Selling has changed drastically in the last few years. Gone are the days of using only the phone and email to reach out to prospective clients. With digital media creating a shift in the buyer's journey, more salespeople are using social selling to cultivate new relationships.
Social selling is a relatively new concept that consists of salespeople leveraging social platforms to engage with prospective clients and share thoughtful content, with the intent to increase sales. Not to be confused with social media marketing, social selling's goal is to drive revenue rather than build brand awareness.
In terms of a sales funnel, social media marketing sits at the top, and social selling helps move prospects down the funnel. Social media marketing doesn't typically convert prospects; it stays as a top-of-funnel tactic.
Social selling is so effective that 28% of companies are prioritizing it, according to HubSpot. While this figure isn't staggering, it proves that social selling is just getting started. Salespeople who adopt social selling now will increase their odds of engaging with high-quality prospects and push ahead of the competition.
Social selling uses social media to engage with and nurture leads. Instead of sending a follow-up email, a salesperson could connect with the prospect on LinkedIn and share a useful article with them. Social selling uses social media as touchpoints in the buyer journey. Like traditional selling, social selling relies on a social CRM to track conversations and touchpoints. As with traditional selling again, it's important not to overwhelm the prospect by reaching out too many times.
Here are some things you can do with social selling that are why it's gaining popularity.
1. Be where potential customers are active.
Social media plays a vital role in the buying process. Prospective clients use social networks to find solutions, research vendors online, and form opinions on which vendor is the best fit for their business. The buying process begins before a client ever contacts a salesperson.
Moreover, Gartner research shows that customers are, on average, 57% through the purchase process before they engage with a sales professional. According to IDC, 75% of B2B buyers and 84% of executives use contacts and information from social platforms as part of their buying process. Potential clients rely heavily on social networks when making purchasing decisions.
Salespeople who don't engage in social selling aren't likely to appear in results when clients are using social networks to weigh vendor options. This is a massive missed opportunity for sales, putting businesses at a disadvantage against competitors that use social selling.
The HubSpot report also notes that 40% of salespeople say getting a response from a prospect has become more challenging. Cold calling is dead, and customers' inboxes are flooded with messages every day. Social media is where salespeople have a higher chance of cutting through the clutter and engaging with prospects.
According to LinkedIn, 76% of buyers are ready to have a social media conversation with potential suppliers, and more than 62% of B2B buyers respond to salespeople who connect with them to share relevant insights and opportunities. This further proves the point that now is the time for salespeople to take advantage of social selling and its numerous benefits.
2. Build a deeper relationship with prospects.
One significant benefit of social selling is that it provides remarkable insights into prospective clients. People reveal substantial information on their social profiles through posts, likes and shares. This valuable information allows salespeople to understand potential customers better so that they can approach them in a more personalized way. Rather than the first point of contact being cold and disconnected, salespeople can provide content that's relevant and helpful to their prospects' needs.
Providing the right information at the right time leads to more meaningful engagement with potential clients. In fact, 31% of B2B professionals said that social selling allowed them to build deeper relationships with clients, according to CSO Insights.
Additionally, salespeople who build a strong network on various social media channels can ask for introductions to new sales prospects through mutual connections. This makes it easier to gain new leads, and it can instantly create feelings of trust and rapport, which is vital for both clients and salespeople. Interestingly enough, LinkedIn found that 87% of B2B buyers had a favorable impression of a salesperson when they were introduced by someone in their professional network.
Social selling is an effective way to create meaningful relationships with prospective clients and seek out introductions to new sales prospects through existing connections. Remember, B2B customers take much longer to move down the sales funnel than B2C. While social selling may be an excellent tactic for B2C buyers, it also helps B2B prospects feel more comfortable and gain trust in the brand, which will help lead to the sale.
3. Generate more high-quality leads.
Social selling increases the quantity and quality of leads. Salespeople equipped with meaningful content become thought leaders, offering education and value to their professional networks. People on LinkedIn, for instance, are particularly interested in this type of information. Plus, they amplify the reach and credibility of social selling efforts by sharing content with their networks. People tend to trust recommendations from friends and colleagues above all other forms of marketing, including advertisements and corporate communications.
In a survey by CSO Insights and Seismic, 1 in 3 B2B professionals said that social selling tools increased their number of leads. Furthermore, 39% of B2B professionals said that social selling reduced the time they spent researching accounts and contacts. Especially since social selling is producing more quality leads, it's likely that this tactic will become even more widespread.
A vital approach to selling
It's clear that social selling works. The LinkedIn study cited above shows that salespeople who engage with social selling have 45% more sales opportunities than others and are 51% more likely to hit their sales quotas.
As long as social media is a part of the buying process, salespeople will need to leverage it to find prospective clients and build trusted relationships with them. At the end of the day, businesses that encourage their sales teams to implement social selling into their strategies will drive more revenue than companies that don't. [Looking for help with your social media? Check out our best picks and reviews of social media management and monitoring tools.]
Just as traditional sales has best practices, so does social selling. One of the most important rules of this new tactic is to not overwhelm or bother the prospect. If a potential lead declines a connection on social media, then it's not appropriate to continually message them or try to connect on another network. Given this, LinkedIn has become a clear winner as a tool that aids the social selling process. The network's inherent professionalism makes it easy for sales teams to reach out to prospects and nurture them.
As more people use social media networks for more time per day, it's no surprise that sales has changed to incorporate this change. While many businesses have a robust social media marketing campaign in place, many salespeople don't use social media for sales in the funnel. This will soon change now that social selling is producing high-quality leads for many industries.