A company’s ability to compete is crucial to the sustainability of the business and its ability to grow in the future.
But the world of sales and its relevant best practices have evolved dramatically in the last several years.
The impact of digital in our daily lives has significantly influenced how buyers make decisions. Buyers expect more.
Quite simply, modern buyers prefer consultative sellers.
Think back to a time when you received an unsolicited phone call, voicemail, or an email from a person you didn’t know.
- Did you respond?
- Did you call back?
- Did you email back?
I suspect that if you are like most people, you probably ignored the outreach by not returning the phone call and/or deleted the email.
The same is true of your buyers. Buyers expect more and sellers must become more relevant to the modern buyer by unifying the selling experience around forming, building, and nurturing relationships.
When you invest in providing a more personalized and meaningful engagement with buyers, you set yourself up with better outcomes by positioning the right value and insights with your buyers.
So how do you develop sales best practices that can help you become more relevant to your buyers and build relationships with them?
By investing in a modern sales strategy – aka social selling. Social selling is the most effective way to ensure your sales teams have the right tools, productivity goals, and sales priorities in place to succeed.
Regardless of the size of your business—whether it’s a global company or you have a small sales team—social selling strategies are designed to better enable the skills of an already effective sales team.
No matter how skilled your sales team, statistics confirm that outdated sales strategies like repetitive emails and cold calling aren’t the most effective selling strategies for today’s buyers.
Instead, potential buyers prefer brands that can demonstrate an understanding of their customer base. Modern consumers are drawn to companies that deliver clear value across the buyer journey and provide personalized buyer-centric experiences across all touchpoints.
Additional statistics provide compelling evidence about the benefits of social selling which suggest that:
- Companies with formalized social selling processes are more likely to hit revenue goals; 78% of social sellers hit their revenue goals in the past year versus 38% of non-social sellers.
- Social selling gives companies higher ROI over traditional tactics; social sellers gain 57% higher ROI from social selling versus 23% using traditional tactics.
The case for LinkedIn
Many of your potential buyers will search LinkedIn for someone who offers a product or service that you offer.
This is done as part of their due diligence during the research stage, when looking for a solution to one of their problems or challenges. They will look for answers on search engines like Bing or Google, which will often pull results from your LinkedIn profile.
A Google or Bing search of your name is also the first thing someone on a buying committee will do to learn more about you.
Your LinkedIn profile will usually show up near the top of the search results and is often the first thing decision makers click on, to learn more about you. Of all the social media platforms, it is LinkedIn where they can learn the most about you professionally.
That means your LinkedIn profile is often your very first online impression.
If this isn’t a compelling enough case that LinkedIn is the social platform of choice for businesses, is used by decision makers, and continues to be a powerful tool for lead generation (social selling), consider that:
- There are 8.2 million C-level executives on LinkedIn.
- 45 percent of LinkedIn users are in upper management (e.g., directors, vice presidents and citizens of the C-suite).
- 61 million LinkedIn users are senior-level influencers and 40 million are in decision-making positions.
- LinkedIn is the most-used social media platform amongst Fortune 500 companies.
- Executives from every Fortune 500 company use LinkedIn.
- 91 percent of executives rate LinkedIn as their first choice for professionally relevant content.
- 2 million posts, articles and videos are published on LinkedIn every day.
- 50 percent of B2B web traffic originating from social media comes from LinkedIn.
- 80 percent of B2B leads generated on social media come from LinkedIn.
Based on just these stats, I think we can agree that LinkedIn should indeed be the platform of choice when reviewing and updating your current best practices in sales.
But before you start your sales team down the path of social selling, I want to first lay the foundation for your success, by ensuring you understand these seven vital social selling best practices.
7 Social Selling Best Practices
1. Outline your social selling goals
A vital best practice for sales teams, your first step should always be to determine what your goals are.
These will be your guides at every step, while building your social selling strategy and accompanying action plan.
If you’re not sure where to start, begin with your company’s goals. Specifically, identify the goals that can be achieved using lead generation on LinkedIn.
If you don’t have access to the company business plan, think of general goals that would be important to your company such as:
- increasing sales and revenue
- increasing brand awareness
- establishing your authority on your topic – become an influencer
- building a loyal community and followership
- attracting more leads and buyers
- building relationships with new buyers
- maintaining and improving relationships with existing buyers
- improving customer service and retention
When developing your list, ensure that everyone who is a part of the social selling process is aware of these goals, as everything you do from this point will be based on achieving these social selling goals.
2. Create a professional personal brand on LinkedIn
It is critical to your success when social selling that each member of your sales team has a compelling and professional LinkedIn profile.
This is a pre-requisite, before they actively begin using LinkedIn as a lead generation tool.
Consider that LinkedIn has close to a billion members including your sales team, which makes it very easy for them to be lost in obscurity among the masses of other poorly branded salespeople.
You may also want to keep in mind that 50 percent of buyers avoid sales professionals with incomplete LinkedIn profiles and 62 percent of decision makers look for an informative LinkedIn profile when considering talking with a sales rep.
But does your sales team really need to invest energy in their “personal profiles” on LinkedIn when you have a company page?
Yes, they do. Because people connect with people.
No matter who you are selling to, whether it’s a small business or a large company, the decisions are made by people. People connect with people, not brands.
The magic happens through a personal profile on LinkedIn.
But if your profile screams, “I’m trying to sell to you something”, your potential buyers will be turned off and likely not even accept a connection request from you.
A powerful LinkedIn profile tells a story.
Additional Reading: How to Write Your LinkedIn Profile to Capture Attention
It attracts people who believe what you believe, educates them, and allows them to come to conversations with you better prepared.
Pro Tip: Social Selling Best Practices for Sales Teams
Your LinkedIn profile must pass your potential buyer’s WIIFM filter.
One of the biggest mistakes made on LinkedIn is writing a profile all about you and not speaking to your ideal buyers. The truth is nobody cares about you; they don’t care about your company or what you sell—they only care about what you can do for them.
People are always viewing your profile through their WIIFM filter—”What’s in it for me?”
Speak directly to your potential buyers. When someone lands on your profile, you want them to know they’re in the right place and that you are the person who can help them with their specific problems.
3. Create a Key Relationship Map
To identify a potential buyer, you need to take the time to know who your ideal buyer is (e.g., geography, industry, and company size) and the people or decision makers who make up the buying committee (e.g., function, title, and seniority level).
Begin by identifying what the company cares most about. You then can begin to establish a Key Relationship Map, to determine the roles and people in an organization that you need to begin establishing a relationship with.
Start by identifying who is part of the buying process within the account, whether there is one or two key decision makers or an entire buying committee. Start by identifying who these individuals are and what their role is within the company.
Examples of the kinds of roles in a company that you many need to reach out to include
- executives (e.g., CEO, CFO, and COO)
- information technology (IT)
- business leaders (e.g., VP of Sales, VP of Marketing, and VP of Human Resources)
Questions you might ask yourself when researching an individual is:
- What is their role in the buying process?
- What business priorities do they most care about?
- Who would you align this role to within your organization, for executive sponsorship or key ownership of the relationship?
Once you have established this foundation, you can now build an action plan that uses content to share relevant, valuable, and timely insights that will drive a conversation with the individuals you have identified.
Based on their possible engagement, you can then move forward with your next action, which will depend on how you can add value to the buyer and the outcomes that you can enable to improve their business.
4. Use the language of your buyers
A common mistake salespeople make is trying to be creative or using their company lingo rather than speaking the language of their ideal buyer.
It is important to use the language the buyer uses when speaking about their challenges or problems rather than trying to be creative or witty.
The language may even vary from account to account as well as from person to person within a company.
What you say to someone in manufacturing would be different than what you would say to someone in the financial services industry. And what you share with the VP of Sales may use different language and have a different focus than what you communicate to the Chief Information Officer of a company.
Doing this will allow your message to resonate with each individual, which will help you to gain their trust in solving their problem for them. Let their desires be reflected in everything you do, from your LinkedIn profile, to the messages you send them, and the content you create and share.
Do your homework and speak their language.
5. Employ Account-Based Marketing
Most impactful for larger and more complex selling opportunities, Account-Based Marketing or ABM is a strategy that focuses on creating and sharing marketing resources that are specifically created (or curated) and of value to each target account and the unique decision makers that make up that account.
ABM requires sales and marketing teams to work together to create and deliver the right content to the right people in an account, at the right time.
This means that sales and marketing need to be in sync on account-specific messaging because of the level of personalization at the account level.
While this might seem like a huge time and resource investment, the benefits are well worth it.
ABM has proven to result in higher revenues in a shorter time frame.
The key to success with ABM is in being laser-focused on finding and focusing on those accounts that have the highest need and the required budget for your product or service.
ABM changes the objectives from volume measurements of traditional sales to account-(buyer)-related goals, which are tied to the quality of engagement with your targeted buyer.
By inverting the traditional marketing process, you can focus on your high-value accounts that will drive the most impact, rather than measuring traditional metrics that won’t necessarily translate into greater selling outcomes.
Once accounts are identified, you can deliver a well-orchestrated process that is strategic and personalized to your target buyer.
Remember, your value proposition starts with your buyer and not your offer.
Your goal is to be perceived as the provider of a solution to a problem that can drive measurable results.
Your buyer wants to feel understood.
If they feel you understand their challenges and can provide the solution they are looking for, they will be more interested in exploring a conversation.
Avoid these sales mistakes
Mistake #1: Not starting with the right list of potential accounts and target contacts. Without identifying the right target, the messaging and content won’t have a meaningful impact.
Mistake #2: Not providing personalized, relevant, and timely content to ensure your buyer has the highest possibility of engagement.
6. Leverage warm introductions and referrals
When you have a relationship with someone who knows and trusts you enough to introduce you to someone in their LinkedIn network, take advantage of that opportunity.
When asking for an introduction, there is a right way and a wrong way to do this.
Unfortunately, most people approach this incredibly valuable process the wrong way, producing either no results or, in some cases, hurting their existing relationship. Remember, you are asking the other person for a favor, so regardless of the outcome, be appreciative and respectful.
To increase your success when requesting an introduction, follow these best practices:
- Build rapport
- Share why you are asking for the introduction
- Make it easy for them
- Give them permission to say no
Additional Reading: The Right and Wrong Way to Deploy Social Selling
7. Nurture Relationships
Once you have connected with a potential buyer on LinkedIn, it is important that you start by engaging the buyer in genuine and personalized conversations that focus on their needs first.
Selling should always come second.
Like with any relationship, it is a process, and you have to do the work and nurture the relationship in order to help them get to know, like, and trust you.
People want to buy from people they know, like, and trust.
How do you nurture your relationships on LinkedIn?
LinkedIn will notify you with trigger events such as when one of your connections starts a new job or is mentioned in the news. Take a moment to congratulate them with a personalized message.
If you come across an article, resource, or something in the news that would be relevant to someone in your network, reach out to them personally with a note and share it with them.
When someone is commenting on your content, be sure to reply back to them. If someone shares your content, comment on it and thank them for sharing it.
Use LinkedIn’s notifications, and pay attention to the newsfeed to find trigger events that make it easy to reach out to someone and nurture the relationship.
Use LinkedIn and social selling “the go-giver way,” made popular by author, Bob Burg.
Create value, touch lives, build networks, be real, and stay open.
These best practices for sales teams will produce results
The sales dialogue needs to shift from “What can I sell you?” to “How can I help you?”
That means investing time and energy into getting to know potential buyers and how to serve them best and meet their needs.
Social selling works; not because it is a gimmick or a way to inundate your target market with your marketing messages, but because it is built upon our human need to create trust and build relationships.
It is an ongoing process; just like any relationship, it requires regular time and upkeep.
The benefit of this is, when your potential buyers are ready to buy, you will have positioned yourself as someone they know, like, and trust.
You have set yourself up as the first choice in their minds.
It is my great hope that you will employ and integrate these key social selling best practices into your sales processes.