Why You Need Social Selling and How to Put It into Practice
In the not-to-distant past, there were circling dozens of posts with tips and tricks on cold calling. For the most part, they inspired salespeople to grab their phones and call the local businesses from the first to the last pages of the phone book - and pitch the product or services.
They also suggested running their conversations by the pre-written scripts in order to route leads into the pipeline and turn them into buying customers. Apart from that, you may generate leads via company or product website, as well as by sending emails. (But the question is where to find the list of potential customers and how to get their agreement - if you include them into a campaign). Hence many sales reps follow these plain tips; thus, it is no longer the corresponds to the reality of the usual sales manager day.
Changes Are Here. How Long?
They say that the internet has changed everything, and that was a point 10 year ago (or even more). Yet, today social media and online communication (and life) show what it takes to be innovative in the current business world. So along with running digital events for attracting potential leads, many sales reps incorporate a social selling strategy - they build a relationship with new leads on social media.
It becomes more usual for salespeople to include social media as a channel to contact with leads and prospects into their sales strategy. Besides, that is proved by LinkedIn report where it said that 90% of top performers take advantage of social media in reaching their targets. In the Aberdeen Social Study, they state that 64% of sales managers reach their team quota by taking in social media as a part of the strategy. Also, more than 10% of sales reps have closed 5 or even more deals thanks to being active in social media.
Business spaces are getting extremely competitive and volatile, so it makes sense at least to consider about including social selling into your sales team strategy. Time is such a precious commodity that it’s actually worth spending some of it learning techniques that’ll make you more efficient in the long run. Stay ahead of your competitors and into the one-third of companies that implement social media in their strategies. (According to the Sales Management Association research two-third of companies are still working on developing a social media strategy).
The definition of social selling is simple as the ABC - this is a process of finding and engaging with potential leads and customers online. Your sales team may get more out of social networks by connecting with prospects, sharing useful and (what’s even more important) relevant content, answering their (prospects’) questions, and the like.
Social selling may embody a sense of what success is, yet it is better to consider it as a softer approach. By integrating it into your strategy, you should be ready that it won’t bring immediate results; it is a kind of long-term success based on developing relationships with the customers-to-be and gaining their trust.
That is the main difference of social selling from traditional selling. Moreover, your team should be ready to face the fact that cold calling and pre-written scripts are in the past, and online questions from customers who are looking for advice before making the final decisions are already here.
Meet the Updated Buying Process
Once again about the traditional buying - its procedure was like a one-way “dialogue” with a lead. The sales manager should grab the attention and convince the customers that they indeed need the promoted product or service. The days when your team dealt only with cold calls, demos and qualifying leads are going into the past. To comply with the new digital way people buy, you should pay attention to your marketing (because before getting in touch with the sales manager, soon-to-be-customers consume nearly 5 pieces of content) and more than 50% of buyer’s journey is running online.
In this line of thought, in International Data Corporation (IDC) study proved that 75% of B2B customers and 84% of C-level executives use social media while making decisions. The B2B purchase consists of 3 stages:
Stage 1. Detecting weak points and searching how this can be improved, evaluating the effectiveness of solution and search for alternatives.
Stage 2. Developing a list of possible products and vendors along with the recommendations from the third-party experts.
Stage 3. Before making a final decision, put a couple of questions to the chosen vendor directly - this is where the social networks come at hand.
When in Rome do as the Romans do. If a decision-maker takes advantage of the social network in search of appropriate solution, then sales team may use the same channel (social media) to fill up the sales pipeline. Case in point: if you don’t apply social selling, your competitors will do.
Social Selling as a Part of the Strategy
To achieve a delicate balance between what’s fresh and what’s effective. In theory, social media will help you to identify prospects, attract more leads and referrals, but this is a rather uneasy task that requires the right groundwork. The tips on integrating social selling into your sales strategy are laid out as follows:
Hunting for ideal prospects
Perhaps, no one would be surprised with the appointments success rate 0.3% via cold calling. Save your time and use social media instead of cold calling. With this channel, sales reps can target the suitable businesses on LinkedIn. The target company may be something similar to the companies in your CRM, or organizations that look like a good fit for product or service.
The next step is to connect with the company and find the top decision maker at the company that deals with your service or product more directly. For instance: if you sell cloud storage for data, you need to get in touch with CTO or CEO. Maximize the success of proper leveraging efforts and send a personalized message that will be more like a request than the standard phrase offered by LinkedIn.
Once your request was accepted, keep calm and don’t put the carriage before the horse - postpone sending out a sales pitch. “Warm up” your prospect by engaging with them, sharing their useful content with your network, be ready to answer their questions, and the like. This tactic won’t work overnight, it demands sales rep’s time, attention, and expertise in the questions related to the product or service your company offers.
Gain an industry expert reputation
The buyers, who use social networks in their search phase, represent your potential leads if you incorporate social selling. A lot of studies and researches published by various companies show that the percentage of B2B customers who take advantage of social media before settling down the final buying decision has grown and may reach even 90%+ of the respondents. Roughly speaking, there is may be a discussion about your service or product online, and for success, you should be involved in it.
According to the LinkedIn study, people on social media are more open to hear from sales managers and pay their attention to the industry expert inputs. So, it is time to become an industry expert; thus, this can’t be done overnight. To gain trust and attention, you need to share some unique perspectives on any specific topic concerning your industry. Apart from posting useful tips and strategy hacks, you may share your mistakes and some nasty experience - in order to prevent other people from making the same ones.
Training is another way to develop yourself as an expert. You can start a set of video tutorials with some practical tips and tricks to showcase your expertise. Besides, if you are sure in your knowledge, you can host even a webinar - invite and interact with people who interested in your subject. Either way, it takes time to build this reputation of an expert, however, once the status is reached, the new sales opportunities are open.
Get referrals and recommendations
In the Nielsen study, they say that more than 80% of customers buy a solution or product due to a recommendation from someone they know. This continues the previous part, if you earn your expert reputation, you will enlarge your list of referrals, and therefore, recommendations. In that way, social selling helps to build stronger relationships with prospects and leads who will bring you new prospects by word of mouth.
Drawing up a bottom line, it must be said that sales is a numbers game. Nevertheless, the more you are (efficiently) active on social networks, the more leads you may win. Yet, don’t sign up on every social network to bombard the fitting people with your sales pitches. Besides, the numerous studies prove the value of social selling in the B2B buying process. So, build your social media strategy and establish yourself as an industry expert to share knowledge and develop long-lasting customer relationships.