08.04.21

Why you should care about social selling and how to create a fool-proof strategy your customers can’t ignore

Sarah Lewis

Social Media Strategist

Social media was often overlooked as a professional sales tool for B2B, with businesses considering it a distraction and something to engage with outside the office. But gone are the days when sales teams relied on cold-calling and other traditional marketing methods to generate new business. While these tactics still have their place in the sales cycle, the advancement of social media has paved the way for new selling opportunities...

What is social selling?

Social selling is the process of developing relationships with prospects, generating leads, and nurturing client partnerships, using platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook. For B2B firms in particular, LinkedIn is considered the primary channel due to the volume of decision makers active on the platform, and its wealth of lead generation features.

Tactics ‘social sellers’ use on these platforms include content marketing, such as sharing industry-related articles and own content (i.e. blogs and videos); engaging with the social posts of existing clients and prospects; and using platform-specific messaging features, like LinkedIn InMail, in order to reach out to new leads and nurture existing clients. Additionally, active social sellers typically undertake a degree of social listening, helping them spot new sales opportunities.

Four reasons why your business should care about social selling

It ‘humanises’ lead generation

Social selling is arguably the most effective way to attract new business because it allows salespeople to develop a rapport with prospects, which can be difficult for corporate brands. We place greater trust in a human voice, which is why the likes of Word of Mouth (WOM) and influencer marketing are so effective in generating leads. In fact, according to AdWeek, 76% of individuals surveyed say that they’re more likely to trust content shared by “normal” people than content shared by brands. And sellers themselves report benefiting from this personal approach, with 31% saying that social selling has allowed them to build deeper relationships with clients.

It’s cost effective

LinkedIn reported that it costs 75% less to generate leads on social media than any other medium. According to figures released in the Q2 2020 IPA Bellwether report, UK marketing budgets were slashed to their lowest levels in 20 years, largely driven by the Coronavirus crisis. And with 64% of respondents registering a decrease in spending in Q2 2020 compared to Q1, firms will be looking to attract new business in the most cost-effective way.  

It facilitates the sales cycle

Social media platforms are ripe with selling opportunities. According to LinkedIn, over 76% of buyers are ready to have sales conversations on social media, while IDC found that 75% of B2B buyers and 84% of C-level executives consult social media before making purchase decisions. So salespeople can target a vast pool of prospects that are already engaged, and perhaps actively looking for new products and services.

With customers primed to engage and convert, there’s no need for a “cold” approach.

84% of C-level executives consult social media before making purchasing decisions

Source: IDC Social Buying Meets Social Selling: How Trusted Networks Improve the Purchase Experiience, April 2014 

It’s more effective than other lead generation techniques

According to LinkedIn, Social selling generates a staggering half of all revenue for 14 major industries, including computer and network security, healthcare, and financial services.

While a company’s central marketing tactics – such as email and paid social – can be effective ways to convert mid-funnel buyers, attracting and nurturing top of the funnel audiences is trickier through these methods. Many have traditionally relied on cold-calling or direct mail to attract leads at the top of the funnel which is often seen as a nuisance. According to Harvard Business Review, 90% of B2B decision-makers never respond to a cold outreach, while experts have long argued that unsolicited cold-calling is ‘dead’.

But a direct approach still has its place when it complements a wider social selling strategy.

78% of social sellers outsell peers who don't use social media

Source: LinkedIn Sales Solutions, What is Social Selling?

Measuring social selling success

Aside from KPIs such as volume of leads, number of conversions and ROI, social sellers using LinkedIn should regularly check their Social Selling Index (SSI). This scores sellers with a figure out of 100, allowing them to benchmark performance when it comes to finding the right people and building relationships. Improve this figure for a guaranteed way to know efforts are paying off.

Measuring success is less clear-cut when using Twitter and Facebook for social selling. Users will want to monitor the number of outbound leads reached and perhaps use platform features such as Twitter Lists to help track prospects’ activity. 

The SSI dashboard (Source: SocialMediaToday):

The 4 pillars of an effective social selling strategy

Set up an optimised professional social profile and brand

Buyers need to trust that their sales contact is credible, so this is a crucial step towards becoming an effective social seller. Taking the time to create an engaging LinkedIn or Twitter profile establishes authority and expertise – key, as this will be the first place that buyers visit when determining whether to give you their business.  Build your profile with your audience in mind, with the inclusion of a headline, summary or bio that conveys how you can help. And establish your personal brand with relevant and professional header and profile images, featured multi-media and a custom URL. This helps to carve your unique persona and improve brand recall.

Find prospects and build your network

Once you’ve created your professional profile, it’s time to build your network, focussing on making connections and creating lead lists. LinkedIn in particular is ideal for the ‘research’ phase of social selling – its advanced Search feature will allow you to scope out key decision makers based on location, job and company for example, as well as second and third-degree connections who may present referral opportunities. Following this, send personalised connection requests to your prospects, providing them with a reason why you’re connecting.

Engage connections with insights

Sharing and posting meaningful content is the primary way for social sellers to add value to their prospects’ feeds. From company blogs to third-party articles, consistently publish informative content to build your reputation as a thought-leader and, subsequently, a person that buyers will gravitate towards. According to LinkedIn, 62% of B2B customers respond to salespeople who connect by sharing content and insights that are relevant to them. And when it comes to sharing content, take advantage of LinkedIn or Facebook groups where you’re likely to discover your niche target audience, as well as posting to your feed or via direct message.

62% of B2B customers respond to salespeople who connect by sharing content and insights that are relevant to them

Source: LinkedIn Sales Solutions, What is Social Selling?

Nurture relationships

Connecting with others and sharing content is all well and good, but maintaining this activity long-term is key to facilitating the sales cycle. The Demand Gen Report’s 2019 Content Preferences Survey found that 41% of B2B buyers view 3-5 pieces of content online before interacting with a salesperson, and therefore social sellers can’t just rely on sporadic activity. And even when you’ve converted a lead, don’t neglect that relationship, as it could enable future referral opportunities.

Nurture relationships by engaging with clients’ social posts, sharing industry updates with them, and following up via calls and emails – all of which should keep you top of mind.

Social selling tools to consider

LinkedIn Advanced Search

This is LinkedIn’s search bar. It allows users to discover others and refine searches by choosing from a range of filters like location, company, jobs, groups and more. ​

Groups

Groups – a feature on both LinkedIn and Facebook – are hubs dedicated to specific industries, topics or organisations which likeminded individuals can join. And this like-mindedness makes industry-related groups prime spaces for prospecting.

LinkedIn Pulse

LinkedIn Pulse is the platform’s article-aggregating feature, allowing users to write and publish blog-style articles. As a social seller, you should produce regular long-form content on LinkedIn as a core part of your strategy, helping to boost reach and establish thought leadership and authority.

LinkedIn Sales Navigator and Teamlink

LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator is one of the most advanced and feature-rich tools for highly active social sellers. As a standalone, paid-for product, it allows salespeople to tap into LinkedIn’s network of potential customers by enabling lead building, lead saving, CRM integration, unlimited searches and allowing sellers to send up to 30 InMails per month. One of the key benefits of Sales Navigator is Teamlink, which allows salespeople working in teams to reach larger audiences through each other’s connections.

Sales Navigator example dashboard (Source: LinkedIn):

Employee advocacy platforms

Many companies reap the rewards of employee advocacy platforms – whether to simply encourage employees to share company updates, or to facilitate social selling. Essentially, these platforms aggregate social content by housing a company’s social feeds within a single dashboard, allowing employees to see all posts in one place and easily share these to their own social feeds.

Looking to boost your social selling?

Platforms such as Sociabble and Hootsuite Amplify could help your sales teams streamline their approach, track others’ output, and allow you to moderate and monitor activity.

Hootsuite streams

Like employee advocacy platforms, other tools such as Hootsuite are effective for those who’d prefer a centralised approach to creating social content. Hootsuite can be used to create and schedule posts and monitor keywords and competitor activity. The Streams feature, for example, is a time-effective way to conduct social listening, allowing social sellers to keep an eye on conversations which may lead to sales opportunities.

Examples of “Streams” Hootsuite users can create:

New to social selling or employee advocacy and want to understand how it could benefit your business? We’d love to chat. Contact us at results@icrossing.co.uk.

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