What Social Selling Is… And More Importantly What It Is Not

Social media has completely changed the way that businesses interact with consumers. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram provide companies the ability to identify people’s interests, engage, share and respond, in real-time, creating the ideal environment for marketing communication. Shouldn’t social media also directly affect the way we sell things? Enter the current marketing trend, “social selling”

Like a lot of the ideas that spring up quickly in digital marketing, there can be a lot of confusion about what social selling is all about. It’s vital to not only understand what social selling is, but also what it is not. A misstep here can damage the relationship you have worked carefully to cultivate.

Social Selling Isn’t Just About Social Media

Salespeople have been using social selling tactics since long before social media was invented. The basic premise is a time-honored altruism: all businesses are based on relationships. In other words, if you get to know your customers personally, they’ll be more likely to trust you and buy from you.

The difference now, and the reason why social selling has added a growing number of believers in recent years, is our increased ability to get to know our customers and prospective customers. It has never been easier to connect with new contacts and learn more about them.

As Entrepreneur explains in their writeup on social selling, “the basis of every good relationship is understanding.” Social selling is about using social media tools to cultivate relationships, not simply to use the same tactics in a different channel.

Do Your Homework

Because social media platforms map relationships, and relationships are the goal of social selling, we also need to use these platforms to do our homework as to who influences the buying decisions.

In an interview with Inc, Mike Derezin, Vice President of LinkedIn Sales Solutions, notes, “The days of having a single buyer are over. Today there are, on average, 5 buyers in the B2B sales process. And when you include the key influencers, there are probably closer to 10 people influencing the overall purchase decision.”

organization. What is the structure of decision makers? Use social media filters to look by company, looking at people with the title of Director and above. With a social selling tool like LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator, you can also have access to advanced filters to look in even more detail and identify connections that may provide a “warm” introduction.

Social Selling Isn’t About Building the Largest Network Possible

With the “add friend” button just a mouse click away, it’s easy to become carried away with the idea of building a large social network. While we naturally think that reaching more people will translate into more sales, the fact of the matter is that you need quality contacts and leads to generate business. Adding people haphazardly, or using an aggressive sales approach is a sure way to get you ignored, and possibly even banned on platforms like LinkedIn.

You want your social media networks to be curated. A good rule of thumb? Your network should be made up of people who are interested in what you’re doing, and think you’re a good person to know. If someone isn’t interested in you, then they simply won’t be interested in what you post.

On the flip side, many people have too few contacts on social media platforms, and could stand to leverage their real-world experiences into richer and more robust networks. Follow up face to face time at conferences, networking events, and even scheduled meetings, by adding people. Send an invite within 24 hours of the meeting and mention the meeting and something from the conversation to personalize the invite. This will increase the chance that they will add you to their network. Once added, it’ll help you do your research and get to know your contacts before you get in the room with them next time.

Social Selling Is About Building Credibility

At the heart of any social selling strategy is the goal of transforming the buyer/seller relationship into one of subject matter expert/interested party. The only way to do this is to build credibility with your contacts.

Once you’ve worked to reinforce your network, it’s time to take a look at your profile. As Derezin notes: “Buyers today are doing research on you and your company on LinkedIn. Most sellers still have a bullet-point resume format and that’s not helping them win business.” Are you trying to attract job recruiters or prospects? The takeaway? Be sure to update your profile with a prospective buyer in mind.

With everything in your profile refreshed, the next step is to be your own original, engaging self. Share articles that are actually interesting to you and relevant to your industry. Ask questions and give advice. Like other people’s posts, or even write a quick comment. You don’t have to be a blogger to express a short opinion: brevity is the soul of wit.

Fundamentally this kind of activity builds value, trust and credibility, because you are engaging with customers about something other than selling them a product. When the time comes to reach out to a buyer, you can use articles that they have shared in order to start a conversation—it becomes something you have in common.

Social Selling Isn’t Marketing

Social selling is about one-on-one relationships, not the standard marketing relationship of one-to-many. While some social selling techniques may look like marketing, the end goal is different. You are providing relevant content in order to show up on specific peoples’newsfeeds, with the end goal of leveraging those singular relationships into sales

Convince and Convert’s writeup on social selling strategy puts it this way: “Nurturing—using any communication channel—is less about closing the sale, and more about answering and asking questions, providing valuable content, and engaging in real conversations.”

Social Selling Isn’t About Closing

At the end of the day, the most effective sale will happen because both you and the buyer are trying to solve a business problem, and the best solution happens to be your product.

Social selling advocate Jill Rowley cuts to the chase in her ZDNet interview: “The ultimate goal of an organization is to create happy customers who are generating massive value from your solutions so they’re willing to be your advocates.”

If you’ve made someone happy, they’re more likely to steer others your way. On the other hand, Rowley continues, “If your sales reps are closing bad deals, your customers who were oversold will take to their social networks and say negative things.”

Instead “Always Be Connecting” is the new Always Be Closing, “It’s the connection that leads to the conversation that ultimately is helping your buyer to buy, which is all about getting them to a close.”

What You Can Do Right Now

●     Use social media to research buyers, and understand the structure of influencers within a company.
●     Cultivate your network to create quality connections.
●     Engage with people in your network as a knowledgeable person in the field, not someone trying to sell something every chance they get.
●     Work to help people, not just make the sale.
●     Focus on connections and the closes will come.

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