Social selling has certainly grown in popularity and in many ways, what social selling can do for you is misunderstood. Many experts have simplified social selling so it sounds like all you need to do is create a great online profile with good keywords, connect with a lot of people, share content and bada bing, those inbound sales will begin to materialize with little to no effort. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Your goal should be to include social selling strategies as part of your overall sales toolkit. It will be a combination of activities that lead to booking those sales meetings.
As we start 2018, here are a few social selling tips I’ll offer to help you stand out from other sellers and get your social efforts to stick.
#1: Reset your expectations. A common social selling mistake is trying to short-cut the process by using social channels to broadcast your sales pitch. That begs the question, how long does social selling take before seeing sales results? While all situations are unique, in general, I’ve seen my clients improve their ability to book meetings within about 30 days of using social selling when it might have taken months relying solely on email and phone calls. Remember this though, success depends on you creating value every step of the way and that first interaction is the most crucial. That’s how you differentiate yourself. I connect with buyers one-on-one by sharing useful analyst data, industry research reports or articles that I believe they will find valuable and will be relevant to their buyers. How do I determine what they might find useful? I scour their social media profiles (and their buyers’) to uncover useful insights.
#2: Create and follow a strategic plan. This plan should come from sales enablement or sales management to ensure consistency across the organization (but in the absence of a company-wide plan, sales reps should create one themselves). The plan should clearly define the characteristics of your ideal buyer. You need to know what social platforms you will use to reach them, what message(s) you will create to engage them and what kind of content you will share. And most importantly, you must determine what you’ll measure and track so that you can adjust your efforts accordingly.
Examples of some metrics you might track include the number of net new meetings, number of new connections with targeted decision makers, how many times your content is shared, the number of times that prospects liked, commented or followed your content or even how many of your prospects invited you to connect with them. Sales managers should work with their team to establish realistic benchmarks and goals to determine what ‘good’ looks like.
#3: Put in the consistent effort. Social selling isn’t a one-time thing. Sales enablement teams should establish a regular process for reps to follow in order to connect with the right people using the right message. Reps should use social media to increase their visibility and educate themselves about what their prospective buyers are interested in. This could include what content they like, comment on or share, articles they might write, groups they belong to and more. Follow buyers and experts in the space and like and comment on their posts when appropriate to expand your network and increase your visibility. This knowledge informs the kind of content you share but also helps reps prepare for sales meetings. Like every other aspect of selling, consistency is a key ingredient of sales success.
#4: Be patient. Unless you are selling an inexpensive commodity solution, the selling process will take time. That has always been true in sales, and it is certainly true with social selling. Learn about the buyer, their company, their pain points, and anything else that will help you establish rapport with them. Rapport is developed when you are useful, helpful and demonstrate to buyers that you’ve invested the time to learn what is important to them. If they think all you care about is hitting quota, they will typically run the other way.
#5: You still need great selling skills. The basics have not gone out of style. While the sales profession is changing rapidly, it’s also staying the same. That’s because you can be the most adept at using social selling strategies to engage buyers online, nurture those relationships, and get buyers to agree to sales meetings, but what’s more important is what happens after that. If you are misfiring on the sales basics, including problem solving skills, good questioning, listening and communication skills, you’ll find yourself in trouble.
#6: Learning never stops. If you hope to remain relevant and successful in your role as a salesperson, it is incumbent on you to keep improving your skills. Social selling is no exception. There is so much good information available to help you understand buying psychology. Don’t you think it would be important to understand how and why buyers make decisions about what they buy and from whom? If you are not continually developing your skills – and don’t wait for your employer to do it for you – you’ll find yourself outpaced by the competition.
Start by following and connecting with sales influencers to stay up on the latest trends and research on social selling. There’s a wealth of knowledge and resources out there – take the initiative and use them! Buy books, watch YouTube videos, read blogs from top sales experts, listen to podcasts, sign up for educational webinars and always be present and engaging on social media. There is no excuse for not investing in yourself to remain at the top of your game.
In closing. In 2018, social selling must be part of your overall sales strategy but it will only work if it’s combined with a solid sales process, a mashup of online and offline approaches to reach buyers, and rockstar sales skills that will get you across the quota finish line.
Happy (Social) Selling!
Barb Giamanco is the co-author of The New Handshake: Sales Meets Social Media, a keynote speaker, sales and social media strategist, corporate webcast host and the host of the Razor's Edge business podcast. To connect with Barb, visit: www.scs-connect.com