Enjoy spending time on social media and want to achieve greater sales success?
If so, social selling may be right for you (or your team.)
What exactly is social selling? It’s defined as the process of developing relationships as part of the sales process.
Nowadays your potential clients are spoiled for choices and perform in-depth research before making a purchase decision.
One of the tools they use to do this research is social media and that’s why it’s immensely useful. It opens the doors for businesses to understand what their prospects’ interests are, build relationships with them and help them understand how their expertise can solve their problems.
As you’ll see, although social selling has the word “selling” in it, the whole process is quite different and has elements of inbound marketing.
Jock Breitwieser of SocialSellinator explains more.
In this post, you’ll learn about:
- Social selling
- Challenges around becoming a successful social seller
- Tools you can leverage for social selling
- Specific actions you can take to start social selling today
- Examples of successful social selling
What does SocialSellinator do?
SocialSellinator makes it easy for everyone to benefit from the power of social selling. We drive business results through social media for companies and individual sales reps. SocialSellinator does this by creating a social media strategy and implementing it.
We offer three services:
- social selling training
- social selling media account management for individual sales reps
- social media management for companies that have social media accounts, but no dedicated team to run the accounts
How is that different from other social media consulting firms?
- Process: Our proven processes make us very effective in finding the right audiences and prospects for our customers and that let us develop and share relevant and engaging content on an ongoing basis.
- Integration: We work very closely with our clients and their marketing teams to understand which audiences they want to achieve and we deeply integrate with their existing marketing and demand-generation activities to support their efforts.
- Consistency: Social media success comes through our ongoing engagement through interesting content. It’s also where most companies and individuals fail: they like social media, see the benefit and start doing it. And once other projects need to be managed, social is the first thing to drop off their radar. Then they go dark for a while and ultimately have to start from scratch to make social work for their business again.
Who is your target audience and what do you do for them?
Our first target audience consists of individual sales reps across a variety of businesses: from real-estate and financial services to insurance and professional services – and everything in-between.
Our second target audience is entrepreneurs, VP’s of marketing, fractional CMOs, founders and CEOs of small- and midsize companies. In short: everyone who has seen the potential that social media can have on the business and sales process. But just because you realize that something has potential, doesn’t mean you’re able to implement it.
For example, many sales reps in real-estate already try to use social media to discover new opportunities and position themselves. But they use mass-produced, cookie-cutter marketing templates that they receive from their employers. Because these tools, like newsletters, are not tailored, they’re not effective. So, while a real-estate agent knows about the value and impact of social selling and marketing, they simply don’t have the time to effectively manage their social accounts at a scale that’s relevant.
Through consistent social engagement, that can be changed. Then, social media starts to work for them because they are seen as knowledgeable authorities in their market. They become go-to contacts for people that are looking to buy real-estate.
What is social selling? What makes social selling more effective compared to traditional sales approaches?
Social selling is the art and science of using social media as an additional tool in the sales process to help attract buyers, identify prospects, build relationships and eventually leverage it to close deals. But you could also say that social selling is really just about how sales and selling are done today. Just how the phone and fax and email changed the sales process, so has social media changed the sales process.
Today’s buyers do a lot of research upfront and by the time they’re reaching out to a company or an individual sales rep, they have already compiled a shortlist of products or services they want to buy. Social media is extremely powerful in this context because it offers up so much information that a sales rep can use to better understand and better serve the buyer or prospect. And it lets sales reps and businesses build relationships by putting out information that leads the future buyer to the company or a specific sales rep.
What’s the challenge to becoming a successful social seller?
One of the biggest challenges is the change in behavior that’s required. That means that it’s not enough to simply transpose your traditional sales process onto a new platform. When you use social media as you would use a cold call or a cold outreach via email, you haven’t grasped the opportunity that social selling offers.
The beauty of social selling is that you use relatively new platforms to complement and support your existing sales process. That doesn’t mean you don’t use the phone anymore or that you don’t meet or email prospects anymore. But it means that you use social media to understand what your prospect is all about. For example, you will use LinkedIn to see which articles someone shared, and you will use that to tag this individual in your posts and updates with similarly, relevant information to help them gain a better understanding on the topic they’re passionate about.
Or it means to see on Twitter which conference they attended or which concert they liked. It’s about understanding the buyer and their interests and serving them. It’s not about selling – the sell just happens to be a possible outcome of a relationship you build with someone who is looking into services or products that you sell. It’s definitely not social selling to connect with someone on LinkedIn and use your first message to tell them out of the blue what product you sell and that you’d like to set up a call – that’s old-fashioned sales-push and it simply doesn’t work anymore, because as a buyer, I need you to help me solve a problem that I have. As a buyer or prospect, my first concern is to find help – I’m not worried about helping you make your quota.
Content, if done properly, can be a powerful way of providing that help. Some of the key things to consider for this purpose are:
- Helping your prospects to achieve their goals
- Moving your prospects through their journey
- Helping your prospects to overcome their challenges
Learn more about how you can leverage content to boost your customer experience.
How long does it take before someone sees results for social selling efforts?
Since social selling is all about relationship building, you cannot expect miracles in a week. Relationships are about trust and that’s something you need to establish with your prospects over a period of time. Especially when your offering is expensive, your buyers want to know that you have their best interest at heart. But that said, social selling definitely shortens the sales cycle, even for enterprise-class products. In my experience, most businesses and salespeople will see a change in their social media relationships, in the quality and number of people visiting their profiles and websites within three to four months of constant engagement on social media.
Why should they hang in there?
It’s important to understand that the sales process and the buying behavior have fundamentally changed. So if you don’t use social media in your sales process today, you’re definitely missing out on an important trend. Sure, you may get by for another few years, but realistically, if you want to be successful and have a career beyond five years from today, you need to start implementing social selling immediately. The other reason why it’s important to hang in there is that it helps you grow. Social media done right is an amazing opportunity to meet new people and expand your horizon, You can truly grow not just professionally, but also personally.
Can you share a few good social selling tools?
Some of my favorites include Buffer.com, which is an extremely easy to use tool that helps you manage multiple social media profiles and maintain a steady and ongoing cadence of postings, so you don’t have worry about your account looking dead.
Another tool that I really like is Accompany – because you can connect it to your calendar, it gives you great insight into your network and gives you quick summary-profiles of the people you’re about to meet. That way, you always have something smart to say about something that just happened at their company or something they just mentioned in one of their social profiles.
Similarly, CrystalKnows is just amazing. It goes beyond Accompany and gives you true in-depth profiles of individuals by scraping online information and AI processing. It goes so far to tell you specifically how you’ll need to speak or write to a person. Creepy, but incredibly insightful.
Right Relevance is a great tool to help you find interesting content and you can directly push content from there into your Buffer account, to keep the momentum going.
Lastly, Buzzsumo lets you research trends and topics that relate to your area of expertise. This lets you see which topics resonate and helps you be smart about the themes and ideas you want to share on social.
What’s the most important thing to remember in social selling?
It’s all about understanding how you can best serve your prospects and future clients. It’s called social selling, but if you think it’s about selling, you’re doing it wrong. Put yourself into the shoes of your potential business partner or buyer and help them understand d why your expertise will help them solve their problems.
If someone wants to start social selling, where should they begin?
Start small. Don’t try to be on all channels at the same time and going from 0-60 in a week. I’ve seen a lot of people crash and burn trying to do that. Think first what you’re trying to achieve:
- Do you want to have people visit your profiles?
- Do you want to connect with people with specific titles or in specific regions?
- What would make these people interested in connecting and engaging with you?
- You have to start with the end in mind and reverse engineer.
Take a weekend to really think about it and put an achievable plan together.
Is there a step-by-step model for social selling success?
The biggest factor for social selling success is true consistency. After that, it’s your expertise and your unique insights. Start by looking at a week or a month and think about how many hours you can regularly commit to spending. Even if you can spend only 60-90 minutes per week, you can become very successful. Just limit yourself to one or two platforms that are important in your market, e.g. most B2B sellers will use Twitter and LinkedIn.
Then, think about three to five key activities that you want to conduct every week on these two platforms. For example, sharing articles from thought-leaders in your industry or commenting on their posts. Or you could reach out to them with a personalized invite to join your network. Or you could cross-reference contacts that follow you on Twitter with LinkedIn and connect with them over there as well. These are just some of the options and while none of these steps are complicated in and by themselves, things can become overwhelming very quickly if you don’t think about your goals and priorities first and then go about them in a targeted way that allows you to stay effective.
What are some things to consider when social selling?
Aside from the obvious – setting up a plan, using tools, being strategic and helpful to your prospects – it’s really helpful not to always try to go it alone when you don’t have to. Not only are there fantastic tools available, but there are also ways to get the work of social selling done without having to spend your entire day on it. That’s where services like SocialSellinator come into play.
Beyond SocialSellinator, it’s also worth considering other options, such as virtual assistants or hiring freelancers or even full-time employees to get the social media job done right. The challenge here is the cost structure. While a virtual assistant or a contractor can be very attractive financially, they will may not have the decades of expertise and the broad range of resources.
At the same time, hiring a junior team member doesn’t get you the ROI you need because you’ll still spend $40k-$60k per year for salary and that’s not even including overhead such as insurance, social security and so on.
Final thought: it’s important for individuals as well as for businesses to look at the ROI of social selling. Let’s say you consider a program of $2k per month – that may sound like a good chunk of money. But on the other hand, when you think about spending $24k per year, it’s easy to justify because you can see that the value that a full year of social media outreach will easily lead to multiple new clients, commissions etc., so there truly is ROI.
We actually have a simple ROI calculation that we run with our clients, so both they and we have a joint understanding of the expectations and how much activity is required to achieve desired business results.
For example, we look at a 12-month timeframe and – based on an average response rate – calculate how many people we need to reach out to every work-day to secure a number of responses. In the next step, we assume a rate at which we’re able to secure meetings and proposals. All this tells everyone clearly what needs to be done to drive desired business results.
This kind of calculation helps determine clear priorities for social media engagement and gives everyone a sense for the kind of results that will make it worthwhile to set up the social selling program.
Bottom line: this helps everyone focus and understand priorities.
How do you measure social selling success?
General success metrics include the usual ‘vanity metrics’ – follower-growth, number of shares etc. But more important metrics are usually defined together with our clients and include everything from:
- the number of leads coming in through social media
- the number of visitors to specific landing pages
- increasing the number of shares, likes
- increasing the number of visitors with CXO titles to your personal profile and connecting with them.
It’s usually a mix that depends on the business priorities of our clients.
What kind of results can companies expect from social selling?
From working with dozens of salespeople on social selling strategies, I’ve been lucky enough to witness first-hand the amazing effectiveness of social selling in the sales process.
In the example illustrated below, a sales rep that I worked with met the CEO of a prospect company at a venture capital conference. Immediately at the conference, the sales rep tweeted at the CEO’s Twitter handle and commented on the CEO’s presentation. From there on, they began corresponding on Twitter and the rep commented and shared on the CEO’s Tweets regularly. He also connected with the CEO on LinkedIn. However, his sales pitch was unsuccessful at that time, because the prospect company had not yet reached the necessary growth milestones.
But the rep had added the company’s Twitter feed to his Twitter lists and followed their updates. A few months later, the company then tweeted about significant usage growth of their product – a huge step forward in their market development. The rep saw this and reached out to the CEO via Twitter direct message and congratulated him on achieving this growth milestone. Immediately, the CEO responded and said that timing was now good. He directly instructed his admin to set up a meeting and also signaled he was ready to provide the necessary materials to sign a contract.
Overall, just based on anecdotal feedback from the sales reps I have trained, they were able to attribute around $700k annual contract value (ACV) to deals they would not have closed without social selling. Since I mostly train B2B sales reps, their deals range anywhere from $25k – $50k ACV.
In another example, the rep was following the prospect on Twitter before reaching out and connecting on LinkedIn. Through Twitter, the rep had found out that the prospect CEO was an active biker. The rep used that as a conversation starter. They connected over this topic and met at a biking trail. Later, they discussed joint business opportunities and the CEO became a client.
In a third example (screenshot below), the rep and the prospect had just connected on LinkedIn. But with some research, the rep found that the CEO was mostly active on Instagram. The rep then reached out via Instagram and stated that she’d like to set up a quick call for an introduction. The CEO replied with his direct phone number and the set up a call to discuss the offering the sales rep wanted to make.
A final example is one of my sales reps who always makes sure her LinkedIn is up to date and looks pristine. She posts Monday thru Friday on LinkedIn and comments on posts from influencers and prospects, so her equity position stays high and she’s always top of mind. Just two weeks ago, she had a prospect with a need for the professional services of her company and he messaged her for more information. She wrote back within 24 hours and they immediately set up a meeting.
During the meeting, they decided that there is a mutual benefit to further exploring the business relationship and in the next step, she sent him a proposal. At this point, the prospect has reviewed multiple proposals from competitors, but this sales rep is the prospect’s number one choice and she’s currently awaiting verbal confirmation for the deal of $50k to close.
Building relationships with influencers is a great way of staying top of mind and establishing yourself as an industry leader. Commenting on their posts, however, is not the only way to interact with them. For instance, you could organize a webinar to connect an expert with your brand’s audience.
Check out these 6 ways of connecting with industry experts through content.