How to master the art of social selling

Creating a LinkedIn profile, setting up a Facebook page and starting aTwitter feed do not automatically add up to an effective social media strategy.

For this, it’s helpful to refer back to your business goals. Yourbusiness doesn’t exist to pick up likes, shares and re-tweets. Boostingcustomer numbers, on the other hand, is invariably a priority. So how, if atall, can social media help bring this about?

‘Social selling’ can be an important part of this. As this LinkedInarticledemonstrates, ask ten sales experts precisely what this means and you’ll getten different answers. But there is broad agreement on the fundamentals.Firstly, it’s not about paying for ads on social media (bear in mind we’retalking here about sales, not marketing). Neither is social selling aboutconducting sales pitches or negotiations via social instant messaging tools. Itis, however, about direct interaction between your sales reps and theirprospects.

Keeping an eye out for signs of interest among leads, using social mediaas a way of cementing your credibility and reputation, using social networks tonurture existing relationships with prospects: social selling can involveelements of all of this.

Here’s an outline of how to get it right...

Get to know your leads’ social habits

If you’re going to engage directly with leads as part of the salesprocess, which platforms should you focus on? This is where research comes intoplay. Which platforms do your leads rely on in the decision making process?Where are they most active? Where do they go for peer-to-peer advice andinformation?

Don’t rely on assumptions for answers to all of this. For instance, thefact that there are over a billion Facebook users doesn’t automatically meanthat Facebook is the go-to platform for your leads. Especially if yours is ab2b niche, does LinkedIn hold greater authority? Are there any industry-specificplatforms that have a role to play? Assuming you’ve built buyer profiles toinform your marketing campaign, refer to these profiles for intelligence onwhich platforms you should focus your efforts.

Focus on your profile

The chances are that yours will not be the only company within yourniche attempting to reach out to leads via social platforms. After an initialapproach, one of the first things a lead is likely to do will be to check outyour credentials.

Be prepared for this by paying close attention to your social profiles.On LinkedIn for instance, focus not just on a technically ‘complete’ profile,but one that links to content that your leads are likely to consider relevantand useful. Articles, surveys, how-to guides, walk-throughs: all of this couldbe useful.

You want to make it clear that you’re capable of meeting leads’ specificrequirements and that you’re worthy of their business. Peer-to-peerrecommendations are one of the most important influencers of buyer behaviour,so the more credible endorsements featured on your profile, the better.

Consider who to approach (and when)

With limited time and resources at your disposal, the challenge is todecide how best to focus your efforts. Manually trawling social platforms forvague references to your particular niche is both incredibly inefficient andunnecessary. Bearing in mind that your objective is to identify prospects witha reasonable chance of conversion, one way forward might be along the followinglines:

  • Establish your criteria for defining a potential prospect – for instance, by business niche, job title and evidence of intention to buy.
  • Consider what strategies you should adopt for identifying prospects who meet these criteria. On LinkedIn for instance, you can search for individuals by name, company or position. Especially if you’ve concluded that you wish to focus on individuals who are already aware of your company, social monitoring tools may help you here. Examples include hootsuite and SocialMention. With these, you can set alerts to be notified whenever your company or product is mentioned across social media platforms. The type of mention your sales team will be especially interested in will include peer-to-peer queries along the line of “Has anyone used [X product]. What do you think of it? I’m considering it but am worried about [X issue].”

Frame your approach in the right way

Avoid the hard sell and focus on context. For instance, in the exampleabove where a lead has raised a specific issue, the initial approach shouldinvolve providing a comprehensive answer; setting the lead’s mind at ease andestablishing trust.

Let’s take another example where a potential lead has liked your profileand has also liked or shared some of your content concerning a broad issueconnected with your market (data security, for instance). Included in yourinitial approach might be something along the lines of “Please take a lookat our how-to guide explaining how you can boost security across yourorganisation…” You can then make a note in your timetable to use the sameplatform to drop in with this lead to check for any follow-up queries a day ortwo later.

With thisessential element of one-on-one contact, social selling can become a valuablepart of your sales team’s toolkit. When using it however, it’s vital thatmembers of your team understand the importance of sticking to the protocols youought to have in place for social media usage. Explore our range of business insuranceoptions and find out how we can offer complementary riskmanagement advice to help you reduce the risk of reputational and otherforms of damage across your organisation - including the risk of onlinereputational damage.