up on relevant trends. This can be your own content, content your company has generated or shared, or content from industry leaders in the know.
There are lots of tools to facilitate this process.
For one, on LinkedIn, you can find like-minded professionals using “groups.” Check out recommended groups and join those relevant to your industry or browse for other conversations of interest to you. This way, you can easily network and share information with peers and prospective employees.
LinkedIn’s advanced search features also allow you to uncover potential new connections by leveraging existing relationships. By searching your ideal contacts and saving that search, you can set yourself up to receive notifications when there’s someone new who meets your criteria that you may want to connect with.
The larger your online network, the more you open it up to people beyond your network too.
Soon, it’ll begin to grow exponentially.
3. Make sure you’re listening as often as you’re posting.
Most, if not all, of your potential customers are sharing valuable information about themselves on their social channels. Through their posts, shares, likes, and comments, they’re telling you exactly what they want and when.
All you have to do is pay attention.
To take full advantage of the wealth of information at your fingertips, follow potential clients and read your news feed carefully. Track pain points and figure out how to target them. Strategically listen for the opportune moment to join in and present yourself as a solution.
Social listening also provides important information relevant to your industry.
If you want to sell to people in the blockchain space, or in pharmaceuticals, you have to look for groups of professionals that fit those criteria and start listening. Make it a habit of reading their feeds, and be consistent—otherwise, you’ll miss something.
It’s not the easiest thing to keep up with on the regular as it’s time-consuming. But if you incorporate it even at its most basic level, it really gives you more information than you could glean on your own, or that you wouldn’t necessarily know without it.
4. Don’t post and ghost.
All of the above is moot unless you can get people to actually interact with your content.
There are a few golden rules here:
- Show up
- Provide value
- Don’t be too “pitchy”
- Keep in touch
A lot of these tips are musts when you’re meeting a client face-to-face, but you should also make sure you’re sticking to them on the digital stage as well. Online, your objective is to provide relevant insights and solutions to people at the right time. If a potential customer mentions an issue related to your industry, take that chance to provide value and share a relevant article.
Here’s an example:
Imagine you’re in tech sales and your solutions are aimed at easing assessment processes in higher-education. You notice a recent post from one of your leads sharing an article about approaching outcomes assessment on campus and you take a peek. It’s a good article, but you have a blog post your organization published a couple months ago that could be of benefit to them. So you comment on their post, responding to the concepts offered in the article they shared, and ask them if they’ve considered approaching their issue from “X” angle and share a link to your company’s post. To take it a step further, you can follow-up on the idea during your next meeting or in an email. This makes people feel heard, creates common ground, and opens the door for conversation.
Not only did you effectively show them you’re paying attention, but you offered a point-of-view and information that could be helpful to them. You’ve further positioned yourself as a resource.
Above all, remember that people will be turned off by anything that seems overly sales-y or promotional. Social selling does not mean bombarding strangers with unsolicited messages. That kind of behavior will only drive people away and poison relationships, which is the opposite of what you want to do.
If it doesn’t add value, don’t share it. Consider this your golden rule above all else.
Be sure not to just show up when you want to sell something. If you feign interest at the height of your buying cycle and then disappear, people will notice, and they’ll rebuff you when you approach them again. But if you stay engaged consistently, you can establish a rapport built on trust. And when you create a relationship of mutual respect, opportunity will blossom.
As Christina Newbury said, “If you can establish yourself as their go-to person in their industry, guess who they’ll call when they’re ready to make a purchase?”