Social selling is an increasingly common tactic that sales teams use, often with great success. Increasingly, social networks are used to help salespeople reach potential buyers. In this blog post, we’ll explore this selling method, how it is similar and different from traditional sales techniques, and what you need to establish social selling best practices.
Social selling has been a key part of business sales strategies for years. The idea is to foster relationships with potential customers, similar to building a friendship with a person.
Unlike traditional sales approaches, like cold calls or direct advertising, social selling emphasizes building relationships. Rather than sales reps focusing on one-time interactions, you can share the latest industry insights with your target customers.
Creating relevant discussions that offer value to your prospects is more successful than a hard-sell approach.
The goal of social selling isn't to immediately close but to position yourself as a reliable partner. By consistently providing valuable insights, you’ll earn your prospect’s trust. This trust will likely guide prospects toward your product or service over a competitor, as you’ve been constantly helpful.
Social selling isn’t a direct sales approach but a relationship-based strategy - an entirely new sales process - subtly steering your target market towards a purchasing decision.
Social selling can work in different settings. It isn't all conducted online. For instance, the traditional method of door-to-door selling allows for personal, direct interaction.
Whether at industry trade shows or community events, networking in local trade associations or business groups can also open the doors to a wide range of new prospects.
Some peer-to-peer selling franchises rely on people gathering the spending power of friends and family to build an income base.
Businesses can replicate these forms of in-person social selling opportunities online. For instance, webinars offer a chance to delve deep into interesting topics, perhaps presenting a product or service in a detailed and engaging manner.
Participating in online forums is another way to connect with potential customers, as you can offer expertise and advice to build your brand's reputation.
All these methods, whether in-person or online, have their unique strengths and weaknesses. Nevertheless, they all aim to build relationships, engage audiences and earn trust, paving the way for future sales.
Note that social media platforms provide plenty of opportunities to interact with audiences, share updates, or address prospect painpoints.
As such, many marketing professionals use the term social selling to encompass social media. Although other digital and in-person methods for social selling exist, the true value of lies in harnessing social media.
Define your audience: Try to understand who are the right people you should be targeting. Conduct market research, do internet research, find the right job titles and tally up preferences and the problems your product/service solve. Doing this helps identify the social media platforms your prospects use.
Pick the right platforms: Use the social media platforms where your audience is most active. LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and Facebook are used for business-to-consumer (B2C) sales since they have the greatest footfall. However, don't overlook niche platforms relevant to your industry, especially for business-to-business (B2B) sales.
Optimize your profiles: Present your business as one that is credible in your industry. Use well-taken headshots and write a compelling bio and highlight your expertise and experience.
Listen and learn: Monitor conversations related to your industry, even if they aren't directly related to your business. Use social listening tools like TweetDeck to track keywords and trends. Gain a better understanding of your audience's needs and concerns by identifying relevant subjects that people are talking about.
Engage on social media: Don’t just broadcast information, but respond to comments, ask questions and share relevant third-party content, too. Be an active, engaging part of the community by participating in discussions. Provide value: Share valuable content that deals with common queries, solves problems, or entertains. Don't be tempted to make a hard sell. Educate, inform and inspire instead.
Build relationships: Connect with potential clients through social media. Also, reach out to influencers because leveraging their appeal on social media can be very cost-effective. Build meaningful relationships over time by offering help and guidance.
Monitor and adjust: Track your activities, engagement levels and conversions with social media selling. Use the analytics functions to understand what works and what doesn't. Review and adjust your strategies as you need to. Social selling should never be used as a 'quick fix' to resolve poor sales performance elsewhere. Instead, it should be deployed as a long-term strategy. Like any relationship, it's about building trust, gradually.
While offering significant benefits, any social sell has potential pitfalls that businesses should consider. Creating quality content, engaging with audiences, and maintaining an active presence on even just one or two social media platforms demands a substantial commitment in terms of time and effort.
For small businesses with limited resources, this can be a strain on resources.
Selling over social media is time-consuming. Building trust and relationships doesn't happen overnight. Companies expecting a quick win could find social selling frustrating and ineffective in the short term. In addition, there's a risk of damaging the brand's reputation if social selling isn't conducted professionally.
Overly promotional content or inconsistent messaging can turn audiences away. Delayed or inadequate responses to online feedback can have the same negative effect.
Measuring the return on investment (ROI) can also be challenging. Although likes, shares and comments are quantifiable metrics, converting them into actual sales isn't always straightforward.
Businesses need to build sophisticated tracking and reporting, for example, CRM and analytics packages, to measure the success of their social selling efforts.
Data privacy issues pose a significant challenge with social media selling, too, as it relies on gathering data about prospects in a way that’s compliant with data protection regulations.
Finally, the ever-changing nature of social media platforms can impact all social selling strategies. Algorithm changes sometimes reduce the visibility of posts. Also, shifts in user behavior can require ongoing strategy revisions as trends change.
Companies committing to a social selling strategy must stay current with social trends and remain agile enough to navigate the dynamic digital marketing landscape.
Social selling allows for business relationship-building over time. Use social media selling to position your business as a credible partner rather than just vendor of goods and services. Social media provides a platform to demonstrate industry-related expertise and leadership, both valuable in the B2B sector.
However, B2B businesses should consider their tactics carefully. Posted or shared content should focus on industry insights and business solutions.
Without being too technical, providing detailed product information that meets the needs of sophisticated buyers is more appropriate in the B2B environment.
Platforms like LinkedIn and industry-specific forums or social media pages might be more relevant than general Instagram or Facebook accounts.
Lastly, given the larger order magnitudes in B2B sales, integrating social media marketing methods with a CRM system can help track interactions, manage relationships better and determine the effectiveness of the social selling approach.
Social selling can be done in person or online. When selling, you should consider the different platforms since each has its unique user base, content style and engagement tools. Your choice of platform should align with the nature of your business and, even more crucially, with your target audience's preferences. There are numerous platforms to research and consider, here's the four main ones:
Often best for fast-paced, short-form content and conversations, X is an excellent platform for social selling and sharing industry news. X is also strong for participating in discussions and responding to customer queries. X’s real-time dynamic can also be useful when announcing time-limited offers and promotions.
A go-to choice for effective B2B social selling, LinkedIn is a professional networking site. It's a good place to share in-depth industry insights, product updates and company news, such as senior appointments that may prompt new client interest. LinkedIn's content is generally more professional than other social sites. This makes it a suitable platform for detailed, informative content and professional networking.
Facebook offers a more casual, community-oriented environment for selling with social media. It's an excellent platform for sharing both educational and entertaining content. You can also use it to host live video discussions and tutorials. Facebook's broad user demographic makes it a platform worth using for B2C and B2B lead generation lead generation.
Primarily a visual platform, Instagram is an ideal platform for businesses with eye-catching products or services. Companies can showcase their products and share customer testimonials through captivating images, creative videos and interactive stories.
CRM systems can play a critical role in the effectiveness of a social selling strategy.
By centralizing your customer data within a CRM system, sales professionals can better understand their audience and tailor their online engagements to convert more leads into sales.
For example, when a potential client calls, a sales development representative (SDR) can quickly establish the comments a client has posted online about a particular business solution.
Then, they'll be able to address the pain points they're suffering from, overcome sales objections and suggest a solution.
One of the key benefits of a CRM system that integrates with social selling methods is that it provides SDRs with a holistic view of their customers.
A comprehensive CRM system should capture interactions across multiple platforms, including emails, calls and social media engagements.
By having this information accessible, the system should provide a full picture of the customer's sales journey. Such securely held data should make it simpler for sales professionals to engage in meaningful interactions, strengthen relationships and boost sales revenue.
CRM systems can also enhance productivity by automating many administrative tasks associated with social media selling.
For instance, by tracking hundreds or thousands of social interactions automatically, you won't waste time manually entering this data into your system.
Also, CRM systems help businesses that sell with social media to identify their most valuable sales activities. By tracking each interaction's outcome, firms should be able to identify patterns and trends.
In turn, this will assist marketers in understanding which posts, shares and online interactions lead to the most successful outcomes.
Analysis often provides invaluable insights that allow businesses to fine-tune their social selling strategies, gain an edge over their competitors, and see an increased return on their investment.
Bear in mind that businesses need to fully train their teams to leverage a CRM system for social selling. The system's capabilities can only be maximized if the sales team truly understands how to get the best results.
Consequently, regular training and refresher sessions are vital if SDRs are to keep up with social media integration features.
Finally, businesses should integrate their CRM systems with all their chosen social media platforms, including social selling tools, to enhance customer relationship management. Knowledge of interactions on just one or two platforms isn't that beneficial if the bulk of them occur on another site, for example.
Multi-platform integration streamlines the process of capturing interactions while ensuring that the CRM system provides the most accurate and up-to-date customer information when needed.
Social selling strategies can encompass everything from building a word-of-mouth network in your area to leveraging friends and family within your customer base.
If you want to be successful in your pursuit of social media selling, then careful planning is required. For example, under-resourcing your marketing team's ability to deal with online interactions can lead to reputational damage.
In addition, failing to provide sales teams with tools that neatly summarize social media interactions when sales inquiries prevent social selling success.
Many businesses leverage social media selling to their advantage today, so there's nothing stopping you from replicating their successes.
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