The advent of social media has fundamentally and permanently changed the sales process. Given the behavior of today’s buyer, savvy sales professionals increasingly turn to social platforms as a healthy source of potential prospects.
Today’s buyer is better informed and better educated about your product or solution before s/he contacts you, the sales professional.
Statistics show that the buyer’s journey can be as much as 90 percent completed before s/he ever thinks about interacting with a sales person.
As the Social Selling revolution continues to captivate the sales industry, the most successful and forward-thinking sales representatives utilize social media to connect and capture more business than ever previously imagined.
According to an oft-quoted statistic from Jim Keenan, a whopping 78 percent of sales people using social media outsell their peers who aren’t using social.
But, how exactly is this accomplished? Here are three simple steps that describe the transformative process of “Social Selling,” or how to use social media to generate revenue:
The 3 C’s of Social Selling – Content, Conversation, and Conversion
The buyer is, and should be, the primary focus of your Social Selling efforts. Any cursory listening exercise on LinkedIn, the epicenter of the Social Selling universe, will yield an undeniable conclusion: buyers crave information. Sales professionals must provide this valuable information to buyers, which takes the form of content.
Creating and curating relevant content is a key component of providing that value to potential prospects and buyers during all stages of their buying journey. Sales pros must be a continuous, supportive resource for their buyer. Sharing content simultaneously establishes trust and builds necessary thought leadership. Over time, your audience will look to you for opinions, information, and answers to their complex business challenges.
Content is the life blood of Social Selling. Content that does not resonate with your prospective buyer needs updating – and fast. Failure to act risks the loss of untold potential leads. As a sales professional or vendor, if you are unable to provide your buyer or prospect with the right tools, guides, and information to assist him or her at the right time, and on their terms, you’ve lost your opportunity.
Making a social media connection with colleagues, potential buyers and prospects, and virtually anyone across the globe is as easy as a mouse click. But, how valuable are these connections?
Nearly two decades ago, my father shared the prescient words that have defined my professional career: the most important business skill is the ability to build integrity-based relationships.
While sales professionals universally agree that building relationships is essential to Social Selling success, many fail to completely examine the true meaning of relationship building: integrity-based.
Sales are a relationship-based transaction. People buy from you. Technology is simply an enabler, and social media is just another platform. It really doesn’t matter if your medium is the telephone, email, telegraph or smoke signals, etc. Social media simply accelerates the conversation. When sales professionals show they are human and make a personal connection through conversation – building a relationship without trying to sell – the sales process naturally evolves. Most people don’t realize that conversation is the ultimate content.
Consider how your online behavior, specifically the impact of your words – in a blog, or a tweet, or a LinkedIn post – affects the behavior of others. As sales professionals, our goal is to influence buyer behavior by simultaneously creating value and building an integrity based-relationship. Your online conversations should mirror this purpose.
Can you make the proverbial pitch that sets the tone for your buyer relationship? That’s what a well-researched, non-salesy LinkedIn invitation will do, for example, – hit the target every time and earn the applause of those who matter – your buyers and potential prospects.
LinkedIn is the equivalent of your digital business card. When you meet people, you should look to forge a digital connection on LinkedIn. Opening your LinkedIn network will have a cumulative effect: as the number of connections increase and you utilize the LinkedIn publishing platform, more people will see, be influenced by, and share your content. That shared content will, in turn, be seen, liked, and shared by the connections in your advocate network (your current second and third degree connections), which most likely includes champions and decision makers at companies you’ve been trying to access. Savvy sales professionals will tap these expanded networks for introductions, or leverage them for further conversations.
Consider this: if you initiate five new conversations on LinkedIn per business day, that’s 1200 potential new opportunities per year. If only 10 percent of those opportunities convert, that’s 120 net new pipeline opportunities – all because of an expanded LinkedIn network. For sales professionals, that’s a bottom line number that matters.
Remember to avoid the “connect and close,” hard-sell mentality at all costs. Don’t look for the quick hit. Although I am a firm believer in love at first sight, I don’t propose marriage on the first date.
Listen for cues and trigger events to move online, offline. That’s when the magic happens. Become a resource to your buyers and potential prospects. Above everything else – be valuable. Sales professionals must learn how to effectively utilize the non-interruptive methodologies of Social Selling in order to provide value before asking for the sale.
The buying cycle (not the sales cycle) is an endless loop: Shared content leads to shared conversation, which leads to conversion, which leads to a sale. Of course, since content has the most profound effect upon buyer conversion, ensuring that your content is aligned with your buyer’s needs and is specific to each stage of the buying process is paramount.
Finally, ask yourself one fundamental question before any action: “Does your buyer really care?” It’s five times easier to convert and sell to a current client than it is to generate new business. Adopting a service-based, “client for life” mentality that does not end when the contract is signed will yield powerful results.
During our latest #S4LSocial Twitter chat, which happens every Wednesday @ 12:00 p.m., we discussed ways to monetize social media relationships. Find the best tweets from that session below!