Social selling needs to be a key part of every firm's strategy. Whether you're a B2C business looking to connect with engaged customers on Twitter or a B2B enterprise aiming to reach new prospects via LinkedIn, taking advantage of the networks and relationships you've built up across these channels is essential to success.
It's especially important for B2B sales. According to research from LinkedIn, almost nine out of ten sales professionals (89%) say being active on these platforms is an important part of closing the deal, while 64% of sales teams that engage in social selling hit their goals, compared with just 49% of those that don't.
But how do you ensure you're doing this effectively? LinkedIn highlights several essential pillars that make up a strong social selling strategy for your sales team. To ensure you're making the most of them, it will be important you have the right measurements in place to track your progress, identify what you're doing right and highlight opportunities for improvement.
1. Build the right brand
The first step is to make sure you're projecting the right image on your social channels. For B2B firms in particular, you need to appear professional, knowledgeable and up-to-date, as 81% of buyers are more likely to engage with these individuals.
This means completing a profile with your customers in mind. There shouldn't be any missing information, and you should highlight experience and work history where you've provided value to customers.
An important metric for this is the number of endorsements your profile generates. These offer real-world proof of your expertise and show that you've got the record to back up your claims.
2. Identify the right prospects
The next stage is to ensure you're targeting the right people. Casting a wide net with a low rate of return wastes time and effort, so a more targeted approach to building connections is a must.
Set out a list of key criteria for potential connections - such as job description, seniority or industry to guide your search. It's also a good idea to pay close attention to second-degree connections - those who are linked to prospects you already follow - as this can avoid a cold outreach.
A good measure to track here is clickthrough rate; how many of these connections are moving on from your content to your website or other key sales assets? If the numbers are below expectations, you might be speaking to the wrong people.
3. Create engaging insights
It's all very well having relevant connections and followers, but if you aren't engaging them with the right content, you'll find it much harder to build trust and convince prospects you're the best option.
Sharing insightful, relevant content from your industry is the key to this. Importantly, while it's vital to amplify your own firm's marketing efforts, you should be reaching wider than this. Share resources from other companies and comment on content made by industry experts to raise your visibility among your connections.
Engagement rate is a good way of tracking success here. How many of your posts generate shares, comments and other discussion? Looking closely at what pieces perform well and which generate less interest is key to directing your future strategy.
4. Build trusted relationships
Ultimately, the goal of social networks is to develop trusted relationships that can be used as the foundation for a business agreement. Around three-quarters of B2B buyers prefer to deal with sales professionals they've been referred to by someone they already know.
Increase your chances of success in this area by connecting with key decision-makers - but don't just stop at a single connection. Building multiple relationships with prospects helps cement yourself as a familiar and trusted name.
You can add to this by sharing and commenting on posts they've published and reaching out regularly with useful information and tips - not everything has to be sales-oriented to keep you in the mind of potential customers.
Social Selling Index - One metric to rule them all?
LinkedIn's Social Selling Index scores your efforts in all these areas from 0 to 100, based on how you connect and interact with prospects, and the site claims those who use it to guide their strategy can enjoy 45% more sales opportunities than those who don't.
But you shouldn't be relying too heavily on this. As it's a site-specific tool that looks at your perceived influence within your network, it may be biased in favor of certain connections or fail to accurately reflect how likely you are to turn connections into customers.
While it can certainly give you a general idea of how well you're doing in building a profile and reaching out, you shouldn't be ignoring other more general KPIs that you can tailor to give you a more personalized picture of your success.