What is social selling?

What is social selling?

Social selling is the practice of using a brand’s social media channels to connect with prospects, develop a connection with them and engage with potential leads. The tactic can help businesses reach their sales targets.

Think of social selling as modern relationship-building—it’s about more than just pushing products and services onto leads; it’s about genuinely getting to know them so you can provide them with information that will help them make an informed decision about purchasing from your company.

History of Social Selling

The concept of social selling, also known as inbound sales or strategic account management, has been around for more than a decade. It can be traced back to 2003, when Salesforce co-founder and former CEO Marc Benioff said companies need to develop strategies that fit their customers’ needs, not just shove their products in front of them.

Since then, companies have continued to innovate and develop their approaches. Salesforce launched one of its first products designed to help businesses engage with customers on Twitter in 2010, for example. In 2011, McKinsey & Company found that companies that use social media for business purposes see higher sales growth than those that don’t.

At around the same time, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner released a whitepaper calling out social selling as the next big thing in B2B technology and outlined how it could make business-to-business sales more efficient.

In 2016, IBM surveyed over 2,600 global B2B executives and found that 46 percent of respondents thought that by 2020, 50 percent or more of their revenue would come from cross-selling and upselling inbound leads. In 2017, Corporate Executive Board released a study showing that 53 percent of companies believe that at least 25 percent of their revenue will come from inbound leads by 2022.

How does social selling work?

Take a look at your Facebook newsfeed. Do you know all of those people? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t good prospects for your business.

The idea behind social selling, then, is to use each platform’s unique characteristics—images, text and calls-to-action, for example—to engage with potential customers in a meaningful way.

It can also be about reaching out to business connections or industry influencers and taking advantage of opportunities as they arise instead of actively seeking them out.

For example, if you notice someone has mentioned an event you are attending on Twitter, why not send them a quick message and ask if they want to grab coffee while you’re there?

When social selling doesn’t work: The opposite of social selling might be called social stalking. This is when you view someone’s social media profile, take note of their interests and then try to promote your product to them.

It may seem like a good idea at first, but unless you know them personally or they are an industry influencer who could benefit from your knowledge, chances are they won’t welcome unsolicited contact.

Unsolicited messages and random connection requests can come across as aggressive or invasive and make prospects feel uncomfortable. If you run into any roadblocks while trying to engage a prospect socially, keep in mind that relationships develop over time.

Who should be involved in social selling activities?

The best sales professionals know how to use social selling to meet potential customers. Building a network of connections online will give you access to additional contacts and potential buyers who might otherwise be unavailable.

Your message will reach a wider audience, making it easier for people to discover your products or services.

The harder it is for people to hear about you, after all, the more expensive your sales process becomes. Don’t just promote yourself; look out for people in your industry and learn from them.

Following key players on Twitter may lead you to new leads or provide insights into changing trends that could improve how you do business.

Social selling can be an important part of any marketing or sales plan, but it’s not just for business-to-business companies.

Businesses and sales organizations in every sector and size should consider using social media to connect with leads and convert them into customers.

Some of your best customers might even be on social media, so you and all your sales reps should use these tools to reach out to them, as well.

Consider setting up profiles on relevant social media platforms and posting informative content about your industry.

Then, search for people who need what you have to offer—like potential partners or clients—and target them specifically with tailored messages that build off your online interactions.

By following up consistently over time, you’ll become a known expert in your field and establish credibility that improves how people view your company overall.

What are the best social selling tools?

Are you looking for tools to help you manage your social media channels or stay on top of what’s happening with your company’s prospects, leads and customers?

Here are a few must-have social media networks for social selling and to meeting your sales goals.

They can make sure that you never miss a beat when it comes to working with prospects and leads, plus they can help keep your messaging relevant.

Or if prospecting via social media isn’t part of your business strategy, at least give these powerful tools a look!

You might just find them useful in other areas of your digital marketing or even in managing day-to-day tasks.

One thing is certain - no sales strategy can exist without a social selling strategy anymore.

Using LinkedIn for social selling

LinkedIn or LinkedIn Sales Navigator are arguably one of—if not THE—most powerful tools for social selling. Not only does it give you access to thousands of potential clients, but its robust suite of features lets you share content, send direct messages and organize connections with people in your network that may be able to help you reach your goals.

By building a network of new connections and new contacts, your sales team is provided with an opportunity to nurture relationships so they become new prospects and potentials customers!

The best part: With each relationship you build, every touch point with your contacts, you also get an opportunity to build trust and create more meaningful relationships with them. This could help you identify sales opportunities over time. Your professional network is your net worth!

A LinkedIn profile can be a major asset when looking for work, as well as finding opportunities at work. And LinkedIn Groups allow users to connect and create meaningful relationships with like-minded professionals across geographic borders and professional fields through real-time discussions on topics relevant to each group’s purpose.

Whatever your job title, whether you’re an individual or business owner, getting involved in LinkedIn groups can help build your personal brand and watch your sales take off and tap into discussion within these highly focused communities. Pick and join groups today!

Is Facebook good for social selling?

Facebook's mission to connect people may seem a bit like a reach at times, but with over 2 billion monthly active users, it definitely connects more people than any other social network.

With that many people to connect, you might think Facebook would be too crowded for businesses to get in on. Yet companies use Facebook daily to connect with right prospects and drive sales because of its convenience and power for advertising.

While traditional online channels such as search engine optimization (SEO) are still extremely important, Facebook ads can play an integral role in developing brand awareness and driving traffic back to your site.

Twitter for social selling?

Twitter is a microblogging platform that allows users to post short updates of up to 280 characters about things that matter to them.

The platform isn’t without its controversy, but it can still be a powerful tool for building relationships with customers and prospects.

With hashtags and trending topics, Twitter lets you take part in conversations around what matters most to your company’s target audience. And as with Facebook, using paid Twitter ads can help spread your message even further.

How do you measure social selling results?

Each person’s objectives are different, but some common goals of social sellers include gaining more followers on Twitter and Facebook, developing a relationship with people at a company or in an industry, building a strong professional brand, getting influencers to share content.

Social selling results can be measured through the use of analytics tools from these platforms as well as Google Analytics to understand how many new followers you have gained or retweets that you have received.

Measurement also depends on your company's specific metrics for success; if you're using social media for lead generation and/or branding, then impressions and likes are important metrics to measure.

If you're trying to convert a follower into a buyer via leads or sales opportunities (SLOs), then conversion rates might be a key measurement of success.

You'll also want to measure how many sales or leads you've gained through your presence on social media. You can use your CRM to track conversions, revenue or even goal completions depending on your business goals.

Social sellers should be tracking analytics tools like Facebook Insights and Twitter Analytics to see what content drives traffic and which posts get shared most often by potential buyers and influencers.

You'll also want to consider an event-tracking tool, such as Google Analytics, which will let you know where visitors are coming from on your website (social vs. organic search) and help you identify inbound marketing opportunities for retargeting those leads down the line.

For lead generation and relationship-building, it's important to be social on LinkedIn as well. You can use a tool like BuzzSumo to find influencers in your industry and identify what types of content they're sharing with their followers.

Many marketers find success reaching out directly to people on Twitter via Direct Message (DM) or email if they want to connect with a specific person or company that you aren't connected with yet. Make sure you use DM tracking software so you can stay on top of who's following up with you after their initial engagement with your brand.

One of your goals as a marketer should be to turn followers into buyers, so try experimenting with different types of content and hashtags to see what drives conversions. Content that converts might include SlideShare presentations, infographics or educational videos.

Hashtags like #HiringFriday, #MotivationMonday and #FollowFriday can drive significant shares on Twitter if you're sharing them on Friday afternoons or Mondays.

Keep track of all engagements through each platform's analytics to learn which posts are most successful at driving traffic back to your website and achieving your desired business results.

Your analytics will also tell you which content is shared and how often, so create more of what works!

Tips for social selling success

Good social selling, like any good conversation, starts with listening. Spend time observing what’s going on in your industry and stay in tune with emerging trends. Don’t know where to start? Use social media listening tools such as Google Alerts, Mention or Brand24 to receive updates on everything from changing technology to new legislation that could affect your business.

This can help you see what your prospects are interested in and how you can use these interests to move them toward conversion. In order for social selling to be successful, though, it must be done correctly; here are some tips for mastering it

First, make sure you have a complete understanding of your target audience. What do they care about? What are their wants and needs? How can you position yourself as an expert in these areas to effectively create relationships that lead to sales and future business opportunities.

Second, ensure that all your posts are relevant and business-oriented. While it’s tempting to focus on jokes or personal anecdotes, people want to know about what you do for a living and how it can benefit them.

Finally, leave plenty of time for follow-up with customers after a purchase. Social selling helps increase conversions but leads don’t convert on social media alone; be sure to follow up with customers via email or phone calls so that they have every opportunity to convert before moving on.

It’s important to remember that your social media is a public forum. Be thoughtful in your approach and you’ll have a better chance of developing a positive reputation.

Whether or not you feel comfortable with it, many people will go on your LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter profiles to get an idea of what you do, who you are and what makes you stand out from your competitors.

That said, there are plenty of ways to build trust with customers via social media so long as there is an understanding of what works within each channel

When it comes to potential business leads, you want to give them a reason to want to work with you or your brand. Social media gives everyone an opportunity to build relationships, share information and show potential customers that you care about their needs.

It can be intimidating at first, but once you get into a rhythm and become comfortable with it, social media will be one of your strongest sales tools.