The rapid development of technology across various industries is making it doubly harder for business people to engage in sales activities with prospective customers. Studies show that it takes more than 10 calls before a salesperson can close a deal with new customers. The same difficulty is encountered with existing clients, where it sometimes take up to 6 calls or more before such clients decide to make a purchase again.
The buying and selling landscape however is rapidly changing. Social media is clearly a massive, global, online phenomenon that business owners could not afford to ignore. People and even mainstream news and other traditional broadcast channels are using or incorporating social media elements to engage with their audiences. This is providing a remarkable way for sales and marketing teams to engage with their prospective customers – social selling.
Many businesses have already adopted social media marketing strategies into their overall campaign. However, such activities are most particularly geared towards marketing and lead generation, and little about using social media techniques to actually close a sale. The following provides a comprehensive look into social selling and how business owners and sales teams can utilize this tool to create more revenues.
Understanding What Social Selling Is
Social selling in the most technical sense is about using social media to generate sales and revenue for your brand, product or services. The difference between social selling and the traditional way of “push” sales and marketing techniques is that with social selling, you get to understand the needs of your targeted customers first and then supplying these needs using social media as an engagement platform.
One of the keys to success in social selling is that sales team can already get a glimpse or an insight to the real intention of a targeted prospect even before the actual sales engagement process has commenced. Through social media, sales teams can already get a pulse of the specific needs of a particular prospect in a timely and accurate way. Other important characteristics of social selling include:
- Social selling makes use of new and upcoming social media technologies to sift through the thousands or even millions of prospective targets by filtering out unnecessary data and targeting new customers according to specific and accurate information.
- Social selling is not about directly posting sales messages and posters on your brand or businesses’ official pages and account on various social networks. These pages and accounts are used for gaining insights about what your targeted customers really want.
- Social selling is about building a reputation as an industry expert as well as cultivating healthy relationships with prospective customers through the various social media accounts of your sales team and members.
- Social selling is about effectively using your brand’s digital marketing content as leverage for engaging with targeted customers and create sales.
- Social selling transforms your sales team members from being mere sales reps into trusted partners by your targeted customers.
Social Selling in the Social Media Landscape
The chart below showcases the global penetration of various social networks according to ownership and active usage. Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter leads the pack in terms of usage, with LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest slowly gaining ground. From a regional perspective, there are other rapidly growing social networks like Sina Weibo and Mixi in Asia, and Vkontakte (VK) in Russia.
Looking at this chart may seem a bit overwhelming particularly if you’re just starting out with social selling. Users of these networks connect with brands and various types of people in varying degrees across platforms as show in the chart below. Each of these networks have their own strengths and unique characteristics so it would be best to understand these first to gain better insights on where you can focus on social selling.
Facebook is a highly personal network where people connect with family and friends. Trying to connect directly with prospective targets in Facebook may seem too intrusive because of the more personal nature of this social network. However, Facebook can be a good gauge and barometer to “listen” to what your prospective clients want as will be discussed in later sections.
YouTube is really huge when it comes to video marketing, however it would be very difficult to gain very specific insights on the purchasing needs of your targeted clients here. However, it would still be best to “listen” to what your prospective clients (companies or individuals) are doing if they have an official YouTube page.
Google+ is the social component that connects all Google services into one cohesive and interconnected network. This can be a powerful network where you can connect with targeted companies, professionals and individuals which, in very high possibilities, are already using a Google service in one way or another.
Twitter can provide a good insight on what your targeted customers view as important ideas or topics of interests. You may or may not get direct insights from the limited 140 characters of tweets but you can go further by looking deeper into the links that accompany these tweets.
If you’re into B2B marketing or trying to connect with professionals, executives and prominent individuals, then LinkedIn may be the channel to go to. LinkedIn is also a great platform for connecting with influencers whose opinions and endorsements can be keys to your sales success. LinkedIn can also help establish your sales executives as experts in your industry or niche.
3 Important Components of Social Selling
In traditional sales and marketing activities, sales team will often track down prospective clients, following up on them through email, private messages, texts or phone, without really getting insights first of what their prospects really want – and if they will eventually have an inclination to avail of your products and services. Social selling does this in reverse and the following flow and components will show you how you can effectively connect with targeted prospects – and eventually convert them into sales.
As mentioned earlier, it is important that you listen to what the customer wants, the issues they are focused on, and the needs they may have now or in the future. You can check on the articles they read, the links they click, or the content they post on their accounts and profile. From there you can gain an insight of what is important for them and how you can relate your brand.
Engagement in social selling can be performed in two stages. First is the liking, sharing, re-tweeting of your target’s posts and updates on the social network they frequent. Just be careful not to overdo this as you may be branded as a stalker. Find what you really like from their content or items that may be related to your brand, product or service. What these activities will do is for your name or profile to gain the attention of your targeted prospect.
The second stage is to start creating and posting content that present the value proposition of your brand or product that you would like your targets to understand, in relation to the needs or interests they presented in their own profiles. Use terminologies, keywords and hashtags that your prospective clients are using, and expound on a topic that they have already posted and are clearly interested in.
This is where direct engagement comes in, and the usual triggers that tell you that the time is right to connect is when your content generates social signals from them coming your way. Reading, liking or sharing your content is a surefire signal that you can directly connect with them in an unobtrusive way. From there you can develop a stronger relationship that will eventually make them be more interested in your brand, products or services.
How Social Selling Improves Productivity and Profitability
A recent report highlighted that 78.6% of sellers who are using social selling to generate sales and revenue for their brands, products and service outperformed sellers who did not use this tool. Their performance were 23% better when it comes to meeting, and in many cases exceeding, their targeted sales quota. All these were achieved through social selling, which can also provide the following advantages:
1. Lead Generation
Lead generation is one important measure of success for digital marketing, but social selling takes this one step further as it will provide insight not only on who your targeted leads are but also provide insight on the perfect timing you can take when engaging with these leads.
2. Lead Qualification
Identifying your leads and getting contact information does not necessarily result into an eventual sale. Social selling can help you qualify your leads and identify those who have greater than average probability of availing your products and services – giving your sales team a comprehensive list of who to prioritize and get targeted results.
3. Prospects/Client Management
Sometimes the timing is not right to engage with prospects or even with existing customers. Social selling will provide you with the intelligence and the insights you need to gauge if the time is right to take action as well as the type of action your sales team should take to get results.
Social selling is a revolutionary and very effective way of improving the sales process in this highly interconnected world that is slowly being dominated by social engagement and how well people connect with brands and other people. Business owners can use social selling to their greatest advantage and gain better results than before – with no gimmicks, no sales tricks, no pestering or pushing clients – and just concentrate on giving value to your clients.