The average person will spend five years of their life on social media. The simple truth is: social networking technology has changed the way we communicate. With expansive networks across multiple platforms, many of us do most of our communicating online. So shouldn’t sales and marketing initiatives follow suit?
What is social selling?
Social selling is the process of developing relationships as part of the sales process. In the past, this involved networking, cold calling and face-to-face sales meetings. Today, it more commonly takes place via social media networks. Social selling capitalizes on the fundamental shift in the way people communicate and learn today, both in our business and personal lives. In fact, 84 percent of C-suite executives and 70 percent of B2B decision makers rely on social media for purchase decisions.
Today’s B2B buyers are better connected, more informed and heavily influenced by peers when in comes to purchasing products and services. When implemented strategically, social selling can support and enhance the B2B sales and marketing process. Social selling isn’t simply the use of social media. Rather, it is a systematic approach to uncovering opportunities, building relationships and converting prospects into paying customers.
While strategies for tapping into each vary slightly from platform to platform, a number of key factors remain the same. Below are three vital elements of a top-notch social selling strategy:
1. Hone your profile. Regardless of the platform, your company profile needs to be the pillar of your social selling strategy. It represents the first impression a prospect has of your company. Or it may be where they head for research after reading a recent article or insightful comment you posted. Keep information concise and results-driven. Focus on benefits, not features. Ask yourself “Would my target buyer care about this?” If not, get rid of it. Ensure messaging and style stay true to your brand, link back to your website and use engaging visuals. If sales representatives are using social selling individually, their profiles should mirror corporate messaging.
2. Connect and follow. This is where you put the “social” in “social selling.” When it comes to platforms like Twitter or Instagram, connections are based on following fellow members. Follow often and reach out to qualified prospects whenever possible to encourage reciprocation. On platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn, connections are automatically reciprocated and require slightly more nurturing. While connecting often is a good idea, many are hesitant to accept requests from those they don’t know. Customize the message in your connection request and provide a concise introduction to ensure prospects know who you are and why you’re reaching out. Discover new prospects via groups, shared content, comments sections, and other customers’ or prospects’ shared connections.
3. Engage. Once you have your profile honed and your connections built, now what? It’s time to get active. Social media thrives off shared content. Sharing content via social media should already be a part of your marketing distribution strategy. It’s a great way to spread thought leadership and link interested parties back to your website. Reach out to anyone who likes, comments or shares your content. Even a quick “thank you” is a great way to foster a new connection. Likewise, it’s important to engage, comment and share the thought leadership of others. This step helps build rapport and, at the same time, gives vital information about the company’s expertise, needs and successes. Encourage customers to review your products and connect you with other companies. If customers express complaints or frustrations online, be sure to respond quickly and resolve the problem effectively. Feedback—both positive and negative—is essential to improving social selling and organizational strategy. Participation in relevant groups and digital events are other great ways to engage and discover.
Social selling comes down to the bread and butter of sales and marketing: relationships. Your social media strategy, despite not involving any face-to-face interaction, should be no different than trying to build a relationship anywhere else. An accepted connection request isn’t enough. Identify and target prospects carefully. Nurture relationships based on sincere interest and curiosity. People don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care. As you earn the trust and respect of others, your digital influence will expand, the sales cycle will shorten, and your business will grow.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
President of Trade Press Services
Gerri Knilans is president of Trade Press Services. As marketing communications strategists, serving organizations of all sizes and types since 1995, the company provides writing, media outreach and general marketing support to help clients accelerate growth and generate more visibility, credibility and name recognition in their marketplaces.