There is a vicious cycle of frustration, risk, and expense that is holding back talented sales teams from reaching their full potential, hitting their targets, and raising revenue.
Frustration because as a sales leader you’re watching your sales teams struggle or fail to reach their sales quotas, quarter after quarter, despite the time, attention, and resources you’ve invested in their success.
And risk and great expense because once your team members feel frustrated and disempowered from their lack of success, they leave your company, leaving you to have to train new sales professionals, which costs money and time, and reduces profitability.
But where is the disconnect between your ideal prospects and the sales approach your team is using, especially with social selling in 2020? If you can solve that, better, high-value clients, and more sales will follow.
Today, modern buyers are more knowledgeable than ever before. The internet has tilted the balance of power and information in their favor, meaning that traditional sales tactics alone don’t cut it.
The modern buyer in 2020 (and beyond) doesn’t want to be sold to via sales pitches, cold calls and cold emails.
Modern buyers expect a great experience from today’s sellers – they are only interested in speaking with someone who is well-researched, informative and almost instinctively knows where the buyer is at on their journey and can speak to them at that level at the right time.
This means that for the modern seller, it’s about building a relationship – NOT closing a sale.
But how can you achieve this – and equip your sales team to hit and exceed their targets, when the traditional methods of cold calls, emails, face-to-face networking or tradeshows, and blanket advertising continue to be put forward as the basic foundations on which to sell?
The answer is…
You take a different approach.
If you are a C-Suite executive or a B2B marketing or sales leader overseeing a sales team of and you are reading this article, I have no doubt you are aware of the term social selling and its potential to increase brand awareness, facilitate lead generation, create and nurture profitable business relationships, and ultimately improve sales.
In fact, social selling is the most effective technique of the last decade to produce Marketing-Qualified Leads (MQLs) and Sales-Qualified Leads (SQLs).
Yet so many companies remain afraid of embracing the new and deploying social selling, despite the statistical evidence that supports it.
So, what about your team?
When was the last time you assessed your sales effectiveness? That is, the strategy your company uses to generate sales.
Is your current sales strategy generating the revenue and profits you want?
Businesses can be lulled into a false sense of security believing that if their sales process is converting, it’s okay the way it is. Having conversions DOES NOT mean having an optimized process.
What is your defined sales process, and does your team understand and execute it consistently? Does it align with the way your prospects purchase?
If there is a disconnect here, you are losing money every day.
Is there a common point where prospects shut down and the sales process hits a roadblock? What have you done to remove the roadblock and make it easier for the prospect to buy?
A comprehensive, strategic and fully integrated social selling strategy will uncover and solve many of these problems.
This article is for you if:
- your sales team hasn’t made the shift from traditional sales practices to modern selling
- you have already implemented (or tried to) some form of social selling into your sales approach but aren’t achieving the kind of selling success you’d like to see.
Social Selling in 2020 and Beyond
It’s clear that when social selling is done right, it can be a powerful addition to your sales team’s approach.
- 90% of decision-makers never answer a cold call, but 75% of B2B buyers use social media to make purchasing decisions and 84% of C-level or senior-level executives use social media to make purchasing decisions on platforms such as LinkedIn
- social selling has a 100% higher lead-to-close rate than outbound marketing
- a social selling program can drive 16% better win rates, 2x the pipeline, and deliver 48% larger deals
- the majority (78%) of social sellers with long-term training hit their yearly revenue goals versus those without the training (38%).
- IBM, one of the world’s largest companies, reported a 400% lift in sales from its social selling pilot program.
In addition to reporting a consistent flow of quality leads, higher conversions and more lucrative contracts, companies using strong social selling strategies also enjoy higher staff retention.
Additional reading: How Smart Companies Capitalize on Social Selling
Further, research has identified why social sellers are not achieving their goals and what is holding sellers back from using social selling.
Research completed by Mary Shea and Matthew Camuso confirmed three things:
- Sellers need to change their mindset from selling to
- Sellers need to move away from traditional selling approaches to relational selling strategies.
- Sellers (and their leaders) need to have “clear and defined strategies, ongoing training, and best -in-class tools.”
Current research confirms that your sales team cannot reach the level of success they could with social selling if the sales and marketing professionals in your business have not yet:
- recognized that social selling is not just about making the sale
- selected a platform designed to help B2B sellers succeed
- received training on how to best optimize the various aspects of social selling to increase their competence and confidence, your brand recognition, leads, and the bottom-line profits.
I have already helped thousands of sales professionals as well as sales teams just like yours create a customized social selling and lead generation system. Such system helps them find, connect and build relationships with their ideal buyers, allowing them to:
- establish trust and move the relationship offline for a sales conversation
- reduce the length of the sales process
- increase the size of sales and their overall success rate.
By following the Social Selling Accelerator™ framework, which I share with you below, you can become a more successful and respected leader by helping your sales teams achieve and surpass their sales goals.
But before I begin, I want to clarify what social selling is and is not as well as which platform will bring you most success in deploying social selling.
The term social selling is misleading. Most people assume that selling makes up a large portion of the social selling strategy.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
When done right, social selling should not involve any selling.
Quite simply, no salesperson was ever meant to close a B2B deal online with social selling.
Any good salesperson knows you need to listen closely to determine what a prospect’s problem is so you understand what they need… BEFORE you offer a solution.
But how do you get a person to take a call with you?
You employ social selling. If social selling is not about selling, what is it about?
Social selling refers to using social media platforms, digital tools and processes to find and connect with potential leads, thereby filling one’s sales pipeline with qualified buyers.
The key to social selling is to focus on finding your ideal buyers and building rapport with them. You can’t do this by sending a sales pitch message to a prospect immediately after connecting with them.
The goal must be to earn the right to a phone call or meeting by establishing rapport, credibility and a sufficient level of trust to make such a request.
LinkedIn for B2B Social Selling
Professionals, the world over, rely on LinkedIn for networking and building relationships with peers, reading industry news, getting and sharing expert advice, gaining education and introductions, and much more.
LinkedIn’s influence and potential impact on your business is so great that:
- for B2B companies, LinkedIn is 277% more effective for lead generation than any other social media platform
- more than 80% of all B2B leads generated from social media come from LinkedIn
- the LinkedIn network has realized astonishing growth since 2011; since then, membership has nearly quadrupled to well over half a billion members (and is still growing daily)
- 97% of businesses, using LinkedIn native video, believe their videos have helped increase user understanding of their products or services.
The reason LinkedIn is a must for B2B sellers, regardless of the size of the business, is because it is simple for sellers to research then directly reach out to their ideal leads.
Now, let me introduce you to my Social Selling Accelerator™ framework and the four Social Selling Pillars that underpin it.
Social Selling Accelerator™
The Social Selling Accelerator™ program is a “best-in-class” system for B2B sales leaders and teams regardless of the size of the company, its geographical location or industry.
Looking at the image of my framework, you can see it is divided into four quadrants. Each quadrant represents one of the four Social Selling Pillars:
- Right Profile
- Right People
- Right Message
- Right Content
1. Right Profile
When LinkedIn was in its early stages, it was regarded as the perfect place to put your resume for head-hunters and alumni to find you. While many still use it for those purposes, social sellers using LinkedIn know it is much more powerful than that.
In fact, 50% of buyers avoid sales professionals with incomplete LinkedIn profiles, and 62% of decision-makers look for an informative LinkedIn profile when considering talking with a sales rep.
That means you need to start with creating a professional, buyer-centric LinkedIn profile.
Begin by identifying and researching your ideal buyers. Use the information gathered to create a profile that is about them and not you.
Many of your potential buyers will search on LinkedIn for companies and sales professionals who provide the services they require.
A well-optimized profile will speak their language and identify you as a person with the solution to their problem. Done right, a buyer-centric profile can provide tremendous benefits to each member of your sales team.
Today, your LinkedIn profile is also considered to be a fundamental part of your personal brand.
Contrary to what you might think, personal branding is not about a company or product pitch. Simply put, it is a vehicle for promoting your unique skills, experience and expertise. Demonstrating these qualities can help you build confidence, credibility and trust with those who connect with your profile.
According to Michael Stelzner, “People don’t do business with companies. They do business with people they like.” He goes on to suggest that personal branding gives any leader or sales professional an outlet to influence people’s thinking.
2. Right People
Find potential leads
With your buyer-centered information, you can take advantage of LinkedIn’s Advanced Search function. Note that the number and types of filters available to you in your search will be limited by the membership level you have.
While you can still do very targeted searches with a free or Premium account, fewer search filters will be available to you. Sales Navigator offers the strongest set of filters and saving capacities and can do highly targeted searches, allowing you to zero in on the right leads and decision-makers.
In addition to employing an Advanced Search, you can utilize a number of other strategies to search for leads. Some of the most effective include asking for warm referrals, networking with alumni and engaging with potential buyers’ content.
Connecting with leads
Once you create a list of potential (targeted) leads, it’s time to send them a connection request.
It is essential you personalize this initial message. Do not send generic messages. It is also critical that your message is not a sales pitch. People don’t respond to sales pitches.
Give your prospect a reason to accept your request by personalizing it. Mention any relevant commonalities or compliment them, their content or their company.
3. The Right Message
Start a dialogue
If your connection request is accepted, get a dialogue going with your prospect by sending an authentic welcome message to start a conversation. This dialogue will help you build rapport with your lead.
Again, do not include a sales pitch or ask your new connection for anything.
Build a relationship
Making the connection is a great place to start.
But unless you continue building the relationship with your prospect in a meaningful way, that start could also be the end of what could be a profitable relationship.
That’s why your next step is to craft a message to your prospect that provides value and asks for nothing in return.
In this message, position (not pitch) yourself as someone who can help the lead with their challenge or problem.
Your research of the prospect should tell you their personal and/or professional needs. Based on that information, you might want to curate a relevant resource and share it with them.
If you have authored a blog, article, paper or video that addresses their problem or challenge, consider sharing that information with the prospect, increasing your position as an authority, building credibility and trust.
To convert a lead into a buyer, you need to move the relationship offline, where you learn exactly what the buyer needs and then offer your solution.
How you meet offline will depend on your business. It can occur through a phone call, video call or an in-person meeting.
The key here is to create a more personal connection and allow your prospect to hear and/or see the person they have been connecting with.
4. Right Content
Quite often, a lead will not be ready to buy when you first connect with them.
There are a variety of reasons why a lead you have targeted does not engage or express interest. For example:
- they don’t need the solution you are offering right now
- other priorities are taking precedence, personally or professionally
- they are not the right target market.
If they are the right target market, it is important to realize that 1) they may be ready some months down the road and 2) they may know or come into contact with a lead that could use what you are selling.
The key here is to nurture the relationship.
Stay on the radars of your prospects by tuning into and engaging with trigger events easily found on LinkedIn. Doing so will keep the conversation going and keep you in the awareness of your leads so that when the lead is ready to apply a solution to their problem, you are the first person they contact.
While you continue to nurture the relationship with a lead not yet interested or ready to buy your product or service, do not neglect your new and established buyers.
Your goal is to drive profitable customer action. You do this by creating, curating and distributing relevant and valuable content that attracts and engages your ideal buyers. This will, over time, establish your authority, build credibility and increase the trust of your buyers.
When your potential buyers perceive you as a trusted authority (they know, like and trust you), you become their first choice when they look for the solution to their problem(s).
The return on your investment (ROI) will prove to you that your team’s time and effort to create, curate and share content was worth it – if done right.
To compound the benefits of creating and sharing authority content, consider introducing an employee advocacy strategy, which will increase the impact, reach and effectiveness of your content.
Employee advocacy refers to the activities of your employees that benefit your company. They become online evangelists and promoters of your company by sharing your content through status updates on their social media accounts.
This may seem like a small marketing activity in the world of many other shinier, sexier marketing tactics, but do not underestimate it. Employee advocacy comes across as a genuine, organic vote of confidence for your company on behalf of your employees with a potential big social media reach.
To ensure its success, make it easy for your employees to engage in employee advocacy. Lean on your marketing team to create content that supports sales, and make it easy for your people to share that content on social media.
Generate Leads, Build Relationships and Exceed Sales Goals
If your team has not yet been able to fully capitalize on social selling, regardless of the reasons, I am here to tell you they still can.
Your success is inevitable if you (and your team) are ready to:
- change your mindset from hard sales pitches to engaging
- move from traditional to relational selling strategies
- develop clear and defined strategies
- access applicable resources, training and work with “best-in-class tools”
The Social Selling Accelerator™ framework allows sales teams to become confident, competent and competitive social selling professionals.
Here is what using LinkedIn and this framework will do for you:
- Create a social selling system that is easy to follow by those responsible for sales and business development.
- Attract and convert leads into buyers and end the feast-or-famine cycle.
- Help you (and your company) stand out among all others vying for the same leads/buyers.
- Provide clear strategies to find and connect with the right decision- makers.
- Teach you how to approach decision-makers in a way that has them saying yes to phone calls or meetings.
- Elevate the professional presence of the team on LinkedIn to ensure a successful outreach.
I truly believe that for you, as a B2B company, fully leveraging social selling in 2020 and beyond is the quickest way to expand your market share and increase your revenue. All you have to do is employ the right tools and framework described in this article.