In this previous post, I highlighted the importance of Social Selling and the increased attention this topic was getting. The importance of Social Selling has grown significantly since the increase in online interactions. Companies are starting to listen and monitor these interactions to identify potential sales opportunities and salespeople are increasingly mining social channels as a means to identify prospects.
What is Social Selling
Social Selling can be best defined as:
“…the use of Social Media by sales organizations for listening, customer engagement and internal collaboration. It allows sales people to effectively identify, engage and manage multiple customers; a task that eliminates some of the more wasteful parts of traditional selling practices such as cold calling.”
A study conducted by the Aberdeen Research Group clearly highlights the importance of Social Selling. The study demonstrated a higher success and customer retention rate among sales reps that adopted Social Selling initiatives. Sales reps engaged in conversations with companies and focused on being credible resources. The increased online visibility allowed reps to build relationships with customers and often times this led to potential sales opportunities.
There has been a substantial growth in interest for Social Selling, and many companies are beginning to integrate Social practices into their business. However, the transition from traditional selling to Social Selling can be challenging. Often, companies are unsure how they can benefit from having a more “social” sales team? Or a business can have certain misconceptions as to what exactly Social Selling involves or not know what the best practices are?
Reasons why a Sales Team needs to be “Social”
Social Media has provided an environment wherein businesses and customers share information about themselves, their topic of interest, specific questions around a product or service and share their preferences. This environment has fostered open communication and publicly available information, which is easily accessible for salespeople. A sales rep can nowadays learn a lot about a company by simply going online. They can access a company’s needs, understand their specific queries and provide relevant content that helps build relationships.
Social Selling allows salespeople to build their network with viable leads and as mentioned in this article, there are multiple reasons how this can benefit your company:
- Shorter sales cycle: Buyers have more information available to them, and often perform intensive research before speaking to a sales rep. Companies seek information online, ask questions, seek reviews from their peers and explore a myriad of solutions. Salespeople who are more “Social” can help foster relationships with companies and provide relevant content to them. By engaging in the Social space, sales reps can increase their visibility and position themselves as valuable resources.
- Building Relationships: Social Selling affords sales reps with the unique opportunity to engage companies in conversation for free. Most Social Media channels are free to join and allow salespeople to access information regarding potential clients.
- Generating Leads: Generating leads is a crucial step in the selling process and with use of Social channels; sales reps can identify potential leads that may ultimately result in a sale. By monitoring a company’s interactions online, sales reps can position themselves to offer solutions when appropriate.
- Analyzing Competition: “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.” This old adage could not be truer in the case of Social initiatives. Companies can benefit from increased visibility not only with their clients, but also with competitors. Sales reps can follow their competitors and benefit by identifying any leads amongst the unhappy customers of their competitors.
- Higher Productivity: Social Selling, unlike traditional selling methods, does not require an extensive time commitment. Sales reps are no longer required to make “cold-calls” or schedule meetings, they can identify new leads, maintain relationships and research potential sales opportunities simply by harnessing the power of Social Media channels.
Social Selling is a fairly new concept and while most companies are familiar with the social space, they tend to have some misconceptions about Social Selling.
- Social Selling does not involve making sales pitches through Social Media:
A B2B Social seller uses networks such as LinkedIn and Twitter to find potential customers. After identifying these customers, a sales rep will engage, build and maintain a relationship with them online. When appropriate, the sales reps will utilize email or a real-time medium to connect with their customers.
- Social Selling does not improve sales quotas by simply adopting it:
Social Selling allows salespeople to become top performers by a “repeatable, collaborative, and customer-enabled process.” There is no shortcut to Social Selling, and the use of Social initiatives does not instantaneously cause a jump in sales figures. Social Selling empowers sales reps by identifying opportunities that can be further pursued by delivering value for the customer.
- Social Selling does not require manually scanning a variety of Social Media channels:
Social Selling requires gathering information about a customer or business from a multitude of sources. However, sales reps do not have to manually sift through conversations in the Social space. There are a variety of Social Media solutions that can monitor conversations and provide value-add to a sales process.
Best Practices for Social Selling
Social Selling like other social initiatives can seem very intimidating. As mentioned in this guide by Heinz Marketing, the first step in Social Selling is identifying where your customers are. By narrowing down the search to only include Social channels where customers are active, sales reps can effectively engage and sell to the right audience by ensuring their voice is being heard. Social sellers should also focus on spaces where they are most comfortable. If your company is very familiar with Twitter but no so much so with other channels, then focus on Twitter. Although the ideal practice may be to improve proficiency over multiple Social channels, begin by focusing on a few first.
After identifying the relevant Social channels and ensuring that your customers are active in those spaces, create an account for that particular channel. Build your Social activity in that space and add followers whom you wish to engage with. By maintaining an active presence and sharing relevant content, Social sellers can engage with their customers. The use of various Social Media channels can help promote a company’s position in the industry and also provides an opportunity to interact with a larger audience.
Sales reps can also benefit from the following practices:
- Create and curate authentic, customer-centric content
- Engage with customers by answering questions, providing recommendations and asking for referrals
- Build new relationships and contacts by leveraging the existing network
- Monitor purchase patterns and identify potential leads
- Position yourself as an expert in the industry and build a following
- Increase credibility in the community
Social Selling does not replace the selling process, but rather enhances it. Social Sellers can improve their efficiency in the market by building an online presence. The growth in Social Media provides a unique opportunity to gather large amounts of information about companies, and if used the right way it could create potential leads for salespeople. Social Selling requires a repeatable, customer-centric process and can provide a great value-add for businesses that are willing to increase their visibility in the Social space.
For a more detailed guide to Social Selling, please click here.