Guest Post from Sudhir Kumar, Origin.
Not that long ago, consumers didn’t have information at their fingertips and businesses were often successful in using outbound sales and marketing methods such as cold calling and email blasts to close sales.
And, it’s been revealed that just 16% of organizations that use outbound methods feel it delivers ROI, 44% of direct mail is never opened, and 86% of consumers skip TV ads on recorded shows (Source: HubSpot)- Click to Tweet.
Today, the buyer and the buyer’s journey have changed thanks to the internet of things (IOT) and advancements in technology. Now, 57% of the purchase journey is completed before a customer has even contacted a business (CEB), and 67% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally (Source: SiriusDecisions). Click to Tweet
Added to this, in 2019, there were 3.48 billion active social media users worldwide, which presents a huge opportunity for businesses to take advantage of.
The rise of social media usage has encouraged organizations to look into ways that can utilize the technology to improve their sales, which has led to the development of social selling.
So, what is social selling and why should you care?
I define social selling as the process of researching, connecting and interacting with prospects and customers on social media networks. It focuses on nurturing leads, building brand authenticity and building trust with your prospects.
Leading firms have taken advantage of social selling and have begun reaping the benefits it offers. Research has shown that 70% of sales professionals are active on LinkedIn for business purposes, 89% believe social networking platforms such as LinkedIn are important in closing deals and 64% of sales reps that invest time in social media are hitting their sales quota (Source: SuperOffice). Click to Tweet
As buyers are becoming more digitally savvy, social selling becomes a no-brainer. But to stand out from the noise on social media, it’s essential to provide value to your audience through high-quality content, insight and real conversations, to enhance each touchpoint that your audience has with you and your business, from awareness stage through to purchase.
What are the benefits that social selling offers?
- It appeals to the modern buyer
B2B buyers have 12 to 18 non-human and human interactions along their buyer’s journey (Source: Sirius Decisions) Click to Tweet. 68% of buyers prefer to research products and services online (Source: Forrester) Click to Tweet.
With this in mind, it’s essential that you develop and push information and content on social channels that resonate with your target audience and provide the solution to their problems.
This will enable you to influence their choices and position your business as front of mind.
2. It allows you to build “real” relationships
How many cold calls do you actually answer, listen to and respond to?
If you’re one of those people that frantically hangs up, cursing as you put your phone down you are not alone. Research from Citizens Advice has revealed that 67% of British adults say that have received an unwanted telephone call and 92% of people don’t trust companies whose sales representatives contact them by cold calling. Click to Tweet
With this said, it’s time for businesses to break down the barriers around selling and get on the same page as their customers. Social selling supports this, as through social media listening tools, you’re able to listen to topics and conversations that are relevant to your industry. This technique will not only give you insight into what’s important to your prospects but it’ll also present new opportunities and leads, giving you an easy way to engage and reach out to potential customers in an appropriate, non-intrusive way.
3. Your competitors are already using social selling
71% of all sales professionals are already using social selling tools, so if you aren’t you may be putting yourself at a disadvantage (Source: LinkedIn). Click to Tweet.
For example, Microsoft is one organization that has taken hold of the power of social selling. Their social selling pilot program started with 15 people selling Microsoft Azure through their LinkedIn accounts to find their own customers. This boosted the productivity of their team by 38% and led to the program scaling to 3,000+ sellers.
4. It builds your social capital
Social capital is built when someone in your LinkedIn network has a problem or an issue and they automatically think and turn to you for help. This will happen when you have positioned yourself correctly on social networks with your activity.
To gain social capital you’ll need to consider social proximity, and your connection philosophy. Instead of connecting with just anyone, connect with people in a targeted manner, and with those who you can genuinely help. Next, you’ll need to ensure your social presence is up to scratch.
Present and share your insight and knowledge and contribute towards discussions and groups to build it. This will enhance your online visibility and will strengthen your social capital.
5. The Mere Exposure Effect
The Mere Exposure Effect was first spoken about in 1968 by social psychologist Robert Zajonc. This social phenomenon states that the more a person is exposed to something, the more they’ll develop a preference towards that thing over time.
Social media gives businesses the ability to tap into this theory through regular and consistent posting and updates. When you’ve created and put into action a dedicated strategy, you can begin to utilize social media channels to your advantage and ensure that you have messages trickling through all the channels that your audiences use, creating multiple touchpoints with them.
However, it’s essential to remember to not just share sales messages and calls-to-action. Instead, share content that adds value to your followers, and offers insight and information.
If you fail to prepare you are preparing to fail…
The infamous quote from Benjamin Franklin couldn’t be truer when it comes to achieving social selling success.
To successfully leverage social selling, you need to optimize your social channels to showcase your expertise. And, it’s the little things that make the biggest difference. For example, research from LinkedIn revealed that members with a photo receive 21x more profile views and nine times more connection requests compared to those that don’t. Click to Tweet
So, what do you need to do to give a positive first impression on your social channels?
Here are my top tips:
- Post a professional head and shoulders image of yourself
- Write your bio/summary to highlight your expertise and what you do on a professional level
- Include links to your website and other social channels to encourage visits
- Utilize hashtags that your prospects follow
- Create lists on Twitter to monitor content from specific accounts
- On LinkedIn include your job title and keywords in your headline, ask for recommendations to boost your credibility and join LinkedIn groups that are relevant to your industry and begin networking in them
Social selling best practices
Once your profiles are ready to be rolled out it’s time to kick off your social selling strategy. Effective social selling takes time and must be consistent to build meaningful relationships with your audiences.
- Dedicate yourself
Start by creating a plan and setting aside time to dedicate yourself to building your social presence. Being present on multiple social channels can be time consuming, but if you spend 30 minutes every day monitoring your channels, engaging with others and posting content it’ll help ease the pressures and ensure your feeds are always up to date.
- Create and stick to a content plan
By creating and sticking to a content plan you’ll ensure that there is structure to your posting on LinkedIn.
The purpose of a content plan is to create meaningful, cohesive, engaging, and sustainable content that engages, resonates and attracts your target audience. In today’s social web environment, getting the right message to the right customer at the right time is crucial. And, to stay front of mind, build rapport and trust and position yourself as an expert, you’ll need to have a solid content plan in place.
- Take advantage of social listening
Earlier I mentioned social listening, and it’s essential to factor it into your social selling strategy. So, create and use social lists and monitoring streams to collate what people are saying about you, your company, your industry and competitors, and identify what questions they’re asking and topics they are talking about.
- Provide value
Focus your content on providing relevant, informative posts and content, when your audience wants it. This will position you as a thought-leader and build your personal brand. It’ll also help you create relationships with your prospects and gain their trust.
- Maintain relationships once you’ve created them
Once you’ve made new connections it’s important to stay engaged with them over time. So, comment on and like the content that is posted by your prospects.
And, be sure to offer advice and guidance to them and contribute to their conversations in a meaningful way if they ask questions.
- Share testimonials
Success stories from other customers have a lot of weight, and research from Pretty Links suggests 92% of buyers trust recommendations from peers and 70% trust recommendations from strangers. Click to Tweet
By gaining and sharing third party testimonials you’ll start to build your credibility with prospects and it’s more likely that they’ll begin to trust your business.
- Track engagement
Tracking metrics such as likes, comments and shares will allow you to identify the types of content that resonates the most with your audience. And, it’ll enable you to determine if your social selling activities are paying off.
In addition, by establishing what content is getting the most engagement you can adjust your content so that you’re producing more of what is preferred by your audience. For example, if you notice content about a particular topic is getting high levels of engagement, this will suggest that your audience is interested it in, so why not produce more and give your audience what they want?
- Understand when to take your connections offline
To land a sale you’ll need to escalate the connection with a prospect by offering them a call to continue the conversation offline and on a deeper level. And, it’s important not to try and push a call before prospects are ready as this will damage all of your nurturing efforts.
Sudhir Kumar is marketing director at Origin Blurbs. For more information like this article please connect with him on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/sudhirkumarorigin.