What’s the goal of using social selling in the overall sales process?
It’s simple – it’s the same as sales overall: to build relationships that drive revenue. So why are we making social selling so complicated?
At it's core, social selling harnesses the best analog sales practices—research, collaboration and communication—and elevates them by interweaving digital strategies and tactics.
But do you need to do all of these to be a social seller? I'll say that practicing all three is much better, but doing one at a time isn’t bad either. Let's go through each.
1) RESEARCH & PREPAREDNESS
By far, this is the most important step in social selling. Knowing things about our buyers is not only important, but a smart business strategy that allows us to correlate the benefits of our solutions to their pressing challenges/pains.
In fact, in today’s challenging and competitive business environment, knowing thy buyer is an absolutely necessity. This is not something you can afford to do without.
Make those dials, send those emails, knock on doors, set up those tradeshow booths, do what you must…but know your buyer! It is, quite simply, one of the best and easiest ways to differentiate yourselves versus your competitors (internal and external).
Now ask yourself where you’ll do this research: from the phone book and library or from online?
According to CSO Insights, 69% of salespeople use social selling tools for lead development, 65% for account research, and 60% for call preperation.
Clearly, there is a mountain of knowledge online about buyers, their companies and their industries. And, there are easy ways to get the information that matters in seconds, enabling you to have very targeted and deliberate conversations quickly.
2) COLLABORATION & NETWORKING
Collaboration is something that sales professionals are doing…but in small doses. Networking with prospects and existing buyers online is treated like kryptonite, even though it isn’t.
Networking with people on social media is, singlehandedly, the reason FOR social media platforms. Likes, comments, shares, tweets, retweets, favorites, mentions, etc. are us expressing favor (or disfavor) about what someone is writing.
It’s one of the easiest ways for sales professionals to get top of mind with new prospects and existing customers online.
We all know the famous stat, 74% of buyers choose the sales rep that is first to add vale and insight. Conversations online translate to conversations offline, right?
So why aren’t we doing this more? It’s a habit that we need to build.
When we think of social selling, to no fault of our own, our immediate thoughts swirl around communication on social media. That is, sending messages and InMails on LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. to prospects to bring them into a conversation with us.
The challenge is that we haven’t learned that social platforms are different by their very nature – they require us to modify our behaviors slightly. Not because the platforms are different per se, but because we need to understand why buyers are there in the first place.
If someone is there to network, then they necessarily don’t want a sales pitch, right? Here’s a great visual example of a really bad LinkedIn message our CEO recieved.
About the only thing this email does right is include the sender’s name. And although lead management is somewhat relevant to our line of business, the sender fails to provide why we would need such a solution and/or how it would benefit our company.
Value-driven impact statements and a little research could have saved this email from this list. Additionally, had the sender applied social selling best practices and researched the psychographics of the sender, they would have realized, in the words of our CEO, "pizza is great for 22-year olds. Not CEOs."
From our observations in the market, many salespeople are using tools like LinkedIn to build databases of prospects that they can then sell to in the same old, cookie-cutter way that they’re used to.
In fact, I’ve talked to hundreds of people that have purchased LinkedIn Sales Navigator for their sales teams to, ultimately, help build these prospect lists faster. Is that the best use of LinkedIn?
Now, here’s a question for you all: what’s the response rate on bad emails? I’m sure you’ll anecdotally believe that it’s low. Some would argue that it’s between 1% to 3% at most. So then why would it be different on social platforms?
The thinking we have when we do this can be described with the following statement:
Let’s not change what we say (even though it hardly works) but repeat it in a different place.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Social selling isn’t one of these aspects described above, or the other. It’s everything.
Start slow if you must, but remember that research and preparedness is ultimately going to be a major differentiator for you.