So, you know what social selling is and have decided that you want to use it to grow your business. Smart decision. But simply knowing what social selling is and recognizing its benefits isn’t enough to truly begin using this strategy to your advantage.
Social selling can be complicated. It requires a long-term approach and excellent communication skills that you use to develop real-world relationships with prospects. Luckily those skills can be learned. By dedicating yourself to the discipline and improving your skills over time, anyone can become an adept social seller.
But before you can begin to gain experience in social selling, you’ll have to start from the ground up. To start social selling, you need to create a strategy that helps to keep you laser-focused and defines your social selling goals. Your plan needs to position you or your team to grow genuine relationships with prospects that will work to your benefit for months and years ahead.
To put together that winning social selling strategy, you need to understand what is necessary for an effective strategy, while being able to break your strategy down into individual tasks for scheduling purposes. As you set out to get started with social selling, use the following tips to help you set up an effective strategy that positions you for success.
Tip #1) There are Two Parts to Social Selling
Social selling is multiple strategies wrapped up into one. Effective social selling is a combination of outbound prospecting and inbound marketing. For outbound prospecting, you identify who your prospects are and then make initial contact with them. Then, you use inbound marketing techniques to continue the relationship-building process and build trust.
Prospecting involves gathering intelligence and learning as much as possible about each prospect. Being great at prospecting sets the stage for success. Without being able to identify candidates that will be a good fit for your product or services, you hamstring your whole process. If you could learn only one thing, it should be effective prospecting. All success flows from there.
Inbound marketing is a broader strategy but certainly plays an integral role in social selling. An inbound marketing system should attract prospects to you or your company, sharing useful resources and educating them. Through this education and engaging in regular interactions with your target audience, you will ultimately make prospects come to you, instead of contacting them cold and offering your services.
Tip #2) Define Your Social Selling Goals
Effective social selling requires continuous improvement over time. To become a better social seller, you have to track your experiences and learn from your mistakes. Consistently work to optimize your social selling process and identify areas for improvement.
For improvement, your executives, team leaders, and managers must clearly define team goals. Know what success looks like to your company. Every strategy must be tied to key performance indicators (KPIs) that you use to gauge success and determine what is working and what isn’t. Once you have your KPIs chosen, you can then attach those KPIs to particular goals.
For instance, key performance indicators for a social selling strategy might include things like:
- Number of meetings booked
- Engagement and reactions
- Account follower growth
- Deals closed
- Conversations started
Deciding what is most important to your overall social selling strategy is essential. Choose a metric that closely aligns with your organizational goals. Directly connect your business goal and that metric.
For instance, you might set a goal that each salesperson on your team should book at least eight phone meetings per week. While closing deals is valuable, it is often too far down the social selling process to provide any real insights into the small optimizations you can make over time. It’s better to choose a metric that highlights your ability to identify and nurture prospects so that you can implement optimization to your processes and strategies over time.
Tip #3) Invest in Education
Education is important. Sure, you can try to go into social selling entirely green, hoping to make progress as you go eventually. You might even find some success. But with a little bit of planning and education, you can position yourself to start building meaningful relationships and closing deals right out of the gate.
Educating yourself on best practices is especially important for teams with multiple salespeople. Sending an entire squad of rookies out there into the wild isn’t going to do you much good. The education they receive from experience is invaluable, but you can shorten the path to success by investing in basic training for your teams.
Not only will it make them more effective, but they will go into their initial conversations, knowing what they’re doing. Allowing your team to collaborate to find the best way to approach potential clients, nurture, and grow relationships creates an atmosphere where everyone benefits from the entire team’s experience.
Your initial investments in education for yourself or your team will pay dividends throughout the life of your business. While there are many social selling courses available online, it can be most useful to bring in a consultant who works hands-on with your team, gets them up to speed, and positions them for social selling success.
Tip #4) Determine Which Platform is Right for You
You can’t launch an effective strategy without identifying a platform to focus on. For B2B social sellers, that likely means that you are going to focus on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter. There are upsides and downsides to each. Generally, we recommend that our clients start on LinkedIn. There’s just too much potential in the B2B arena for this platform not to be your top choice. Over time, we always recommend that social sellers grow to focus on more than one platform, but we have found that LinkedIn is a good starting point.
With that said, every situation is different, and sometimes our clients prefer to stick with the platform that they are most comfortable with. Either way, once you decide on a platform, you begin to plan your posts, strategies and build out your social media calendar. Because every platform has different requirements for engagement, you can’t prepare posts until you have your platform chosen.
Tip #5) Create Instructions for Prospecting
Prospecting is the ever-present elephant in the room when it comes to social selling. Great social sellers are always making connections with new prospects to feed their pipeline. Depending on your chosen platform, you may have very different ways of finding your ideal clients.
For instance, if you worked primarily on Facebook, you would probably use Facebook Groups or third-party tools to find profiles of people that meet your ideal client avatar. However, on LinkedIn, you would search by title, ZIP code, size of the company, tenure, or other criteria to narrow down your potential matches.
Whatever your platform of choice, to successfully prospect, you need a clearly defined buyer persona and a process. With buyer persona and process in place, your selected process is repeatable and optimizable over time for better results and faster prospecting. Break down the process step-by-step, so you have a resource that you can return to or use to train others.
Tip #6) Create a Framework for Engagement
With a platform chosen, you build out your engagement strategy. Your engagement framework (or flow) outlines the steps you will take when making contact with a new prospect. Now, there is always some room for interpretation here. Just because you have a framework doesn’t mean that you can’t deviate from it. Sometimes conversations will naturally lead in another direction, and that’s alright.
Sample process engaging with prospects on LinkedIn:
- Identify the prospect based on clearly defined target criteria
- Connect with the prospect, send a personalized connection request message.
- Interact with their posts for one week. Like them. Comment on them.
- Send them an initial message sharing a piece of content that you believe they will find valuable.
- Continue interacting with their posts.
- Deliver the second piece of valuable content.
- Initiate a discussion about challenges they’re currently facing
- Suggest a high-level strategy to address their challenge
- Request conversation.
Giving yourself a simple roadmap like this can make interacting with prospects much more natural. While conversations will veer their way, and you will often have to deviate from your framework, you can always re-enter the structure at the next logical step and continue to move the conversation toward working together.
With a well-designed process for finding and engaging, you can move on to the nuts and bolts of your strategy — creating and planning the content that you will share both on your news feed and with prospects individually.
Tip #7) Create a Social Media Calendar
Social selling is built around the concept of continually delivering value to prospects until they have trust in you. You’ll need to have a well-defined plan and a list of resources ready to share both on your feeds and with your prospects.
First, create a list of content resources that you believe your prospects would find useful. Focus on sharing pieces that you have written or published on your brand website. You do, after all, want to position yourself as the expert. You should also include some third-party sources as you don’t want to come off as overly self-promotional. Focus on making sure that every resource on your list is laser-targeted to a specific buyer persona and covers a topic they will find useful.
Once you have a fleshed-out list of genuinely valuable resources to share, start building out your social media calendar. Depending on your chosen platform, you may have different approaches.
Typically, you should aim to share at least one resource per day on your feed. That doesn’t mean that it has to be an article. It could be a quote—a genuine thought you had. Position yourself as an expert in your field and a solver of problems for your ideal customers and clients.
Tip #8) Automate What You Can
While social selling will always require you to handle some activities manually, some things can be automated. Doing so will allow you to free up your time and focus on your broader strategies, instead of performing repeatable, mundane tasks.
Prospecting is an excellent example of something that can be moderated on some platforms. Many software solutions can help you to sift through your LinkedIn connections, connect with new people, and find people that match specific criteria on the platform.
Additionally, posting status updates on your accounts can be automated as well. While we do recommend that our clients post-by-hand, scheduling content sharing and exciting tidbits to share with your audience can free up your time to focus on the most crucial aspect of social selling: engaging in conversations.
Tip #9) Test, Iterate, Optimize
We can only make recommendations about what we have found to work when it comes to creating a social selling strategy. But, every audience is different. You’ll have to see what works for yourself. As you begin to roll out your social selling strategies, continuously measure, iterate, and test new ways of engaging with your target audience throughout the process. In doing so, you’ll find specific strategies that connect with your audience and put you in a position to build new relationships.
Experience Means ImprovementExperience will help you improve your social selling strategies and put you in a position for success moving forward. Using the tips in this article, you’ll be able to create a solid foundation for building your social selling strategies, while putting yourself in A position to find out what works well with your particular audience.
What do you find helps you with social selling? Leave a comment below!