Social selling. You’ve probably heard of it. It’s a trending topic in sales and marketing circles. But do you know what it means? I mean, really know what it means. The name itself provides some insight, but the strategy as a whole is deeper, with core tenants that drive the underlying tactics that social sellers use to connect with prospects.
Many confuse social selling with social media marketing. They are not the same, despite the fact that the two strategies do share some similarities. Social selling isn’t social media advertising, either. Social selling isn’t another hot trend that will be forgotten about in a year’s time. It is a foundational pillar of modern marketing and sales, and B2B companies would be making a mistake to overlook it.
Let’s dive into the nuts and bolts of what social selling is to give you a better idea.
What Is Social Selling?
In short, social selling is the process of using social networks to find, meet, understand, and nurture sales prospects. It’s a modern way to connect with prospects, replacing cold calling, cold emailing, and other more traditional sales tactics.
Social selling places the focus on building lasting relationships with prospects, eschewing traditional practices that focus on bombarding prospects and securing short-term sales. It’s a long-term approach. The strategy also makes use of the wide array of social media tools available today to help prospects manage and monitor their interactions with a wide range of prospects and build their following.
Social selling can take place on any social media platform — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, industry forums, or even the comments section of a blog post.
Social Selling Builds Lasting Relationships
Nobody is happy to send or receive a cold call. Sales reps feel bad interrupting people and prospects don’t enjoy the distraction. Social selling moves away from strategies of interruption and bombardment and instead focuses on welcome conversations that to mutually beneficial, lasting relationships with prospects.
Prospects prefer the approach as well. 87% of B2B buyers say that they have a favorable impression of someone that is introduced to them through their professional network.
The relationships that you build through social selling will not just benefit you in the near as you look to secure sales but serve you throughout your career. Since the relationships that you build will be genuine and connections made with a real desire to help, those relationships will be ones that you can turn to at a later date. That isn’t seen in most traditional sales interactions.
Your Customers Are Already Buying Socially
Social selling works because customers prefer social buying. They want to source opinions from their network, explore options that experts and thought leaders recommend, and connect with genuine sales reps that can help them to better understand the solutions in front of them.
According to IDC, 75% of B2B buyers use contacts and information from their social networks in their buying process. CEB found that customers are typically about 57% of the way through the purchasing process before they engage with their first sales rep in B2B deals. When they do engage, they come into the conversation well-informed and ready to fully understand the available options.
To ignore social selling is to ignore what your customers actually want, particularly if you sell B2B products or services.
It’s not just your customers, either. It’s also your competition.
90% of top sales professionals (and 71 percent of all sales reps) are using social selling tools. A recent survey by CSO Insights shows that one in three B2B professionals states that social selling tools have increased the number of leads that they work with.They use it throughout the sales process for tasks like lead development, account research, call preparation, stakeholder research, awareness building, and even content curation.
But it’s important to understand what social selling is not, too. It’s not automation. It isn’t a one-time campaign, and the results aren’t immediate. Social selling isn’t some sales tactic. It’s a change in mindset that leads to long-term results.
A big part of effective social selling is putting your authority on display. No matter what you are selling, your customers want to know that they are working with experts in their craft. They want to know that you can not only sell them a solution to their problems but be a trusted confidant that they can turn to when they encounter problems that fall within your expertise.
But just writing isn’t enough. You can write and publish the best blog posts in your industry — but if your audience isn’t seeing them, they aren’t doing you much good when it comes to social selling. You must know how to promote a blog post to gain that initial footing.
Neil Patel, a famous internet marketing guru, recommends spending as much time promoting your content as you do creating it. However, if you don’t have a large social following, it can be difficult to secure visibility and achieve massive reach of your content. However, by following a few basic blog post promotion principles and staying consistent, you can grow the reach of your content over time.
1. Serve Your Audience
First and foremost — make sure that you are creating the content that your audience actually wants to read. What are they talking about on social networks? What kind of questions are they asking? What do your customers typically ask you when they begin a new engagement?
If you aren’t creating the right content that your audience actually wants to read, you’ll never be able to gain the traction that you’re hoping for. One key thought here is that you shouldn’t try to ‘sell’ your services, products or even your thought leadership. The point is that you really should think about what your audience needs. Are your insights helpful? Do they address issues? Do you give your readers tips that will make them more efficient, productive and ultimately successful. In essence, don’t make it about yourself. If you’re selling hot dogs, don’t try to sell hot dogs to someone who’s asking you for hamburgers. Write to address the problems that people have - not to sell the solutions you offer.
2. Share Proactively
The best way to get your content in front of people that will find it valuable is to seek them out and share it with them. Ideally, you should place more focus on sharing with influencers and people with a decent-sized social following. These people can help to extend the reach of your content piece when they find it helpful and ultimately decide to share it with their own audience.
A few of the steps that you can take to proactively share your content include:
There are some tools that you can use to identify people that have shared similar content. BuzzSumo allows you to see who shared the most popular articles on social media, which can be a great way to identify influencers, interested people and expand your audience. With this kind of insight, Buzzsumo not only shows you influencers, it also shows you which topics and articles are being shared. This helps you identify topics that will likely get interest. Now, all you have to do is to come up with a related topic and add your own insights and point of view.
Source: Neil Patel
Another excellent option for finding relevant conversations on the web is Google Alerts. Google Alerts will monitor conversations and content across the web and alert you when that topic is brought up. This can be a great way to identify new opportunities for sharing your content. A third tool to identify influencers on specific topics is Right Relevance. This content discovery platform has a tab that directly shows you influencers for your search terms and ranks them with a score from 0-100. Now, your next step is to identify a handful of them and start engaging with them, share their content, engage and wait for them to reciprocate.
3. Mix Automation and Manual Engagement
It’s important to remember that blog post promotion is a marathon and not a sprint. Yes, a traffic spike for posts that gain traction will come in in the initial days following its publishing, but it’s the ongoing effort to get the content in front of your audience that will provide longevity and make a true difference in your business.
Automate social posts that share your content for a year (or longer) after it is first published. One terrific tool to achieve that is Missinglettr. Its AI automatically parses out key statements from your blog, puts them into pre-packaged social media-ready statements and pushes them out over months in a social media drip campaign. Just because you’ve published the post and done your initial round of promotion doesn’t mean that the content won’t be useful months from now. Continue to find opportunities to share with your audience over time to grow your following and get your content in front of as many interested parties as possible.
Marketing’s Curse: Everyone talks a big game, but only few can prove it.
Want to see examples of B2B social selling paying off in a big way?
In initial consultations with a business that is interested in B2B social selling, one of the biggest hurdles is being able to show that social selling will work for them. I can show case studies, talk about previous successes, and educate business leaders on the benefits that social selling can provide — but without some third-party examples to show social proof that sliver of doubt will remain until the results start to speak for themselves.
This happens because so many B2B businesses hear horror stories from other companies that invested in social selling, but never achieved results that made it worth their time. Maybe they hired a social media marketing agency that was incompetent or simply suffered from a lack of commitment.
Just yesterday, I spoke to a VP of marketing who told me that they had already worked with someone to drive results via Twitter. And yes, that agency also helped them get followers. But strangely, all these followers never engaged and ended up disappearing after a few days.
It’s easy to explain that their social media support simply went on to buy followers and that it’s not surprising that this didn’t yield any business results. But the question remains - how can your outcomes be different, when someone else uses the same words and then delivers scam-marketing? The truth is - you can’t. It’s the curse of everything related to marketing. Everyone can talk a good game, but because it’s just words, it really means nothing. As long as you’re just talking about doing the job, it comes down to trusting the person in front of you. It’s like a job interview: everyone can talk about doing the job - it’s how someone actually does the job, where you’ll see the difference in execution and results.
In this article, I want to highlight some examples of B2B social selling and the results they were able to provide to the companies that approached their strategies with conviction and commitment:
JLL Uses Social Video to Attract Qualified Leads
This is a great example of how social selling can work in even the most competitive industries. Jones Lang LaSalle is an investment company that specializes in real estate. Specifically, they help commercial real estate owners manage large commercial properties.
After speaking with their customers about the value that their marketing materials were delivering, they found that many of their customers thought that the white papers that they were delivering contained, for the most part, the same information that their competitors were delivering. They weren’t differentiating themselves or adding value to their clients.
They huddled and revamped their strategy to focus more heavily on video marketing. By producing YouTube videos that featured sales reps from within their organization and candid conversations with property managers, they were able to deliver new insights to their audience that helped them to stand out.
In this video, Jeff Molander, details how the company used videos with excellent direct response copywriting to attract qualified leads.
InContact Leverages LinkedIn & Automation to Grow Revenue
InContact, amid sluggish growth, launched an experiment within their sales team to grow sales. They decided to implement social selling within a specific segment of their team and compare that segment’s results to that of the rest of the sales department. A small group of reps were chosen and trained to use LinkedIn to share content and engage with prospects. The rest of the sales team continued using traditional tactics.
After six months of leveraging social selling techniques, the reps that used LinkedIn saw that they had increased their average revenue per sale by 122%. Reps that also used marketing automation software Eloqua in conjunction with social selling saw 157% increase in their average revenue per sale.
It’s safe to say that InContact’s experiment in social selling was a stunning success and changed the way they viewed the strategy.
LogMyCalls Using Blogging to Grow Leads Quickly
If you’ve done your research, you know that blogging is a great complement to social selling. It gives you a platform to publish your thoughts, display your expertise, and provide valuable resources to your following.
But — one of the biggest reasons why many companies fail to gain traction from their blogging efforts is because they simply don’t publish often enough. To stay on prospect’s radars, you have to publish enough content to continually stay top of mind.
LogMyCalls knew this. When their inbound marketing manager, McKay Allan, set his sights on growing a social media lead generation system, he decided that blogging was the channel that would give them the best chance of success. He launched a “150 Blog Posts in 50 Days” challenge, shifting the company’s resources toward content production. Yes, that’s right. Three blog posts per day. They used their social channels to distribute the content to their audience.
Within 90 days, the results were clear. The campaign generated a 400% increase in leads within that timeframe while providing their sales team with a large library of content to use in their sales discussions.
Now, we talked a lot about results today. If you want to hear how we’re driving tangible business results for our clients and what specifically we’ve done for them - give us a call. We’ll be happy to walk you through our process and give you specific examples and references. And yes...you can trust us that the followers you gain through our work will engage with you and they won’t just magically disappear again after a few days. Promise.
No matter the business you’re in and no matter your size of business - building a solid social media presence has never been more critical. Today, there are more than 2.56 billion global social media users. Your audience is out there talking about products and companies that are similar to yours. But without a strong social media presence,nobody will know and you aren’t a factor in those conversations.
The good news is that building a social media presence is easy and will happen practically overnight. Hopefully, this sentence made you stop, because the opposite is true. It’s incredibly easy to waste your time and money chasing social media fairy tales. Without a well-defined strategy and experience building social media followings, it’s nearly impossible to gain traction. For brands, it’s tougher to hold the interest of an audience than it is for individuals and thought leaders. For that reason, many companies turn to social media marketing companies to help them design a strategy that make sense for their business.
But evaluating those marketing service providers is nearly as tough as establishing the presence itself. Most social media agencies make big promises. Few are able to deliver. Many of my own clients come to me after having a bad experience with another company and are rightfully skeptical of being taken for yet another expensive ride.
As you evaluate social media marketing companies, here are three very important traits that you need to look for in order to identify your ideal partner:
1. A Track Record of Success
Many social media agencies make big promises. Every single one of them will claim that they will grow your following and generate sales through social platforms. Some can, some can’t. What separates these two types of agencies is proof. Past results are no guarantee for future successes. But you need to look for someone who is able to clearly explain to you what they achieved for another client and how they did it.
Any social media marketing company that you choose to work with should be able to provide proof of their previous successes. If they are confident that they can help your company, that means that they should have been able to provide similar results for other companies in the past.
This proof can come in the form of:
Bottom line — you shouldn’t work with a company that can’t prove that they’ve produced results in the past. And you definitely shouldn’t work with a company that is either not prepared or not willing to talk about their approach to measuring success of a social media program.
2. Understanding Your Industry & Audience
A solid social media presence means that you are connecting with your intended audience. You’re sharing information and updates that they find valuable or insightful. Otherwise, there is no reason for them to follow you.
To speak to their needs and interests, you have to know them. Not in a superficial way, either. They can smell that from a mile away. They know when companies are trying to appeal to them to sell them something.
One could make the case that a social media marketing company that you work with, should have experience in your industry. If that’s how you feel, then this agency should have experience delivering verifiable results with companies similar to yours. To give your audience what they want, they have to know your audience.
On the other hand, a fresh perspective can be very valuable. Maybe you simply haven’t been able to find a good social media management agency with experience in your specific business. Or you just hit it off with one agency, but they never worked for a company like yours. Now what?
In those cases, there’s two thoughts to consider. First, if you want to work with an agency over an extended period of time, it’s important that you are on the same page. Personalities play a big role in client-agency relationships. At the end of the day, you can work with an agency that’s perfect on paper, but if you constantly butt heads or you don’t like each other’s attitude, this relationship will not last long.
The second thought to consider is creativity and versatility. So, maybe the agency you like never worked in your business, but they have creative ideas that sound good. The key here is to determine if creativity will be accepted and successful in your industry. If someone comes with a fresh approach, it can blow the competition out of the water. A pair of fresh eyes can sometimes find opportunities that everyone else overlooked. So, there’s definitely potential here. But just make sure that the rationale and the strategy is sound. Creativity alone is not worth much - but a smart strategy with creative execution can help you win big.
Last but certainly not least, they have to fit within your current processes. What that means is a question that every company has to ask themselves. How are your current marketing operations structured? Will the social media marketing company fit in smoothly with those processes? Do you get along with the person who would be managing your social presence?
Even companies that have a proven track record and understand your audience may not be a good fit. How you work together is an important consideration and one that can only be felt out as you begin to explore a potential engagement.
In the minds of entrepreneurs, many misconceptions embed themselves with the hype regarding networking marketing continued to grow. All of us want to get it right. We all need to make that group of followers that will assist their profit margins to explode. Social networking is about communication, time customer service that is real - and strong advertising effectiveness.
Let us examine some social networking facts that can assist you to stay away from the common pitfalls. The Social Media Marketing Misconceptions Social media creates chaos for brand images: engaging in marketing does not open up your brand to or less - opinions from satisfied - or disgruntled - clients.
What it'll do is show your clients that you care. It allows them an opportunity. When they supply this feedback, you need to respond in a caring way to it. Obviously, you would like to minimize negative feedback. But don't make the mistake of believing that your networking pages are needed by customers up and running so as to lodge their complaints. They do not.
-Social networking engagement is a passing trend: aliens have always had a need for communication. Social networking participation is a development that uses technology. That's not a trend. In fact, to get a perspective of the circumstance, you need to understand that!
-Visitors to social networking sites are increasing at 3 times the speed of these to other Internet based networking is ranked as the most popular action that is on-line. It even rates above personal emailing.
-My business doesn't need a pro to help with social network engagement: You need to address the enormous power of social network marketing seriously. Rapid and significant gains in targeted traffic can burst your profit margins. Social network engagement can transform your company, but there are rules to follow. This is an art. There are specific techniques and processes that must be implemented. Don't take it lightly.-Social marketing engagement is only beneficial for certain kind of brands: Again, this is far from the truth. The reality is that any service or product that's marketable has an audience out there searching for information.
Every audience benefits from and craves efficient, caring communicating. In a nutshell, you'll generate more revenue whenever you provide real time client care, and thus create client loyalty, via effective social network engagement techniques. By avoiding this common social marketing misconceptions noted above, you can start to invent your personalized plan for social media effectiveness. It is extremely important to bear in mind the advertising strength that entities like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and others possess.