Over the last decade, social media has cornered an increasingly larger share of the media pie. From a few million people on Hi5 and Friendster, it is now the dominant activity online with 2.3 billion users – roughly 31% of the entire human population.
Though social media adoption lagged in the B2B market initially, more and more businesses today have become socially empowered. In fact, according to a survey by IDC, 75% of B2B decision makers use social media to make informed decisions.
As a sales organization today, you need to adapt to social selling to drive your sales and maximize revenue. According to an Aberdeen study, social sellers consistently outperform non-social sellers on customer renewal rates and sales quota achieved.
The good news is that social selling is not much different from traditional selling. You just need to modernize your current methods with a layer of social media. Email, phone calls, and face-to-face meetings will still happen, but you need to begin supporting these activities with social media.
On that note, let’s take a look at 3 social selling best practices you need to add to your sales process:
1) Integrate social into prospecting and preparation:
As any experienced salesperson will tell you, you need to listen to your leads before sending them any formal communication.
Thankfully, buyers today make their requirements and challenges clear by sharing them on forums, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networks.
Start by using social listening tools such as Tweetdeck and HootSuite to gain real-time insight into what your customers are discussing online. This will help you understand their needs and engage them in a timely manner with targeted information increasing your chance of converting them into paying customers.
Moreover, social listening will also help you zero-in on your target market with information such as age range, geographic location, language, gender and even the conversation style of your prospects.
The best way to find what your prospects are discussing is to:
- Identify LinkedIn Groups, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts and hashtags to discover industry-related keywords.
- Create a private social media of your prospects and monitor their activity to see which social influencers they follow and read up on their content.
For example, suppose you’re selling a SaaS marketing tool:
- Start off by figuring out what hashtags marketers frequently use on Twitter.
- Make a list of these hashtags, then add them to your social listening tool. On Tweetdeck, for instance, you can add separate columns for each hashtag. This will help you understand what marketers are tweeting about.
- If you find any good prospects, add them to a separate list.
With this information you can move from a pitch that is all about you to one that is all about them.
2) Use social media to make the first contact (i.e. make only warm calls to prospects):
Your prospects are far less guarded on social media than they are on the phone or even email. The numbers are telling enough: cold calling has a 6% response rate while email has a ~22% open rate. Private messaging, on the other hand, has a whopping 98% open rate.
This makes social media the perfect platform to connect with prospects you’ve never had any contact with. Because of the casual nature of the platform and the ability to quickly screen people, your prospects are more likely to respond to a tweet or a LinkedIn message than an email. This means that the only time you should be calling people is when you’ve already warmed them up through social media.
When you initiate contact through social channels, it’s best to adopt the tenor of the platform itself. Be casual and non-intrusive with a focus on soft rather than hard selling.
As first contact, you can:
- Like or comment on a prospect’s Facebook post. Don’t just attempt to add them as a friend.
- On LinkedIn, engage in groups, “get introduced,” ask a relevant question in their area of expertise. Never simply send a request to connect out of the blue.
- Mention your prospect in a tweet, ask them a question, or retweet, reply, and like a prospect’s tweet.
- Engage in insightful comments on blogs.
Be helpful, honest, friendly, polite and most importantly, be relevant. Remember to keep your contact non-sales oriented. If your contact does not reply, wait a few days and attempt again. Your aim here is to establish yourself on your prospects’ radar, not to convert them into a win immediately.
Once you do receive a reply, establish yourself as an available resource by maintaining contact. Do not take more than 24hrs to reply to a message from your prospects.
For example, you might start off by commenting on a prospect’s blog to first get their attention. You might then jump into the conversation when they send out a tweet. After a few such touches, you can move onto more “private” channels like email.
After you have done this then you can schedule a pre-determined call, conference call, video chat or remote meeting if your prospect deems it appropriate.
3) Establish yourself as an expert:
Your prospects have questions that need answering and concerns that need to be addressed. More often than not, they’ll turn to the experts in their industries to find these answers
If you can establish yourself as an expert in your industry, you’ll passively attract prospects. And when you do reach out to customers, they’ll be far more likely to listen to what you have to offer because of your proven expertise.
An easy way to do this is to publicly demonstrate deep knowledge of issues and challenges in your area. Try creating content – blog posts, webinars, case studies, eBooks, etc. – on your prospects’ key concerns.
Becoming an expert, however, is not all about creating and sharing content. You need to build influence within the community. To do that you need to engage in conversations around that content. Influence tends to increase your trust and likeability which leads to future opportunities.
To do this, you need to build your reputation by providing insight-based input on social channels where your customers are frequently likely to visit.
- Share, like, and comment on your company’s and key industry social media channels.
- Regularly check comments or tweets of companies or leading industry experts and provide insight where appropriate.
- Create and maintain relationships with outside influencers. You need them to validate you with interviews, blog post mentions, and lists. If possible, reach out to respected publications in your niche and offer to do interviews, podcasts and webinars.
- Synthesize information for your customers by reading a variety of industry publications, then curating and sharing the best content from it on social channels.
For example, you might start by tweeting out useful links multiple times a day. You can then move onto running your own blog, or at the very least, writing posts on your company’s blog. HubSpot does this exceptionally well, often encouraging its salespeople to share their insights on the HubSpot sales blog.
Of course, the standard disclaimers apply here as well – don’t overshare, don’t spam and always aim to educate your followers.
By intercepting individuals and companies when they are expressing their issues, you can gather insights from social conversation. You can then use this insight to create personal pitches and leverage social networks for introductions, eliminating the need for cold calls and outreach altogether.
And as always, remember that people want their problems solved, not to be sold to.
Author: Khalid Saleh is the CEO and cofounder of conversion optimization company Invesp.
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