Broadly speaking, there are two types of sales strategies.
One is to cast the widest net possible, trying to scoop up everyone, whether they fit the profile of your ideal prospect or not, then set out to convince them to buy from you.
Let’s call this traditional sales.
The other is to take a laser-targeted approach to your ideal clients – one that is built on research, relevance and relationship building, resulting in more leads and more profitable deals.
This is called social selling, and it is fast becoming the cornerstone of modern sales strategies for successful, forward-thinking companies.
In fact, thousands of smart companies are profiting from social selling, including the world’s biggest. IBM, for example, reported a 400% lift in sales from its social selling pilot program.
Companies implementing a solid social selling strategy report a consistent flow of quality leads, higher conversions and more lucrative contracts. Plus, they enjoy higher staff retention in their sales and marketing teams.
This last point is an important one.
Companies wedded to traditional sales tactics, such as cold calling, suffer a higher staff turnover rate because traditional sales methods make it hard to hit targets.
People lose motivation and move on to seemingly greener pastures.
Replacing them costs considerable time and money, but the vicious circle of poor sales and staff turnover continues because the strategy hasn’t changed.
When sales people discover the art and science of social selling, however, they find themselves empowered as they consistently convert leads and hit their numbers. As a result, they enjoy their work more and stay in their jobs longer.
Clearly, social selling is a win-win for companies AND their sales teams.
The impact of social selling is reflected in the following numbers:
- 78% of salespeople using social media outperform their peers
- social selling generates 38% more new opportunities than traditional selling
- social selling has a 100% higher lead-to-close rate than outbound marketing.
But before you dive headfirst into this rich pool of opportunity, take a moment to learn the terminology and tools you’ll need for success.
Key Components of Social Selling and How to Grow Them
Here are some common terms you will come across when implementing social selling into your sales and marketing strategy.
Sales effectiveness: This refers to your company’s ability to generate sales. Effectiveness is based on conversion rate, time it takes to convert and who has been converted. That is, are you closing more of your deals with your ideal clients?
There are many ways to increase sales effectiveness. One of them is to assess your current sales process, looking for blind spots and areas for improvement.
Questions to consider are:
- What is your defined sales process?
- Does your entire team understand it?
- Does it align with the way your prospects purchase? This is critical.
- Does your sales force consistently follow the process?
- At what point in the process do prospects fall away? How can you remove this hurdle?
Remember: Just because your sales process is converting for you doesn’t mean it’s optimized. It always pays to constantly reassess it, looking for weak points, sales team adherence and areas for improvement.
Sales readiness: This is all about YOUR sales people. Do they have the knowledge, skills and resources to have successful conversations with prospects at every stage of the funnel?
Like a football manager whipping their team into shape, training and coaching are imperative to creating a sharp, efficient and successful sales-ready team.
Many companies make the mistake of letting their new sales hires practice on the very prospects they are selling to. This sink-or-swim approach is dangerous for everyone involved.
It’s on you to give your sales team the tools to succeed. And that comes down to education and training.
Create a series of easily-digestible, actionable learning modules – via a video or text manual, for example – that will give your sales team a clear direction and the knowledge of the sales funnel, product and prospects. It should cover everything they need to deliver a smooth and insightful sales experience for your prospects.
Employee advocacy: This is when your employees positively promote your company. It largely takes place on social media via status updates and sharing of company content.
It may seem like a small step, but the ripple effect throughout your employees’ networks is incredibly valuable to your company.
To increase employee advocacy, your marketing team needs to focus on the content required to support sales and make it as easy as possible for your people to share that content on social media.
Step one is creating hyper-personalized content that targets each of your key markets. Your marketing team can do this by creating at least a couple of strategic educational marketing pieces for each target market. You can take it even further by tweaking that content to fit individual companies and key personnel.
Step two is about training your people. You can’t expect salespeople to be proficient in their jobs without training. By the same token, you can’t expect them to know how to post company content and get them to do it without consistent training and making the content super easy to access.
Be consistent with your message to your staff about the benefits of employee advocacy, emphasizing that it benefits everyone. And regularly send your people the content they need to share so it’s easy for them to do so.
What is the difference between digital selling and social selling?
Digital selling: Encompassing both internal operations and tools – such as sales automation, online presentations, digital documents and CRM platforms – as well as external sales tactics and strategies, digital selling is leveraging digital assets to reach the modern buyer.
Who is the modern buyer? They are independent and informed – after all, they have the internet for all their product research. People don’t want to be sold to via traditional methods, such as sales pitches and cold calls. They buy from people and companies who give them a great experience and added value and insight – a guiding hand through their evaluation and buying process. In other words, the modern buyer buys from the modern seller.
You, as a modern seller, research your prospects so you know exactly who your audience is. Your campaigns are targeted and informative, and you meet your prospects where they want to be met in their buyer’s journeys. With the aid of social media and technology, you provide them with a frictionless, insightful and seemingly tailor-made buying experience.
The best way to do this is through…
Social selling: Although it’s under the broader umbrella of digital selling, social selling is a powerful standalone sales strategy. Social selling is a process of researching, then connecting and engaging with your ideal prospects where they are on their customer journeys. It’s done with the aim of nurturing trust, demonstrating expertise and building strong relationships with them so you can move your conversations with them offline, where you can convert them into clients.
Social selling is one of the most effective techniques of the last decade to produce Marketing-Qualified Leads (MQLs) and Sales-Qualified Leads (SQLs).
In the B2B world, there is no better way to start social selling than through LinkedIn. It is the only place where you can have un-gated access to decision-makers and the ability to build relationships with them.
But before you begin a LinkedIn message binge, you must take the time to research every one of your prospects and their companies. You need this information so you can craft a message unique to them. People will see through a templated message and ignore you.
In fact, there is a proven social selling process you can follow, where you connect with your dream prospects in the right way, at the right time, with the right message and then nurture the relationship until it’s time to move the conversation offline. You can find out more about it here.
Social Selling Tools to Help You Win More Business
Countless tools exist to help you excel at social selling, but I recommend keeping it simple. Here are some of the best social selling tools I frequently recommend to clients.
LinkedIn: LinkedIn isn’t just the ground floor for social selling – it is its epicenter. Where else can you research and directly reach out to your ideal prospects and build real relationships with them? Unlike other social media platforms, LinkedIn is where decision-makers and business leaders can be found online. For a good foundation on how to make LinkedIn work for your business, check out my book LinkedIn Unlocked.
LinkedIn Sales Navigator: It’s a powerful tool that allows for hyper-targeting, providing you with a deeper ability to discover, research, target and engage with more of your ideal clients, and manage your sales pipeline.
Point Drive: Imagine being able to track your content to the extent that you could see every interaction with it by every person in your target organization.
Who viewed it, when, what part of it, and how many times did they engage with it? Who else have they sent it to, and what are their details?
Point Drive, a prime feature of Sales Navigator (team version), answers all of these questions, giving you a detailed picture of the traction your content is getting and how widely distributed it is throughout an organization.
This data gives you an invaluable insight into your prospects, opens the door to researching and connecting with additional leads and decision-makers.
CRMs: Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software acts as your sales team’s central nervous system. CRMs harvest and merge the contact details and online behaviors, particularly through social channels, to give you a clear picture of an individual’s online behavior.
This allows your sales team to predict, control and automate sales practices while creating personalized, impactful approaches based on the data you have.
Popular CRMs include SalesForce, Microsoft 365 and Hubspot.
EveryoneSocial: Remember I mentioned the importance of employee advocacy? Well, EveryoneSocial’s software makes that an absolute cinch.
EveryoneSocial is, at its core, a social media platform that enables employee advocacy through social media channels.
Simply create the content you want your sales team to share and put it in an easy-to-use portal where they can share it with their personal social networks. This enables your business to track and measure engagement as well the impact and participation of your individual employees.
Video tools: Personalized videos are gaining momentum as a way to build relationships online. They offer an insight into your personality, communicating warmth and breaking down the wall of words that comes from endless email exchanges.
There are many video tools, but one of the best (and it’s free) is Loom.
Using Loom, you can record a message to your prospects or create a quick and easy video presentation sharing your desktop screen while you talk and record your voice.
I like using it to communicate with my team. It’s a quick, easy and friendly way to discuss projects and get my point across.
What’s Hot and What’s Not in Social Selling Right Now...
Personalized messages: How do you feel when you receive a connection request that is clearly a cut-and-paste template? You feel like a number, right?
Now, remember how you felt when a new connection approached you with a message that was clearly written just for you. The content was relevant, and it showed you had common ground or a reason to connect. It’s likely you felt valued by the sender and were more inclined to reply to them and engage in a dialogue.
That’s the feeling you should be trying to create in everyone you reach out to. For that, you need to research your prospects, find out a little bit about them, look for a way you can help them or a reason you should be talking and weave that into your message.
As mentioned, personalized video is extremely powerful at strengthening connections, and it is gaining popularity.
Hyper-personalized content: Creating tailored content that directly speaks to your prospects’ problems and offers them solutions will make a huge impression on them.
And the best thing is it doesn’t take long to rework your existing content and make it hyper-personal to those you’re targeting.
For example, let’s say I was in conversations with a SaaS company and I had a content piece titled “How Smart Companies Capitalize on Social Selling.” It would be a pretty transparent, not to mention self-serving, sales pitch if I sent them that article as it was. However, with a small amount of time and effort, I could rework the article with SaaS-specific insights, problems and solutions, retitling it “How SaaS Companies Capitalize on Social Selling.” Now, it speaks precisely to the problems of these prospects, and they feel I understand them. That fuels trust and increases buy-in from them.
Twitter: This platform can be hit-and-miss when it comes to social selling and reaching your ideal prospects.
Because on Twitter, you often aren’t dealing with a company’s key people and decision-makers but a social media manager.
LinkedIn is the only place where you can directly connect with high-level professionals and business owners, build relationships with them and move those conversations offline.
Putting a sales pitch in a connection request or first message: To be blunt, asking for a sale before you’ve even properly talked to your prospect is the sales equivalent of asking for marriage on a first date, before the entrée is even served.
It’s a turn-off, and you won’t get anywhere.
Introduce yourself, listen to your prospect and respond in a way that is helpful and insightful. Offer something that solves their problems without any expectation of anything in return.
Can social selling work for my company?
Whether your sales team has 5, 50, 500+ members, social selling has a proven track record of success. Consider these case studies.
IBM: This is a popular case study because IBM enjoyed such immense success, but that doesn’t make it an outlier. The company saw a 400% increase in sales after it invested in social selling training for its team. It relied heavily on personalized corporate content, social accounts and employee advocacy to achieve this result.
SAP: This German software company says social selling drove a 32% increase in revenue and sales staff were 10% more likely to achieve quota. LinkedIn Sales Navigator was the nerve center of their social selling program, giving sales reps a simple way to research and engage with prospects and customers. SAP cites a shift in sales mantra, with a new emphasis on guiding and supporting prospects, as opposed to a hard sell approach.
Meanwhile, our team has worked with thousands of companies to achieve exceptional social selling results, including:
- a manufacturing company whose lead conversion jumped from 12% to 55%
- a financial services firm whose leads pipeline increased by 37% in 3 months.
Social selling works across all industries because at its heart it is about people and relationships:
- 91% of B2B buyers are active on social media
- 90% of top performing salespeople now use social media as part of their sales strategies.
Yet 93% of sales executives have NO formal training on social selling! Imagine the results they could be having if they did.
Despite these compelling numbers, many companies remain tied to traditional sales methods, such as cold calling, unable to justify investment in a social selling program.
A wealth of opportunities with enormous ROI
I recently concluded an intensive social selling training with an American software solutions company that counts NASA, US Navy, Microsoft and Intel among its clients.
With its small team of account executives implementing what they learned, the company has the potential to add an additional $25 million to its sales pipeline within
Intertech CEO Tom Salonek said:
“The social selling training program Melonie designed for Intertech was completely customized to our business and our specific target market. She even helped us determine the best content marketing approach to support the social selling initiative.
“Our sales team is now fully prepared to implement social selling into their daily practice confidently, and we expect the ROI on this investment to exceed all other marketing channels.
“I’d highly recommend Melonie if you want to launch the most customized and effective social selling program for your organization and I’d be happy to personally speak with anyone who would like a reference.”
Investing in social selling training can provide your team with the highest ROI on all sales and marketing initiatives combined while creating countless connections and opportunities for growth in your business.
If you’re ready to capitalize of social selling, create a reliable sales pipeline of high-quality leads every month and have the strategy and know-how to engage and convert them effortlessly, I’d love to hear from you.
Click here to book a call now, and we’ll discuss how we can help you hit your sales goals with a tailor-made social selling training program.