“Social selling is hard.”
This statement is definitely true in some ways, but is also wrong in others. Yes, social selling is hard. At first. It requires a dedication to stick around, find out what works for you, and re-craft strategies that fit within those parameters.
In the end, social selling success is just as likely to come down to your determination as it is any particular strategy or tactic that you employ. The more determined you are and the longer you stay consistent with your efforts, the more opportunities you have to learn.
Consistency is perhaps the most important attribute that any prospective social seller can possess. Social selling is a daily commitment. You need to follow up with prospects, constantly engage with new people, and ensure that you are spreading your content far and wide across the social platforms where you want to be present. Without consistency, you’ll not get results. It’s that simple.
In this article, we’ll cover some of the most important social selling principles that prospective social sellers should apply to their efforts every single day. By internalizing these guidelines and ensuring that you take them into account as you build out your strategy, you’ll set yourself up for success in the long run.
Principle #1: A Genuine Approach Wins
B2B users know when they are being marketed to. It’s true. Our exposure to advertisements and marketing has made us skeptical of the messages we receive every day. That isn’t to say that traditional marketing isn’t effective anymore. It is. It’s just that those techniques are not as likely to produce results when applied to social media engagements.
Similarly, our customers know when they are being marketed to. They don’t like to have their inbox spammed with cold pitches and nonsensical marketing messages that don’t fully apply to them. Even when they do need the product, they’d rather conduct research on their own or engage in a more deliberate conversation with someone they trust.
For these reasons, social selling relies on genuine relationships and conversations with prospects. You aren’t just selling to them. You are getting to know your connections - and hopefully they’ll turn into clients at some point. But while that’s maybe the ultimate goal, it’s not what should determine how you operate. You’re getting to know what they need. When they’ll need it. How they live and think. What they care about. Anything and everything relevant. We want to build genuine relationships before we ever make a pitch to a prospective client.
Principle #2: Valuable Content is the Cornerstone of Success
If the goal is building genuine relationships, the quickest way to do that is to actually be valuable to the people that you are speaking with. While you can always provide valuable insights during your discussions, social selling is built on the principle of delivering continuous value through content.
When we mean delivering value through content, we are talking about sharing content across your entire social selling operation. When a point comes up in conversation and you have a relevant piece of branded content published on your blog, share it with the client. When you share content on your timeline, make sure it is valuable. The same for when you are taking part in discussions on another post or in a group discussion on your chosen social platform — relevancy and genuine value trumps all.
Any good social seller must have a consistent pipeline of high-value content that they can use to attract new customers, build relationships, and boost their ability to establish that initial level of trust with their prospects. Valuable content is the cornerstone of an effective social selling campaign.
Principle #3: Generosity Establishes Connections
Social selling is about more than following a simple checklist of tasks that you need to do on a daily basis (although having a checklist is helpful, too). It’s more broadly about your ability to establish relationships with people. Yes, they may need your services. But they can might also be in a position to help you expand your presence, make referrals, or grow your audience. They can be influencers. Competitors. Other social sellers. Casting a wide net puts you in position for more opportunities.
To establish that wide net, you need to focus on a strategy of generosity. Just like you can’t withdraw from your bank account without making deposits, be willing to give advice for free. Explain to them why your product might be a good fit for their situation. . But don’t hesitate to recommend other products or services that might be a better fit for their needs. By focusing on being generous and transparently helpful, you build connections that ensure that when a prospect or someone they know needs a product like the one you offer, you will be the person they think of first.
Principle #4: Lower Volume, Higher Quality
This speaks to every aspect of social selling. No one likes to be bombarded with messages, likes, or comments. When you are too eager to engage, you create an aura of desperation that your prospects will be able to detect. It won’t help your standing.
Focus on lower volume and higher quality in everything that you do within your social selling strategy. This can refer to:
- The conversations you strike up with prospects.
- The posts you engage with on your timeline.
- The groups you participate in.
- The content you share.
- The recommendations you make.
Anything and everything you do within social selling should be done with an eye toward quality. Being able to consistently deliver quality interactions to prospects is a big part of the trust building process. By delivering that reliable quality in the actions you take, you slowly but surely build trust for yourself, your product, and your company.
Principle #5: Questions Build Relationships
At the heart of every great conversation is a great question, idea, or insight. Learning more about our prospects is at the heart of every social selling campaign. We can’t learn what conversations they may respond to, the pains that bother them, or whether or not they are a good fit for our product until we learn more about them.
Asking questions out of the gate can get you responses. Asking the right questions is what keeps the conversation going and gets your prospect engaged. There are all sorts of questions that you can ask a prospect to kick things off.
You can ask about their company. You could ask them about their work history. Or their time in college. Or about any specific services or specializations that they have. Every company is different. Every prospect is different. Focus on learning as much as you can about each prospect without peppering them with too many questions. Let questions flow naturally from your conversation to build trust and foster engagement.
Principle #6: Use Smart Automation
Automation plays an important role in any type of today’s marketing and social selling is no different. Some companies automate their entire social media presence. Every tweet, Facebook post, and shared article is pre-planned and scheduled. While it would be nice if social sellers could enjoy that level of automation as well, we have to be more thoughtful in the way that we employ social selling automation.
Because social selling leans so heavily on genuine one-on-one conversations, it is impossible to automate the entire process. You’ll always have to jump in and manually engage with your prospects. However, being able to identify what tasks can be automated and finding smart ways to integrate them into your existing strategies can give you a leg up on the competition.
Some of the different social selling tasks that you can safely automate include:
- Connection and friend requests based on specific parameters.
- Introduction messages to establish a conversation and build rapport.
- Sharing content with your followers.
- Posting updates or insights.
- Engaging with specific accounts.
However, you want all subsequent interactions to seem genuine. So even if you automate the posting of a piece of content that you wrote to your LinkedIn account, you have to make sure to be willing to jump in and engage with prospects that comment, like, or share your content.
Principle #7: Groups Broaden Your Platform
Participation in Facebook or LinkedIn groups may be the most direct way to grow your platform. Instead of vying for attention from anyone and everyone, your participation in groups allows you to cater your interactions and messages to a small set of individuals. If you find a group that is full of highly relevant prospects for your product, spending additional time within that community is likely to be a more worthwhile use of your time than targeting random people you come across on social networks.
Finding micro-communities makes it easier to develop awareness and a reputation within the markets that matter for your offerings. While not all Facebook and LinkedIn groups are well-moderated enough to really make an impact on your business, those that are can be of tremendous value. They can allow you to meet a wide range of qualified prospects, establish your position within the market, and make yourself a trusted source of information.
Find groups on the platform of your choice that are a home to your target audience and are well-moderated. Start to participate in those groups. Learn the rules. Know how to interact within the group. Don’t be self-promotional at all in the beginning. You want to establish a reliable presence and reputation and the worst thing that you can do is come across as overly self-promotional as you’re building out the relationship..
Principle #8: Make the Ask When It Makes Sense
The biggest mistake a social seller can make is making the pitch for their product or service too early in the process. It can be hard to stop yourself from making that mistake, especially when a prospect seems to be a unique fit for what you have to offer.
It’s so critical to your ongoing success in social selling that you are able to develop patience within conversations. Almost no one is ready to buy your product on Day 1. Many aren’t on Day 5. Most aren’t on Day 15. But a good number of your prospects could be ready on Day 30. Be patient. Learn how to spot the right time to make the pitch during your social selling process. But only by making mistakes and going through the process, again and again, will you learn to when that time is.
Social selling takes time. That’s the point that we want to drive home here. You can’t expect it to pay off right away. Expect 3-6 months of ongoing engagement before you see tangible results. Of course, you will see some results before then, but it simply takes time for prospects to get to know you and trust that you are a reliable source of information. They have to be educated and nurtured over time. It’s a very deliberate approach to establishing relationships. For those that have experience in more traditional forms of marketing and advertising, it can take some time to get used to it.
Principles to Guide You
The principles that we have outlined in this article can help you to guide your social selling strategies. These principles apply to social selling on any platform. By following them, you embrace social selling in its truest form and position yourself to establish beneficial, long-lasting relationships with prospects across your market.
Have some other ideas for important social selling principles? Share them in the comments below!