The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Social Selling
Social selling, I see the term everywhere. However, I think selling has always been a social event. I mean, I hate cold calls, standard emails, and automated DMs. In fact, I hate them so much I have never bought anything from those impersonal messages, or subscribed to anything they recommended me. Have you? So what is the deal with social selling? What does an entrepreneur need to make selling social?
In this blog, I show a discussion on what social selling actually is, demonstrate that social selling increases sales, present steps to get started with social selling, give three steps to leverage the power of social selling, ask whether social selling is creepy, and find the five worst social selling mistakes you can make. After all that, I hope that you, as an entrepreneur, have learned a thing or two about social selling, for instance how you can start doing it yourself. Alternatively, you can use this blog as a checklist to see if you can improve anything in your social selling skills.
What is social selling?
Sam Kusinitz has made a great effort in describing social selling in less than 100 words. So let us start with that definition. He says: “Social selling is not just a buzzword – it has become a crucial way for successful sales teams to communicate with their prospects. Social selling is when salespeople use social media to interact directly with their prospects. Salespeople will provide value by answering prospect questions and offering thoughtful content until the prospect is ready to buy. Thus, the use of social media in sales allows salespeople to delight their prospects rather than interrupt their daily lives with cold calls and hard sells, eventually converting them into loyal customers.”
Monica Zent agrees that social media is key in social selling: “Social networking takes up nearly a quarter of all time spent online and reaches more than 75 percent of all Internet users. If you are engaging with your target audience on any level via social media, whether for business development or promoting your brand, that is social selling.”
Jonathan Becher disagrees that social media is used in social selling per definition. “Unfortunately, social selling is usually misunderstood as navigating the sales process using only tools like Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook. While technology can help, social selling is about building stronger relationships with potential buyers, based on an authentic sense of empathy and a deep understanding of the problems they face. Even if they do not use social technology, good salespeople already know that creating a connection with the client is essential for success.”
Becher continues: “In real life, connections are usually made on some common value or some shared demographic. This is why salespeople spend so much time establishing a personal relationship, not just selling their product. Researchers from the University of British Columbia have shown that incidental similarities between a buyer and seller are enough to establish a personal connection and increase the likelihood to purchase. Incidental similarities could include a shared first name, birthday or birthplace and create a sense of connection even though they are superficial and common. Social technology can be used to discover the incidental similarities.”
I agree with Becher: social selling to me is primarily about establishing relationships with prospects and customers, for which social media is a great enabler.
Does social selling increase sales?
Zent says that social selling is no longer optional for your business: “It is a powerful strategy that can help sell your ideas, establish credibility, secure funding, attract talent and win customers. It generates 40 percent more qualified leads than cold calling and allows you to build genuine connections. Companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50 percent more sales-ready leads at 33 percent lower cost.”
Emma Snider says that it takes some time though: “Instead of a hard closing tactic, social selling more closely resembles lead nurturing. Therefore, social selling is not for reps seeking quick wins or a silver bullet. Salespeople have to be willing to put in the time and effort to engage with their target buyers on an ongoing basis, and even then, there is no guarantee that their efforts will pay off.”
Snider has found several studies and stats that show “that those who play the long game reap the rewards.”
- According to research from Social Centered Selling and A Sales Guy, 72.6% of salespeople who incorporated social media into their process outperformed their colleagues. In addition, socially savvy reps beat their quotas 23% more often.
- A 2012 Aberdeen study revealed that 64% of teams using social selling attained their quota, as compared to 49% of teams that had not incorporated social media into their sales processes. Sales organizations using social selling also boasted a better customer renewal rate and sales forecast accuracy.
- After adopting social selling practices and LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator, marketing software company Eloqua decreased their average sales cycle time by 20 days and boosted the rate of leads converting to opportunities by 25%.
- Social selling also makes it easier for sales reps to get referrals within their LinkedIn networks. Referrals have a much higher close rate than the average sale – approximately 50%, according to NoMoreColdCalling.com.
6 steps how to get started with social selling
If you want to start with social selling, it is good to start at the beginning. Snider has some great steps you as an entrepreneur can take to get started.
Optimize your social media profiles.
Be sure to optimize your profiles before you do anything else. If you begin your social selling initiative in earnest with an outdated or incomplete profile, your effort will likely be wasted. Snider gives valuable tips regarding this topic in her article; be sure to read them.
Join LinkedIn groups and other relevant forums.
Check out the profiles of your customers and prospects. What groups are they a member of, and in which do they participate? Find out and follow suit. It is also a good idea to join groups on larger industry trends so you can stay informed of the challenges your buyers are dealing with.
If you have something valuable to contribute to a discussion, do it. However, do not use groups as an opportunity to hawk your products or services. Salesy comments are unsolicited and will annoy group members just as a cold call or email would. Advance the conversation in a meaningful way, or just sit back and observe.
Set up social listening alerts.
Use Google alerts or a social listening tool to set up notifications about when your prospects or customers experience a trigger event or post a possible sales opening. For example, if a prospect mentions a problem they are having that you can address, an alert can enable you to get involved in the conversation quickly with a helpful piece of content or insight. Similarly, if a potential buyer’s company hires a new CEO or expands their business, you should comment on the trigger event as soon as possible to get on their radar.
Subscribe to blogs.
Check out what content your buyers are sharing, and subscribe to those channels through email or with an RSS reader. Then share the articles you think would be particularly interesting to your buyers on LinkedIn, or Tweet them.
Once you have identified specific stakeholders you would like to be introduced to, stop by their LinkedIn profiles and see if you have any connections in common. Then request an introduction from your mutual friend.
Sales reps do not have to blog to use content effectively in social selling. Becoming an effective content curator is more than good enough. Nevertheless, reps who are inclined to start creating original content as a way to attract their prospects to them should. Choose a topic that your prospects will care about, write a catchy title, do not make your post a sales pitch, include your perspective and make sure to publicize your posts on Twitter and LinkedIn, including all relevant hashtags to ensure it can be easily found.
3 steps to leverage the power of social selling
Zent gives you three steps to help you leverage the power of social selling. If you are already ready for social selling, the following steps will help you:
Do your homework.
The basis of every good relationship is understanding. Take time to understand your prospective customer, talent, investor, co-founder, business partner or client. Building a relationship with this person starts with knowing who they are.
LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other social sites give us access to key information about each other. In an era when people are quick to open up online, you are able to discern whom it makes sense to connect with. You can uncover valuable information about them, from their job to their alma mater to their reading habits.
Once you identify people that you want to have in your network, begin to engage with them. Find common ground and use it as an entry point to initiate dialogue and establish a connection. Making friends is easy when you are authentic. Like walking into a dinner party where you know only the host, your inclination when striking up a conversation with other guests is to find a common thread. Find it, and you have an authentic conversation starter. It is no different on social media. Interact authentically by responding to someone’s blog that you truly liked. Alternatively, give a shout-out to a recently promoted prospect. Ultimately, you will be in a better position to create a tailored and authentic “pitch” with relationships already in play.
Nurture your relationships.
The next step is to deepen your relationships, the crux of selling anything — including your credibility. People want to invest in, work for and partner with professionals they know and trust. Forge relationships; do not seek transactions. Social selling is about engaging with people in a disarming way. It is about giving and receiving. Nurturing relationships takes time and calls for authenticity at all times.
Is social selling creepy?
Are you hesitant to adopt social selling because you fear it will come off as creepy to buyers? I understand, nobody likes the feeling that they are being researched by people they do not know. To determine how “creepy” social selling truly is to buyers and consumers, HubSpot has conducted a survey that asked prospects about the creepiness factor surrounding specific tactics. The overall opinion was that social selling is not creepy. However, the split was closer to 60/40 than 100/0.
Here are a few findings:
- Buyers and consumers are less likely to perceive social selling interactions as creepy if they share connections with the salesperson.
- Overall, customized messages are perceived to be less creepy than generic messages.
- Facebook is the creepiest network for social selling by a mile.
- “Light” social selling interactions are considered to be less creepy than more in-depth interactions. Light interactions are liking, favoriting, and retweeting and in-depth interactions are messaging and commenting.
- Buyers’ and consumers’ self-reported preferences about salesperson behavior and their gut reactions to sales practices are sometimes at odds.
The 5 worst social selling mistakes you can make
People do not do business with companies. People do business with people, and that is why social selling is so important, Jeff Hayden says. It is easy to make network-building mistakes in social selling and to slip up. After all, your mistakes are not as obvious as they would be in the real world. Nevertheless, it is also easy to avoid these mistakes with some straightforward social selling smarts. Here are five common mistakes social selling newbies make. In addition, you will find ideas on how to turn these mistakes into successes:
Asking for connections too soon.
Imagine a salesperson handing business cards to people as if he were playing a game of blackjack. This scenario is repeated all the time in social selling. People ask others to connect without introducing themselves or explaining who they are or why the invitee would possibly want to accept the invitation.
The right way: If you have a connection in common, ask that person to introduce the two of you.
Treating your profile as a resume.
Your prospects and potential connections do not need to know that you are a high-performing salesperson. In fact, a profile that goes overboard on your sales prowess will scare them away. Yes, your profile should highlight your experience. Still, you should devote much space to what you bring to the table. How can you help with your prospects’ business challenges?
The right way: Highlight your value-add to connections. Show off your industry knowledge or content that you or your sales org have created.
Skipping the research.
Some salespeople think that building a social-selling network happens by magic. You might be inclined to skip reading a would-be connection’s profile because you think the person’s title tells you everything you need to know.
The right way: Your prospects’ profiles can be a gold mine of information that can help you start friendly conversations. It helps you bring the personal touch to the process of building your network.
Forgetting the human aspect of social selling.
Your prospects are not just names in a database. If you treat your network as just a numbers game and shoot for getting more connections than anyone else, you are going about it all wrong.
The right way: Do not spend much time on churning out invitations. Double down your efforts on building the most impactful relationships and putting the time into understanding who they are and what they might need from you. That way, you will grow a stronger network that will pay dividends over time.
Making social selling an occasional effort.
Social selling does not need to take a huge amount of time. It does work best when you can commit to it on a daily basis.
The right way: Be a participant, not just an observer. Take part in conversations.
What can I do for you regarding social selling?
You have researched exactly who your prospects are and you want to start the conversation. You know how you can best reach them across a multitude of channels and when. For that purpose, you have written high-quality content. As you know, language is one of the main elements of communication. It is, therefore, likely you will need your content in more than one language. I can help you if you need professional translations. I am the owner of Dutch translation agency BudgetVertalingOnline, which offers affordable translations into English or Dutch. Would you like to get in touch? Send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org), send me a Tweet (@GdenHolder) or fill out the quotation form.
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