Social selling is one of the hottest buzzwords in sales right now. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at how use of the phrase has been on a steady incline for the past five years.
But is that all social selling is? A buzzword? Is social selling just finding your target account on LinkedIn, doing some digging into the buying committee and connecting with them via a personalized connection request?
The short answer is no. Social selling is much more than a one-off connection request or a synonym for social media. It represents a deeper change in thinking, a more refined process of digital selling behavior and a strategy for using the toolset to weave it all together.
The result, when done right, is proven to boost the bottom line.
So if social selling isn’t just a buzzword, if it’s not just “random acts of social,” what is it, exactly? What are the components of social selling?
Social selling, in it’s most fundamental form, is broken down into three types of selling. These three types of selling — trigger selling, insights selling and referral selling — are the bread and butter of social selling. And just like bread and butter, they’re way better in combination than they ever could be apart.
Trigger-based selling refers to internal or external events happening around your buyer. It is a fantastic top-of-the funnel initiative. This digital information can alert a sales professional in real time, allowing for highly contextual conversations.
For example, LinkedIn job change alerts are a great way of monitoring if someone you’re doing business with leaves their current company and takes a position elsewhere. As a sales pro or leader, these job changes are crucial because they keep demand coming at top of the funnel.
Trigger-based selling is an incredible lead generation tool for you to open doors based on previous relationships.
Insights-based selling is the process of shaping your buyer’s journey early on with digital insights. According to Forrester, three out of four buyers chose the sales team that was first to provide value and insight to their buying journey.
This middle-of-the funnel technique is helpful for getting sales pros through the “Dead zone,” that terrible feeling after you’ve had a sales conversation where a buyer tells you to call back in a week or two, and then doesn’t get back to you. They get busy, they have other priorities and you’re left hanging.
Many salespeople don’t take the opportunity to nurture and educate that buyer along their journey. They’ll follow up with calls and emails, but they don’t help the buyer to move along the journey by providing insights that help them do their due diligence and make an informed decision.
Insights-based selling arms buyers with information, eliminating pitfalls, challenges and roadblocks so they can better navigate their buying journey.
Referral-based selling, just like the name implies, is leveraging relationships for selling purposes. A recent study from Implisit found employee and customer referrals are actually the channel with the highest conversion rates.
Clearly, people buy from people. This roadmap of relationships can be mechanized through tools such as LinkedIn and Twitter, enabling you to establish deeper connections with your buyer.
Referral-based selling works best as a bottom-of-the-funnel sales tactic. At the bottom of the funnel, you’ve likely had a series of discovery and build meetings and now you’re getting down to pricing and proposals. Buyers are considering which vendor to select — they want someone with a track record of solving a particular problem.
You might want to introduce prospects to past customers and relevant success stories. Introduce them to other industry experts to help them along this journey, perhaps through social media. They can even call these people directly during implementation.
Mechanizing Selling Methods
If the above are the bread and butter of social selling, socially surrounding is the best tactic to serve up social selling. It’s how you mechanize and scale the above so you and your team can keep all stages of the funnel full.
Socially surrounding a buyer or a buying committee goes beyond individuals; it’s a visibility method that at its core requires an understanding of a buyer's’ micro and macro ecosystem.
As the above order of operation image above illustrates, when socially surrounding, sales professionals should start with the general and end with the specific. Find insights into the industry, the specific company and competitor strategies, then the buying committee.
With the outlined method, you should be able to answer questions to the following:
Who else in the business unit will be part of the buying committee?
Are there other divisions or related corporate entities, and people within those organizations, I need to know?
Who influences all these people? Stockholders, industry experts, competitors?
Once you’ve identified your key players and what they deem valuable, it’s time to educate them by providing valuable insights. Don’t just follow and forget; establish a daily routine so you can continually engage with your buyers.
Routine is an essential component of social selling because it emphasises the role consistency has in a healthy pipeline.
Each of these circles represents a tactical tip of the iceberg. For example, one of our SDR’s wrote an entire post on crafting LinkedIn messaging that resonate with buyers. In another one, our VP of Knowledge Transfer detailed how a job prospect actually socially surrounded him!
As you can see, this is just the bare minimum of the components of social selling. It is a brief overview of the major pillars and strategies needed to play the long game. Because that’s what social selling is: a deep-seated behavioural change for sales and marketing within your organization.
Those who think social selling is just a buzzword don’t fully understand the depths of its process.