As a B2B marketer or sales professional, you are probably fully aware of how useful a social media presence can be. You can see how critical it is to the success of competitors in your industry and — if you’re smart — you probably want something similar for yourself.
But building a reliable presence on social media isn’t so easy. Otherwise, you (and the rest of your social media-starved competition) would already have a booming presence there.
Many of our clients here at SocialSellinator come to us after having given social media a chance in the past. Most of the time, their success in this arena has been middling at best and non-existent at worst. They come to us looking for direction.
Most of the time in this situation, we find there to be some common misunderstandings about social media marketing and how it actually works for your business. Often, they’ll have created some content, scheduled some posts to promote that content for several weeks or months, and then become disappointed when they don’t generate any sales.
In truth — B2B social media marketing is a much longer process. It requires foresight, consistency, and an effort to genuinely engage in real conversations with your audience. Social media success doesn’t come overnight, but when it does come, the results are impressive.
Most companies need a shift in mindset to achieve B2B social media marketing success. That starts with changing the way they look at specific aspects of their social media presence:
1. Your Buyers Want to Engage Through Social Media
This is (sometimes surprisingly) a big hurdle for a lot of the companies that they work with. They see social media selling as more of a passive thing. They hope that consistent posting and interesting content will be enough. While that does provide a foundation for success, it really does take a bit more to deliver the results that most B2B companies are hoping for.
The bad news is that it takes you a moment to think about it and that you have to be intentional. The good news is that it’s not very complicated. It’s important to know that your customers want to buy through social media. They want to develop real, lasting relationships with the companies that they work with. They want to get to know people before they buy from them. Social media gives them that chance. It’s more personal than a cold email or call.
Getting over the mental block of seeing social media as a passive presence-building platform and instead looking at it as a legitimate sales channel that your prospects prefer is important for engaging with prospects in the right way — fearlessly.
2. Focus on Building Relationships, Not Sales
With that said, it is very important that you not approach the conversatiosn on social media as if they were a cold call. Yes, your audience wants to buy and get to know your company through social media. But that doesn’t mean that they want to be hounded or pursued in the traditional sales-sense. Many folks on social media simply switch out the word ‘phone’ for ‘LinkedIn’ or ‘Twitter’ and before you know it, someone tries to sell you rugs, services or hardware immediately after you connected with them on the platform of choice.
Instead of focusing on the number of sales that your social media presence generates, focus on the number of worthwhile relationships you’ve been able to build. Direct social media sales come through prospects that you’ve built a relationship with, not prospects that you blindly launch a sales pitch at. In a nutshell: if you’re selling, you’re already doing it wrong.
3. B2B Social Media Marketing is a Long-Term Strategy
The last and perhaps most important mindset change that all businesses need to undergo to put themselves in a position for B2B social media marketing success is tempering your expectations regarding time frame. It will most likely take weeks for your first results to begin showing and months before your social media marketing presence is driving impressive, measurable results.
Don’t get down on yourself when you don’t see results right away. Relationships take time to build. No one meets someone and considers them a friend right away. Those relationships require continued interaction to reach that stage. For that reason, we set the expectation with our clients that they should see sales-relevant results within 3-4 months. That doesn’t mean that you won’t see traction before then, but building relationships and trust simply takes time. It’s not done with a tweet.
The good news: the relationships you build that way are based on your engagement and your expertise. You will build yourself a long-lasting pipeline of contacts that will either engage with you directly or refer you to others. It’s not the quick rush of getting 500 clicks to your website after running an ad on Facebook. But the advantage is that the relationships from social selling are pre-qualified; it’s not simply someone clicking on a keyword-ad, only to realize that you define their search term differently then they do. And finally, it’s also not something that immediately stops afterwards after that initial engagement.
Social media marketing tools play a critical role in social selling. They give social sellers the ability to analyze the effectiveness of their efforts, schedule and automate portions of their social presence, and discover new and interesting content to share with their following. But social sellers often have limited budgets and it is so important that you invest in the right tools to put yourself in the best position for success.
As the prominence of social selling has grown, more competition has entered the ring. To get ahead, you need an edge. In this article, we’ll cover four of the best social media marketing tools that will help you to discover new prospects, schedule your social posts, find new and interesting content sources, and measure the effectiveness of your campaigns. It’s a crowded arena. There are hundreds of different tools to choose from, each offering their own unique features. However, we feel that these
#1: Top Social Media Prospecting Tool — LinkedIn Sales Navigator
Every social seller knows how powerful social media can be - especially for B2B sales prospecting. It’s perhaps the best source for not only identifying prospects, but learning more about your buyers so you can position yourself appropriately and speak to subjects that they care the most about. LinkedIn Sales Navigator is the key to unlocking the full potential of LinkedIn, giving you more information to work with as you begin to develop relationships with your prospects.
Sales Navigator seamlessly integrates with most CRM solutions, allowing you to find prospects that match your ideal client profile. It also features detailed messaging and analytics features that make it easy to evaluate how your efforts are going on the platform. While prospecting can still be performed on LinkedIn without Sales Navigator, it certainly will make your efforts easier and more effective.
#2: Social Media Scheduling Tool — Buffer
There are tons of social media scheduling tools to choose from. Buffer is the most popular among them, and the tool that we feel most comfortable recommending due to its ease-of-use. While many scheduling tools are built into larger software suites, Buffer focuses on doing one thing and doing it very well.
Buffer makes it easy to schedule social updates across multiple accounts. They also have a built-in recommendation feature that hones its recommendations over time as Buffer learns about the types of content that you like to share with your audience. When it comes to automating a continued presence on social platforms, there are no tools that do it as efficiently (and cheaply) as Buffer.
#3: Content Research & Curation Tool — BuzzSumo
BuzzSumo is a very useful social media analytics tool that differs from the competition in several ways. Instead of analyzing your own brand’s social media performance, Buzzsumo looks at social media as a whole, giving you access to the most-shared content across the different social platforms.
This makes BuzzSumo the perfect tool for two tasks in particular (a reason why the tool has become an industry standard) — content research and curation. It’s perfect for seeing what your audience has shared and finding content sources to share with your own audience.
#4: Social Media Analytics Tool — Sprout Social
SproutSocial is the perfect social media analytics tools for social sellers. Sprout allows you to measure performance of your campaigns across all relevant social networks from a single platform, making it easy to monitor engagement and communication from prospects from a central hub. It provides a beautiful, informative dashboard that quickly allows you to compare the performance of different campaigns across your chosen platforms, with customization features that ensure you always have the most useful view for your needs. It’s simple to set up, easy to use, and in-depth enough to make it hard to choose another solution in this category.
If social media continues on its current course of popularity, the average person will have spent five years of their lives on social media. The medium has changed the way we communicate, interact with our friends, and most certainly, the way we do business.
It comes as no surprise that social selling has taken off in popularity along with the rise in prominence of social media. If there is a channel where people are willing to connect and communicate, salespeople will find ways to leverage it.
It wasn’t long after everyone started to have phones in their homes before forward-thinking sales teams were learning how to leverage that fact to conduct cold calling in order to sell products. Today, forward-thinking salespeople are already knee-deep in social selling and have been honing their skills for years. If you aren’t one of those people, you’re already falling behind.
To be successful in social selling, there are some basic pillars you should embrace and consistently work on:
1) A Willingness to Engage
You can’t be successful with social selling if you aren’t willing to engage with your intended audience. Even “worse,” it’s the whole point of doing social selling. If you’re selling, you’re doing it wrong. While for some, interacting with people for the first time can be a scary prospect. Jumping into conversations with people that you don’t know and providing advice, guidance, and insight can feel strange at first. At first you may be scared and think that everyone online will be seeing what your thoughts and opinions are. Maybe, you’ll even think that people think what you say doesn’t make sense. Being an introvert, it took me personally a long time to realize that’s not the case at all. Get over it and you’ll be amazed how grateful people are.
But — it’s the confidence to engage from a position of authority that makes social selling so powerful. Apprehension leads to fewer conversations and reduced effectiveness. Further, jumping into public conversations and failing to provide value doesn’t help you get your name on people’s radars.
This is a hump that every social seller has to get over to find success. You must be willing to not only engage with new people at scale, but you must also be willing to share your thoughts and assert your authority in those conversations. So, find an area that you’re passionate about, focus on it and share comments, observations and guidance.
2) Truly Valuable Content
One of the biggest mistakes that many people make when they first break into social selling is underestimating the importance of delivering truly valuable content. You can’t just share the same old “X Tips for ____” that your audience has seen a million times before. That won’t help you stand out. You want to impress them. Not only that: if you just boil up what someone else already did dozens of times, you’re not really contributing something new. To do that, you have to deliver content that is genuinely valuable. Bookmark-worthy, if you will.
To deliver content that your prospects find valuable, you have to have a deep understanding of their situation. Custom-crafting content that speaks to their biggest concerns and needs is the only way to really catch their eye.
This also speaks to the frequency in which you publish content. Publishing a healthy amount of content is a good thing, but only if all of it is truly valuable to your audience. If the content that you share fluctuates in the value that it provides, you’ll have a hard time catching their eye when you do share something truly helpful. It’s better to publish one really impressive piece than it is to publish five forgettable ones in the same timeframe.
3) A Clear Goal for Each Interaction
As you create a list of prospects that you would like to target through social selling, it’s important that you have a clear goal for the interaction. For salespeople, the goal is often to facilitate the relationship and eventually close the sale.
However, since social selling relies so heavily on your ability to build a broader presence on the social platforms of your choosing, not every target is a sale target. Sometimes, you just want to get on an influencer’s radar and get in front of new audiences. By defining a clear goal for each engagement, you put yourself in a position to shape your discussions in a way that gives you the best chance of completing that goal. And again: many times, the primary goal shouldn’t be to sell. Contribute, build relationships and add value. The selling will follow. Seriously.
Even if you’ve been on social media for years, being good at social selling isn’t something that comes naturally to most people. There are nuances to building beneficial business relationships that can take years to truly master. Putting themselves into the buyer’s shoes and reverse-engineering how to successfully build trust and relationships online are also more learned than natural abilities for many. To improve your social selling skills and embrace the future of sales — a channel-neutral, relationship-focused method of connecting with prospects — you’ll need to invest in resources that can point you in the right direction.
There are plenty of great social selling resources online for you to turn to in order to learn the basics of social selling. But having a complete resource on hand is always helpful. The books in this list offer a deep-dive into the art and science that is social selling, giving you a deeper understanding of not only how to perform social selling, but they also explain why the psychology behind it works so well.
Instead of sifting through Amazon to find the best social selling books, we wanted to provide you with some of our favorites. Each of these books features a slightly different focus. What they all have in common is that they provide actionable insights into effective social selling techniques:
“Social Selling Mastery: Scaling Up Your Sales and Marketing Machine for the Digital Buyer” by Jamie Shanks
“Social Selling Mastery” is the go-to book recommendation among social selling industry leaders. The book focuses on the art of developing and nurturing relationships with prospects that fit your ideal buyer persona. It delves into how to reach new customers online by identifying where your customers go in order to conduct research on products that are similar to yours.
The book is authored by Sales for Life CEO Jamie Shanks, who has worked with companies like Microsoft, Intel, Xerox, and Oracle to re-shape their sales strategies to incorporate social selling principles. “Social Selling Mastery” is widely regarded as the industry standard for learning how to genuinely connect with today’s digital customer.
“The LinkedIn Sales Playbook: A Tactical Guide to Social Selling” by Brynne Tillman
“The LinkedIn Sales Playbook” is the best resource available today on cultivating B2B relationships by leveraging LinkedIn. While it doesn’t provide the in-depth strategies for other social platforms, the focus on LinkedIn makes it the perfect companion for B2B social sellers. This book places a lot of focus on the connections between today’s social selling tactics and their connections to more traditional sales tactics.
Tillman outlines step-by-step instructions for connecting with targeted buyers, facilitating warm introductions, nurturing prospects, and converting more of your LinkedIn connections to phone calls.
Brynne Tillman has honed her social selling skills in her time as Chief Learning Officer at Vengreso, a social selling company. She has worked with Fortune 500 companies to help them improve their digital sales strategies and install tools that help them to fully leverage LinkedIn.
“Fanatical Prospecting: The Ultimate Guide to Opening Sales Conversations and Filling the Pipeline by Leveraging Social Selling, Telephone, Email, Text, and Cold Calling” by Jeb Blount and Mike Weinberg
“Fanatical Prospecting” is another book that counts to my industry standards on modern sales techniques. The book provides salespeople and executives with an in-depth guide that clearly explains the importance and nuances of prospecting, and how you can use modern channels to turbo-charge your efforts.
The book focuses on the biggest reason why many sales pipelines fail — a failure to consistently prospect and keep the top of the pipeline filled. By zeroing in on that particular aspect of social selling, the book serves as a true deep-dive into the art of prospecting, featuring a unique approach that is effective regardless of channel.
If you need help keeping sharpening your social selling skills, if you want industry best-practices or if you simply need ideas on how to keep your sales pipeline filled, all three are excellent starting points.
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.