What is social selling, and how can you leverage its benefits?

Social selling represents the new sales model in which one uses social networks to find and engage with new prospects. Through sharing relevant content, you nurture and educate potential leads about how your company can help them. Then by following these leads and engaging with them at the moment when they are looking for the kind of services you offer, you can transform them into actual clients.

Social selling is more effective than classical cold calling. Although it does take longer, 78% of the sales reps using social networks outsell their peers that do not use social media. Social selling is about engaging with the right audience at the right time, building relationships over time, and positioning oneself as a trusted vendor or service provider.

War is 90% information!

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Traditional vs. social selling

Think of social selling like a softer sales approach. Each time you log in to any social media network to find a new prospect, to check what they’re saying and reply to some of their questions or needs, or to share any relevant content – you’re already doing it! Let’s explore below a few of the key differences between traditional and social selling:

The traditional selling model relies on cold calling and demos to qualify leads, whereas the social one means educating and engaging with potential leads through social networks. This means that a lead, once engaged, can be considered a warm one already, as he either knows what you’re doing, or what company you represent, and trusts to add you as an option on the vendors’ list he’s considering for his needs.

Through the use of social selling, you avoid the need to buy lists of contacts and be in a position to potentially breach GDPR rules as well. You utilize the contacts already out there looking to know more or search for providers to help them out. You can target the right kind of people for the services you offer, build a long-term relationship, and be ready to engage once the opportunity arises. There are many social listening tools to help you be always aware of what your social network talks about and be able to interfere when appropriate.

Key social selling facts

Today, 67% of the buying journey is done digitally. Any decision-maker will engage and read around five pieces of content before joining with a sales representative. 84% of the C-level and VPs will use social media in their decision making.

Source

Using social selling reduces the research time to find a contact, gives a sales rep an increased number of leads, and increases the lead conversion rate. Other benefits of using social selling are represented below, a graph showing how well-rated are these amongst B2B respondents. 31% of the respondents said social selling helped them develop a deeper relationship with their prospects and clients.

Trust plays a vital role in converting leads, 87% of the B2B professionals mentioning they would engage more willingly with someone introduced to them via a social network such as LinkedIn. According to internal LinkedIn data, sales reps using social selling have 45% more sales opportunities and are 51% more likely to hit their sales quota.

How to find prospects through LinkedIn

Cold calling becomes more and more a thing of the past, as 90% of decision-makers say they never respond to cold calls. According to a study made by Baylor University, the success rate of cold calling is 330:1 (call-to-appointment ratio), meaning that in general, only one appointment comes out of 330 calls. Instead of calling, though, you can use social media to reach out to prospects, and chances are you’ll be much more productive and make better use of your time.

LinkedIn is the perfect way to start, as it is a social network where decision-makers from companies in all industries are active and ready to engage. You need to start by making a list of the companies you want to join with, or industries you want to target.

If you have a list of companies you want to target, follow them on LinkedIn. If you only know the industries, find a company that represents that industry and lookup LinkedIn’s suggestions on similar companies to follow. For example, on the Lego company page, if you scroll a bit down, you can see some related companies suggested by LinkedIn that you can follow as well.

Once you have followed a company, it’s easier now to find the key decision-makers in each of them. Click under “people” on the left-hand side menu of the company page, and by using keywords such as “head of procurement,” “CIO” or whatever best job title fits your search, you can identify the right people to connect with.

The next step is to send them a connection invite, but rather than go with the standard “I’s like to add you to my network…”, try and write a personalized message that would increase the chanced of an actual follow-up conversation. Maybe you can get some inspiration from the following examples[1]:

  • Hi [first name]. I’ve just joined [group name] on LinkedIn, and I’ve enjoyed reading your comments lately on [topic]. I’d love to keep in touch and learn more about your work. Are you open to connecting on LinkedIn?
  • Hi [first name]. I see your work at [their company name]. It looks like we have a mutual connection in [mutual connection name]. Would you like to connect?
  • Hi [first name]. I’ve been following your work for a while now at [their company name]. You’re doing an amazing job! I would love to hear more about your story and success. I am looking forward to connecting with you.

Once they’ve accepted, avoid sending them your sales pitch unless you have solid evidence they might benefit from the offer right now. Instead of sending them a sales email, start putting yourself in their radar. Share relevant content, engage with the content they are sharing, provide advice when they need it, or ask for their inputs when you need it. The overarching goal is to start connecting and establish some trust.

Results out of social selling are not immediate; you are up for a marathon, not a sprint. But this is the way to engage with the prospect at the time they need your services. But while you “wait,” allocate some time and resources to become a trusted and knowledgeable expert within your social network.

Position yourself as an industry expert

People are already talking about your products, services, and industry. All you need to do is jump into the conversation, offer advice, your opinion, ask questions, share mistakes, and success stories. People out there are already eager to read and learn.

You can do this as replies to what the people you are connected and targeting are sharing, or directly on your profile. If you want to write a post or an article, LinkedIn is offering you both options. You can also share things others wrote, and add your personal opinion next to it. Some ideas of what you can share:

  • Your company blog posts or articles
  • Videos and infographics you found online, in reputable sources
  • Interesting statistics you either agree or disagree with
  • Behind the scene photos
  • Own company or customer stories and case studies

If you are attending events, you can either share insights in a written form or record a video with a few ideas. The video can be filmed with a mobile phone, the things that matter the most are the sound quality and a few relevant conference atmosphere shots.

Earn referrals and introductions

According to a Nielsen research, more than 80% of all customers purchase something based on a recommendation from a trusted source or a friend. The digital and social environment is not different at all; a warm referral increases the chances of sales being made by up to 4 times.

It all comes down to building trust. A recent survey by CSO Insights revealed that 31% of B2B professionals said that social selling has helped them develop deeper relationships with their clients. Once a trusted rapport has been established with your most successful customers, you can ask them to introduce and recommend you to the contacts in their networks that you aim to reach out to. This way you’re not just earing a referral, but it will come from a well-trusted source, so chances are you will be able to make the most of the opportunity.

You can also work on this the other way around. Once you have identified the contacts you’d like to connect with, look up the people you have in common on LinkedIn. Maybe amongst the standard connections, there is a client or a trusted contact that can recommend you instead of just connecting by writing an initial message.

Conclusion

Social selling is not meant to replace cold calling; it is another sales enablement tool to be used as well to increase your chances to convert and build trusted relationships. It is something you can use to enhance your results over the long run, with benefits of exposure and positioning as well. Social media used right can also be an excellent channel to read the news, and gain relevant industry knowledge, connect with the right people and get the leads you need actually to sell.

Used daily, social selling helps you be successful in your sales objectives. Social selling enables you to be the trusted someone people will be happy to engage with and buy from once they know you.  

As always, “you’re more likely to trust someone you know, than someone you don’t.” Make yourself known through social selling. And start now.

Further reading:

[1] https://www.superoffice.com/blog/social-selling-statistics/