Social Selling – How Businesses Can Boost Their Sales

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?

  1. 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.

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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.

28 Effective Ideas to Improve Your Sales Strategy in 2020 (Guest Post)

Guest Post from David Coen. The Full Post can be found here

Do you want to add a personal touch to your sales strategy?

Does reaching out and building relationships with important businesses and customers make you happy and increase the number of sales your business makes?

It’s true that strong communication between a business and a potential customer is crucial to enhancing sales.

Just think about it; let’s say you build a good daily relationship with your local newsagent. You become familiar with the people that work there and the value of the deals in the shop. This encourages you to return and buy more from that newsagent.

Today, you can bring this relationship to the next level by personalizing your sales. By capturing information such as buyer data, online purchases and social media activity, businesses can tailor sales to the customer in the most personal way possible.

Moving leads through your pipeline needs a clear plan and strategy. If you try to sell without a defined strategy, you are likely to miss out on potential sales.

A good place to start is determining how the sale will affect the customer’s business. You are likely to capture attention by making the customer aware of the positive changes that your sale will bring.

Man typing at laptop

This post shows you the best ways that you can improve your sales strategy in 2020, including keeping your first email short and sweet, creating buyer personas and using storytelling.

1. Keep your first email to the point: You need to truly engage your prospect in the first email. They will likely have hundreds of emails to get through, so yours really needs to stand out from the crowd. Keeping things simple and showing that you have done your research is a good place to start. You don’t need to pitch your solution immediately. Establishing trust with the lead is the important first step you need to take.  The first email is better off being short, possibly bullet pointed and as clear as possible. It should be clear why your solution is relevant to the prospect. You should arrange a meeting with the prospect in the first email. This is then followed by a simple summary of what you like to discuss.

2. Understand the company’s challenges.  Following the first call, you are likely to have a better understanding of the company’s challenges. This can be used for greater personalization in the next phase. For example if the business told you they had an issue with their CRM and you were selling this service, you can use this to your advantage. Sharing valuable content that provides solutions to the company is a good next step. By reaching out to them and sharing an article about alternative CRMs, you will show that you listened to your first conversation and care about helping them. Building a relationship with the prospect is always important to improving your sales strategy.

3. Add that personal touch to your sales strategy.  We all want to feel valued in a business relationship. This is no different when it comes to sales. Adding that personal touch when discussing a potential sale will set you apart from the crowd. This can be anything from finding out more about the prospect’s hobbies and interests, or the sports team that they follow. This is usually best achieved after an in-person meeting, where you can give them a handwritten note about something they are interested in. You can establish trust with them quickly as this is a physical connection that will help create a bond.

4. Become trusted.  Becoming trusted in sales is hugely important. Once you build a strong relationship with a customer, this can then snowball into further relationships such as becoming partners. A sale does not have to be the end of the relationship! Once you become trusted you will become a partner of the client. This can lead to upselling and more renewals, which will increase revenue for your business. You will also get more referrals from being trusted. It’s common sense that customers will refer to someone that they know and trust. Whether it’s a sales strategy for startups or a sales strategy for real estate, building relationships is key for improving your sales strategy.

5.  Don’t get it wrong! Making sure that you don’t get it wrong when it comes to personalization seems obvious. However it’s surprising how many people do get it wrong! You need to promote products that are relevant to the prospect. It’s also important to get the name, gender and other personal information right. You need to be sincere when reaching out for the potential sale, otherwise no one will take you seriously

6.  Be relevant. Always try and provide value to the person you are talking to. With this at the back of your mind, you will keep the prospect genuinely interested in what you are saying to them.  Your content needs to be tailored to the person you are talking to, so watch out for spam like emails or badly personalized content.

7.  Honor your commitment.  It’s important to deliver what you promised once you have built a relationship with the prospect. Let’s say you tell them you will provide a discount on the product. You need to honor this. If you forget to give them the discount or take too long in giving it to them, then the prospect might feel that the relationship is not being respected. This comes back to nurturing the prospect in the sales funnel and keeping them satisfied with the business relationship.

8. Be careful with personal information. It’s no secret that businesses are collecting more personal information about customers than ever before. This doesn’t make everyone feel comfortable though!  Be careful with the amount of personal information that you show to potential customers. They won’t want to feel as though you are stalking them!

9.  Create Buyer Personas.  It’s essential to develop clear buyer personas for your brand. With these in mind, you can target your product to the type of person that will be interested in your product. Having precise data about your customers is a must have, so make sure you have the best resources available to you. Let’s say you are developing a sales strategy for hotels. If you own a hotel that also features a golf resort, you can target your hotel to people who play golf. Similarly if there is a state of the art leisure centre you can focus on people who are interested in fitness.

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10. Provide the solution to the problem.  When you start your sales outreach, remember to relate to the problems that the business is facing. The potential customer likely won’t be interested in your pricing plans or product features at this early stage. That’s why it’s important to do your research to try to understand what issues the prospect is facing and how you can solve them with your product. This level of personalization will capture the prospect’s attention immediately. It shows that you have put work in to helping them. You understand what they are aiming to do and which obstacles they will face. Instead of talking about how great your product is, show how your product provides the solution to their problems. They are also much more likely to become loyal customers if you take this approach

11.  Showcase end results of your sales strategy.  Another thing you need to highlight when you are selling your product is the end results it will provide. They need to know exactly what will happen as soon as they start using the product. People want to know how their problems will be solved quickly and easily by using your solution.  If it’s the first time they are using your type of product, you need to show them how to get set up, how much time it will take and the amount of support they will have available to them. It would also be good to show them the expected results short-term and long-term from using the product. This will motivate them to stay with the product as they will also want to succeed

12.  Be flexible.  It’s important to remain open minded when trying to close a sale. Different businesses will have different objectives and issues, so you need to change your approach depending on who you are talking to.  Again, solving the problem of the person is key to being successful in sales. And everyone will have different issues! Make sure to always be open to solving the problem. Don’t say that you can’t or it’s not possible to provide a solution. If you are unsure of how to help the prospect, tell them that you would love to assist them and go away to research the issue. Even if this means offering a minimum order quantity you will come closer to closing the sale and remaining flexible to the situation.

13.  Start with smaller markets. Having clear segmentation for your product is crucial. You need to define small groups of people who share a common problem that you can solve. By doing this, your sales strategy will feel more personal and be much more effective.  Think about it –  your pitch will be so much better if you have a similar and smaller group of people to target. This will allow you to improve on certain areas of your sales pitch and help to keep the prospect engaged.

14.  Reach out to the decision maker. You don’t want to waste time talking to someone who doesn’t make the decisions in the company. Reaching out to someone who makes crucial decisions for the company’s future will always improve your chances of making a sale.  Finding the right person is an important skill to master. Platforms such as LinkedIn are probably best used for connecting and messaging the people in control. It also allows you to identify the CEO/Marketing Manager of the company by job title. You need to provide value upfront to the decision maker and initially not expect anything in return. By building the business relationship in this way, you can provide immediate value and get that value back as the relationship develops.

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15. Use storytelling. It’s true that storytelling is important to capturing your lead’s attention. Telling an effective human story that involves your products is sure to keep the prospect engaged. People have always been interested in great stories, and it’s no different when it comes to sales. Storytelling is also a great way of building trust with potential customers. You can tell stories of how previous customers overcome their challenges by using your product. This will make them trust you enough to go to the next stage and use your product.

16. Stay attentive during sales calls. This should be an obvious one, but you need to concentrate during your sales calls! The person on the line needs to feel that you are giving them your undivided attention. If you are calling from a busy and loud office space, try and move somewhere quieter where you can 100% concentrate on the lead.  Constant communication during the call is a must, as well as being an active listener. This will allow you to respond to anything the person asks you during the call. Keeping engaged really is an essential part of making that sale!

17.  Listen carefully to your prospects. Similar to the last point, but you really need to listen to what your prospects are saying. You will get valuable feedback on the quality of your product from these calls. This can be shared with your team to gradually improve your product and also to keep your prospects happy.  It’s also important to determine whether the feedback is valuable or not. Try not to share feedback or implement changes that don’t fit into your roadmap or from people who are not in your target market.

18.  Using the BANT framework.  It’s important to use the BANT framework when qualifying leads. This stands for budget, authority, need and timeline. Does the prospect have the funds to allow them to buy? Are you talking to the key decision maker in the business? Is it possible to solve their problems? Over what time period are they planning to invest in a solution? By asking these questions, you can quickly determine if the prospect has a need. If they have short answers then it could mean they are not interested.

19.  Knowing when to automate.  Streamlining your sales process with great automation tools will save you time. Automating steps of the follow up process is always a good idea.  Any task that doesn’t need you there should be automated with great software! Ask yourself the following questions; Can it be eliminated? Can it be automated? Can it be delegated?

20.  Getting the timing right.  Creating effective and timely follow-up emails is an important strategy. If someone doesn’t respond to your first email, don’t worry! You need to think about how you will capture attention in your follow up emails.  A simple message, asking for an opinion on the first email usually works well. You can also provide interesting results that have helped customers, or share valuable content. If you plan this email sequence over time, you are likely to get results!

21.  Use internal growth strategies.  Keeping an open mindset and trying everything with your sales strategy is always a good idea. If you are in any way unsure of your sales strategy, trying things like email marketing, video marketing or setting up appointments with people is a good idea. This will allow you to understand what’s working in your sales strategy and what isn’t. After implementing these ideas, make sure to follow analytics and decide which idea is working best.

22.  Achieve a win-win.  Trying to achieve a win-win is a crucial strategy in any area of business. You need to provide value to the person you are communicating with. This way both parties come out benefitting from the conversation.  Think about it from their point of view. You want to get a sale across the line, but they want to receive genuine value for their buck and be satisfied with the product. If you keep this in mind you are much more likely to succeed.

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23.  Be honest about risks in your sales strategy.  Be honest about any risks related to your product. This will be appreciated by the person you are selling to. As well as highlighting the best aspects of your product, you should tell them about any possible risks from using it. This will show that you are an honest salesman/saleswoman, and are much more likely to be trusted.  For example, with a sales strategy for solar products you would need to tell the prospect of any risks from using the solar product.

24.  Have a strong mindset.  You need to have a strong mindset when it comes to sales. There is no doubt that you will receive plenty of rejections when you start off. Becoming used to this and taking rejections as a positive is a good place to start. Any great business starts by having people who are not afraid of rejection and will continue to work on if they are being told no.

25.  Give demos of your product.  Showing the prospect how your product works in person is always a great idea. This will help them to understand how the product works, and how it might solve a particular problem for them. It’s best to meet the prospect in person and show them face-to-face, as this develops trust and a clear demonstration of how the product works.

26.  Using the PAS framework.  The PAS framework is a great concept to have in mind when approaching sales. This stands for problem, agitate, solution. Again, finding the problem that your product will solve for the prospect is essential.  You need to identify what the biggest problem is. Then, you need to agitate them by reminding them of how dangerous this problem is. You then need to present your product as the number one solution to solve this.

27.  Be Helpful.  This seems like an obvious one, but it’s always important to remain helpful. During your sales call or meeting you need to assist the person in the best way possible. Make sure to answer any questions quickly and clearly. When discussing a potential sale, you need to personalize for the prospect and ensure they know you have done your research.

28.  Ask for a referral. Usually when you ask for a referral there is rarely a follow-up. You can get higher quality referrals if you take your time and identify your prospects in advance. A good way of doing this is on LinkedIn where you can browse connections and previous companies they have worked for.  Giving your connection a referral candidate and handing them the ammunition to contact them straight away makes everything easier. 

And there you have it! These are 28 simple ways that you can evolve your sales strategy and grow revenue. From providing solutions to prospect problems, using the BANT framework and having a strong mindset, these ideas allow you to bring your sales strategy to the next level and create a better selling experience for both you and the prospect.

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David Coen is a Digital Marketing Associate for Design Wizard. Having completed an MA in Journalism and Certificate in Digital Marketing, David enjoys building relationships with bloggers and social media influencers! He realizes the importance of long-lasting relationships with like-minded businesses and aims to help them with easy-to-read content.