With nearly 4.5 billion people reportedly using social media, companies that don't have a strong social strategy risk missing out on big opportunities.
Where bringing in new business and driving revenue are concerned, effective social selling can help you identify and engage new prospects, demonstrate your ability to deliver value and cultivate strong, lasting customer relationships.
It can be a particularly powerful tactic within your inbound sales strategy, helping you connect with leads and pass on valuable information that will inform their buying decisions.
The fundamentals of social selling
Social selling gives you the opportunity to leverage the power and reach of social media to showcase what you can offer your customers and build relationships with them in an organic way.
It also makes it easier to research your prospects and learn more about their various interests, objectives and concerns, based on their activities across social platforms.
Using these channels to supply relevant and useful information to potential customers is becoming an increasingly important element of the sales process for many organizations, particularly those in the B2B segment.
Research by Gartner has shown that B2B buyers spend more than a quarter (27%) of their purchase consideration time doing independent research online. This is significantly more time than they spend meeting with their buying group (22%), doing offline research (18%) and meeting with potential suppliers (17%).
If you can engage with customers on social media during this critical online research phase of their purchasing journey, you can help to answer their questions and sow the seeds for an ongoing relationship with them.
This is a productive approach for some of the most successful salespeople. Past studies have shown that the top-performing sales reps see social media as a "very important" ingredient in their success, while teams that use social selling typically benefit from 18% greater pipeline volume than those that don't.
Why social selling should be central to your inbound sales strategy
Inbound sales is all about delivering a helpful, personalized experience that recognizes the customer's pain points and shows how you can address them.
Where outbound sales focuses on putting your brand in front of as many potential prospects as possible - many of whom might not be interested in your offering - the inbound method aims to get relevant, engaged leads coming to you.
Social media is the ideal environment to put the inbound philosophy into practice, owing to the huge potential it offers to connect with the right people and build relationships.
It's important to make the distinction between social selling and social media marketing, and to use the right tactics in each of these areas to get good results. One of the most important differences is that social selling requires a more targeted, personalized approach that creates connections with leads who are ready to buy, or at the very least approaching that point on their journey.
Social media marketing has a broader outlook and can focus on goals such as:
- Raising awareness of your brand
- Expanding and engaging with your community of followers
- Serving and maintaining relationships with existing customers
- Distributing and generating interest in marketing content
The specificity and focus of social selling can make it a vital part of any company's inbound sales strategy, since buyers will want to feel that you understand their unique needs and priorities before they'll consider giving you their business.
Social selling success tips
To get the best results from social selling, here are some tactics to consider:
1. Train your salespeople
Give your staff plenty of information and insights into why social selling is a worthwhile use of their time, and the results they can expect to gain from it. This is important to ensure your reps are taking the right approach and making the best possible use of their time.
2. Get your social media profiles in order
If you plan to use social media as a key element of your sales function, first you need to ensure profiles representing the company and its employees on the likes of Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook are up to date and optimized. Then, think like a customer and analyze your various social accounts from the perspective of someone who’s getting to know the business and your employees.
3. Join relevant groups and forums
One of the best ways to build relationships with prospects on social media is to find out what communities or forums they belong to and get involved in the same groups yourself. Just remember that any contributions you make to discussions in these channels should be carefully thought out to provide value to potential buyers. Members of these groups want to learn and discover new things and find solutions to their problems. They don't want to be bombarded by unsolicited sales pitches.
4. Share valuable insights
You can build relationships with prospects organically by sharing content that will interest and engage them. Whenever you come across an article or study that’s relevant to your customers or their industry, share it on your social channels to provide value and increase your own credibility. This is a good way to develop trust, which is a key stepping stone on the way to closing any sale.