While there are many different definitions of social selling as I outlined in my last post, Koka Sexton, Global Senior Social Marketing Manager at LinkedIn, summarized it this way: “Social selling is the process of using your professional brand to fill your pipeline with the right people, insights, and relationships.”
But, when you read that definition you could make an argument that sales has always been social. Most successful sales people have spent their entire career building relationships based on their personal brand. So what’s changed and what makes social selling something that has the potential to change not only how we generate qualified leads but how marketing works with sales?
The buying process has clearly changed as we see in the fact that buyers are 57% through the buying cycle before they even identify themselves to sales. There was a time when the only source of information for a product was the account executive but now that info is available in many places and not all of it has been sanctioned by the company. It’s really this fundamental change which started with the web, moved to social media and will continue to evolve that has made social selling a requirement.
For those that are convinced of its importance but have yet to embrace social selling, here are the five key elements that need to be done in order to be successful:
- Build your brand on the right network – There are some obvious candidates here from Twitter to Facebook, but for me LinkedIn is the key in B2B. However, the most important point is to not just pick all the networks but carefully choose the ones where your audience is active. Once selected, take the time to develop your profile and take advantage of all the elements available to you from the number of words to which sections to the types of graphics. This is your first impression so think long and hard about your brand and what you want it to represent.
- Listen to the conversations to find your audience – It can be surprising (to some) what people share on their social network. And, in many cases, they are talking about problems they are facing or solutions they are looking for. This information is a gold mine for anyone that spends time just listening on their social network of choice. There are different techniques and tools available to help you listen so look for the conversations that are most relevant. You don’t even need to participate yet but get started sooner rather than later on the listening piece.
- Research your prospects to discover their needs – Related to step 2 in many ways, not only do you want to listen to conversations on the relevant topics but you also find out what your prospects are talking about and what interests them. This is basic stuff when it comes to building relationships but so many overlook social media as a source for these insights. Plus, you may find connections that you didn’t know exist, which can be used for warmer introductions. The more info you know the warmer your conversation will be with these prospects.
- Engage with insights that solve problems – Now that we have listened and done some research, it’s time to engage. And, that’s done by being helpful and sharing relevant content not by selling or spamming the prospects. This approach also helps to build your brand as a thought leader in your specific area, which will lead to even more insights and prospects. But, it’s not just sharing content you or your company creates, although that’s part of it, but also sharing other industry perspectives and answering questions that may come up.
- Build relationships as a trusted advisor – Obviously, the goal here is to find the right contacts that you can ultimately do business with in some fashion. At some point, you’ll want to connect and move the conversation into a more personalize form such as email, phone or even face-to-face. However, this stage cannot be rushed which is why I’ve left it to the end. You’ll want to do the others above so this is a logical next step for anyone that you reach out to.
Each of these steps outlined have many layers and sub-steps within then which is why I’ll look at each of these in more detail over the coming weeks. I’ll also look at at how marketing can help sales execute their social selling activities as I truly see both being able to play a significant role in making your social selling program a success.