Social selling is a tool that almost anyone can add to their professional toolbox. While sales professionals have traditionally applied social selling, it can apply to anyone using relationships and relational marketing in their career. Social selling solves the problem of needing to fill a pipeline and connect with customers by building relationships.
For example, recruiters can use social selling practices to identify prospects, build relationships and grow trust with potential candidates before a job opportunity arises.
Social media doesn’t replace your existing selling or relational tools. Instead, it is a different tool that helps leverage the selling skills and the relationship-building skills that one has already fostered in their career.
To explain how social selling helps to grow customer relationships on a one-to-one basis, let’s look at these five ways to use it effectively:
1. Understand what Social Selling Is (and Isn’t)
Social selling is the art of using social media to find, understand, connect with, cultivate and nurture potential sales prospects.
There are four key steps in this process:
- Identify prospects online
- Enrich ideal contract profiles
- Showcase knowledge and expertise
- Build one-to-one relationships
While it seems obvious, it bears repeating: Social Selling is not Social Media Marketing.
Though both happen on social media platforms, Marketing and Sales use different approaches to achieve very different outcomes.
Social media marketing supports driving attention and building affinity at a large scale, with multiple audiences in mind. Organic social media marketing supports the big picture and aims of an organization. Contrast that with the messages delivered through social selling — messages dialed in for a specific audience through more personalized content. While the Marketing team is broadcasting from one to many, social selling is ideal for that one-to-one communication.
2. Grow Your Network
A key to understanding how best to use social selling is understanding who is really in your audience. When we pull back the curtain and reveal who’s really in our social media audiences, the results are always different than expected. Remember: Those who are paying attention to your channels are not necessarily who is the most active.
In social selling, we must dive into our respective audiences outside of the brand pages.
Think about your own LinkedIn connections and Twitter followers. They most likely include a mix of the following people:
- Co-workers and colleagues
- Industry peers and competition
- Adjacent peers and competition
- Peers from a group, event, or networking event
- Friends, family, and acquaintances
Who do we want in our audience? When social selling, prospects are in our direct line of sight. However, don’t rule out the importance of developing connections with adjacent peers and competitors or others in the peripherals of your network. This is especially true when seeking out who can connect you to a second-level connection.
Build connections by adding value to their newsfeeds. At Convince & Convert, we are true believers that Youtility marketing pays off in dividends. When relationships are founded because we are helping, not selling, we become indispensable. Transactions happening online take many forms — you may not get a direct sale, but an introduction or a recommendation from your network can lead to additional opportunities.
Focusing on helping people first, rather than only considering the next sale or deal, can build trust with our audience. Youtility is relevant in any form: Information, entertainment, and perspective. There are several ways to put Youtility into play.
When you’re relevant to gain someone’s attention, they permit you to earn their trust. Every salesperson knows that trust is the way to unlock that relationship and get closer to the desired outcome.
3. Be a Good Listener
We coined the term “Acceptable Eavesdropping” to describe the ideal way to listen to existing conversations happening online. Adapting social listening rules to how individuals can eavesdrop pays off in these ways:
- Follow prospects & peers and join the conversation they’re already having
- Comment and engage in content in a relatable way
- Join adjacent and industry groups of your target personas. Participate lightly and gain insights from the conversations, questions asked, and answers given.
- Follow relevant hashtags to find new prospects involved in similar conversations.
- Use Notifications and tools like Spoonbill.io to identify and react to profile changes.
Our actions online are generally public unless we expressly limit them. What is posted publicly is available for anybody to eavesdrop on if they know how to do it. From a social selling perspective, listening to existing conversations provides insights that help sellers fine-tune messaging and identify opportunities to contribute.
Comment on and engage with content and conversations, even if it’s not directly related to your sales effort. Applying a Youtility-first mindset, try to add value with any response or answer. Having an actual conversation builds trust and rapport.
Joining and participating in groups that attract your target personas or adjacent can lead to insights into how those individuals generally talk about their business challenges and needs.
One of the early steps I made this year while working on a startup idea was to join groups on Facebook and Reddit that help me identify and note the challenges of users that my idea will solve. While I am not participating actively, being part of the group allows me to get familiar with this audience group’s challenges, complaints, and celebrations. Those insights are invaluable as I begin to build my product and demonstrate that I identify with the users’ needs from their point of view.
Wherever you choose to listen, do so to connect within your industry or specialty. Use that time to share information and expertise, ask for advice and build relationships. Select the social channels, groups, and hashtags that reflect the communities within your target audiences to get smarter about prospects and current customers.
4. Engage With Purpose
Listening should inform what content to create and share. All content should start from a place of understanding:
1) Who are you trying to reach?
2) What does that audience care about?
The Convince & Convert team says this all of the time, but it’s true: creating content your audience cares about is a surefire way to help them find you and stay with you.
But too often, employees are creating content that only they or their employer cares about. The effects just aren’t as appealing. We’ve all seen this as we’re scrolling through our newsfeeds, and we scroll right by what isn’t the most relevant or interesting content.
There needs to be a balanced approach between a company’s social marketing strategy and the employees taking ownership of their personal brand.
When directly engaging with your network, remember the golden rule of engagement– add value to your conversations. Do this by researching their industry and tailoring your content to their interests and needs. Be mindful of all information you share.
A good rule of thumb is to avoid using the word “I” in the first ten words of your post, caption, or comment. Engaging from a place of help means the conversation is not about you.
Stop defaulting to the “Like” (thumbs up) reaction. Using these other reactions will stand out among the different reactions, as others do not often use them.
If the post or article is noteworthy, consider sharing it and crediting the author. Send the author a direct message appreciating the post or tag them in your comments.
Use the Articles & Activities section to see what your contacts are commenting on. This will give you important insights into what they are interested in and allow you to open a conversation on a mutual piece of content you have engaged with. If your contact is not posting actively, this may help open a dialogue.
5. Measure the Effectiveness of Social Selling Efforts
Social media is a great way to generate leads, sure. But how can we measure the social selling steps of connecting with an audience, building credibility, and earning their trust? How do you know if your social selling plan is effective?
Here are a couple of ways to measure the effectiveness of social selling efforts.
Social Selling Index:
LinkedIn’s own Social Selling Index can be a barometer for individual progress. According to Linkedin, the SSI is a helpful measure of how a salesperson’s social selling skills and execution come together.
This self-report card allows for progress checks over time as a good base for identifying what steps taken are helping. It’s calculated by evaluating four distinct pillars:
- Establishing your professional brand
- Finding the right people
- Engaging with insights
- Building relationships
SSI scores update day to day, providing real-time feedback based on your activity and the health of your network over time. The score is based on a scale of zero to 100, with a maximum score for each pillar being 25.
Linkedin reports that social selling leaders create 45% more opportunities than those with a lower SSI as if we needed an incentive to boost scores. The more consistent you are using LinkedIn, the more significant the impact on your SSI score–but more importantly, the greater impact on your network overall.
Making every touchpoint that we have with individuals trackable seems impossible. But in digital, we can get close with the right tools in place. Using data capturing and tracking technology makes it easier to qualify prospects and understand when they’re more ready and open for conversation.
Avoid duplicating Marketing’s role by trying to create campaigns on your own. Instead, it is more effective and more manageable to make individual touch points interactive.
Augment your emails and shared content to track when they are opened and viewed. Some of our favorite tools to do this include:
- Video tools that allow for viewability reporting, like Vidyard GoVideo
- Email enhancers like MixMax for automation and Sigstr for signatures
- Campaign URL builders and short URL providers
- SMS Messaging
Go Forth and Prosper
When applying social selling to building relationships with your social network, remember this: Doing it wrong is worse than not doing it at all. Take these ideas, and don’t hesitate to make subtle shifts in how you approach social media individually.
By focusing on the social more than the selling, success will follow.
Need an assist? The Convince & Convert Consulting team offers workshops on how teams can apply social selling to Sales, HR, and Professionals of all kinds.