Social selling is not to be confused with “digital selling”, which aims to create an ecosystem that leverages all digital assets both on and offline such as digital documents and sales automation.
Social selling is not just promotion on and generating sales through social media. It is the predictable process of developing, nurturing and leveraging relationships through online platforms to sell products and services. encompasses a broader approach to include areas such as marketing alignment, CRM integration and metrics; to smaller aspects such as blog posts, user-friendly websites and pillar pages in order to drive business.
“Developing, nurturing and leveraging relationships in a digital environment. It involves sharing relevant content, interacting directly with potential buyers and customers, personal branding, social listening and surrounding.”
Essentially, social selling is all about providing value at each stage of the buyer’s journey, tailoring your content and sales process to each individual buyer’s needs and, most importantly, reaching out to them when the time is right.
“93% of a customer’s buying decisions are started online”
We are living through a “digital revolution” a transformation in our behaviour, driven by technology, connectivity, social media and internet use.
As buyers, this has completely changed how we research, consume and share information. The devices we use, platforms we connect on and trusted sources or networks we are influenced by.
More importantly, in relation to sales, it has fundamentally shaped how we all make buying decisions. We have shorter attention levels, are less patient, expect immediate answers or responses, more sceptical and better informed than ever before.
This is the age of “Generation C” where the customer, buyer and consumer has all the information they need at the click, tap or swipe of a finger.
For many businesses this has forced a disconnect between how they market and sell to customers with how customers actually research and buy products / services.
74% of buyers choose the company that was first to add value and insight into their journey
The buyer’s journey has changed drastically in the past 10 years. We no longer pick up the phone, read a brochure, watch an advert or listen to a radio ad to find out about a product or service.
The buyer now uses the internet, social media and review pages to research, they have more information now than ever before and can therefore make more informed decisions. Businesses need to align how they sell with how the modern buyer researches and buys.
There are three stages that your buyer will go through on their journey – awareness, consideration and decision.
Awareness – At the awareness stage, buyers are trying to define their problem, opportunity or goal and the consequences of inaction. They will be asking general questions and giving their challenge a name.
Consideration – At the consideration stage, buyers have clearly defined the challenge and are committed to addressing it. They are deciding on what solutions they will investigate, how to educate themselves on those solutions and the pros and cons of the solutions. They are refining the options they have available to them.
Decision – At the decision stage, buyers have all their options from the first two stages and are now ready to select the solution that best fits their circumstances. They will be considering common concerns about offerings, who needs to be involved in the decision and whether they want to trial a product before committing to buying.
It is important to connect with the buyer before the decision stage, preferably in the transition between the awareness and consideration stages.
“57% of the buying journey is done before a sales rep is involved”
The importance of having a good social selling strategy which puts your company on the frontline of the online world, in the right places, becomes clearer.
In order to truly become an inbound marketing, social selling company, it is important to realise that the traditional sales funnel (awareness, interest, desire, action, retention and advocacy) is an outdated, seller-centric approach which places the buyer at the bottom-of-the-funnel and therefore is not suited to the modern-day buyer.
Thus, creating a sales model which places the buyer at the heart of everything you do is imperative to transitioning your company towards a social selling business model. Rather than viewing your funnel as a top-to-bottom process, a more holistic, rounded approach towards selling should be adopted. Aligning your marketing, sales enablement and sales team is important to this process as it allows frequent, free-flowing communication between departments that places the buyer at the centre of everything you do. The emphasis on awareness and interest will still be in the marketing department, desire and action in sales and retention and advocacy in sales enablement/services. But by aligning departments, a more holistic approach can be taken which allows each department to support different sections when needed, helping to place the customer at the heart of your selling model. Aligning departments also enables your trigger, insights and referral-based selling to have a better connection with one another, which is a key part of a social selling strategy.
An increase in pipeline development is something which every company should strive for. A well implemented social selling strategy means that your business will need to have more products in the different stages of pipeline production as you will see an increase in customer retention. Happy customers will return and, more importantly, spread the word of the great service you provide. In fact, businesses who implement a social selling strategy see 40 to 50% more new business and 80-90% retention rates.
One massive benefit of a social selling strategy is that you should really start to see a reduction in your account churn. As you are adding value to a buyer’s journey by providing a more human and helpful service to your customer, they will be more likely to remain subscribe to your services. Especially if you keep them updated with useful content afterwards. Outbound tactics such as spam emails, product pushing and sending generally unrelated content to a potential lead is a thing of the past. Customers are busier than ever and don’t want their inboxes filled with spam. They will simply unsubscribe and block.
Top marketing and sales talents, especially the newer generations, don’t want to be a part of old, outbound sales teams with outdated tactics. Instead, they want to provide the customer with a great service and let their expertise in the industries guide the buyer through their journey. Look at it from their perspective; what is the point of spending years studying for a degree or gaining valuable experience in a workplace, just to use cold-calling, spam and pressure tactics? They can add real insight into a buyer’s journey and would like to use their knowledge to attract sales. Additionally, once you have the talent, you can help shape their development and really build it around a social selling ethos.
A customer review could make or break a sale before you’ve even realised there was a chance of one happening. Buying online can be risky and customers are warier than ever when purchasing online. They want to know that the product and service they will receive is going to be what it says on the tin and what better way to ensure that than by reading what other buyers have experienced. A social selling strategy gives you an edge online as, if done properly, buyers should feel like they have received a good service and will leave positive reviews. Make sure you don’t lose out on sales by providing a poor, unhelpful service.
At the heart of your social selling routine, especially on Twitter and Linkedin is finding the right people, educating them with insights, engaging them and developing relationships with
A F.E.E.D selling strategy is key to any social selling strategy as it is the best approach to truly provide value to the buyer. Unlike the outbound tactic of prospect, demo, close it provides a human, helpful and holistic service which will leave a lasting impact on your buyer.
Instead of throwing paint at the wall and hoping some of it will stick, your marketing strategies should really aim to focus on prospects who you think are right for you and your services. Use social listening to monitor social media activity such as keywords, the sales navigator tool on LinkedIn or HubSpot to monitor buyer’s patterns and find new leads. Attempt to connect with people on social platforms at the right times, don’t do it if you think there is a low chance of them interacting with you, you will rarely get another chance.
Regularly update your website, blog and social media sites with educational content that will provide the buyer with value along their journey. Buyer’s will appreciate the help that your content has provided and how that has helped transformed their journey. They don’t want to be bombarded with ads, useless pop-ups and other pressure tactics. 74% of buyers choose the first company who add real value to their journey. Make sure you’re the first.
Engage with your leads in a meaningful and helpful way. You could begin contact by leaving a like or comment on a recent post of theirs or even take it a step further by sharing relevant material with individual leads online. Share valuable material in the form of checklists, PDFs, infographics and videos to help progress leads through your sales funnels. Through the right questions, you should help guide the buyer to the right conclusions, the right ones might not be to but from you, but through an inbound approach you can assess qualified leads quicker
You should always strive to develop your relationships with your customers in any ways you can. You could do this by asking for feedback and recommendations from client or by interacting with prospects and influencers by sharing their content and giving recommendations of where they can find useful content. Make sure you have buyer-centric profile and create media such as videos, images and slide shares to upload to your profile, they help add to your authority and break up the profile text, making your page more interactive. You should aim to grow your network by at least 3 people a day to fully utilise your online platforms.
A good qualification framework is vital to a successful social strategy. You need to be able to clearly distinguish between leads, qualified leads and those who aren’t the right fit for your product or service. If you’re just throwing paint at the wall and hoping some sticks, you are not going to see the full benefits that social selling can bring. Social selling is all about focusing on the customers who you think you have a high chance of selling to and attracting them to your business. A good qualification framework to use is the CGP, TCI, BA framework.
At the finding and educating stage of your F.E.E.D approach, you will most likely be providing content online or making calls aligned with the buyer’s awareness stage. Never cold call though. Only make calls if they are pre-arranged. You can then build a rapport with the buyer much easier and talk about relative content which you may have already connected through or any common connections you may have.
You will probably go through a pain, point, fit process. What is the buyer’s challenge? Is it worthwhile pursuing their goals and what are the positive and negatives of doing so? Is your company the right fit to solve their issue and what are your plans? But don’t forget; is the customer the right fit for your company? Provide them with value and treat them in a human and helpful way, maybe by suggesting other avenues. But spend as little time as possible on leads who may turn out to be dead ends. Thankfully, your social selling strategy should filter most of these out.
At the engage and develop stage of your F.E.E.D approach you will most likely be connecting with your buyer’s in more meaningful ways such as exploratory calls, emails and other direct connections. A typical approach to use at this stage would be the BANT framework (budget, authority, needs, timeline). However, while this is an effective tactic for identifying ready-to-buy prospects, it is not as helpful at helping prospects understand the value of differentiated offerings. After outlining the challenges, goals and plans in the discovery call, the engage stage of your exploratory call should look at the timeline for achieving their goals, the consequences of failure and the positive implications of success. At this stage, you are still trying to provide value and insight to the buyer, don’t push your services too much and simply outline what you can and can’t help them with. If you are the right fit, they will appreciate your help and are much more likely to buy from you. At the develop stage, you will almost certainly have a qualified lead and will be trying to explore the finer details of the deal a bit more. At this point you want to be exploring two things: what the prospects budget is and whether the person you’re speaking to has the authority to complete the deal. You should treat everyone with the same respect as they could be speaking for someone higher up, but at the end of the develop stage you really should be speaking with people who have authority to close deals.
This framework should really provide a good basis for qualifying leads while still sticking to a good social selling strategy. It allows you to give value to the buyer’s journey and provide a human, helpful and holistic approach. You are giving them content, context and options at each stage, something which they will remember and appreciate.
Changing habits can be hard. It is especially hard if the way you were doing things weren’t failing completely either. But social selling is not about a complete overhaul of a sales and marketing strategy. It is all about integrating a new approach into your current strategies in order to really maximise your selling potential online which will boost your bottom line. Think of it as an extra branch on your selling tree.
True change starts from the top. If those instigating the implementation of a social selling strategy don’t fully believe in the value of it then, frankly, what is the point? The negative outlook will trickle down into your marketing and sales teams and your business will never see the true results of what social selling can bring to the table. A legacy mindset means that some marketing and sales professionals may not believe in social selling to begin with, so strong leadership is a must. Once the results are irrefutable, they will soon change their outlook.
To truly reap the full benefits of selling your products or services online, it is imperative that you have a defined digital and social selling strategy. Using old outbound tactics online will not maximise your selling potential online. Customers are wary of ads and websites which push products onto them for a number of reasons Instead, you should educate and help your buyer’s to make their own conclusions. If your product is right for them, they will choose it. If not, at least you made a lasting impression which could benefit you in the future.
Aligning your departments is a must when implementing a social selling strategy. Remember, your customer is at the centre of everything you do and this cannot truly happen unless your departments are working together to communicate on how best to provide a buyer-centric approach. Create a ‘feedback loop’ between sales, marketing, sales enablement and service A half-hour meeting at least a few days a week between your marketing, sales and sales enablement teams to give feedback on the previous days work and to outline goals and strategies for the coming day is a great starting step. Your departments can then communicate with each other when necessary, which will provide a holistic approach to your social selling strategy. Have common, overall goals and as well as departmental goals to enhance your social selling abilities.
Although it is vital that sales leaders are fully-trained and behind a social selling strategy, your sales reps also need to know the fundamentals otherwise it will be difficult to implement. A sales training company would be a great start to introducing the basics to your sales and marketing teams, and then have them return to hammer home the details until everyone is fully trained. Alternatively, you could keep it in-house and build on the work done in a few training sessions by giving your leaders and reps specific training through workshops and meetings.
A clear and obvious benefit of incorporating a social selling strategy is that there should be a noticeable increase in revenue growth. 61% of companys which implement a social selling strategy see a positive impact on revenue growth compared to 41% of businesses who don’t use it in their sales strategy.
As social selling allows sales professionals to remain flexible, better qualify leads and write bids, it has been correlated to 40 to 50% more new business and 80-90% retention rates. Implementing a modern, buyer-centric approach means that customer’s are happy to keep using your service. After comparing you to your competitors, why go somewhere else? They know you add real value and insight to their buying journey while still delivering the same great service or product. When companies adopt social selling, they see that over 33% of customers are less likely to cancel or churn.
Hitting a quota can be a daunting prospect for any sales professional. In fact, a recent study conducted by TAS estimates that on average, 67% of sales professionals don’t hit their quota.
Buyers in the modern market are warier and savvier of outbound marketing tactics such as cold calls and emails and instead want some form of connection and value, if only brief, from the company they are buying from. Social sellers see a 66% greater quota attainment than those using traditional, outbound prospecting techniques. This is because they have done in-depth, proper research on who they’re selling to and can therefore make well-informed conversation starters, whilst it also allows them to be flexible throughout.
Providing insight, value and customer friendly marketing tactics is by far the best way to build and nurture customer. As previously mentioned, 74% of buyer’s choose the first sales person who adds value to their journey, and 62% of sales pros at large companies agree social selling helps them build stronger, more authentic relationships.
Educate your buyer so that they know something that they didn’t know the day before, even if that means they won’t buy your product or service. The buyer will remember the value you provided and could buy from you in the future, or even recommend you to a friend or business associate.
The power of a review could make or break your lead. How many times have you been put off buying a product that seems perfectly fine, at a reasonable price, just because it has less than a 5-star review? Now think of all the customers your business could lose if they see negative reviews.
A 2015 Forrester report said that 74% of B2B buyer’s conduct more than half of their research online and the number is only likely to have increased. By not having a strong, online presence where you are providing potential prospects with regular, educational and valuable material, you are missing out on an array of potential customers. 78% of sales pros using social media perform better than their peers, so the benefit of having a strong presence across all platforms in your social selling strategy is obvious. You really want to be getting your business out there as often and efficiently as you can and a social selling strategy is a great way to do that.
As you implement a social selling strategy you should start to see an increase in web traffic as buyers are drawn to your website, blogs and social media outlets through good reviews, SEO and reputation. The increase in traffic means that you should be able to identify more potential leads and tailor your material to suit their needs and behaviours. In theory this should lead to an increase of qualified leads and therefore an increase in net turnover.
While most of the platforms and services mentioned are commonly used marketing tools, it is important to realise that they can also be used to enhance your social selling abilities by tailoring your content to your specific prospect’s challenges and goals. Social selling doesn’t aim to completely overhaul the way your company approaches marketing and sales. Instead, it tries to align your departments so that the customer’s experience and happiness is at the centre of everything you do, while maximising the revenue earned through online mediums to increase your company’s bottom line. Social selling is additive, not transformational.