Your role as a sales leader is to engage, lead and inspire your team while creating a culture of excellence and accountability.
If you want to successfully drive social selling adoption, it’s also on you to drive the culture change and attitude shifts within your sales team.
To achieve that, start with explaining the “why?”
If you want your sales team to fully commit to social selling, they need to understand why the company has chosen this direction and see how it directly benefits them, not just the company.
Change is hard, and if the “why” and the benefit aren’t clear to your people, they’re less likely to adopt the new way of doing things, sticking with the old, ineffective methods.
Apart from the bigger picture benefits social selling offers, such as sustainable growth, larger revenue, more market share etc., how do your salespeople benefit?
They will learn new skills that put them at the cutting edge of modern sales techniques; generate more higher-paying, qualified leads; hit their targets more easily; achieve greater success in their roles; and, if applicable, receive greater commissions and incentives.
In this article, I explain the different, but key, roles sales leaders and salespeople play in the process, the one thing that underpins the success of social selling, and how to roll out a successful social selling program.
Sales leaders, their teams and the vital roles they play
One of the core factors of a sales leader’s success is the ability to hire and retain the right people for the company. Having the right people is crucial to the success or failure of the sales team.
The best sales leaders look for people who know how to build relationships, are persuasive, boast a comprehensive knowledge of the offer and have a wealth of experience to call upon throughout the sales journey.
Truly effective sales leaders must also:
- Set clearly-defined goals and expectations so the team knows what it’s working towards.
- Equip their people with the right tools (software) so they can connect with prospects at all stages of the buying journey.
- Arm their people with knowledge. Good sales leaders don’t assume their people know what to do. They make sure of it by educating them via in-house sessions and online courses and content so they can fulfil their roles and achieve the company’s goals.
- Plot the customer journey. Social selling allows sellers to engage with customers at all points of the prospect’s journey from the early stages of research to the point of purchase. It pays to always keep the customer in mind when selling and pay attention to their wants and needs for better results.
- Measure and analyze. It’s important to track all your team’s efforts and work out what’s working and what isn’t. If you don’t set up systems to analyze your strategy and its execution, it’s difficult to understand how to move forward successfully.
In social selling, the role of the salesperson, and the sales team as a whole, is to perfect their outreach to maximize their lead conversions.
In other words: build relationships.
Too many salespeople jump into the sales pitch far too early with their prospects, which, ultimately, leads to failure and another missed sales opportunity.
The big cliche about a good salesperson is that they are a “hunter,” a “closer,” a “killer.”
Now, while being single-minded about sales goals is great, having this underlying attitude will not lead to sustained success and growth in the modern marketplace.
The mindset needs to shift from “what can I sell you?” to “how can I help you?”
The number one attribute a salesperson can have today is relationship and trust-building. That means an ability to open doors, nurture relationships, meet your prospects where they’re at on the sales journey, position your company as the solution to your prospect’s problems, then book a “warm” call, where the real sales discussions take place.
Trust is fundamental to modern selling
The key to sales is building trust.
But today, trust in businesses is at an all-time low, which means it’s harder than ever to build trust, and so easy to lose it.
The annual Edelman Trust Barometer study evaluates the level of trust across institutions worldwide from government and NGOs to media and business.
Its findings are always enlightening highlighting how important trust is to business as well as how scarce it is in the market today. This year, it found the following:
- 12 of the 26 markets surveyed were marked as “distrusters.” That is, the market is sceptical of business. This includes the US, UK, Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Australia.
- 64% of consumers expect brands to act and be forces for change. In other words, “my wallet is my vote.”
- 56% say capitalism does more harm than good.
- In consumers’ eyes, the ethical drivers of integrity, purpose and dependability make up 76% of a company’s trust profile, compared to just 24% for competence of their service or product.
Social selling succeeds over traditional sales methods because it resonates with your ideal prospects on a more emotional, psychological level.
According to a 2016 study, 31% of B2B professionals said social selling was THE strategy that allowed them to build deeper relationships with their clients.
Social selling is psychology.
People buy from people they know, like and trust.
Once people know, like and trust you, they’ll be receptive to your offer and far more inclined to buy from you.
Over 30 years ago, Dr. Robert Cialdini wrote a book called Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. To this day, it is still considered a game changer for anyone in sales and marketing.
In it, he listed six science-based principles of persuasion, which significantly overlap with principles of social selling.
Here are the six principles of persuasion.
Cialdini argues that, at our core, we hate owing someone a debt, whether it’s of gratitude or of a financial nature. We’re likely to take any opportunity that gets us out of that perceived debt as quickly as possible. If you offer someone something of value, you’re priming them to say “yes” down the track when you have that sales discussion.
A LinkedIn study found that:
- B2B buyers are five times more likely to engage with someone who provides content and shares insights about their industry.
- Content shared by employees receives eight times more engagement than content shared by brand channels.
2. Commitment, Consistency and Relevance
Once your company has committed to social selling and your team is tasked with executing this new way of selling, it’s important they commit to it entirely and don’t fall back into old habits and tactics.
Your sales team’s role is to meet buyers where they’re at on their journeys. The emphasis is on building relationships through timely advice and consistently sharing relevant content that engages and informs your buyers.
When your sales team does this consistently, they deepen the relationship and stay top of mind with your prospects. Remaining relevant is key to building trust, authority and relationships.
3. Social Proof
What happens when you see a string of great Google Reviews about a company? Or lots of people talking up a restaurant on TripAdvisor? You feel more comfortable doing business with them. This sort of social proof is gold for companies, and you should leverage it whenever you get the opportunity.
Whether it’s reviews, LinkedIn recommendations, or case studies of client success stories, use them for content creation and then get that content in front of your prospects so they can see for themselves why they should do business with you.
Third-party recommendations are powerful. Think of them as good old-fashioned word of mouth, which remains, to this day, one of the best referral sources.
As Cialdini explains, people are influenced by what others in their immediate surroundings do – and the environment of social media is no different.
4. Being Likeable
Customers engage more with brands that have a distinct identity they can relate to.
The brands that succeed are those that feel less like faceless companies and more like real, breathing human beings.
In other words, people buy from people – not logos or brands!
Your salespeople are the face of your brand, so it’s essential they understand that social selling is about relationships, not pitching offers from behind a faceless logo or profile.
Put simply, the only way you will successfully connect, engage and build relationships with your prospects online, eventually moving them to “warm” sales calls, is through dealing with them directly, using your personal LinkedIn profile. Building the human connection, while consistently offering insights, is the key to getting people to know, like and trust you. Once you achieve that, having a sales conversation is simple.
Thought leaders have the privilege of being seen as people of authority and credible sources of information followers can trust.
When you are perceived as an authority, you get a higher level of engagement from people who (1) share your insights with the rest of their networks, (2) ask you questions to find out your opinion or recommended course of action, or (3) click the Like button to silently agree with what you say.
In other words, when you are an authority, people listen when you speak, and you can start conversations and nurture relationships with your audience and prospects from a position of strength.
But how do you turn all of your salesforce into recognized authorities? Through employee advocacy.
Employee advocacy is when your employees positively promote your company through social media by sharing status updates and content. The ripple effect of visibility throughout your employees’ networks is incredibly valuable to your company.
To increase employee advocacy, your marketing team needs to produce/curate content relevant to your target market(s), support sales and make it as easy as possible for your people to share that content on social media.
Once you have the content, you need to train your people to effectively share it. Posting a link is not enough.
The last of CIaldini’s principles is scarcity. You will rarely, if ever, use it in social selling, but on occasion it could be effective as a sales persuasion tool.
The simplest example of how scarcity affects engagement is limited-time offers. People are more likely to ask questions, follow you, or directly buy your products or services if they know they’re working within a limited timeframe. Create a sense of scarcity to create a sense of urgency.
Four Pillars That Drive Social Selling Adoption
Pillar 1: The Right Profile
Create a profile that focuses on your ideal clients, speaks their language and positions your sales person/company as the solution to your prospects’ problems. Having a client-centric approach is essential to opening the right decision-makers’ doors.
Pillar 2: The Right People
LinkedIn’s robust advanced search function allows your team to zero in on and target your ideal leads and key decision-makers. By researching them, the team can craft connection requests that have decision-makers click Accept in response, which is essential to an effective social selling strategy.
Pillar 3: The Right Message
Once your connection request has been accepted, you can move into the critical relationship-building process. Begin to build rapport with your prospect and add value to them, without any form of sales pitch. Doing this positions you (or your sales team) as someone who can help solve their problem. Once you have spent time establishing some rapport, credibility and trust, you’ll be able to easily move the relationship offline, where you can have a warm call instead of a cold call.
Pillar 4: The Right Content
Not all your leads will be ready to buy when you first connect with them, but they may do so months down the line, or they may know someone else you can help. In this situation, it’s important to nurture your prospects by consistently distributing helpful, relevant content that would be of value and interest to your target market. In doing so, you (and your company) will remain top of mind while also building authority and trust so that when they are ready to buy, they will think of you and your company.
A culture change for the better
I hope now you have a bit of insight into the framework and principles of social selling. Introducing a modern sales strategy is a big project, but when social selling is deployed correctly, it is a game changer for companies of all sizes.
Reaching sales targets becomes easier because prospects are more open to having conversations. Meanwhile, your sales team feels empowered by the success they’re having, and they’re doing it in an easier, less sales-y way because the emphasis has shifted from closing prospects to building bonds with them. And once your prospects know, like and trust you, sales flow naturally, and your business grows accordingly.