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What is Social Selling and Why Should You Be Doing It?

Written by Julie Dietz on May 16, 2016 at 8:30 AM

An explanation of social selling and its uses.

Sales techniques are like empires, they rise and fall with the changing the times, and it seems like every few years there's a new method for connecting with customers and closing deals. One of the most recent techniques that's been getting attention and results is social selling.

Social selling takes advantage of the rise of digital citizens and social networks to improve business performance. It doesn't replace traditional sales techniques, it enhances and updates them to fit digital trends. And when done right, social selling can help companies identify new sales opportunities, build trust, and foster stronger relationships with customers.

Social selling followed the advent of social media, and as such it is still relatively new, sometimes seeming abstract to many businesses. So how do you familiarize yourself with a buzzword like social selling and turn it into money in your pocket? First, you define the concept, and then you focus on understanding the best practices and strategies within social selling that would be effective for your company.

What is Social Selling?

In a nutshell, social selling is any interaction you have with prospects or customers using social media or over social networks. This online activity can include both researching and engaging prospects through connections, comments, and profile views.

While the end goal of all this interaction is to generate sales opportunities, social selling processes are built around creating trust and nurturing positive relationships between your organization and your audience. Social selling is the most effective at generating opportunities when forming lasting relationships is the primary focus.

Why You Should Incorporate Social Selling

Reason #1) It Improves Your Reach

Social selling has become a buzzword so quickly because of its application in a digital world. According to Entrepreneur, social networking activities account for almost a quarter of all internet activity, and reach more than three quarters of all internet users. By taking advantage of this trend with social selling, you increase the potential reach of your sales team significantly.

Reason #2) It Helps With Researching, Prospecting, and Networking

There's a wealth of information in that pool of internet users, and your sales team can tap into that to get more information on the audience. Because of this, researching, prospecting, and networking are the best applications for social selling. Sales teams can research customer interests and who likely prospective customers are, as well as network with prospects and current customers.

Reason #3) It Creates a Better Sales Experience

The research and connection involved in social selling helps improve the sales experience for everyone involved. For organizations, social selling helps establish credibility by providing social proof and a human side to your business. IT also helps sell ideas to prospects through helpful advice and thought-leadership or attract new talent to your company. For prospects, it's easier to find high-quality buying opportunities that you can feel confident in when social proof is very accessible. Furthermore, it's easier to connect with companies across their preferred platform, be it Twitter or LinkedIn.

Reason #4) It Boosts Results

Of course, all of this means nothing if social selling doesn't measurably improve your results. Fortunately, it does. Research from A Sales Guy Consulting shows that more than 70% of sales people who used social media in their sales processes outperformed their colleagues. Sales reps that were socially savvy also beat their goals 23% more often. And, in the survey, over half of respondents were able to track closed sales back to social media techniques.

With measurable results, a better customer experience, and increased research, there's no reason why you shouldn't use social selling techniques in your organization.

Social Selling Uses and Best Practices

To get the best results from social selling, you'll need to customize your research, networking, and prospecting activities based on your organization and your customer or member base. While each organization will have unique methods, there are a few approaches to social selling that all organizations can take advantage of.

Best Practice #1) Build Professional Profiles

Start by establishing your organization or brand across a variety of social networking websites. While the most popular for B2B selling are Twitter and LinkedIn, consider other sites including Facebook and Pinterest as well. Create a professional profile on each site that is authentic, contains or shares meaningful content, and is regularly updated. You'll use this profile to increase awareness of your business and make it easier for prospects to find you.

Best Practice #2) Engage Customers in Meaningful Ways

Once you've established a presence on social media sites you can proactively research and engage your customers and prospects. Start with the basics, like name and job title, then go deeper. Find out what your audience is interested in by looking at the content they're sharing. If you're already connected with your customers or prospects in a meaningful way (for example, having met in person or during a webinar) then you can engage them with relevant, insightful comments on their content. To engage other contacts, use your own page to share content they may find useful.

Best Practice #3) Grow Your Network

After you've established your content sharing strategy and have a few connections, you can grow your network. Invite partners or customers to be a part of your network. Don't add just anyone, however. The best connections are customers, prospects, and partners who you have made meaningful connections with online or in person, and who could convert on future opportunities as your relationship deepens. Other people who you've never met or may not be interested in your business will just water down your network, making it harder to find the real opportunities.

The goal of this process is to get people interested in your business and the solutions you provide by building trust and spreading your ideas. Your organization, including your sales team, can use that interest to find opportunities, as well as use social activity to better understand their prospects.

Social Selling Takeaway

In the digital age, it's important for you to take advantage of all the tools at your disposal, and while social selling should not replace your current sales methods, it should be used to enhance them. Social Selling expands your audience, improves the sales experience for everyone involved, and provides measurable results when selling to existing customers as well as new customers.

Establish your own social profiles, keep them up to date, and actively engage your prospects to get started with social selling. As your network grows, you'll provide more social proof for prospects and help create a more effective sales process for your team. In the end, you'll find an effective way to nurture relationships with both customers and prospects, generating more sales opportunities.

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Topics: Social Media, Customer Communities, B2B Communities, Marketing Automation, Online Community

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